Moonlight Review – An Emotional Masterclass 

Winner of three Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Moonlight follows the emotional, visceral journey of Chiron at three stages of his life. There are layers of depth, constantly asking challenging questions of the audience, which keeps on adding to the voice and tone of this film. It is as much a representation of masculine identities so much as it is a representation of human identities and the constructs of social norms. Barry Jenkin’s film provides everything you could ever want in an emotional, dramatic, coming of age narrative, breaking convention and being bold in its presentation. Technically this film is very gifted, as well. Boasting a beautifully harmonic score and gorgeous cinematography throughout, not mentioning the authentically raw, powerful acting particularly from Mahershala Ali, Naomi Harris and all three portrayals of Chiron. Whether you’re looking for your next film to make you cry or a film that actually grasps meaning and detail underneath the surface, this film has it all. It truly is an emotional masterclass of storytelling.

At its very core, Moonlight is a sincere and genuine film that constantly finds new ways to invest its audience, typically through its characterisation and plot. Chiron is a character for the ages to remember as we are thrown into his unstable situation, both domestically and mentally. Whether it be his drug abusive, inattentive mother, his bullying classmates or the socio-economic community he is trying to fit into, this film explores a wide range of scenarios and places you – the viewer – at the heart of his internal pain. It’s emotionally compelling and so beautifully executed, taking you on his discoveries and progression through the narrative. If you’re one for connecting cathartically, be prepared for tears as this is hardhitting, natural characterisation at its optimal state.

Each point in Chiron’s life is filled with intricate and important moments that all culminate in his eventual realisations later in the film. Its pacing was constant throughout, never once feeling like it was unnecessary or irrelevant for what it was trying to set in motion. These pinnacle moments all brought a sense of greater stakes and broader perspectives to the story, but at the same time felt important individually for the overall contrast in his life. Most notably, the transition from his teenage years to his adult years, where he becomes a very typical male in his ethnic community, muscular in stature and wearing a set of gold teeth. This distinct portrayal of masculinity, especially in contrast to The earlier depictions of such, adds to the enigma and general force it holds in The narrative structure. Add all of this to phenomenal acting from all three actors and you have something of pure magnificence, providing tears, laughs, smiles and gaping shocks. 

Chiron, however, isn’t the only character to shine in this story. While it primarily focuses its attention on his journey for identity, Jenkin’s vision also accommodates for an array of rich, emotionally investing characters. Naomi Harris’ depiction of Chiron’s detached mother is as harrowing and frightening as it is powerful and gripping. Her performance is astonishingly human, giving justifications for her behaviourisms and eventually making you sympathise with her situation. Mahershala Ali provides another fantastic addition to the cast, for which he won Best Supporting Actor, that is filled with moral layers and dialogue that flows naturally. He’s troubled, ever so slightly broken, but he’s also committed to helping Chiron. His character isn’t featured for too long, but still plays a pivotal role in Chiron’s development. The minor characters are just as detailed, emotionally riveting and thoroughly convincing as the lead protagonist, reinforcing Jenkin’s ability to craft such compelling and visceral storytelling.

The cinematography is beautifully crafted, a gradient of blue and purple hues maintaining a visually stylistic film and one that continues to please viewers aesthetically. It isn’t the strongest contender for visual presence, but particular shots – including the familiar shot of teenage Chiron lifting his head from an ice cold basin at the mirror, showing his bruised face. It all culminates in this heart wrenching depiction of one boy’s journey for self discovery in a society that never appreciates him. In addition, the score is brilliantly calm and relaxing, offering gentle and subtle vibes to the intense sequences. It allows you to absorb the true messages underneath all the surface level themes and acknowledge the significance of what this film is achieving as a piece of artistic expression. 

