Deadpool 2

Posted: May 24, 2018 in Film reviews
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Directed by David Leitch. Starring Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin and Morena Baccarin.

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“What the hell are you looking at?”

It’s two years since Wade Wilson (Reynolds) became super(anti)hero Deadpool, and life is good, he’s an unstoppable force for, well if not good then not really bad, and he has a loving relationship with his girlfriend Vanessa (Baccarin).

Soon the rug is pulled out from under him though, and tragedy pushes him to attempt suicide, which is easier said that done when your super power is accelerated healing, and when the X-Man Colossus (voiced again by Stefan Kapičić) is determined to save not only Deadpool’s body, but also his soul.

Co-opted into the X-Men, Deadpool’s path soon crosses that of a young mutant named Russell, who also goes by the name Firefist (played by New Zealander Julian Dennison). Russell is an angry young man, but maybe Deadpool can steer him onto the straight and narrow, if future cyborg Cable (Brolin) doesn’t kill them both first!

 

Two years ago Deadpool came out of nowhere to reinvigorate the superhero world, proving that not only could an R rated superhero film succeed, but could also do it making snide digs at the genre and breaking the fourth wall in every other scene. Now Deadpool 2 arrives with far more fanfare, double the budget and a heck of a lot more expectation. So, the question is, can DP2 live up to the hype?

And the answer is, in my opinion, yes it can…pretty much. Deadpool 2 maybe quite doesn’t live up to the shock value of the first film, but it comes damn close.

Once again Ryan Reynolds proves this was the role he was born to play, the merc with the mouth (and a pretty potty mouth it is too!) and he fires off one liners as speedily as Josh Brolin’s Cable fires off bullets. It’s a delicate balancing act to make Deadpool such a dick, only a likeable and empathetic dick, and just as he did first time around Reynolds walks that tightrope with nary a stumble and demonstrates a heck of a lot of charisma, even when he’s behind a mask.

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Thanos for the memories!

As Cable Brolin isn’t really given much to stretch his acting chops, and whilst Cable is pretty much just designed to be the straight man to Deadpool’s idiot, it’s somewhat ironic that Brolin gets to display less range here than he did as Thanos, but credit where it’s due, Brolin really looks the part, and he certainly makes for an imposing antagonist.

Baccarin is a good actress, but she’s somewhat side-lined here, or is she? I’m trying not to give too much away, or am I See even within this review I can break the fourth wall!

I’ve still yet to see Hunt for the Wilderpeaople, but considering this is only his fifth film, Dennison never seems overawed by the company he’s keeping, and it’s a nice touch in a film that (Baccarin aside) does well on the inclusivity front, that he’s not only of Maori descent but also, as referenced by the dialogue, not your usual svelte super hero/villain is an added bonus.

https _blogs-images.forbes.com_scottmendelson_files_2018_05_MV5BOGVjYTQyOWQtNmI1NS00MDhlLWE2MTAtNzM2YWQ0YWFiN2U3XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjUwNzk3NDc@._V1_-1200x675As a member of Deadpool’s X-Force (isn’t that a bit derivative) Zazie Beetz has a lot of fun as Domino, and it’s nice to see Terry Crews as Beldam. Minor characters inhabiting Deadpool’s world return from the first film, such as bartender Weasal, blind old lady Al, and somewhat unhinged cab driver Dopinder, plus Negasonic Teenage Warhead is back, and she has a girlfriend. Not exactly earthshattering until you realise it’s the first obviously LGBT character in a Marvel film.

Plot wise they’ve tried to beef up the emotional core of the film, to give Deadpool more of a journey, and whilst it doesn’t always work as well as it could have, the film manages to never get too bogged down in mawkishness, and the central story around family pretty much works.

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With the bigger budget comes much more expansive action sequences. I know some people have baulked at this, but given the action was probably the bit of the first film I found the weakest, I’m happy to roll with it. Maybe there’s a bit too much, but on the whole the set pieces are good.

