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A Simple Favor (2018)
Not sure what it wants to be
It's one thing to not know whether a film is a comedy or a serious drama going in, it's another not to know by the halfway point in the film. I kept waiting for 'A Simple Favor' to pick a route to go down, but it never really commits one way or the other, and this I think is the thing that hurts this film the most. It's a tricky one though because the story itself isn't strong enough to carry the film alone, however when you saturate it with comedy you find the audience laughing in scenes that they're not supposed to be laughing in. The tone of this film was quite baffling at times.
What carries the film is the two leads Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively. This was the best performance I've seen from Lively. She was captivating to watch. Her screen presence and charisma were incredible and she alone was the strongest thing this film had going for it. Anna Kendrick stuck to her more traditional type performance, but she does it well so why break up a good thing? There were some good cameos thrown into the mix too. Overall it was a very strongly acted film.
Something you'll notice about this film is that all the characters are very uneven. They go on incredibly sharp arcs over the course of the movie. A character arc is a great thing, but a little subtilty goes a long way. It was also about 20 minutes too long for my liking. The audience were getting a little restless in the third act and there were certainly scenes that could easily have been cut out. The ending was also a little bit cliche. I did enjoy 'A Simple Favor' but I can't help feeling with a few tweaks I could've enjoyed it a whole lot more.
The Predator (2018)
The series feels like it has nowhere to go
Somewhere around the halfway point of this film I realised why I get very little joy out of this series. The problem is that the 'Predators', despite looking very cool and obviously being incredibly powerful, are boring. They have no character to them whatsoever. These films cater to people who are fascinated with a cool looking creature and require no depth beyond that.
For that reason this series feels like it is stalled. Every entry into it feels identical to the last, simply in a new location. There's nowhere for things to go. They've made an effort to set up the next film in this one, but even that next film is just going to be like every other entry, it's very easy to see. The reason for this is that there are only so many ways to shake up such a simple concept. The only thing you can really do is change the look of the 'Predator' and perhaps evolve its powers. Is that enough to get people to keep buying tickets? It shouldn't be.
So while this film wasn't by any means offensively bad, I guess I had just hoped for more. The only character I really cared about the fate of was the kid. That being said I did like the twist of the group off the bus being mentally off-centre. It lead to some humour and did make them more likeable than they otherwise could have been. I also liked the joke about "Predator" being an ill-conceived name for the creature because it didn't make sense. I had thought that to myself many times before seeing this movie. Otherwise though everything else was pretty forgettable and not worth wasting your hard-earned on I'm afraid to say.
Bland and by the book
'Predators' starts out with a really fun concept that should have made for a great movie. Eight of the toughest, meanest, badasses from Earth dropped onto an alien planet to be hunted. I mean I'll pay to see that movie every day of the week. Why then did the actual product feel so dull and uninspired?
Firstly, I think the casting was poor in a lot of cases. These were all meant to be badasses, but very few of them actually pulled it off. Adrien Brody in the lead role for example, he gave a better performance than I admittedly expected from him, but he still never had me glued to my seat like I was watching a true action-hero. Then the rest of the cast for the most part was were just meh. Very bland in terms of what they were given to work with and ultimately their performances.
Secondly, the film played out in such an incredibly formulaic and uninteresting way that it was truly hard to care about the fate of anyone. It made an effort near the end to mix things up with a twist, but that little side-story was over with almost before it even began - despite being the most interesting thing that happens in the film. I decided to watch this before going to see 'The Predator' tomorrow and I regret it a little now because it has left me less excited for that film than I was beforehand. Hopefully tomorrow is an improvement, because this one was a complete misfire.
A masterpiece that defies its limitations
Just by complete coincidence the last movie I saw before 'Searching' was 'Unfriended: Dark Web', another movie set entirely on a computer screen. That one was a horror movie, while 'Searching' is more of a mystery/thriller. Is this becoming the new "found-footage" concept to take the movie-making world by storm? Probably not, because there is just so much limitation on what can actually be done with the concept. Which brings me to the first thing I liked so much about this movie. Early on in the film I thought to myself, this concept is all well and good for now - but it is seriously going to hamper it later in the film when things heat up, right? Wrong. The movie does an incredible job of never being (or at least feeling) limited by the way it is presented. This is quite an incredible film in a lot of ways.
