Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Midsommar (2019)

Image is property of A24

Midsommar  – Film Review

Cast: Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, William Jackson Harper, Vilhelm Blomgren, Archie Madekwe, Ellora Torchia, Will Poulter

Director: Ari Aster

Synopsis: After personal tragedy strikes, troubled student Dani travels to Sweden with her boyfriend Christian, and a group of their friends. What starts out as a pleasant trip, quickly descends into a nightmare as they become involved with a sinister pagan cult…

Review: Quite often, when you picture the setting of horror films, the scene of a house, set in the pitch black night-time may come to mind. However, this doesn’t have to always be the case. Case in point, in his follow up feature to Hereditary, Ari Aster proves that you don’t necessarily need the dead of night darkness to make something seem scary, as something just as horrifying or unnerving can occur when the sun is shining in the bright summer sky.

Dani (Pugh) is going through an extremely difficult time in her life in the wake of an unimaginable personal tragedy, and it’s having an adverse effect on her relationship with her boyfriend Christian (Reynor). When she finds out he’s heading off to Sweden with a few of their friends for a festival that only happens once every 90 years, she decides to join them hoping to take her mind off things. Upon arrival, while things start off nice and peaceful, it doesn’t take long for things to go sour as the festival quickly descends into a hellish nightmare, basking in the hot Swedish Summer sun.

There is no sense of urgency in which Aster chooses to tell his story. His screenplay deliberately bides its time so this enables each act of the film to serve a purpose to the story, though this slow pace could be problematic to some viewers. The first act is solely concentrated on Dani’s testing relationship with Christian that is on the brink of collapse, fuelling a sense of dread for Dani that lingers throughout the film.  Through all of the ensuing horror that the festival’s activities bring later on in the film, the relationship of these two people is at the centre of this sun-soaked nightmare.

Once we get to Sweden however, and the festivities have begun that things start to get deeply disturbing for Dani, Christian and their friends. To say that this film is not for the faint of heart would be an extreme understatement, due to quite the large amount of disturbing imagery. Though it would be easy to be shocking for the sake of being shocking, the imagery is thought provoking, with the themes of grief, loneliness and rejection are all present. With just about every frame, there’s a lot of symbolism to be extracted from the unnerving festivities, so much so that one could write pages upon pages of analysis of what is being depicted on-screen.

There is not a single false note in any of the performances, but without doubt Dani is the heart and soul of the film, and Florence Pugh gives a wounded, layered, awards worthy performance. Among, Christian and the rest of their gang, it’s Will Poulter’s Mark who comes closest to stealing the spotlight as a man who’s less than impressed with the festival’s activities. This is something that the locals don’t take kindly to, and they consequently give off  sinister vibes to send a shiver (or two) down your spine.

Aster has crafted something that will be analysed for many years to come. The direction, combined with extremely beautiful cinematography and immaculate production design are all beautiful to look at. These juxtapose perfectly with the trauma of the events playing out in front of us, it manages to be simultaneously haunting and mesmerising to look at, with an unsettling score from The Haxan Cloak. Nightmares definitely can happen in broad daylight, hence, we should all just stay in doors.

Thematically thought-provoking, and visually immaculate, with a haunting but powerful lead performance from Florence Pugh. Ari Aster’s second foray into horror film-making is a beautiful nightmare come to life. 

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Us (2019)

Image is property of Universal, Monkeypaw Productions and Blumhouse Pictures

Us – Film Review

Cast: Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Evan Alex, Elisabeth Moss

Director: Jordan Peele

Synopsis: As they relax during a summer vacation, a family’s holiday quickly turns to a nightmare when they receive some unwelcome, and very familiar, looking guests at their home…

Review: For someone who made their name for many years as one half of a very successful comedy duo, Jordan Peele’s career has gone in quite a different direction in recent years. As he has made the transition from comedy, to film-maker pretty seamlessly. After the success of the unnerving and furiously relevant Get Out, which bagged him a much deserved Oscar, Peele is back to terrify audiences once again.

