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Review – Nocturnal Animals (15) [2016]

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Star Rating 5/5

Director:

  • Tom Ford – A Single Man

Cast:

  • Amy Adams – Catch Me If You CanThe FighterThe MasterHerMan of SteelBig EyesBatman v Superman, Arrival
  • Jake Gyllenhaal – The Day After Tomorrow, Source Code, Prisoners, Southpaw, Stronger
  • Armie Hammer – Gossip Girl, The Social Network, Edgar, The Man From UNCLE, Jackpot
  • Isla Fisher – Wedding Crashers, Confessions of A Shopaholic, Now You See Me I & II, Keeping Up With The Joneses
  • Michael Shannon – Revolutionary Road,Take ShelterMudMan of Steel, Batman v SupermanElvis & Nixon
  • Ellie Bamber – The Falling, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms
  • Laura Linney – The Truman Show, Love Actually, John Adams, The Dinner
  • Andrea Riseborough – Shadow Dancer, Oblivion, Birdman, National Treasure, The Death of Stalin
  • Michael Sheen – Frost/Nixon, Twilight II & IV(i)-(ii), Alice In Wonderland I & II, Passengers
  • Karl Glusman – Love, Stonewall, The Neon Demon, Above Suspicion
  • Robert Aramayo – Game of Thrones, The Empty Man, Lost In Florence
  • Aaron Taylor-Johnson – Nowhere Boy, Kick-Ass I & II, Godzilla, The Wall

Music Composer:

  • Abel Korzeniowski – A Single Man, W.E., Romeo & Juliet, Penny Dreadful

The Light Between Oceans (TLBO) looked like a film that, at first glance, was Oscar material. It had the cast, the ideas and the cinematography to be a great film. But it was a total mess of a movie and a real disappointment. By way of contrast, Nocturnal Animals has similar components. Only, it is brilliant.

Susan (Amy Adams), alone in her mansion, drinking whiskey. She has such sad eyes that are full of the deepest of emotions.

Susan (Amy Adams), alone in her mansion, drinking whiskey. She has such blue and sad eyes that are full of the deepest of emotions.

Nocturnal Animals is a film based on the 1993 book, Tony and Susan, by Austin Wright. Susan (Amy Adams) is a modern-art gallery owner. One day, as her second husband, Walker (Armie Hammer), goes off on a ‘business trip,’ Susan gets a package in the post. It is from her first husband, Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal), whom Susan left twenty years ago. He has sent her a manuscript of his new book, entitled ‘Nocturnal Animals,’ and wants to hear her opinion.

Alone in her beautiful mansion overlooking LA, Susan picks up the manuscript and begins reading it. However, as she reads it, she is forced to relive and confront some demons from her past. Notably: her marriage to Edward and why it broke down.

Nocturnal Animals is full of suspense, tense and gripping. It is a phenomenal story within a story movie, in which both stories are fascinating for very different reasons: the first is about Susan/Amy Adams, who lives the high (empty) life in LA, but is deeply unhappy; the second is about a good family, consisting of Tony (Jake Gyllenhaal), Laura (Isla Fisher, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Amy Adams), and India (Ellie Bamber), on their way to a vacation that goes violently wrong, and a thirst for justice/vengeance ensues. Both stories could be feature films in their own rights. Yet, Director Tom Ford links them together superbly so that the second story enhances our understanding of the first and is a metaphor for it.

Tony (Jake Gyllenhaal, who also plays Edward) and detective Bobby (Michael Shannon) in the rocky plains in the middle of nowhere in Texas, searching for the scene of the crime.

Tony (Jake Gyllenhaal, who also plays Edward) and detective Bobby (Michael Shannon) in the rocky plains in the middle of nowhere in Texas, searching for the scene of the crime.

Like TLBO, Nocturnal Animals deals with a plethora of complex issues, such as love, regret, people turning into their parents, justice, revenge, and actions having consequences. But unlike TLBO, Nocturnal Animals gives substance to these issues and the result makes for a deeply satisfying watch.

