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.

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.

The House with a Clock in its Walls Movie Review

See it. 5.5/10

The House with a Clock in Its Walls (HCW) is the latest offering from horror director Eli Roth (Hostel, Cabin Fever), and weirdly, it’s meant a film for kids.

Based on the children’s book by John Bellairs, HCW follows a young orphan Lewis who is sent to live with his eccentric uncle whom he’s never met before. Upon arriving at his uncle’s house, strange things begin to happen in the house and Lewis soon discovers that his uncle is a warlock on a desperate search for a clock hidden somewhere in the walls of the house. Once the clock stops ticking, it will signal the end of the world.

The film’s concept is an unusual one, as is the casting. This isn’t to say that the film’s cast doesn’t work (because they do), it’s just one I wasn’t expecting it to.

Owen Vaccaro plays weird, sullen Lewis and does a good job for the most part. His character does have tendencies to be a little bit annoying at times, but Owen Vaccaro tackles the film’s content head on and overall his reactions are believable despite the magical chaos around him. While Lewis has many flaws in his character, the film doesn’t shy from showing these moments which was refreshing to see. Truthfully this is also probably one of the most believable children I’ve seen for a long time in a film.

Jack Black plays Lewis’ eccentric uncle Jonathan and as usual, plays essentially himself with his typical Jack Black persona. It works in this film purely because Jack Black brings the comic relief and in a fun obvious way that allows kids to react to him immediately. I felt that this was almost necessary for this film that gives a creepy vibe, which might be something kids aren’t prepared for, but Jack Black helps create regular relief and openly acknowledges that these things are meant to be creepy.

The weirdest casting of all was Cate Blanchett as Jonathan’s best friend and neighbour, Florence Zimmerman. She, of course, steals the show, playing the character with the most depth, and reaching a sensitivity in her characterization that at times is quite mature for a children’s film. But it is Cate Blanchett after all, so I was almost always going to be completely spellbound by her every step of the way.

Director Eli Roth adds his familiar touch of horror to the film, making for another somewhat creepy offering. The creepiness has been toned down because the film is targeted towards families with children, so it’s never going to be a movie with an MA rating. Having said that, I can see a few scenes being too scary for young children and potentially will be become what I call nightmare fuel for those too little to realise it’s all special effects. From cheap scare jumps, through to the pre-empting of death and destruction of the world and ending on a room full of creepy dolls that, you guessed it, come to life. The thrills are many and come quickly before coming to a haltering stop and starting up again.

The film as a whole has the kind of feel to it that you would find in Tim Burton’s children films like Edward Scissorhands and Beetlejuice, or other recent additions like A Series of Unfortunate Events. Those films are all a bit wacky but have an air of somberness to them as well which is also what comes across in HCW. Ultimately it is a children’s film that is secretly for adults and targets the kids who feel like misfits.

HCW is a fun but creepy children’s film that’s worth a watch. It probably would have done better with a Halloween release, placing it in the right timing for what it is, but Eli Roth has attempted something different and for the most part has been successful in the telling of this wild and unique tale. See it.

American Animals Movie Review

american animalsSee it. 7.5/10

Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction.

American Animals comes from director Bart Layton, whose most famous piece of work is the 2012 documentary The Imposter which still remains one of the best documentaries to have come out in recent years. Translating those same skills from a documentary background, it’s refreshing to see Bart Layton’s experience give his latest piece American Animals, an original and different dynamic to most films that are based on true events.

The story follows the life of Spencer, who after getting into Transylvania University, notices that there is an on-campus library that boasts a variety of extremely rare books. His slightly unhinged friend Warren devises a plan to steal the books and sell them on the black market for money. Similar to a technique that featured in the film I, Tonya, which used reenactments of interviews from real-life people involved in the biographical-drama, American Animals takes it a step further by including interviews with real-life people that were actually involved in the heist to drive the story.

