Movie Of The Year 2017.

Movie Of The Year 2017.

Just last week we saw award season reach it’s peak with the handing out of the 2018 Oscars. So now it’s time to close award season out with the most important awards of all, the Cam Writes Blog best film awards.

I Kid of course, Sorry this took much longer than usual

6 la la

A love letter to the Golden Age of cinema La La Land is a sleek and beautifully produced film that is just as fun to watch as it is to listen to. The film’s story is multilayered despite being at face value a little bit basic but it’s stunning presentation and joyous subtext elevate it to one of the best films of the year for cinema fans and a perfect example of how the musical genre can translate to screen and maintain a unique atmosphere

4 Logan

The best word to use to describe Logan is brave, not necessarily because of its subject matter, or particularly it’s presentation, (though the black and white home release could certainly make an good case). No, Logan is brave because of the obvious risks it takes with a genre that has been Cinema’s most popular for nearly the last decade and for its dedication to seeing the vision of its director, writer and creators through to the end, a very bitter end in the case of this film.  Yes, it struggles with pacing and it is far from an easy watch, but it’s arguably the film that will have the greatest impact on your more traditional “popcorn-movie cinema go-er” this year, a fact that most people would have doubted from a franchise like X-Men.


Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a surprisingly difficult film. It manages to simultaneously challenges it’s franchises framework and totally cement it in place, it builds up characters beyond belief and tears them down like they’re nothing. It treads a very fine line between the old and the new, for some fans this was a dichotomy that went too far but it’s easy to make the argument that a good film should challenge as much as satisfy and The Last Jedi does both in spades. Again it suffers from some pacing issues, but to see such a marvelous franchise evolve in such a natural and organic way, to be something truly unexpected, is one of the purest joys a film fan can have and have no doubt about it The Last Jedi is one of those joys.

Baby Drover

Baby Driver, poor poor Baby Driver. In any other year Baby Driver would not struggle to take the best film of the Year Crown by a mile. Every aspect of its production is brilliant, it’s performances are stellar, it’s core story line and Direction are some of the best Hollywood has put out this year and it’s production values are slicker than Elvis Presley’s over gelled hair. But even Elvis would give the thumbs up to this film for its stunning use of music, knocking La La Land in to second place as best cinema musical of the year. Edgar Wright’s latest was one of the most stylish, surprising an enchanting films that 2017 had to offer. If you’ve yet to watch it, do yourself a favour and set aside the time you need to do so, you won’t be disappointed.

br 2049

It takes one hell of a film to beat out Baby Driver and Blade Runner 2049 is that film. Positively overflowing with neon tinged 80s nostalgia, Blade Runner is a love letter to what came before and a perfect example of how a film franchise can, not just live again but, evolve. A slow aching burn of a movie with subtext deeper than the Mariana Trench, Blade Runner is easily the best film of 2017 because it manages to introduce and play with many threads whilst keeping the audience enthralled and on the edge of their seats at all times. What secures the crown for Blade Runner though is how it’s always four or five steps ahead of you, it will make you feel simultaneously like the smartest and dumbest person in the auditorium. All of this comes before even a consideration of its stunning stylistic approach Denis Villeneuve is quickly making a case for himself being one of the best directors in Hollywood and Blade Runner 2049 is the icing on that auteur shaped cake. A film that makes you want to think, cry, laugh, smile and soak in its world, Blade Runner 2049 is absolutely a masterpiece and absolutely the best film of 2017.

But are there any films I missed, or any you think deserved the title more than Blade Runner. Let me know what you’re film of the year was. Next week: album of the year!


Review: Black Panther

Review: Black Panther

T’challa returns home to Wakanda after having kingship thrust upon him to find a troubled home nation, and challengers to his rule.

When Chadwick Boseman stepped in to the Black Panther suit in his debut in Civil War it was an important moment both in the cinematic landscape and in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Now Boseman is the focus of an entire film that shows some major growth in the Black Panther character and in Marvel’s ability to tell stories.

Of the many moving parts of Black Panther it is the characters and their stories that are arguably the most important. There is a delicate balance of power at play throughout the whole film and it rests on the shoulders of T’challa. Boseman plays the hero fantastically, showing clear growth and evolution in the character. He treads a line between powerful and patient that few Marvel actors pull off as convincingly. His quieter delivery makes his action scenes seem even more superhuman than usual but it’s his slower scenes in the gorgeous land of his ancestors that are the most memorable, offering quiet moments of peace in what is otherwise a busy and fast paced film.