Deadpool’s snide and sweary comments are still the same, and if they feel a little more polished this time, well that’s perhaps only to be expected given the increase in expectation. Yes, it all feels a little bit more corporate and a little bit less rebellious, but the character isn’t neutered, he’s still foul mouthed and he’s still disrespectful towards just about everyone else in the Marvel (and especially the X-Men) universe.

Maybe it’s a little baggy in the middle, and maybe it doesn’t quite have the punk irreverence of the first film, but it was exciting, and more importantly funny as hell, so roll on Deadpool 3 I say! Oh, and please, please, please stay for the credits. There’s an extra scene that’s practically worth the price of admission alone. Ryan Reynolds, a man not afraid to take the piss out of himself!

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I came here to praise Deadpool, not to bury him!

 

 

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9781509833559the space between the stars_2_jpg_264_400.jpgby Anne Corlett

Jamie Allenby wakes from a fever to find she is one of the lucky few to have survived a virulent plague that has almost obliterated humanity. It’s fatal in 99.9999% of cases and so initially Jamie wonders if she might be the only survivor on this far flung colny world she’d travelled to in order to work as a vet, escaping from the pain of a miscarriage and the breakup of her relationship with her former partner Daniel.

She soon discovers she isn’t the only survivor on this planet, and it soon becomes apparent that there are survivors scatters across space. Soon Jamie is part of a disparate group of survivors aboard a battered freighter. They have no real plan, but Jamie wants to get back to Earth, certain that a garbled message she received is proof that Daniel has survived as well.

As the band make their way to Earth they will face dangers, and each group of survivors they encounter has their own ideas about the future of humanity, but the real danger might be closer to home.

 

They say you should never judge a book by its cover, and I’d add that you should never judge a book by it’s blurb. The cover of this book is gorgeous, and the blurb is enticing, talking about a plague that has decimated humanity across dozens of colony worlds, and promising an exciting, and somewhat novel, tale of post-apocalyptic survival.

If only the book had lived up to it’s cover, or it’s premise. Even my synopsis above probably does the book more justice than it actually deserves.

First it needs to be stressed that this is science fiction only in the loosest possible sense. Of course sci-fi is a broad church, ranging from space opera to hard, ultra-realistic science fiction, but all share, to a greater or lesser extent, a speculative element. Aside from references to space ships, and colonies, there is very little here that qualifies. In fact from the way people dress, act and talk, and from the technology on display, this could just as easily been set on Earth today, with Jamie waking up on the Isle of Wight, for example, rather than a far flung world. In fact it’s almost a period piece because at times it feels dated even by today’s technology—see reference to the net for example.

Each of the colony worlds they visit seems indistinguishable from the last, and whilst not every science fiction novel needs to go into detail about the technology of space travel, Corlett doesn’t even make a sop to it. There’s no hint of how space travel works, how artificial gravity works, what kind of fuel the ship uses—they keep having to refuel but it’s just generic ‘fuel’—and worst of all no real attention given to the unfathomable distances between these worlds. They may as well be in a transit van driving from London to Newcastle and stopping off at various service stations along the way.

I’ve seen one reviewer say that it isn’t so much sci-fi as a melodrama, but even there I think it falls down, because few really dramatic things actually happen. In terms of the survivors they meet only a couple of groups who pose any threat, and even here the group evade them with relative ease. Every obstruction to their journey is avoided with the ease of that transit van swerving around potholes. Even the nature of the plague itself is curiously bloodless, you may have thought John Wyndham did cosy catastrophes, but you’ve seen nothing yet. The plague kills billions, but helpfully turns everyone to dust so the survivors rarely have to see any bodies.

I guess Corlett really just wanted to examine the human condition, and there is a lot of navel gazing going on, but if you’re going to view the apocalypse from this angle you need to have more meat to grab onto. Some well-rounded characters would be a start, but sadly there are none.

