Tag Archives: Film Review

Is Citizen Kane (1941) The Greatest Film of All Time?


As a lover of film, finally getting around to this classic has been long overdue, due to topping the list of the American Film Institute’s 100 greatest movies, of which I have seen 33 at the time of writing. But despite that list having some questionable choices (M*A*S*H, anyone?), I was still eager to see what the supposedly best film ever made had to offer. Did it deliver and is it worthy of it’s title?

Citizen Kane follows a reporter interviewing numerous people associated with newspaper founder Charles Foster Kane trying to figure out what the meaning of his final words, “Rosebud”, is. As he does so, we learn more about Kane’s rise and fall through the industry, before learning the grand truth behind his last words.

I realize that description of the plot might make it seem like the reporter has a bigger role than he actually does. Most of the film is told in flashbacks, and in massive chunks too, so admittedly it can be quite jarring when you do return to the present day. That can also be taken as a compliment on the movie’s part, as I found myself wrapped up in Charles’ character study and how he was thought of by the people he knew, with plenty of build up made towards the simple final reveal, making for a poignant conclusion.

But a great story doesn’t entirely make a film, as one of the things that makes the art form so great is how the visuals, music, editing and the screenplay come together. In Citizen Kane’s case, it’s much like Lawrence of Arabia and 2001: A Space Odyssey where it feels ahead of it’s time. It boasts impressive film-making that actually utilizes the fact it’s a movie (most other films of that era can feel like filmed plays) and it mostly doesn’t show it’s age, with most of the small issues I have with the movie having nothing to do with it being dated.

I personally wouldn’t rank it as the best film of all time, because that checklist of the visuals, music, editing and screenplay isn’t always done perfectly (the score by the iconic Bernard Herrman doesn’t add much to the film), and things like that random parrot screeching for no reason other than to make sure that the audience is still watching the film now comes off as random and distracting.

Despite that, it’s impact on cinema isn’t to be ignored, and I’m perfectly content with it begin considered the best movie of all time. This is likely to be on the bucket list for many film fans, and for me, there was plenty to appreciate and enjoy, meaning that I found it to be overall great.



Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) – When Style Equals Substance


Before the words “Mad Max: Fury Road” appear on screen, you’ll have probably figured out what you’re going to think of the movie. It begins with our hero Max (played by classic mumbler Tom Hardy) being captured and then attempting to escape, but as he does so, he gets strange visions of a mysterious girl. Either you think that that was a great way to convey Max’s insanity, or you’ll think it’s an unnesesary in-your-face explosion of editing. I thought the latter.

And the film only gets more insane from there! As it continues to set itself up, my jaw was consistently dropped by some of the crazy (not to mention random and unexplained) sights you see. Weird fat naked ladies having milk pumped from them (no, I’m not making this up), blood being transferred from Max to another character constantly for some reason, a random guitar player exists for no reason and we get even more of that editing I was talking about earlier!

But as the movie starts to settle into itself, it honestly becomes a bit dull. Yes, there’s a crap ton of action throughout and a good chunk of it was done for real, but whilst the film does quite a bit of visual world-building, it forgets to develop interesting characters. As Max tries to escape from this army, he runs into a group of women also trying to evade the enemy. One of the women falls out of the truck they’re driving in and while it’s made out to be a pretty big deal, I couldn’t care less because no personality was given to her before her demise, and most of the other characters have little about them to make us care for them.

The first act of this movie is insane, as we see all sorts of bonkers sights that come off as just crazy with little to no context. Act 2 is calmer but becomes more character driven, though saying it’s even that is a bit of a stretch. The third is actually decent even if it does drag in parts. The whole thing is quite well made, with some good shots with a striking colour scheme, and I appreciate the practicality of the action.

Mad Max: Fury Road can’t decide what it wants to be. It starts as a crazy visual world-building experience, then turns into a slightly character driven road chase (think a big budget Smokey and the Bandit, minus the likeable cast) before becoming a full on film-making spectacle by the end, similar to something like Dunkirk. But where that film succeeded because it was fully about the scope and intensity, Fury Road tries to juggle several styles into one. For many, it really worked (it even got a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars that year) and is now considered one of the best action films of all time, but for me, it wasn’t that lovely a day.




The Castle of Cagliostro (1979): Miyazaki’s Film Debut, But Not His Career Definer



Directorial debuts typically set the stage for a directors work, so with the legendary Hayao Miyazaki’s first film, you’d expect something fantastical with bizarre creatures and imaginative worlds. But from the opening of The Castle of Cagliostro, which sees two thieves escaping a casino with counterfeit money whilst the police’s cars explode and break apart behind them, I quickly realized that Miyazaki’s first outing on the big screen was a world away from what was to come for his career.

