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The Paranormal Activity franchise is certainly a strange one, and it's also very divided. Some love them, some hate them. Evidently, we all watch them, as they keep on making more of them. Personally, I thought the first three films were decent, the third one especially. They were creepy, tension filled and managed to get under my skin, although not quite as much the second time around (because yes, I've seen them multiple times). The second is more of a mixed bag, but as a whole it gets a pass. Then the fourth one happened, and who really knows what went on in that movie? The same goes for the Marked Ones. Going into the Ghost Dimension, the presumably final entry in this over-stretched franchise, there were plenty of questions still left burning, and answers had been promised. Well, I still haven't had jack shit explained, so there's that.
Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension takes place in December, 2013. A family have been living in a new house for a few months now and they're fitting in quite nicely. That's until Ryan (Chris J. Murray) discovers a set of tapes in his back yard, as well as a camera unlike any camera he's ever seen before. The tapes are from 1988, showing a young Kristi (Jessica Tyler Brown) and Katie (Chloe Csengery) growing up under the guidance of a witch cult, where they are constantly in contact with a spirit named Toby. Soon, strange things begin to happen in his own home, except this time around, his new and rather mysterious camera is capable of filming this malevolent spirit, so yay for him?
The film opens in 1988, reminding us of the events of the third film's finale. Except, this time the film doesn't end with the snapping of that dude's back. No, this time the scene continues. We see Katie and Kristi taken upstairs, they get a talking to, the whole found footage aspect breaks its own rules and that's that. It's dumb and pointless, but the filmmakers were clearly desperate and in need of a shocking opening. So, using their oh-so-creative minds, the scariest thing they could come up with was showing the end of the third movie again before giving an explanation of what actually went down. Why? Who knows. Does it further the plot? Not at all. Does it provide an explanation of anything? Nope.
We're then taken forward to 2013, and it's here we're introduced to the actual plot. It's the same characters from every other Paranormal Activity movie, except they have new faces and new names. There's nothing special about any of them and they all have the same "arc" as their counterparts did in the previous instalments. One's reluctant. One believes. One tags along for the ride. One see's ghost, and it's always a child that fills this role. We then get an hour and a half of predictable and pointless jump scares with dumb characters making dumb mistakes. A violent demon that tried to burn your house down and has possessed your child is standing on the other side of the table? Better duck down and hide. I'm sure it didn't just FUCKING STARE RIGHT AT YOU. Hey, at least they stayed quiet, right? WRONG.
It's scenes like this that really brought down not just the intelligence of everyone on screen, but everyone in the theatre, as well. And believe it or not, that's not the dumbest thing in this movie. Your child just vomited up black blood all over the curtains? She's probably fine. Better let her get some rest. Your wife isn't believing you when you tell her there's a ghost in your house? Showing her the footage probably won't help convince her. Your child just drew demonic symbols all over the wall? I'm sure that's normal. No need to clean it. Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension literally lowered my IQ. I don't think I'm currently capable of completing a fourth grade maths test.
While some of the previous instalments managed to create some solid tension, The Ghost Dimension does not. It's pointless, dull and slow, and showing the ghost seems like a good idea on paper, but on screen it just looks so awkward. Remember in Paranormal Activity 3 when the young girls were talking to thin air? In this movie, a similar thing happens, except they're talking to venom from fucking Spider-Man. It's so painfully dumb and the design of the ghost is just ugly. It really is. It oozes from one place to another, popping out towards the screen at the most random of times. The plot never goes anywhere. It's just jump scare to jump scare to jump scare, the 3D adding absolutely nothing, and even all the jump scares are the exact same thing over and over.
I checked my watch three times in this movie, something I rarely do. The first time I checked it, and the only one worth mentioning, was when I thought we were nearing the halfway point of this 88 minute movie. And where were we at? We were fifteen minutes in. There was still over an hour to go in this piece of shit film. At that point in the film, I already wanted to die. It was a struggle making it to the final act, but I got there eventually, and it was just as nonsensical and dumb as all the previous endings. Well, maybe with the exception of the first film. That ending was actually okay. This one, however, was far from it. It doesn't tie anything together, several plot points from the franchise still left hanging. It raises more questions than it answers, but at this point in time, I wouldn't really care if they never make another one of these stupid films again, and I honestly hope they don't.
To sum up, Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension is a big, dumb, repetitive and pointless clusterfuck of a movie. It's an 88 minute string of jump scares, all of which involve a ghost jumping towards or away from the camera. I'm pretty sure The Martian is still playing in theatres. Go see that instead.