Did you ever see the TV show Firefly? I’m guessing Corlett must have given the similarities of certain characters. The battered freighter itself reminded me of Serenity with it’s big loading ramp, it’s captained by a taciturn cowboy type named Callan, who has a surly female second in command. Their group also contains a priest with a troubled past, a hooker with a heart of gold and a youngster who appears to have Asperger’s. Pretty much every character in the book comes straight out of central casting, take Rena the religious fanatic. As for Jamie, it’s hard to like her. She seems more concerned with her own troubles than the fact that the human race has been wiped out.

And I haven’t even got to how contrived the ‘plot’ is, especially in terms of who miraculously survives the plague. There was one surprise midway through, one curveball I didn’t see coming, but everything else was horribly predictable, even the romance seems perfunctory.

The worst of it is that it’s a really good premise, and Corlett can clearly write, I liked a lot of her prose, it’s just that she didn’t seem to have a whole lot to say with it.

A missed opportunity and I can’t really recommend it.

Directed by: Mike Newell. Starring: Lily James, Michiel Huisman, Katherine Parkinson, Matthew Goode, Tom Courtenay and Penelope Wilton.

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“Down it! down it! Down it!”

It’s 1946 and the war is over. Juliet Ashton (James) is an author who’s found success writing amusing tales under the pseudonym of Izzy Bickerstaff, but she yearns to write something with more substance. When she’s contacted by a pig farmer on Guernsey named Dawsey Adams (Huisman) she thinks she’s found the story she’s been looking for. Adams found her name and address in a book he liberated from a bookstore after he and a group of friends were forced to invent a book club to cover up for the fact that they were out after curfew.

Ashton is intrigued by the story of the society, and how they kept their morale up under German occupation by reading, and she persuades her long-suffering agent, and friend, Sidney Starke (Goode) to let her take a trip to the Channel Islands, but before she can leave her American boyfriend Mark (Glen Powell) proposes, and Juliet accepts.

On the island Juliet finds that the members of the society are not all pleased to see her, in particular Amelia (Wilton). She also discovers that the founder of the society, Elizabeth McKenna (Jessica Brown Findlay (is mysteriously absent, leaving her young daughter Kit living with Dawsey, who Kit calls daddy. Fascinated by the mystery Juliet remains on Guernsey and becomes fast friends with the society members, in particular Isola (Parkinson) and Dawsey, but can she learn the secret of what really happened to Elizabeth during the occupation?

 

Few films have a title that’s as much of a mouthful as this one, but the film does at least hang a lantern on this by having a character refer to it as a bit of a mouthful. If it seems a whimsical title then fair warning, it’s kinda a whimsical film, and whilst not unenjoyable, it’s never as good as it should be given the experience of its director, its subject matter, and the talent of its cast.

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Part of the problem is down to a script that’s so on the nose at times as to be painful. As an example there’s a scene early on where Juliet has a flashback to her bomb damaged flat. We see her clutching a photo of herself with an older couple, and then see her terrified that a paperweight might fall and be destroyed. You’d think the meaning of this would be obvious, but apparently not because Juliet then exclaims “Father’s paperweight” which is the sort of expositional dialogue real people just don’t utter. Again and again Juliet verbalises her thoughts in this way and I found it jarring.

I’m not really the target audience for this film of course, and though it’s predictable that isn’t always a bad thing in itself, but given the subject matter it’s a shame the film didn’t take a few more risks. The occupation of the channel islands was a harsh time for those who lived there, but whilst the film does veer towards these darker elements at times—collaboration, slave labour, starvation—such detours are short lived, as if the film makers didn’t want to distract from the quaintness of the film, and too often it feels like the occupation was just an excuse for some jolly japes.