However whilst Boseman’s hero is memorable it’s Micheal B Jordan’s Killmonger that comes out as the biggest surprise of the film. Jordan offers a very notable portrayal of a damaged villain. His final scenes are some of the most memorable that a Marvel antagonist has managed yet, adding a refreshing depth to an already deep character. Jordan’s performance makes the character but Killmonger is also important for the parallels that can be drawn from him to other black characters in super hero/action films. His character is one of many examples of social commentary throughout the film, commentary which elevates Black Panther above many of its Marvel peers.

The films has a very distinct style, whether it’s in the visuals or the sound design the authenticity of the culture that is being both created and portrayed is evident throughout. From a musical perspective the percussive motif mixes well with more typical Avengers instrumentation to make the films orchestral backdrop. Whilst in the visuals the mix of stunning art and set design makes for a vibrant setting that simultaneously fits in with and stands out from the Marvel franchises typical look. The only issue is that in key action scenes the VFX often feels to float-y to be believable, looking more like a fight between two Black Panther shaped jellies than T’challa and Killmonger themselves.

At first Black Panther is a very good popcorn flick with a good set up, likable characters and enjoyable cinematography. But as it adds more threads, characters, histories and motivations it begins to grow beyond it’s peers. The film, thanks to its narrative, begins to rise above its smaller, more basic elements to become something that none of the other Marvel films have yet managed.

Black Panther is powerful. Powerful because of it’s authentic cinematography and original score. Powerful because of it’s dedicated portrayals from a team of incredibly talented actors. Powerful because of the way it challenges expectations with brilliantly crafted characters and motivations. But most of all powerful because in a franchise of nearly 20 films it is the only Marvel film that tells a story that is more than a popcorn flick, Black panther is not afraid to deal with themes, stories and concepts that some of its audience may find challenging and for that reason it deserves a lot of respect. Is it a perfectly constructed film? Nope. Is it a great piece of cinema despite this? Absolutely.

Black Panther Score

Review: Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi

Review: Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi

Rian Johnson takes huge risks in a film that sees the return of the last Jedi.

To summarise the plot of The Last Jedi would be to miss and undersell a great deal of the film, it is densely packed with lots of twists and turns all happening at a very fast pace. It gives the viewer a lot to think about for each of its main characters and their relationships with one and other. But the best way to think of the story behind The Last Jedi is as a tale of balance, hope and loss. It asks questions of what it is to be a hero or a villain in a universe like this and is constantly toying with its audience as a result. It always has an ace in the hole, sometimes they are exactly the ace you were expecting and sometimes they are the least expected option on the table. It’s far from a “playing it safe” sequel and it’s a good thing too as it shakes up and adds to the ongoing saga in some extremely meaningful ways.

One of the most important things about Star Wars, from Episode I through all the way to The Force Awakens, is how the imaginative character and world design has led to a film world with a truly unique look and feel and The Last Jedi is arguably the most imaginative Star Wars outing since the original trilogy. The film is overflowing with beautiful creature designs, each who serve a function in the places where we encounter them. This massively adds to the feeling that these worlds are real, living places with their own flora and fauna. Star Wars has a reputation for being a home for the weird and wonderful, its films like The Last Jedi that keep that reputation written in stone and for all the right reasons.

These worlds and creatures are usually the most eye catching part of any scene, which is often in stark contrast to the darker, bleaker look of the film this time around. Don’t worry, there are still lightsabers lighting up scenes left, right and centre but those scenes are a bit less filled with colour, a bit darker and play a lot more with shadows then they do light. The major set pieces are striking as a result of this, the film skips between huge, ornate set piece to tight, dark personal shots and manages to impressively fold them together in to one consistent and unified vision of this universe in its current state.

But above all else The Last Jedi is ballsy. Johnson and the script writing team have taken risks on this film that certain film makers wouldn’t dream of doing in a life time. Twists and turns are abundant. Some are small and inconsequential but others are huge and intentionally shift the audiences expectation from scene to scene, toying with viewers desires and emotions, much like the characters they are watching. There is one particular risk that the film takes that deserves massive kudos for its guts and the class with which it is handled. It makes for one of the best scenes in the film if not the entire canon of Star Wars and it will be talked about for a while to come.

Balance. Balance is the key at the core of The Last Jedi, the balance between light and dark, heroes and villains, hope and hate. It’s also the balance between the new and the old and in almost every way it treads that line fantastically. Star Wars Episode 8 is not what you expect, it will surprise you and shock you but, in the end, it is exactly what you want. It’s a brilliant, imaginative, dark, twisty Star Wars film. It will bring a smile to your face, keep you on the edge of your seat and make you gasp in equal measure. It cannot be recommended highly enough.

