Beautiful Boy Movie Review

­­­7/10

An engrossing true drama and character study. Beautiful Boy unflinchingly reveals the ugly impact of drug abuse on families and has some stellar performances from its cast.

The film follows the life story of Nic Sheff a young man who succumbs to drug and alcohol addiction. As Nic battles his demons, his family tirelessly tries to help him overcome his addiction and repeated relapses. Timothée Chalamet plays Nic, with Steve Carrell supporting him as his father David. Together they combine to tell the story through their eyes as the film seamlessly covers years of Nic’s battles.

While difficult to watch, Beautiful Boy is incredibly engrossing to watch. Especially through the film’s examination of the different ways Nic’s addiction impacts those around him. The story unflinchingly portrays his tendencies to become a pathological liar; a thief; a terrified youth and a helpless emotional victim. All of which I had no doubt that such situations would be all too familiar for those who have unfortunately experienced the same problems with loved ones or friends. I found it quite the brutal and honest portrayal of a person struggling with a terrible issue, but I was glad that the film didn’t shy away from showing such harrowing situations.

The film is also led by an extremely talented cast who collectively make it quite the performance driven piece.

Steve Carrel is starting to prove himself capable of more dramatic roles in recent years and I was pleasantly surprised that his performance as David didn’t disappoint. chooses to take on a quiet desperation in David’s characterisation rather than the aggressive, shouting father figures that are often the standard character approach to similar roles. This approach grounded the character’s performance and made him feel more real to me.

Timothée Chalamet is equally brilliant. His ability to flick between his raging mood swings and consistently casually lying to his family without is both impressive and horrifically sad to watch. I also enjoyed his neurotic take on Nic that further alienates him from societal norms; making it harder for him to come back from his drug addiction.

Maura Tierney also does a great job as Nic’s stepmom. She captures the awkward combination of sympathy and detachment felt for Nic being her character is a person not directly related to him. Her love for Nic is evident but the need to protect her own children from the realities of the world that they’re currently too young to understand is also a driving factor that sees her take a much stronger approach to Nic. One of her best moments is a scene where she’s chasing Nic in a mad car chase that’s both incredibly tense and sad to watch. A true testament of the despair her character feels.

Interestingly, director Felix van Groeningen brings a hallucinogenic feel to the film often shifts the timeline the story operates within. This creates a feeling of confusion as to how much time passes, cleverly symbolizing the same feeling Nic experiences under the influence. There are times when it’s hard to keep track of how much time has passed in the story as the characters don’t seem to get older but it’s a memorable film that keeps you thinking for days long after you’ve seen it.

Finally, the soundtrack adds electric song choices. While they may not fit the emotion trying to be captured, they are suited to the moment and feel like intimate snapshots of moments that revolve around a song. It’s an interesting technique but in a way feels natural and adds to the realism of the entire film.

Ultimately Beautiful Boy is a harrowing but engrossing character study. Even though the film does feel long, it’s well balanced and brutally honest portrayals of the story’s issues more than makeup for it. This one film that might be difficult to watch but it’s worth taking the time to do so. See it.

A Star Is Born Movie Review

7/10

Fourth time’s the charm for this remake. While A Star Is Born borrows the same core plotline from the original 1937 film, the 1954 musical, the 1976 rock musical and 2013 Bollywood romance film (almost as many Rocky movies), it’s thankfully still worth the watch.

First-time director and actor Bradley Cooper direct the latest adaptation, which tells the trajectory of two musicians’ careers.  Ally, played by Lady Gaga, is a young singer on the rise to fame and fortune, whereas Jack (Bradley Cooper) is on a downward alcoholic spiral. The pair fall in love and attempts to navigate their relationship through their individual success and failures.

I was pleasantly surprised that the film felt fresh and original despite being a fourth remake. Cooper updates the story by putting us in the middle of modern-day rock concerts and directs scenes that show the madness of performing to large crowds. This helped give the film relevance to an updated period but also smartly provided an enjoyable burst of energy.

