All Eyez on Me (2017)

Director: Benny Boom Cast: Demetrius Shipp Jr, Danai Gurira, Dominic Santana, Kat Graham, Annie Ilonzeh

Long time, no activity on ScreenSnap. Apologies for the hiatus- it’s been a hectic few months but what better way to ease back in than to review the biopic of one of my all time fave humans, Tupac Shakur. All Eyez on Me follows the story of the legendary rapper from his early childhood to his death in 1996, exploring the relationships and experiences that made him who he was.

As I’ve mentioned, I love 2pac and I was excited to see how his life would be represented on screen. On the whole, I was pretty pleased- people often underrate what a good writer and poet he actually was, (by tarring the whole hip-hop genre with one brush) and the movie did a good job of showing these aspects of his life, for example exploring his time at the Baltimore School of the Arts. For someone watching the film who didn’t know much about his life, I think this part would surprise them positively and I was glad they showed these more unknown bits.

Unfortunately though, the structure of the film made the whole thing a bit bitty and I felt like some scenes that could have gone somewhere were cut off, while other scenes lingered for too long. The first half of the film is structured mainly with flashbacks, with the present being an interview with Tupac while he’s in prison. Then once the flashbacks catch up with the present (prison), the rest of the film just follows a linear timeline. This felt a bit random- I felt it should have been one or the other, and it meant that the flashbacks were shorter and ended just as they were getting interesting, while the second half of the film felt like it went on and on. Consequently, some parts were missed and others were too over-the-top.

The stand-out character was Afeni, Tupac’s mother, and I was pleased that they did spend quite a bit of time exploring her story and their relationship, as this was essential to understanding the person that Tupac became. I was definitely most convinced by the performance of Danai Gurira (of The Walking Dead fame), who played Afeni. Following Straight Outta Compton, in which all the characters were cast superbly and the actors captured their characters almost flawlessly, All Eyez on Me wasn’t quite as good at this. The guy who played Tupac looked almost exactly like him and captured his mannerisms pretty well, but the others just weren’t quite as good. After watching Straight Outta Compton I came away amazed at how well they managed it, but this one didn’t have quite the same effect.

I would recommend this to people who already know a bit about Tupac and who are already fans, but generally if you’re not interested already it will probably be quite boring. As far as biopics go, I don’t think it would convince people to find out more about his life or music (whereas I thought the opposite about Straight Outta Compton). A solid effort but nothing outstanding. The soundtrack is pretty good though.

2.5 stars

Jingle All The Way (1996)

jingle-all-the-way

Director: Brian Levant Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sinbad, Jake Lloyd

A father wrapped up in his work forgets to buy his son the one gift he wants for Christmas, leaving him only Christmas Eve to track it down. However, it turns out everywhere is out of stock and he’s not the only one looking for a last minute gift.

Another year, another addition to my seasonal Christmas Crackers series, this time featuring the thrilling combination of the Terminator and young Anakin Skywalker. Let’s just say T + AS does not equal GA (good acting). Having said that, literally no film ever made can be worse than The Santa Clause, last year’s Christmas horror, so it’s not all bad.

First things first, before whiney Jake Lloyd desecrated the Star Wars universe with his incessant moaning, his whinging actually makes him an ideal casting choice for this role- the classic demanding child growing up in a world of consumerism who only wants material objects to make him happy. There must be a Christmas lesson for him to learn in there somewhere! And there is. I don’t think it would be classed as a spoiler to say that by the end of the film both father and son learn that Christmas isn’t all about the presents, but about family.

Poor acting aside, I did laugh a few times in this film. It’s quite slapstick which produces a few amusing moments, plus I did laugh at the (unintentional) dry delivery from Arnie. It’s not a Christmas classic, but I didn’t hate it and if it was on telly on a free Saturday afternoon next December, I would probably watch it again.

This film gets no points for things like originality, acting or cinematography but it’s mindless and inoffensive, plus it’s Christmas and at this time year people will watch anything. Worth a go if you’ve already watched all the classic seasonal hits and need something else.

2 stars

The Village (2004)

the-village

Director: M. Night Shyamalanalamnayalanan Cast: Bryce Dallas Howard, Joaquin Phoenix, Adrien Brody, Sigourney Weaver, William Hurt

A small village is surrounded by woods that cannot be entered due to mysterious and evil creatures lurking within. When once of the villagers is injured, another attempts to leave through the woods to find help.

So I actually knew the twist of this movie before I watched it, which I have to say did ruin it for me. It’s a shame because the twist is very clever, and I wish I had been surprised by it! So yes, if you don’t know what happens, do watch it- and be amazed.

Having said that, the twist is the best part of the movie and the rest of it is a bit weird and a bit flat. Do stick with it during the lulls to reach the shocking ending, but just be warned that not much really happens until the climax. If I hadn’t known there was a twist, I probably would have switched off to be honest as there is really very little plot. I find with M. Night Shyamalan that some of the time he gets it spot on and the rest of his stuff is just a bit meh. This was meh. (Except for the twist, I cannot express that enough).

The Village can be pretty creepy at points so not for those who can’t really do horror. It’s quite a thinking film so not a light flick. I probably would recommend it but I have no real desire to watch it again.

2 stars

Unbroken (2014)

Ⓒ 3 Arts Entertainment/Jolie Pas/Legendary Pictures
Ⓒ 3 Arts Entertainment/Jolie Pas/Legendary Pictures

Director: Angelina Jolie Cast: Jack O’Connell, Domhnall Gleeson, Garrett Hedlund, Takamasa Ishihara

Based on true events, Unbroken tells the story of former Olympian Louis Zamperini, who became a famous name after the 1936 Olympic games only to find himself deployed to Japan during the Second World War. After a plane crash, he and two friends are left to survive on the open ocean for over a month until they are captured by the Japanese, and sent to various internment camps. The story shows the determination of Louis as he is beaten, starved and individually targeted by the nasty Japanese camp leader.

I have to say I didn’t love this film. The story itself is pretty good, but no one can really get credit for that since it’s based on true events. Obviously, this is how it is with biopics- but the way the film was put together didn’t really pull me into the story, and I think all in all it could have been done better. For a start, the film really does drag on. I reckon some bits could have been cut down (especially the length of time they spent on a raft in the middle of the Pacific, clearly not a lot going on there), because towards the end I was checking my watch wondering what time it would be over. One of the scenes I always think of when movies go on for too long is the bit at the end of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly when the three of them just stare at each other in the stand-off- there was bit at the end of Unbroken when the camera just keeps panning to people’s expressions. 45 seconds of my life I’ll never get back.

The other main gripe I had with this was the way the timeline was organised. The film starts in roughly the middle of the story, before the plane crash but after Louis has become famous doing his Olympic thang. So it has a few flashbacks, explaining who Louis is etc etc, which kind of make sense. But then we run out of things to flash back to, and from then on the film is linear. I feel like if flashbacks are going to be a thing, at least make it flash-back type movie, rather than just kind of leaving it there, you know?

So to sum up, not a great film but the storyline just about saves it, given that it’s pretty spectacular to think that it all happened to a real person. I just think the actual production of the film was not really up to scratch, and I probably wouldn’t recommend it unless there are literally no other options.

2 stars