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The Girl on the Train (2016)
A largely successful thriller which faces a few setbacks along the way
The Girl on the Train tells the story of the titular girl, Rachel (Emily Blunt), a troubled, alcoholic, divorcée who commutes every day on the train to Manhattan, each journey is the same and she passes the same road of houses, stopping long enough to observe them. Among those that Rachel sees daily is that of a beautiful, yet mysterious couple (played by Luke Evans and Haley Bennett) who seem to live the perfect life, a marriage and life that Rachel pines for. This is made all the more difficult for Rachel given that her ex- husband Tom (Justin Theroux) and his new wife Anna (Rebecca Ferguson) live just a few houses away with their child. But through all of this snooping, Rachel sees something she shouldn't and soon becomes drawn much more into the lives of these strangers than she ever could have expected.
First off, the good: -Emily Blunt as Rachel. This is a complex and totally different performance than what we've seen Blunt deliver before. She is outstanding; damaged, conflicted, helpless and passionate, it's a role which asks a lot from Blunt but she hits the mark. It's convincingly ambiguous, credit for this must also go to Taylor whose direction never allows us to truly sympathise or side with any of these characters. Blunt's conviction makes it that much harder to support this supposed "hero" of the story.
-Haley Bennett's performance as Megan. As her story unravels, Bennett is really able to sink her teeth into the role and manipulate the image of her character and our perception of her. Megan is a devilishly devious individual and Bennett truly does the character justice giving a performance with real bite and venom.
-Luke Evans and, of course, Allison Janney. They are undoubtedly the other stand out performances from the ensemble. Evans, who plays Megan's husband Scott, plays his role with similar venom to Bennett as he offers yet another ambiguous and intriguing performance for the film. Janney may be playing a rather generic police role, she is, as always, stellar as she delivers real authority and control in her performance despite her limited material.
-Tate Taylor's overall direction. If a little rushed and sloppy in places, Taylor's direction is largely very good and he examines some interesting themes and motifs.
-For fans of the book, this is a very faithful adaptation (location change aside).
The Problems: -The characterisation is not particularly deep on backstory, so it's hard to fully "get" some of these characters.
-Its stumbles out of the blocks and takes time to really settle. There are some clunky and unnatural moments in the script both in dialogue and narration and it's a bit of a rush to get into the characters and story.
-Regardless of its solid overall build, the film tries to throw a little too much to see what sticks at first.
-The performances take a little while to settle as well, Bennett in particular seems too unnatural in her performance before her intentions with the role become clearer and she seems more comfortable.
-It could take some time to adapt to Blunt's performance also given how drastically different this is to her usual work, but nonetheless do not let yourself be deterred from her performance too quickly.
-Rebecca Ferguson isn't given much material and is rather bland. Justin Theroux as well is a little caricature like, he isn't very convincing and comes across rather bland especially when compared to the stronger performances of the film.
Despite a few early stumbles, The Girl on the Train is a dark thriller anchored by a great performance from Emily Blunt and held together by some good direction from Tate Taylor.
American Crime Story (2016)
Evocative and Powerful
The case of O.J. Simpson is one that received wide scale media coverage and attention with the events being closely followed by many and is now the topic of season 1 of FX's new biographical crime drama, American Crime Story. However despite this, this show manages to remain just as gripping and haunting as the case was in real life.
The acting is across the board incredibly strong with not a weak performance among the main ensemble; Cuba Gooding Jr. and John Travolta in particular stand out. The writing is sharp, never is it overly formulaic or mundane but understandable and real, tension is built tremendously from the dialogue alone. But above all the direction is excellent, the tone is established straight from the beginning and it is crafted to such a high quality.
There is rarely a dull or wasted moment throughout, the story and pacing remains tight with no parts lacking in comparison to the soaring heights. The show, as said in the title of this review, is both evocative and powerful. The some of it's parts truly do this story justice and will more than likely stir something within you that compels you to keep watching and to examine this story in much more detail. As far as crime dramas go, this feels, to a certain extent, rather fresh and different in comparison to what has come before.