The next thing that caught me off-guard with this film was just how intricate and clever the story was. Again, early on I found myself thinking that they had kept the film very simple in concept so as to allow them to work around it easily for the computer screen concept. And again how wrong I was. This movie is a roller-coaster ride of both emotions and plot-twists. And they weren't just there for the sake of it, or to pad the runtime. They had genuine validity and had always been set up expertly earlier in the film.
And that's the third thing that blew me away. The amount of retrospective thinking this film allows after the credits roll is incredible. All the clues were there, all the hints were right before our eyes, none of the red-herrings cheated in any way. This film is a masterpiece that demands multiple viewings. I really hope people aren't put off by the concept, or associate it with 'Unfriended' and don't see it because they don't like horror. This is a brilliant film that demands to be seen. If you haven't already, rush out and see it. You'll be very happy you did.
Unfriended: Dark Web (2018)
Another great entry in this series
I was a huge fan of the original 'Unfriended'. It was original, unique, dark, twisted and clever. I was very happy to see they were making a sequel. The sequel was always going to have a tough time for a couple of reasons. First of all, assuming they kept the same formula as the first one, it was always going to come across very similar to the original. Secondly, it had to set up a scenario completely different to the first one, but that lead to the exact same situation being set up. This could easily come across very unrealistic (even for a horror film). And lastly, the first one was very very good, and thus this one had a lot to live up to.
The change I liked the most about this film was that it dealt in reality. The original used supernatural forces, and it worked, but the change up in this one was a very good mood. It made everything more clever. The film got off to a bit of a rocky start for me. There was a lot going on, with conversations verbally and in text going on at the same time that could be difficult to follow. It also took a while for much to happen. None of the characters really grabbed me at first either, although they did grow on me as the film went on.
This is a film though that truly gets better the longer it runs. It builds and builds and the last 20 minutes are incredibly tense and make the film what it was. It has some twists and turns that make it a lot more intelligent than first perceived to be. I really liked this second entry in the series. Perhaps not quite as much as the first, but it was surely good enough to warrant a third entry. Bring it on.
The Nun (2018)
A huge let down
If you had told me five years ago that one of my most anticipated movies of 2018 would be titled 'The Nun' I would've been very surprised. It was though. I had been looking forward to this movie ever since it was announced. I'm a huge fan of both of 'The Conjuring' movies, but have admittedly not loved either of the two 'Annabelle' spin-offs. I was very pleased to see James Wan was attached to the writing side of things on this one though and so held out high hopes for it. Sadly though, I have to report this is another complete misfire.
Starting with the positives though - the movie looks great. The set decoration is truly terrific in nearly every scene and the building and surrounding area that the film is set in were ideally selected. The groundwork was there for this to be a very creepy movie. At times the movie does work too, but that is mainly when it is being subtle. There are a lot of scenes where images of 'The Nun' are sort of there, but also sort of not. You question yourself whether you are actually seeing what you think you are. I really liked that side of things. Too often though the film is far too in your face. The demon will jump out of a tree and scream into a character's face (a very lion-like and un-scary scream I would have to say as well).
The dialogue in this film is a real mess too, which surprised me considering Wan's involvement. The character of 'Frenchie' is particularly painful. He is meant to be the comic relief, but nothing he says is in any way funny, and is frankly a little embarrassing in parts. Also some of the things the demon says like, "The village will be missing its idiot tomorrow" (or something to that effect), are cringe-worthy and should never have made the final cut.
I was very let down by this film. There are a lot of jump-scares, and not one of them gave me the slightest jolt. My heart-rate never rose above resting in any scene and I was frankly bored for the most part. The only saving graces were that the film looked great, connected in with the rest of the series well and had a truly great final scene that left me a little blown away. I didn't want this to have to be a negative review, but there was no other way to go about it.