This is an interesting narrative device because with any retellings of events, human’s memories are subjective and as such remain limited to showing the truth to the eye of the beholder. Bart Layton takes advantage of this by taking moments where the interviewees don’t agree on how events unfolded, to show different sides of the same story. This effect not only builds characterization but also brings about moments of comedy at how different people viewed the events that unfolded.

Another different element that helps to blur this line between documentary and fictional crime drama, is the heavyweight actors who play two of the four boys in the reenactment. Most notably is Evan Peters who plays “mastermind” Warren. His previous work in TV series American Horror Story and as the unconventional mutant Quicksilver in X-Men: Days of Future Past and Apocalypse, sets him up as the perfect person to play Warren. Warren came up with the plan for the heist by watching famous heist films, and his wild stories and set-ups to meet potential dealers who can help get rid of the books is portrayed perfectly by Evan Peters as he manages to carefully straddle that line between sanity and crazy.

Playing the more level-headed but easily influenced Spencer is Barry Keoghan who often plays troubled characters in heavy dramas like The Killing of a Sacred Deer and Dunkirk. This is a slightly different character for him, as Spencer is simply bored with life when he decides to jump onboard Warren’s crazy plan. Nevertheless, Barry Keoghan manages to capture perfectly Spencer’s guilty conscience as the day of the heist draws closer, and his hopes for something will go wrong become more prudent.

Bart Layton takes an incredible, crazy true story and turns it into an entertaining piece of modern cinema with a unique approach to presentation. He not only captures the bizarreness of the wild situations that the characters are put in but also makes a comment on people and their questionable recollection of events from memory. Bart Layton uses a range of techniques such as including the real-life people involved in the story and rewinding the film to retell situations from different perspectives that make the film fun to watch.

American Animals is an original story, told in an original way, and well worth taking the time to view it. See it.

Slender Man Movie Review

slender man.PNGSkip it. 2/10

One of the most poorly constructed films that I have ever seen. Slender Man is easily a front-runner to take out 2018’s Worst Movie prize because to put it quite simply, it’s not even a movie. There is no real story nor any logical train of thoughts on how to present it. It’s completely empty.

The premise follows the urban legend of “Slender Man”, a faceless demonic spirit who haunts children and teenagers unfortunate enough to summon him. Funnily enough, his origins started as a meme created on an online forum which blew up as a worldwide phenomenon back in 2009, even spawning a popular video game of the same name.

Flashforward to the present, Slender Man’s studio creator Sony Pictures have decided to capitalize on this internet icon in an obvious effort to try and rekindle that same popularity for ticket sales. Unfortunately, not only are they nine years too late, they’ve also forgotten how to make an actual movie with interesting characters and an engaging story. Just like the children Slender Man haunts, those two aspects have seemed to vanish altogether.

The film’s characters, who in the story are meant to be high school teenagers, come off sounding anything but high school teenagers. This is because not only is the acting so poor, but the lines of dialogue they’re given is completely detached from what real teenagers, in reality, would be saying. When it gets to a point where one character says, “He’s like a virus, but he doesn’t get into your hardware, he gets into your brain”, I’m bewildered how any of that passes the final edit.

Which goes the same for the rest of the script because there was no real narrative structure. After ten minutes of introducing who Slender Man is, the story is scene by scene of characters coming into strange and weird interactions with the spirit. There’s no overarching theme or adventure; no trials and tribulations; and no real character arcs or even logical planning. Things just happen with such repetitiveness that I don’t understand why anyone could think this would be an entertaining horror film.

What’s more bizarre is that almost half of what was showed in the trailer doesn’t even make it to the actual film. This suggests to me that the gaps and plot holes that I saw in the film, more than likely came from Sony’s executives toying with the final product. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if there were a number of quickly made reshoots that don’t work with the story because this film is screaming that it’s been poorly made.

Scenes that were meant to be scary followed the typical trend of slowly building tension and then hitting with a disturbing payoff that completely fell flat Some of these moments came off as unintentionally hilarious and the whole theatre was laughing at the stupidity of the characters. It was so bad that it almost became good.