Steven Spielberg is a man of many talents. He's mastered sci-fi. He's mastered war. He's mastered adventure. He's mastered suspense. He's mastered just about every genre you can think of, and usually a few times over. He's not just one of the greatest directors of all time, but he's the most well known director of all time as well. He is the director. With Bridge of Spies, Spielberg has returned to the war genre, except this time around there's no fighting. There's no nazis. There's no actual war. It's set in the backdrop of war. The cold war, to be exact. Being back in this setting just feels like home for good old Spielberg, and it was an utter delight to watch.
Bridge of Spies is the true story of an american lawyer named James Donovan (Tom Hanks). After a soviet spy named Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) is captured and put on trial, the CIA recruits Donovan to come and defend him, but it's not long after this that a fighter pilot (Austin Stowell), hired to take photos of Berlin, is involved in an accident that brings his plane crashing down. He's taken hostage by the Soviets and interrogated for information, and it's up to the CIA to get him out of there. Their plan? Send Donovan over to Berlin to perform an exchange of prisoners. And if you know much about the cold war, you know that's certainly not a good idea.
Bridge of Spies is directed by Steven Spielberg and written by the Coen Brothers, as well as some other guy named Matt Charman, and this combination couldn't have turned out better. It doesn't necessarily feel like a Coen brothers film for most of the runtime, a few brief moments being the exception to this statement, but their screenplay is fantastic nonetheless. It's a war film that's not about war. It may be set during the cold war, but the cold war wasn't an overly violent period, and neither was this film. It's more about the threat of war, rather than the actions of one, and this couldn't be a more perfect fit for Spielberg.
It's a political thriller, the runtime filled nearly entirely with conversations between two or more parties. There are long, slow and quiet scenes with little to no movement and, thanks to Spielberg's cinematic approach to everything he does and his stylish and riveting cinematography, it's some of the most gripping cinema you will see all year. It's no surprise to hear that Spielberg does a great job at directing this film, but it's true. He does. He manages to turn two and a half hours of slow building negotiations into something more exciting and tension filled than the last three Terminator films combined, and I'm not sure if I'm congratulating this film or insulting those films when I say that. Let's just say I'm congratulating this one.
The first thirty minutes or so can drag from time to time, but once Tom Hanks' character travels to Berlin, Bridge of Spies transforms itself from a decent movie into an excellent one. It's not that the first thirty minutes are bad, but it's just that they're not quite as interesting as the remainder of the film. It's slow in pace and the subject matter is a bit clouded, but once those clouds clear, the film steps it up a notch. The stakes go from a Soviet spy potentially getting the death penalty to the Soviet Union potentially finding out everything the US has planned for this war, and the one man who can stop this from happening is our hero, Mr. Hanks.
When Hanks and Spielberg team up, all sorts of magical things can happen. With Bridge of Spies, Hanks gives a tremendous performance. If it weren't for Captain Phillips, this would be the best performance he's given in a number of years, but I'm glad it's not because Captain Phillips is an absolutely brilliant movie and I'm glad it exists. Hanks brings likability to this character, and he also nails the family aspect of the film. There's just a handful of scenes between him and his family, but in every last one of them you can tell they have a history together. You can feel his love for them, making the scenes in Berlin all the more suspenseful. It increases the stakes, not on a global scale, but on a personal level.
Surprisingly, however, Hanks isn't the only actor in this movie to give a masterclass performance. Mark Rylance, actor of the soviet spy being held prisoner in the US, manages to give Hanks a run for his money. He may never catch up to him, but he certainly had him running, and that's what counts. His character is a calm and relaxed fellow, never stressing despite being in the most stressful of times, and Rylance nails it. He absolutely nails it. I only found out today that he'll be the BFG in Spielberg's adaptation of the classic children's novel and this only makes me more excited for it.
To sum up, Bridge of Spies see's Steven Spielberg returning to his prime. The performances are beyond brilliant, the scenes in Berlin are thoroughly engaging and the screenplay mixes classic Coen brothers with classic Spielberg, and the two work extremely well together.
4 1/2 Stars
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The trailer for this movie that played in Australian cinemas is not the one linked below, nor is it the main one that played over in the US (I presume). We had a slightly different trailer. One that showed more dialogue and more of the plot, but didn't reveal too much. It was after watching this trailer that I realised how misleading the advertising for this film was. The trailer played here was made out to be a jump scare marathon, yet all of the footage shown wasn't something you'd typically find in a horror movie. It didn't feel like a Paranormal Activity movie or a Saw movie or whatever crappy horror franchise you want to compare it to, yet it was advertised as one. It was after watching this trailer that I realised Crimson Peak was not a horror movie, and watching the film confirmed that.
