ABC Film Challenge – Favourites – A – American Honey (2016) Movie Review

Director: Andrea Arnold

Writer: Andrea Arnold (Screenplay)

Starring: Sasha Lane, Shia LaBeouf, Riley Keough, McCaul Lombardi, Arielle Holmes, Crystal Ice, Veronica Ezell

Plot: A teenage girl with nothing to lose joins a traveling magazine sales crew, and gets caught up in a whirlwind of hard partying, law bending and young love as she criss-crosses the Midwest with a band of misfits.

Tagline – Wild and astonishing! An indelible epic of the open road!

Runtime: 2 Hours 43 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Realistic Look at American Struggles

Story: American Honey starts as teenager Star (Lane) is wandering around the streets with her younger siblings, she sees the mysterious Jake (LaBeouf) around and learns that he is involved in a travelling magazine, offering Star a way to get out off the empty life. Star takes the chance joining the travelling team with Krystal (Keough) running the operations, Star needs to learn on the job with the other teenagers and young adults from around America.

As Star learns about the people she is working with, she learns about the reality of life, by partying too hard and learning just what love can be.

Thoughts on American Honey

Characters – Star is a teenage girl that hasn’t got much of a future, she comes from an abusive family, where she tries to raise her younger siblings, she sees her chance to experience the world and must learn quickly or face a future that doesn’t see her achieving anything with her life, we see the whole story through her eyes. Jake is the one that brings Star into the world, he makes it seem like it will be easy and that the people involved can have fun along the way, he does seem to take advantage of Star along the way too, playing into the naïve nature of the her. Krystal is the woman that is running the whole magazine selling process, she will demand they people make sales no matter what happens and if they don’t meet the requirements, she will just leave them on the side of the road.

PerformancesSasha Lane is wonderful in the leading role of the film, she shows all the naivety needed to make us understand her character and how the journey is making her break out of her shell. Shia LaBeouf is great to see as the man that can manipulate the girls he picks up. Riley Keough is great as the stricter leader of the group making us believe just how strict she is.

StoryThe story here follows a teenage girl that runs away to join a travelling magazine group of fellow teenagers and young adults, here she must learn about life quickly, to see how difficult like can be for many people from around the country. This story shows just how difficult life can be for the younger generation when they are faced without a future that could offer them any stability, we focus on just one girl that is stuck facing this future and wondering if this life is what she is looking for or not, as she sees just how people can use people to get what they want from each walk of life. This should be an eye opening to the world and one story that is an important look at a future people will be facing.

RomanceThe romance Star gets involved in, is shown on how she sees them, she often thinks more is happening that there is, which gives her a lesson in love.

SettingsThe film keeps us on the road, Star gets to see the better off homes and the ones that reflect the world she has come from.

Scene of the Movie – Star visits a home like her own.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – It is longer than it needs to be.

Final Thoughts This is a wonderful look at how difficult life in America has become, it shows us through the eyes of a teenage girl that is facing a life she couldn’t get much out of.

Overall: Important and Eye Opening.

Custody (2016) Movie Review

Director: James Lapine

Writer: James Lapine (Screenplay)

Starring: Viola Davis, Hayden Panettiere, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Tony Shalhoub, Ellen Burstyn, Raul Esparza, Dan Fogler, Haden Michael

Plot: The lives of three women are unexpectedly changed when they cross paths at a New York Family Court.

Runtime: 1 Hour 44 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Smart Courtroom Drama

Story: Custody starts when Sara Diaz (Moreno) sees her kid Davis (Michael) getting injured in the house, the school being concerned arrange for social services to take the children away to assess the situation. Ally Fisher (Panettiere) a rookie lawyer is assigned to the case, with judge Martha Schulman (Davis) taking the case, while still being haunted by a case which went horribly wrong.

As the case starts, Sara is left feeling helpless with not being able to see her children, while Martha is going through her own personal problems with her husband’s affair, with Ally needing to learn how to connect with the clients better, with all three looking to find the best solution for the children.

Thoughts on Custody

Characters – Martha Schulman is the judge for the case, she has been handling potential child abuse cases for years, she has just experienced one of the worst outcomes which is covering the news, her husband has been cheating on her and her son is at the college trying to decide his own future, she is strict in court, fair with both sides, always putting the children first. Ally Fisher is the young lawyer assigned to the case with Sarah, she has come from a privileged background where she has always walked into education. She starts off being distant from Sara before learning how to connect with a client, can help with the case. Sara Diaz is the hard working single mother raising two kids, she is accused of the abuse of her son, leading to the case against her being built, she must comply with the system if she is ever going to get her kids back, however difficult it will be for her.