Suffice to say, the whole cast excels. Amy Adams is the standout performer as the successful but emotionally broken main character, who became everything she did not want to be; Jake Gyllenhaal fits seamlessly into both the sensitive Edward and the traumatised Tony; Michael Shannon feels genuine as the detective tracking down the sick thugs who commit the heinous crimes on Tony’s family; and Aaron Taylor-Johnson is unrecognisable as the leading hillbilly hoodlum.

Furthermore, Ford’s style of directing and the music heighten the tension throughout the movie. Ford holds onto scenes (particularly the horrific ones) for longer than audiences would like. This induces fear and an unnerving sensation into viewers. The music augments this with pulsing thuds and plucky string noises to further unsettle audiences.

Ray (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) looking like he is about to break into sadistic laughter.

Ray (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) looking like he is about to break into sadistic laughter.

And if that weren’t enough, the locations add an organic terror. Nocturnal Animals lacks the beauty of landscapes such as those seen in The Way Back, The Revenant and TLBO. But the fine-looking houses have a dangerous edge, as if they suck one into a vacuous void that one cannot get out of; and the deserted planes of the Deep South, the long highways, and the abandoned dusty shacks in the middle of nowhere (where one imagines unspeakable crimes occurring in the real world) ramp up the tension to intolerable levels.

All-in-all, Nocturnal Animals is an outstanding movie. It is an arresting thriller that is absolutely flawless both narratively and in its execution. While TLBO looked like Oscar material but failed to live up to its own (high) standards, Nocturnal Animals looks the part and succeeds in the most impressive and profound ways.

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Review – Sausage Party (15) [2016]

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Star Rating: 3.5/5

Directors:

  • Greg Tiernan – Thomas & Friends
  • Conrad Vernon – Shrek II, Monsters vs Aliens, Madagascar III

Cast:

  • Seth Rogan – Knocked Up, Pineapple Express, This Is The End, Steve Jobs, Neighbours II: Sorority Rising
  • Kristen Wiig – Date Night, Paul, HerThe Martian, Masterminds
  • Jonah Hill – Knocked Up, Superbad, 21 & 22 Jump Street, The Wolf of Wall Street, MIB 23
  • Michael Cera – Superbad, Scott Pilgrim vs The World, Magic Mike, This Is The End, Human People
  • James Franco – Date Night, 127 Hours, Your Highness, The Rise of Planet of The ApesThis Is The End, The Mad Whale
  • Salma Hayek – Frida, Puss In Boots, Here Comes The Boom, Grown Ups I-II, Drunk Parents
  • Edward Norton – American History X, Fight Club, The Invention of Lying, Birdman, Collateral Beauty
  • Paul Rudd – Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Monsters vs Aliens, This Is The End, Captain America III, Mute
  • Nick Kroll – I Love You, Man, Date Night, Get Him To The Greek, Knight of Cups, Captain Underpants
  • David Krumholtz – Superbad, The Playboy Club, This Is The End, The Judge, Casual Encounters

Music Composers:

  • Christopher Lennertz – Horrible Bosses I & II, Ride Along I & II, My Big Fat Greek Wedding II, Bad Moms, The Boss
  • Alan Menken – Beauty & The Beast, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Enchanted, Beauty & The Beast

Ever wondered what an R-rated animated comedy looks like? No, probably not. That’s why Seth Rogan and Jonah Hill, along with three other writers, have come together to bring us Sausage Party. And full credit to them for doing so!

Frank (Seth Rogan) in a packet with other sausages,waiting to be picked by a god (a human). He hopes to be picked with his girlfriend, Brenda the bun (Kristen Wiig) so that they can live together in the Great Beyond.

Frank (Seth Rogan) in a packet with other sausages,waiting to be picked by a god (a human). He hopes to be picked with his girlfriend, Brenda the bun (Kristen Wiig) so that they can live together in the Great Beyond.

Sausage Party predominantly revolves round Frank (voiced by Seth Rogan). Frank is a sausage in a supermarket. Trapped inside a packet with near a dozen other sausages he yearns to be picked by one of the gods (i.e. the humans) and taken to the Great Beyond (i.e. out of the supermarket). It is said that paradise awaits the food that gets picked by humans. However, no food has ever come back to tell the tale. Frank wants to be picked so he can find out and live with his girlfriend, Brenda the bun (voiced by Kristen Wiig), in this supposed paradise.