At the centre of this new nightmare is Adelaide (Nyong’o), her husband Gabe (Duke), and their two kids Zora (Joseph) and Jason (Alex), setting off for a vacation to their summer home. All appears to be going swimmingly with the family enjoying themselves. Not long after arriving however, the holiday goes a bit awry, when some visitors arrive unannounced. It quickly dawns on them that these people, who bear something of a close resemblance to themselves, have got some sinister motivations. Thus a deeply unnerving ordeal lies in wait, and the family find themselves in a fierce battle to stay alive, a battle literally against themselves.

Like with Get Out, there is a vast amount of subtext and deeper meanings to Peele’s screenplay that are definitely intended to mess with your mind. It’s not quite as politically charged as his previous film, but nevertheless Peele isn’t afraid to get across some dark and disturbing symbolism. He shines a light on humanity, and the human condition, which can be open to a lot of different interpretations, chief among them being is humanity its own worst enemy? This is far more than your typical home invasion film, and Peele’s direction in these intense dramatic scenes is masterful. Even with the haunting score from Michael Abels and Mike Gioulakis’s ominous cinematography, it’s proof if needed that you can make anything scary if you want to. You will never look at red overalls and scissors in the same way ever again.

To be asked play two very different versions of yourself cannot be an easy task for any actor, but it’s a task that every member of this family rises to in spectacular, and haunting fashion. Lupita Nyong’o has proven herself in the past to be a fantastic actress, but here she gives maybe the performance of her career as both she and her doppelganger counterpart are the leaders of their families. After his hilarious turn in Black Panther, Winston Duke is on hand to provide the comedy, and he does so brilliantly. When adding comedy into a horror story, it can be extremely problematic as it can negate the horror elements of the story, but Peele’s background in comedy ensures that the film stays on track.

Despite a mere two films under his belt as a director, Peele has in the last couple of years gone from strength to strength. It’s one thing to make your first film to be eerie, enthralling, extremely well layered and thought provoking in terms of its themes. Yet to follow that up with another equally thematically deep and haunting film is a resounding testament to Peele’s remarkable talents as a writer and a director. Get Out was by no means a fluke, and now audiences, especially fans of the horror genre (and their doppelgangers) have a new name to hail as a horror film-making force to be reckoned with.

 Brilliantly tense performance(s) across the board, especially from Nyong’o, Peele further enhances his reputation as a horror maestro with a suspenseful and thought-provoking sophomore feature.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Widows (2018)

Image is property of 20th Century Fox, Film4 Productions and Regency

Widows  – Film Review

Cast:  Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo, Colin Farrell, Brian Tyree Henry, Daniel Kaluuya, Jacki Weaver, Carrie Coon, Robert Duvall, Jon Bernthal, Liam Neeson

Director: Steve McQueen

Synopsis: After a bank heist goes horribly wrong leading to the deaths of all the crew, their widows step up to finish what their husbands started…

Review: When as a director, you make one of the most heart-wrenching but extremely impactful pieces of cinema to come out in this decade. A film that landed you the Best Picture Oscar no less, how do you follow that up? For Steve McQueen, following on from his success with the aforementioned 12 Years A Slave, the answer is simple. You team up with another recent Oscar winner and make another exhilarating, heart-pounding piece of cinema. Namely a heist film quite unlike anything the genre has concocted before.

After a team of criminals are caught up in a heist that gets all of them killed, their widows are left in a very desperate situation. Veronica Rawlings (Davis) is the widow of the leader of the crew, Harry (Neeson). Not long after her husband’s death, she receives a rather uncomfortable visit from crime boss Jamal Manning, (Brian Tyree Henry) the target of the botched heist. Demanding repayment of the stolen money, and given a rather tight window in order to do so, Veronica has the plans for what would have been her husband’s next job. Needing her own crew to pull it off, recruits the other widows who also lost their husbands in the same heist, for a new mission to score the money that their husbands stole. Conceptually, though this may sound like your average heist film, in execution, it is a very different beast.