Another neat aspect to Cooper’s direction was his use of close-ups on Ally, which reflected how Jack’s attentive passion for her. Sometimes these shots would cut in unusually close and focus on certain features of Ally’s face; subtly bringing out the affectionate nature of these intimate moments.

A Star Is Born also cleverly works music to juxtapose the main character’s relationships on and off the stage. Cooper does this by reserving the music largely for when the pair is performing and keeping the soundscape quiet whenever their outside of this stage setting.  It cleverly shows the stark difference between Ally and Jack’s loud and boisterous professional life versus their quiet and intimate private life.

Cooper plays the addiction-riddled Jack to his usual high standard and I thought he was great for the part. He manages to show the subtle pain of a gruff, anger-filled fading musician, whose years of hurt are badly hidden and eased only by alcohol and prescription drugs.

He also bravely sings in the film, which is quite daunting on his part when up against Lady Gaga. While indeed the two have quite the chemistry, Cooper manages to pull his own weight through his ability to play the piano and guitar which help make him more believable in his role.

Interestingly, Sam Elliott brings a comforting presence in his supporting role and an overall calmness to the film. Elliot plays Jack’s much older brother-turned-manager Bobby. The brother’s share an often-tense relationship and I was thoroughly engrossed in watching their dynamics unfold. Their confrontation at the end of the film and Jack’s final line to Bobby was the most heart-wrenching part of the film.

But ultimately A Star Is Born is the Lady Gaga show.

She completely and utterly steals the show with her brilliant voice and emotive ballads, on top of delivering a great performance. Ally’s growth over the course of the film had me rooting for her the entire way, but also in admiration for the sacrifices she makes to love and protect Jack.

Ally is raw and honest with Jack, letting him know when things are shitty but also trying to help him work through his demons. Gaga proves herself worthy as an actor in a way that most people wouldn’t have seen before. There are no over the top costumes or meat dresses but just a down to Earth Gaga in her natural brown hair. Fans of Gaga will see similarities in her character’s journey to her own but the film is not a story of her rise (think a step down from 8 Mile which starred global superstar rapper Eminem).

Cooper makes a valiant attempt to tell both sides of the story for this couple, and for the most part, it works. I still felt that film overall is a little bit too long and there are moments in the middle that could have been cut in the editing room. But in terms of capturing addiction and the craziness of fame, the film manages to do that while not making Jack and Ally seem ungrateful for their success.

This wasn’t an easy task for Cooper to undertake, especially on his first outing as a director. But his clear passion and enthusiasm for the film manage to make a timeless film with enough originality and soulful tracks to keep the buzz around this film going, at least until the Oscars.

Bohemian Rhapsody Movie Review

6.5/10

A solid biopic. Bohemian Rhapsody is a fitting film about one of the world’s greatest bands and an iconic figure of music. While it’s not one of the best biopics ever made, it’s still a crowd pleaser and worth the watch.

The film explores the life of Freddie Mercury and his career as lead singer of Queen. It tracks Mercury’s recruitment into the band and leads all the way up to their historic performance at Live Aid. A large focus is put on capturing the singer’s struggles and successes in both his personal and professional life.

What works great the film’s themes of family and diligent determination to realises one’s expectation of themselves. Both ideas give a relatable human factor to the story, which is needed when dealing with a film about global rock stars.

I enjoyed how the band constantly referred to themselves as a family of misfits who play to other misfits like them. While a little cheesy, it helps humanise the superstar band as everyday individuals. It’s interesting to see the band compare their dynamics and internal conflicts to that of a typical family as Mercury would often point out.

I also liked the films focus on Mercury’s diligent determination to realise his expectations of himself. Mercury’s determination to improve himself and accomplish his dreams are relatable human values and it’s inspirational to see others strive towards their goals. I found myself being thoroughly engrossed in watching his talent shine throughout the course of the film.

My only issue with the story is that it’s quite predictable. There are familiar beats and obvious signals to pick up that make it simple to know where the film is going to go. Even if I was born on Mars and had never heard of Queen or Freddie Mercury, the arc of the story is easy to gather.

