Monthly Archives: March 2016

Review – London Has Fallen (15) [2016]

London Has Fallen - title banner

Star Rating: 1.5/5

Director:

  • Babak Najafi – Sebbe, Easy Money II: Hard To Kill

Cast:

  • Gerard Butler – 300, Coriolanus, Olympus Has Fallen, Hunter Killer
  • Aaron Eckhart – Paycheck, The Dark Knight, Olympus Has Fallen, Bleed For This
  • Morgan Freeman – Conan The Barbarian, The Dark Knight I-III, Transcendence, Olympus Has Fallen, Ben-Hur
  • Alon Aboutboul – Rambo II, Body of Lies, The Dark Knight Rises, Harmonia
  • Waleed Zuaiter – Sex And The City II, The Men Who Stare At Goats, The Free World, Billionaire Boys Club
  • Shivani Ghai – Bride & Prejudice, Cleanskin, Eastenders, London Life
  • Radha Mitchell – Finding Neverland, The Crazies, Olympus Has Fallen, Fugly, The Darkness

Music Composer:

  • Trevor Morris – The Tudors, Immortals, Olympus Has Fallen, The Borgias, Goon: Last of the Enforcers

2013’s Olympus Has Fallen was the (laughable) rehash of Die Hard, just in the White House and with North Koreans as the villains. It was loud, shouty, clichéd, and full of explosions and shoot-outs to save the President, with Gerard Butler playing the role John McClane. London Has Fallen is exactly the same, but in London instead of the White House.

The London Eye, one of the capital's known landmarks, is blown up in the terror attacks.

The London Eye, one of the capital’s known landmarks, is blown up in the terror attacks.

The British Prime Minister, James Wilson, has died. US President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) feels obliged to go to the funeral in London, along with all the other leading dignitaries of the world. But Mike Banning (Gerard Butler), the President’s top secret serviceman, is apprehensive about the President going to London. He fears that terrorists will spring a surprise or two.

(And wouldn’t you know it?) Banning is right. During the funeral, terrorists start shooting at the world leaders and blowing up London’s known landmarks. (Forget the unknown ones: they’re not worth blowing up.) President Asher is in the thick of the attacks and it is up to Banning to get him out of London and save him again.

London Has Fallen is exactly what one would expect, and enjoyable for it. The plot has all the (laughable) pros of its prequel, just with more swearing, more (nauseating) self-references to how great America is, no White House, and Muslim fundamentalists instead of North Koreans. What’s more, the special effects crank up the enjoyment factor to eleven as they are as good as the N64 game Goldeneye (which came out in 1997).

Vice President Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) watching in horror as the known landmarks of London going up in smoke.

Vice President Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) watching in horror as the known landmarks of London going up in smoke.

With a plot so clichéd and special effects so pitifully bad, it is hard to believe that the main cast members could take this film seriously. Yet, it appears they do. No-one looks embarrassed to be on-screen (unlike Charles Dance in Ali G: In Da House and in Your Highness, or the entire cast of Seventh Son). In fact, they all look like they are taking the film as seriously as if London really had been hit by multiple terror attacks.

Morgan Freeman plays his usual, charming self as the safe-handed stand-in President. (It helps when one has played the President in Deep Impact and God in Bruce Almighty). Aaron Eckhart is giving everything he’s got to play his first credible role since Harvey Dent in 2008’s The Dark Knight. And Gerard Butler is… well, doing what Gerard Butler does best. Since 300 came out in 2007, Mr. Butler has forged a (preposterous) career out of being an immortal, warrior king (300); a Hollywood hunk who ladies swoon over, and who all men want to be like (PS I Love You, The Bounty Hunter, and especially Playing For Keeps); and now an action hero (Olympus Has Fallen). In short, Mr. Butler is trying again to be all things for all peoples to add to his magazine of self-aggrandisement. (When is Mr. Butler going to say that enough is enough of this absurd self-propaganda? When is he going to do a proper role where he is not the flawless envy of the world?)

Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) running through the evacuated London underground trying to get President Asher (Aaron Eckhart) to safety.

Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) running through the evacuated London underground trying to get President Asher (Aaron Eckhart) to safety.

As for the villains and their performances… yeah, there is really not much to say about them. The villains are one-dimensional, bad, anti-Western Jihadis. That’s all there is to them and the sooner they are forgotten the better. Much like the film they’re in, really.

All-in-all, London Has Fallen is a laughably entertaining film for all the wrong reasons. It is loud, sweary, clichéd, and full of explosions and shoot-outs to save the President from Jihadis, with Gerard Butler playing the role John McClane. The special effects are contemptible. Then again, so is the serious nature of the acting and Gerard Butler’s insatiable need to be loved on screen.