The screenplay, co-written by McQueen and Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn adds deep political subtext to this story that really gives the film a unique feel to it. Furthermore with such powerful women at the centre of this gripping story, in the era of the Me Too movement, it feels all the more powerful and relevant in modern times.  What McQueen and Flynn’s script does so excellently is give each woman involved in this daring heist a significant amount of development. Though they come from different backgrounds, each woman absolutely stands on her own two feet and all give excellent performances.

Leading the pack and fresh from her Oscar success, Viola Davis is once again superb in the role of Veronica. She is a woman who has been to hell and back again, both with events in her past and in the immediate aftermath of her husband’s demise. Yet her fiery spirit keeps her going through this turbulent time. Likewise for Alice (Debicki) and (Rodriguez), both of whom are also dealt with a torrid set of consequences in the wake of the heist that robbed them of their spouses. But with the resolute Veronica at the helm, there is no time to mope, they have some work to do.

Though the women have the spotlight absolutely deservedly on them, Daniel Kaluyya’s portrayal of Jamal’s brother, Jatamme is magnificent and absolutely terrifying in equal measure. A VERY different kind of role especially in comparison to his Oscar nominated performance in Get Out, but with every moment he has on screen, his cold demeanour and brutality is enough to send shivers down the spines of the audience. This is a man whose path you do not want to cross under any circumstances.

With the theme of powerful women front and centre, McQueen also brilliantly weaves political drama into the story. There is one moment in particular that really stands out in terms of how the scene is filmed. And by doing it this way, it really sends a startling message about modern day America and in particular modern American politics. It is another film released this year that feels very timely in terms of its themes, whilst also being not afraid to pull any punches, or to let the bullets fly.

A heist/thriller with a lot to say for itself, boosted an impeccable stellar ensemble cast and bold direction, another exhilarating addition to the filmography of Steve McQueen.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Bad Times at the El Royale (2018)

Image is property of 20th Century Fox

Bad Times at the El Royale – Film Review

Cast: Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm, Cailee Spaeny, Lewis Pullman, Chris Hemsworth

Director: Drew Goddard

Synopsis: The once famous El Royale hotel in Lake Tahoe has become a shadow of its former self. However, when a bunch of mysterious individuals all check into the hotel on the same day, it promises to be an eventful evening…

Review: If a film pitches itself as a mystery/thriller, there has got to be an almost immediate moment in the first few minutes that grabs the audience’s attention and ensure they become subsequently absorbed into the ensuing suspense of the unfolding drama. Within the opening moments of writer/director Drew Goddard’s second directorial effort, you get just a taste of the drama and intrigue of what’s to come, with more than a few dashes of neo-noir thrown in for good measure.

It is 1960s America, and the titular El Royale hotel has, shall we say, seen better days. However things begin to take a turn for the interesting when an unusual collection of folks all rock up looking for some lodgings. It doesn’t however take long before things begin to unravel and our guests may not be who they appear to be. These guests consist of a Priest (Bridges) , a singer trying to catch her break (Erivo) , a smarmy salesman (Hamm) and a woman (Johnson), whose identity is initially withheld. There’s something immediately suspicious about each member of this cast, as to who they really are, and what secrets they’re hiding.

Every member of this cast is on their best form, and there is not one performance that feels out of place. However somewhat unsurprisingly, Jeff Bridges is leading the way, being his usual charismatic self in a role that (probably) was exclusively written with him in mind. A relative newcomer, Cynthia Erivo shines very brightly as a singer who really hits those notes both in terms of her incredible singing ability and her performance. Yet the scene stealer in all of this is Chris Hemsworth, once again not shy in showing the world his muscles. He gives an astonishing performance, the likes of which we haven’t really seen from him before, certainly a world away from his work in the realm of Norse mythology.

Welcome to the El Royale ab show….

A quick glance at Goddard’s resume shows some impressive projects, such as the scribe of The Martian, the show-runner of season 1 of Netflix’s Daredevil, and his directorial debut The Cabin in the Woods. It is a resume not to be sneezed at. For the remarkable array of acting talent he has assembled here, his screenplay is ambitious to say the least in the way it chooses to present itself to the audience. It seems apparent that Goddard was inspired by Quentin Tarantino, and the ways that the latter has used to tell some of his stories, to great effect.

