The Boy and the Beast

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I’ve been meaning to a write a piece on this film ever since it released in 2015 but I got busy. However I recently just watched it again and now I’m ready to dive into Mamoru Hosoda’s “The Boy and the Beast”. There will be no spoilers here so don’t worry, my aim here is to get you all to watch this film without talking about too much. It’s also worth pointing out that I’ve watched the Japanese version with subtitles so I can’t comment on the English voice acting.

Ren, or Kyuta as he’s later nicknamed, is a young orphan living on the streets of Shibuya and life isn’t treating him too great. When he stumbles into a fantastic world of intelligent beasts, he is taken in by Kumatetsu, a rugged, gruff bear-like warrior who is searching for the perfect apprentice. At its core this movie is about family and the father and son bond that develops between these two hotheaded personalities. I don’t want to delve too much it into the plot so I’ll leave it at that.

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Kyuta and Kumatetsu are so alike yet they don’t notice that straight away, they are constantly butting heads and getting into arguments and are both reluctant to get along. This is what makes their dynamic so enjoyable. The line between student and teacher is blurred and instead they both teach each other how to better themselves, this makes for some some funny moments between the two as well as some powerful heartfelt ones. They are both extremely likeable and watching them grow is so charming and easily the most enjoyable aspect of the film. Hats off to the voice actors too as they delivered a wonderful performance, Koji Yakusho (Kumatetsu) and Aoi Miyazaki (Young Kyuta) are especially brilliant.

The animation is gorgeous, from start to finish the colours pop, the characters feel alive and it all flows nicely.  Not only is the animation great, but there are so many themes woven throughout this movie; parenthood, friendship, darkness, acceptance. The emotions behind the film are well hidden and it really does sneak up on you, once you know what the film is about and witness the different themes that are explored, you will be totally invested.

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The film can get heavy on exposition and its third act is noticeably weaker than the rest. As most of the focus is on Kyuta and Kumatetsu’s relationship, the major conflict is in the background and isn’t really given room to develop. It isn’t bad by any means and it still delivers with awesome action and emotion, it just feels slightly rushed as the major villain is sidelined throughout.

The Boy and the Beast is a beautiful film with heart and deep emotional themes and if you’re a fan of animated movies or just great storytelling then you should definitely give it a go. The animation is stunning, the action is amazing and although it may seem like a simple story, its hiding so much more. Although it’s final conflict falters it still manages to deliver an explosive finale.

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The Iron Giant

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The Iron Giant. My favourite animated movie of all time and I could argue that it is in fact the greatest animated movie to ever grace western cinema. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the film, let me fill you in. The Iron Giant takes place in 1957 during the Cold War and revolves around a young boy named Hogarth Hughes and his relationship with a giant metal robot from outer space. I’m going to be talking about story elements throughout this article so if you haven’t seen it, go watch it as I truly believe it’s something you should experience for yourself. The film didn’t do great financially which is a shame because it honestly is a brilliant film, its gathered a large cult following and is regarded as a classic.

The film is directed by Brad Bird and is actually his first feature movie, he then went on to do The Incredibles and Ratatouille which are both amazing movies. Let me start by saying this movie is beautiful, the hand-drawn world is so pleasing to the eyes and although the Giant was created entirely by computer, he blends seamlessly with the world. The animation is striking and attempts to recreate the look of a Cold War-Era America which makes for some stunning scenes. The voice acting is also great, you’ve got Vin Diesel as the Giant, Eli Marienthal as Hogarth and Jennifer Aniston, Christopher McDonald and Harry Connick Jr. in there too. They all do a great job at delivering their lines with the appropriate emotion that is required within the particular scene.