Crimson Peak follows the story of Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska), a young writer with a passion for ghost stories. Her most recent story grabs the attention of Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), who almost instantly falls for her. The two get married and ride off to Thomas' family home where he lives with his sister, Lucille (Jessica Chastain). Aside from the fact that the house itself is rather run down, the taps all initially spurting out what appears to be blood (or something of the sorts), it starts out well. But Edith slowly begins to fall suspiciously ill, and it doesn't help when there's ghosts roaming around the corridors at night, either.
Like all Guillermo del Toro movies, Crimson Peak is exceptionally beautiful. Not just in the production design, but the cinematography as well. The majority of the movie takes place in this one big house and the design is stunning to look at. It's big, twisted and eerie. It's a house taken right out of another century and it's incredibly convincing. However, it's not just the house that looks good. Every location in this movie does. It's a big and colourful period piece with some truly top notch set design, although that is really to be expected when it comes to a del Toro movie.
The three leads, Wasikowska, Hiddleston and Chastain, are all phenomenal. Wasikowska's character isn't all that investing, but her performance undoubtably is. The problem with her character is that she's set up to be this strong, independent woman, and then as the film goes on she turns into a victim in constant need of help, and it's not until the final scene where she shows some kind of courage and even then it's not all that convincing or of her doing. It just happens and that's that.
As for the unsettling brother-sister duo of Hiddleston and Chastain their characters are much more investing. You feel like you know what they're up to, but you're never 100% sure and it keeps you invested in them. Unfortunately, these two characters are about the only investing aspect of the film and even their arcs and backstories become predictable after a while. While their overall motive is skimmed over, what they're really up to is what I was interested in, and it delivered on that promise. However, just like with Wasikowska's last scene, their final moments on screen feel rather out of character as well. Not so much Hiddleston, but most definitely Chastain.
Like I said earlier, Crimson Peak is far from a horror movie, and the horror aspects honestly feel slightly out of place at times. It's pointed out on multiple occasions that ghosts are merely a metaphor for the past, and the past is a significant theme of this movie, but the ghosts are just so pointless. They show up, they whisper a few things, they point at some other things, they creep the living shit out of Mia Wasikowska and they leave. And then repeat. They look cool, but they don't serve a purpose to the overall narrative, with the exception of one really awkward moment in the second half, and that's one of the only times the ghosts actually show up in the third act.
I really hate to say it, but Crimson Peak is, unfortunately, one of Guillermo del Toro's only flops. He's doing what he loves and he's clearly having fun with it, but the film lacks depth, replacing a solid story with set design. He's ambitious with the film and he's really trying to make it work, but he just can't. It's style over substance. If he was working off of a better script, Crimson Peak could work really well. In fact, it has the potential to be phenomenal, but instead it becomes something quite mediocre.
To sum up, Crimson Peak is a big, colourful and ambitious film with glorious set design and some really, really, really good performances, but there's a lot of style without any substance. Most of the characters aren't investing and the story is all over the place. Sorry, Guillermo, but you've been better.
2 1/2 Stars
I wasn't really sure what to expect from this movie going in. The trailers had my curiosity, but not my attention. The film itself looked fine, but I was in absolutely no rush to go out and see it. If I saw it, I saw it. If I didn't, I'd survive. After a title change and some clichéd advertising material, or lack of, I wasn't really gaining any hype for this movie. But I saw it today, hoping for the best, and I'm happy to report that it's not all that bad of a movie. In fact, I kinda liked it, and it appeared that most of the people at my screening did as well.
Burnt follows the story of Adam Jones (Bradley Cooper). He used to be one of the most beloved chefs in all of Paris, one character describing him as the Rolling Stones of cooking, but after a drug addiction he lost it all. A few years later, Adam cleans up his act and travels to London, hoping to redeem his career and go for a third Michelin star, which is something that's very, very, very hard to do. He opens up a new restaurant with the help of an old friend named Tony (Daniel Brühl), and he hires the best cooks he can find, including a single mum named Helene (Sienna Miller), who he takes quite a liking to, despite her constant protests against his work.
The story of Adam Jones is one you've probably heard many times before. Perhaps not always in the kitchen, but you can work out the gist of things. A down on his luck drug addict decides to pick himself back up off the floor and redeem his career. There's no bumps in the story. You've seen it before in countless variations and they all end the exact same way. There's even a forced in romance between Cooper and Miller's character and while the two have chemistry, the romance felt forced and ultimately unnecessary.
That being said, they both deliver some brilliant performances, in particular Cooper. While the film itself isn't necessarily memorable, his performance is. It probably won't end up giving him any gold statues, but it's an admirable performance. His character is loud and impactful, and Cooper makes his presence known. Then there's Miller, who comes across as a bit more vulnerable, if I'm perfectly honest. Cooper got the brokenness of his character down pat, but not the vulnerability. If he lost anything, I wouldn't really have been impacted by his loss. With Miller, she gives a performance that brings out her character's hidden colours. She brought a lot to her role.