To conclude, Moonlight is a cinematic experience unlike many others, telling a story of sincerity and authenticity that bleeds confidence and evocative, visceral expression on the screen. It’s characterisation offers opportunities for powerful and truly gut wrenching moments, making you question the society we have known to accept and adhere to. While there are films that have attempted to tackle these themes in the past, Moonlight executes it near flawlessly in all technical areas to produce something of artistic mastery. This is an experience that will have you discussing for days, weeks, perhaps even months on end because of its significance and relevance to the current climate sociologically. Moonlight, in every sense, is a masterpiece in film history.

VERDICT – 9.5/10

Advertisements

Moana Review – Visually Stunning and Beautifully Crafted

Disney has always been known for providing animations beyond what many could ever hope to imagine, and Moana is another example that their creators and animators are just as talented and skilled now as they were many years before. This is a film of impressive, mind-blowing visuals that explode on the screen with colour and depth, adding to the immersion and general visual presence. Beyond that, the score is as lively as previous Disney titles and the plot, while sailing familiar seas, grows from strength to strength as the film progresses. Characters have individuality and flaws that once again emphasise the fact that nobody is truly perfect. There is a lot to appreciate here and respect in the light of very recent animated movies – including the disastrous Emoji Movie and the uninspired Despicable Me 3. If you’re looking for an entertaining animation with plenty of vibrancy, flare and voice, this is definitely one worth watching.

The story follows Moana, a girl hoping to one day venture beyond the reef – her current residence – to restore peace to her village. It’s a fairly familiar tale that has moments taken from older influences, but it is stil a successful narrative for its simplisticity and general understanding of basic plot structure. While there isn’t a strong antagonist to attach to and focus on as the story progresses, it becomes apparent that the antagonist they originally set up was actually one of the protagonists. This was interesting to see, especially for an animated film, and it gave a new creative flare to something that had been done before. Moana herself is likeable and easy to empathise with, putting yourself in her position in this daunting voyage. Certain scenes were handled particularly well, especially focussing on her younger years and the ending, but others felt somewhat rushed and unnecessary in terms of overall scale – most notably the ‘Shiny’ crab sequence. Humour in these sequences was handled rather effectively to balance the pacing and never making the film feel too weighty, what with the addition of the coconut tribe and the rooster on the boat. All in all, the narrative was very typical and stuck mostly to safe options, but its execution was brilliant in almost all of the scenes and the characterisation added some innovation and change to maintain its entertainment value.

Thematically, Moana offers a great deal of depth that is unconventional for its genre and style, adding further value to its overall accessibility. The main theme of nature destruction and the negative impacts it may have really are rooted deep into the heart of the story, which compliments the gorgeous, jaw dropping landscapes. It gives the film layers and layers to deconstruct and understand, leaving interpretations for the whole family – younger viewers being able to comprehend the surface level messages, whereas the older viewers being able to look beneath that into more abstract meanings. As Disney have always done, they provide lessons and morals that most animated films in this day and age have difficulty providing and hence why it attracts such a wide ranging audience. 

In regards to the technical side of the film, Moana presents a beautiful and colourful cinematography that is difficult to match. Every scene is filled to the brim with bright, sharp animations and character models that are near unprecedented levels of quality. The voice acting has emotion and humour, especially Dwayne Johnson’s Maui. It is interesting to engage with and see these characters struggle and learn, but also have fun and interact humorously with one another. On top of that, the score is joyful and memorable for the most part – especially with the songs ‘How far I’ll go’ and ‘Where you are’. This all culminates in a typically unforgettable and modern classic Disney style that is easily distinguishable from the rest. 

To conclude, Moana is a film of very impressive standards and a pinnacle of modern animations. It really is incredible to see such beautiful landscapes and character models and to compare that to the original Disney titles – animation has advanced significantly. It’s story has a lot of potential, warranting a few laughs and establishing a solid groundwork for great characterisation and interactions between Maui and Moana. This film offers technical mastery in music composition and art style, but a stronger, tighter narrative with a greater villain or higher stake would have made this film stand out from the rest. Nevertheless, Moana is a must watch for all those interested in animated movies and a true testimont to how far animations have come. 