But what is it that makes the film so amazing? Yeah the film is gorgeous and the voice acting is great but what of the actual plot? Well on the surface the film is pretty simple. A robot from outer space crashes down to Earth and a young boy befriends him, meanwhile a paranoid government agent is out to expose the robot and destroy him. Hogarth and the Giant’s relationship is what makes the movie so lovable, watching them interact is a joy and you really buy into their friendship. When both of your main characters are so lovable then its only logical you’re going to love watching them. Because Hogarth has to try and hide the Giant from everyone you get some funny scenarios, one of my favourites in particular is when he’s saying grace at dinner and the Giant’s hand has found itself inside their home.  Now the film has its laughs and action packed scenes as is expected when you have a giant robot as the title character. But the emotional aspects are where this movie shines, not only does the movie touch on the concept of death which is a touchy subject in a kids film, it touches heavily on xenophobia. Now let me just rewind and talk about the Giant for a second. He is from both Hogarth’s and the audiences perspective, a little kid. He doesn’t really understand anything, in fact when he first meets Hogarth he can’t talk. We get to see this character grow in a sense and his resemblance to a child is what  makes him so likeable. So when the Giant encounters a dead deer, it is both confusing and intriguing to him. When Hogarth, who remember is just 9 years old, has to explain the concept of death to him, it is really moving. I also have to talk about the music. Hats off to the composer, Michael Kamen, as the score is simply magical. In every scene the music stands out and never feels out of place and its those emotional scenes where the music really has an impact.

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Xenophobia. It is the fear or hatred of that which is foreign. That is a word that is extremely relevant in today’s day and age. The Iron Giant teaches children a lesson that is both important and valid, just because something is alien to you doesn’t mean it is a monster. It is through Brad Birds excellent direction that this provides social commentary on both xenophobia and race. Commentary on the Cold War also comes into play as the likely tension between the US and Russia is mentioned throughout the movie. The people of the town of Rockwell are always showing signs of fear, fear of foreigners. There’s a scene where some children in Hogarth’s class are talking about the Giant and how he has probably been sent by foreign enemies, one child even proposes they bomb him. The Giant we know is both sweet and innocent however he is constantly viewed as a military weapon and has his very existence threatened by those who do not know him.

The town of Rockwell view the Giant as a monster and it isn’t until he sacrifices himself to protect humankind from an incoming missile that they treat him as a hero. Whilst the whole town is cheering, having just gained a hero they rejected, Hogarth is the only one to be truly upset as he has lost a good friend.  It isn’t until he is dead they truly appreciate the Giant, erecting a statue in his honour and thus gaining the recognition from those who vilified him. The importance of The Iron Giant is something that doesn’t need to be debated, the fact that this film slips under the radar of many is saddening to someone who grew up with it. Beyond the theme of friendship, the film is a moral story of acceptance and understanding and no one should miss this masterpiece.

Stranger Things – Review

stranger things titlesStranger Things is Netflix’s newest original series which consists of 8 episodes that are all available now. The series is directed by Matt and Ross Duffer and tells the story of a young boy named Will Byers who disappears and his mother, a police chief and his group of friends who are investigating his disappearance. But as the title suggests there are some strange, supernatural forces that might be involved. Before I start sharing my thoughts I want to make clear that this review will contain no spoilers  and i’ll try keep plot details to a minimum because if any of you do check the show out you’re gonna wanna go in knowing as little as possible. So lets begin.

The show is set in 1983 and takes place in the Indiana town of Hawkins and straight off the bat you can tell the show is very much inspired by Stephen King’s early novels and Steven Spielberg’s early movies. I was speaking to a friend straight after I finished the series and we were both stunned as to how something post 80’s was able to seem as if it was made in that decade, it perfectly captured the magic that seemed impossible to recapture. The style of the show was the main attraction for me however this could’ve easily been a style over substance scenario. It isn’t though, the story keeps you invested making you want to watch the next episode right away.

Winona Ryder gives a great performance as the mother who is driven to near insanity, at least from the perspective from other people. David Harbour who plays Hopper, the police chief was one of the most entertaining aspects of the show as we get to see him slowly uncover dark secrets regarding the investigation. The most entertaining characters on the show however are the three kids searching for their friend, honestly these kids are brilliant. They were funny and extremely likeable which can’t be said for a lot of child characters in recent movies and TV. One of the main reasons as to why they are so likeable is because they talk like kids, the dialogue is realistic and sounds like what you’d hear kids say. There isn’t always an emotional story moment at the end of a sentence, sometimes it’ll just end because that’s what kids are like. These three actors are fantastic and I hope to see them in more films in the future. One of my favourite characters was Jonathan Byers played by Charlie Heaton. He’s that character that’s very quite and seen as the loner but when he starts to come out of his shell it’s really great to see.

