Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)

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This is a bodacious high school comedy and coming of age story that captures the youth and dramas of teens, that feels exciting and has good, not overly long winded touches of emotion concerning the growing pains of these characters. This film also succeeds in creating a world you want to jump into, it makes me wish I experienced that American school year lifestyle, especially the 80’s party swinging atmosphere shown in this movie.

A brilliant first directorial outing for Amy Heckerling who manages to shine a magnifying glass over work, play and studies of a small core of high schoolers, from weed and surf obsessed slacker Jeff Spicoli (Sean Penn) to the will they won’t they awkward attentions of Mark ‘Rat’ Ratner (Brian Backer) and Linda (Phoebe Cates). Mixed up in that is the strained career hopping of Brad (Judge Reinhold) and the confident talkers/sexual partners that are Mike Damone (Robert Romanus) and Stacy Hamilton (Jennifer Jason Leigh).

All the characters have believable traits and you can invest in their trials and tribulations whether you like them or not, that’s a sign of good writing and kudos Cameron Crowe for taking his novel and adapting it into a fun yet accurate portrayal of high school lives. Each character has a moment or two to step out and take the spotlight leaving you learning something extra about them, even the teachers have a chance to get some funnies or crack wise, Mr. Hand is a prime example of showing how a high school film doesn’t need to take one side, pupils and teachers both have a need to get their sides shown. The only slight negativity is the way that ‘Rat’ and Mike resolve the icky sticky situation that occurs and I would have liked to see more of Stacy….not in that way, there’s hints that blossom slowly about her character thanks to interactions with other people involved with her and it would have been nice to see a softer more true side to her, letting the facade drop could have been a fantastic dramatic option to give but it doesn’t happen sadly.

It’s a very well made and cool film with comedy playing a central and key part to the developments of these people as you both laugh at them and laugh with them. Imagery at certain times are brilliant, the awkward first date between ‘Rat’ and Linda is cringe but fantastic, even just the opening sight of seeing them both dwarfed by humongous chairs in the restaurant to the non-diagetic noises of terror as the waitress comes for the bill with a worried Ratner wallet-less. Their are some great lines of coaching or sharp observation that stem from either Stacy, Mike or Mr. Hand. Then there’s the visual and acting comedy of Penn as Spicoli who encapsulates the layabout student so much that it made me remember the sounds and sights of my time in school with certain slackers in mind.

It’s an energetic soundtrack to work with the frantic bustle of the Ridgemont Mall and the hustle of their school, from the emphatic percussion and squeals of The Go Go’s’ ‘We Got the Beat’ that runs over the pacy opening to the funny snippet of a Led Zeppelin track that Rat uses to try and be smooth. It’s a collection of songs that blend with the action so well that it becomes part of the film never really making you realise it’s there, a good thing I believe as it doesn’t take us out of the movie.

Sean Penn is so in the zone as Jeff Spicoli that it makes me wonder whether he went method and actually got high for the part or is just Penn and a great actor truly making you think he’s a skiving stoner. It’s a gnarly performance to watch though he flips the comedy of Jeff as a dumbnut on the head with certain looks in his eyes making you feel that he realises he’s doing wrong or not helping himself that stops just shy of making him a tragic character. Jennifer Jason Leigh looks utterly gorgeous in the film and sells the sure and sex smart character of Stacy beautifully that it feels like some twist or crash in the plot when you come to see she might not be so educated. The same goes for Romanus as Mike who is cocksure, excuse the word choice considering his character’s journey but then he displays that other angle of human emotion making us see beneath the show and see a more frightened unsure guy. Every player in this film works as their character really well to make the film come to life.

Apart from it not being as astounding as there was room for, I thoroughly enjoyed it and if you compare it to the coma inducing film that is ‘Dazed and Confused’ then this film is an ace in the pack. The end credit what happened next titles for the characters are naff and not funny to be honest, some character work could have been explored more but all in all this film is classic, sensitive and funny.