The plot for Sausage Party might sound utterly absurd, but it is so funny. From start to finish, one cannot help but laugh. Often, one may laugh with embarrassment. But laugh, one will. Indeed, even those who usually cannot stand other (non-animated) films of this genre, such as Superbad, Pineapple Express and 21 & 22 Jump Street can still find Sausage Party very amusing. This is because animation is a different artistic medium and can get away with some of the jokes that real life cannot.

The same is true for the Toy Story movies and for The Simpsons TV-series. While Sausage Party is not on the same intellectual level as those franchises, the movie is not stupid and contains a lot of satire. The Great Beyond is a metaphor for the next world (if it exists) and the search for meaning in life. This is something that all audiences can relate to, regardless of the fact that they are watching non-sentient objects. Moreover, during Frank’s journey, he meets a bagel-shaped Jew (voiced by Edward Norton) and a lavash-shaped Muslim (voiced by David Krumholtz) who don’t want to share an isle; a sauerkraut that looks like Hitler that wants to ‘exterminate the juice’; a meat loaf, voiced by Meat Loaf, singing ‘I’d Do Anything For Love’; a Native-American Indian-looking Firewater, who smokes weed and claims to know ‘The Truth’ about the Great Beyond; and a villainous douche called ‘Il Douche’ (voiced by Nick Kroll), among countless others. All bring their own unique comedic elements to the film, and these satires enrich the experience for viewers tremendously.

Frank and Brenda walking around the supermarket along with a bagel (Edward Norton) and a lavash (David Krumholtz). Typically, the bagel and the lavash do not see eye to eye on anything.

Frank and Brenda walking around the supermarket along with a bagel (Edward Norton) and a lavash (David Krumholtz). Typically, the bagel and the lavash do not see eye to eye on anything.

Granted Sausage Party puts forward these satires with the subtlety of a brick through glass. But that does not make them any less funny, it just makes them crude and borderline offensive. Then again, if one is offended by crude humour, this is the wrong film for such a person. In fact, if one is offended by political incorrectness or racial stereotyping, or juvenile, crass, misogynistic and chauvinistic humour, this film is not for such person. The ensemble cast (and their film resumes) should have told such a person to stay away from this movie. And if he/she did not realise this from the cast, one need only look at Brenda the bun to get a sense of what he/she would be in for as the bun looks (unapologetically) like a vagina.

However, regardless of how much one is amused or offended by Sausage Party, the film drags. For a movie that is often funny and only 89 minutes long, this entails that the film cannot hold its audience as well as it thinks it can. Nor is it as witty or stimulating as it fancies itself to be.

The villainous Il Douche (Nick Kroll), stomping around the supermarket. Il Douche is furious with Frank and wants revenge as he blames Frank for his deformed appearance.

The villainous Il Douche (Nick Kroll), stomping around the supermarket. Il Douche is furious with Frank and wants revenge as he blames Frank for his deformed appearance.

After an hour, the film’s lack of wittiness and stimulation is very much down to the sheer volume of swearing. Sausage Party has enough f-bombs to raise London to the ground. There is no need for that many. It undermines the movie as, after a while, the humour (or lack thereof) becomes repetitive and uncreative… that is until the last scene. No-one can fault Sausage Party for a lack of creativity or stimulation by the end, when a (jaw-dropping) food orgy breaks out. If one ever wondered what an R-rated animation looks like, it is the final scene here because it is more pornographic than pornography.

All-in-all, Sausage Party is a very funny film. The movie becomes tedious after the hour mark and there is undoubtedly too much swearing in it. Nevertheless, it is original and innovative. And for all the film’s obscenity, vulgarity, crassness, crudity, misogyny, chauvinism, sexism, borderline racism and satire, one cannot stop laughing despite himself/herself. All comedies, regardless of whether they are animated or not, are judged by how funny they are, and Sausage Party is absolutely hilarious.