Production wise the performances and camera work were both entertaining to watch.

I particularly liked Rami Malek who (fittingly) stood out as Freddie Mercury. Apart from the costumes, his flamboyant demeanor and stage presence in the film would have made Mercury proud. There’s a lot of visible effort in his performance to try and match the same level of life as one of the best performers in musical history. Although this is ultimately impossible to do so, Malek should commend himself and be proud.

Finally, some of the camera work in the film was also interesting to watch. One sequence involved a continuous shot of a camera flying between the legs of a piano and then onto the large crowd. While shots like these didn’t come often, I appreciated that there was an effort made to include them and I thought they were a nice touch.

Overall Bohemian Rhapsody is a solid biopic. Even if it feels safe* and predictable, the film works well as a crowd pleaser and I still enjoyed myself. Yes, it’s not the greatest biopic ever made but it’s still worth the watch. Especially for the epic finale which on its own feels incredible. See it.

*I wonder what the film would have looked like if Sacha Baron Cohen had played Freddie Mercury and realised his initial vision for the singer. Link here to the interview where he discussed this.

Halloween Movie Recommendations: Part 2 (2018 Edition)

More recommendations for horror films this Halloween. Link to Part 1 here:

Funny Games (2007)

8.5/10

The perfectly executed horror film.

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Funny Games is a psychological horror that follows two young men and their reign of terror on a poor family. Toying with them through torture and sadistic games, the film explores violence in cinema to harrowing heights. The result is quite the message.

In my view, Funny Games is a perfectly executed horror film from writer and director Michael Haneke. Not only is it horrifying; it’s also very intelligent and knows exactly what it’s trying to do. The film is essentially a vehicle for Haneke’s opinions on the audience’s fascination with violence in cinema. Perhaps this is why it is still polarising to some but to me, it elevates Funny Games as a horror masterpiece.

This is up there with the intelligence of A Cabin In The Woods, another great horror film.

Side note: whether you watch the original French or American remake, it won’t matter. Both are the same shot for shot and I enjoyed each equally.

Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead (2006) and Dead Alive (1992)

6.5/10

Explosive diarrhea and lawnmowers chopping people’s faces.

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Poultrygeist and Dead Alive are splatter horror comedy’s that I’m recommending to watch as a double bill. The latter being written and directed by New Zealand’s most famous export, Peter Jackson. Yes, before he was winning academy awards for epic films about hobbits, he was busy killing the undead with basic kitchenware items.

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Whereas Dead Alive follows the rise of the human undead, Poultrygeist bests it by introducing the rise of the chicken undead. These films won’t be for everyone but if you love intentionally bad dialogue and laughing your head off to the most ridiculous scenes of prop gore, then these films are for you.

May (2002)

6.5/10

A slow burn creepy classic.

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May follows the life of a young woman who struggles to connect with anyone. Her only true “friend” is a glass-encased doll; a gift from her mother. It was given to May with the adage “if you can’t find a friend, make one”.

The film cleverly builds on this phrase and slowly descends into a quiet madness. May might be the least heard of film on this list but it’s definitely the creepiest. This is one of those films something very bad is going to happen but you just don’t know what.

A large part of this is thanks to lead actress Angela Bettis. Her performance is great at getting you to sympathise for May while making her feel creepy. There’s a lot of awkward touches to her personality and overall I thought she did a great job.

Yes, it is low budget but if you don’t mind the slow burn nature of the plot, May is definitely a film for you. There’s one hell of a climax at the end and that sequence alone is worth a watch. Check it out.

“Amateur Night” segment from V/H/S (2012)

7/10

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This a bonus recommendation as it’s a short film segment that appears in the horror movie anthology known as V/H/S.

The film overall is a muddled collection of found footage films from different directors and is very hit and miss. However, the “Amateur Night” segment by writer/director David Bruckner is a big hit and I love it.