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The supernatural side of things starts to seep in when its revealed there’s some sort of entity roaming around the town. Once the characters pick up on these supernatural and weird moments they try to explain themselves but are deemed crazy by everyone else because what strange things happen in the town of Hawkins, right? This only makes you want to keep watching so you can see that character get his/her moment where they show everyone they were right. Another one of my favourite characters was Eleven played by Millie Bobby Brown. This actress was amazing, she felt real and authentic. Her performance was easily one of the best in the show and was one of the best performances I’ve seen from a child ever. Her character is the most intriguing and compelling, you know that she has a dark past but not all is revealed. As for the three boys my favourite one was Dustin, he was by far the most comedic and most likeable. The fantastic thing about the group of friends however is their tight bond and it’s just great to see that.

The soundtrack for this series is also great but the synth heavy score was remarkable, I could have the main theme for the series on loop and never get tired of it. I also loved how consistent the show felt, this series had the Duffer brothers for six of the eight episodes and had Shawn Levy for two of them yet the style and tone always felt the same. I know I’ve not faulted anything yet but that’s because I can’t really. Some people may be bothered by moments that resemble other movies such as E.T and might challenge how original the show is. For me however I welcomed these homages into open arms, nothing bothered me except the cliffhanger and that’s only because now I have to wait for season two.

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For me Stranger Things is the best TV show to release this year and is personally one of my favourites shows ever. Treat yourself and go check it out, if you’re a fan of the 80’s era I can guarantee you will not be disappointed. If you’re just wanting to watch a good TV show then I can tell you right now, this will suffice.

Thanks for reading, be sure to like and share if you enjoyed this review.

Golden Games – Shadow of the Colossus

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I’m going to kick off a new segment; Golden Games. I know this is the Movie Den but with gaming being such a big part of my life I’ve gotta talk about them. Here I’ll be sharing my thoughts on various games that I believe are ‘Pure gold’, the highest rating accolade I can give to a game. So let’s start with one of the greatest games to ever grace the gaming world, Shadow of the Colossus. As a kid my dad would always take me to Blockbusters every Friday to rent a game. I’d never really go in with certain game in mind but would just look around for ten or fifteen minutes and pick the one that looked the coolest. Enter Shadow of the Colossus.

Giant monsters are cool and always will be, so when I saw this on the shelf I immediately grabbed it. I didn’t need to look at the back cover and gather more information on it since the image on the front had already sold it to me. My dad got me the game and as soon as I got home I popped the disc in my PlayStation 2 and got ready to play. Now if you’re thinking I played it 24/7 because of how much I loved it you’re wrong. I couldn’t beat the first colossus which is embarrassing but remember I was like eight. I was so frustrated that I ended up returning the game and getting something else. It wasn’t until I was around fourteen years old I picked it up again and finished it. Recently I played the remastered version and being older I actually appreciated it a lot more.

I want to start by saying Shadow of the Colossus is a beautiful game, the graphics may not be the greatest but the landscape and designs of the Colossi are spectacular. Every time I’d see one of Colossi for the first time I would just stare at the screen and admire it . Each one has a unique look and feel different to one another, for me they weren’t mindless giants roaming the land but were living creatures. Whenever I killed one of them I felt pretty bad, the way their death is displayed made it seem really tragic as if I was the villain.

The battles with the Colossi are just overwhelming, dangling from a ninety foot titan is both terrifying and breathtaking. Only a handful of games have had me so focused and enthralled in its fights and this is one of them. What’s great is that every confrontation is like a puzzle, you can’t win unless you use your brain. Each colossus can only be beaten a certain way; One may require you to lead it into a rock so it hits it’s head and falls down so you can mount it. Another might need shooting in specific areas with your bow and arrow. This means the battles never become tedious or boring which is essential with a game that is primarily boss fights.

Other than the epic fights one of the best aspects of the game is the music, without the music I guarantee the fights wouldn’t feel as grand and immense as they do, to this day I still listen to ‘The Opened Way’.  What I always found brilliant was how simple the story was; Defeat sixteen Colossi to save the girl. You’re not told who this girl is and what she means to you but you know you have to save her. There’s no need for an over complicated plot and the game embraces that, while some games focus on world building you’re forced to paint your own picture of how the world came to be.