The show looks set to keep reaching new heights and it is off a magnificent start.
What a wonderful film
Wow, this is such an incredible film.
The acting is simply flawless and Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay are sensational in their roles. Lenny Abrahamson's direction is great, the shots are excellent, the pace is spot on and the film's score is rousing and beautiful. The film's story, which I really don't want to spoil, is brilliant - it's so well thought through and so tight, nothing falls through the cracks, no scenes or lines are unnecessary or useless, the film has no wasted material.
Emma Donoghue's screenplay is excellent; sad, uplifting, tragic and wondrous, the film captures all of these feelings and emotions and Donoghue's script aids this immensely.
Please go out and see this film, it really deserves all the credit and money it can get. One of the best, if not THE best, films of the year.
The End of the Tour (2015)
An intriguing and heartfelt story, expertly written and anchored by a triumphant and epic performance from Jason Segel
Without a shadow of a doubt, The End of the Tour features one of the best scripts of the year as well as one of the best performances of the year.
This film is very dialogue heavy and focused. Much of the film is made up of scenes of the two main characters, Rolling Stone journalist David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) and author David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel), simply talking over the course of the 5 day interview conducted by Lipsky back in 1996 shortly after the publication of Wallace's novel 'Infinite Jest'. The script is phenomenal, the dialogue is never boring or self indulgent, it remains authentic and believable. The characters confide in each other, listen to each others stories and secrets and share their dreams and demons. Without Donald Margulies' tremendous script this film would not be the tour de force that it is.
However if the script is the skeleton of the movie then Jason Segel is the heart, soul and mind. He is fantastic in this movie. There is never a moment when we see him as just Jason Segel, he is always David Foster Wallace, this is a career defining and best performance from Segel. Whilst Segel hits the ground running, Jesse Eisenberg takes a little longer to settle into his role but soon captures the true essence of his character and proves to be an excellent foil to Segel.
The story is so intriguing and it's a real testament to the director that this film never feels boring, on the surface it is not the kind of film one would expect to be consistently entertaining but it manages to do just that!
This is a simply wonderful movie; a relatively simple premise, a perfect script, a perfect lead performance and a truly heartfelt story result in The End of the Tour being one of the best films of 2015.
Quirky, emotional, funny and heartfelt.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl centres around the story of high school student Greg (Thomas Mann), an every-man who enjoys making amateur parody films of classics with his 'co-worker' Earl (RJ Cyler) and his relationship with the eponymous dying girl Rachel (Olivia Cooke). Upon learning that Rachel has contracted leukaemia, Greg's mother (Connie Britton) forces him to spend time with Rachel, the two soon begin to bond and become friends, a friendship that goes deeper once Earl introduces Rachel to their amateur films and the duo are persuaded to make a film for her.
The emotional core of this film is really in the chemistry of the two leads, Thomas Mann and Olivia Cooke, two relative up and comers who deliver pitch perfect performances and really help to keep the film entertaining in it's many humorous moments but also hit the right dramatic notes when the film begins to tug on the heartstrings.
Full credit to screenwriter Jesse Andrews (who also wrote the novel this film is based on) for crafting a story so charming and heartfelt that you cannot help but feel connected in and drawn to these characters. The dialogue is witty and clever whilst never falling into clichés, rather it remains very self aware, especially during Greg's numerous (and hilarious) monologues. There is something so real and natural about the script that really enable us as the audience to fully become immersed in the film and it's world.
Props as well to the rest of the ensemble; RJ Cyler, Connie Britton, Nick Offerman, Molly Shannon, Jon Bernthal and Katherine C. Hughes all deliver truly wonderful performances alongside Mann and Cooke whilst never feeling like they are being completely overshadowed by the two leads.
The film is beautifully shot with some extremely clever shots and camera movements, think Wes Anderson style cinematography! The score/soundtrack matches every scene beautifully and never feels unnatural in any way, it really helps to craft the beauty of many scenes and also help set the tone perfectly.