PerformancesViola Davis is always wonderful to watch in any role, she does bring the judge to life, while balancing the troubles she has been going through in the personal life. Hayden Panettiere is great to, it is good to see her step away from many of the teen styled roles she was known for, with Catalina Sandino Moreno showing us just how difficult having her kids taken away would be for any mother.

StoryThe story here follows the case around a potential abuse case in New York, we have the mother who is fighting to get her kids back, a judge whose life is spinning out of control and a young lawyer who must learn how to process the system before losing an important case. This story does highlight how an abuse case can become something even if it started out as an accident, how the system however difficult it might be for somebody innocent, is in place to help make sure children are safe over anything else. We can see how the people in position of power will need to learn how to keep the cases out of their personal lives too. We might only see one case, but we can see how the system is getting held down with the pure number it is dealing with too.

SettingsThe film uses the settings well, the hearing rooms work well for trying to help us understand how this isn’t at the serious level it could be, while the home environments, show us just how the three women are living.

Scene of the Movie – The final hearing.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – We could learn or see more about how the bad case has truly affected the people involved.

Final Thoughts This is an important look at the process in which abuse hearings are dealt with, while it shows us how this might never have needed to go that far, it points out just how important it is to make sure.

Overall: Important.

Miss Sloane (2016) Movie Review

Director: John Madden

Writer: Jonathan Perera (Screenplay)

Starring: Jessica Chastain, Mark Strong, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, John Lithgow, Alison Pill, Michael Stuhlbarg,

Plot: In the high-stakes world of political power-brokers, Elizabeth Sloane is the most sought after and formidable lobbyist in D.C. But when taking on the most powerful opponent of her career, she finds winning may come at too high a price.

Tagline – Make sure you surprise them

Runtime: 2 Hours 12 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Nice Political Thriller

Story: Miss Sloane starts when Madeline Elizabeth Sloane (Chastain) a lobbyist who has a massive reputation in DC, when her latest job is presented towards her, to help swing the votes to back the remain of the gun control laws, she isn’t willing to help out and gets approached by Rodolfo Schmidt (Strong) who is leading the campaign to bring in stricter laws.

Elizabeth continues to show how the connections in the town, the country and companies will help her try to swing the votes to get the legislation through, showing Rodolfo and his team just what they are up against.

Thoughts on Miss Sloane

Characters – Madeline Elizabeth Sloane is a known powerhouse lobbyist who strikes fear in the people she goes up against including senators. She does have morals though, which sees her going against her boss’s wishes jumping ship to the rivals in the gun legislation. She will use tactics that other members of the team don’t know are coming, some which are illegal, while dealing with her own vices behind closed doors. Rodolfo Schmidt is the man that hires Elizabeth, taking her away from her old job to lead the campaign, he wants to win, will gives her an offer that she can’t refuse that doesn’t tie her down after the case, only he has one rule, nothing illegal. Esme Manucharian is one of the new team, one person that Elizabeth looks towards as potential, even if she has her own plan for her. We do get to see the old team that is looking to plan to use what they know to take on Elizabeth and the judge who is trying to get to the bottom of the case, seeing if she broke any laws along the way.

PerformancesJessica Chastain is fantastic in the leading role, she shows the completely cutthroat character she has working in DC, she is head and shoulders above the rest of the cast. Marl Strong is great in the supporting role, while the rest of the cast know how to make the impact in their scenes through the film.

StoryThe story here follows a cutthroat lobbyist who jumps ships to help fight for a new bill to restrict gun control in America, as we see how both sides are looking to get victory over the other and how Miss Sloane would use her own tactics to make sure she gets ahead of the game, even if her enemies are waiting in the wings to see her fail. This story does show us how important the change required in the gun laws are and shows how political the battle will become between the two sides looking to get the upper hand in the fight. We do seem to focus more on the use and playing of people over trying to get the bill through, showing how the political game isn’t about doing the right thing, its more about who you know and how you can use them in your own favour.

