Friday, 24 March 2017

Get Out (2017)

Damned white people.

Get Out

So this film is good.

Underlined by a deceptively simple horror premise, Get Out subverts genre norms, and plays the game a little differently. Chris Washington is going to meet his girlfriends parents for the first time. Troubling for all young men, I'm sure, but she hasn't mentioned he's black. But I'm sure it'll be fine.

Creep factor to 10 when the two of them arrive.

It soon appears that the girls family is racist, but in a strange way. Odd until the reveal. For the most of the running time you're just left with strange unease. Then the reveal comes just before the climax.

Star: Daniel Kaluuya

The genius of the film comes with the choices made by writer/director Jordan Peele. Firstly, not having major Hollywood star power involved allowed the viewer to be sucked into the film. Even Bradley Whitford playing the patriarch of the family was almost unrecognizable. Withholding the what-their-doing-and-why until the last moment is singularly genius. 

The sunken place is something we've never seen before.

Some of the acting is standout: Daniel Kaluuya as Chris is great, and Caleb Landry Jones gives his best performance to date. LilRel Howery as the comedy sidekick has perfect timing.

It's horror with no blood to speak of. It has a few jump scares, but the performances build stark fear by playing hard on the foreboding.

By far this is a step forward for the genre as far as being different. And I'm glad it's making money. I don't normally review films still at the cinema, but as it's still there, go and see it.


Friday, 17 March 2017

Don't Breathe (2016)

See. This is how you make a film.

Don't Breathe. Really. Don't.

Writer/director Fede Alvarez (who you'll remember directed the excellent Evil Dead remake) brings stark and satisfying horror in the form of Don't Breathe.

Basically a reverse home invasion movie, Don't Breathe is the simple story of three young criminals who decide to rob the home of a blind ex-military dude, who is sitting on a fortune (in cash - reasons) after being awarded recompense for the death of his daughter.

You can see where I'm going here, can't you?

Said dude is totally a skilled mercenary type (Blind Justice!), and the three criminals have to fight for their lives to survive. Nice.

Stephen Lang

The win here comes in two forms. Firstly is Alvarez. He deftly manages to make you root for the criminals. Well, two of them, anyway. I mean, they're robbing a blind guy. Why did I root for them? And the second is the excellent three main leads, Stephen Lang (The Blind Man according to IMDB) and two of the criminals, Jane Levy and Dylan Minnette. 

The story is simple to the point of not being there. But it doesn't matter. It's all in the acting, cinematography, and direction.

Until the third act.

If you've not seen this movie, then I must warn you about the final act of the movie. It gets nasty.

Really nasty.

Look. I'm not spoiling it. But you'll need a strong stomach suddenly. Alvarez ramps the ick factor with the flick of a switch, changes the balance and the tone of the movie suddenly, and then everything is different. 

And it makes it even better. 

The sudden third act twist will ensure this goes down as classic horror, and sets it aside from other similar movies such as The Purge or The Strangers. (I particularly liked The Strangers. Where's my sequel?)

Friday, 10 March 2017

John Wick (2014)

John Wick. Oh.

John Wicke

So it's light on plot. Who cares?

Reeves protrays John Wick, a retired mob hit man. His wife dies in the first few minutes of the movie of unmentioned natural causes, and delivers him a puppy on the day of her funeral from beyond the grave. Well, courier, anyway.

John must put his life back together.

The son of a Russian mobster takes a liking to Wick's car, breaks into his house, batters him, kills his new dog, and steals his car. This is the first 10 minutes of the film.

John Wick kills 77 people. This is the rest of it.

John Wick kills people.

Stuffed with outstanding performances (noticeably,  Michael Nyqvist, Willem Dafoe, and Ian McShane) and stunningly directed action scenes, John Wick may be the best action movie in years. The world placed before us has some interesting ideas - hotels for assassins, assassin currency, etc - but by and large, this is action the way it should be done.

And bloody good, it is.

John Wick kills more people.

Laced and littered with spot on humor, Reeves makes his best film in years. He stoically guns down people like he's playing whack-a-mole. And he should be. Supposedly the best hit-man in history. Not a man to piss off.

I can't praise this highly enough for being exactly what it is. Keanu Reevs cooly killing people for the whole running time. Massive kudos to the Director, Chad Stahelski (who has no previous directing credits, but was a stunt co-ordinator).

This is old school action. No jump cuts. No flash camera work. Just a great movie. Just great.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Suicide Squad (2016)

But the trailer looked so much fun...

Suicide Squad

A team of career criminals are assembled by the government to take down the threat of mysterious new villain: The Enchantress... You know. The Dirty Dozen, basically.