It is smart and ambitious story-telling on Goddard’s part, but there are instances where the momentum that is being built in a certain scene is lost, as the perspective of the story changes. This can, and does have an extremely negative impact on the film’s pacing, which is just a tad problematic for a film that centres on a mystery. Nevertheless, despite that problematic pacing, the film really starts to click once we reach that all important third act and everything that these interwoven stories have been building towards comes to an exciting, and nerve-shredding climax.

When such original pieces of work like this come along, something that is increasingly rare these days, they must not be overlooked. However, for all of its originality with its premise, its eclectic array of characters and very colourful and stylish production design, that potential is never fully realised. Hence, those who check-in to the El Royale, may just check out with not as much satisfaction as they almost certainly would want to.

Goddard turns on the style with some lavish production design and a unique bunch of characters, but the screenplay just feels too ambitious for its own good, and is at certain points a case of style over substance.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

A Simple Favour (2018)

Image is property of Lionsgate and Feigco Entertainment

A Simple Favour – Film Review

Cast: Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, Henry Golding

Director: Paul Feig

Synopsis: Single mother Stephanie (Kendrick) meets and befriends high-flying Emily (Lively). When Emily suddenly disappears without warning, Stephanie investigates the circumstances surrounding her disappearance…

Review: When any person goes missing without a trace, there is bound to be a plethora of questions surrounding that particular person’s disappearance. As a consequence of something like this, an intense media scrutiny can begin to surface as to what transpired. The impact of which often falls hardest on those that knew the person the most, but what if they knew more than they were letting on? 

An intense media furore is certainly something that director Paul Feig can certainly relate to, with the fierce backlash that ensued following his Ghostbusters reboot. However, in this interesting concoction of thriller meets comedy, that forensic media glare takes a backseat. Instead, the camera that we partly watch this story unfold from is the webcam belonging to single mother and vlogger Stephanie. When picking up her son from school, she crosses paths with the chic Emily who is also on the school collecting run. Though they are in many ways complete opposites, they form a close connection and become good friends. When Emily disappears one day after asking Stephanie to pick up her son from school, Stephanie starts to piece together the clues of what might have happened to Emily. 

As a director whose last few films have all had female leads, but in very much comedic central films, this is uncharted territory for Feig. As such, he has left behind frequent collaborator Melissa McCarthy and recruited Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively as his leading women this time. Kendrick as Stephanie has something that is very quirky and charming about her, but there is more to her goody mummy vlogger persona that she is letting on. Likewise for Lively as Emily who may dress in a suave manner, but there are some sinister secrets about her past also. Both give excellent performances, playing off each other tremendously well, though ultimately it is Lively who ends up stealing the show from Kendrick as well as her husband Sean (Henry Golding). 

The film pitches itself in a very Gone Girl-esque manner, and the screenplay from Jessica Sharzer certainly tries to capture that grittiness and suspense that Gone Girl had in abundance. While it does achieve this to a certain extent, it is nowhere near as compelling nor suspenseful as David Fincher’s aforementioned thriller. Unfortunately while trying to balance the comedic element of the story with the dark and gritty nature, there is a little bit of a mismatch when it comes to the overall tone of the film. Furthermore, by the time the film reaches the third act, it all feels a bit too rushed. As such the suspense that has been built up in the preceding two acts, is completely squandered on a finale that just packs so many twists and turns, it feels like a classic case of less would have been more. 

For all the excessive twists and turns that the film offers, one thing that it certainly is not lacking in is style. Feig certainly brings this to his direction in a suitable manner that befits this stylish backdrop. There’s a very aesthetically pleasing visual style to aspects such as product design, and it is evident that no expense was spared on the costumes either, especially when it comes to Emily’s attire. However what the film brings to the table in style, it doesn’t deliver in terms of providing a truly gripping and unnerving thriller that just doesn’t pull as many punches that past films of a similar nature delivered in abundance. 