PG’s Tips

Review – Jason Bourne (12a) [2016]

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Star Rating: 2.5/5

Director:

  • Paul Greengrass – Bloody Sunday, Bourne II-III, Green Zone, Captain Phillips

Cast:

Music Composer:

  • David Buckley – Blood Creek, From Paris With Love, The Town, The Boy Downstairs
  • John Powell – Bourne I-III, Paycheck, X-Men III, Green Zone, Rio I & II, How To Train Your Dragon I-III

In 2002, The Bourne Identity came out, starring Matt Damon as the titular character. Based on Robert Ludlum’s best-selling novel, audiences followed Jason Bourne, the CIA’s amnesiac, super-assassin find out who he was. The Bourne Identity was such a success, it was followed by The Bourne Supremacy (2004), The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) and The Bourne Legacy (2012), in which (strangely) Matt Damon/Jason Bourne was absent.

Jason Bourne (Matt Damon), having gone into hiding from the CIA, fights in (quasi-legal) bare-knuckle duels to make a living.

Jason Bourne (Matt Damon), having gone into hiding from the CIA, fights in (quasi-legal) bare-knuckle duels to make a living.

Now, nine years after Matt Damon last played the role, Jason Bourne is back in (the unimaginatively-titled) Jason Bourne. But after having found out (seemingly) all there was to know about his past, what new information could he learn? And, more importantly, does it make for worthwhile viewing?

Jason Bourne begins with Nicky Parsons (Julia Styles) hacking into the CIA and stealing files about Treadstone, the top secret project that Jason Bourne was part of when he first joined the CIA. Whilst hacking, Nicky finds out that Jason’s father, Richard, had a role in Treadstone. So, she goes to Athens and finds Bourne doing quasi-legal bareknuckle fighting for cash.

However, no sooner does Nicky tell Bourne that she has information about his father, the CIA are after them. Bourne now has to evade the CIA once more. Yet, at the same time, he must chase down the necessary people in the CIA who can answer questions about his father.

Jason Bourne is a typical Bourne film, just updated by the touching upon of how Wikileaks founder, Edward Snowden, and data-storing internet companies affect the workings of the CIA. Otherwise, the film has high-octane chases; some good chase sequences, the first of which is particularly well put together, occurring during an anti-austerity riot in Athens; some close-up, shaky-cam fight sequences; and several unexplained plot contrivances. All of which makes for fun viewing.

CIA Director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) keeping close watch of his bent-forward protégé, Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander).

CIA Director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) keeping close watch of his bent-forward protégé, Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander).

Yet, apart from that, there really is not much to Jason Bourne. If anything, this is a step-down from the standards previously set by the first three Bourne films. The directing and editing are awful. Part of the appeal of the original Bourne films was that the camera was so close, shaking and sufficiently cut that one felt like they were part of the fights. That happens again here and it is all right. But it is not all right for the camera to shake when there is no fight going on (seriously Paul Greengrass, invest in a tripod) or to cut fight/action scenes every second or so, as it makes one sick.

Also, viewers learn little we did not already know about the eponymous character… other than that Bourne is a doubly super-assassin. It is amazing (staggering in fact) that Bourne is still able to stay three steps ahead of his former masters, despite being out of the game for nine years. He has always been too good and too intelligent for his masters, but this time it is past the point of credulity since he has not been trained to understand and tackle the technology he is up against now. But, no, he understands how to use it and manipulate it just fine.

Perhaps, that is why all the cast look so unenthused. Matt Damon says little, but looks the part: tough and mean (then again, this could be Damon’s grumpy face at the prospect of facing another day of shooting). Alicia Vikander, for the first time in her stellar career, is badly miscast and unconvincing as the ambitious head of the cyber operations of the CIA. Her character’s motives are never clearly explained, which is half of the problem. The other half is that Vikander looks too young for her character’s role, and her character is too weak to be in the position Greengrass has put her in; especially, when compared to the similar role (and apt) Joan Allen played in Bourne II-IV.

The Asset (Vincent Cassel) trying to keep up with Bourne.

The Asset (Vincent Cassel) trying to keep up with Bourne.