Sigh. Where to start? (Edit - this is a review of the cinematic release, not the extended cut)

Okay, I was suckered by the trailers. Hats off to the people in charge of marketing this movie. It promised fun. Humor. Action. A step away from the tonal problems of BvS. It lied. Blatantly. Look at the poster. Look at it. Doesn't that look like a fun film? Well it's not. It's so bitter in places, you'd think you were watching a Godfather movie. Tonally it's all over the place.

Right. Got that off my chest. Let me explain.

Firstly, the plot is pretty solid, but the screenplay is a mess. I have heard that this is a post-production hatchet job, so I don't know who to blame. The film is convoluted in places to the point of being unfathomable.

And one notable reason is the amount of film they tried to stuff into a two hour running time. Again, likely the hatchet job.

The squad (Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Captain Boomerang, El Diablo, Killer Croc, Slipknot) all get a backstory of varying length. Split over the running time of the movie, I'd estimate that at between 20 and 30 minutes. The answer to the question of why they all appeared in this movie eludes me. It's clearly DC rushing to get their EU off the ground. Surely Quinn / Joker deserved more than a half-assed eight minute preview of years of backstory (although I wouldn't put it past DC to retread it time and again)? Deadshot Vs Batman was a shoe in for a movie if ever there was one.

Then they have to introduce the Governmental Dept. staff, led by Amanda Waller, Rick Flagg, and Katana, put the team together, introduce Enchantress, give her a backstory, her brother, mobilize the team, and then, fuck me, the film can start.

No wonder it's a mess.

And I haven't mentioned the side story of the Joker trying to rescue Harley throughout the whole movie, yet.

This, and the jarring tonal imbalances are major problems.

Some of this is PITCH BLACK dark.

The tonal imbalances come thick and fast. One major flaw is in the back story of El Diablo. Hernandez plays the character with extreme restraint. So much so, that sometimes his acting could perhaps be mistaken for mumbling. But that's an aside. Without delving too deeply into backstories myself, Diablo's is harsh. It involves the death of his whole family at his own hands. And I find it all so...unnecessary for what is at it's heart, a comic book movie.

But there is some good, too.

Firstly there are some standout performances. I mean, I have to apologize. Apparently Jai Courtney can act. It's just that up until now, he hasn't. He's excellent. Margo Robbie and Will Smith of course, taking center stage, and being very good too.

Amanda Waller is a strong character, played well by Viola Davis.

The action scenes are good, if a little too chopped up in editing, and the special effects stand out.

Jai Courtney / Captain Boomerang

The ending of the movie satisfies, barely, and heavily baits sequel. I don't know if we're going to get it. The more DC movies come out, the further they stray from longevity of story telling. It's too much too soon.

There was so much potential...

All in all, I fear this suffered the same as Batman V Superman. Being chopped up in post to make it a more sellable film has resulted in a mish-mash hotch-potch of a movie. I look forward to some redemption in the extended cut. But for now...

I know, I know... what did I think of Leto?

He was...okay. I'll say more when I've seen more.

Friday, 24 February 2017

Ghostbusters (2016)

She thinks it's a sliding door. She thinks they're all doors. That's sad - she's a scientist.

What the hell is with all the hate for this film?

No, this film is not without problems, but what's with the backlash? Someone shit on your rose tinted glasses?

The plot is simple. Ghosts appear in Manhatten just as our team of intrepid, slightly bumbling, ghostbusters appear like a well timed punchline. Our four busters go on to fight city hall for the right to fight, and take on a city destroying ghost plague.

So first off, I'm not sure if this is a remake, reboot, soft reboot, or sequel. That's not a problem, but as a fan of the original, I was a little confused. There seemed reference that this sort of thing had happened before, and how easily people forget. Then there is the cameos by the original cast, in different roles. But that was done in Ghostbusters by both Ackroyd and Murray (Yes, they appeared in dual roles in the film) but were cut from the theatrical release.

So franchise wide, it's not unheard of.

But that's just a niggle.

McKinnon / McCarthy /Wiig

The cast is strong. Weakest of the main early introduced three was McCarthy, taking to throwing jokes at the screen, as opposed to being 'funny'. Not her fault, one would argue, but the screenwriters. Kate McKinnon by far the strongest, throughout the whole film.

Then introduced was Leslie Jones. Seeing the trailer I was worried that the makers had thrown in an African American for the sake of it.


She was portrayed in the trailer as oafish. She didn't seem to have much in the way of 'character'. But I was wrong. I think it was a mis-step of the producers of the trailer. She is truly funny. Not only that but she supports the scientist characters with grace.

Then there is Kevin. Chris Hemsworth portraying the extremely dim - very pretty - receptionist. An odd character choice. Not that he exists, or indeed is played by Hemsworth - those are clever choices - but that he is so one dimensionally stupid. Like he couldn't live through a normal week "stupid". I felt the character was unnecessary.