Despite the loss of Jamie Dornan, his role edited out in post, Burnt still manages to whip up a rather large supporting cast. The most important supporting cast member is Daniel Brühl's Tony, who owns the hotel that's helping to provide for Cooper's character. Brühl's performance came as a big surprise. It's not that I was expecting him to be bad, he never is, but it's just that his performance had so much more life to it than I expected, and that's something that can't be said about the rest of the cast. There's so many big names in small roles and nobody really stands out. Nobody except Brühl. It's a bit of a waste, really.
With so many subplots in Burnt, whenever we finally get into the kitchen it comes as a relief. The kitchen scenes are easily the most entertaining component of this film. Seeing Cooper stress out over which critic is sitting where ended up being very entertaining, his dedication to the character bringing out a top notch performance. You can feel the pressure building up in everyone and when they burst, they burst. It's exciting and it's captured excellently, the cinematography coming as a delightful surprise. The other subplots, however, weren't that interesting, especially one involving Cooper and some drug money he owes. This could've been a short and exciting film, but instead it ends up being rather bloated.
To sum up, Burnt is a clichéd and predictable story of redemption that you've heard before. From the moment it starts you know how it's going to end, but thanks to some excellent performances and engaging kitchen scenes, the film ends up not being quite as awful as it could've been.
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According to the schedule I so ambitiously wrote a couple of weeks ago (here), I should be two days into my 10 day period of horror remakes. For this year's #ScaryMovieMonthAtDCM, however, I haven't had the time or patience to write a review a day, so I didn't think I'd seen a remake yet this month. That was until I was looking through the IMDb page of this movie, not long after having sat down and watched it, and it's here that I noticed that Knock Knock is a remake of the 1977 film 'Death Game.' So yeah, here you go. My first remake of the second (and probably final) #ScaryMovieMonthAtDCM.
Knock Knock is the story of Evan Webber (Keanu Reeves). He's a loving father and husband who's staying home alone for the weekend to get some designing done while his family travels to the beach. Hoping to finish off the house he's working on, Evan makes himself comfortable, kicks on some tunes and gets to work, but not long after a storm breaks out, Evan gets a knock at the door. Two young women, Genesis (Lorenza Izzo) and Bel (Ana de Armas), come pleading for help. Evan lets them use his phone and dry themselves off, but it doesn't take long for them to seduce him, and what follows is not a lot of fun for poor Evan. Not a lot of fun at all.
Intentional or not, Knock Knock is absolutely hilarious. IMDb lists the film as a horror, a mystery and a thriller, so the odds of this being intentional is unlikely, but I can't deny how hard I laughed at certain points in this movie, mostly thanks to the dialogue spurted out by the seemingly bored Keanu Reeves. From "chocolate with sprinkles," to "YOU SUCKED MY COCK," Knock Knock has countless serious lines of dialogue coming across comedic, and I'm not sure if I should applaud Eli Roth for this or not.
Speaking of Roth, this is my first encounter with him as a director and I'm really not sure what to make of him. Perhaps this was just a bad first impression, or perhaps this is as good as he gets. With this film, he doesn't really do anything special. Everything he does has been done before and it's been done better. From his cinematography to the performances he's capable of getting out of his actors, everything's merely fine. Nothing more, nothing less. The low budget and limited locations could have done great things for this man's career, just like it did with M. Night Shyamalan earlier this year, but all he manages to do is make a film that gradually gets worse and worse and worse.
The film's gradual build up isn't necessarily bad, merely because of how uneventful it is. It's a watchable, if not slightly slow, first half. Nothing happens that you haven't seen in the trailer, but watching Keanu Reeves get uncomfortable around women hitting on him, to me, is insanely entertaining. I can't explain why. It just was. Then he sleeps with them, and everything that follows is less exciting. I wouldn't go so far as to say it's torture porn as the torture isn't too frequent, but it's along those lines. It's two women getting revenge over a man who they seduced and their motives make no sense. They're trying to show that cheating is bad, and that's a fine message, but the character of Evan didn't want to cheat in the first place. He had no intention of cheating. Their revenge plot is brought on by confusing character motive.
There are no stand out moments in this movie, either. In most bad horror movies, or even mediocre ones, there's always a stand out moment. Whether this is a good moment or a bad moment, that depends on the film. With Knock Knock, nothing in this film stands out. Everything is on the same level of forgettable, mostly thanks to the lacklustre performances. Nothing is convincing and no sequence springs to mind as being memorable. Even with disappointments like Annabelle or The Gallows, they had their stand out sequences. With Knock Knock, there's nothing.