The other characters of note in Jason Bourne are played by a grizzled, weather-worn Tommy Lee Jones (coming from nowhere to be the senior CIA man) and a scary, super-assassin played by Vincent Cassel (who is called The Asset. Yes, Greengrass and the other writers are so creatively bankrupt that they failed to give Cassel’s character a proper name or at least a fear-inducing codename.) Neither Jones’ nor Cassel’s performances are memorable, and (embarrassingly) Brian Cox and Karl Urban, respectively, played the exact same roles as they do in The Bourne Supremacy. As a result, one has a terrible sense of déjà vu watching Jason Bourne, and not in a good way.

All-in-all, Jason Bourne is an entertaining film, if an unnecessary addition to the Bourne series. The movie contains the standard tropes that audiences enjoy, plus Matt Damon is back. But the film adds nothing new to the franchise, and from the directing, to the acting, to the plot, to the general lack of imagination in the film, one cannot help but note that the movie is riddled with problems. What’s worse is that so much of Jason Bourne has been copied from other Bourne films. And there is no worse an insult to a sequel than for it to be deemed a poor imitation of its predecessors.

PG’s Tips

Review – Eye In The Sky (15) [2016]

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Star Rating: 4.5/5

Director:

  • Gavin Hood – A Reasonable Man, Rendition, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Ender’s Game

Cast:

  • Alan Rickman – Die Hard, Harry Potter I-VII(i) & VII(ii), Sweeney Todd, Alice In Wonderland I & II
  • Helen Mirren – The Queen, The Debt, Brighton Rock, Woman In Gold, Collateral Beauty
  • Aaron Paul – The Last House On The Left, Breaking Bad, Exodus: Gods And Kings, Central Intelligence
  • Barkhad Abdi – Captain Phillips, Grimsby, Extortion
  • Aisha Takow
  • Iain Glen – Kingdom of Heaven, The Iron Lady, Game of Thrones, Resident Evil: The Final ChapterMy Cousin Rachel
  • Lex King
  • Phoebe Fox – The Woman In Black II: Angel of Death, Life In Squares, The Hollow Crown
  • Monica Dolan – Sightseers, Kick-Ass II, Pride, The Falling

Music Composer:

  • Paul Hepker – Tsotsi, Rendition, Deadliest Catch, Shepherds And Butchers
  • Mark Kilian – Rendition, Trust Me, Lady Bloodfight, Beyond Paradise

In January this year, Alan Rickman lost his battle with pancreatic cancer and passed away. He was a wonderfully talented actor and his presence will be greatly missed on screen. Nevertheless, cinema-goers are privileged to have one last posthumous performance from him, and boy is it special.

Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren) on the phone, desperately trying to get permission to launch a drone strike to capture, and then kill, certain high-profile terrorists.

Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren) on the phone, desperately trying to get permission to launch a drone strike to capture, and then kill, certain high-profile terrorists.

Eye In The Sky centres round the British military wanting to capture Al-Shabaab terrorists meeting in a safe house in Nairobi, Kenya. Through intelligence, Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren) has learned that Susan Danford (Lex King), an Islamic convert who is high up on the UK’s and US’ terrorist list, has been seen. Moreover, through Farah (Barkhad Abdi), a Kenyan undercover operator, Col Powell learns that Danford and two other Islamist terrorists are getting ready to commit suicide attacks in the Kenyan capital. Thus, Danford and her friends need to be killed and quickly.

Yet, for Col. Powell to give Steve Watts (Aaron Paul), a Nevada-based US pilot, the order to fire the drone to kill Danford and her friends, she needs to get permission from her superiors, notably the London-based Attorney, Lieutenant General Frank Benson (Alan Rickman). And in order for him to give Col. Powell his consent, he needs to evaluate the legality of the drone attack; the extent of the collateral damage that is likely to occur if he orders a strike; and how many people could die if he does not order the strike and lets Susan Danford and her friends go through with their suicide attacks in a densely-populated area. And provided Lt Gen Benson can prove that ordering the strike is the correct course of action, he then has to get authorisation from his political masters.

In the meantime, while Col. Powell waits and Lt Gen Benson talks, the time is ticking. For every moment they don’t act, the more chance Susan Danford and her friends have to get away. And to make matters more complicated still, a little girl called Alia (Aisha Takow) decides to sell bread within a yard of where they plan to strike.