7.5/10

Beauty and the Beast (2014)

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Don’t be expecting Disney animation or singing village folk as this French take on the classic fairy tale gives its audience the same romantic tale but with a mild twist of danger, slight melodrama and subtitles. It’s a good enough film to watch but it’s very slow to get anywhere and it’s not nearly as good as I was hoping this world cinema take to be.

After losing all his money and possessions a merchant moves ship to the countryside with his children, amongst those is Belle (Lea Seydoux) who becomes the figure of a deal after the merchant takes a rose from the home of the Beast (Vincent Cassel). He would have been killed but the shadowy monster will accept the presence of his youngest daughter instead and, as she lives in his domain Belle learns more about the Beast leading her to find a path for possible true love.

It all looks very grand and glittering with each shot looking gloriously crafted, the French city gives us the snowier grimier side of life compared to the riches we then see at the merchant’s emptying house. It’s when the Beast’s landscape comes into play that the true beauty of the film becomes apparent. There are shifting forests, wide gardens with climbable trees piercing the sky, the castle resembles a Hogwarts like environment with stony walls and walkways peppering the scenery. It’s a film that gives us imagery to mirror the once bourgeois lifestyle Belle, her siblings and father had.

However in contrast to this praising of the look of the film there are some niggles with CGI being pulled up in front of the jury. I give it to you that a brooding beautiful tale with fantastic French actors doesn’t need to have so much computer trickery. I will run away with this court analogy and declare CGI in this film guilty of ruining the magic. It could have been in smaller doses but with big eyed beagles and deer running around it looks too gimmicky and loses the passion the film was building up.

Another issue is knowing the story this is based on leaves the first part of this film wide open for boredom, it would be alright if their way to set up the movie was interesting or dealt with quicker but alas it’s not really. You’re just tapping your feet waiting for the Beast to show up and then it becomes a good film of taming personalities, understanding pasts and falling in love, of course the ending too is wishy washy but that’s the outcome of this romantic plot, you can’t be mad at that inevitable fact. One more weakness was the decision of the story being read out, there’s no fun gasp to be had at seeing who is delivering the tale of Belle and the Beast as we can damn clearly see from the lower half of the face who it is. That could have been a good little end note to unravel the reader of the book.

There’s mysterious, fun, stirring and dark music by Pierre Adenot which at times sounds very ‘Harry Potter’ in tone of mischievous score, especially as Belle wanders the castle being followed by a pack of tiny dogs. Christophe Gans does direct a sprawling adaption of the traditional tale but there’s no impact of romance or danger that tests us, the only test is sitting through the entire thing not once getting bored. It’s a shame considering the acting talent and the scope for more to play with but this film aside from moments of visual delights feels limp.

Cassel and Seydoux do little more than run or walk through the scenes with their paper thin characters not substantial enough to chew up the scenery. For such classy actors as these two you wonder how they felt acting in such a sparkless bosom heaving rehash. Your honour I present to you exhibit A, a love story retold unnecessarily or at the very least unimaginatively.

Not overly exciting or haunting as it definitely could have been, a sad state of affairs to be honest with only minor things lifting it from complete boredom inducing messiness.

4.5/10

The Guest (2014)

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Boldly striking in style and content, ‘The Guest’ comes knocking at your door with electronic tunes, breakneck editing and a tour de force performance from Dan Stevens. It’s a clever mash-up of genres that somehow blend together nicely to tell, perhaps not a grand scale story but an enjoyable, dark and tense one nonetheless. 

The Peterson family are trying to deal with the news that Caleb, their son/brother has died at war, it seems that a mysterious and unreadable arrival to their house who knew Caleb could help them through this tough time. This guest’s name is David (Dan Stevens) and it isn’t long until his presence in the house draws in interest from bullied Luke (Brendan Meyer) and parent oppressed Anna (Maika Monroe).

