Black Mirror – Smithereens (2019)

Director: James Hawes

Writer: Charlie Brooker (Screenplay)

Starring: Andrew Scott, Damson Idris, Topher Grace, Caitlin Innes Edwards, Ruibo Qian

 

Plot: A cab driver with an agenda becomes the centre of attention on a day that rapidly spirals out of control.

 

Runtime: 1 Hour

 

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Truly Intense

 

Story: Smithereens starts as we meet Chris (Scott) a taxi driver that spends his time waiting outside one building waiting for clients, he does attend support groups for people who have experienced loss. Chris picks up his latest client Jayden (Idris) working for a company called Smithereen, Chris goes onto kidnap him in an attempt speak to the boss of the company Billy (Grace), the problem is that while the kidnapping gets the attention of the police and Chris finds himself surrounded by police in his race for this conversation.

 

Thoughts on Smithereens

 

Characters – Chris is a taxi driver that has been through a traumatic experience and has set out to get a message sent to the owner of a company known as Smithereen, he is on edge and kidnaps an employee of the company to get through to the man. We get to learn a lot about his life as the hostage situation unfolds. Jayden is the hostage who is just an intern within the company, he is scared for his life and will give any answers he can to help Chris get his answers. Billy is the owner of Smithereen that has a become the target of Chris’s actions.

PerformancesAndrew Scott is brilliant in the leading role, we can see just how on edge his character is through the film dealing with a range of emotions which makes his position in the story understandable. Damson Idris is great in his role which is as a hostage victim trying to stay composed. Topher Grace continues to prove himself as an actor breaking away from the sitcom figure.

StoryThe story here follows a depressed taxi driver that wants to speak to the owner of a social media network leading him to take a hostage while he waits for a conversation.  In this story we get to dive into the reality of loss, grief and depression, while showing how controlling social media has become to the world, add in the hostage situations we get one of the most intense stories you will ever see, as you just want to see what will unfold and just where the story will go next. We do have moments of humour too which does lighten the mood at times, while never taking away from the intensity the story is offering.

Sci-FiThe sci-fi involvement in this film comes from the social media aspects of the film, showing how a big firm has just as much ability to learn about a criminal situation at a faster pace than the police, showing that we are in a world where the world can be controlled by likes and comments.

SettingsThe film has an interesting mix of settings, firstly the hostage position is in the middle of a field in England, we deal with people in LA and in Utah all trying to resolve the situation, showing how quickly a global effort can work to search for answers.


Scene of the Movie –
The truth.

That Moment That Annoyed Me British snipers are terrible.

Final ThoughtsThis is one of the most intense episodes the series has ever put together, we have an outstanding leading performance and get to deal with the grief and suffering that people can experience.

 

Overall: One of the best episodes ever.

Rating

 

 

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ABC Film Challenge – Oscar Nomination – K – BlacKkKlansman (2018)

Director: Spike Lee

Writer: Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott, Spike Lee (Screenplay) Ron Stallworth (Book)

Starring: John David Washington, Adam Driver, Laura Harrier, Topher Grace

 

Plot: Ron Stallworth, an African American police officer from Colorado Springs, CO, successfully manages to infiltrate the local Ku Klux Klan branch with the help of a Jewish surrogate who eventually becomes its leader. Based on actual events.


Tagline – Based on a true story

Runtime: 2 Hours 15 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Brilliantly Entertaining

 

Story: BlacKkKlansman starts when Ron Stallworth (Washington) becomes the first black police officers in Colorado Springs, he starts in the record room before pushing for undercover work, which soon leads him to try and go undercover within the Ku Klux Klan, the problem is that he is black, meaning he needs to get a white cop to be him, Flip Zimmerman (Driver) steps into this position.

As the undercover job gets deeper into the Klan, Flip gets to communicate with David Duke (Grace), while Ron starts to date Patrice (Harrier) who is a major player in the Kwame Ture (Hawkins) movement.

