The Book of Life

the book of life

This review, written by me, was first published in Newcastle University’s newspaper, The Courier, and has been slightly altered for the purpose of this blog post.

The Book of Life is an animation film, directed by Guillermo del Toro, that was released into cinemas last year (and is now available on DVD): the story centres around the small town of San Angel on the Day of the Dead.

La Muerte (Kate del Castillo), ruler of the Land of the Remembered, and Xibalba (Ron Perlmen), ruler of the Land of the Forgotten, decide to have a wager. The prize: Xibalbe will get to rule the Land of the Remembered. The bet: which of the two boys from San Angel will marry their friend María (Zoe Saldana): Manolo (Diego Luna) or Joaquín (Channing Tatum)?

The film is absolutely beautifully animated; instead of the traditional style of animation, the characters are caricatures – some have enormous noses, tiny legs, massive bellies, and the like!. Each character has an exaggerated feature, and has been made to look like wooden puppets – all except La Muerte and Xibalba that is. The Land of the Remembered was especially stunning as the characters had been given such unique looks and the entire land was full of vibrant colours and figures.

The Book of Life has got a great musical element to it as well, the songs are a mix of covers (including Radiohead and Mumford & Sons) and original songs. In my opinion, the original songs are the best, they are more directly related to the film and as a result convey the emotion of the scene much better. I was greatly impressed by the voice actors, however, I’m not entirely sure about Channing Tatum as Joaquín; most of the characters from San Angel sound like they have Mexican influence, but Channing just sounds like a typical American. The only other criticism I have is that some of the jokes were very straightforward, though it’s forgiven because most of them were still chuckle-worthy and the film’s main target audience is, at the end of the day, children (but non-children, you should still watch this as it’s great!).

I definitely recommend this films it’s an absolute treat for the eyes and the story is especially heart-warming, offering an instant feel-good feeling that lasts long after you leave the cinema.




The Scorch Trials

scorch trials

The Scorch Trials (dir. by Wes Ball) picks up right where The Maze Runner has left off. Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) and the others have just left the maze and have been led to a safe place. There, they discover their maze was not the only one of its kind and they meet a whole host of other teens like them. Every day, a group of the teens is led away to an unknown place where they’ll be able to restart their lives in safety. Or so they think. Thomas soon finds out their saviours are not what and who they appear, and together with his friends escapes to the Scorch (aka a very large desert) in hopes of finding a safe haven.

First things first: I have not read the books by James Dashner that these films are based on. Therefore, my opinion will solely be of the film!

Throughout the film I was on edge: the tension is introduced almost as soon as Thomas has arrived in this ‘safe place’, and as the plot develops, so does the tension. There are frequent chases and running away from things, as well as guns being fired between different parties.

Furthermore, the tension is kept high due to the constant threat of the unknown: like the characters in this film, we as the audience (unless you’ve read the books) have no idea of what lurks in the desert; why the world is in the state it’s in (because New York City doesn’t turn into a desert overnight); and why Thomas and his friends are sought after. Slowly, a few questions are answered, but enough remains veiled to pull in the audience (me, anyway) for the upcoming third film next year.

One thing I loved about this film was the set, by far. Especially when Thomas and his friends are walking through the remains of NYC: the buildings are falling apart, bridges with cars on them are missing half, and it appears no one lives there anymore. The state that most buildings are in, adds to the desolate feel that is also felt when the group walks all alone through the desert, as well as the tension that is ever-present: the buildings that are still somewhat upright look like they might come crashing down at any given moment – just like the enemy might catch up with the Gladers at any moment.

Overall, I really enjoyed this film. If you were to look at this in the simplest way, it’s not very special: just a lot of running and chasing and gun shots fired. However, if you look at it the way it’s presented, with the interesting group dynamic, sacrifices that are made on many different levels and morals that are tested and questioned, as well as the tension I’ve previously mentioned, it’s really a good film.

I know I’m definitely looking forward to seeing the conclusion in this trilogy, The Death Cure, coming out February 2017.

What did you think of the film?



The Riot Club

the riot club

This review, written by me, was first published in Newcastle University’s newspaper, The Courier, and has been slightly altered for the purpose of this blog post.

Based on Laura Wade’s play Posh, The Riot Club is about ten students at the University of Oxford who have been carefully selected to join an age old, prestigious and slightly infamous club, which is speculated to be based on Oxford University’s real Bullingdon Club.

Alistair Ryle (Sam Claflin) and Miles Richards (Max Irons) are two freshers at the university who have been chosen to become The Riot Club’s newest members. From the moment Alistair and Miles meet they become unspoken rivals. Throughout the film each character shows their good and bad sides as they get more involved with the club, making it difficult for the audience to choose who they empathize with and who they want to do better than the other.

Overall, I thought the film was really impressive: the convincing acting of all cast members creates a foreboding atmosphere that lures the watcher right in. I had one main issue with the film: instead of showing several big events that then lead to the ‘big scene’ where things traditionally go wrong – after which traditionally the problem is resolved and the characters learn and become better people – there are only a few events leading up to the ‘big scene’, which is then stretched out and used to its full extent. As a whole, the film is quite static: there are not very many different settings. However, after discovering that the film was based on a play, this structure makes a lot more sense to me, allowing me to appreciate it more. Wade, who also wrote the screenplay for the film, appears to have decided to maintain the story’s original theatrical structure and use of sets. It is a somewhat unusual way of giving form to a medium like film and one that certainly wouldn’t work for every film but I feel like for The Riot Club, it does work.

I must add: if you are someone who does not like the flat-out portrayal of violence, you might want to skip this film as it does not shy away from the monstrosity of a drunken fight.

This film is great if you enjoy watching films that are intriguing, shocking, yet realistic and that makes you question how far someone would go to belong.