Firstly, the look of this film is incredible, it never feels like it’s trying desperately to come across as stylishly as it does, but yet it does. It’s an environment that lets David breathe and do his thing. From snappy cuts to longer more moody wide shots there’s a lot helping this film run quickly along, especially in the latter half of the movie. This moody wide shots as I call them are done a few times as they pan round to let us see David just staring into the middle distance, not a flicker of any emotion to be had across his face. The shots arrive after something cut together faster so this sudden slowing in movement jolts us into feeling that undeniable worry of who is this man in their house. Going back to the style of the film and its impact, there is an excellent, rattling ride of fun and terror in the final act, it may be an over the top setting but it works in the horror/thriller genre fantastically and…wow, is it ever a final act to take glee in watching unfold. 

Directed and edited by Adam Wingard, who was on directing duty for the horror ‘You’re Next’ brings that know how into this film, it’s toned down slightly but there’s no questioning that some horror tropes are used to great effect in ‘The Guest’. It’s an almost roller-coaster ride from drama, war grief melodrama, bubbling tension and sexual tension, high school life, action, thriller, mystery and horror. This last one is unexpected, I never expected what I saw in the film when I viewed the trailer and that’s no negative point, it’s in fact a welcomed positive to have expectations flipped on their head. The horror thread starts becoming a thicker more prominent stitch in the tapestry of this film as it goes on and it isn’t long until knives, blood and suspenseful music are drawn landing us in some resemblance of horror territory. It’s never actually a full blown horror though, just like everything else mirroring David, there’s aspects of different moods in this movie. 

The film has a brilliant soundtrack which I’m sure will be listened to by many upon hearing it in the movie. A lot of it is instrumental which leaves no vocal distractions to the backing of the scene being played out. It has electronic echoes of ‘Drive’ which help the film build that tension of character as David becomes a sort of Gosling like figure that speaks minimally, looks threatening but has a twinkle in his eye. This soundtrack is clever in linking up to Anna’s character and helps the final act with a neat addition of her mix CD being used to rack up the audible and visual suspense. 

Dan Stevens, who I’ve never seen in anything else, I only know of his ‘Downton Abbey’ roots makes this film what it is in a lot of ways and if he doesn’t become some Hollywood heartthrob or at least the next leading male star to look out for then I don’t what went wrong. To play a cold yet warm character such as this David takes a difficult amount of acting. He’s distant yet charming, alarming yet approachable and a plethora of other antithesis examples. He carries a swag and smirk near constantly that is at once cool and inviting but also unnerving. It’s a blank slate that he makes his own and by the end he’s some good bad guy with a Michael Myers vibe going on. Maika Monroe can easily be the rising star of film if this film is anything to go by. She plays the 20 year old Anna with doubt and confidence of her character with leaps and bounds and provides a more human angle to the show as it plays out, she looks like Kate Hudson and Amber Heard combined with her own thing too, a good looking and talented young actress to keep an eye on. Brendan Meyer, who looks like Chloe Grace Moretz with a wig brings another viewpoint of more human qualities as the tormented kid at school. He has a weird yet interesting rise to overcome his troubles with the help of Steven’s David. 

There’s a few odd things such as how Luke doesn’t care one iota who David is and what goes on concerning him, the mother too makes a jarring stupid decision near the end and the actual truth of who David is can be slightly silly but that’s all part of the fun this film provides. There’s a deathly amount of black comedy that had the screen I was in laughing along at some pretty darkly delivered humour. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and you can tell, it’s having bundles of joy letting David worm his way into the Peterson family and so too do we in seeing it happen.

Slick, funny, dark and brilliantly crafted in creating a thriller/horror hybrid that makes a charismatic steely star out of Dan Stevens. So cool and so good, possible candidate for film of the year because it’s entertaining and seemingly came out of nowhere. 