Summer of 84 (2018)
Clever, dark and unpredictable
The concept of four childhood friends investigating a mystery is a very hot subject for film and television at the moment. It's been hot in the past, then it went out of vogue for a while, and now it is evidently back. 'Summer of 84' had me on the fence for the majority of the runtime about whether I was ultimately going to have enjoyed it or not. The reason for this was because the ending was going to be so crucial to its success. So did it stick the landing? It certainly did - and in a very unexpected and dark way too.
Now let's get into some spoilers. The film sets itself up in quite bizarre way. Early on you find yourself saying there's no way the character of 'Wayne Mackey' could be the killer because he is far too obvious. Then at about the halfway point you start thinking to yourself that they haven't even set up any casual, unexpected side characters who could ultimately turn out to be the killer. The longer this goes on the more you realise that the killer does in fact have to be 'Mackey'. It's funny that we've gone so full-circle in cinema that having the most obvious character be the actual killer is a completely foreign experience.
Then the film plays out kind of as you'd expect, until with roughly 10-15 minutes to go things just explode in a violent, memorable and highly unexpected way. It gets so much darker than I ever saw a film like this getting. Seeing a young boy have his throat slit on camera is not something I'm in any way used to. I commend the film for having the balls to go there though. So many modern films are afraid to be daring and that simple can not be said about 'Summer of 84'. I would highly recommend people see this film. It is a great watch.
Slender Man (2018)
Not as bad as they'll have you believe
At the time of writing this 'Slender Man' currently has an IMDb rating of 2.9. For anyone unfamiliar with the site that is incredibly low, for any film of any genre. Does the film deserve a rating that low? Not in my opinion, no. It is far from a perfect film and has many, many flaws, but what exactly has got it that low I can't say.
The first thing you'll notice about this film is that it doesn't have the most attractive cast. We are used to horror movies having abnormally beautiful casts with actors and actresses who are perhaps not so great at acting. That really can't be said here and I think it was a good thing for the film. It made the characters feel more real and down to earth (mind you considering the subject matter for the film that goes out the window pretty quickly anyway).
The films biggest sufferings come in the form of the writing. For one thing there are far too many dream sequences. I find most horror films have at least one these days unfortunately and that is bad enough. 'Slender Man' has at least half a dozen and they can be seen coming from a mile away. The dialogue is also especially sloppy in certain scenes.
The character of 'Slender Man' is suitably creepy and definitely good enough to make a film out of. There are a couple of really good jump-scares, but there are a few appallingly bad ones too, like one where a woman simply walks past a character in a library. This is far from a great film by any stretch of the imagination, but it is also far from being as bad as people seem to be making out. Watch it for yourself and make up your own mind I would suggest.
That Sugar Film (2014)
A few slight errors hold it back from being something great
It's very hard to watch 'That Sugar Film' without comparing it to Morgan Spurlock's 'Super Size Me' the entire time. I read that writer/director Damon Gameau was even consulting heavily with Spurlock during the making of this. What made 'Super Size Me' work so well, and why I think 'That Sugar Film' won't connect with as many people as it otherwise could've, is that people could easily relate. Eating McDonald's or not eating McDonald's is an easy distinction to make. The mistake I believe Gameau made was doing his experiment with day to day sugars that everyone eats without a second thought. The majority of people are highly unlikely to stop eating those things and thus this documentary will not have an overly strong impact on them. If he had gone a step further and done it with extreme sugar foods like chocolate, sugar drinks, candy etc. I think it would've had a much stronger impact.
The science side of things is done very well in the film. Everything is explained excellently and the examples given are always helpful and clear to understand. The experts all clearly know what they're talking about, however there weren't very many interesting characters amongst them which can leave the film a little dry in places. I also would've liked to see the interview with the man from the company who were taking money from Coca-Cola pushed a lot harder. Obviously Gameau is a first time documentarian and so that situation may have been a little daunting to him. I have to say I liked this film without loving it. if nothing else it has certainly given me a lot to go away and think about and I think everyone who watches it will be in the same boat to some degree. I just feel that it could've been even better with a few tweaks.