Stylish in its design, and bolstered by two assured leading performances, but a mismatch of tones and one too many twists result in a thriller that just doesn’t deliver many thrills. 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Searching (2018)

Image is property of Sony Pictures, Bazelevs Company, Screen Gems and Stage 6 Films

Searching – Film Review

Cast: John Cho, Debra Messing, Michelle La, Joseph Lee

Director: Aneesh Chaganty

Synopsis: After a young woman vanishes without a trace, her fraught father tries to piece together clues that could explain her disappearance…

Review: There’s no hiding from the fact that in this era we are living in, that technology is driving a considerable proportion of how we live our day-to-day lives. So much of our time, be it at work or at home, involves computers and smart phones. One such aspect of our digital lives that has become prominent, especially in the lives of young people, is social media. Given how much these devices drive of many aspects of our lives, to tell a story in its entirety through technology and social media is an inspired and refreshing new approach to a story to a very realistic story, and one that would be any parent’s absolute worst nightmare.

At the centre of this all is David Kim (Cho) a father who has to endure the most heart-breaking of circumstances in his family life whilst raising his daughter Margot (La). All seems well after some father-daughter time until Margot disappears with little information available to David as to what possibly could have happened to her. Using any information he can find from his own computer as well as Margot’s, David begins to piece together clues that could lead to anything that could uncover new details. As he receives help in the investigation from Detective Vick (Messing), what begins to become apparent is quite simply unimaginable for him.

Making his directorial debut, Chagnanty and co-writer Sev Ohanian, utilise family videos to establish the early stages of Margot’s life through family videos and what she and her father have been through. It’s simple but it does the job of establishing their relationship, and just how much did David actually know about his daughter and her life? The means of telling this story could become stale very quickly, but it never becomes overbearing or annoying. If anything it makes it feel fresh and unique, and crucially makes the audience care for David’s plight. What’s more, it captures how if a story such as this was on the news, the social media aspect of such a story would be very prominent, and that makes it feel all the more real.

In what may be some of his best work, Cho gives a superb performance. Though he is faced with a horrendous situation, he goes about trying to find anything he can with resolute determination, even though you can feel the pain he is feeling during the investigation and in the years prior to it.  In a thriller such as this, it is critical that the audience is kept on the edge of their seats, and as we follow this investigation, it does exactly that as you are never sure which way the investigation is going to turn next, keeping you very much in suspense right throughout the film’s run time.

It is frustrating however that once we reach the climax of this investigation, the resolution does feel a little bit rushed and a few things could have been explained in a bit more detail. However, though the Internet is a wonderful thing that is capable of enthralling and delighting us, there is an extremely dangerous side to it. In the age of social media where people can share quite a bit about themselves, this film serves as a reminder that like the internet itself, social media certainly has its upsides, but the perils of it are all too real.

With a powerful lead performance from John Cho, bolstered by its innovative and fresh approach to a subject matter that we so often see on the news, it makes the film feel uncomfortably grounded in reality.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

A Quiet Place (2018)

Image is property of Paramount Pictures and Platinum Dunes

A Quiet Place – Film Review

Cast: Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe

Director: John Krasinski

Synopsis: In a desolate post apocalyptic future, creatures that hunt based on sound are roaming killing anything that makes a sound, one family must live in absolute silence in order to survive…

Review: If one were to somehow measure the decibel level of Planet Earth, one would imagine that it would likely be quite loud. As a species, it would be fair to say that humanity makes quite a lot of noise as we live our day-to-day lives. Therefore to live in a post-apocalyptic world where making even the slightest of peeps will likely be a fatal mishap, seems an extremely daunting prospect. For one family dwelling in a desolate US city, this is a predicament they find themselves in.

It is 2020, and with many of humanity presumed to have suffered a terrible fate at the hands of our nameless antagonists, we meet the Abbott family who are desperately fighting to stay alive in this dire situation. As well as directing and writing, Krasiniski stars as Dad Lee, and Mum Evelyn (played by real life wife Emily Blunt), and their children Regan (Simmonds) and Marcus (Jupe).