8.5/10

Before I Go to Sleep (2014)

Before I Go to Sleep Movie‘Before I Go to Sleep’ beautifully and sometimes, darkly illuminates how tightly wound thrillers can be and also what a supreme actress Nicole Kidman is. This movie may have a few story flaws that take some swallowing to believe but apart from those slight misdemeanors, this second feature for Rowan Joffe lays on a suitably thick layer of tension and mystery. 

Christine Lucas (Nicole Kidman) had an accident leaving her waking up each day forgetting the day and many days before. This amnesia makes her forget her husband Ben (Colin Firth) who tries every day to make her remember their marriage. It’s not long until Christine gets a phone call from one Dr. Nash (Mark Strong) leading her to question details about her past through camera video documentation. It’s a plot that I can’t go into anymore than that for fear of spoiling unfolding mysteries and drama. 

Of course if you’ve seen the film or read the novel it’s based off then you’ll know how the story plays out and hopefully you’d agree that on the whole this film succeeds in building impending tense problems for Kidman’s lead role. I think this film’s strongest quality is the dark brooding atmosphere, even in the beauty of London surroundings you gain that unnerving sixth sense of danger and through the washed out palette of each frame. There’s some wonderful cinematography from the well set up shots of a Hitchcockian pier, the oppressive yellow dankness of a car park and the white seemingly fresh and innocent home Christine resides in. 

It’s all captured through steady almost serene like camera movements with shots lasting for a while or gentile tracks leading you to feel safe, which of course trickles over into that nasty false sense of security for us to share alongside Christine. It’s a greatly shot thriller that really enforces the job of constructing story and character enough to let the rest of the film bubble and boil into the necessary department of suspense and fear. The earlier calm camera motions make the bursts of pacy editing and scary low angles all the more worrying and brutal, which in the case of this film and some actions can definitely be. 

There’s a few minor issues in plot that may thread through the book, I don’t know, but the main factor of Christine’s amnesia and her predicament of what or who to believe can result in some scoff moments, such as how the incident leading her to get this memory blackout was never seen. A handy iron crops up to save the day that annoyed me a bit because of it’s helpful position and timely appearance. The end also is, well nice and all but it could have been cool to have some glimmer of a possible twist before the credits came on. 

Nicole Kidman really is fantastic as this tormented, grieving, lost and afraid wife trying to piece her own life and past together. She can really sell the emotional side of acting and when she cries you really believe this Christine is real and crying too. It all helps that she provides enough but not too many blank stares to hit home her amnesiac state. Mark Strong plays a good if not greatly fascinating part, he has a moment to shine when a possible revelation comes to light and makes us question what the bejesus is going on. Colin Firth surprised me as I’ve grown tired of Firth being Firth, here he of course has to play a more mysterious character as everyone is a mystery to Christine and I liked where his character comes from and goes to also. Firth makes it spark and fly with dramatic welly.

When the film racks up in tension the camera and music tallies up with that switch in style which makes for a darker and more spine chilling thriller which is all good with me, I can overlook thriller movie cliches and story weaknesses, as there’s some strong acting involved and impressively conjured psychological drama too. Not taut and logical in all places but it’s tense and interesting and a neat little thriller. 

6.5/10

Little Shop of Horrors (1986)

little-shop-of-horrors-movie-poster-1986-1020468588The above poster is 100% correct in saying this is ‘the most outrageous musical comedy in years’ and considering we’re nearly 30 years past the film’s release that says something amazing. It’s quick, soulful, dark and sharply performed. I’d always heard of this story and snippets of the song but had never feasted my eyes on it until today and now I’m truly glad I’ve seen it. 

A pathetic and moody florist (Vincent Gardenia – appropriate surname) never frequented by any customers is about to shut up shop when his clumsy and nervous employee called Seymour (Rick Moranis) brings out a ‘strange and interesting’ plant which soon brings in flocks of people to gaze at this Venus Flytrap like specimen. This plant however comes from a day of the total eclipse and only grows with the aide of blood and human pieces. Seymour doesn’t wish to help Audrey II until it says it can help him win over Audrey I (Ellen Greene – appropriate horticultural/character song surname). It’s not long until the man-eating flower is ballooning out of size and out of control. 