The only positive aspect that I can stand to mention are the few montages of disturbing imagery which were very well edited. Quick cuts and the setup to intercut these scenes together indicated that there was at least some level of effort put into this film but those were the only times this film did something right. Everything else had a complete lack of thought put into it.

I don’t think I can remember a time where I’ve watched a film and when the credits roll, felt completely empty to what just occurred. I wasn’t frustrated like I was with Truth or Dare, nor was I eye rolling like with Happy Death Day, which were two other uninspiring horror films to come out in the past year. I was just confused and in disbelief that something like this was ever made in the first place. Hopefully, Sony Pictures can learn a lesson from this failure, because at the very least, if fewer people go to watch stupid films like this, the less of a chance they’ll be made in the future. Which is why I’m saying skip this because Slender Man is an obvious marketing cash chow that deserves to be forgotten.

BlacKkKlansman Movie Review

blackkklansmanSee it. 7/10

Winner of the 2nd Best film award (Grand Prix) at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, BlacKkKlansman is a witty drama which is based on the true story of a black detective who went undercover to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan. Whilst not perfect, the film’s fusion of great humour and an original tale of race relations in the 70’s, makes for director Spike Lee’s best work since his 2006 film Inside Man.

What sold this film to me was the entertaining dynamic between its two leads John David Washington (son of Denzel Washington funnily enough) and Adam Driver (aka Kylo Ren from Star Wars). Their relationship shared many great exchanges and witty remarks, whilst they worked together to figure out how they would be able to pull off something so ridiculous.

This is because Washington’s character, a black rookie detective Ron Stallworth, has created a white alter-ego of himself, to help him infiltrate the KKK through only conversations over the phone. Whilst Driver’s character, a white detective Flip Zimmerman, is roped into posing as this white “Ron Stallworth” imaginary figure, for any in physical meetings and dealings with the KKK. Such a setup is why I term it as a ridiculous stunt to pull off and ultimately provides the charm for why I enjoyed the film.

I also liked the fact that given the story is set in the 70’s, there was a clear effort in making this film really feel like an artefact from that time. From the costume designs to the production sets of the cars and houses that were used, everything about the presentation felt genuine to what I imagine living in the 70’s would look like. This was also wonderfully supported, with the interactions between Washington and Driver’s characters. Who in one scene comically discussed the differences between how black and white men are “meant to talk”. In turn subtly smartly poking fun at such stereotypes.

My only real gripe is that the story tended to drag out in certain sections. There would be periods of time where I felt like I was flying through and enjoying the film, then suddenly, the plot would come to a halt and decide to unnecessarily take its time.

Some of these slower moments occurred whenever the story wanted to focus on hitting home a message about the racial culture of the period and its parallels to racism today. These came off as frivolous scenes that prevented progressing the story, which was already pointing out these same themes of racial relation parallels in numerous other scenes.

As the best example of such a case, the film ended by showing a montage of racially driven riots that have occurred in recent years. In my opinion, this was overkill to include as it came off as a blatant attempt of force-feeding a message that was already well understood since the film started. At that point, I felt that Spike Lee was using this film more as a mouthpiece to spread his own personal motif against the current racial culture in America, rather than telling this unbelievably hilarious and dramatic true story.

Having said all that, those moments where the film does come to a halt thankfully don’t happen that often to the point where it drags down everything else that was great about the movie. BlacKkKlansman is a witty and well-produced film that tells of a ridiculous story that somehow actually transpired in the past. And I’ll be recommending you give this one a watch in the cinemas when you can. See it.

Mission Impossible: Fallout Movie Review

Skip it. 5/10

Against current popular opinion, I have to say that Mission Impossible: Fallout didn’t cut the mustard for me. What’s being slated as one of the best action films in recent years, feels more like an overhyped and uninspiring film in my opinion. I don’t doubt the action sequences were executed very well but the story that comes with it doesn’t justify the price of admission.