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Review – Goodnight Mommy (15) [2016]

Goodnight Mommy - title banner

Star Rating: 4/5

Directors:

  • Severin Fiala – Kern
  • Veronika Franz – Kern

Cast:

  • Susanne Wuest – Antares, Thank You Mr President, Judas Goat, A Cure For Wellness
  • Elias Schwarz
  • Lukas Schwarz

Music Composer:

  • Olga Neuwirth – The Long Rain, Erik(A), Kill Daddy Good Night

Since the turn of the century, the horror genre has been dominated by the ‘found-footage’ and the paranormal subgenres. Seemingly, film-makers have often forgotten how to make horror films devoid of hand held cameras and/or ghosts going boo to scare audiences, with a couple notable exceptions (The Babadook and The Gift). Well, like those two exceptions, the Austrian film Goodnight Mommy gives viewers a different type of horror film.

The modern, art-deco Austrian countryside, next to a lake, a cornfield and a forest. How could something so tranquil feel so ominous?

The modern, art-deco Austrian countryside, next to a lake, a cornfield and a forest. How could something so tranquil feel so ominous?

Goodnight Mommy is about nine-year-old twins, Elias and Lukas (Elias and Lukas Schwarz) and their mother (Susanne Wuest), who are on summer holiday in their modern, country retreat in the Austrian countryside. The twin’s mother has had some cosmetic surgery done to her face and wears bandages to conceal all but her eyes.

However, she starts to act in strange and increasingly erratic ways. Apparently, she was never like this before and the twins begin to suspect that this woman may not be their mother at all…

  Goodnight Mommy is a horror film in the true sense. It is enigmatic, thought-provoking, violent and tense, sucking viewers deeper and deeper into the odd circumstances surrounding the three main characters. Some kind of trauma has happened, that is obvious. But what is it? Where is the father? And why does the mother only speak to Elias and not to Lukas?

The film has an art-house feel to it since it does not rely on jump scares (i.e. quiet, quiet, quiet, quiet, BANG!) to frighten audiences. Rather, Goodnight Mommy relies on silence, atmosphere and the elements to create a genuinely tense and unnerving experience for the entirety of its 100-minute running time. Never has a kid turning on a tap or a mother munching on a biscuit been so quiver-inducing before. It is quite astonishing that the directors, Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz, manage to maintain this level of terror and tension when so little happens for much of the movie.

The dorable twins, Elias and Lukas, entering into their mother's room... where they shouldn't be entering.

The dorable twins, Elias and Lukas, entering into their mother’s room… where they shouldn’t be entering.

Central to their success is the setting. The remoteness of the countryside retreat, with its lake, forest and corn fields gives the film a naturally ominous feel. The weird, hazy pictures of the mother that adorn the walls in the house add creepiness to the already ominous setting. It must also be noted that film has been shot in 35mm camera and with stunning precision, capturing the gorgeously haunting nature of the location.

Nevertheless, Goodnight Mommy could have gone the same way as It Follows had it not been for the strong performances by the three main cast members. The mother, played with wonderful sincerity by Susanne Wuest, comes across as strict, strange, cold and vulnerable all at once, with a regal blue-eyed glare to give her petrifying edge. In contrast, the twins come across as normal, active cherubs who are always playing together, while being forced to live under the pressure of their OCD, disciplinarian mother.

However, aspects of the twin’s behaviour are enough to raise brows. This makes viewers question whether there is more to them than meets the eye. Whenever one sees twins in horror films, one is subconsciously reminded of the creepy twins in The Shining, and that raises further suspicions about Elias and Lukas here. That Goodnight Mommy has (unfair) comparisons with Michael Haneke’s Funny Games (due to both being Austrian horror films) ensures that viewers are constantly wondering what the twins are going to do next. And how unsettling it will be when they do.

The mother (Susanne Wuest), her face bandaged up, but for her piercing blue eyes, looking outside creepily to see what her sons are up to.

The mother (Susanne Wuest), her face bandaged up, but for her piercing blue eyes, looking outside creepily to see what her sons are up to.

Goodnight Mommy’s ability to keep viewers guessing is part of the film’s appeal and its chief asset. Yet, this also leads to its chief flaws. For one, the opening sequence has no bearing on the rest of the film when it seems like it is a scene from somewhere in the middle of it. This is puzzling. Also, there is a lot of ambiguity within the movie, some which are not properly explained while others are never explained at all. Again this is puzzling.