But the "My Cat" joke is a classic.

The villain is uninspiring - until an event takes place involving Hemsworth - but much like the original Ghostbusters movie, it really has little to do with villain, but rather the impending doom caused by them.

And the special effects are stunning. There is the obvious slip up - namely with Stay Puffed - and perhaps Mrs. Slimer (?). But apart from that, this:

Astounding SFX

All round, the movie is not without problem. But it is not bad. In fact it is quiet good. Better than Ghostbusters II for sure.

It's funny. Surely that's the point? The jokes land. The parodies are there in abundance. What was everyone's problem?

If you haven't seen it, see it now. It's a blast.


Friday, 17 February 2017

House Hunting (2013)

Indie gems are still out there. And this one is excellent.

Released as The Wrong House in some regions

Two house hunting families stumble upon the perfect getaway, acres of land, deep in the forest, but when they arrive, the house refuses to let them leave.

The two families are very different. The Hays come across as white collar, the Thomson, blue. We're introduced to the Hays first, led by patriarch Charlie played by Marc Singer. It's a clever ruse, feigning the watcher into siding with the family. At no point are we given reason to 'prefer' the Hays, it's just good direction.

Don Thomson (Art LaFleur) leads the second family, and as they try to leave they stumble upon a girl with no tongue, battered and bloodied.

Marc Singer / Art LaFleur

With each family having one child, the Hays, teen Emmy, and the Thomson boy, Jason, there are seven in the house. The food cupboard is replenished mysteriously with seven cans of food daily. And everything starts to breakdown.

As time passes the Hays start falling apart as a family. There are issues below the surface. Charlie starts to become villainous. The Thomson's stick together, but there's something wrong with Jason.

Based loosely on Sartre play 'No Exit', the parallel's between the families, and the purgatory nature of the house, the truth slowly starts to come out, and the body count rises.

It's a very cleverly directed movie, with the viewer's loyalty constantly being challenged. It twists. Turns. The performances are strong. Singer and LaFleur show why they have been stalwarts in the industry for so long. The matriarchs, played by Hayley Dumond (Charmed) and Victoria Vance (Skin Crawl) give as good as they get, and the younger cast are excellent.

Rising dread gives in to horror in the last third of the movie, and the conclusion is as surprising as it is chilling.

Definitely late night viewing.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Holidays (2016)

I love anthology horror movies. This, like many, has ups and downs.

Surviving the holidays...

Unlike most anthology movies, this one has no wrap-around segment. There are eight tales, each differing in quality, and each focusing on a different holiday.

There are several middling efforts. St. Patrick's Day, directed by Gary Shore (Dracula Untold), tells the story of a teacher desperate for a child, who falls pregnant with assistance from a creepy little girl. The performances are strong, but the ending odd, and left me wanting more. Mother's Day, fell into weird, with a woman who couldn't stop getting pregnant, and is then kidnapped by a cult. Again, the ending let it down. New Years, a serial killer, looking for love on the last day of the year finds more than he expected. And Easter. Directed by Nicholas McCarthy (The Pact) tells of a strange incarnation of the Easter Bunny. The ending let it down.

So there's a pattern to the average segments. Poor endings. Which is frustrating to say the least. The direction was good across them all, and pretty strong performances. It was as if none of the film makers had seen or read this sort of material before. Still. It could be worse.

Madeleine Coghlan in Valentine's Day

So, the bad.

Christmas. I really wanted to like this one. Directed by Scott Stewart (Priest) and staring Seth Green, it was a simple story of getting a VR headset that purported to show you your true self. How a short can leave you with some many questions, is unimaginable. That, and having no ending. Actually, there was little middle.

And the worst.

Poor Kevin Smith. Halloween. Starring his daughter (of course) it told the tale of Cam-Girls getting revenge on their 'pimp'. Smith has written and directed some of the finest movies. This, however, is a mis-step matched only by Cop Out. Which is sad, because it actually does tell a story. It has an ending. It's just not very good. And I know he likes to put her in things, but Harley Quinn Smith is not a great actor.

Ruth Bradley in St. Patrick's Day

But, then the good.

The opening segment, Valentine's Day is the old story of a young girl having a crush on her teacher. And murdering people. Directed by Kevin Kolsch, the film has strong undertones of Carrie. Well acted by a young cast, and confidently produced. It has a beginning, middle, and end, and is a fantastic start.

By far the superior story, however, is Father's Day. Told almost entirely by a voice playing on a tape recorder (Michael Gross) and emoted wonderfully by star Jocelin Donahue in a near silent performance. A solid story, oozing with style and foreboding. Director Anthony Scott Burns should be proud.

It's a mixed bag, but worth watching.