For all its efforts in setting up fantastic moments of action, the time put into developing an interesting plot appears to be missing. Without substance to compliment set pieces, Mission Impossible: Fallout is a wasted opportunity and could have been so much more. In between these scenes of action, I found myself being bored and unentertained with the same old drivel that follows typical spy driven action films. Antagonist threatens to cause global chaos; team faces the pressure of preventing this whilst under government scrutiny; protagonists don’t know who to trust, and ya-da-ya-da-ya-da you have your film.

This disappointed me given I enjoyed Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, which was a film that although followed the same structure I just outlined, it at least blended these great action set pieces with an interesting array of characters and even moments of humor. Which didn’t seem to be the case for the latest as rarely were there any glimpses of the same wit or fun engagement between the characters this time around.

Tom Cruise’s character became more of a stern and stone-faced serious spy, rather than the charismatic and intelligent action hero superstar that I expected him to be. The supporting cast of Ving Rhames, Rebecca Ferguson, and Simon Pegg all felt underwritten and were reduced to boring caricatures of their former charismatic selves. Sure, there were a few times when their dynamic worked to produce an interesting moment of entertainment, but amongst the two-and-a-half-hour runtime, these moments were far and few in between.

For me, the only real highlights were the great action scenes which genuinely looked like time and effort was put into setting up and filming. I thought the continuous take that showed Tom Cruise jumping out of an airplane was the best, closely followed by what happens in the finale. Clearly with this being the sixth film in the franchise, there was a desire to up the stakes for what was done previously and for the most part, I’d say they did so successfully. However, I must add that some of these felt out of order and at times were technically out of sync.

The opening scene in my opinion was a terrible choice to kick-off the film as it wasn’t at all exciting to watch. For an action movie, I’m looking forward to seeing the film start off with say a Christopher Nolan opening with what he did for The Dark Knight trilogy or even the great prison escape sequence that began Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.

Later on, in the film, there were also a couple of action sequences that ended in a strange way, where the music continued to carry on as we watched the characters disembark from the scene and simply walk away. It felt very off, and I don’t know why they chose to show them, for example, parking and leaving their boat for such a long time whilst music still continued to be played over the top.

Mission Impossible: Fallout is an odd entity. I want to say that you should go see the action sequences from the film because they are well done but at the same time I’m reminded of how uninspiring the whole experience really is. Which is why I recommend giving this a skip and waiting for it come out on Blu-Ray. For what you’re paying for, I don’t believe that you should settle for anything second best when it comes to the story and it’s just too average to sit through. If you must, watch this for the action alone but don’t go in with the expectations that this is the greatest action film of recent years because it’s not. See our reviews for films like The Raid or Shoot Em’ Up instead.

Hereditary Movie Review

hereditarySee it. 6/10.

Hereditary is the first feature film from director Ari Aster and follows a grieving family after their grandmother passes away. Strange events begin to occur shortly after, bringing more grief and paranoia to the family, and leading the mother, Annie, to believe that the grandmother may have been dabbling in devil worship prior to her death.

The film has been touted as the scariest film of the year so far, and while there were some shocking twists (admittedly there was a huge twist that took me completely by surprise), overall it didn’t have a lasting effect on me. This isn’t to say there weren’t some uncomfortable moments. Annie’s career as a miniaturist sculpture definitely brought some creepiness as she recounted some of the more disturbing moments of her life, capturing them like a photograph in her sculpture creations. Plus there are some great moments played out without the reliance of the cheap jump scares but still took me by surprise.

What was interesting, however, was that as the story slowly revealed itself, different foreshadowing elements were presented in a seemingly scattered pattern but worked well to set up scenes later on. By the end, I found myself thinking “oh yeah, remember that person and what she said before?” and “now that makes sense”, which was an aspect I definitely enjoyed realizing on my way out of the cinemas. It was a sign that although the film was predominantly a slow burn type and took its time, at least it did so with some purpose and intelligent thought behind what was being shown so that it wasn’t just frivolously all put together.