 

Thoughts on BlacKkKlansman

 

Characters – Ron Stallworth was the first black police officer in the Colorado Springs department, he gets a plain records room job to start with before wanting to make an impact by going undercover, first within a black student union movement, before finding a way to get involved within the Ku Klux Klan, he uses he words to trick them into believing he is white, white using his partner to go along with the meetings. He wants to make a difference and sees his work as his best chance too. Flip Zimmerman is the detective that works with Ron on the undercover job, he becomes Ron when it comes to the meetings with the klan. Patrice is a woman that Ron meets in the black student union, one that do let Ron in believing him to be part of the movement. David Duke is the leader of the KKK, he is being challenged for leadership, while still be worshipped for his work in the movement

PerformancesJohn David Washington is brilliant in this leading role, showing his strength of his character while making his character feel cool in the what he is doing. Adam Driver shows us once again how talented of an actor he really is by stepping into this role and making it work with ease. Laura Harrier is everything we needed in her role, though we could have had a few more scenes with her in. Topher Grace is a strange choice on paper for David Duke, though he does work out to be a great choice for the role.

StoryThe story here follows a black cop going undercover within the Ku Klux Klan, well doing the talking on the phone before his white partner becomes the member using his name. This does show a law man being put in the middle of the two movements with the black student union group clashing with the KKK and just how he works within both sides to learn if they are going to be a threat to civilians, let alone each other. The story is based on the real man involved, which does put a slightly comical spin on how the action of the KKK plays out which does lighten the mood for a serious situation, which again works for the story which can be enjoyed by all with becoming too serious.

Biopic/CrimeThe biopic side of this film does show on Ron managed to trick the KKK into believing he was a white man that could join them even though he was a black undercover cop. The crime side of the film shows three main groups of people we have the KKK, we have the black student union and we have the police who were all causing problems on different scales during the time.

SettingsThe film keeps the action of the film in the correct looking location which helps with the realism of what we are seeing in the film.


Scene of the Movie –
The photograph.

That Moment That Annoyed Me The propaganda in the final shots

Final ThoughtsThis is a fun story that brings a serious issue to the front and centre, it is wonderfully acted, but never preaches the problems like it could have easily done.

 

Overall: Important but laid back biopic.

Rating

 

 

ABC Film Challenge – Random – A – American Ultra (2015)

ultraDirector: Nima Nourizadeh

Writer: Max Landis (Screenplay)

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Topher Grace, Connie Britton, Walton Goggins, John Leguizamo, Bill Pullman

 

Plot: A stoner – who is in fact a government agent – is marked as a liability and targeted for extermination. But he’s too well-trained and too high for them to handle.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Fun Action Comedy

 

Story: American Ultra starts as Mike Howell (Eisenberg) who must explain what has happened. We move back to see how Mike and his girlfriend Phoebe (Stewart) who live in a small dead-end town while enjoying getting stoned in their spare time. We also meet the government agents Adrian Yates (Grace) who is looking to close a project that Victoria Lasseter (Britton) has started.

When Adrian decides to terminate asset Mike Howell he becomes activated by Victoria and Mike learns all about a new set of skills that leaves a trail of bodies as Mike and Phoebe go on the run to learn the truth.

 

Thoughts on American Ultra

 

StoryThe story here is easy to follow and it is clear that this is designed to poke fun at the is he an agent or not sub-genre of action without being full parody. I think the story works and comes off original for the most part because you are left wonder where it could go next and we see how anything is possible too.

Action/ComedyThe action going on within this film is to make the extra comedy with how unique the kills and use of weapons that make things original throughout. While I don’t think, this is the best comedy the fact it doesn’t take itself too seriously helps make it feel light hearted throughout.