ThrillerThis does show how the political battles going on when trying to get a law change and how trying to get a bill through and how people will do anything to get a win.

SettingsThe film is set in DC, it shows how people know how and where to be for getting the upper hands on each other.

Scene of the Movie – The hearing.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – The amount of work it takes to get a needed change to the law put through.

Final Thoughts This is an interesting thriller that does show the importance for change in the law and it shows how people will use their power to help or hinder the change required.

Overall: Political Thriller 101.

Come and Find Me (2016) Movie Review

Director: Zack Whedon

Writer: Zack Whedon (Screenplay)

Starring: Annabelle Wallis, Chris Chalk, Aaron Paul, Enver Gjokaj, Garret Dillahunt, Terry Chen, Zachary Knighton

Plot: When his girlfriend goes missing, David must track down her whereabouts after he realizes she’s not who she was pretending to be.

Runtime: 1 Hour 52 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Story: Come and Find starts as we meet couple Claire (Wallis) and David (Paul) who had a weird meet and greet, which plays into how they interact, with hem both going in the same direction, believing they are following each other.

One morning Claire is nowhere to be found, which sees David going in search of her, finding himself involved in a bigger mystery about who she really is and what might have happened to her.

Thoughts on Come and Find Me

Characters – David believes he is in the perfect relationship, one which will see him thinking life has fallen into place, until one day he wakes up and his girlfriend has vanished, he spends the next year searching for answers, which will see him look into her past, opening more doors than he should. Claire is the girlfriend that has gone missing, she always seemed bubbly to David, with her vanishing being unlike anything he could imagine about her. Most of the film is learning more about her, with different direction to what David is expecting. We don’t really meet too many more people, with the ones we do meet, only giving glimpse to the truth for David.

PerformancesAaron Paul does struggle in the leading role here, he never makes us feel the desperation his character is feeling through the film, while we don’t get to see enough of Annabelle Wallis, due to her character vanishing for most of the film. Garret Dillahunt does bring us one of the highlights in the acting side of things, only it just isn’t enough to make the performances strong enough in the film.

StoryThe story here follows one man who goes in search for his girlfriend after she vanishes suddenly, which will see him unlock the truth about her, showing the secrets being kept could be bigger than he thought. This is a story that does have a slow pace about it, it doesn’t help with the constant jumping between before she went missing, midway through their relationship and when they first meet, with the deeper picture being more about her life, even though we never see her in her life, it is more about David slowly learning more about his own life. It does try to bring things out to be bigger and bigger, without giving us enough to understand how someone with no experience in this world could get so deep into it.

ThrillerWe do have a couple of tense scenes, only they usually lose the tension when we jump back into the normal life David thought he had.

SettingsThe film does take us around America as we get to learn different things about Claire’s life, we see how different locations will unlock different answers.

Scene of the Movie – The night meeting.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – The jump between the times is frustrating, taking away from the bigger picture.

Final Thoughts This is a disappointing thriller that jumps around all over the place and doesn’t get the best of the cast.

Crone Wood (2016) Movie Review

Director: Mark Sheridan

Writer: Mark Sheridan (Screenplay)

Starring: Elva Trill, Ed Murphy, Sarah Jane Seymour, Karen McCartney

Plot: A young couple who just met decides to go camping after a wonderful first encounter, a decision they will soon regret.

Runtime: 1 Hour 26 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Story: Crone Wood starts as we follow Hailey (Trill) and Danny (Murphy) who go on their first date camping trip away in the countryside, which will see them filming the occasion. As the night continues the couple find themselves being watch and after investigating noises, they can’t find their belongings, learning they are being followed by a much more sinister presence within the woods, one they must look to escape from or becomes the latest victims for.

Thoughts on Crone Wood

ThoughtsCrone Wood is a horror film that relies on the found footage idea for the added scares in the film, watching a couple’s planned weekend away turning into a nightmare. The found footage side of this film does have the usual problems, with the shaky cam, which can work well for the horror side of things, but ends up feeling out of place for certain conversation moments. The movie does have some truly genuinely scary moments, which will heighten the tension in certain scenes, but it does get held back by the filler about an awkward first date. We have seen a lot of films head down this similar direction, which will leave us being left wanting that little bit more for pure shock value.

Release Date: Feb 1st (DVD & VOD)

Final Thoughts Crone Wood is a found footage film with some genuine scares but not enough substance.