And whilst this film is classified as a horror, it feels more like a character drama and a breakdown of the family. As Annie starts to lose her grip on reality, the hallucinations she projects onto her son also grow more and more disturbing. By doing so it takes the focus away from the horror elements and places it in more of a dramatic position that you soon find yourself sympathizing with his growing paranoia that she’s trying to kill him. Depending on what you’re expecting this might not be what you want but for me, I didn’t mind this change because at least the film tried to put a lot more character into a horror film. Which is usually neglected in such a genre, as the focus often turns to the horrific spectacle of events and characters become expandable figures on the chopping line.

There are also moments of technical brilliance, especially through audio, where the noise of a particular action is heightened to such an extent, often as foreshadowing, that you hold your breath waiting for the action to take a grisly turn. The use of tilts and pans to move to the different scenes was also a unique technique, especially compared to the use of fade to blacks that are often utilized. And there are also some very nice scene transitions that showed a lot of effort was put into making them seamlessly progress through. Clearly, those behind the camera worked hard to help achieve Ari Aster’s vision and it’s great to see horror filmmaking like this being technically and smartly well-made.

Toni Collette plays the role of Annie to perfection, capturing the desperation of a woman who hasn’t had an easy life, and is very aware of her mounting insanity but also convinced that there is something more going on. Toni Collette’s ability to portray wide-eyed fear and then in a heartbeat become angry and hate-filled makes her the standout of the film. Comparably Alex Wolff, who plays her cowardly son Peter, is slightly over the top in some scenes, especially when he’s crying. In saying that, his portrayal of a person in shock in the big twist scene was very well done, capturing not only the terror of the moment but the confusion that takes place following the event.

The downfall of the film, for me, lies in the source of the horror. Admittedly, horror films tend to be divisive as it very much depends on the individual and what gets under their skin. For me, demon worship and occult just doesn’t do it for me and felt a bit of a cheap and lazy way to bring this film together. A lot of the horror moments throughout the film mostly occurred in Annie and her son, Peter’s, mind. To then put this all down to demon worship didn’t seem true to the story being told and was kind of a letdown. The last 15 minutes of the film also completely killed it for me, as it took a turn from being on the edge of insanity straight into being utterly ridiculous and laughable.

I’m recommending that you see it, but hesitantly. There are some uniquely interesting technical aspects as mentioned above that are worth watching it for but overall, the story still feels weak and the ending destroyed any good components that came before it. Hereditary had the opportunity to make an intelligent horror film that had a lasting effect, but instead was let down by the narrative in the last act.

The Final Girls Movie Review

the final girls

See it. 6/10

“They were never alive! They weren’t real. Neither are you because this is just a movie!”

It seems that the only way to make a decent horror film these days is to have the story lampoon the common tropes of others like it. The Final Girls unashamedly parodies classic slasher film clichés and uses them for comedic effect, which thankfully does enough to make this worth the watch. This self-aware nature is not as intelligent as another similar film, The Cabin In The Woods (which is also a film that I love) so don’t walk into this with high expectations, but there is enough ridiculousness and meta-humor that still warrants seeing The Final Girls. Especially if you’re a fan of horror in general and love when it can be fused with the likes of comedy akin to the film Tucker and Dale vs Evil.

What works for The Final Girls is the story and its outlandish portrayal of horror stereotypes seen in each of the characters. Every figure is written as a caricature of the typical individuals that you’d come across in any basic slasher horror film, whether it be the dumb jock or the virgin or those that are sexually proactive; The Final Girls represents all commonly used facets of horror filmmaking but does so to lampoon their stereotypes. There are often moments of humor based on the expense of character motivations that worked well to make me smile and overall, I enjoyed the meta-like nature of the script.

The only semi-original aspect that makes it refreshing enough is the idea of having characters being sucked up into a B-grade horror film and interacting with the characters from that said film. The story then takes on the life of the B-grade horror film and utilizes all the common tropes attaches to it. I didn’t mind that it becomes unoriginal because The Final Girls is all about subverting the unoriginal clichés of horror films for comedic effect. The film might encompass super cheesy moments or poorly written plot holes but those aren’t flaws I can criticize negatively because it’s intentionally being parodied. The only unoriginal trait about The Final Girls is that it chooses to lampoon those clichés when films like The Cabin In The Woods or Tucker and Dale vs Evil have done it in the past already.