Cam writes score 2.0

Review: Blade Runner 2049

Review: Blade Runner 2049

Denis Villeneuve astounds with a film that easily deserves to stand in the foot steps of an all time classic.

The original Blade Runner became such an important film because of how it managed to defy its own context and represent some of the vital discussions of the generations who grew up watching it. Deckard’s story painted a world that was dystopian and damaged, yet idyllic enough that we have arguably taken great strides towards it in the real world ever since. Whilst it’s far too soon to tell, it’s not hard to get the feeling from 2049 that Villeneuve has achieved with this sequel, a film of similar cultural impact, which will contribute to the zeitgeist far beyond its release.

Blade Runner 2049 is a film school’s wet dream. It’s main characters and story are a masterpiece of subtext  and structure. It wants the audience to draw their own conclusions and it starts to provide the material by which to do so from very early on. As a result, by the end of it’s slow, tense (and nearly three hours long) burn the average audience member will be throwing out hypothetical what if’s like there’s no tomorrow.

Luckily this is also not a rare case of substance over style in fact to some extent they are one and the same. The film is bursting with visual nods to themes and concepts that, as well make the film look beautiful, add to the huge level of depth that is being aiming for with the films narrative. It’s about Slavery and racism, but it’s also Slavery and entertainment, identity and self in a digital age,  creationism and playing god and it doesn’t stop there. it’s capitalism versus revolution, it’s nostalgia versus progressiveness, The deeper you read into it the deeper the themes you will find, it’s a very rare film in that it doesn’t stop at a certain level, it has something to offer to every level of its audience.

Technically everything 2049 has to offer is at the top of it’s game. The sound track is equal parts emotive and eye melting, it’s performances are Oscar Worthy in almost every case and the visuals are of an equally high calibre. Villeneuve deserves incredible praise for his vision and stylistic approach to the film but so too does every team who brought it to life so convincingly.

But technique is only as good as the narrative allows it to be and the personal story in this film is as good as it gets.  The audience’s disbelief is perfectly suspended, the film is always smarter than you but it always makes you feel like the smartest person in the room and it’s all paced perfectly (a perfect example of the Bait, switch and resolve technique). On top of all this, away from the more personal narrative, there is a deep, multilayered and intense story about a world, it’s context and the people within it. Blade Runner 2049 is very much a caricature of our own society, with many of the same debates, conflicts and underlying tensions. And all of this weaves together and functions seamlessly as one whole. The story of the world is the story of the characters and visa versa, the level of storytelling (both visual and traditional) on display is truly stunning.

Blade Runner 2049 is not a film, it’s a dystopian neon tinged painting, it’s a deeply satisfying novel, it’s a Vangelis inspired orchestral suite, it’s a dissection of life, technology and society all presented in 24 frames a second. The word Epic is used a lot these days but usually it’s to sell films, to encourage audiences that this film will be epic and filled with action and explosions. Blade Runner is slow, patient and profound, epic in the truest sense, not because of its ability to overwhelm the senses, but its ability to overwhelm with ideas and possibilities. This is  Blade runner is not a film, it’s an example of what film can be.

br score image

Review: Spider-Man: Homecoming.

Review: Spider-Man: Homecoming.

Spider-man properly joins the MCU in a great movie, despite its general lack of direction and balance.

The narrative of Homecoming a good, if slightly basic, super hero story. Paired with a good, but slightly basic, high school story. Unfortunately it struggles to strike any form of balance between the two. When it’s letting Spider-Man do his thing the film is great, mostly because it doesn’t lay out Spider-Man’s hero origins. It’s a shame then, that it does try and lay out Peter Parker’s high school beginnings, and as a result the first act of the film is far too slow. The two sides of the film do interact, becoming more akin to what the audience wants, but mostly the traditional High School elements feel more stilted than they mean to.

The cast of the film are fantastic. Tom Holland is great as a more youthful Spider-Man and good as Peter Parker although he’s still not fully believable as a high school-er. Jacob Batalon is very good fun as Parker’s high school friend Ned, Zendaya as Michelle is a sharp refreshing character (although she ends the movie on more of a low note than a high) and Robert Downey Jr is of course as good here as he has always been. However, Michael Keaton plays the most memorable part of this film. He barely lifts a finger but has an incredibly menacing presence, until a twist at the end of the third act that turns him from a one-dimensional villain to a deeper, more intelligent character with interest and motivations of his own.