We are thrown right in the thick of this crisis, and with a mere few shots and not a single line of dialogue, it becomes crystal clear that this world is a terrifying place to inhabit. It is a brave choice to have pretty much no dialogue for the first half of your film. In so doing, the film relies on sound to convey the imminent danger facing the family, and thanks to some sterling work from the sound department, that danger posed by these ghastly monsters is almost instantaneously, and brutally, established.

Don’t. Make. A. Sound….

The post-apocalyptic world is a very familiar scenario for sure, but the screenplay, written by Krasinski, along with Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, gives the film a very unique and fresh feel to it. To say it is suspenseful, would be quite the understatement. The world that these characters are inhabiting is an extremely tough situation in which to try and stay alive. Consequently, right from the very first shot the tension begins to build, and despite a few lapses, the tension remains high throughout.

To write, direct and play a lead role in the film is a lot of work but Krasiniski does all three to wonderful effect. Equally terrific, as she almost always tends to be, is Blunt as his wife. Their chemistry is very strong, which isn’t surprising given they’re married in real life! What’s equally strong is the relationship they have with their children, the standout of whom is Millicent Simmonds as their deaf daughter, the fact that the actress herself is deaf adds a great deal of authenticity to this story of one family’s struggle to survive.

It is not easy to convey fear and every other emotion without making a sound but all of the family members pull it off tremendously well. Krasiniski might be best known for his comedic acting chops, but his direction is meticulous in its execution. Every time one of our family find themselves in danger,  the tension is racketed up a few levels and the audience feels that as they watch these characters desperately try to survive. In addition, the score provided by Marco Beltrami also plays its part to help build that tension.

Though it is a little slow in the initial stages, the film manages to be a very innovative piece of horror/thriller cinema, all while racketing up the tension without a great deal of dialogue being uttered, an achievement well worth shouting about, just not in this world.

A simple premise, but one that feels refreshingly original and excruciatingly tense almost from the first shot, with excellent performances across the board. Whisper it quietly, but we might just see future ventures into this genre from Krasinski.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Red Sparrow (2018)

Image is property of TSG Entertainment, Chernin Entertainment and 20th Century Fox

Red Sparrow  – Film Review

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Jeremy Irons, Charlotte Rampling

Director: Francis Lawrence

Synopsis: A Russian ballerina is enrolled into a top secret programme that trains its recruits to become highly skilled agent known as Sparrows. Her primary target quickly becomes a CIA agent who is in possession of some top secret information.

Review: The United States of America and Russia,  two countries with an extremely murky history. A history that teased the terrifying prospect of nuclear conflict that lasted the best part of the 20th century. As such, it opens the door for filmmakers and storytellers to tap into this relationship of sorts between these two countries and how that may develop in the years to come. Mix that in with elements of espionage and seduction, and you have the materials to make a dark and unsettling espionage thriller.

Yet despite ticking all these boxes, there is something about Red Sparrow that just never  hits the mark. Adapted from the novel of the same name by Jason Matthews, it’s intriguing premise offers much, but the hope that this intriguing premise would deliver a compelling story feels really misguided. Marking his first project since completing the Hunger Games franchise, Francis Lawrence has reunited with his Hunger Games collaborator Jennifer Lawrence (no relation) to tell this story of Dominika. A gifted Russian ballerina who suffers a devastating accident which destroys her career as a ballerina. Unsure as to what she should do next, she is pushed into the direction of the Sparrow programme, and it’s from this moment, her life will never be the same again.

The trailers certainly made the movie look as though it was going to be an intriguing espionage thriller, yet sadly it really is not all that thrilling. The screenplay by Justin Hythe certainly offers up an intriguing first act, including some very dark scenes that could have taken the story in a very interesting direction. However, it all quickly fizzles away into insignificance before long. A story with this premise should not be this mediocre, but several scenes just meander and it all becomes just not very interesting to watch. The actual plot itself is extremely convoluted, and it all just gets a little bit messy.  There’s some impressive camerawork involving the moment her ballerina prospects go up in flames, but there’s not much else to shout about, which is frustrating given some of the work we have seen from Lawrence as a director (see Catching Fire).

