Nicholas Hoult Weekend – Dark Places (2015)

Director: Gilles Paquet-Brenner

Writer: Gilles Paquet-Brenner (Screenplay) Gillian Flynn (Novel)

Starring: Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Christina Hendricks, Corey Stoll, Tye Sheridan, Andrea Roth, Chloe Grace Moretz

 

Plot: Libby Day was only eight years old when her family was brutally murdered in their rural Kansas farmhouse. Almost thirty years later, she reluctantly agrees to revisit the crime and uncovers the wrenching truths that led up to that tragic night.


Tagline – In 1985, her entire family was murdered. 30 years later, the truth emerges.

Runtime: 1 Hour 53 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Solid Mystery Thriller

 

Story: Dark Places starts as we meet Libby Day (Theron) one of the daughters that became somewhat of a celebrity after her family’s murder when she was 8, with the support funds running low, she accepts an offer from Lyle Wirth (Hoult) a member of a private investigation group that look at crimes and whether they are solved correctly, who want to prove her brother Ben (Stoll) didn’t commit the murders.

As Libby starts to investigate the case, she must face her past and learn about Ben’s past as a teenager as well as her mother Patty (Hendricks) struggle to keep the family together. This will help her confront her past and learn the truth of the events of murder.

 

Thoughts on Dark Places

 

Characters – Libby Day has spent her life trying to escape the fame that followed her after the murder of her family, her light is dwindling as she gets older and now she is forced into learning the truth about what happened in her past, plagued by nightmares we see just how she looks to remember the nightmare events the 8-year-old self-experienced. Lyle Wirth is the leader of a group that are investigating the night of the murder privately, however he comes of nervous about trying to figure out the truth even with his own theory. Patty Day is the mother and victim of the murder, we see her in the flashbacks are she tried everything she could to keep a roof over the children’s heads. We meet characters from the past and present version of the stories, as we flashback and forth learning more about the events from these characters.

PerformancesCharlize Theron is the star of this film, we get to see the withdrawn from the world character that wants to hide from her past and how she has accepted the outcome of the case, we see the range in how she deals with the problems she is facing in everyday life. Nicholas Hoult like most of the supporting performers are fine without being anything standout.

StoryThe story here follows one of the survivors of a family murder facing her past to learn the shocking truth about the events of the deadly night to which her brother was convicted of. The story adopts a mixture of flashbacks and forwards to show us just how different parts of the story played out, each clue brings the next tale in the story. The story does try to keep us guessing about who was responsible for the murders, it gives us plenty of suspects along the way and shows us just how a young girl would struggle to have grown into a mid-30s woman still lost in the world. this is from the same author as Gone Girl, and if you were to compare the two, this is easily the weaker of the stories.

Action/MysteryThe film has moments of action, but doesn’t turn to it that often as we wait to see how the murder really unfolded. The mystery is the highlight of the film because of how it keeps us wondering to just what really happened.

SettingsThe settings show us the struggles that the family would have had during the events leading up to the murder, when we are in the modern time we see the faceless city of Kansas which could have been any city really.

Special EffectsThe effects are used well when needed, with most happening off screen we see the aftermath of the events.


Scene of the Movie –
The truth night.

That Moment That Annoyed Me We do seem to spend too much time watching seemingly pointless moments of the back story and one aspect with Ben doesn’t seem to get answered enough.

Final ThoughtsThis is a thriller that does keep you guessing, but never draws you in enough, it has a strong cast of talented names and by the end you will b shocked even if the narrative does spiral down some dead ends at times.

 

Overall: Off-track thriller

Rating

 

 

The Game (1997)

Director: David Fincher

Writer: John Brancato, Michael Ferris (Screenplay)

Starring: Michael Douglas, Sean Penn, Deborah Kara Unger, James Rebhorn, Peter Donat, Carroll Baker, Anna Katarina

Plot: After a wealthy banker is given an opportunity to participate in a mysterious game, his life is turned upside down when he becomes unable to distinguish between the game and reality.


Tagline – Players Wanted.

Runtime: 2 Hours 9 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Twist Filled Thriller

Story: The Game starts as wealthy banker Nicholas Van Orton (Douglas) has spent his life working forgetting to have fun, his rebellious brother Conrad (Penn) turns up to celebrate his birthday which sees him giving him a gift, one that would let him take part in a game that will change his life. Nicholas reluctantly decides to go through the process, finding himself involved in the game, which starts to fade his reality.

As the events continue, Nicholas does start to see his very controlled life start to get out of control with only a random waitress Christine (Unger) around for him to trust, can Nicholas unravel the mystery to save his career or will he lose the game.

Thoughts on The Game

Characters – Nicholas Van Orton is a banker that is in complete control of his life, he isn’t friendly to everybody he meets in life and is distant from most of his family, he is excellent at business, he gets a different present from his rebellious brother, which sees him break out of his controlling method of life to play along with an uncontrollable game where he doesn’t know what is or isn’t real, learning to navigate and try to stay one step ahead of the game. Conrad is the rebellious brother that has had personal problems in the past, he gives Nicholas a present, claiming it helped turn his own life around, only for this gift only make his brother’s life more difficult. Christine is a waitress that Nicholas gets fired, he must work with her even if she might in fact be involved in the game herself. Jim Feingold is the man behind the invitation, he has Nicholas give him plenty of information before unleashing everything to get into Nicholas life.

PerformancesMichael Douglas is wonderful in this leading role, he plays the controlling businessman with ease and watching him lose control of his life is a performance you feel was made for Douglas. Sean Penn is wonderful in the supporting role, where we see how his character’s life has been affected by the game. Deborah Kara Unger in her supporting role does shine, with the rest of the supporting cast all working very well through the film.

StoryThe story here follows a controlling businessman that decides to step away from his routine to play a game bought to him as a present by his brother, once the game has started he sees his life start to fall apart as he tries to figure out what is real and what is part of the game. This is a story that does keep you on your toes through the film as it does just keep trying to spin on everything going on. We do have an overall message going on which does show the Nicholas needs to become more open in his life, which is the point of the game, trying to teach them how important life is too. The fact that this film just keeps us guessing is what is the most important part of the film, nothing seems like reality, but it could be real, which is why this is such an impressive story.

MysteryThe mystery in this film keeps us wondering whether this is a game or whether there is something more intense going on, the fact we can balance this so effortless makes this one of the best mystery films you will see.

SettingsThe film is set in San Francisco which does show how a successful businessman will operate in a city know or think he knows all the shortcuts to make it through the difficult times.


Scene of the Movie – Rooftop.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – Who took his kids at the zoo?

Final Thoughts This is one of the most intense mystery thrillers ever made, we are truly kept wondering just what will happen next balancing on whether this is real or not.

Overall: Brilliant thriller.

Rating

Knives Out (2019) Movie Review

Director: Rian Johnson

Writer: Rian Johnson (Screenplay)

Starring: Ana de Armas, Don Johnson, Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette, Chris Evans, Daniel Craig, Edi Patterson, Michael Shannon, Katherine Langford, Christopher Plummer, LaKeith Stanfield

Plot: A detective investigates the death of a patriarch of an eccentric, combative family.


Tagline – Everyone has a motive. No one has a clue.

Runtime: 2 Hours 10 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Pure Fun

Story: Knives Out starts with the apparent suicide of Harlan Thrombey (Plummer) on his 85th birthday, the family Linda (Curtis), Walt (Shannon), Richard (Johnson), Joni (Collette) Meg (Langford), Jacob (Martell) and Ransom (Evans) were all in attendance along with Harlan’s nurse Marta (Armas).

Lieutenant Elliott (Stanfield) lets private investigator Benoit Blanc (Craig) look at the events of the night after he gets an anonymous request to investigate the death believing it was murder, with the whole family have cause to potentially murder.

Thoughts on Knives Out

Characters – Benoit Blanc is a private investigator that has a connection to the family and has been given an anonymous letter to investigate the death, he has his way which unlike the normal police will push the family for the truth, knowing most are lying when they talk to him. Marta Cabrera is the nurse to Harlan, she has the closest relationship to him, knowing most of the family secrets, while just working to make sure her family is secure. Harlan is the self-made millionaire author that has started to get disappointed by the behaviour of his own children. Linda is the eldest daughter who has her own real estate business that she is proud of her work, believing she has done better than the other siblings. Walt is the youngest son who runs the publication of the books, which has always seen him try to push his father into selling the rights to entertainment sources. Richard is the husband to Linda that has been caught by Harlan being forced into telling the truth or being exposed. Joni is the daughter in the law of the deceased son that is an influencer and has been getting an allowance since her husband’s death. Ransom is the black sheep of the family, son of Linda and Richard, he has always lived the life of luxury never having to work on anything himself. Meg is the daughter of Joni that is the closest of any of the younger family members to Marta, she has seen herself be put through school but Harlan. LT Elliott is leading the investigation to the death, he is happy to put it down as suicide, but will let Benoit lead his own investigate.

PerformancesThe performances here are a pure joy, Daniel Craig gives us a career best, Ana De Armas continues to rise up the Hollywood name list, proving herself with a sweet innocent figure, Chris Evans brings to light a character complete against the type we are used to seeing form him. Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson and Toni Collette are wonderful too showing they can become anybody like we know from them. Everybody in this film is wonderful to watch.

StoryThe story here follows a private investigator who decides to investigate an apparent suicide where he will dig up the family secrets to learn there might have been foul play. This story is a who-dun-it where everybody could be a suspect as nobody wants to tell the truth and everybody is hiding the truth too. There is a unique way of telling the story that will surprise you and turn the usual flow on its head, almost pointing out just how predictable certain TV shows involving a murder are. We do have plenty to unpack through the story, though there is a slight drag through the middle of the film.

Comedy/Crime/MysteryThe comedy comes from the colourful characters we get to meet and their actions, while the crime mystery mix together to keep us guessing to the complete truth of what happened, we get plenty of references to other crime stories too.

SettingsThe film is mostly set on the grounds of the death, we have the luxury mansion, when we stay in this location everything does feel like ‘Clue’ but whether we leave it does take a little bit away from the quirky style.


Scene of the Movie – Ambulance arrives.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – We never learn where Marta is from, with the on running joke she is South American, each character claims she is from a different country.

Final Thoughts This is a quirky joyful comedy that leaves you guessing to the truth with performances that shine throughout the film.

Overall: Entertaining Mystery.

The Lost Footage of Leah Sullivan (2019) Movie Review

Director: Burt Grinstead, Paul Odgren, Anna Stromberg

Writer: Anna Stromberg (Screenplay) Anna Stromberg, Rob Runyeon (Story)

Starring: Anna Stromberg, Burt Grinstead, Maureen Keiller, David Nash, Jimmy Driscoll, Denise Walker, Matthew Pilieci

Plot: An unedited memory card from a camera shows Leah Sullivan’s school project about a cold case murder that doesn’t seem to be so cold after all.

Runtime: 1 Hour 27 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Terrifying Conclusion

Story: The Lost Footage of Leah Sullivan starts with the message, this is a found memory card with unedited footage of Leah Sullivan, believing she is dead, we dive into the footage where Leah (Stromberg) who goes out to try and solve an unsolved murder of the Mulcahy family in a town where she grew up for her school project.

Leah is joined with local officer Patrick Rooke (Grinstead) who is helping her learn the truth about the murders in the past, which includes going into the house where they took place, but deep down, she must learn not to dive into the past.

Thoughts on The Lost Footage of Leah Sullivan

Characters – Leah Sullivan is the college student working on the project about an unsolved murder in her family’s home town, she meets everybody who claims to have any information on the murders, she conducts the interviews, while filming herself investigating the truth, this movie is set on the recording she made, before disappearing. Patrick Rooke is the police officer that is helping fill in the official story behind the murders, what he learns brings new light to the murders in the area. We do meet a couple of other people who get interviewed along the way, each with a different story.

PerformancesThe performances are hard to say anything bad about because the actors do truly make us feel like we are watching a documentary being shot, with the nervous stutters along the way, with Anna Stromberg making us believe she is a student making the film.

StoryThe story here follows a college student that has decided to investigate a cold case in her old town, it is meant to be a small project, but she still starts to learn about a bigger mystery around the house. The easiest way to talk about this story would be to compare it to the ‘Blair Witch Project’ we see the investigation being slow, before an incredibly tense final twenty odd minutes. Advertising the story as found memory card footage, does add the mystery to the found footage side of the story, but in this day and age, playing this card doesn’t have the same impact it once did. The one downside to this story comes from just how interested Leah becomes to solve it, this is just meant to be a school project documentary about the murders, she would have gotten a good grade if she hadn’t solved the murder. The slow pace is saved by the conclusion which becomes must watch for the found footage fan.

Horror/MysteryThe horror side of the film comes on strong in the final act which is complete intense and terrifying, but before that, not much is happening on the horror front, it is more about the mystery about what is happening in the town.

SettingsThe film is set in the small town which shows that history can often get pushed under the rug, with this town having a house that had a mystery murder.

Special EffectsThe effects are used very well, not often, but saved for the final act of the film which only adds to the horror.


Scene of the Movie – The second house investigation.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – The interviews are slowed down with the unedited style.

Final Thoughts This is a horror film that does come off slow to start with but does finish very strong grabbing your attention from the moment they return to the house.

Overall: Scary Finish.

It lives (2016)

Director: Richard Mundy

Writer: Richard Mundy (Screenplay)

Starring: Andrew Kinsler, Peter McCrohon

 

Plot: A lone scientist maintains an underground bunker for the coming global nuclear disaster. But after becoming prematurely isolated, he slowly begins to question his own reality and whether he is truly alone.


Tagline – Terror in the 21st Century

Runtime: 1 Hour 28 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Doesn’t Reach the Potential

 

Story: It Lives starts in the near future, where scientists have been set on solo mission to underground bunkers, Roy (Kinsler) is one of these scientists, he must live alone in the bunker follow answers from a computer system that can’t see errors happening and needing fixing.

When the unthinkable happens and the nuclear disaster happens on the surface, Roy is facing years alone preparing to return to the surface, but not everything is what it seems for Roy.

 

Thoughts on It Lives

 

Characters – Roy is the only character we meet, a specially selected scientist to run an underground bunker in case of a nuclear disaster on the surface, he struggles to follow the rules at times and soon finds himself question his own sanity when he believes something isn’t right here.

PerformancesAndrew Kinsler must carry this movie with his performance, well certain moments he is strong, it does struggle to capture our attention to the levels required for a solo performed movie.

StoryThe story here follows a scientist that has been placed in a bunker to prepare Earth for after a nuclear disaster which hasn’t happened yet, he soon starts to lose his mind and question just what is real or not. We are left to wonder along with the character whether this is just a test, or a nuclear disaster does actually happen. This on paper is a wonderful idea, the execution is what holds this film back at times because it soon descends into a story we have seen before offering nothing other than a man losing his mind and running around.

Mystery/Sci-FiThe mystery revolves around why he is in the bunker, mostly what is he doing in there to keep himself occupied before turning into what is he thinking is going on. The sci-fi elements show us just how the world could go if things were to go this way.

SettingsThe film is set within the bunker, it keeps the action in the film feeling contained which is all we want for the most part of the film.

Special EffectsThe effects are used well and only when we need them, this is another plus for this movie.


Scene of the Movie –
The infection.

That Moment That Annoyed Me We don’t get sucked into this film on the level we should do.

Final ThoughtsThis is a film with a lot of potential, it doesn’t reach it all, but by the end you will be scratching your head.

 

Overall: Just as unsure as Roy.

Rating