Characters/PerformancesMike is meant to be your everyday stoner who just gets by in life but what if he had been recruited by the government to be an undercover asset, well this is told through this character where he questions his own existence in the world. Phoebe does have a twist to her character with Yates being the typical over the top full of power government agent with Victoria being the elder member of the government team who wants to do the right thing. When you look at performances Eisenberg gets to have a lot of fun with his character and Stewart shows the talent she has but doesn’t always show in Twilight. Grave continues to be good at the over the top guy with the rest of the cast fitting the movie well.

SettingsThe settings are within the small town which shows just how the government can take control without needing to explain. It also gets fully explained by Mike hasn’t been able to leave under the program.

Special EffectsThe special effects are few and far between but all work for how the story is being told without having anything go wildly over the top like it could.

Final ThoughtsEnjoyable and fun is the best way to describe this because you know you are having something slightly light hearted going on throughout.

 

Overall: Fun and enjoyable action comedy that watched the right way can be enjoyed.

Ratingcard

 

 

War Machine (2017)

Director: David Michod

Writer: David Michod (Screenplay) Michael Hastings (Book)

Starring: Brad Pitt, Anthony Hayes, John Magaro, Anthony Michael Hall, Emory Cohen, Topher Grace, Ben Kingsley, Scoot McNairy

 

Plot: An absurdist war story for our times, writer-director David Michôd (Animal Kingdom) recreates a U.S. General’s roller-coaster rise and fall as part reality, part savage parody – raising the specter of just where the line between them lies today. His is an exploration of a born leader’s ultra-confident march right into the dark heart of folly. At the story’s core is Brad Pitt’s sly take on a successful, charismatic four-star general who leapt in like a rock star to command NATO forces in Afghanistan, only to be taken down by a journalist’s no-holds-barred exposé.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Good War Comedy

 

Story: War Machine starts as highly respected and inspiration General Glen McMahon (Pitt) getting recruited to Afghanistan to see how the war is going over there, Glen brings his trusted men Pete Duckman (Hayes), Cory Staggart (Magaro), Greg Pulver (Hall), Willy Dunne (Cohen), Matt Little (Grace) and Andy Moon (Cyler) to bring the base together fixing the divide and keep the American side of the war happy back home.

We watch how Gen McMahon looks to recruit enough soldiers to make his plan to stop the problems happening in Afghanistan by using the counter insurgence tactics which have famously never worked before. Glen leads his close-knit group around Europe to find the rest of soldiers required from the allies of the United States as he continues his idea of peaceful removal of insurgence instead of just killing them.

 

Thoughts on War Machine

 

Characters/PerformanceGeneral Glen McMahon is assigned to Afghanistan to finish the war against the insurgence, he is respected and gets results by doing things his way. He wants to change things and make it feel like a war over a holiday image he sees it looking like. Greg Pulver is the loyalist man to Glen, he has been by his side from the start and is a loose cannon at times. The rest of the characters do all include the type of figures you would expect all getting the screen time required for the characters importance.

Performance wise, Brad Pitt is fantastic in this leading role showing us he can do comedy through a straight-faced role. Outside of Pitt it would be fair to say everybody else does a good job through this film fitting the chemistry required for the role.

StoryThe story is part parody and part light-hearted humour of how the war in Afghanistan could look like, more politics than conflict. We do also get the reality of war thrown at us and this shows us just what the problem with the war in Afghanistan. The story does feel long in places as this is two hours long but it is worth it for the reality check it gives.

Comedy/War The comedy comes from the reality check of how naïve the war in Afghanistan was, it’s not a laugh a minute it is a laugh of that was stupid wasn’t it. The war side of the film comes from trying to solve the problem without conflict.

SettingsEach setting looks good for the film and shows us just how this was for the soldiers would have come off comfortable for the soldiers over the previous wars.

Final ThoughtsThis is a comedy that is worth watching, it does have good moments on reality but it also has the moments that show how pointless the battle came off as.

 

Overall: One to watch.