Bruckner cleverly solved the question I have with many found footage horrors which is “why are you still holding the camera?”. He does this by placing the camera inside the glasses of a character so we can see his point of view and the horrors he witnesses. This made “Amateur Night” incredibly immersive for me to watch and I had a blast. For those that are a fan of found footage horror films like The Blair Witch Project, this is a must watch to the list. But don’t look up anything for it online.

Suspiria Movie Review

8.5/10

A masterpiece mix of Rosemary’s Baby meets Black Swan. Suspiria is a disturbing, shocking, and thoroughly engrossing psychological horror. Yes, it holds a few flaws but ultimately, this is modern cinema at its finest.

The story is set towards the tail of the Cold War in 1977 Berlin. We follow the journey of a young American dancer Susie Bannion (Dakota Johnson), who is accepted into the prestigious but mysterious Markos Dance Academy. Strange occurrences begin to occur, and Susie soon finds herself among company that’s of a different kind. Hint: this is not a film for kids.

The most enjoyable factor for me was the suspense, as subtly indicated within the name of the film. A large part of this comes from the story and its incredibly developed mythology teased out an array of harrowing concepts over time. Every time a new detail was shed, the more intrigued I became and the suspense of what could linger in the future was added.

I also loved how the film structures complemented the build-up in sense over time. Like a Quentin Tarantino film, the story was divided up into chapters and each added to this looming dreaded feeling for next part of the story. Think Paranormal Activity and how each new night brought about something worse than the one before.

The other parts that I thought were great to build suspense were the direction and performances.

Director Luca Guadagnino did a great job in breaking up these segments and teasing out important details to solidify the suspense. One of my favourite features was his use of the zoom on particular objects or faces. Apart from adding obvious focus to details important to the story, they were often employed before moments of dread and in turn made these scenes interesting to watch.

Normally directors would cut to a close-up but to me, Guadagnino’s choice of the zoom is far more interesting from a visual standpoint. Most of the zooms were done slowly, forcing me to gradually ascertain what important detail is being put forward.

It reminded me of Yorgos Lanthimos’ works (another great director, see our Dogtooth, The Lobster and The Killing of the Sacred Deer reviews) as he also forces in this feeling of suspense from a zoom compared to a quick cut of a close-up. The latter style speeds up the information transfer process and doesn’t allow momentary confusion while I figure things out. Great in action pieces to hide the cheated punches; less in suspenseful horrors where you want to slowly tease out details and build up suspense (unless of course horror films want to use jump scares).

Interestingly, Guadagnino’s other works Call Me By Your Name and I Am Love which are dramatic films that are very different from Suspiria. Both of those are great films but I was still (pleasantly) surprised to see Guadagnino handle himself quite well in a horror genre.

Performances wise, Dakota Johnson was fine as Susie Bannion but it was Tilda Swinton who blew me away with her two roles; one of which I didn’t even realise she acted for it until looking up the cast credits. I don’t want to give this part away because I think the experience of picking this up later will make you smile but think Gary Oldman level of transformation. Suffice to say, she was simply incredible.

Apart from being a linguistic master, there are so many subtleties in her performance that really does confirm her as my favourite actress to watch. In Suspiria she plays a dance director with great commanding body movements but also real earnest in her eyes. She can give a lot away about her character simply through the way she stares at you and I found it fantastic to watch.

My only gripes with Suspiria are with subplots that could have been cut because they didn’t add anything to the story or weren’t addressed later.

Without giving too much away, there’s a subplot with the RAF (if you watch the film you’ll know what I mean) that kept getting raised but never had a payoff. I’m trying to grasp its relevance to the themes of the film, but I still don’t know what its point was. There’s also one character with glasses (again you’ll know who I mean) who I felt was important to the story but was never addressed by the end of the film. Once again, I’m not sure what her role was and I’m of the mind that this subplot could have been cut.

I also have a slight issue with the way the finale played out which came across as comical in parts even though that the exact opposite of its intention. After a while it became kind of ridiculous and in my opinion, it could have been presented differently to make it feel more harrowing. I can’t say exactly why it came across as comical without giving anything, but this is more of a minor issue compared to the almost pointless subplots.