All-in-all, Goodnight Mommy is a terrific and genuinely scary horror film. The movie employs no jump scares or hand-held footage or phantoms. Rather, it skilfully trusts in its setting and in the circumstances that the three main protagonists find themselves in to induce tension and terror into viewers. The movie is not perfect. But it is unnerving and disturbing. It is also tense, mysterious, violent and psychologically challenging. Thus, Goodnight Mommy is everything that horror film should be and certainly worth a watch.

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Review – Deadpool (15) [2016]

Deadpool - title banner

Star Rating: 3.5/5

Director:

  • Tim Miller

Cast:

  • Ryan Reynolds – X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The Proposal, Buried, Truth In Advertising
  • Karan Soni – Supremacy, Goosebumps, Other Space, Ghostbusters
  • Ed Skrein – The Sweeney, Game of Thrones, The Transporter Refueled, The Model
  • Stefan Kapicic
  • Brianna Hildebrand – Prism, First Girl I Loved
  • Gina Carano – Haywire, Fast & Furious 6, In The Blood, Scorched Earth
  • Morena Baccarin – The OC, Homeland, Gotham, Malevolent

Music Composer:

Ryan Reynolds has wanted to play Deadpool since 2005. In 2009’s (forgettable) X-Men Origins: Wolverine, he got his wish; although, it was an insignificant role and did such an injustice to the foul-mouthed, raunchy character that has lit up Marvel comics since 1991. Well, now, Reynolds has finally got his wish and has made a Deadpool standalone film. But is the movie any good? Does the movie do justice to the character?

Wade (Ryan Reynolds) with Vanessa (Morena Baccarin). The two of them hit it off quickly.

Wade (Ryan Reynolds) with Vanessa (Morena Baccarin). The two of them hit it off quickly.

Deadpool centres round Wade Wilson (Reynolds). Wade is a former US special forces operative who works as a mercenary in New York City. One day, he finds out that he has multiple and terminal cancer(s). Not wanting to die, Wade goes to a special, underground clinic that claims to be trying a new cure for cancer, which could potentially save him.

However, when Wade arrives at the dodgy clinic, he learns that Ajax (Ed Skrein), the one performing the experimental cure on him, is not trying to cure him at all. Rather, Ajax is attempting to create a mutant, super-slave and disfigures Wade. Wade escapes, but does not manage to kill Ajax before the latter gets away. Wade is out for revenge and puts on the red spandex for good measure.

Deadpool is an entertaining film. It is action-packed, rude and raunchy. Wade/Deadpool is also the antithesis of what a superhero should be. Spiderman, the X-Men, Fantastic Four and Captain America are modest, selfless and caring individuals, while Iron Man and Thor are egotistical maniacs yet altruistic characters at heart. Deadpool, on the other hand, is irredeemably arrogant and selfish, and Reynolds looks like he is revelling in it all. (And fair play to him too. If one generally waits a decade to play a role, one should enjoy every moment of it when it finally comes around.)

Wade about to undergo an experimental procedure, with Ajax (Ed Skrein) looking over him and telling him so much that he would not want to hear.

Wade about to undergo an experimental procedure, with Ajax (Ed Skrein) looking over him and telling him so much that he would not want to hear.

The film’s filthy dialogue reflects the character. Possibly the best element of the movie is the numerous, inappropriate jokes. Not only are they genuinely funny, they keep audiences entertained when the action is not taking place. Nevertheless, due to the way Tim Miller has put the film together, one is never more than ten minutes away from a shoot-out or an explosion. The movie starts on an over-the-top chase scene. It keeps cutting out/back in time during this chase scene to explain the background, with the (unneeded) aid of a voiceover from Wade, until the movie catches up with the chase scene. Then, the film continues with the action.

As one can imagine, this style of directing can become grating after a while; particularly as Wade/Deadpool is so unapologetically full of himself. Equally grating are the constant (and unsubtle) references to other comic-book films, such as The Wolverine and the X-Men franchise. (We get it, Deadpool, you were in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and the studio did not want to pay for the entire X-Men cast. You don’t need to ram it down our throats every fifteen minutes.)

Furthermore, the plot is silly and the villain is clichéd. Indeed, the silliness of the plot and the clichéd nature of the stereotypical British villain (played with unrepentant glee by Ed Skrein) should have fans wondering if the creators of Deadpool could have been any lazier in their planning.

Wade in his Deadpool spandex, taking out those who are either after him or who disfigured him.

Wade in his Deadpool spandex, taking out those who are either after him or who disfigured him.

The women add nothing to the film too. They are either there to be the (hackneyed) damsel-in-distress or to kick some arse. These are comic-book tropes that have been done repeatedly since Sam Raimi’s Spiderman came out in 2002. All the same, if done well they make for entertaining viewing. And Deadpool is undoubtedly entertaining viewing.