But when you get right down to it, the film really is about one thing; friendship. The joy of having friends and having people to spend your time with and talk to about life and it's many struggles, and trust me - there are some truly heartbreaking struggles for the characters, the title of the film alone makes that pretty clear.
This is a truly beautiful little film that is equal parts sad and uplifting. Storytelling at its most beautiful.
A relentless Dystopian thriller (minor spoilers)
2014's 'The Maze Runner' was a surprise box office hit, earning $340 million worldwide from a modest $32 million budget and hitting the right notes with both critics and audiences a like, so naturally the studio has quickly moved onto the next chapter of the Maze Runner story, with most of the principal cast returning as well as a few new additions. And naturally, this sequel seeks to build upon the groundwork of The Maze Runner and expand the world established, whilst also upping the ante.
And boy does it.
This time around, the Gladers are finally free of the maze and things seem to be heading in a much more positive direction as they recover from their traumatic and harrowing time within WCKD's deadly experiment. However when Thomas (Dylan O'Brien), with the help of another former Glader from a separate Maze, Aris (newcomer Jacob Lofland), uncovers the truth of what is soon to happen to them, he leads his friends in an escape into what is known only as The Scorch. With rumours of a resistance forming and a potential safe haven from the destruction of the surrounding world, the Gladers must fight through the Scorch to safety, if the conditions don't kill them, then the Cranks, a disease ravaged group of zombie like creatures, will.
The journey of this film covers a broad range of sprawling and gorgeous locations; from beautiful but ravaged cities to huge stretches of desert and mountain landscapes, the production design of this movie is incredible and truly breathtaking. The visual effects are great and we are treated to some truly special action set pieces throughout the narrative. The film is beautifully shot, some shaky cam action scenes aside, with a great score that really adds to the tense and eerie atmosphere of the movie.
Dylan O'Brien again proves to be a strong lead for this franchise and his fellow Gladers Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), Minho (Ki Hong Lee), Frypan (Dexter Darden), Winston (Alexander Flores) and Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) all pitch in to help carry the film through perhaps it's more downbeat and slightly duller moments, particularly in the film's first half whilst also shining in the film's biggest and best moments.
However the introduction of Giancarlo Esposito and Rosa Salazar really spices up proceedings with both actors fully embracing their roles, particularly Giancarlo Esposito who almost steals the whole movie. Aiden Gillen is a solid addition as the film's antagonist Janson, a man intent on getting what he wants without being afraid of getting his own hands dirty. He really helps to shape the narrative and gives the film a much needed villain after the ambiguity of the first film.
As previously mentioned, the film does suffer from some dull moments in the narrative in the first half. There's a lot of shots of the Gladers running and then sleeping or breaking and we don't really get to fully become invested in the first part of their journey, it seems a bit filler for the film's 130 minute run time.
But the second half really does pick up and helps the film to become the thriller that it was intended to be. The story takes some big twists and turns and the film really digs it's claws in and we start to become fully invested in this film and it's characters, the run time adding positively to the experience here as we get to know the characters more and learn more about this world and what has happened to make it as it is.
Overall this is a great action, sci-fi thriller that serves as an excellent sequel to the first film and sets up this universe perfectly for the third chapter in this series.
Definitely worth seeing on the big screen!
Everything you would expect from Wet Hot American Summer and more
But did you expect anything less from a Wet Hot American Summer prequel?
Fans of David Wain's 2001 cult comedy Wet Hot American Summer will be jumping for joy at this show. The humour is much the same yet somehow manages to become even more random with some of the craziest subplots I think I may have ever seen, however it is all consistently funny and had me laughing non- stop. But above all the show is incredibly meta, a tough job done well!
Seeing the cast of the original return for this was a real joy to behold. The likes of Elizabeth Banks, Paul Rudd, Bradley Cooper and Amy Poehler effortlessly slip back into their roles and seem to pick up right where they left off in 2001, seeing how these actors have hit the big time with their careers only heightens the hilarity of seeing them return to their roles 15 years on, the meta aspect of this being a prequel series with the older actors only adds in to make the mere concept of the show even funnier.