Tomb Raider (2018)
A little underwhelming
Ironically in 'Tomb Raider' they got the hard part right and messed up the easy part. The hard part in my opinion was correctly casting 'Lara Croft'. To follow in the shoes of a peak-of-her-powers Angelina Jolie is no easy feat. They pulled that off though by finding Alicia Vikander who was excellent in this film. The part they messed up though, and why this is such a bland experience, was they just didn't give her anything interesting to do.
The film starts off fun. The character introductions are clever, interesting and get you amped for what is to come. Then when the actual adventure begins the entire film stalls and never manages to start up again. The location was mildly interesting, but for almost the entire film to be set on the one island just felt lazy and uncreative - especially with a runtime near 2 hours. Also the villain was about as dull as they come.
Vikander is what saves this from being a total misfire though. She has the look, the charisma and the sexiness to pull off the character with ease. There was a bit of controversy with the films poster and her abnormally long neck in it. I couldn't help but notice that she does have a very long neck in reality, but the poster was still taking things a bit far clearly. I certainly couldn't recommend this as a film to rush out and see because it is so uninspiring and middle of the road. It's not terrible, it just never dares to be great.
Better than the first but has very similar problems
Upon finishing 'Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom' I went back and read my review of 'Jurassic World' to see how I had felt about that one. What I found was that I could've pretty much copy and pasted my review for that film onto this one. My biggest gripe with these films is how predictable they feel. I guarantee that if you had paused the movie once every character had been introduced I could've given you an exact list of which characters would live and which would die. Hell, I could've even told you which characters would have the most brutal deaths. That to me isn't good enough. I'm aware that these films are probably meant to be more about the visuals and the action than the plot twists and turns and unexpected events, but it still feels like if they want to be something great they could chuck something into the mix. They just play it far too safe for my liking.
There are some great action sequences in the film, the visuals are again amazing and I think the humour worked a lot better in this film than the original. All of these aspects make this a more enjoyable experience than the first one in my opinion. I do have a soft spot for the dinosaurs coming back to civilisation too I have to say. At the end of the day though I can guarantee I will have almost entirely forgotten about this film by this time tomorrow, and until they change things up and decide to be a little more daring, I fear every film in this series is going to be just like that.
Not even The Rock can save this boring mess
I was hoping 'Skyscraper' would be in the vein of 'Die Hard', a bad-ass, original and epic action movie where anything felt on the cards as a possibility. Instead it was pretty much the opposite of all of those things. 'The Rock' was given almost no opportunity to show off his undeniable charm. The script just hampered him in every way and left him as nothing more than a muscly guy who could do impressive stunts. But trust me, 'The Rock' is the least of the problems this film has.
The biggest gripe I have is just how dull it is. The film actually starts off with a pretty menacing villain and some violent and brutal killings. At this stage I had hope for the film, but all of that ended pretty abruptly and from that point onwards every bad guy in the film was unbelievably incompetent. The whole story arc plays out in about as cliche of a fashion as you could ever imagine. It's all very underwhelming and disappointing.
As for positives they are hard to come by. Some of the visuals are impressive and 'The Rock' does his best to keep things watchable despite being given absolutely no help. Otherwise though I would say this is a complete misfire and not worth anyone's time or money.
The 15:17 to Paris (2018)
Not what people are going to expect going in and that will hurt it
As I was watching 'The 15:17 to Paris' I kept thinking to myself, how could these three actors who I've never seen before, don't seem to have any discernible talent and aren't the best looking chaps in the world (they're not bad, but certainly not movie-star quality) land these lead roles in a Clint Eastwood directed film? It wasn't until after finishing the film and reading up about it that I found out they were the actual people the events the movie is based around had happened to. It's a very bold move on Eastwood's part it has to be said, but it's one I don't think paid off or added any benefit to the film.