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Another thing is how the characters are developed despite a lack of dialogue, you understand Wander’s motive and are with him through the entire journey. I also found myself attached to Wander’s horse companion, Agro. He wasn’t just there to provide transport, he was a valuable ally. In a lot of the fights you’ll need him for a number of reasons and as the player you really do appreciate it. I do believe the bond between Agro and Wander is a strong one and you can clearly see that through their actions.

If I was to select my favorite colossus it would have to be  either Gaius or Phalanx purely because of how gigantic they both were and the overall design of them. As for my favorite battle it’s hands down the one with Phalanx. Riding Agro as he races alongside this behemoth that is well over five hundred feet so that you can jump and climb upon it really is perfect. There’s no doubt that Shadow of the Colossus  redefined the term ‘cinematic’ in gaming, especially the sort where the player is in control during the entirety of the game. With its genius concept, beautiful visuals and amazing battles it demonstrates that something so simple, if executed properly can make for an extraordinary game. It’s one of those gems that needs experiencing in order for you to really understand and appreciate it since it really is one of a kind.

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Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice Review

batman-v-superman-dawn-of-justice_bb788b6fI’m going to get straight to the point, Batman V Superman was a huge letdown. I tried to get excited for this film but I saw so many variables that got me worried. Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor? Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman? What is a cave troll doing in this? Well don’t judge a movie until you’ve seen it right? Well I’ve seen it now and I can say I was actually upset when the film finished, not because it was over but because of how much of a disappointment it was. The destruction caused in Metropolis because of Superman and Zod’s fight in Man of Steel sets the scene for Batman V Superman. The people of the world are split, do we need a Superman or not? While this story unfolds you have Bruce Wayne who believes the only option is to take him out. As well as this the film acts as a prologue for the Justice League movies but it feels so unnatural and forced that it took me out of the experience.

Batman V Superman’s main problem for me was there was no flow when it came to the narrative. It was all over the place and was structured so incoherently, the film felt so fast paced and rushed that it didn’t let you get involved with the scene. It felt as though there were a ton of sub plots that were meant to tie together nicely but failed to do so. Now because of problems with the pacing and structure I feel this is why there was no character investment. The film was two and half hours and it was unable to make me feel attached to any of the characters. For example Lois Lane felt so out of place and her story was very boring and tedious. In fact the whole Daily Planet aspect was just there, it wasn’t bad but it wasn’t good. It was just there. Henry Cavill as Superman was fine, nothing amazing but not bad either. I honestly believe there is a great Superman within him but the script doesn’t allow him to express that. What annoyed me was how we are focused on Superman and his conflict and then it’s suddenly dropped. This again comes down to the structure of the film.

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I have to talk about Jesse Eisenberg as Alexander Luthor too, yes that’s right, this is the son of Lex Luthor. I didn’t really didn’t like this portrayal of the character, he felt so comical and had mannerisms similar to the Joker. I understand this isn’t Lex Luthor but we still could’ve gotten the characteristics of that character. He did have maybe two or three moments where he felt very menacing and diabolical but overall it just wasn’t there. Jesse Eisenberg is a great actor but it’s like a lot of his movies, he was just playing himself. Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected, I don’t know if this was because she had a small role or she was actually good. I will say it was cool seeing her in action though.

So we had already heard this was going to set up the Justice League movies. Fine. I’m fine with that. But why did it have to be so forced. I didn’t feel like this was a Batman V Superman movie which really annoyed me. The way the film introduces us to the members of the Justice League felt so shoehorned in. Recordings on a laptop of each member just felt cheap and didn’t amaze me. There was one cameo before that scene of a certain somebody that was pretty great but was also very bizarre. But for me the nail in the coffin for me was the final act. The final act had one shot which made me smile and that was a shot we saw in the trailers. When the trinity are standing together to fight Doomsday, yeah that looked awesome. The whole fight should’ve been awesome but it wasn’t, not for me at least. It felt like a mess, I honestly felt sick during the final showdown mainly because of Doomsday’s God awful design and bad CG. The final fight should’ve had me pumped but I wasn’t feeling it which was a real shame.