Rating

 

 

The Calling (2014)

callingDirector: Jason Stone

Writer: Scott Abramovitch (Screenplay) Inger Ash Wolfe (Novel)

Starring: Susan Sarandon, Gil Bellows, Ellen Burstyn, Topher Grace, Donald Sutherland, Christopher Heyerdahl, Kevin Parent

 

Plot: Detective Hazel Micallef hasn’t had much to worry about in the sleepy town of Fort Dundas until a string of gruesome murders in the surrounding countryside brings her face to face with a serial killer driven by a higher calling.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Slow Thriller

 

Story: The Calling starts as we meet Detective Hazel Micallef (Sarandon) of a small town of Fort Dundas who is used to dealing with small crimes if any. Her quiet life takes a turn when a local resident is brutally murdered in their own home leading to Hazel and her partner Ray Green (Bellows) trying to solve the case.

Getting a new deputy Ben Wingate (Grace) joining the force a second body turns up and Hazel knows she is dealing with a serial killer. Learning the killer might be leaving them a message Hazel turns to Father Price (Sutherland) for answers in the meaning of the communication where she learns that she is tracking a serial killer with ancient religious beliefs.

The Calling brings us a new serial killer based film which I did like his motives because he only killed people willing to die to help a cause. The side of this I didn’t like was we never saw the full outcome of what he wanted to believe would happen. I do feel we have too bigger names in small almost pointless roles in the film because we do have Oscar worthy actors in supporting roles. We do get the basic police discussion which if they worked together instead of the derestriction we would caught the killer quicker. In the end this falls slightly short of what we could have had but I am glad we didn’t get the full blown gore fest it could have easily been.

 

Actor Review

 

Susan Sarandon: Hazel Micallef is the small town detective with a dark personal past which includes a suicide attempt, she finds herself in the middle of an investigation into a new religious serial killer. Hazel finds herself wondering what I right while tracking this killer with a new younger deputy. Susan is good in this role without reaching all potential.  hazel

Gil Bellows: Detective Ray Green is the partner at the small town, he wants to follow the book a lot more than Hazel even though he folds to her decisions being made by her. He is a good supporting officers throughout dealing with the smaller parts Hazel isn’t the right person to handle. Gil gives us a basic supporting role.

Christopher Heyerdahl: Simon is the mysterious man going around committing this murders, he is following a plan by God to help a bigger plan to save people from illness. He is giving people a way out of their suffering. Christopher gives us a genuine creepy killer throughout who never once looks threatened by the thought of being captured.

Topher Grace: Ben Wingate is set to the small town as a new deputy from a big city, he does a lot of the leg work in the investigation almost being the pawn of what Hazel and Ray think it the right choice. Topher is good in this role but is struggling to make the impact needed.ben

Donald Sutherland: Father Price is the man that Hazel turns to, to learn about the message being left by the killer, he is an expert in ancient religious beliefs but is nothing more than a supporting information filler character. Donald serves his purpose in this film which sadly isn’t enough for an actor of his level.

Support Cast: The Calling has a supporting cast which all have small scenes which help with the final outcome.

Director Review: Jason StoneJason brings us a good idea of the for the story but I do feel the ending comes off slightly short.

 

Mystery: The Calling does keep us wondering what the motives of the killer are.

Thriller: The Calling keeps us on edge with wondering who the next victim will be.

Settings: The Calling starts in the small town which works for the shock until it ends up meaning nothing to the final half of the film.
Special Effects
: The Calling has very good effects to show the kills.

Suggestion: The Calling is a good story but doesn’t give us enough overall. (Try It)

 

Best Part: The killer works coming of fresh.

Worst Part: Fizzles out.

 

Believability: No

Chances of Tears: No

Chances of Sequel: No

Post Credits Scene: No

 

Oscar Chances: No

Runtime: 1 Hour 48 Minutes

Tagline: Pray for the Prey

 

Overall: Solid thriller that really has a lot more potential than we finally get.

Ratingcard