The biggest problem though is that the film is a bit of mess structurally. Throughout the film we are treated to snippets from the train attack, then it will cut back to the lives of the three lead characters. And this just goes on and on and on until it has taken up about 90% of the runtime. Clearly the actual events on the train were not enough to base a film around and thus they had to add endless filler. It's pretty tacky though it has to be said.
The one saving grace the film has however is that the filler is actually really well done and far and away the best element to the film. Being real life best friends they obviously have great charisma. The journey they took on their respective paths was interesting inspiring. I think though ultimately a lot of people are going to be let down by this film because on the surface it appears to be an action thriller set on a train and in reality it is nothing of the sorts.
The Neon Demon (2016)
A unique, captivating and memorable film
Nicolas Winding Refn has a way of making you feel inadequate when you watch his films - but in a good way. What I mean by that is that they're extremely complex and layered and even if you have a theory on a particular element of the film there's often no way to know if you're right. But isn't that great? Cinema that make you think is a thing of beauty.
Of the three Refn films I have now seen ('Drive' and 'Only God Forgives' being the other two) I'd have to say 'The Neon Demon' is probably my favourite. Not by a wide margin, but it was certainly the one that I had the most fun watching. I honestly had no idea where the story was going to lead. I was trying to predict how it would pan out as the film went along, and to say I was way off would still be an understatement. The last 30 or so minutes of this film were so far out of left field, and yet so captivating, that I suspect I will remember them for a very long time.
Even before that though the film had me hooked for the most part. The thing with Refn is that he creates these intricate and fascinating scenes, and yet you have no idea whether any of it is really important to the outcome or not. You hang on to every word though, both because it's interesting and because you know you may reflect on it in a very interesting way later on.
Refn is notorious for his love of gore and violence and 'The Neon Demon' is no exception. It doesn't have perhaps the extreme levels that 'Only God Forgives' does (at least not in terms of what is actually shown), yet what is implied is still pretty horrifying. So there's no doubt this film won't be to everyones liking. Even if gore doesn't bother you I could see a lot of people simply not connecting with this film. Refn will always have a very much love/hate opinion held over his films I suspect. I enjoyed this one though a lot more than I even expected it to (it took me a long time to get around to seeing it because I had a feeling I was going to hate it). My advice would be to give it a chance and even if it's not your thing stick around to the end just to see what all the fuss is about.
Bad Samaritan (2018)
A way above average thriller
From the very first scene of 'Bad Samaritan' I knew it was going to be more than just your average horror/thriller. It was clear that this was a story that was going to be told with class. The scene I'm referring to is nothing more than a character introduction containing a plot piece that will play a part later in the movie. It actually had me wondering though whether I was watching the correct movie. The acting, the dialogue and camera work were so elegant that it didn't seem right to have the genre tag horror anywhere near this film (to be fair it probably shouldn't actually be there anyway, but that's another matter).
There was a lot to like about this film. It was directed with a lot of style, the story moved at a gripping pace, tension was in almost every scene that it was supposed to be in. It found a great balance in relation to the violence. There was enough there to know that the villain was truly menacing, but nowhere near enough that anyone could be offended or put off the film by it. On the other side of the coin it is very hard to find any flaws with the film. Maybe punching about ten minutes too long could be mentioned. Otherwise though it ticked every box it set out to. This is a very fun movie and one certainly not to miss.
The Strange Ones (2017)
A strange film
'The Strange Ones' is a very understated film. It never really makes a lot of effort to blow you away in any one particular scene. Instead it is happy to build the tension and develop the story and attempt to impress you in that way. For this reason some are going to find this a very dull film experience. It has a runtime of only 80 minutes and even that can feel like it is stretching itself thin at times. If you look deeper though I think this film actually had quite a cool little story arc to tell, it just didn't do it in the most impactful way.