In many ways, every aspect of the film gets better from the half-way point, especially the visuals. In the first half of the film the use of special effects seems far too heavy as characters often seem floaty or separate from the surrounding scene. But after the half-way point the scenes become much less static and so the audience gets a much more fluid viewing experience and  the action looks and feels much more natural as a result. In many ways the film looks unremarkable. It’s an enjoyable film to watch and there are some occasional stand out shots but for the most part it looks exactly as you’d expect.

The biggest issue the film faces is a lack of any kind of unique angle to this well-known character. This is the latest reboot in a long running series of reboots and it’s arguably the most generic approach yet. That doesn’t mean it’s bad – quite the opposite. In fact, it’s a well-made action film that’s engaging throughout. But the story it tells, the characters it presents and the themes it’s working with are all pretty basic. It’s undoubtedly an engaging film, and it’s even very good at times, but a lot of what makes Homecoming unique is stuff you’ve seen before, and is, frankly, better in other films.

Spider-Man Homecoming is a very good film that struggles in many ways with balance. it can’t balance its fresh approach to casting with its same old, same old character tropes. It can’t balance its slower, plodding first half with its bright, lively and tense second half. Quite simply: it can’t balance the “Spider-Man” with the “Homecoming”. If you’re after a fun Spider-Man film that fits with Marvel’s more unimpressive but enjoyable standards, this is the film for you, but be warned: it’s peers were far more ambitious and just as successful.

cam writes score

This review was edited by Joanna Hollins, for more of her work click here: Joanna Hollins.

Review: Baby Driver

Review: Baby Driver

Edgar Wright gets behind the wheel of a film that will drive its way into the classics very quickly.

(Before we begin… I’ve never done this before but I feel here that I must. Don’t read this review before seeing the film, it genuinely will ruin the experience as there is no way to discuss Baby Driver without discussing the things that make it the film it is. If you have to read a review then I would suggest scrolling down, looking only at the score I give it, immediately booking tickets and then bookmark this page for afterwards. Trust me, you won’t regret it.)

Baby has been stealing cars since he was very young, after an accident he was involved in at an even younger age. Now he drives heist crews in and out of hits, all to the sound of whatever music fits best, he’s talented, reliable and quiet, unlike many of his criminal peers. Doc (Kevin Spacey) runs the heists, chooses the heisting crew members and makes sure to know everything he can about each of this crew members, Baby included. It’s a world full of guns, power, sex, violence and music, although for Baby, it’s a reluctant one.

It’s here that the film reveals the first of many surprises and that surprise is the depth of each one of its characters. Baby is not just a heist driver, he’s a talented driver with a debt to be repaid to Doc and a deaf adoptive father who he bonds with over music that his guardian feels through his speakers. Deborah is his love interest, but she’s also a struggling young woman with an equal love for music, working a dead-end job to try and get by because of her difficult circumstances. But it’s not just these core characters, it’s almost every single character in the film; they all have deep and complex shades to them and as a result their conflicts, passions and relationships feel incredibly genuine and tangible. As a result of this, the film’s build ups, tensions and pay offs are always perfectly paced and rightfully earned. And this barely scratches the surface of the characters portrayed in this film…

All of this would mean nothing if it wasn’t supported by a stellar cast but Wright has pulled out all the stops here to direct this incredible cast in equally incredible performances. Jamie Foxx is twitchy and violent, but honest and intuitive. Jon Hamm is likable and amenable, but loyal to a fault as Buddy. Lily James is innocent and trustable but bored and desperate for adventure. Her chemistry with Baby (Ansel Elgort) is so naturally flirtatious that the audience almost feels voyeuristic, at times, watching them develop their relationship. Kevin Spacey is utterly unnerving as Doc, grasping huge amounts of power with quiet precision. But it’s Elgort who is this band’s front man, charismatic from the word go, he is brimming with life, fired up by music but focused enough to always be a threat. He says only what he needs to, only when he has to and his actions, gestures and playlist do all the extra speaking necessary. If he isn’t picking up Oscars this year then the academy is blind, and likely deaf too.

But Baby Driver has another surprise up its sleeve, and the next one is its stylistic brilliance. In terms of the films visuals it is as diverse as it is stunning. It brings together influences from a wide range of genres and combines them at the perfect moments, often enhancing the tension or interactions between characters. There is colour everywhere throughout the film, often enhanced by gorgeous lighting and fluid camera movement. But it’s the soundtrack that sets this film truly apart. Baby’s choice of song is the vital framing device that sets the tone, pace and feel of a scene. But the scene also moves in tandem with the music; gunshots follow the rhythm of the drum beats, lyrics are working their way in to the background dialogue or briefly glimpsed as a clever part of the mise-en-scene. Stylistically Baby Driver is arguably closer to a musical than it is an action movie. It’s far more than style over substance; here style and substance go hand in hand to deliver a movie that’s fascinating to watch, but contains layers and layers of depth too.