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Now that’s what I disliked about the movie, let’s move on to what I did like. Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman. I was one the few who was actually looking forward to seeing him play the caped crusader and he didn’t disappoint. This felt like the best incarnation of Batman we’ve had on the big screen. He’s dark, brutal and feels like he’s been ripped straight out of The Dark Knight Returns comic. The action sequences involving him are brilliant, seeing him seamlessly take out criminals was a joy to watch. The first time we see Batman was actually quite creepy as it played out like something from a horror movie. I also want to point out that Jeremy Irons as Alfred was brilliant, it was a a different take on the character that worked wonderfully. For me the first act was the strongest; opening with the death of Bruce Wayne’s parents and his point of view during the Metropolis battle provided a quick and effective introduction to the character.

As well as the Dark Knight himself some of the action sequences were great. Although I didn’t enjoy the final showdown, the fight between Superman and Batman is marvellous. However the build up to the fight and way it concluded was horrible and again felt very rushed. But seeing Batman pummel the Man of Steel is a sight to behold. The cinematography was nice too, not as great as I expected it was still a good-looking film. I’ve always thought Zack Synder was very stylistic director but storytelling is one of his biggest weaknesses and that’s crystal clear with Batman V Superman.

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Did I hate the film? No. Did I like it? Some bits, yeah. The best way to put it is that it had a good concept but was executed poorly, it did have some great elements but it wasn’t enough. I really wanted to love this film but it made it so hard to do so with its inconsistent narrative and lack of character development. It was trying so hard to set up a franchise it forgot to be a good standalone film which is one of the problems with films these days. Nevertheless I do recommend you see it purely because of how big a film it is and it does have some amazing stuff to offer. If you feel as if I’ve spoiled it, trust me I haven’t, there was a lot more I could’ve talked about. A lot.

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The Beauty Inside

 

So earlier today I was looking through Mary Elizabeth Winsteads’s filmography on IMDB, I was that impressed by her performance in 10 Cloverfield Lane I was curious to know what other movies or shows she’d starred in. Apart from Final Destination 3 and Scott Pilgrim vs The World I hadn’t really seen her in anything. Can’t say I was a fan of Final Destination but I loved Scott Pilgrim, that film hit all the right notes. Anyway I’d noticed she hadn’t really done a lot of major movies, indie movies seemed to be her thing. I’m all for indie movies so this wasn’t an issue but only two titles caught my eye; Smashed and The Beauty Inside. 

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I read a brief summary for each of them and decided to go with The Beauty Inside as you probably guessed. While Smashed was a movie, The Beauty Inside was a web series that was released in 2012 so it wasn’t recent at all. The series is around forty minutes long in total and revolves around a guy named Alex who wakes up everyday as someone new. This immediately got my attention, it sounded like a great concept and I was thinking to myself “that’s genius”. So life is weird for Alex and when he falls for a girl named Leah (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) it gets quite poetic. As the show puts it “He knows he will see her again but she will never see him”, its actually quite tragic.

Now i’m not one for romances at all, i can’t stand them if i’m honest. But with this I actually really enjoyed it and surprisingly found myself getting attached to both Alex and Leah in the space of forty minutes. I don’t want to get all soft but it was actually really heart-warming and it touches on the whole “its what’s on the inside that counts” ideology in a really clever way. All the actors provided an emotional performance and the music throughout was also really good, it seemed to match what was happening on screen almost perfectly.

It really is an impressive short, full of emotion whilst maintaining this delightful simplicity. Director Drake Doremus did a great job as did all the actors, Mary Elizabeth Winstead is just a joy to watch with her charming personality, seems she can do no wrong. I highly recommend this to anyone looking for something fresh and intriguing that excellently portrays one of life’s hard truths.

Why the new Spiderman suit is perfect!

I know I’m late but I need to get my opinion out there. The second trailer for Marvels Captain America Civil War dropped nearly two weeks ago and it was amazing. We got a ton of action and some plot information but the big shock was our first look at Tom Holland’ Spiderman. It was such a brilliant reveal in that he had Captain Americas shield and nervously said “Hey Everyone”. Now for me that wasn’t just targeted at the rest of the heroes but us as the audience which just made me happy. Now I loved the suit as did many but of course there was negativity surrounding it, you can’t please everyone. I wanna state why I think this suit is the best suit we’ve seen on screen.