Overall Suspiria is an incredibly well-made film and I had a blast watching it. I’m thoroughly recommending this to those that enjoyed Rosemary’s Baby and Black Swan because Suspiria feels like a mix of the two. Otherwise, if you like suspenseful psychological horrors in general, then this will still be right up your alley.

Be warned, it is quite long. The film clocks in at 2 hours and 32 minutes but thankfully I didn’t feel the film ever drag on because there’s a lot of intriguing suspense going on (even with the pointless subplots). This is a film that had enough for me to take away from one sitting but also made me more curious to read up on later (though I probably won’t be watching it again because I’m happy with what I got the first time).

I’m predicting this to be an early contender for Best Adapted Screenplay at next year’s Oscar’s as it’s based on the 1977 original of the same name. But until then, see the 2018 version when you can.

EDIT:

I forgot to add that the music is also composed by Thom Yorke, lead single and lyricist of Radiohead. Just when you thought things couldn’t get any better right?

Bad Times at the El Royale Movie Review

5/10

Not that great of a time.

Bad Times at the El Royale had the beginnings of a great film; a stellar cast, interesting characters, and a beautiful 1950s-like setting. However, El Royale gets lost in its own flashy homage and forgets to produce anything of substance from the story.

The film is written and directed by Drew Goddard, who has works include A Cabin in the Woods, The Martian, World War Z, Cloverfield, and even episodes of Lost. He’s also written a shit load for Netflix’s Daredevil series (seriously, Google this and you might be surprised as I was). With such a solid resume (even though I wouldn’t count World War Z exactly solid) I was surprised that El Royale wasn’t as good as Goddard’s past work.

The film follows seven guests who check in to the El Royale hotel, each sharing a shady past and an uncertain future. Their lives begin to intertwine when secrets come seeping out of their rugged suitcases. And yes, the premise does sound very familiar to Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight.

Unlike that film, the major problem with El Royale is that it struggles to juggle seven character arcs. Each of their story is slowly teased out in the beginning and then abruptly tied off. By the end of the film I was left wondering what was the point of all of it? It didn’t feel like there was an end goal that tied in these stories and I don’t know what the purpose was for having these arcs.

The film builds these beautifully flawed and complex characters but then doesn’t utilize them to their full potential. This is one of those cases where the story would have been better formatted as a television series. It could have solved my issues with underdeveloped character trajectories; glaring loose ends that were never answered; and a disappointing ending which I can’t go into without spoiling.

In saying this, the film isn’t a complete disaster. The production design of the hotel was brilliant. One of the neatest aspects was the corridors inside the hotel that were built with two-way mirrors, allowing you to see into each of the rooms. It’s an interesting and original touch that adds a lot of intriguing tension to the story.

The hotels foyer area is also a wonderful throwback to the early 1950’s. It hosts a record jukebox, a lavish gold bar and several milk bar styled vending machines. The rhythmic soul music that oozes out of the jukebox fits perfectly with films homage to 50’s. This is further accentuated by the character Darlene Sweet, who created a stunning soundtrack that kept my interest piqued.

While the cast is full of well-known names such as Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm, and Chris Hemsworth, it’s unlikely duo Jeff Bridges and Cynthia Erivo that steal the show. Erivo plays timid soul singer Sweet who after being taken advantage of by her music producer decides to try and make it on her own. Meanwhile Bridges plays Catholic Priest Daniel Flynn who is obsessed with digging for buried money under the floorboards of the hotel rooms.

When Flynn realizes he has the wrong room, he attempts to befriend Sweet to get access to hers instead. Their unlikely friendship is a joy to watch, but it’s Bridges’ honest portrayal of someone suffering from early on-set Alzheimer’s that gives his character a sympathetic side that otherwise wouldn’t exist. Sweet also gives sympathy to Flynn as he stumbles his way through old forgotten memories; giving their bond a relatable human factor that I enjoyed.