Based off a show that was based off a 1960 movie of the same name this retelling fires on all cylinders like a musical should. Frank Oz, the puppeteer and director brings his kooky and smart know how from the Muppet and Sesame world to bring this brooding tale of trouble and death to comedic life. It looks very good and still to this day it doesn’t look overly dated, of course you can see it’s studio based and the sets are clear as day but that all adds to the undeniable charm. There’s well paced storytelling amongst the songs and as the New Yorkers shuffle along through ‘Skid Row (Downtown)’, it builds up the sense of a grimy hard of luck place to affirm the location this story will stick around in. The songs are all directed nicely too with the muse-esque singers popping up in the background of shots to narrate events. 

In general that’s a neatly done thing throughout with the three school dropouts transforming into Greek chorus vocalists to help tell the plot through song. They’re extremely soulful too and now after my growing up with Disney I couldn’t help but relate them to the funky vibe of the five ladies in ‘Hercules’. The best directed and edited moment featuring these three is in the ‘Suppertime’ song with the trio stepping closer to the florist store as Audrey II which all comes together with the shots and music to build an actual rising of tension. They are constant characters who appear through a lot of the film even when not in sparkly dresses ready to belt some notes and that’s a fun thing to keep watch of. 

I couldn’t help but love the design of the twisted space born plant with it’s fleshy puppetry magic making the film feel that much more real and wonderful. It’s good to see practical effects being used as you’d just know that if the film was about nowadays teams would be chomping at the bit to make Audrey II CGI, which would be hideous as I’m only too sure Frank Oz would agree with on the turn of his beloved Yoda becoming a green skinned computer toy. The more maddening evil blossoming that Seymour’s find travels along is brilliantly encapsulated by the sprawling roots and secondary heads this plant soon shows. It becomes an actor in the film, with gravelly voice work from Levi Stubbs and puppet genius from Lyle Conway and his crew combining to make you believe this thing is as real as possible.

Now, I’m not a big fan of movie musicals with a lot of songs never being done right or a majority feeling dull with title tracks or few others being the only songs to stand out but here is a different matter. They’re all injected with fun and soul thanks to the running theme of the three ladies. In fact, they’re utterly cleverly written songs and backed with not overly cringe music that you can’t help but enjoy listening to them. The songs by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman do the job in each case whether telling a needed cheesy poppy hit of where Seymour got the plant or taking it down a notch to the more harmonious duet between Audrey and Seymour. It’s a grand affair of music and comedy in this pulpy film and I can now see why it’s loved as the musical horror it is. 

Rick Moranis as the bumbling Seymour is a fantastic casting choice and Moranis sells it completely as the lead character. You feel for his awkward phase and then buy into him when he’s becoming a little more dark in the thoughts of offing Audrey’s boyfriend. All the time though you know and like the fact he’s a nice guy and it helps that Moranis sings well enough too. Ellen Greene is squeaky and shrill as the romantic interest but that’s hilarious and even when it does grate from time to time you realise her acting is to the money as that’s her character. Steve Martin is a fantastic addition as abusive partner and unhinged dentist. He runs away with it, the Elvis Presley hair and mannerisms are flawless and he gets every one of his own teeth into the role. Levi Stubbs, lead singer of the Four Tops brings music and danger to Audrey II and really pushes oomph into the plant’s character. There’s some cracking cameos to see too from John Candy and James Belushi but the guest showstopper is Bill Murray who appears as a deranged dentistry fan rivaling the madness of Steve Martin in one brilliantly odd scene. 