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It isn’t all bad. It looks gorgeous (even though not filmed in Guernsey) and the period detail is spot on. And whilst the script may offer no surprises, it’s hard not to be charmed by the easy chemistry of the talented cast (four of whom were in Downton!). James’ jolly hockey sticks demeanour annoys on occasion but on the whole she’s a solid lead, and Game of Throne alumnus Huisman similarly does the best he can in a sub-Heathcliffe role. Wilton proves yet again (if proof were needed) what a fine actress she is, and Powell does his very best to imbue Mark with enough pathos that we feel more than a little sorry for him. Courtenay is very amusing, but the standout is Parkinson who gets some of the best lines, and made me laugh out loud more than once.

For a film this lightweight the two-hour runtime feels a trifle excessive, but damn if the cast aren’t so good that I almost didn’t mind.

Avengers: Infinity War

Posted: May 1, 2018 in Film reviews
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Directed by: Anthony Russo and Joe Russo.  Starring: almost anyone who’s been in a Marvel film in the last ten years! Including Robert Downey Jr, Chrises Hemsworth/Evans/Pratt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Scarlett Johansson and Josh Brolin.

**Spoiler Alert**

I’m going to go out of my way not to spoil the film, but obviously I may give some things away, so if you really want to see the film with zero preconceptions or knowledge why not come back here after you see it!

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I just realised what’s wrong with this picture!

 

Thanos (Brolin) is an unstoppable alien supervillain intent on acquiring the six infinity stones that will make him omnipotent and allow him to fulfil his dream of killing half the galaxy’s population. He’s already acquired several and will stop at nothing to complete his task.

Fresh from a devastating encounter with Thanos, Thor (Hemsworth) teams up with the Guardians of the Galaxy to try and find a weapon that could stop Thanos, meanwhile on Earth Iron Man (Downey Jr) Dr Strange (Cumberbatch) Spider Man (Tom Holland) and Wong (Benedict Wong) face off against one of Thanos’ minions, intent of reliving Dr Strange of the infinity stone he wears.

Strange isn’t the only superhero in possession of a stone, because Vision (Paul Bettany) has one embedded in his skull and more of Thanos’ goons go after this one.

As all out war with Thanos’ army draws ever closer, the disparate groups of heroes must try and find a way to defeat Thanos, but even if they can thwart his plans, the battle will not be without its casualties…

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Tony and Dr Strange were focused on Thanos, but Peter Parker had spotted a fly…

It’s hard to get your head around the fact that this is a film ten years in the making. When Iron Man first surprised everyone in 2008 by being actually really good, I doubt even it’s most ardent fan would have believed that a decade later Downey Jr would still be playing Tony Stark, and would team up with a cast of thousands (hey factor in the extras and I bet it comes close) and practically every other Marvel superhero (there are a couple of exceptions) to battle Thanos.

But here we are, and as far as I’m concerned Marvel’s long game pays off, and then some! Infinity War is superb. I can imagine it will probably be confusing for those poor souls who haven’t seen much of the Marvel oeuvre, but for anyone invested in the Marvel universe, and these characters, Infinity War is pretty much everything we could have hoped for, and compared to Justice League…well let’s just not ok, because it’s a fight more unfair than Thanos taking on Ant Man (which you won’t see in this film) suffice to say that DC’s best hope is to invent time travel and start making their films way sooner.

Back to Infinity War. It’s hard to talk about the plot (and I guess some critics may say “what plot” but it’s there all the same.) without giving stuff away. Suffice to say that, whilst at times simplistic, everything hangs together pretty damn well for a film that has this many characters and this many plot threads to juggle. In fact it’s amazing that any film made under those auspices can be this coherent, let alone this good.

I did mention Infinity War is freakin’ amazing, right?

I know I said we needed to move away from it, but damn let’s look back at Justice League again, a film with only a handful of heroes, and a run time only thirty minutes shorter than Infinity War, yet one with a shaky narrative and a villain who couldn’t be more two dimensional if he were a sheet of A4. By contrast Infinity War has, what three or four plots going on at any given time, and maybe 25 main characters (don’t believe me, count em!) and still manages to give us a three-dimensional villain who probably got more character development on his own than Bats and co put together.