El Royale is an interesting mix. There are some excellent parts to its presentation, but the most important aspect of story is still somewhat a mess. This is far from Goddard’s best work, which is a bit sad, but hopefully this might be later rebooted as a television series. The story and characters just feel too big of a beast for a 2-and-a-half-hour film and I’d much rather see it play out in a series. Ultimately if you skipped this film, you wouldn’t be missing much. Plus, there are other great films to watch instead (see our Mandy review) and hopefully more being released soon (I’m looking at you Suspiria, please be good).

First Man Movie Review

6.5/10

Good but not great.

First Man is a biographical drama about astronaut Neil Armstrong and stars Ryan Gosling in the lead role. The film covers the decade leading up to his most famous accomplishment and the numerous struggles he toiled with along the way.

My largest complaint with First Man is that there are far too many conflicts raised. The film quickly tries to cover Armstrong’s struggles with loss, family, friends, NASA, public scrutiny and the missions leading up to (and inclusive) Apollo 11. Clearly, there’s a lot going on.

The problem is that the film doesn’t know which one to focus on. In my opinion, First Man overcrams many different conflicts to the point where none of them were given enough time for them to be impactful. It reminds of the Simpsons when where Mr. Burns discovers that he has an overabundance of diseases. Each effectively cancels the others out because they all can’t fit through the “door” at the same time to cause him any harm.

the simpsons infographic for first man.pngA visual metaphor for how First Man tries to cover all its conflicts.

The overall effect makes the film less dramatic than what I was expecting it to be. Comparing it to a similar film of nature like Apollo 13First Man feels like a comfortable walk in the park. Unlike First Man, Apollo 13 focused primarily on one single event. In my view, this was a big reason why that film felt way more dramatic. One major conflict (or overarching issue) generally help an audience connect more to the struggles of characters. Instead of introducing several conflicts and hoping one of them will stick.

Maybe this is because director Damian Chazelle (La La Land, Whiplash) wasn’t responsible for writing the script. Chazelle wrote and directed Whiplash, a film that I see as one of the most intense and dramatic films of the past decade. And funnily enough that was just a fictional story about a young jazz drummer; not about mankind landing on the moon.

Surprisingly First Man was written by Josh Singer, the man responsible for Oscar-winning dramas like Spotlight and The Post. I’m even more puzzled as to what went wrong when it came to him drafting the screenplay for this film.

I also questioned some of Chazelle’s directing choices. There is a stupendous amount of the same shot setups in this film that get recycled from scenes that similar in nature. Action set pieces would often cut back and forth between extreme close-ups of the characters eyes. Scenes with characters talking would typically involve basic shot-reverse shot close-ups. While the whole film wasn’t like this and there were some other very neat shots, I couldn’t help but feel like he dropped the ball compared to his previous work.

But as I said, not all of First Man is bad. The film works well as a crash course through the history of the 1960’s space race. Most of it might not be as dramatic as it could have been but I still enjoyed getting an overview of what it took for mankind to land upon the moon. Plus one of the events shown in the film did come off as feeling very intense and reading later up on it I still can’t believe it happened in real life.

I also enjoyed the overall look of the film which felt very authentic to the period it was set in. Most of the shots included a grainy film aesthetic and made the film look like it was produced during the 60’s. The same goes for the costumes and set designs that really do put you in the atmosphere of this time.

First Man isn’t a dramatic masterpiece and I fathom to say that I’d be surprised if it was nominated for Best Picture at the Oscar’s (though many critics are raving about the film). It’s still an enjoyable film and I didn’t find myself being bored overall, even if I was ultimately disappointed. Give this one a watch if you’re interested in seeing what it took to get man on the moon, but I wouldn’t be rushing out of the house to go see it.

Halloween Movie Recommendations: Part 1 (2018 Edition)

Here’s a quick overview of horror films we recommend for this Halloween (more films in upcoming parts).

Martyrs (2008)

7.5/10

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Gruesome and truly horrifying.