Lawrence has shown that since she hung up her bow as Katniss that she can take on a variety of different roles and make them her own. Her performance is admirable as she tries to hold the film on her shoulders, but the extremely lacklustre material she has been given to work with prevents her from doing so. Though her accent does slip on occasions, she gives comfortably the strongest performance. The rest of this very talented cast are by and large either extremely under-utilised or not given enough development to really make the audience care for them. Edgerton is perhaps the only exception, but even then the development he gets is thin, at best. Meanwhile, other actors such as Jeremy Irons seem really miscast in their roles.

The chemistry between Lawrence and Edgerton is serviceable, but it could and really should have been so much stronger given the talent of the actors. The plot is so convoluted that by the time the credits begin to play, you’ll be wondering if it was worth it, and the answer sadly, is probably not.

An intriguing premise, thrown away on an extremely convoluted and messy plot, combined with very bland and forgettable characters, all of which results in an extremely disappointing finished product.

Posted in 1990-1999, Film Review

Se7en (1995)

Image is property of New Line Cinema

Se7en – Film Review

Cast: Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kevin Spacey

Director: David Fincher

Synopsis: Two detectives are assigned to a case in which the killer is brutally murdering his victims, based on the seven deadly sins.

Review: Sometimes, it just seems that there is just no escaping from the brutality and horrors life can sometimes be. On any given day, you tend to come across stories of horrific violence committed against all sorts of people, brutal murders and the like all seem to have become just so common for us to hear about. As such, there is something almost generally disturbing and unsettling about the second directorial effort of David Fincher, because it depicts events that could very well happen in the world today.

The opening credits along let the viewer know the sort of ride that they are in for, and it sure as heck won’t be pretty. In an unnamed US city,  Detective William Somerset is a veteran at the job, and is just a week shy of retirement when he gets assigned to this deeply disturbing case of a killer who is using the seven deadly sins as a basis for his crimes. With each respective murder representing each of the seven sins: gluttony, greed, sloth, envy, wrath, pride and lust. Also assigned to the case is the recently reassigned Detective David Mills who’s a bit brash, polar opposite to the calm and methodical William Somerset. Together these two must piece together the clues of the crimes to catch the killer. Except this mystery killer always seems to be one step ahead of the game.

Even from the opening credits, there’s something just so deeply unsettling about the events that we see on screen. The weather is almost always drab and bleak, which mirrors the tone of the film, extremely sombre and just downright macabre. The film-making is gritty and realistic to the point that it and almost makes you feel like the events you’re witnessing are real life events, but the film doesn’t go all out with the gore, it all just feels very realistic. With each murder that takes place, it keeps the plot moving along at a very steady pace. You want to turn away as the events, and more specifically the murders are so disturbingly gruesome, but the quality of the writing keeps your interest glued to the screen.

In a story that feels like it could be something you see in real life, the performances from everyone, in particular Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman are tremendous. Their relationship is not exactly harmonious, and indeed the crime scenes they’re investigating understandably take their toll on the duo, but they remain committed in their efforts to bring down the killer. Gwyneth Paltrow as Mills’s wife Tracy also gives a very vulnerable performance, a woman who is hiding something quite important from her husband, something that plays great significance when we reach the final act of the film.

Speaking of said final act, though there is tension right right throughout the film, particularly during a gritty gun battle in a residential block. The finale is where the tension is really turned up to maximum and the whole story comes to a head. Right up to this point, you had never actually witnessed the murders be carried out on screen, only the very bloody and unpleasant aftermath of each crime scene. Yet all that changes, and the whole plan of our mystery serial killer comes full circle. It’s so unexpected, delivering one of the best twists in cinematic history and providing the viewer with an ending that is more than likely to leave them reeling.