Lieutenant General Frank Benson (Alan Rickman) listening to the arguments for and against launching a drone strike, while waiting for permission to launch it.

Lieutenant General Frank Benson (Alan Rickman) listening to the arguments for and against launching a drone strike, while waiting for permission to launch it.

Eye In The Sky is an intense film. It is completely realistic and has some real-world comparisons; for instance, Susan Danford is an alias for Samantha Lewthwaite, an Islamic convert and widow of Lyndsey Germaine, one of the 7/7 suicide bombers, who has now disappeared and is believed to be assisting Al-Shabaab somewhere in the Horn of Africa. Of equal comparison to the real-world are the moral and ethical questions that the film puts forward. This gives the film great complexity as there are no straight-forward answers to the questions; for example, once Alia places herself next to the target, is it right to kill one innocent little girl to save (speculatively-speaking) eighty-plus people? Or is it right to do nothing and let the suicide bombers get away and kill those eighty-plus people when they could have been stopped? And whatever course of action one decides to take, how will the British government explain it to the media (and to the Kenyans)? And how will that make Britain/the West look with regards to the propaganda war that the West so desperately needs to win in order to win the War on Terror?

Cleverly, Eye In The Sky does not force one view or another on its audience. Instead, it illustrates how many hoops Western politicians and military personnel must jump through before they can give the go-ahead for a drone strike, as well as the painstaking lengths they will go to minimise collateral damage, even at the expense of missing out on their targets. Indeed, under the circumstances (they are trying to exterminate terrorists and have a very short time-period to do so, after-all), one would expect Western leaders to be more sociopathic in their inclinations and be willing to launch a drone strike virtually on a whim. However, from this film, one can see that the opposite is true and that even the most hawkish of military figures, Col. Powell/Helen Mirren, do their utmost to save innocent (and not so innocent) lives.

Col Powell looking at an aerial view of the house she wishes to strike (right) and the people she wants to take out inside the house (left). Meanwhile, on the perimeter of the house, Alia sits and sells bread.

Col Powell looking at an aerial view of the house she wishes to strike (right) and the people she wants to take out inside the house (left). Meanwhile, on the perimeter of the house, Alia sits and sells bread.

Suffice to say the acting is superb throughout the film. Alan Rickman, Helen Mirren and Aaron Paul are apt for their parts and give the right amount of emotional depth to their roles. Also, Rickman’s last line to the (aggravating but necessary) British advisor, played by Monica Dolan, is powerful and poignant. It is such a shame Rickman will no longer be gracing our screens; yet, if there is a way to bow out in a distinguished manner cinematically, his last line is it.

Over-all, Eye In The Sky is a brilliant film. It is an authentic, tense and thought-provoking piece of work that does not aim to push its audience one way or another. Consequently, the movie will have viewers pondering whether they would have acted as our protagonists did long after the film has ended. Furthermore, Eye In The Sky will make audiences appreciate just how conscientious Western leaders are when it comes to giving the green light for a drone strike in a civilian area in the War On Terror. Alan Rickman ensures it.

PG’s Tips

Review – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (12a) [2016]

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Star Rating: 2/5

Director:

  • Zack Snyder – 300, Watchmen, Sucker Punch, Man of Steel, Justice League: Part I

Executive Producer:

Cast:

Music Composers:

Batman v Superman…? The title alone draws a sigh. How can a mortal defeat an immortal? How can a man defeat a god? These questions already hint at problems with the film and that is before its 151-minute running time begins. And then there is the problem of Director Zack Snyder, and the sigh lengthens. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was doomed from the start, wasn’t it?

The villainous Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), getting in away of a first and tense encounter between Clarke Kent (Henry Cavill) and Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck).

The villainous Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), getting in away of a first and tense encounter between Clarke Kent (Henry Cavill) and Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck).

  Batman v Superman (BvS) is about… well, that is another of the film’s many problems. The first 90-100 minutes are a convoluted, chaotic and inconsistent muddle just to pit Batman (Ben Affleck) and Superman (Henry Cavill) in a fist fight against one another. And this fist fight, which comes to include Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) and Doomsday (aka the Cave Troll from Lord of the Rings I: The Fellowship of the Ring) goes on for an Earth’s turn.