Retro and a funky camp ride that feels like a blast of soul to your very soul itself. Surreal, silly, spooky and stuffed with sparkling songs. ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ has some weak aspects but who cares, the fun jumps up on you as dramatically as Audrey II’s growth spurt. 

7.5/10

Let’s Be Cops (2014)

Lets-Be-Cops-posterA fun film that may not break any comedy boundaries or even feel that satisfying, but there’s pleasure to be had in watching the magnetic broship chemistry the two male leads have and seeing how that pairing manage the madness of their dilemma as it reaches more insane heights.  

It’s a stupid idea for a film of course but with the dead end lives Ryan O’Malley (Jake Johnson) and Justin Miller (Damon Wayans Jr.) making them evaluate whether LA life is for them it’s a turn up for the books when their cop costume party gear attracts the good sort of attention, making them feel like heroes and stick with this police charade, until of course they stick their noses into business with some shady Russians and realise there’s more to being a man of the law than wearing a uniform and buying a car on eBay. 

Luke Greenfield is on writing and directorial duties here but he never seems to hit a stride in either neck of the woods. There’s standard comedy in shots with situation leading the way for sticky problems for Ryan and Justin to face but it’s over the top buffoonish humour that’s been done to death and the style on offer here is of resemblance to the more stylish and sharp comedy in both Jump Streets. Even here the soundtrack used feels similar with nightclub tunes blaring out to try and lift the scene. The writing at times is okay but there’s never a great streak of classic brilliant comedy in dialogue, there’s patches at best. The squad car veering into darker gangland territory never feels spot on mixed with the comedy though it does make for a nice change of gear in the movie.

Unfortunately a lot of the funny material is witnessed in the trailers which doesn’t detract from the film, there’s just not much else that we haven’t already clapped our eyes on. The turnaround that the two guys have is firmly in the predictable camp and also extremely hard to swallow as we see the aftermath of their intrusion and playing heroes dealt with in the most movie manner possible and Ryan’s alteration in particular is so dumb, are we seriously meant to believe he’s ever truly good at police work all along?! The boy meets girl angle is also seriously overdone and this waitress/fake police relationship is hurried along. This film only feels as palatable as it does thanks to a more sinister turn than expected and a worrying journey into the underworld of dodgy figures and secret crates. 

I liked the mirroring of Justin’s gaming idea with Ryan’s real life trouble as he tries escaping the numerous gang members, it was an expected thing to happen that both his game background and Josie the waitress’ (Nina Dobrev) skill would be brought into action but it’s done believably and nicely enough that it’s not gripe to me. The best quality of this film is the menacing glare of Andy Garcia and the frankly dazzling duo of Johnson and Wayans Jr. They have some evident fun playing around in this film even if we don’t have as much watching it. I only liked the film thanks to some funny back and forth between them and their comedy timing they get so right. 

It truly is a two man show though Hill and Tatum have done it twice already and better too. Jake Johnson is as good as ever playing the screaming freak out part of the pair and he sells the more loser-ish aspect as he clings onto this new hobby even when Justin isn’t as up for continuing. It’s Nick Miller, no relation to Justin I’m guessing unless canon will come into the fold, hyped up to the max as he squirms and leaps through the story. Damon Wayans Jr. plays his ‘New Girl’ character too in the fact both Justin and Coach share confidence, dance abilities, comic facial expressions and the lack of brave steps with the girl they really like. In fact it feels like a ‘New Girl’ episode stretched out and losing Jess, Cece, Winston and Schmidt. Nina Dobrev only serves as an attractive co-star and a scripted tool to help the guys out with some undercover plan. Keegan-Michael Key plays an overly street Spaniard with some cringe accent and most of the time he and the two fake cops are together it’s never that funny. 

Stretched, hit and miss and one without a sequel I hope. It’s not a film to kick down the genre or serve up a gilded plate of something fresh and exciting, we’re guided through much of the same and it’s only fine to watch thanks to the leading gentlemen involved. 