VERDICT – 8.5/10


2018 Update – A New Beginning

2018 is now officially upon us and you know what that means: a barrage of expectations, resolutions and predictions. It is the perfect opportunity to turn a new page, to begin writing that new chapter, to become an embodiment of hard work and dedication until your mind can’t handle the constant weight of deadlines and writing efficiency. Maybe it is a good time to put that controller down and release ourselves from the embrace of the couch, or perhaps a time to get those creative ideas from your brain and onto the page. We develop and grow at the start of anew year, whether that be emotionally, figuratively, mentally or physically. Though, specifically to those attempting to master a craft, this is a pinnacle moment in a creator’s adaptation and translation to the medium for which they try to create. This is their realisation of dreams and wonders. And so, without further ado, here is mine.

As a reviewer, I hope to produce a consistent stream of material and content everyday that will open some minds and give an analytical approach that might interest those with a keen eye for deconstructing film, television, games and novels. This blog will have daily updates, providing an array of topics – including engaging reviews, analysis ‘essays’, trailer reactions and the latest news in varying mediums.

This blog will also cater to providing some of my own personal creative writing creations, such as novel excerpts and film scripts. These are still under the processes of editing and rewriting, but hopefully they will inspire those wanting to write themselves or just seeking a form of catharsis through narrative. Any and all feedback will be greatly appreciated, especially helpful, polite and constructive feedback.

As the blog progresses and continues, the structure and groundwork may be experimented with to optimise the enjoyment and overall accessibility, but the content will stay genuine and true to what it originally set out to achieve: giving an insight into television dramas, films, games and novels whilst evaluating narrative techniques and cinematic constructions. There will be times where some days are filled to the brim with articles, while other days may be rather sparse. This should hope to lessen the excess of material and keep a high quality control, allowing for accessible and thorough writing that warrants more. 

This is the new beginning. The new chapter. It might not be much, merely words on a virtual page, but it’s an acknowledgement for change and adaptation to improve my craft and general experience in writing for all different formats. There’s still plenty to do, but this is the motivator – the catalyst – for something new. 

Now, onto writing these articles. A long journey lies ahead – but first, let me savour these few moments on the couch. 

Daredevil Season 1 Review 

This review contains mild spoilers.
Twelve years since the original adaptation of Daredevil, this Netflix original season provides a gritty, violent and realistic aesthetic to the character. Telling the story of Matt Murdock, a blind lawyer with superhuman senses, this television drama focus heavily on his life both professionally as a lawyer and personally as the vigilante ‘Daredevil’, also known as the ‘Devil of Hell’s Kitchen’. If you’re looking for an action-packed, character driven, thrilling ten episode series, this season is definitely for you. Whether it be the sheer depth of the primary antagonist Wilson Fisk or the excellent direction and cinematography of the hallway tracking shot, this show is pure quality in nearly every aspect and is a true love letter to all those who enjoy the source material. This is one of the most refreshing, unique, original and incredible pieces of television in the Marvel Cinematic Universe ever to have been created. 

Set in New York’s ‘Hell’s Kitchen’, Daredevil has all the great conventions of a crime drama: a dark, gritty tone, adult themes, an anti-heroic and insightful protagonist and a thrilling antagonist with a strong motivation for what they are doing. This drama brilliantly executes the balance between action and character development, showing Matt Murdock as a man of intelligence, wit and a slight thirst for violence and releasing his inner demons. It’s a compelling narrative – despite its tendancy to sometimes have a ‘crime of the episode’ style – and really goes deeper and deeper into the enigma that both Matt Murdock and the villain, Wilson Fisk, provide. Fisk is a troubled man, who believes in trying to make the city ‘a better place’. As a viewer, it is difficult not to sympathise with his dark past and relationship with Vanessa. Even despite all the horrific things he does, his character is one that provides a great deal of balance and intrigue, unlike the typical Marvel villain archetype of being solely evil. Where this show blossoms is in its brilliant characters, that make this drama feel as alive as any other show with quality material.