One would have thought that Zack Snyder had learned his lessons from Man of Steel and not put in a long (pointless and boring) fist fight in which collateral damage is caused on a colossal scale. (The first two-thirds of BvS bangs on about how much of a menace Superman is because of the collateral damage he caused in his flying fight with General Zod.) But no. The fight scenes at the end of BvS go on for even longer and cause even more collateral damage than in Man of Steel. It is quite astonishing, really.

What is not astonishing, however, are the twists in BvS. Worse, they are not in the least surprising. (The trailer gives most of them away anyway.) One twist in particular, which has to do with Clark Kent’s and Bruce Wayne’s deceased mothers, is downright stupid. Who thought that was a good idea? Was it you, Snyder? Really?

A fire-eyed Doomsday, ready to destroy all of mankind. Weta are behind the design of this 'terrifying' monster. Alas, the same company have used this monster before and he was defeated then. So what chance of him surviving this time around?

A fire-eyed Doomsday, ready to destroy all of mankind. Weta are behind the design of this ‘terrifying’ monster. Alas, the same company have used this monster before and he was defeated then. So what chance of him surviving this time around?

And whose idea was it to have an origins story for Bruce Wayne? We had that in 2005 with Batman Begins. There was no need to have it in this film; especially not with that utterly clichéd, slow-motioned “Noooooooooo!”. For goodness sake, in 2005 Darth Vadar did it in Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and it was laughable back then. So again, whose idea was it to put that in BvS? Was it you, Snyder? Or are you going to blame Christopher Nolan? (Yes, that genius who gave us The Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception and a host of other thought-provoking films. Quite frankly, it is hard to believe that Nolan had any input into the plot for BvS as one can believe he can excrete a better film than this one.)

Whether Snyder or Nolan are to blame for the paucity of BvS, it should be noted that the actors are entirely blameless. In fact, Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, Jesse Eisenberg, Jeremy Irons and Amy Adams should be commended for trying so damn hard to make something of this train wreck. No-one can question their efforts. Although, Clark Kent/Superman is by nature devoid of character, making him somewhat boring to watch; and Lex Luthor… well, it is hard to say what Snyder was aiming for with the character. Villains can be scary, cunning, honourable, witty, sadistic or cruel (or mixtures of all those traits). But villains cannot be annoying, and Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor is bloody annoying. As a result, one wants him dead the moment he introduces himself and for all the wrong reasons.

Lastly, it should be said that even this disaster of a movie has some positive points. The relationship between Bruce Wayne and Alfred is one such point. Alfred might be the commander-in-chief of Bruce’s arsenal instead of his butler (just go with it), yet whenever the two of them are together on-screen the scenes are genuinely enjoyable and wryly funny. For a film that takes itself way too seriously (but has stupidly unrealistic fight scenes), Bruce and Alfred strike the right tonal balance so as to make the jokes apt for their circumstances.

Superman and Batman on the same side (shocking!), along with Wonder Woman (centre, Gal Gadot), to take down Doomsday.

Superman and Batman on the same side (shocking!), along with Wonder Woman (centre, Gal Gadot), to take down Doomsday.

The other major positive point is the visuals. Credit where credit is due: Snyder knows how to make his products look shiny. It is just a shame that the visuals have no substance under the gloss.

Over-all, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a mess. The storylines are all over the place, the tone is off, and the fight scenes go on for too long. Bruce Wayne and Alfred provide highlights that one can enjoy, but not even Ben Affleck’s and Jeremy Irons’ best efforts can make this film worthwhile. No, they and the rest of the cast have been badly let down by director Zack Snyder. The man should not helm another movie until he learns how to write a sound and logical script. Nevertheless, guess who Hollywood has signed up to direct Justice League: Part I & II? Yes, you guessed it: Zack Snyder. To quote Homer Simpson: “D’oh!”

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Review – Goodnight Mommy (15) [2016]

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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.

PG’s Tips

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.

PG’s Tips