However seeing the likes of Janeane Garofalo, Michael Showalter, Zak Orth, Michael Ian Black and Christopher Meloni reprising their roles is also a real joy to behold, especially given that they may not have had careers that reached the same heights as Rudd and Cooper. And you can tell that they are all having a blast!
The rest of the cast is simply hilarious with a whole host of big, new names joining the show furthering the meta aspect of the show. New additions include Randall Park, Jason Schwartzman, Michael Cera, John Hamm, Lake Bell, Kirsten Wiig, Weird Al and Chris Pine among others.
But in the midst of all this hilarity, just when you think that it can't get any funnier, something dawns on you...
All these events are happening over the course of one day.
The only downside to this show is that there are only 8 episodes, we need more!!!
For fans of the original, this will not disappoint.
For new Wet Hot American Summer viewers, welcome to the chaotic comedy that is Wet Hot American Summer.
A quintessential modern action film
Here I was thinking that Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation wouldn't be able to capture the dizzying heights (both figuratively and literally) of it's predecessor, the 2011 Brad Bird directed Ghost Protocol, itself an excellent piece of cinema...
Boy, was I wrong...
From the get go this film grabs you by the scruff of the neck and refuses to let go. The action seamlessly flows from one set piece to another, packaged together with some wonderful moments of character chemistry and gripping story, which combine to make Rogue Nation perhaps the most explosive movie of the year and one of the finest action movies of the decade.
Tom Cruise slips effortlessly back into the role he has made so iconic by now. You know what you're gonna get from Cruise as IMF agent Ethan Hunt, but this movie sees him up the ante once again with regards to the physical acting whilst also adding layer upon layer to Hunt, turning him into one of the most intriguing action heroes in cinema.
Rebecca Ferguson, a new addition to the cast, kicks a large amount of ass in the movie, there really is no better way to put it. Her character arc sees her undergo an interesting and complex story, one that she accomplishes more than capably whilst also holding her own alongside Cruise. Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames all return and once again reprise their roles as Hunt's team. However, one can't help but feel that they are all (save perhaps Pegg) robbed of screen time by Ferguson and prestige by Cruise. Don't get me wrong, the actors are all great but the characters are a little hard done by as the script allows little time for the film's antics outside of whatever mission Cruise is on. Alec Baldwin is a solid if unspectacular addition to the cast; he brings a certain air of gravitas and legitimacy to the film but his character really doesn't have much to do. I won't say too much about the rest of the new additions to the cast as I really don't want to spoil what is a fantastic story.
The film is essentially a 2 hour cat and mouse chase with both sides trying to catch the tail of the other whilst just falling short. The IMF is put under extreme pressure as the repercussions of their past comes back to bite them and the Government begins to lose faith. In this uncertain time a new threat, known only as 'The Syndicate', emerges to strike whilst the IMF is weakest and it is up to Hunt and his team to stop them.
Director Christopher McQuarrie (Jack Reacher, The Way of the Gun) adds a certain grittiness to the action as well as upping the scale in grandiose, yet believable fashion. The movie really is on a spectacular scale whilst managing to avoid becoming a bloated mess of CGI explosions, numerous chase and fights scenes pack a real punch and the stunts are simply jaw dropping. The editing is phenomenal, the camera work stunning and the way the usage of sound differs from scene to scene and setting to setting is incredibly well done, you really have to see it to truly appreciate it - I really don't want to spoil what is truly a masterful technique!
The film's run time tends to drag a little and the pacing takes a few wobbles near the end of the movie, but a phenomenal first two acts make up for what is, admittedly, a slightly weaker third act in comparison. However the way in which the story ties up is excellent and the drama of the piece is most evident here, proving that Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation is not just a big brainless piece of fun.
This film is a real chess game; it's intricate and methodical whilst still maintaining what a chess game should be - a game, an entertainment product
It's an intelligent and enjoyable action spy thriller and you really don't want to miss it.