To sum up, Knock Knock is a film that tries to be great, but ends up settling for mediocre. It has its fun moments and it can get pretty damn hilarious, although I'm not sure whether that's intentional or not, but there's just nothing special about it, the plot gradually getting worse and worse.
2 1/2 Stars
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Films can have many purposes. There are some films made to inform the general public of a certain event that once happened, that event being either good or bad. There are some films made to show a point of view about something. There are some films made to exploit a particular person's actions. There are some films made to bring hope and joy into your life, giving you something to aspire to or think about. There are some films made to let people have a deep understanding of a rather tricky subject matter, putting it together into a story and subtly explaining it to you. Then there are some films made purely for entertainment reasons, and The Final Girls is one of these.
The Final Girls follows the story of a young woman named Max (Taissa Farminga). Her mother (Malin Akerman) was an actress, famous for playing a supporting role in a now cult-classic horror movie. On the anniversary of her death, Max is invited to attend a public screening of this movie, titled 'Camp Bloodbath.' Halfway through the film, a fire breaks out. Max and her friends make their way to the exit behind the screen, but once they walk through, Max and co end up inside the film. They're forced to live it through until the final credits role, where they hope they'll be transported back to the real world. But with serial killer Billy Murphy (Dan B. Norris) on the loose, anything goes.
The Final Girls is a fun and original play on the slasher genre, in particular Friday the 13th. In similar vein to the Scream franchise, but not nearly as good, The Final Girls pokes fun at slasher films and the way they work. They joke around with nearly every component of them, teasing them without disrespecting them. You can tell the filmmakers behind this film really do enjoy these types of movies as this love transcends off the screen. But there does come a point where, in those types of movies, they do get repetitive and corny, and that's where The Final Girls finds all of its best jokes.
On top of being rather funny, the film is also quite creative, turning horror clichés into memorable sequences. Title sequences, voice over, flash backs, slow motion and so much more are transformed from being these eye-rolling moments to energetic, visually aesthetic and just damn good moments. When one of the characters recounts the origin of the film's antagonist, black and white liquid drops from the ceiling, teleporting our main cast members back in time, and it's fucking brilliant.
What took me for surprise about this movie was its emotional core. Max's relationship with her mother is touched upon during the films' opening scene. It's not shown in great detail, but you get the gist of their relationship and their viewpoint on life. You understand that they're close with one another and that their relationship means something to the both of them, and then the mother goes and dies. So once Max is able to meet up with her character in the film, you can really feel the impact, and there's a scene between them near the end of the film that I will admit hit me right in the feels. It really took me by surprise.
That being said, outside of those two characters, not everyone is awfully likeable, and it doesn't help if some of the performances are annoyingly over the top. There's three other characters that spring to mind in terms of likability, but everyone else just got on my nerves from time to time. You don't care if they die or not. In fact, I honestly hoped some of them would. They're annoying and their jokes fall flat, but most of them served a purpose, or at least helped to further make fun of its own genre. On a side note though, the most likeable and hilarious character in this whole movie is the one they kill off first.... great.
Despite having a lot of energy and some seriously phenomenal cinematography, The Final Girls can't help but feel a little clichéd from time to time. Don't get me wrong, I still stand by what I said when I mentioned how original this film is, but it's original in the way it uses its clichés. The clichés are still there, and not all of them are there just to be made fun of. The final outcome is rather predictable, it's just the journey there that's a lot of fun. Even some of its more creative moments can't help but be a little bit familiar, if that makes any sense whatsoever.....
To sum up, The Final Girls is a fun and original film that has a few clichés, but uses its clichés to make something bouncy and energetic. It's no Scream, but it's fun in its own right.
I've never really been fussed with 3D. I don't usually seek out 3D sessions of movies for the sake of seeing it in 3D. If that's the only one it's the only one, but I usually just go and see my movies in 2D. The Walk, however, was a different story. This was one I felt needed to be in 3D, and I'm so glad that it was. For a film like this one, seeing it in 2D just isn't enough. It just won't have the same effect on you. The Walk is a film made for the third dimension, and I can only imagine how much cooler it would be watching it in IMAX.
The Walk is the true story of Phillippe Petit (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a French high wire walker with big ambitions. He's constantly looking for a new place to hang his wire, whether it's a tree, a lake or the Notre Damn cathedral. After a visit to the dentist, Phillippe reads an article about the construction of the World Trade Centre towers in New York, and it's at this moment that he instantly falls in love with them. He wishes to place his wire between them and walk across it, and so he puts his dream into full effect, moving to New York with his girlfriend, Annie (Charlotte Le Bon). When he gets there, Philippe starts to assemble a team, hoping to break into the building just before it finishes construction and live out his dream once and for all.