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Cool story bro(lin)

Because make no mistake, from a certain perspective this is Thanos’ film. He might be a homicidal lunatic, but he’s a homicidal lunatic with a backstory, a homicidal lunatic who has a logical (if insane) reason for wanting to wipe out half the galaxy’s population, and a homicidal lunatic you almost feel sorry for on occasion. There are plenty of films made each year whose protagonists aren’t as developed as this film’s antagonist is.

Of course this isn’t really Thanos’ film, it’s the Avengers’ film, and the Guardians of the Galaxy’s film, and those other guys who aren’t either but will probably end up joining one or the other if they don’t die’s film!

Sure some of the characters feel a little short changed (as a Black Widow fan there isn’t nearly enough Scarlett Johansson here) but to a greater or lesser degree everyone gets their moment in the sun, and some of the characters who get a larger role will surprise you. Gamora (Zoe Saldana) is pretty integral, and Vision and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) get an emotional subplot. There’s a lot of Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and the fact that the tone lifts when the Guardians turn up is testament to how loveable that bunch of idiots are, and I don’t care what anyone says, for me Drax (Dave Bautista) is the funniest character in the Marvel Universe.

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You’re supposed to go inside the bus, Peter!

Downey Jr, Hemsworth and Evans are as solid as always (Hemsworth in particular is a joy to watch) and is it just me, or is Cumberbatch more fun as Strange as part of an ensemble than he was when he had a whole film to himself?) Tom Holland also continues to impress as Peter Parker, and when Karen Gillan shaved her head people expected Nebula to be a one off character, now here she is for her third outing and with quite a character arc over those films.

I can’t mention everyone, but everyone is great. Seriously, no one puts a foot wrong.

The effects are great and the battles truly epic. I saw it in 3d IMAX which was intense, but I’m looking forward to a second viewing in 2D, because I think some of the fights may look a little less frantic.

Let’s come back to the plot though, or more specifically the narrative choices the writers/producers/directors have made. Remember how in The Last Jedi Luke says “This isn’t going to go the way you expect” well he could have been talking about Infinity War, because whatever you expect going in, whoever you think will die, I guarantee you’ll be surprised. They’ve made some bold and downright astonishing choices at times here. I mean sure, comic books are always bringing people back from the dead, but I have a hunch that in this case some of the dead are going to remain that way.

No film is perfect, and with so many characters and threads going on some are left dangling, or aren’t given enough prominence, and sometimes it feels like you haven’t seen certain characters in ages, and yes it’s a film made for those of us invested in the universe…

But for me it was pretty much everything I could have wanted (apart from more Black Widow obviously) Exciting, hilarious, heart-breaking; I loved it from start to finish and I didn’t want it to end, and it’s going to be a long year waiting for Avengers 4!

Make mine Marvel, to infinity (war) and beyond!

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Ghost Stories

Posted: April 23, 2018 in Film reviews, horror
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Directed by Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson. Starring Andy Nyman, Paul Whitehouse, Alex Lawther and Martin Freeman.

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Phillip Goodman (Nyman) is a professor who specialises in debunking fraudulent mediums and explaining the unexplainable. He wants to prevent people’s lives being ruined by superstition, and was inspired by a 1970s paranormal investigator named Charles Cameron, who disappeared in mysterious circumstances decades ago, and is now believed dead.

When Goodman is contacted by the very much still alive Cameron he’s thrilled, but when he visits the old man in a ramshackle caravan, he is dismayed to learn that Cameron now believes in the supernatural. He passes three cases he could never debunk to Goodman, challenging him to explain them.

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The first involves a night watchman (Whitehouse) who encountered something unearthly in a disused sanatorium, the second is a teenager (Lawther) whose life has been turned upside down after he drove into something inhuman in the woods. Finally there is a rich financier (Freeman) who was plagued by a poltergeist on the eve of the birth of his child.