Martyrs is a French psychological horror film that tells the revenge story of Lucie and Anna, two victims of brutal child abuse. Fifteen years after Lucie escaped from an icy torture chamber, she and Anna track down their former captors to exact their revenge. Their search uncovers a secret organization but Lucie and Anna quickly realise that they’re yet to experience the true face of evil.

This is the most brutal horror film I’ve seen and that’s also the main aspect that makes it so engrossing. It’s meant to be dark, bleak and horrifying, and that’s why I love it. For fans looking to expand their horror film library and for those seeking out sheer dread and scare, then this is the film for you.

Audition (1999)

8/10

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A slow burn horror with one of the best payoffs.

Audition is a disturbing Japanese thriller that follows Aoyama, a recent widower who decides to pickup dating again. With the help of his film producer, Aoyama holds auditions for a fake dating production that secretly introduces him to attractive and single women. From these mock castings Aoyama meets the gorgeous but reserved Asami and their relationship begins to develop. However, Asami isn’t what she appears to be, and Aoyama eventually finds himself faced with a horror that he’s never known before.

While Audition is a film that gradually increases the tension ever so slowly, ultimately it leads to a harrowing climax that makes the whole wait worth it. This is a film that purposefully takes it’s time because it knows how great the payoff at the end will be. If you’re after something with more pace than Audition won’t be the film for you. But if you’re looking for a masterpiece in horror suspense, you’ve come to the right place.

Pandorum (2009)

6.5/10

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Dead Space meets Resident Evil meets The Descent.

Pandorum is a sci-fi horror that plays out like a lucid dream reminiscent of films like Memento and The Matrix. Astronauts Payton and Bower awake from hypersleep with no memory of who they are or what their mission was. Payton stays behind to monitor the radio while Bower explores the seemingly abandoned spaceship. The astronauts quickly realise that they are not alone, and the fate of mankind will hinge on what they do next.

While it’s nowhere near being a horror classic, Pandorum is very much so underrated and often overlooked. The story is fast-paced with several action scenes that make it an exciting to watch. The film does borrow elements from other films, but I feel like it combines the best from those classics into something that still makes Pandorum feel original. If you loved any of those previously mentioned film influences and are into sci-fi gore horror, then give this one a watch.

Mandy Movie Review

7/10

A mesmerising experience and one of the best movies for 2018 so far. Nicolas Cage makes a fine return with an action-horror film that’s incredibly stylistic and thoroughly entertaining. But be warned, this is not a film for the faint of heart.

Mandy tells the story of Red Miller (Nicolas Cage) and his girlfriend Mandy Bloom (Andrea Riseborough). Red works as a logger while Mandy is a cashier and paints abstract fantasy art in her spare time. The two live a reclusive life until one day on her way to work, Mandy attracts the attention of the deviant hippie cult ‘Children of the New Dawn’. From that point on the nightmare begins.

My favourite aspect of Mandy must be the style. The cinematography oozes a psychedelic 80’s feeling with most shots lit and colour graded as a crimson red or neon green. Think the Stranger Things opening titles and you’ll get a picture of what I mean. I can’t imagine the effort it took for these shots to be set up. All credit goes to cinematographer Benjamin Loeb and the post-production team who did a fantastic job.

Everything about this movie fits perfectly with the themes of fantasy because Mandy looks and feels like a fantasy. There are scenes where characters words are slurred purposely and images of them moving are repeated to help give a fantasy feel. Even the chapter title cards look like original works of fantasy art. I had a blast watching every scene simply because it looked so amazing.

Mandy’s story is also thoroughly entertaining. Not only did it feel like a breath of fresh air, it acted as a catalyst for bringing out the best in Nicolas Cage. For an actor whose career has included some famously overly eccentric performances, I was pleasantly grateful that Mandy’s fantasy narrative gave him the platform to do just that. Mandy knows how to use Cage’s eccentric charm because it often intentionally plays on the ridiculousness of things for entertaining effect. Compare to this his other films like The Wicker Man and Vampire’s Kiss which don’t do this and end up making Cage’s antic unintentionally hilarious.