When the credits rolled I had to actually stop and ask myself whether I liked the film or not. Even now, hours later at I write this I'm not entirely sure how I feel. I think I liked what the film was trying to do, and if I understand it rightly it is quite a smart film. It is quite ambiguous though and I know a lot of people aren't fond of that in modern cinema. There are certain scenes in the film (like the disappearing cup) that lead to me think there were a lot of layers attempting to be piled on here and a second viewing may be necessary to fully appreciate what it was trying to achieve. It won't be for everyone, but if you're willing to invest some time and energy of thought then you might just have a very good time with this one.
Ghost Stories (2017)
A film that is a lot more than it initially appears to be
There are some films that simply have to be reviewed using spoilers. I don't like to do it, but on occasions like this it is simply unavoidable. I take extensive measures to know as little about a film before going into it as possible (I even avoid trailers wherever possible). 'Ghost Stories' was a film I knew almost zero about other than that Martin Freeman was in it and it was classified as a drama/horror (whatever that means). Very early on in the film we meet a character who is supposedly an old man. Being quite familiar with him as an actor I said to myself that is Martin Freeman in heavy make-up. Sure enough it is revealed later in the movie that that was indeed the case. Now I'm not sure whether the make-up was supposed to be intentionally revealing, but I very much doubt it. I feel I would've enjoyed the reveal much more when it came around if I hadn't already suspected it over an hour ago. I can only guess the make-up budget wasn't quite high enough to pull it off properly.
This is very much a retrospective film. You are asked to look back and reconsider everything you've seen. That element to it I really liked. The ending is unquestionably the strongest part. The three horror stories told through the middle are on the other hand of the mixed bag variety. There are very strong moments in each of the stories, but ultimately they were a little tedious and forgettable. They were of course serving a purpose for later on, but I still feel they could have been done with a little more creativity - particularly the second one.
Martin Freeman is a breathe of fresh air in this film. He really shows the rest of the cast up it has to be said with his class, charisma and screen-presense. When I thought it was going to be a straight up horror movie I was a little concerned about whether his star-power would take me out of the horror mind-frame. Knowing now how the story plays out though I think he was an excellent choice for his role. There's certainly enough creativity and originality to make 'Ghost Stories' worthy of a watch.
14 Cameras (2018)
This series continues to surprise me
I was a big fan of the original '13 Cameras'. It was a sleeper hit that I didn't really see coming. I thought they might have been pushing it a little by throwing in a sequel, but to my pleasant surprise it was another really high quality edition to the series. The villain was menacing, the victims were interesting (enough) characters and there were some scenes featuring excellent tension.
There are three story-arcs being followed in the film. At first I thought they might have been being too ambitious but it turns out it actually was a really good notion. It meant that no one story felt too stretched and it kept everything feeling fresh and exciting for the duration of the film. Films that try to do too much can sometimes become confusing and lose focus. '14 Cameras' though keeps every thing very coherent by defining characters and locations very well. Needless to say I was very impressed by this film, and while I don't think it's quite as good as the original it is certainly still worth watching.
Harmless yet forgettable
For a film with a lack of star-power 'Blockers' has a surprising amount of charm and enjoyability about it. It's becoming more and more of the case where the lesser-known the cast is, the funnier the film is. Whether this is because we go in with lower expectations or because the film has to have a stronger script and rely less on the actors abilities I'm not entirely sure. Possibly a combination of both. Throughout the 00's we were getting the same actors appearing in almost every comedy that came out. Then 'The Hangover' came out of nowhere and blew everyone away, and things have never really been the same since.
John Cena actually quite impressed me in this film. It was a great idea to have his character be a soft-touch and the most emotional character of them all. It made him a lot easier to relate to and left him much more likeable that way. Leslie Mann held her own, but never really did much more than be an accessory to the men. Ike Barinholtz' character was probably my favourite in the film. His story arc was actually quite touching and somehow he was both the craziest and most level-headed character at the same time. I'm not quite sure how they pulled that off.
The film does play out in a very structured and predictable way and that is probably my biggest gripe with the film. There isn't one element to the plot that will take you off-guard. The film could also have done with a little bit more situational comedy. Too often it just finds itself relying on the dialogue. This isn't a bad film but I can pretty much guarantee I will have entirely forgotten about it by this time next week.
