ABC Film Challenge – Random – V – Vanilla Sky (2001)

Director: Cameron Crowe

Writer: Cameron Crowe (Screenplay) Alejandro Amenabar, Mateo Gil (Original Screenplay)

Starring: Tom Cruise, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Kurt Russell, Jason Lee, Noah Taylor, Timothy Spall, Tilda Swinton, Michael Shannon

 

Plot: A self-indulgent and vain publishing magnate finds his privileged life upended after a vehicular accident with a resentful lover.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Trippy Fantasy Thriller

 

Story: Vanilla Sky starts as we meet David Aames (Cruise) a playboy publishing mogul that inherited this from his father. He sleeps with beautiful women including actress Julie Gianni (Diaz) but always finds time for his best friend Brian Shelby (Lee). But, his life has been shattered thanks to a car accident which has left him disfigured hiding behind a mask in jail.

While waiting for his hearing David recounts the events which led up to his charges to McCabe (Russell). We learn how David meets Sofia Serrano (Cruz) the woman of his dreams but Julie shows her jealous side causing a car crash which leaves him broken and living between reality and dreams, needing to face his new life.

 

Thoughts on Vanilla Sky

 

Characters/PerformanceDavid lived a life where he could have any women living the life of luxury until this lifestyle catches up with him, leaving him disfigured and in jail, recounting the events between the two moments. Sofia is the new love that David falls for, she has all the chemistry he requires for something different being the motivation for David to fix himself. Julie is the jealous former lover that causes the accident, she is an actress that is filled with self-confidence but all that isn’t everything we have come to know.

Performance wise, Tom Cruise is great in the leading role, not being afraid to make himself slightly disfigured for this role. Cameron Diaz and Penelope Cruz are both are both also great in the roles of the two women in David’s life.

StoryIn a story that leaves you questioning nearly everything going on even after you believe you have just worked everything out, well this story will keep you all over the place. I do think this does enough to keep us guessing without becoming tiring and will completely satisfied by the end.

Fantasy/Mystery/RomanceThe fantasy world created comes through in the end and it will leave you shocked with the outcome of the film, getting to this stage we are left with a big mystery into just what has been happening with the romance being how David falls in love with Sofia.

SettingsEach setting is used well, but the truly special moment in the New York being empty looks fantastic.

Special EffectsThe effects that are used to create the disfigured looking David all come off great with the other effects all doing the required effect in the film.

Final ThoughtsThis film will test your mind which is always something we like to see in films, yes, it is a remake or reimagination but still it looks fantastic.

 

Overall: This was a true mind bender of morale decision making.

Rating

 

 

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The Shape of Water (2017)

Director: Guillermo del Toro

Writer: Guillermo del Toro, Vanessa Taylor (Screenplay) Guillermo del Toro (Story)

Starring: Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Stuhlbarg, Doug Jones

 

Plot: At a top secret research facility in the 1960s, a lonely janitor forms a unique relationship with an amphibious creature that is being held in captivity.


Tagline – Based on an idea by Daniel Kraus And Guillermo del Toro

Runtime: 2 Hours 3 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Spectacularly Beautiful

 

Story: The Shape of Water starts as we follow lonely mute woman Elisa (Hawkins) who works as a janitor in a secret government facility with her trusted friend Zelda Fuller (Spencer), Elisa’s silence helps the government know the secrets won’t get released with only her neighbour Giles (Jenkins) being anyone outside of work for her.

When a new creature Amphibian Man (Jones) is bought in with strict security officer Richard Strickland (Shannon) as the facility looks to experiment on the creature. When Elisa strikes up a friendship with the creature, she will do anything to make sure he stays alive and safe once the facility decides they want to examine his organs.

 

Thoughts on The Shape of Water

 

Characters – Elisa is a mute lonely woman that works as a janitor and only has one friend in her personal life. When a creature gets bought into her facility she sees the loneliness he is feeling and wants to save him, believing it to be her purpose. Amphibian Man is a creature taken from his home to be experimented on by the Americans, he is lonely and finds communication from Elisa comforting in his captivity, even though he is highly dangerous to anyone who gets too close. Richard Strickland is the man in charge of the operation with the creature, he wants to do harm and tries to intimidate the people who don’t want to follow his orders. Giles is the trusted neighbour that Elisa turns to for help, he is similar to him with his loneliness in the world too, while Zelda is the one co-worker that Elisa has to turn to and the one that translates her sign language. Dr Hoffstetler is the man that doesn’t want to see the creature hurt, for science and his true alliance in the world.

PerformancesSally Hawkins is fantastic in this role, her emotions are shown in every movement and expression on her face in a role with no words. Doug Jones has spent his career performing the odd roles being able to transform himself, this is his biggest and easily his best role to date. Michael Shannon in the villainous role shines just like we know he can every time. Richard Jenkins, Octavia Spencer and Michael Stuhlbarg complete the casting wonderfully playing the supporting roles just how they need to be.

StoryThe story follows unusual attraction, finding someone that accepts you to make you feel safe and how government will do anything to learn from an unknown creature. This is both magical, tragic and special from start to finish. Each side of the story shows how different people didn’t fit in during the early 60s and just how love truly works. This is an original story that plays on as many different emotions as it possible can.

Adventure/Fantasy/RomanceThis is an adventure like never before, it shows the risk taken to do the right thing for love, which helps play into this unlikely love story that captures you from the first moment, showing just how love can change you in a second. The fantasy elements are full blown what you would have come to expect from a del Toro movie now, both magical and fantastical.

SettingsThe settings keep everything safe, we have a faceless city with a secret facility which works because we wouldn’t have this facility in a big city.

Special EffectsThe effects used through the film keep everything looking fantastic through the film, nothing seems to look out of place.


Scene of the Movie –
Bathroom flood.

That Moment That Annoyed Me I actually think this is flawless.

Final ThoughtsThis is one of the most perfect movies I have ever seen, if has heart in every scene and just makes you feel on edge to just where it will go.

 

Overall: Brilliant, stunning and fantastic.

Rating

 

 

12 Strong (2018)

Director: Nicolai Fuglsig

Writer: Ted Tally, Peter Craig (Screenplay) Doug Stanton (Book)

Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Michael Shannon, Michael Pena, Navid Negahban, Trevante Rhodes, Geoff Stults, Thad Luckinbill

 

Plot: 12 Strong tells the story of the first Special Forces team deployed to Afghanistan after 9/11; under the leadership of a new captain, the team must work with an Afghan warlord to take down for the Taliban.


Tagline – The Declassified True Story of the Horse Soldiers

Runtime: 2 Hours 10 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Brilliant Pulse Pounding Action Film

 

Story: 12 Strong starts on the day of 9/11, Captain Mitch Nelson (Hemsworth) witnesses the horrors of the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers, returning to his military base, he wants to lead her unit into battle against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Once receiving permission and earning the right, Mitch is joined by Hal Spencer (Shannon) and his 10 other trusted soldiers that head into Afghanistan to work with the Afghan Warlord General Dostum (Negahban) as they unleashes the first attack in retaliation after the 9/11 attack.

 

Thoughts on 12 Strong

 

Characters – These soldiers are real people, Mitch Nelson is the unexperienced combat Captain that takes his driven man into battle, he must use his own smarts to be given the opportunity to be the first in the retaliation, he uses his knowledge to work with General Dostum as the two different cultures and ideas must come together for the battle. Hal Spencer is the second in command of the unit, he is older and offers the advice he soldier needs to get himself to the right answers. The rest of the unit all have their moments through the story and by the end you will believe you are watching a real unit.

PerformancesChris Hemsworth in the leading role is fantastic, he keeps himself looking like the star even though he needs to work with a unit to get the right answers, showing he can handle the serious roles once again. Michael Shannon in the supporting role shines even though it is strange seeing him in a good guy role after his recent run as a villain. The rest of the cast are great, they all have wonderful chemistry which the unit needs to pull this off.

StoryThe day of 9/11 shocked the world, America the most and this shows the plan to retaliate after the attacks, the first men to go into combat against the Taliban as they risked everything to get a strike back and prevent what was believed to be another big attack. This is a true story, this could easily have been a fictional story because after the mission starts, you are pulled into seeing just what the men will do to get the job done and of course it is an against the odd style mission.

Action/History/WarThe action sequences are shot in a brutal style that doesn’t hold back with what happens, we are left shocked by certain moments and on the edge of our seats the next because of the war time battle sequences.

SettingsThe settings look the part, we are mostly just in and around caves and canyons which is where the Taliban would be hiding and preparing.

Special EffectsThe effects for the battle sequences are flawless, looking brutal and the stunt team need praise for the work they have put into this movie.


Scene of the Movie –
The final surge, wonderfully shot moment.

That Moment That Annoyed Me It is ‘we are America, we are great’

Final ThoughtsThis is one of the best war movies or recent years, it shows the brutally of the war, the thin line between good and evil between the Afghan units and just how bringing together two cultures can unit for a same enemy.

 

Overall: Must watch action movie.

Rating

 

 

 

Christmas Holiday Weekend – The Night Before (2015)

Director: Jonathan Levine

Writer: Jonathan Levine, Kyle Hunter, Ariel Shaffir, Evan Goldberg (Screenplay)

Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anthony Mackie, Jillian bell, Lizzy Caplan, Helene Yorke, Michael Shannon

 

Plot: On Christmas eve, three lifelong friends spend the night in New York City looking for the Holy Grail of Christmas parties.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Enjoyable Christmas Movie

 

Story: The Night Before starts as we learn why Ethan (Gordon-Levitt) lost his parents over Christmas in 2001, his two best friends Isaac (Rogen) and Chris (Mackie) spend every Christmas Eve together and getting drunk, but as time went by his friends started to move on with Chris becoming a sports star and Isaac starting his own family. With Ethan, still almost stuck in his slump with his life working as a Christmas Elf.

This year has been mutually agreed to be the last one they spend together and Ethan has finally got the ticket to the biggest Christmas Party in town, the one they have always been looking to attended but before that, the traditions need to be celebrated for the last time. How will this night turn out for the friends on what is meant to be their final adventure?

 

Thoughts on The Night Before

 

Characters/PerformanceEthan is a man that lost his family at Christmas, he asks only one thing and that is to spend it with his two best friends, he hasn’t been able to find his path in life while his friends have found success but he knows this is his last Christmas Eve with friends. Isaac is about to become a father which leaves him knowing that he won’t be able to party as often as he can so he gets the chance to party on the last time but can’t handle the trip. Chris is suddenly becoming the big sports star he dreamed off but he finds himself in the middle of making new friends or keeping the ones he loves like brothers.

Performance wise, Joseph Gordon-Levitt does a great job in the leading role playing a role he has made his own in comedy movies, Rogen is what you expect from him but his character is slightly questionable in places. Mackie shows that he can handle comedy on a regular level after Pain & Gain, he proves he can handle the supporting role.

StoryDeep down this story has a story of friendship and just how important it is over Christmas. We get to focus on moving forward in life remember never to forget the people who spent it with you, accepting responsibility for mistakes you have made and finding a way to be ready for parenthood. I think this does have plenty of Christmas message but sadly does get bogged down with the almost pointless drug based side story going on.

ComedyThe comedy does come thick and fast through the film even if certain parts of the film are based the drug usage going on through the characters.

SettingsThe film is set in New York city which shows the hustle and bustle of the town during the Christmas Eve events. It all works for everything going on through the story.

Final ThoughtsI did enjoy the deeper meaning behind this film as the part of the story Ethan goes through but I got slightly tired on the Rogen drug filled character.

 

Overall: This is a great Christmas film that is well worth a watch if you want something non-family based.

Rating

 

 

Nocturnal Animals (2016)

nocDirector: Tom Ford

Writer: Tom Ford (Screenplay) Austin Wright (Novel)

Starring: Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Isla Fisher, Ellie Bamber, Armie Hammer, Laura Linney

Plot: An art gallery owner is haunted by her ex-husband’s novel, a violent thriller she interprets as a veiled threat and a symbolic revenge tale.

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

Verdict: Wow

Story: Nocturnal Animals starts by following art gallery owner Susan Morrow (Adams) who has it all with her new husband Hutton (Hammer) but she isn’t enjoying the job the way she once did. Susan receives a copy of her ex-husbands novel.

We enter the novel following the Hastings family Tony (Gyllenhaal), Laura (Fisher) and India (Bamber) as they are travelling cross country clashing with Ray Marcus (Taylor-Johnson) and his crew of joyriders in the middle of the night.

With his family kidnapped and his car found abandoned Tony must work with Bobby Andes (Shannon) to find his family all while Susan is struggling with the intensity of the novel. When the story hits hard personally for Susan, she starts to see this as a message being sent by her first husband Ed Sheffield (Gyllenhaal). We are left to witnesses just how the book ends and how it could be reflected into Susan’s life.

Thoughts on Nocturnal Animals

StoryThe story is balancing three stories, the first is Susan reading the book and looking back at her relationship with Ed. The second is looking at how the relationship between Susan and Ed started and fell apart. The third is the following of the novel which is a very intense story. I think all three are balanced perfectly to show the paranoia coming Susan, the love story beginning middle and end of the early relationship. The highlight of the stories really is looking into the novel because this story while intense wouldn’t work as a solo film without seeing and feeling the reaction of Susan reading into so deeply. The stories also don’t get themselves confused which could easily happen in this story.

Drama/ThrillerThis is a thriller that will keep you on edge from start to finish when it comes to the novel being told the drama mostly comes from the outskirts following Susan’s story of wondering what the book is meant to stand for.

Characters/PerformanceLooking into the characters we have a very interesting mix, Susan is never saw what to want from her life making the mistakes which will make over people like her, I do think the stand out characters are from novel with Tony character being filled with emptiness after what happens to his family, Andes being a strong cop figure willing to go the extra mile for justice and the crazy criminal Ray Marcus that goes all out to get what he wants and gets away with anything. When we look at the performances Adams, Gyllenhaal and Shannon all give the great performances you know and expect from them, it is Aaron Taylor Johnson that makes you step back and go wow because this performance not many people could have seen coming from him.

SettingsEach setting fits the story it is being used to tell, be it the high society setting of the art gallery owner, the rough desert location for the novel and New York for the early stages of love.

Final ThoughtsThis is easily one of the most intense films of the year that will be hard for certain film fans to enjoy because of how dark it is but in the end, you will be left shocked with where this one goes.

Overall: Shockingly intense story telling going on from start to finish.

Ratingcard