The Walk is an astonishing accomplishment in terms of filmmaking. It's a visually beautiful film, director Robert Zemeckis able to recreate this story with complete realism. It's a delight to watch, his use of colouring beyond perfect. Starting out in France, the film begins in black and white, only certain objects appearing in colour. It's dazzling to look at, but incredibly pointless. Once the colour hits in, however, the film finds its visual style, and by the time we get to the finale, my jaw had dropped. Frequent Ridley Scott collaborator Dariusz Wolski has made his most visually impeccable film yet.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt takes his acting skills to the next level with this movie. It's certainly not his best work, but he once again proves himself to be a tremendous actor. His character constantly seems to be on the brink of insanity, and Levitt doesn't fail to show that. He nails both the drama and the comedy, all while showing the determination that his guy had. He didn't do this for money or for fame. He did this because he wanted to do it, and Levitt couldn't have been the more perfect fit.
When we finally get to the long-awaited walk, it will take your breath away. I know as a fact it took away mine. I didn't know what was going to go down in much detail so I won't delve into spoilers, but this man did the unthinkable, and as he was going he managed to defy all expectations. His walk is nuts, and it had me on the edge of my seat the entire time, the 3D only adding to the spectacle. I kid you not, my hands wrinkled up during this movie because of how much it made me sweat. It's a stressful experience, but one that's worthwhile.
To sum up, The Walk is a visual treat with a brilliant performance from Joseph Gordon-Levitt. It had me constantly sitting on the edge of my seat, my palms sweating so much that they wrinkled. It's an entertaining time at the movies and a 3D experience I would certainly recommend.
In the list of my top 15 films of all time, I have four films about criminals. Three of these have gangster-ish figures as their lead characters. My favourite film of all time is Goodfellas. In case it's not obvious, I enjoy these types of movies. I enjoy crime films, and I was most certainly excited for both Black Mass and Legend. After watching Black Mass, which hit Australian theatres yesterday, I came out slightly disappointed, and I'd been hearing mixed things about Legend as well. I prepared myself to be disappointed by this movie, but at the same time I was begging for it to be good. I ended up liking Legend more than I did Black Mass, and it seems I'm the only one who did.
Legend tells the true story of Ronald Kray (Tom Hardy) and his twin brother, Reggie Kray (also Tom Hardy). Set in London in the 1960s, Ron is a club owner, spending his time looking after his bar while also maintaining an intimate relationship with a woman named Frances (Emily Browning), who narrates the story from her point of view. Reggie is fresh out of the mental hospital, living in an RV with his boyfriend, Teddy (Taron Egerton). The two start to rise to power as gangsters, becoming feared all throughout Europe. As they rise to power, trouble comes their way, both with the law and with other gangs. Their methods are unorthodox, and their acts of extreme violence could just bring them down.
Legend could easily have painted these men as idols, and many were worried that that's just what they were going to do. Taking a slightly comedic route could've ended up painting these men as loveable heroes, which they most certainly were not. They were violent. They were unforgiving. They were criminals. They weren't likeable people. The Kray's were notorious gangsters, and after watching this movie, they still aren't people I'd want to have dinner with. The film depicts them as the psychopaths that they were, exploiting their crimes without accepting what they did. In fact, the film frowns upon their actions, and that's something I really wanted out of it.
Tom Hardy plays both Ron and Reggie Kray, and he may just give the greatest performance, or performances, of his career. Before I continue, I must point out that Legend is far from Hardy's best movie. He's certainly been in better films, such as Mad Max Fury Road earlier this year, but no film of his has better proven his talents as an actor than this one. He's unstoppable, providing us with two very different performances that both work flawlessly, and the special effects work is just as great. There is but one moment when the effects appear obvious, and this shot lasts for just a few seconds. For the rest of the film, differentiating between the Tom Hardy's is quite the challenge, especially in a scene where Tom Hardy has a fight..... with himself.
What adds to the impressiveness of his performance, however, is the fact that he's playing two very different characters. Ron and Reggie, while identical, are far from similar. They're in the same business, but there's a constant tension between them. Ron is the more approachable one, full of charm and charisma. He's cocky, but he gets his way. Then there's his brother Reggie, and who knows what to expect with him. He's a violent, paranoid schizophrenic who at one point is even armed with a hammer. Anything goes.
Legend is brought to us from writer-director Brian Helgeland, the man responsible for writing L.A. Confidential and Mystic River, and more recently he directed the Jackie Robinson biopic, 42. His writing, once again, is absolutely phenomenal. His career as a writer is certainly flawed, a couple of his films ending up being quite awful, but not all of them were the script's fault. That being said, with Legend, his script is excellent, balancing out drama with comedy while maintaining an honesty about the entire situation. It runs a little too long and has a few clichés, but it's entertaining nonetheless.