It’s shocking and bold storytelling combined with meticulously crafted film-making. Thus, credit where credit is due to Fincher and screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker for creating not just an ending that surely ranks up there with one of the very best ever put to screen. For creating a chilling tale that won’t be leaving your mind in any hurry, and one that ensures you will never hear the sentence “what’s in the box?” in the same way ever again.

Dark, brutal and uncompromising storytelling, with great performances from Pitt and Freeman, and a masterfully executed ending all equal one of the best films of all time.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017)

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Kingsman: The Golden Circle – Film Review

Cast: Taron Egerton, Mark Strong, Colin Firth, Jeff Bridges, Channing Tatum, Halle Berry, Sophie Cookson, Pedro Pascal

Director: Matthew Vaughn

Synopsis:  After their organisation comes under attack, The Kingsman seek the help of their US Counterparts, the Statesman, to help them save the world…

Review: It is always nice when a film knows exactly what the audience wants and doesn’t take itself too seriously. In addition, when said film knew that it was a ridiculously over the top, almost parody of the the spy films that it obviously drew inspiration from, and plays that to its advantage to deliver an absurd amount of entertainment, and laughs, that’s always a most welcome outcome, and this is precisely what Kingsman: The Secret Service was. Therefore, a sequel to this surprise hit was almost inevitable, and Vaughn despite perhaps some initial hesitation, eventually came back to the director’s chair.

The first film was, for the most part British-centric, and more specifically on the Kingsman and the recruitment of young Eggsy into this elite spy organisation. The plot now goes a bit more global, well across the Pond to be exact. With the Kingsman on their knees following a vicious attack, a clue leads them to their US based allies, the Statesman. Their research leads them to something that is known as the “Golden Circle” and with the Kingsman and Statesman now side by side, they must band together to help save the world because as you would expect, as there’s always some dastardly villain looking to wreak world havoc.

Eggsy’s development from deadbeat chav, to a sophisticated gentleman spy was a central theme of what The Secret Service was all about. All the while saving the world with mentor Harry Hart (Firth) by his side. Though Harry initially seems to have suffered a grim demise, but with a presence that is hard to miss if you have seen any promotional material, it indicates that Harry did not meet said demise. Their character development was a key arc of the first movie, but there is much less focus on that arc, and indeed character development as a whole, which can be frustrating to say the least.

“We are the three amigos…”

Instead Vaughn and Goldman zone in on the action stakes, turning up the volume to maximum. If his past work is anything to go by, Vaughn is certainly a director who knows how to helm jaw dropping action scenes,  the church scene from the first film certainly stands out. They’re very fast paced and exhilarating, although sometimes they way they are cut together, with very fast, quick cut editing can make them a bit jarring to watch. The plot is again a bit far fetched to say the least, even more so than the last film, but the movie knows that this is part of its charm, and it uses that to its advantage.

Taron Egerton remains on great form as Eggsy and he is ably supported by the familiar faces of Merlin and Roxy, whilst continuing a relationship with his royal girlfriend. The main bunch of new recruits comes in the shape of the Statesman cast, with Bridges giving Rooster Cogburn a 21st century makeover in the form of Statesman top dog Champ. Tequila and Ginger Ale (Tatum and Berry) are welcome additions but both feel somewhat underutilised. Meanwhile Pedro Pascal as Whiskey is perhaps the most interesting of the new bunch, honing his Oberyn Martell-esque fighting skills to great effect, and while she does have some time to shine, Julianne Moore as the antagonist would have benefited from a bit more screen time.

Though it doesn’t get too bloated, the film does feel perhaps a tad too long, perhaps because Vaughn does cram so much into this new adventure. but there’s more than enough good material here for audiences to enjoy. Like last time, the movie remains very self-aware, it knows it is a bat shit crazy experience with spies, espionage, gadgets, action and VERY adult humour. And that’s just what you signed up for, suited and booted and all.

There’s not a great deal of character development to be found, but like its predecessor, The Golden Circle delivers those insane and thrilling action set pieces and adult humour that make it such a blast to watch.