Miyazaki’s career began with him directing a few episodes of the anime “Lupin the III” before he was tasked with bringing that show to cinemas with his first feature film, The Castle of Cagliostro, which follows the characters from the show in a surprisingly convoluted plot that’s pretty hard to explain, so all I’ll say is that these two thieves attempt to infiltrate the castle to find it’s hidden treasure whilst trying to outrun a persistent detective and the castle guards.

Clocking in at 100 minutes, the film gets plenty done in that time frame, with an unpredictable plot that kept me engaged, some fun action sequences and likeable characters. It’s origin as a TV show is clear, with sudden scene transitions and brief little bursts of music to begin a new scene making me imagine adverts playing in between, and certain characters that have little development were clearly established long before the film was made. It’s a solid movie in it’s own right, but having seen a good chunk of Miyazaki’s future work, it was more fascinating to watch than it was entertaining.

There’s little here that feels like a Hayao Miyazaki film. It has a James Bond vibe with plenty of borderline slapstick humour, the soundtrack ranges from smooth jazz to something that sounds like something out of a 70’s – 80’s TV show, and at times, it can sound like unused music for a Sonic game. The castle itself and the surrounding ruins do have a Ghibli-esque feel to them, and there’s little parts here and there that could possibly have had an influence on Miyazaki’s later films, but for the most part, this is an entirely different film when compared to what was to come in Miyazaki’s career.

The Castle of Cagliostro is a perfectly entertaining movie on it’s own, nothing great, but a fun watch regardless, but going in expecting to see how Miyazaki’s career blossomed from there and how he took from it in his later films, I came out having gotten the complete opposite. If you’re familiar with many of Studio Ghibli’s film, check it out, and see how the company’s iconic director began his career with a title unlike any other in his filmography.



Big Hero 6 (2014) Film Review


Back when the Oscars started to hand out the award for Best Animated Feature, it went to films from Studio Ghibli, Dreamworks, even Aardman got into the mix. Nowadays, it’s typically either from Disney and Pixar, and in 2014, the fantastic Lego Movie didn’t even get a nomination! Instead, the winner was Big Hero 6, from, you guessed it, Disney.

Our hero is Hiro (the most on the nose protagonist name ever, I know) Hamada, a young lad who’s interest goes from illegal bot fighting to going to his brother, Tadashi’s university. His amazing invention gets him in, but soon after, the uni catches fire and Tadashi (rather stupidly) goes in to save the guy who invented bot fighting, and surprise surprise, a family member dies in a Disney movie. In other news, water is wet.

One of Tadashi’s creations is Baymax, a robot to help those in pain. Hiro finds him and soon after, discovers a mysterious man in a mask is using his invention from earlier for evil. Hiro, Baymax and some of Tadashi’s uni friends become superheroes to try and discover who lies under the mask.

Unlike a lot of other Disney films, they actually do develop some chemistry between Hiro and Tadashi before he gets killed off, which makes the pay off all the more effective. And even the most stone hearted couldn’t fall in love with Baymax, who never strays from his robotic roots, which makes for some very funny moments. When the movie is about these three characters, it truly shines.

When it gets to the actual superhero stuff, however, it comes off as a bit gimmicky. That’s not to say it’s bad, there’s a decent twist near the end, but after the great material with Tadashi’s death, it feels like “here’s the part where we have to sell toys!” On top of that, most of the side characters aren’t that interesting. They’re likeable, but they don’t leave a lasting impression like the brothers and Baymax do.

Despite the aforementioned issues, the pros definitely outweigh the cons here. If it was all about the superhero aspect, The Lego Movie would’ve been snubbed big time, but when I think back to the brother’s chemistry and the relationship between Hiro and Baymax, I can see why the Oscars went for this one. Indeed, I was satisfied with my care.

Kubo and the Two Strings (2016) Film Review


A lot of classic stories tell us that it’s not about how something looks, but rather what’s inside. Kubo and the Two Strings doesn’t take message this to heart.

First off, the animation looks great. In a day and age where CGI dominates the animated market, it’s nice to see some stop motion thrown in there. The movements flow very well and it helps that some of the environments look fantastic. Put simply, this movie is a visual treat, but as far as the story goes, it falls very flat.