Not only thus, but the cinematography and overall choreography for the fight scenes are pure genius. Take, for example, the excellently thrilling and gut wrenching tracking shot, that mesmerised viewers with over three minutes of beautifully shot hallway action. It felt realistic, like we were feeling every blow dealt to Matt and feeling his sympathy towards the kidnapped young child. First starting with silence and the gradual anticipation and build up through Matt’s senses soon lead to punches, manoeuvres and bodies sprawled across the floor. Every hit felt natural, and every enemy appeared to act and behave in a manner that most cinematic archetypes would not: they actually fought back. While tracking shots have been done many times before – from No Country for Old Men to True Detective – but something about this particular scene is so appealing and attractive aesthetically to the eye. It’s safe to say that this really set the precedence for the season and for the Netflix Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole. 

The biggest issue with this season was the thirteen episode format, which created a vacuum for small crime, somewhat filler episodes. While it was refreshing to see a variety of different, compelling antagonists, sometimes this detracted from the overall focus of the plot with Wilson Fisk and made it feel ever so slightly repetitive in parts. It severely hindered the progress of the plot and sacrificed what could have been a very coherent and well structured story. Not that it’s a terrible thing to boast the excellent direction and action, but sometimes it would have been appreciated if more focus on the highlight of the show would have been acknowledged and considered. 

Another detracting feature was the somewhat anti-climatic conclusion to such a dramatic, highly anticipated series. Fisk had been a dominant hand in the city, both through influential and physical power. He had shown signs of weakness – which ultimately made him all the more likeable – with his relationship and light-hearted nature alongside Vanessa, but for the majority of the season he had developed a broad group of associates and had repressed those seeking to fight against him. He even went as far as murdering a particular character in order to keep the news outlets completely oblivious to his crimes, not to mention him paying off many forms of law enforcement to keep his secrets safe. Yet, despite all this power and influence, his closure is found in a futile battle against Daredevil – who had taken severe injuries after their last confrontation. This ending felt too scripted, too coincidental and just too simple. While Fisk’s story was one of the most compelling and intriguing throughout the season, his ending made him appear as a criminal out of his depth. 

This, however, is almost a side thought that sweeps alongside the positives because this show does so many things right that these criticisms are very difficult to remember when watching. With characters as compelling and thoroughly fleshed as these and choreographical sequences that baffle both the eye and the mind, this show is definitely onto a winner. It’s a very positive, confident approach that changes the perceptions of Marvel and the genre. Essentially, it’s a superhero show that is inhabited and absorbed by a particularly rich mystery and crime. While it may lack a strong conclusion, it still warrants a second season – which is also available to watch – and more than justifies a binging session. 

Daredevil Season 1 scores:


Splatoon 2 Review – The Freshest, Most Addictive Shooter 

Being Nintendo’s Summer seller, Splatoon 2 has a lot to prove and a lot show to the many people who never experienced the original. In this ink-redibly fun and addictive sequel to the shooter, features from the original are taken and improved almost in every aspect. Whether you’re looking for a solid single player experience with some challenging bosses, or whether you’re looking to play competitively online, this game has all eventualities accomodated for. It truly is the freshest, most addictive shooter on the market currently.

Where this game truly shines and should be greatly appreciated is its fantastic game mechanics and overall fun factor. There is a plentitude of rewards to be unlocked and achieved – from gaining new weapons after level two to playing the latest mode Salmon Run to earn special gear – and this makes the whole gaming experience all the more enjoying and gives a great incentive to playing all the various game modes. When you begin to level up, you will be able to equip all new clothing and use completely different weapons that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to previously – a staple of any good game in the genre. Matches are particularly short (a turf war match concludes in three minutes) so it makes for perfect pick up and play action without detracting from the overall gameplay and enjoyment factor. It all works in harmony and soon enough you will get absorbed into the immersive world that is this game. 