I also have some issues with the film technically. There were times when the story wasn’t necessarily trying to lampoon those clichés just yet and that I thought these scenes could have been done in a way that didn’t really need to rely on B-grade jump scares. It seems like a wasted opportunity to employ some innovative horror filmmaking techniques like the use of sound or a slow pan to reveal something sinister and it could make me feel scared.

Altogether I can’t fault the films unoriginal story even though there are a lot of cheesy cliches thrown in. This film is attempting to parody slasher films and for the most part, I say it does so well enough. I wasn’t laughing hysterically and it’s nowhere near the genius of a parody film like Black Dynamite but it’s nevertheless passable. There’s enough to warrant seeing this film, especially if you’re at all interested in seeing horror but don’t go into it with exceedingly high hopes. The Final Girls isn’t a modern horror masterpiece but it’s still worth a recommendation. See it.

mother! Movie Review

mother!

See it. 8/10

“You never loved me. You just loved how much I loved you”

Darren Aronofsky latest piece marks a fine recovery for the director who is more of an expert for psychological thrillers and less for the big-budgeted religious blockbusters *cough* Noah *cough*. Everything that I loved in terms of the intensity and dark nature of Black Swan thankfully returns in mother! but in a way that entirely distinguishes the two films. mother! is anything but the same as Black Swan and in some ways more terrifying.

From a narrative standpoint, I enjoyed the unraveling of both the mystery elements but also the characters themselves. The film has a minimal plot, focusing mainly on the relationship between two newlyweds, but in the context of the tension that arises, the story greatly deepens. The more time that passed, I was beginning to feel more uncomfortable with the dynamics of their relationship and the surrounding events that were occurring. I had no idea of where it would lead to and when the third act came around, the dramatic intensity peaked at incredible heights. I loved that Darren Aronofsky could essentially one up himself on his efforts to produce such a satisfying climax because the tension and psychological drama that was portrayed in the final twenty minutes was just fantastic.

This was complemented by the visual elements and camera trickery that worked so well to bring his dark vision to life. I particularly loved the nightmarish aspects of the story and I believe this could be one of the best translations to what being in a horrible dream would look like as a film (even more so than the fabled A Nightmare On Elm Street series).

The artisanship used to utilize several introductions of new chaotic disturbances (specifically in the third act), would have taken a large amount of time to plan and also to set up, which made it so thoroughly engaging. The dark world that Darren Aronofsky created was truly being brought to life and the efforts to do so from a technical perspective was astonishing. From organizing the movement of an exorbitant number of extras to exact positioning, and the framing of tracking shots on characters, this film is worth seeing just for how it finishes alone.

From an acting perspective, I thought Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem were felicitous casting choices for the story. Jennifer Lawrence’s performance suited the role of playing the beautifully young and warm-hearted wife who also needed to retain a flair of innocence and infatuation for her husband. The husband was also well played by Javier Bardem, as he suited that husky older man role that is seen as a figure of wisdom and talent in the eyes of his young lover. Both supported each other well but were, more importantly, trusting in the crazy vision Darren Aronofsky had installed for their characters. It’s becoming almost indisputable that he knows how to get the very best, dark emotions from his actors when put into a psychologically thrilling context.

The final word I want to add is to try and not to do any research about the film, and instead simply watch it if you’re interested in any sort of psychological dramas. This is one of the best as of late and is a fine example of independent cinema. If you’ve never heard of the director Darren Aronofsky before, I sincerely suggest you check out his other works. He was responsible for one of my favourite films Requiem of a Dream but is also well known for Black Swan as I mentioned in the introduction but also The Wrestler. mother! is nothing like those films, aside from the intensity it produces but it is nevertheless a movie that needs to be watched. See it.