Eden Lake (2008)
An unrelenting nightmare
In the early stages of 'Eden Lake' it can be easy to think to yourself: here we go again! The same old story we've seen a thousand times before. There reaches a point though where you realise that is not actually the case and that what you are watching is something quite special and quite haunting. From that point onwards the film becomes a relentless and brutal ride straight into the depths of despair and loathing. You'll feel unclean after watching this movie.
Needless to say this 'Eden Lake' was a lot darker than I anticipated it to be. There were numerous scenes where I kept thinking there was going to be a twist to get them out of this, or they're suddenly going to wake up in a different spot. That was never the case though. This films follows through and I love it for that reason more than any other.
This is a film without a conscience and that is what is so good about it. It is certainly not going to be to everyone's liking. Anyone who likes a "Hollywood" type film where everything plays out according to formula and everything wraps itself up into a nice little bow are going to be sorely disappointed. This is not a film for those types of people and I think that is terrific. This is a great film that should absolutely be watched immediately if you haven't already seen it.
Mom and Dad (2017)
Could've been a little more fun
I had been really looking forward to seeing 'Mom and Dad' for quite a while now. It sounded like my kind of movie and I'm still a big fan of Nicolas Cage, even since his career has admittedly dipped off. I wasn't quite expecting what I got from 'Mom and Dad' though. I think I had expected it to lean more towards being a horror movie than anything, not in your traditional sense perhaps, but in terms of suspense and possibly gore. Instead it plays out more like an action movie I would suggest. Did I like it as much as I hoped to? I would probably say no to that, but it had its positive aspects.
The film never really explains itself and I didn't love that. I'm assuming they just couldn't come up with a viable reason for this to be happening and so left it out entirely. I suppose that's fair enough but it does come across a touch lazy. I also thought they could have played it out to be a little bit more fun. They got creative in certain scenes, but not in particularly fun ways. This also felt like a missed opportunity.
One of the big positives of the film were the flashback scenes. One scene in particular involving a pool table is undoubtedly the strongest in the film. Cage gives it everything he has in this scene and absolutely nails it. It was good to see Cage really putting forward a committed performance and not phoning it in. I also like that the film is nice and short and doesn't outstay its welcome. Plus there is a twist near the end that did have a lot of fun about it (as I mentioned earlier was too often missing). More of that kind of thing in the film and it would have worked a lot better. This isn't a film to rush out and see, but if you find yourself with an opportunity to watch it give it a shot.
A Bad Moms Christmas (2017)
How was this made by the same people?
I loved the original 'Bad Moms' movie so much that I was actually quite excited to see the sequel 'A Bad Moms Christmas'. The original was a surprise hit for me and a breathe of fresh air into the all-female comedy movies that are becoming more and more common. It had great characters, a fun story and was just an entertaining thing to watch for the entire run time. The sequel sadly has none of that going for it. I actually struggle to believe that the same people who wrote the original and also the original 'The Hangover' movie could write something this incredibly lazy and unfunny.
The film basically has no plot. Three women's mothers show up and there is slight tension in each case. That is about the extent that the storyline reaches, I kid you not. This screenplay could've been (and probably was) written in a day. It relies almost entirely on funny one-liners to get any laughs at all out of the audience, but we are so bored by everything else going on that it's almost impossible to muster the energy. There is no situational humour in the movie at all. Each scene just passes by. If you didn't know better you could actually mistake this movie for a drama.
Needless to say I did not have a good time with 'A Bad Moms Christmas'. Not only was it dreadful in every way, it also managed to run an extra 10 minutes than it was required to, almost as if it thought it had so much story to fit in. Don't hesitate to give this one a miss, it is a complete misfire.
Almost works better as a drama than a horror
'Hereditary' is sort of like two films in one. Half of the time it is being what I expected it to be, which is a horror movie. The other half though it plays out much like a drama. I would even suggest it's a better film when it's in drama mode than it is when it's in horror mode. The film is over 2 hours in length which is extremely long by modern horror movie standards. The reason I believe for this is that it's trying to fit so much in and achieve so much in such a little time. It's a very ambitious film it would have to be said.