As for his directing style, that works as well, giving the film plenty of its much-needed energy. Some of the camera movement has obviously been put there to hide the fact that Tom Hardy is playing two of the main characters, but I can forgive the film for doing that. It's not that the angles are bad, either. But as for everything else, it's shot and directed beautifully, one long shot in particular showcasing just how talented this cast is. The shot must go on for a solid three minutes or so and it's jaw dropping Helgeland has really outdone himself with this movie.
To sum up, Legend tells the Kray's story how it should be told. It's honest, it's brutal and it has a dark sense of humour. Tom Hardy shines in his duel role, providing us with what is arguably his best performance(s) to date, and director Brain Helgeland has never been better.
After watching all three of the trailers for this film, the third one not being an intentional viewing, I was sold. There was no way I wasn't going to watch it. It was one of my most anticipated movies of the year. Johnny Depp as a gangster in what appears to be a Scorsese-like crime film? Count me in. I had complete faith in this movie. There was no way it was going to be bad. Absolutely no way. Halfway through watching it, I found myself accepting the realisation that this film wasn't quite as good as I expected it to be. It's by no means a bad movie, but it is what it is.
Black Mass is the true story of James "Whitey" Bulger (Johnny Depp), one of the most notorious gangsters in US history. His brother, Billy (Benedict Cumberbatch), is a senator, and the two of them grew up with a kid named John Connolly (Joel Edgerton), who later in life went on to become an FBI agent. Not wanting to arrest the guy he grew up with, John comes up with a plan for Bulger to become an informant for the FBI, helping John to take down bigger criminals, pushing Bulger higher into power. But the FBI suspect that something's up and start investigating, forcing John to bend the law to protect Bulger, who in turn is protecting him.
You've heard it before, but I'll say it again. Johnny Depp soars as Whitey Bulger. His performance is beyond phenomenal, and certainly one that will be remembered years from now. His character is vicious, relentless and, as stated in the movie, won't take no for an answer, and Depp kills it. Very few of his previous performances are able to come close to being as mind blowing as his performance in Black Mass, a film that unfortunately fails to live up to its lead's tremendous performance.
However, Depp isn't the only actor in this movie that gets his chance to shine. Black Mass features the likes of Joel Edgerton, fresh off his excellent flick 'The Gift' earlier this year and he's better than ever, Benedict Cumberbatch, Kevin Bacon, Corey Stoll, Dakota Johnson, who proves that she can actually act despite starring in 50 Shades of Grey, Jesse Plemons and Peter Sarsgaard. Despite a few dodgy Boston accents, they're all beyond brilliant, yet Depp still manages to out-act them all, so that's saying something about his portrayal of this despicable, yet intriguing character.
Director Scott Cooper, following up 2013's gritty Out of the Furnace, gives it his all with this film. He truly doesn't hold back. It's dark, it's violent, it's entertaining and it succeeds at telling the story it tries to tell, and it looks mighty fine doing so. There's a crispness to everything, and Cooper brings out the best of his entire cast. It looks and feels like a classic gangster movie. The only problem is that the film itself isn't nearly on the same level as something like Goodfellas, but that's a harsh comparison. As a film on its own, Black Mass works really well. It just needed more Matt Damon's being left behind on Mars.
As we further through Bulger's mayhem, something becomes really apparent. This film isn't going anywhere. It's a series of crimes committed by Bulger that all relate to the FBI, and while each of them are entertaining in their own right, the film doesn't flow smoothly. It's repetitive and stretched out, a few of the murder scenes completely unnecessary to the plot at hand, one involving a prostitute in particular. It takes away from the suspense of everything, with the exception of a scene between Depp and Edgerton's character's wife, played by Julianne Nicholson. It's an uncomfortable encounter and it's gripping to watch.
Black Mass is a film that plays everything really safe. In terms of plotting, nothing too shocking happens. Like I said, it's suspenseful and uncomfortable to watch, but there's no shocks. Nothing happens in this movie that would make me scream "THIS IS FUCKING INCREDIBLE" like I wanted to halfway through watching The Martian. It's a fine film in that it doesn't do much wrong. It's your typical gangster movie with some great performances, but that's just not enough for me to tell you to run out and see this movie when it comes out on the 8th. I'm actually really curious to see this movie again because as of right now, I'm sort of in denial about it merely being good, not great.
To sum up, Black Mass is led by some absolutely terrific performances, including a haunting Johnny Depp. Unfortunately, the film doesn't live up to its countless fantastic performances, resulting in a gangster movie that's simply good, but not great.
