The Walk (2015)


The second in IMAX spectacle features after the snowy daring of ‘Everest’. This one fares better though and gladly so, as it gives us less characters with more focus, a more engaging artistic story and fun creativity in the setting up of this mans story to ascend to the clouds but not on a mountain.

Ever since Philippe Petit (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) was a young boy, he had aspirations of high wire acts and once he sees there’s construction of the Twin Towers in New York, he makes it his mission to get a team together and plan to join and then walk a wire across the World Trade Center.

There can be do denial here that this movie directed by Robert Zemeckis has that feeling of a heist flick. The actual walk itself is a small step near the end of this journey. I feel Zemeckis delivers more punch and pizzazz before the walking moments. As I said, this heist theme runs throughout with confident arty Frenchman Petit evading rules and police to follow his dreams. The run of scenes with him scouting the building of the towers and his way up them are dealt with fantastically, feeling the strongest parts of the movie for me.

Screenplay wise, Zemeckis and Christopher Browne make a good thing out of Petit’s book, ‘To Reach the Clouds’. This true story as they say can feel far fetched but then that just goes to show what a dynamic character Philippe was and assuredly still is. The way they bring in narration to open the plot could be dumb and yes it whacks with exposition but it’s dealt with in a creative and also visual flair that helps invite us in. The travel through his life is interesting and we get why he’s up for this death-defying act. The only wobbly steps are with the relationship with Annie that never feels alive and the walk itself.

I heard one audience member behind me gasp loudly as he shakes near the end of his extended showmanship, but I didn’t get why. The walk was the lamest part for me, after all the build up I didn’t even think the visuals were truly astounding. IMAX suits the sky piercing towers well and gives the film depth and scale but it all looked green screen and graphic created to me like the effects team putting out their elongated money shot for the Academy. As he kept going back and forth I grew tired of the routine, honestly. I may be saying something mad here as he did do this for real, but the walk of The Walk was the least interesting note to take away from this film.

Alan Silvestri’s score does feel magical and sweeps high and low for the character driven moments, from Philippe’s first step out onto the wire to the paranoid midnight ‘coffin’ fixing he does. The music may be the only reason I got gripped as Petit lays on the wire to take in the sky above. The opening Parisian sequence with black and white as the canvas gifts the movie that fantastic creative flair I mentioned before and then from the initial mention of the NY World Trade Center to the credits there’s that unshakable feeling you get of knowing they’re not there anymore, it makes the last line of the film utterly powerful even for someone not from the city or America.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt sinks under his blackened hair and blue contacts to deliver a clownish performance as the driven artistic mind of Philippe Petit. The French accent is convincing, it may waver a couple of times but that’s it, he pulls of the vocal very well. In his eyes you can see that determination but worried vulnerability as he wonders whether the Towers and the wire will be kind to him. Ben Kingsley comes along for a few scenes and does his thing to almost steal the show. Skipping from wise teacher to mad uncle, he helps Petit along the way with strong advice and mentoring. Charlotte Le Bon arrives with a graceful presence with her musical dreams and through her acting we see her commitment to Petit but her love fades as she loses her grip on her own dreams.

A fun film that does it’s work for the family, it has no grit or biographical feel that gives it any true weight but Levitt and the visuals are sparky throughout to muster up the enjoyment factor.


Everest (2015)


Mother nature is undeniably a force to be reckoned with and this film goes part of the way to mirroring that strength, but an ensemble cast, a flurry of snow strained predictability and general un-provoking storytelling stop this movie from being the exhilarating experience it should have been.

Taken from the true events in 1996, this movie sees two expeditions attempting to summit Mount Everest. Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) and Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal) have contrasting methods but unite to try and deal with the increasing size of hopeful climbers. As they climb they face a dangerous oncoming storm threatening their chances of safe descent.

I have to say that the look of the film stands true as the best feature for this outing. Directed with sheer grandeur from Baltasar Kormakur this film does a heroic job in demonstrating the uncaring brutality of Mt. Everest. The cinematography of course does more than the fair share of creative duties and credit goes to Salvatore Totino who makes this IMAX movie come alive with depth and added frostiness. The scope is huge and as the shots sweep alongside the less than forgiving nature of this world breaking mountain, we as the audience can’t help but feel like a speck compared to it. The calmer moments seeing the walkways, ladders and peaks are scary but stunning.

It’s in the latter stages of this film where things avalanche. The stormy shots that surround the frightening weather change are admittedly bold and edited ferociously but a lot is lost in this scenes. What with all the hefty coats, masks and hats, it’s hard to keep track of who’s who, the dialogue becomes overly muffled and things after being built up so well, feel rushed to be over with before you know it. It feels more like a cinematic experience at times which is wrong considering it’s true subject matter, a fact I only remembered again once the real life credits came on screen.

The writing is another part of the trouble I feel also. Taken on by both Simon Beaufoy and William Nicholson, two great writers I may add, this movie suffers a couple of really cheesy lines that for me at least took me slightly out of the grit of the film. The build up is dealt with in a great manner though, it’s a grand shame that the sequence of pounding stormy disasters aren’t delved into further than the spectacle. The major fault is the ensemble scenario, I know clearly they have to follow this because of the amount of climbers that took part but in this, we suffer characters with not enough connection and by the end don’t get that deserved emotional hit. Also by no fault of the writers, casting such a well known rosta of faces doesn’t help the films impressively detracts from the true story.