Over-all, Deadpool is a fun film. It has action aplenty and enough genuinely funny jokes to render it better than most comedies. Of course the movie is silly, referential to other comic-book movies, filled with tropes from the genre, and annoying. Yet, that is all pars for the course with the character and the movie certainly does our rude, crude and foul-mouthed super anti-hero justice. Thus, Deadpool has exorcised the pale imitation that appeared in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and is the film that Ryan Reynolds and fans of the comics have been waiting for.

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Review – Room (15) [2016]

Room - title banner

Star Rating: 4/5

Director:

  • Lenny Abrahamson – Adam & Paul, Garage, What Richard Did, Frank

Cast:

  • Brie Larsson – Scott Pilgrim Vs The World, 21 Jump Street, Don Jon, The Glass Castle
  • Jacob Tremblay – The Smurfs 2, Shut In, Before I Wake, The Book Of Henry
  • Joan Allen – Face/Off, The Notebook, Bourne II-IV, A Good Marriage
  • Sean Bridgers – Sweet Home Alabama, Deadwood, Dark Places, The Magnificent Seven
  • William H Macy – Fargo, Psycho, Sahara, ER, Blood Father

Music Composer:

  • Stephen Rennicks – Garage, Eden, What Richard Did, Frank, L’accabadora

The Woman In Black, The Possession, Mama and It Follows have illustrated the general paucity of horror films in recent years and how the paranormal subgenre isn’t scary because it cannot happen in real life. In contrast, Misery, Requiem For A Dream, We Need To Talk About Kevin and The Gift have demonstrated that when films portray situations that can happen to people, it can be infinitely scarier and more unnerving to watch. Add Room to the latter category.

Joy (Brie Larsson) and Jack (Jacob Tremblay) playing with a snake they have made out of string and egg-shells.

Joy (Brie Larsson) and Jack (Jacob Tremblay) playing with a snake they have made out of string and egg-shells.

  Room is adapted from the book with the same title by Emma Donohue. The film begins with Joy (Brie Larsson) and her five year old, feral-looking son, Jack (Jacob Tremblay), in a small, squalid shed. It transpires that Joy was abducted by a man known only as ‘Old Nick’ (Sean Bridgers) seven years ago and has been locked in the shed ever since. Jack has never been outside it and believes the shed (or ‘Room’ as he calls it) to be the entire world. However, Joy wants to get out of the shed. She thinks up a plan and, for it to succeed, it will involve Jack experiencing the outside world for the first time.

Room is an engaging film that succeeds in many ways. Immediately, people can empathise with Joy’s predicament. One may not find the threat of silly Gollum-like monsters and/or evil spirits attacking (imbecilic) individuals realistic or scary. Yet, the threat of being abducted and locked up in some hell-hole is a very real and terrifying one. The cases of Natascha Kampusch, Elizabeth Smart and Gilad Shalit emphasise this and highlight how harrowing the experience can be for the abductee and their families. Room effectively shows some (and implies others) of the horrors that the abductee may suffer in a mature, non-gratuitous way. This quite rightly makes for uncomfortable viewing.

Viewers, however, would not feel the abductee’s pain if it were not for Brie Larsson’s acting. She powerfully shows us the different stages that abductees can suffer from and, for this, she fully deserves the acclaim she is receiving. The only surprise is that Larsson is the only one receiving the plaudits and awards, as her main co-star, Jacob Tremblay, is also brilliant. For one so young, his acting is remarkable and completely realistic of how a five year old would see the world and behave under such traumatic circumstances. And his/Jack’s relationship with Brie Larsson/Joy is life-assuring and overwhelming for all the right reasons.

Joy desperately trying to explain to Jack that there is more to the world than 'Room,' despite Jack's protestations.

Joy desperately trying to explain to Jack that there is more to the world than ‘Room,’ despite Jack’s protestations.

Nevertheless, despite Room’s terrifying premise and outstanding acting, the film is not flawless. Joy’s plan to escape is fanciful at best (and unrealistic at worst). Additionally, the events leading up to Joy’s abduction are never fully expounded upon, and the same can be said about Joy’s family and the effects that her abduction have had on them. These two issues are particularly frustrating as it would not have been difficult for director Lenny Abrahamson to have elucidated upon them to make the movie more complete.

Over-all, Room is a very convincing film. The acting is wonderful and enables audiences to understand the characters and their predicaments, whether it be how an innocent child would see the world if he/she had only lived in a small shed, or how the torment of being abducted effects adults.

Nevertheless, Room is not an enjoyable movie. It is harrowing. What happens to Joy can happen to anyone. Thus, Room is a real horror film: one that upsets and unsettles viewers to the core.

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