While the game doesn’t have a huge amount of content in regards to stages and game modes, there is still more than enough to keep you entertained because of the nature of the game. Whereas many other shooters solely rely on you targeting your opposition, Splatoon 2 tries to focus more on gaining turf and being able to move freely which provides completely different situations and experiences with every match played. It accomodates for all different audiences and players; for those who want an entertaining, collectable based single player campaign, there is Octo Canyon. For those looking for a more online based game, there are various different options to try and experiment with. Sure, the game heavily focuses on its robust online infrastructure, but that doesn’t mean that the single player campaign is any less worth the investment of time. 

One issue to be stated is the lack of ‘couch co-op’ game modes, something that was also present within the original. It’s not too significant as you’ll be particularly immersed in all the other modes, but it would have been nice to see some split screen action instead of having to buy two systems just so a member of your family or your friend could join you. The opportunity was most possible within the Salmon Run game mode as you work as a team to fend of the Salmonid creatures. Omce again, it’s nothing particularly major, but this could have provided an even greater appeal and targetted an even larger audience. If Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Arms can both provide split screen co-op play, why can’t Splatoon 2?

The single player, as stated previously, provides a good length campaign that essentially teaches you the basic game mechanics and gives you a strong insight into the primary weapon classes (such as the splattershot, roller and charger) so that you can be prepared for the online game. It also rewards you with Crusty Sean meal tickets, which can greatly improve your efficiency with levelling up and gaining currency. The overall campaign is particularly original, innovative and just shows how creative the development team can be with their ideas. Each boss has character and some form of depth in humour, making them just as funny as they are entertaining to battle. Every mission has two collectables: a sardine and a sea scroll. This adds a ton of replay value to the campaign and makes you want to spend the extra few minutes per mission to find them. All in all, the single player mode is one of the most entertaining, fun, addictive, immersive and original campaigns I’ve ever played.

The online infrastructure of the game – featuring voice chat, inviting friends and all the connections with the Nintendo Switch Online App and Splatnet 2 – is still in the early stages of development and feels like it needs more time to be fully fleshed out. It all feels rather convoluted and complicated to get it all to function correctly. While voice chat isn’t a necessity by any means, it’s a bit of a shame that the calling messages are rather limited to ‘this way’ and ‘booyah’. It becomes a little annoying when you can’t just signal your ally to a particular area and have to predict their movements. It will be very interesting to see this feature of the online later in the game’s life cycle, so this aspect won’t be affecting the overall grade as it could be changed and developed at a later date.

As for the performance, Splatoon 2 runs at a perfectly smooth and fluent 60 frames per second, with a dynamic resolution of 720p in handheld mode and 1080p in home console mode. It’s beautifully smooth to play and never drops a single frame, or at least from what I have experienced. While it does drop resolution in areas of particular action, it is very hardly noticeable and emphasises the importance of having the stable framrate instead. Furthermore, the game has some use of HD rumble, which is a nice and appreciated addition that mildly improves the game’s immersive quality. 

In conclusion, Splatoon 2 is an original, innovative and particularly refreshing sequel that improvs upon the foundations of the original. From the single player campaign to the variously different online game modes, this shooter tailors to every player’s desires. It looks gorgeous on the handheld and performs beautifully in every match. Whilst the online voice chat and features may still be in the early stages and the lack of game modes for split screen play is apparent, the replay value and addictive nature provides a game that realy doesn’t feel like it needs anything else added to it. With regular updates and Splatfests incoming, this is sure to be a huge seller for months (maybe even years) to come. Splatoon 2 is the best, freshest and most creative shooter currently available and it really sets a precedent for the Switch’s quality lineup.

Splatoon 2 scores: