Joseph Gordon Levitt Weekend – Snowden (2016)

snowdenDirector: Oliver Stone

Writer: Kieran Fitzgerald, Oliver Stone (Screenplay) Anatoly Kucherena, Luke Harding (Book)

Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Nicholas Cage, Melissa Leo, Zachary Quinto, Shailene Woodley, Tom Wilkinson, Timothy Olyphant, Scott Eastwood, Rhys Ifrans

 

Plot: The NSA’s illegal surveillance techniques are leaked to the public by one of the agency’s employees, Edward Snowden, in the form of thousands of classified documents distributed to the press.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Important but Slow True Story

 

Story: Snowden starts as we follow documentary film maker Laura Poitras (Leo) and journalist Glenn Greenwald (Quinto) meet Edward Snowden (Gordon-Levitt) who is a private contractor for the NSA giving his interview to why he did what he did.

The story begins back when Snowden was training to be a soldier only to be discharged on medical grounds and entering a career into the CIA. We see how Snowden meet his love Lindsay (Woodley) but on the other side of this life he gets to see how the minds of different people inside the CIA work leaving him questioning each decision within before he went onto exposing all the secrets from around the world.

Snowden is the story of one of the biggest whistle-blowers in American history, he gave up his whole life to show the secrets of America and other intelligence communities. This is an important part of history we haven’t fully seen the effects of yet which makes this film almost feel too early. The film moves at a steady pace but can get complicated when certain technological talk going on.

Joseph gives his ever-reliable performance as Snowden without ever looking out of place in the role. When it comes to the reporters exposing the story they all come off great without shining or coming off badly. The rest of the government characters all work well too. The truth is no one lets the film down on performances it is another film that can get caught up on tech talk.

 

Overall: This is an interesting look at how one of the biggest leaks in intelligence history happened.

Rating

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Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates (2016)

Director: Jake Szymanski

Writer: Andrew Jay Cohen, Brendan O’Brien (Screenplay)

Starring: Zac Efron, Adam Devine, Anna Kendrick, Aubrey Plaza, Stephen Root, Stephanie Faracy

 

Plot: Two hard-partying brothers place an online ad to find the perfect dates for their sister’s Hawaiian wedding. Hoping for a wild getaway, the boys instead find themselves out-hustled by an uncontrollable duo.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Simple Comedy

 

Story: Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates starts as we meet brothers Dave (Efron) and Mike (Devine) who are full party animals but when their reputation puts them in a hard place when it comes to their sister’s wedding, the two told if they don’t bring dates to the wedding they can’t go to the wedding. On the other side of town, we meet the party animals in Alice (Kendrick) and Tatiana (Plaza) who recently lose their jobs.

Mike and Dave put an add up on craigslist looking for dates, this goes viral and they go through all the creeps, but when Tatiana and Alice learn about the ad, they go out of their way to get selected for the holiday to Hawaii for the wedding. Can the boys behave themselves for one weekend and keep the girls under control.

 

Thoughts on Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates

 

Characters/PerformanceDave is the slightly more sensible of the two brothers’ but he has always followed his brother’s lead. Mike is the loud mouth brother who always finds himself talking into trouble but because of his better-looking brother his confidence remains high. Alice was once a nice girl but since she was left at the alter she has become depressed needing to turn to drink always getting both her friends together. Tatiana is the one that miss-leads Alice with her attitude believe she has the power to control any guy. These characters are a nice mix with Mike and Tatiana being the extra over the top supporting pairing. Dave you can see is a character with dreams he just needs someone to push him forward and Alice is a very confusing character because around Dave she is a broken woman but around Tatiana she is the a stoner character which seems too opposite.

Performance wise, Zac Efron is good in this role because he does end up going through a wider range of comedy through the film. Anna Kendrick does struggle with this role because she doesn’t have the look to come off as a stoner type of character, she is usually the sweet girl. Adam Devine and Aubrey Plaza both give us the performance we expect from them both where the jokes do most of the work.

StoryThe story should focus more on the brothers learning they need to grow up when their own sister is getting married but we focus too much on the party animals involved in the story. we struggle to focus on any side of the story enough and the strong ending doesn’t come off strong enough once we get there.

Adventure/Comedy/RomanceThe adventure is the holiday which I all what you expect, the comedy is a mix of raunchy sex comedy which sometimes hits and other times goes too far. The romance side is loose but doesn’t click for the characters enough.

SettingsHawaii will always be a beautiful setting for the film and gives us the sun, sea for the holiday around the wedding.

Final ThoughtsThis comedy is easily in the middle of the road when it comes to the raunchy side, it goes passed Wedding Crashers but doesn’t go full Rogen.

 

Overall: Raunchy comedy that isn’t going to be for everyone.

Rating

 

 

Let’s Be Evil (2016)

Director: Martin Owen

Writer: Elizabeth Morris, Martin Owen, Jonathan Willis (Screenplay)

Starring: Kara Tointon, Jamie Bernadette, Isabelle Allen, Elizabeth Morris, Elliot James Landridge

 

Plot: A vision of augmented reality.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Mystery Brain Tester

 

Story: Let’s Be Evil starts in a world where education is being blamed for the flaws in the next generation of human intelligence, Jenny (Morris), Tiggs (Tionton) and Darby (Landridge) all get hired for a secret job where they will be watching over candidates and guided by the artificial intelligence (Voiced by Bernadette).

In this facility, the three watch over gifted children who are being educated in a way unlike anything we or the mentors have seen before, this doesn’t give Jenny the interaction she had imagined and soon things take a turn when the candidates take over the facility leaving Jenny, Tiggs and Darby needing to find a way out.

 

Thoughts on Let’s Be Evil

 

Characters/PerformanceJenny is a young woman who has worked to help care for her sick mother, but when this dream job comes up it is a chance to work with gifted children and make enough money to cover her mother’s medical bills. Tiggs is another member of the carers team that has more worldly experience and fights when needed. Darby is the third member that is meant to be the smartest but also the one that would break easiest. Cassandra is one of the candidates not acting like the rest.

Performance wise, Elizabeth does a good job at the everyday woman in this film as well as getting herself a writing credit along the way. Kara and Elliot make for good supporting characters too.

StoryThe story follows three adults picked to look after gifted children in a future where the intelligence levels are crashing. This story does keep us guessing to why the children are kept separate to learn, what are they learning and in the final third of the just how much is reality, this keeps us on our toes which is always great to see in a mystery thriller.

ThrillerThis film does keep us on the edge of our seats from start to finish as we just want to know what is going on and what will happen next.

SettingsThe film is set completely inside the underground facility which gives us the true feeling of an experiment going on as well as helping us understand there is no easy escape.

Special EffectsThe effects are all used to create the artificial intelligence, Arial is all computer style which we see through the effects as well as different parts of the reality.

Final ThoughtsThis is a mystery thriller I do feel should be going to watch, it does test morale ideas even if certain parts do feel long at times, you will always be wanting to know what is happening.

 

Overall: Thriller that is a must watch for the fans of the genre.

Rating

 

 

Movie Reviews 101 Midnight Horror – Dark Signal (2016)

Director: Edward Evers-Swindell

Writer: Edward Evers-Swindell, Antony Jones (Screenplay)

Starring: Siwan Morris, Gareth David-Lloyd, Joanna Ignaczewska, Duncan Pow, Cinzia Monreale, Eleanor Gecks

 

Plot: The spirit of a murdered girl returns with a message for the staff of a local radio station.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Horror Divided in Two Parts

 

Story: Dark Signal starts as radio host Laurie Wolf (Morris) is preparing for her final show with her producer Ben Evans (David-Lloyd), Ben has a mutual friend in Kate (Ignaczewska) who is desperate for money to support her sick son and this drives her to work with Nick (Pow) in a robbery in the middle of the Welsh countryside.

We learn that there is a serial killer on the loose who cut of the wedding finger of his victims before killing them and as Kate is alone she starts to believe she is being stalked by the killer, but back at the radio station an unknown voice is recorded leading to the guest a psychic Carla (Monreale) leading to the show trying to make contact with the ghost they believe is trying to communicate.

 

Thoughts on Dark Signal

 

Characters/PerformanceLaurie Wolf is the radio host, she is about to lose her job and wants to go out with her final show her own way, she will push the boundaries but doesn’t believe in communicating with the dead, Ben is the producer that pushes her to believe what she hears and is professional when it comes to his work, Kate is drawn into a robbery gone wrong finding herself needing to fight for her life when she is mistakenly believed to be a killer. The rest of the character who offer us the idea of what is going on through the film.

Performance wise, I think most of the performances are good through the film without being amazing, they all know their roles and show us enough to make it believable.

StoryThe story feels very mixed because we spend a lot of time split between two different stories, the first with the final radio show and second being a midnight countryside robbery, they do meet in the final third but making it there is hard work getting through what feels like a couple of random storylines.

Horror/MysteryThe horror side of the film comes from wondering what the spirit is haunting them and who is the serial killer in Wales, the mystery is why is the spirit communicating with the radio station so far away.

SettingsThe settings do stick with three main locations, the radio station, the countryside home and the family home of Kate, having just the three does work for the film keeping us on edge in the moments around the scenes.

Special EffectsThe effects are mostly used well but are not overly important to where the film goes.

Final ThoughtsI feel this film spends too much time with the separate storylines and not focusing enough on where things needed to go, we also have terrible decision making in the situation that is meant to be about desperate needs for money.

 

Overall: This is a horror that doesn’t get to the point sooner enough to save it.

Rating

 

 

Original v Remake Weekend – The Magnificent Seven (2016)

Director: Antoine Fuqua

Writer: Nic Pizzolato, Richard Wenk (Screenplay) Akira Kurosawa, Shinobu Hashimoto, Hideo Oguni (Original Screenplay)

Starring: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Byung-hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Martin Sensmeier, Haley Bennett, Peter Sarsgaard

 

Plot: Seven gunmen in the old west gradually come together to help a poor village against savage thieves.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Enjoyable Remake

 

Story: The Magnificent Seven starts as we see how Bartholomew Bogue (Sarsgaard) is terrorising a small village that he wants to mine for gold, the residents have 3-weeks to pay his demands. Emma Cullen (Bennett) leaves her town in search for men to help the town fight back, first port of call is warrant officer Chisolm (Washington) who looks to port together men.

The men recruited include hustler Josh Faraday (Pratt), outlaw Vasquez (Garcia-Rulfo), quick shot Billy Rocks (Lee), Goodnight Robicheaux (Hawke) veteran soldier Jack Horne (D’Onofrio) and lone native American Red Harvest (Sensmeier). The men arrive in town and look to train the villagers for battle as they look to shut down Bartholomew’s group once and for all.

 

Thoughts on The Magnificent Seven

 

Characters – Chisolm is a warrant collector that gets recruited to protect the small town, we see how he can bring together the group of different backgrounds to unite them to fight for the right thing. Faraday is the hustler and usually the one ready for a joke. Goodnight Robicheaux is the legend in the field an expert marksman but still dealing with the consequences of what happened in the war. Jack Horne is the experienced soldier that will surprise his enemies. Billy Rocks is the knives expert that will kill you with a knife before you can get a shot off. Vasquez is the outlaw on the run but gets Chisolm off his back to join the tea, Red Harvest is a native American joining the team giving him a purpose in life after going away from his tribe. The seven don’t get too much character development outside of Chisolm, Faraday and Goodnight. Bartholomew Bogue is the villain of the piece, he will take what he wants not caring who he steps on to get rich.

PerformanceGoing into the performance we will only look at the bigger names, Denzel is as always, a great lead for any movie and fits his role, Chris Pratt is likewise because we all know he can be a joker. Ethan Hawke gets his reunion with Washington and the two show they have great screen chemistry together. Peter Sarsgaard does seem to be a go to guy for a villain role and you can believe him even if what we get is nothing overly fresh. The performances throughout the film are good from everyone involved.

StoryThe story is one that we know has been told before, be it in the original of the same name or even the original before that in Seven Samurai. Small village must recruit fighters to take on savages, that is the core of the story, I did like how this time we seem to get men from different backgrounds bringing their own styles to the fight. I did also find this one easier to follow than the 60’s one but I also don’t think this story goes quite as deep.

Action/Adventure/WesternThe action is everything you have come to know about the action side of a western movie, plenty of shoot outs, while this is main just one giant one that last about 45 minutes, the adventure side comes from the training the characters in the village go through and how the 7 strangers unite to protect the town.

SettingsEach setting looks great and makes you feel like you are part of this world, without feeling out of place.

Scene of the Movie – One-eyed Jacks.

That Moment That Annoyed Me I do feel the villain did better development.

Final ThoughtsWhen it comes to remakes we always get that one debate, did we need it? The answer I feel here is yes, the film need a makeover with a modern all-star cast with different cultural backgrounds and that all works here.

 

Overall: Enjoyable remake that could be enjoyed by the modern audience.

Rating