I should also add that this film isn’t for everyone because there are horror elements that really do earn it an MA rating. But for those that enjoy action-horror films or even just Nicolas Cage’s often over the top style of acting, I have no doubt that you’ll love this film. Mandy works by pairing a crazy fantasy with an actor that can match that same level of craziness in performance. And for me the combination worked brilliantly.

My only real gripe is that certain parts of the film tend to drag on and end up being slightly repetitive. In my opinion some of these scenes could have been cut earlier and their point would have been just as clear. I can see how extending the length of these scenes may have been an intentional choice from writer/director Panos Cosmatos. By slowing down the pace in these scenes one can argue they slowly lure you into a hypnotic-like state which fits with the fantasy theme Mandy is clearly going for. Maybe a second watch might confirm that but right now I’m still of the mind that scenes could have been edited for a shorter length and the same effect could have been achieved.

Ultimately with a fantastic style and gripping narrative, Mandy succeeds as a great example of independent arthouse films done right. I loved this film and I’ll be checking out more from this director in the future. Watch this on the big screen if you can because the experience will only be heightened. See it.

Slice Movie Review

4.5/10

All style but no substance. Slice is a comedy that parodies common tropes from the horror film genre. Unfortunately, the story isn’t very interesting and it doesn’t have any real humour to match. Ironically these issues make Slice feel more like a B-grade horror film, instead of an original modern classic.

The story is set in the town of Kingfisher where ghosts, werewolves, and witches live among humans in Middle America. When pizza delivery boys are being mysteriously murdered off, a small group of individuals must work together to find out who’s responsible. Featuring a charismatic cast of Chance the Rapper, Zazie Beets (“Domino” from Deadpool 2), Joe Keery (“Steve Harrington” from Stranger Things), Hannibal Buress (The Eric Andre Show) and Chris Parnell (“Jerry” from Rick and Morty), it’s a shame their talents are much higher than what the script is trying to be.

My main gripe with Slice is the lack of humour for what’s meant to be a comedy. There are not that many jokes and when they do come, they’re nothing laugh out loud worthy. Some gags work by being meta, given the film parodies common tropes from the horror film genre and subtly points this out throughout. But most jokes were simply on the level of being mildly amusing.

The majority of the story seems to just pass along and I found myself quickly being bored. Events do happen but I didn’t really care how they mattered for the story. If I was to grade the conflicts in the film, I’d give them a pass for moving the plot along but a fail from an engagement standpoint.

This also wasn’t helped by the fact I held little interest for any of the characters in the film. Which is surprising because I like Chris Parnell and Chance the Rapper, but not even my inclined bias of seeing them together in a film could lift my interest factor. Every character lacks any real punch in personality. The story writes them as pawns to move the story from point A to B but doesn’t give much charm to make them interesting. It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. And the journey these characters take is nothing special to watch.

The aspect I enjoyed most about Slice was the aesthetics visuals. The film works to parody the style of the horror films it parodies and in my opinion, the artistic team managed to do a great job in this regard. You can even gather this from the marketing poster, which uses a yellow bolded calligraphy style for its title that makes it look like an 80’s horror film. Part of this is also supported by the story which has elements reminiscent of horror films like Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer.

Slice takes ideas from horror films and tries making something original from them. Unfortunately, for me, it falls flat as a classic horror film in its own right. There are nice homages to films that horror fans might love and which could make Slice worthwhile.

In my opinion, The Cabin in the Woods has already done this with a far more intelligent and engrossing script. If you haven’t seen our review for that film, I’d recommend giving it a read if you’re interested in a horror film that works by parodying other films like it. I could make the same argument for Tucker and Dale vs Evil but The Cabin in the Woods is a personal favorite I always recommend to those that enjoy horror.

But if Slice looks interesting enough to you, I’d suggest lowering your hopes for a modern classic and enjoy it as a film that at least has good intentions. Expect the style to be the best aspect and the story, well, not so much.