If you know Spiderman you’ll instantly recognise the eyes, they seem to be heavily influenced by Steve Ditkos designs as does the whole suit. Not only are the shape of the eyes brilliant but they can shrink and enlarge which allows for emotion to come through while in the suit which hasn’t been done within the Spiderman films. Deadpool utilised this effect brilliantly and I have no doubt the new suit will do so too.


We’ve seen the organic webshooters and the mechanical ones, for me I’m not fussed about them but I do prefer the mechanical. Seeing these on Spiderman just made it clear that this Peter Parker is smart and can create his own devices. As I said above this suit is heavily influenced by Steve Ditkos take on Spiderman, not only do we see this in the eyes but the spider logos on the front on back are strongly reminiscent of said designs. Although I do find the black spider on the front a tad small it isn’t really an issue.

As for everyone saying he looks like a CGI balloon, calm down. First of all if the suit is going to be fully CG in the film then it will look a lot better once the film is finished in post-production. And those saying Tom Holland sounds like a kid, yeah he does. You know why? Because Spiderman is a kid, he’s in high school. Audiences are so used to seeing this grown up Spiderman they’ve created this idea he was always a grown man which is untrue. The character was so relatable and “amazing” as he was in high school which wasn’t really explored in previous movies.

But hey, if you don’t like the suit, you don’t like the suit. But deal with it because that is the suit. Thanks for reading!

Why 10 Cloverfield Lane is Amazing!

  

10 Cloverfield Lane is directed by Dan Trachtenberg and stars John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead (MEW) and John Gallagher Jr. After seeing the surprise trailer back in January I was immediately excited for this movie for two reasons. I was a huge Cloverfield fan and seeing this pop up on YouTube ignited a flame which had died. The other reason was that the trailer was amazing, it was filled with enigma, suspense and looked really intriguing. After some research I found this movie wasn’t always a sequel and was actually meant to stand on its own as “The Cellar”. However JJ Abrams and Bad Robot got involved an decided to make it a “blood relative”. Anyway that’s the history of the film but what about the film itself? Well I wasn’t disappointed.

After getting in car accident, Michelle (MEW) is held in a shelter with two men, who claim the world outside is no longer safe. Let me start by saying that Mary Elizabeth Winstead is brilliant in this movie, she isn’t the bumbling stumbling woman that is seen in these types of scenarios. No, she’s clever and makes for a believable character which makes it that much more enjoyable and riveting when she’s on screen. John Gallagher Jr is also great, he’s the fun and more relaxed character which can add to the tension or deduct from it which isn’t bad at all considering how intense this movie can get. The show stealer here is John Goodman, this man is honestly terrifying, seeing him interact with these characters in particular scenarios had me on the edge of my seat. I rarely gasp or utter words during a movie but I found myself doing that consistently with this gem. You never really understand what’s going through his head, his actual mentality is confusing. One minute he’s calm and rational and the next he is out of his mind. This makes for a greatly tension filled experience.

  

There are definitely hints of Abrams all around the film but I believe Dan Trachtenberg made this movie his own. The lingering shots and scenes going from slow and steady to quick and exciting is brilliant. If I had to describe the film in one word it would be ‘claustrophobic’. When I was in the cinema I really did feel trapped, this made for such an unsettling and uncomfortable experience. I also want to point out that it would’ve of been easy to sexualise a female character trapped in a room with two men and make that a focus but it never is which is great to see considering some of the movies today.

I will say that when walking out of the cinema I don’t know what to think of the last fifteen minutes or so. I didn’t hate it but I didn’t love it, it was just a weird feeling. After a day or two I realised that I only felt that way because I had the idea this was related to Cloverfield but for me, it really isn’t. Apart from a few references there was no need for it be a “blood relative” at all but I won’t fault it for that. If your expecting a direct sequel to Cloverfield with monsters this isn’t it. But it is an amazing film surpassing its “cousin” massively in terms of visuals, performances and direction. This has honestly become one of my favourite films due to how much enjoyment I got out of it and how well made it was. I will say I hope to see Mary Elizabeth Winstead in a lot more movies as I believe she is a fantastic actor with a ton of range, and hats off to John Goodman for giving one of the most chilling performances I’ve ever witnessed.