5/10

Life of Crime (2014)

LIFE-OF-CRIME-Poster-Artwork-for-WebsiteHere is a film that may not be a great long con but I enjoyed it nonetheless and with a stellar cast pulling their weight alongside an excellent score, you cannot deny that this film has most of the requirements for a watchable and interesting enough kidnapping story. 

Mickey Dawson (Jennifer Aniston), a wife of wealthy Frank Dawson (Tim Robbins) becomes the highlighted target for a hopeful quick money making scheme to pull in $1 million. Though unfortunately for the two kidnappers Louis and Ordell (John Hawkes and Yasiin Bey) Frank is getting some sweet action on the side from Melanie (Isla Fisher) the other woman in his life and with a Dawson divorce on the cards Louis and Ordell need to think fast to try and get that money still. 

Adapted from an Elmore Leonard story this film succeeds in mixing a suitable amount of fun tension with the main flesh of the tale. It might not be overly hilarious but the cast and writing are sharp enough to keep the movie going along nicely. In fact this crime caper is more engaging to watch unfold than the disaster writing involved in ‘American Hustle’. At least here the story is simple and effective with some neat and tidy little turns to keep the aspects of humour up and also keep the con idea’s neck above water. Every now and then nearing the latter end of the film’s running time it can feel like it is lagging slightly when they themselves don’t know what to do in the predicament of an unwanted hostage but it all feels worth it for a sly and cheeky twist just before the credits do their thing. 

A lot of the con magic here actually stems from the sense of the music built up. That honour falls to The Newton Brothers and Jordan Galland who conjure up steady beats of percussion to provide a rhythmic overtone that works well in this crime setting. Their score harks up impressions of Oceans 11 and the like with it’s smooth and stylish simplicity of drum knocks and jazzy notes. It did a lot to improve the nature and atmosphere of the story and give it a needed stamp of con movie flair. 

I may not have liked some of the slower parts where dialogue or story chunks felt boring and uninspiring for a con movie genre but there are some great moments in this film to be seen. The tension is raised to an 11 out of 10, no ‘This is Spinal Tap’ reference intended, in the Dawson house scene as Mickey’s admirer played by Will Forte comes into the home as Louis and Ordell are in the process of kidnapping her. Aside from the kooky ‘You’re Next’ masks the comedy comes to a necessary halt to bring in some hold your breath suspense as Marshall (Forte) gets nearer to where they’re hiding a scared and masked Mickey. There’s fun to be had too in Ordell journeying down to Florida to come face to face with Frank’s mistress as they try and take a change in pace to get the money they want. The confidence of a bound and taken woman is great to see and emphasised by a painful looking cigarette burn to a peeping Nazi. 

Jennifer Aniston is seeming to take on better roles as of late and here she proves she can play a lead with convincing drama. You feel for her vulnerability and Aniston sells the character of Mickey with sadness, confidence and a glimmer in her eye that she’s not overly weak as you’d think a blonde wife of a rich man could be. John Hawkes takes on the role of Stockholm syndrome guy well and gives the kidnapping duo the grounded angle while Yasiin Bey or Mos Def as you’d all know him plays it cool and swish as the one desperate to do anything to get that million dollars. Isla Fisher is fabulous as playing the sassy sultry mistress with brains and sharp thoughts to try and save herself along with Frank and then Ordell. Tim Robbins doesn’t really do much after the first twenty minutes of the movie but in that time he plays a worrying streak of possible abusive husband to perfection that helps Aniston feed off to sympathise with her more. Will Forte doesn’t really have much of a character and doesn’t do an awful lot to the story either. 

It isn’t a fantastically tense or funny con story and it only feels as watchable as it does thanks to some snappy star casting, Mos Def and Isla Fisher take a bow for the zippy side of things and Aniston for being rather good really. The film captures that 70’s vibe with accuracy and gives us interesting characters to watch to the last seconds of the plot. 

6/10