Baby Driver is a triumph of a film, brimming with sheer brilliance in every aspect of its production. Vibrant, clever and profound all at the same time, it treats its audience with a huge amount of respect whilst keeping its cards close to its chest. It’s going to surprise you, it’s going to impress you and it’s going to connect with you all whilst looking and, even more importantly, sounding gorgeous. It could have easily been a film about driving, heists and little more, instead this is film making on a level that few can hope to achieve. Wright has taken a fantastic concept and, much like his protagonist, driven it to perfection.

cam writes score

This review was edited by Joanna Hollins, for more of her work click here: Joanna Hollins.

Review: Wonder Woman

Review: Wonder Woman

Patty Jenkins gives DC’s cinematic universe its best outing yet in a movie that is wonderful all the way up to its final act.

Diana is a hero brought up in a society of Amazonian women, who are trained to fight to defend their world. When a pilot flies through the barrier to her world she discovers the horrors of war, specifically World War One. She decides to leave her home in order to fight to end this great conflict and bring peace to both the pilot’s world and her own.

Diana herself is the biggest and best part of this film and Gal Gadot deserves huge praise for the way she handles the character. She captures a sense of childlike wonder discovering the joys of a new world, whilst also portraying shock and dread at the horrors of World War One. It’s a dichotomy that in lesser hands could look muddled and inconsistent. But Gadot balances these fantastically, creating a character who is experienced and immature all at the same time.

She’s made even more important by the way she interacts with the world around her: she’s willing to stand up for her beliefs no matter her opposition and she’s also not afraid to stand at the front of the battlefield. As a result the respect she earns from her fighting peers, both male and female feels totally earned, and we the audience, are right there with them, rallying behind Wonder Woman as she leads the charge in larger and larger military victories. The film manages to tell a horrific story of World War one through the focused lens of this woman’s journey and for this it deserves major praise.

The supporting cast also deserve major kudos for the work, Chris Pine in particular is charismatic enough that Diana (and the audience, by extension) develop a natural and well cultivated connection with his character Steve Trevor. But he’s always just charismatic enough to make it clear that he is playing a supporting role despite his huge amount of screen time. This is helped in no uncertain terms by Jenkins’s clear directorial focus on Diana and her journey. The only problem member of the supporting cast is Etta Candy, who often feels like a character used for comedy relief and little more.  In a way it’s good that Diana has a comedy foil, rather than being that foil herself (and lesser films would have taken this much lazier approach to the “fish out of water” character study). But Diana doesn’t feel like she needs any comedy to establish how powerfully progressive she is, and so as a result Etta comes across as more of a wasted opportunity than a meaningful addition to the supporting cast.

The biggest letdown of the film is, by far, the third act where this brilliant focus on character development is switched out for heavy action sequences that undermine the tight story in favour of more traditional, bombastic DC fare. It’s a huge shame because it occurs at what could have easily been the high point of the film, with setting, characters and plot points all converging  together only to be undermined by the awful pacing and tone of DC’s trademark “final boss battle” style of format.

This is even more of a letdown when you consider how different the first two acts of this film for a DC movie. It’s packed full of beautiful cinematography and the World War One setting really matches DC’s more muted, moody use of colour. The music is also much more vibrant than usual, gone are the over the top ‘BWAM’ sounds of a typical DC fight-fest, traded off instead here for a genuinely tight orchestral soundtrack. That is, of course, all except that tedious guitar riff which turns up on a number of occasions, each time more grating and silly than the last.

Wonder Woman is, for the most part, a film defined by Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot’s triumphs. It does a brilliant job of taking a character and building them a deep and meaningful backstory, whilst also leaving more than enough room to have them grow in the future. Unfortunately, it’s kept just shy of greatness thanks to the silly final conflict and the twists and turns it takes in logic, pacing and tone in order to get there. Wonder Woman has very much set the bar by which the next few DC movies must be measured. It’s just a shame that it’s the cinematic universe that feels like it’s holding this film, and this character, back from something more.

Wonder Woman Scored: 7.3/10

This review was edited by Joanna Hollins, for more of her work click here: Joanna Hollins.