Finally, a blockbuster movie worth the hype
Superbly acted, amazing visuals, constant thrills and much improved camera work. Catching Fire takes the foundations of it's predecessor's success and builds the ultimate blockbuster.
The knockout punch of the year is here.
After surviving the 74th Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen has unwillingly become a beacon of hope for the people and they see her as their spark, the spark that will start the fires of revolution to bring an end to the oppressive ways of the government of Panem, led by the merciless President Snow. And Snow is not happy. Whilst trying to figure out her own emotions and feelings towards her on screen sweetheart Peeta Mellark and her rugged and rebellious friend Gale Hawthorne, Katniss is placed in a precarious position; will she become a puppet for the Capitol to restore order? Or will she embrace the rebellion and change Panem forever? The stakes are high and one false move could spell doom for Katniss and those she loves.
The superb Academy Award winning Jennifer Lawrence is on fine form once again and injects more emotion and passion into Katniss Everdeen. Fortunately, she is no longer having to carry the film through as many scenes as she did in the original due to the superb performances of the supporting cast.
Firstly, Josh Hutcherson. Branded as just another pretty face by many, Hutcherson steps out of the shadows and ups his game, Peeta is no longer the wimpy lover boy that many saw him as but he is now a fierce and passionate warrior willing to sacrifice all he has for Katniss. A vast improvement from the first film, Hutcherson really has come on leaps and bounds.
Woody Harrelson and Donald Sutherland improve greatly on their portrayals and become really convincing as Katniss' mentor and enemy respectively. This is probably down to more screen time, we rarely saw these two in the first film but this time round they play much more central roles to the film's plot. Elizabeth Banks is as superb as ever in her role as Effie Trinket, Katniss' chaperone. Phillip Seymour-Hoffman is an exciting addition of star power to the already big name cast, his role as new games makes Plutarch Heavansbee is well done but lacks some of the real intelligence that the character has from the book. Phillip's delivery at times is also a little blunt but he still does enough to create a great character. Liam Hemsworth's performance as Gale is perhaps the only blemish. His character gets more screen time this time around but he lacks any real conviction and comes across as quite bland.
Rejoice! No more shaky cam! Francis Lawrence, director, breathes a well needed breath of fresh life into the film. The camera work is superb and very well edited with some super fast cuts which add much more thrill and tension to the film. The scenery is stunning and brilliantly constructed and we get a good look at several different locations within Panem.
And the story? Well, if you've read the books, you'll know that you're in for a thrill. But if not, then this film will grab by the neck and never let you go. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll jump but most of all you'll never be able to forget it. This film will stick with you for a long time.
The perfect blockbuster? Absolutely.
Exhilarating, tense and visually stunning. A modern masterpiece (Slight spoilers)
To start off, I'd like to advise those who have not yet seen Gravity to see it: a) On the biggest/best quality screen you can b) In 3-D Without a shadow of a doubt this is the best film I have ever seen in 3- D. It is a prime example of how it can be used successfully and effectively, it really pulls you into the film as if it is you exploring life in space, looking down on a beautiful Earth.
But onto the review...
Sandra Bullock, a somewhat acquired taste at times I find, completely owns this film. It really is the performance of a lifetime, a sure fire contender come Awards season. She manages to reach that standard that many struggle with; She doesn't play the character, she IS the character.
Visually, Gravity is second to none. The camera work is incredible, most shots continue for 5 or more minutes and the way it zooms into a character and then turns so you see what they see is so smooth and clever that you are plunged into the film and only realise that you weren't experiencing the events yourself until the credits roll.
The story is gripping and tense, your heart will pound and you will find yourself willing on Bullock as she struggles to survive the harsh environment and the difficult surroundings. Alfonso Cuaron (Director) convinces you that the film really was filmed in space. Soundless crashes and little use of the film's score add to the tense and spooky story and setting, they also show perfectly the film's scientific accuracy.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Gravity delivers the knockout punch of the Awards season.
A winner for sure.