On paper, it sounds simple enough. Kubo’s grandfather took one of his eyes and he wants the other one, so he and his mother go into hiding. His mum tells him not to stay out after dark, and when he (of course) does, his aunts try to attack him. Soon he’s joined by a monkey and a giant beetle, and they look for some armour to defeat his grandfather. Oh, and Kubo can play a guitar which makes paper turn into living origami, for some reason.

It’s not a bad concept, but it’s execution is incredibly poor. First issue, when the monkey and the beetle (fittingly named Monkey and Beetle) are first introduced, it’s incredibly rushed. The writers essentially go “these characters are in the movie now, deal with it” and Kubo just rolls with it, and the audience is expected to. Maybe some people did, I didn’t.

For the first half of the movie, I had plenty of questions. When it gets around to answering them, it genuinely annoyed me. The biggest question I had throughout the entire movie was “Why did Kubo’s grandfather take his eye?” The reason is supposed to be symbolic, but it doesn’t make any sense why the grandfather doesn’t just outright kill Kubo, and then it starts raising more questions like…well, that’ll be getting into spoiler territory.

Take another example, where it’s revealed that Monkey is actually [SPOILERS], it makes you wonder why she didn’t say anything sooner. Beetle asks, and the answer isn’t even a reason not to say anything, it’s a cheap cop out.

You probably assume I hate this movie, but I actually don’t. It’s visually enjoyable and the opening scenes in the village showed some promise, but once it gets into the meat of the adventure, I began to get confused and annoyed. I would’ve like it more if there weren’t so many bad excuses for character choices, but as it is, Zootropolis, a fantastic movie with a brilliantly told story, should’ve won the BAFTA for Best Animated Feature over this.

Fargo (1996) Film Review


The movie begins with a lie: “This is a true story.” Parts of it are based on real events, but most of it’s entirely made up. But from the moment the film fades out from black to show a snowy, foggy road, you forget about the opening statement and become immersed in the story and actually believe you are watching a true story.

That story is about a car salesman, Jerry Lundegaard. He’s in serious debt, so he hires two criminals to kidnap his wife, and then spilt the ransom money from his father in law. It all goes smoothly until the criminals get pulled over, and are forced to do some shooting. Enter Marge Gunderson, a jolly police chief who is sent out to investigate the murders. After that, Jerry’s scheme goes from bad to worse as…well, that would be spoiling the many surprises that follow…

Fargo runs at 1 hour and 38 minutes, and it makes every second count. From setting up the characters, to showing the plan fall apart, the outbursts of violence and the moments in-between of these people just being people, it not only manages to be an engaging thriller, but a hugely entertaining movie at the same time, supported by some brilliant acting that makes the characters feel real, the impressive cinematography, the haunting music and a tightly written script that keeps you hooked from the first scene at the bar to the final moments at Marge’s house.

Despite all the other brilliance in the film, the thing that makes it so special is that all the main characters are likeable. Yes, most of them might be murderers, but they’re still people just trying to get through the day, which makes for many entertaining and memorable moments. And then there’s the character you’re supposed to like, Marge. Amidst all the murders she has to solve, the people she has to interview and the violence she witnesses, she takes us through every other scene with a big grin and a pleasant attitude.

A few days after I first saw Fargo, I watched it again. And a third time a couple more days later. In the space of a week, it has become one of my favourite films of all time. Maybe it’s not based on a true story, but does it still make for a truly brilliant movie? Ya darn tootin’ it does!

West Side Story (1961) Film Review


Anyone else hate long films that just go on and on AND ON? I certainly do, and I’m always left thinking about glorious 70 minute long animated movies. West Side Story runs at 152 minutes, so this is gonna drag, right?

It’s a retelling of Romeo and Juliet, but instead of it being rival families, it’s gangs (the American Jets VS the Spanish Sharks) who keep fighting for the turf by twirling and prancing around. At a dance, one of the Jets, Tony, falls in love with the Sharks leader’s sister, Maria. The two keep visiting each other in secret, while the fight between the Jets and Sharks escalates…

The most important part of any musical is… well, the music, and it’s absolutely cracking here! There’s plenty of tunes to get stuck in your head and the dancing is consistently impressive. It’s also very well paced, with enough time between songs and building up the story to keep the viewer engaged.

Maybe it IS the pacing that keeps the movie from becoming dull because of the run time. Something entertaining is always happening, where it be seeing where the story goes next to a big dance number, there was never a dull moment.

West Side Story is often considered one of the great movie musicals, and after seeing it for myself, it’s hard to argue with that statement. Give it a watch if you haven’t already, although be prepared to have Maria stuck in your head all day long…