The entire cast were terrific, but Toni Collette absolutely blew me away. The emotional depth she is able to achieve never ceases to amaze me and she is captivating to watch in any scene she's in. I feel like she is one of the most under-appreciated actresses working today. As mentioned though, everyone is terrific and this is one of the best acted horror movies you are likely to find.
I sat in the cinema for a couple of minutes are the credits rolled just trying to work out how I actually felt about the film. I know I liked it, but I also know I didn't love it as much as I had hoped to going in. It certainly surprised me that I was more invested in the real-life drama side of things, and that the horror was almost like an unwanted distraction at times. The horror is almost always about atmosphere and visuals rather than any kind of jump-scare which I always like. What I didn't like though was how casually it jumped from seeming normality to outright suspension of belief. I feel like this could have been bridged a little better. Early on there's a lot of subtlety, then in one scene all of that is thrown out the window at once. I suppose at least the audience knows where they stand from that point onwards.
'Hereditary' is a film made with impeccable quality, of that there is no questioning. In fact it's made so well that I would suggest what story you picked to tell almost wouldn't matter because writer/director Ari Aster clearly has the skills to make it work. I can see opinions being very divided on the film (I even had a couple walk out of the cinema at one point in my showing), but I think the majority will like it on some level and for that reason I would recommend giving it a look.
The Book of Henry (2017)
Strong characters are the reason this works
I have a soft spot for films that bring emotion out of me. Sometimes I think I give films too much credit for doing this (basically if I cry then I deem it a good film). But at the end of the day isn't that what films set out to do, bring emotion out of their audience? Of course it doesn't always have to be sadness, but sadness is probably the easiest one to notice and remember. 'The Book of Henry' is a very sad film in multiple spots. It knows how to tug at your heart-strings and does so repeatedly. But there's more to it than that.
The key to pulling off a movie like this is to sell the characters. The three main characters (the mother and her two sons) are all very strong characters. They are loveable and you are rooting for them right from the beginning. The other characters do suffer a little bit with a lack of screen time and little effort put into letting the audience get to know their side of the story. The film takes a solid 50 minutes really just setting up the characters and putting the predicament they will face into place. This is partly why the film is so strong, but it does also leave the second half of the film feeling a little rushed and ending quite abruptly.
It also gets a little odd at one point towards the end with the road these characters appear to be choosing to go down. I kept thinking to myself that surely this isn't the way things are going to go down. It finds a nice way to dodge around this though and things play out in a more reasonable manner. I really enjoyed 'The Book of Henry' and while it certainly is not without its faults, I think it is definitely worth a watch. Bring the tissues though.
Another gem from Whannell
While I was watching 'Upgrade' I kept racking my brains trying to workout where I had seen a similar story before. When I finally worked it out I realised why it had taken me so long to get there. It was because it was a book I was thinking of rather than a movie. Dan Brown's latest novel 'Origin' follows a very similar concept and story. Both are unbelievably good in their own way. 'Upgrade' was quite different to what I was expecting. Pretty much every film Leigh Whannell has played a part in making to date has been horror based. Now while there is the odd dash of extreme violence here and there, this certainly doesn't fall into the horror category. Turns out the man can nail more than one genre.
The first thing that hits you about this film is how smart it is. Like almost all of Whannell's films it plays out like a puzzle and the audience gets to go along for the ride. Despite me already mentioning a very similar book, this still remains a very original (no pun intended) story. In the final 20 or so minutes all hell breaks loose and it truly is one of the best end sequences to a film I can remember seeing. The icing on the cake for me though was the dying seconds of the film. I begged in my head for the credits to roll right at that moment (not because I wanted it to end, but because ending it there would be the perfect thing to do - but something not a lot of film makers today would've had the bravery to do) and sure enough they did. I absolutely loved this film and would implore you to see it.