Goodman can explain each incident, but is he merely deluding himself? Is the supernatural actually real, and if so will Goodman survive his own encounter with the paranormal?

 

For those of us of a certain age, there are fond memories of kind of portmanteau horror stories that used to be on BBC2 late on a Friday or Saturday night. Best known producer of such films was Amicus productions, who churned out multiple such films in the 1960s and 70s, films like Dr Terror’s House of Horrors, Tales from the Crypt and Vault of Horror. Such films usually followed a familiar pattern, a series of stories linked by a framing story that would invariably contain a twist in the tale. Of course even before Amicus got in on the act there’d been the 1945 Ealing classic Dead of Night. There have been American takes on this too; Creepshow for example, but for me it’s those old British chillers I have affection for, and so on a purely nostalgic basis I was excited to see Ghost Stories.

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Adapted by Nyman and Dyson from their own stage play I can’t call Ghost Stories an unqualified success, but even beyond a nostalgic yearning for those old-fashioned portmanteaus, there’s enough here to make this a scarily enjoyably film, just not a perfect one.

As with any anthology, in film or print, some stories work better than others, and the first two tales on offer represent the highlights of the film. Once you get past expecting him to go all Fast Show on you, Whitehouse is actually very good as the night-watchman all alone yet not really alone. There’s a palpable sense of unease as he makes his rounds through the dilapidated building, and the directors really ratchet up the tension here. They almost take it too far, there’s a limit to how long you can conceivably stay on the edge of your seat waiting for the scare you know is coming, but they stay just the right side of it.

The second story is almost as creepy, especially once you factor in Goodman’s visit to the teenager’s house which is genuinely unsettling. Anyone who’s seen the Black Mirror episode Shut Up and Dance will know how well Lawther can do on the edge-of-a-nervous-breakdown levels of terror, and Nyman and Dyson make good use of it here, it’s a wonderfully fragile performance from Lawther and the lonely forest makes an equally scary counterpoint to the deserted sanatorium.

Sadly it’s kind of downhill from this point. Freeman is very good but the third tale feels limp in comparison to the first two (though there is one really effective jump scare as Goodman and Freeman’s character walk the moors) and from here on the film enters its final act and reveals the twist, and this is where the film falls down, because the ending has a bit too much going on, it feels baggy and in some respects unearned. There are elements that are utterly predictable (seriously if you don’t see one particular twist coming a mile away you need to go to Spec Savers) and others that aren’t nearly predictable enough, although there is a lot of foreshadowing and it’s possible that I might appreciate the final act more upon second viewing.

At times genuinely terrifying, with great performances, assured direction and a palpable sense of old school dread, there’s a lot to like here, I just wish the second half of the film had lived up to the opening segments, but that’s anthologies for you.

Anyway, I must go, it’s time for me to tell my story to Peter Cushing and my other fellow travellers on this old steam train. As for Ghost Stories, it’s flawed but recommended.

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“Who are you calling a hobbit?”

A Quiet Place

Posted: April 17, 2018 in Film reviews, horror, science fiction
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Directed by John Krasinski. Starring Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe

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One downside to this film, you’ll see people doing this a lot!

In the future humanity has been almost wiped out by the appearance of a deadly species of predators that, although blind, have incredibly sensitive hearing. Lee Abbott (Krasinski) and his wife Evelyn (Blunt) along with their children have survived by embracing a near silent existence, communicating mainly through American sign language which they learned because their daughter Regan (Simmonds) is deaf.

After an early encounter with a creature the family set up home in a remote farmhouse, doing everything they can to stay safe by being as quiet as possible, but their survival is threatened by the fact that Evelyn is pregnant, and about to give birth any day. The family make plans to mask the sound of the impending birth, and the noise the baby will make, but stress is affecting each member of the family, especially Regan and one of her brothers, Marcus (Jupe) and all it takes is one inadvertent loud noise to draw the lethal hunters towards the family…

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“Look we can’t get you an X-Box so stop asking!”