3 1/2 Stars
Do you remember the feeling you had when you first saw Ridley Scott's groundbreaking sci-fi classic, Alien? I do. Do you remember the suspense? The terror? The anxiety? Do you remember the haunting visuals? The paranoia? The claustrophobia? The separation from human life? Just over three and a half decades later, Ridley Scott has made another sci-fi movie that's destined to be a classic. It's not quite as incredible, nor groundbreaking as Alien was, and is, but it's nearly as good, as that's quite the accomplishment for any filmmaker, let alone someone who's now in their 70s. After watching both this and Mad Max Fury Road, age is but a number when it comes to filmmaking.
Unlike Alien, in The Martian, there are no extraterrestrials to be found. There aren't any cats, either. There's a spaceship, though, so that's something. And there's some baby plants, too. Lots of baby plants. We open on Mars. Mark Watney (Matt Damon) and his fellow crew mates, led by Melissa Lewis (Jessica Chastain), are nearing the end of their mission. But a storm soon approaches, one that could potentially threaten the mission. They're forced to evacuate the planet, but as they're doing so, Watney is hit by a large chunk of debris, seemingly killing him and hurtling him who-knows-where. The crew have no choice but to take off, leaving Watney's body behind. After the storm clears up, Watney wakes up, impaled and alone on the desolate planet. He's forced to used his botanist skills to survive on this lifeless planet for the next four years, which is when the next manned mission will arrive. But he must also find a way of contacting NASA's leader, Teddy Sanders (Jeff Daniels), to let him know that he survived the incident and is in serious need of a rescue.
Ridley Scott has had a few hit and misses over the last decade or so. There's been films like Prometheus, which I personally adored although many would disagree, and then films like The Counsellor, which I still don't really understand. It's made people much more hesitant about a new film of his than we would've all been a few decades ago, had I been alive then. With The Martian, however, I think it's safe to say that Ridley Scott has returned to form, crafting together not just one of the best films he's made in a long, long, long time, but also one of the best films he's ever made. Period.
Despite tackling some very serious subject matter and the themes that go with it, eg. lonlieness, the will the survive etc., The Martian is a witty and often hilarious experience. It's full of optimism and humour, taking itself seriously, but having fun as well. It's not all gloominess and depression for two and half hours. Instead, it's got hope, heart, thrills and a groovy disco soundtrack featuring the likes of David Bowie and ABBA. Watney constantly makes fun of the music, but deep down, he's having fun with it, and so are we. It's similar to that of Guardians of the Galaxy, but not quite on the same level. It is, however, a slightly better film, despite having approximately zero talking trees.
The two and half hour runtime flies on by, thanks to Scott's sophisticated direction, edge of your seat thrills and colourful imagery. Bleak is not a word you'd ever hear associated with this movie as it's on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. It's a fun and upbeat experience with Scott bringing the best out of the terrific script by Drew Goddard, the writer and director of 2012's The Cabin in the Woods, and the supposedly fantastic book by Andy Weir. I haven't read it, but after seeing the movie, I'm seriously considering doing so.
The central story on mars is easily the most entertaining aspect of this movie, but this film has a lot more going for it than just Matt Damon growing plants, accidentally setting himself on fire and making a bunch of video logs. That takes up most of the runtime, sure, but this film is also about the people of Earth and his crew mates, and it features a cast too big to list. We're constantly cutting back and forth between NASA's attempts to bring him home, and the reluctance of Jeff Daniels' character. He doesn't want to risk the lives of anyone else to save just one man. The rest of the world, including a pivotal character played by Sean Bean and a shockingly important character played by Donald Glover, disagrees. Just like Damon's story, there's never a dull moment here, either. Scott has made science fun, and unlike last year's Interstellar, the science actually makes sense in this movie.
The Martian isn't just investing, but it's also quite the visual spectacle. Scott's camera movement is without flaw, the way he moves the camera nothing less than beautiful. He mixes security footage with actual shots and there isn't one that doesn't work. It's not just the camera work that's sensational, either. The visual effects are beyond phenomenal, especially in the second half. There's not a great deal in terms of quantity, most of the film taking place indoors or in a desert landscape (although that's not me saying that those scenes are without visual effects), but the stuff that's there is phenomenal.
With a career as wide ranged and as brilliant as his, it comes as quite a surprise to say that with The Martian, Matt Damon gives one of the best performances he's ever given. His character is alone on mars with not much more to eat than potatoes and ketchup, and he's forced to survive here for quite some time. His performance is phenomenal, completely capturing you into this world. I found myself emotionally invested in his story, and when shit hits the fan, my jaw was dropped. His character is sarcastic and honest, and Damon gives an Oscar-worthy performance in what should end up being an Oscar-winning movie.
To sum up, The Martian is a sci-fi survival story that's neither bleak nor depressing. It's fun, optimistic, hilarious, a visual spectacle and full of edge of your seat thrills. It's one of the best films Scott and Damon have ever made, and that's saying something.