In many ways horror shares traits with comedy. Scaring or amusing people is equally hard. In this respect good horror films, like good comedies, are rare.

A Quiet Place is a good horror film.

When I first saw the trailer I wasn’t too impressed, but following on from a lot of positive word of mouth I decided to watch this and I’m so glad I did.

A Quiet Place is a short sharp shock of a film, with a refreshingly lean run time, an original script that doesn’t overload the audience, inventive direction and sound design and great acting from a small cast, this is a film that belies its minimal budget and, much like last year’s Get Out, kinda came out of nowhere.

Kudos must be given to Krasinski who not only directs, but also rewrote the original script by Bryan Woods and Scott Beck, and stars. This is a simple story, but a simple story told very well, and each choice Krasinski made feeds into a whole that is in many ways more than the sum of its parts. The decision to start the film in the middle of the action, and to end in the midst of a confrontation works perfectly, emphasising that what we’re seeing here is a snapshot of Armageddon and how one family survives it. Krasinski wields silence so effectively that the absence of sound is almost a character itself, as much as the creatures, and when I came out the world seemed impossibly loud all of a sudden (thankfully my fellow patrons were mostly quiet during the film which aided in creating the right atmosphere). This means that when noise comes it can’t help but shock, even if it isn’t the imminent arrival of one of the terrible beasties.

What’s amazing is that even in this world of silence Krasinski quiets things even more at times, and the decision to completely mute the soundtrack whenever we’re seeing things from the point of view of Regan is another spot on choice, emphasising how different the world seems to her—and in many ways she’s the most vulnerable because she can’t tell if she’s making noise, can’t tell if there’s a creature right behind her—and in the casting of a deaf actress (and Simmonds is truly phenomenal in this, essaying a frustrated teenager who isn’t only trying to fathom her place in the world as she grows up, but is having to do it with a disability and in a post-apocalyptic setting where monsters are real!) he adds and extra layer to the story. I can’t say whether this was a good onscreen portrayal of a disability, all I can say is that, to me, it felt like a very good one, and one we need to see more of.

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Don’t you just hate it when you go for a bath then realise you’ve left your clothes on?

As the father Krasinski is as good in front of the camera as he is behind it. Blunt is a great actress so its no surprise that she’s great here, and she looks truly terrified at times, yet still managed to imbue Evelyn with strength. Rounding out the cast Jupe does a good job as the younger child, who clearly wants to be brave yet who is scared to death much of the time (can’t blame him for that).

Best of all they feel like a family. Sure, Krasinski and Blunt are married, but often couples with a genuine relationship find it hard to replicate that on screen. Not so these two and they share some lovely scenes.

Krasinski’s direction is top notch, especially considering he’s relatively new to directing, and given he freely admits he’s never been a big horror buff. Maybe that distance allows a new perspective? Not that this is a film that necessarily has anything new to say, but in Krasinski’s hands it feels fresh. Maybe it’s the use of silence, maybe the focus on character. The world building is also excellent, especially given how short the film is, but the family home feels real, care has been taken to come up with solutions to the problem of how you raise the alarm when you can’t make a noise, for example, and note the elegance with which Krasinski makes it clear there are multiple other communities of survivors, without needing more than a single extra.

Best of all is the way he creates tension; when the film enters the final third it’s a masterclass in edge of the seatness, and be warned, it features one of the most wince inducing foot related scenes since Die Hard!

There are flaws. The first act is a little slow, a certain (presumably noisy) event occurs off screen and there’s a pretty big plot hole, but none of that dented my enjoyment one iota. There are a lot of terrible horror films out there, but Krasinski shows what you can do with a limited budget if you have a great script, an inventive director and a great cast.

I’m sorry but I can’t stay quiet, I’ve got to shout from the rooftops about how good this is!

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Surely the kids will be safe in here…

Unsane

Posted: April 3, 2018 in Film reviews
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Directed by Steven Soderbergh. Starring Claire Foy and Joshua Leonard.

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“Seriously, mom. I keep telling them I’m the Queen of England but they refuse to let me out.”

Sawyer Valentini (Foy) is a young woman who’s recently moved cities to take a new job. This has taken her away from friends and her mother Angela (Amy Irving). Sawyer’s supposed reason for moving is that the job was too good to turn down, but what her mother doesn’t realise is that Sawyer actually moved because she was being harassed by a stalker named David Strine (Leonard).

After a panic attack Sawyer seeks help from a support group at a local hospital that specialises in helping victims of harassment. During a meeting with a counsellor she admits to sometimes having suicidal thoughts, and when given papers to sign to inadvertently commits herself to the psychiatric ward for 24-hours. Despite trying to back out, and even calling the police, she isn’t able to leave the hospital, and after a violent run in with a fellow patient named Violet (Juno Temple) her 24-hour stay is extended to seven days.

She finds an ally in a man named Nate Hoffman (Jay Pharaoh) who’s in the hospital recovering from drug addiction. He lends her his contraband phone and Sawyer is able to call her mother. Despite Angela’s arrival, getting her out of the hospital still proves difficult, and Sawyer has to face up to the fact that she’ll have to stay in for the full seven days, but things take a dark turn when one of the orderlies appears to be her stalker…or is he? Confused, and increasingly paranoid, is Sawyer imagining the presence of Strine in the hospital, or is she trapped in a building with a man who’s obsessed with her, and will do anything to posses her, even resort to murder?

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“Look all I’m saying is, maybe ease up on the Queen of England thing…”

Shot on an iPhone 7, Steven (didn’t you retire?) Soderbergh’s Unsane is a queasy, stripped back B-Movie that provides a showcase for Claire Foy to demonstrate that she can do much, much more than just play Queen Elizabeth II.

In almost every scene Foy is superb, and I suspect the film wouldn’t be half as good without her in the lead role. At times incredibly fragile, at times extremely resilient, she breathes life into a character who could have been just another stock final girl style heroine. Instead she wrings every last bit of character from the script, making Sawyer someone we can root for, whilst also making her seem real—she isn’t always the nicest of people, she’s manipulative when she has to be, and emotionally distant, using a dark sense of humour to spar with her co-workers (understandable given what she’d been through, but still a brave choice to not make her innately likable).

The decision to film on an iPhone allows Soderbergh to give Sawyer’s experiences an extra twist of the surreal. Foy and other actors are often viewed in closeup, adding to the sense of claustrophobia, and the iPhone lens further skews the images, adding to the Kafkaesque nightmare Sawyer finds herself in. In particular a scene where Sawyer is drugged is incredibly well shot to give us a glimpse into how disorientated Sawyer is.

I’ve never been a huge Soderbergh fan, though I’m not sure I could tell you why aside from the fact that his films always feel a trifle clinical, and despite the emotional intensity of Unsane it has that same, somewhat detached feel about it, but for the first two thirds of the film Soderbergh does a great job of discombobulating the viewer. Unfortunately in the third act things take a downward turn and the film becomes far more predictable. It wouldn’t have been so bad except for several elements that seem way too similar to a certain Stephen King adaptation to be coincidental, and these especially jarred, as did the inexplicable cameo appearance of a big name actor, which only served to pull me out of the story and remind me that I was watching a film.

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As a stripped down, exploitation horror/thriller Unsane works well due to its decent cast and inventive cinematography, and you have to admire a B-movie that actually has something meaningful to say about the American healthcare system, it’s just a shame the more intriguing and nuanced elements are pushed aside when the film reveals all and from then on treads a very well worn path.