Jason Clarke is fantastically grizzled but assured as the safer mountain leader. Obviously the writers spent a lot of time on his narrative so Clarke helps Hall feel more rounded and you invest in his plight. Jake Gyllenhaal is electric as he’s proving to be with more and more, he doesn’t gain much screen time but in the scenes he appears he makes you root for the more adrenaline seeking persona. Emily Watson brings the emotional punch as base camp manager Helen. Keira Knightley joins that emotional fanfare as the home stuck pregnant wife to Rob Hall. The film makes no light that she had actually beat Everest also, an interesting back story that could have helped her become less of the weak female cliche added in for star weight and phone call scenes. Josh Brolin is the 100% Texan Beck Weathers and comes in for a severe beating thanks to Everest. He doesn’t get a great much to stand out but does well as the suffering victim. I still haven’t even mentioned Sam Worthington, Robin Wright and John Hawkes who also appear in roles that add to the dragging out of the movie.

This is in no way a bad film, it’s good, just not as powerful as it hoped to be concerning the beast of Everest. It undoubtedly makes you not ever want to attempt climbing the tallest mountain in the world and along with a beautifully fine score and crisp imagery this movie does enough to show off enough altitude spectacle.


Sleeping with Other People (2015)

A fantastically likable romantic comedy with fresh and engaging characters, empathy and sympathy for both the guy and the girl, a huge dose of sexual sprinkles but it does become flat not running free from the genre I hoped it would have broken the mould for.

During 2003, a chance encounter happens between Jake (Jason Sudeikis) and Elaine/Lainey (Alison Brie). Shifting into present day, they happen to meet again, realising their lives are kind of similar in their lack of being able to settle down. Jake is a womaniser and Lainey is a cheater, through each other they learn a thing or two and develop that undeniable attraction from the first time they met.

Let me start with the writing, which is served up by Leslye Headland. She brings something much better than her play/film ‘Bachelorette’, crikey I seriously disliked that film. Everything that was so wrong in that 2012 flick is rectified here, with characters you can understand and like, scenarios that are believable and a running theme of being smart. The writing here might not be exactly on the clever tracks of screenplays but it’s going the right way, the dialogue can be very sharp and snappy, the changes out of comedy hit well in the emotional zone and it goes a good way a lot of the time in trying to do something different with the rom-com shtick.

Sadly that statement can’t be 100% guaranteed as a fair portion of this movie suffers by following the romantic comedy rule book. There’s a certain scene and action where it leaves you wanting the attraction to happen and it goes away from there. This brilliance should have been the end or a set up for another similar ending but without spoiling proceedings, you know from the film that it’s going to finish up as you’d expect, not as you’d wish just as you always knew it would. I was hugely hoping the great characters and moments would be enveloped by a similar breaking of the genre but they don’t get that joy.

The direction from Headland is smooth and comes with cool little quirks, the social media aspect is a trend we’ve seen and can expect to see for a long time now, but having the texts appear on screen doesn’t feel cliched here and one message thread is delivered on screen by the sender which is both funny and original. There’s degrees of slow motion, which aren’t Michael Bayed, they come sparingly and add a dramatic tinge to that slowed action. It’s a fast flowing movie and the neat shots of New York add to that rush of struggling romance. It also helps that I’m writing this review from the Big Apple and saw places in the film that I’ve now seen for real and one scene was shot on the street I’m staying at! I’m going off on a tangent, sorry, but yes, the city aspect is shot very well and feels very right for this story.

Alison Brie is a dynamic actress, she shows she can do comedy and the cutie pie routine in most of the films/TV roles she’s done but here she adds weight in some pretty emotive scenes. They come like firecrackers of despair after comedic moments that shoot fast and long. One of the break-ups is done in a funny way but she follows that with a pang of brutal self loathing that Brie truly makes feel real. Jason Sudeikis is an actor that hits or misses, I get his typical act but sometimes it feels too smarmy, here though it’s present but not annoying, he’s likable and you can see his stuttering when it comes to his thoughts on Lainey. The pair of them are charismatic and you do buy into their blossoming best friend journey. Also, great kudos to Andrea Savage and Jason Mantzoukas who bring some of the best lines to the movie and work brilliantly well as the married couple still down with being hip or at least wanting to be.

It may not be constantly funny or even genuinely sad all the way through, it also lacks a great premise to fully shatter the rom-com guidelines. Though even saying/writing this film is a delightful watch, it makes you smile and comes with charming performances helping the movie feel sexy, touching and enjoyable.


Cop Car (2015)


Simple but effective. I do adore these movies that follow that mantra. It shows that something seeming basic can be all that’s needed. A dodgy sheriff, two runaway lads and an abandoned police car are the main ingredients for the set up and it helps build a tense and satisfying final product.

Harrison and Travis are running away from home and their respective guardians. They stop at a wooded area of land when they see a cop car, soon they realise it’s empty and they build up to taking it for a joyride. Of course, Sheriff Kretzer (Kevin Bacon) is none too pleased to come back and find his vehicle has disappeared for reasons you may not expect also. These two boys gleeful folly behind the wheel could become the drive of their lives as the Sheriff gets hot on their tails.

Jon Watt’s direction is bliss, neatly setting up location as a rusty, dusty dwelling with vulnerable and naive characters thrown right in the mix, you feel the danger for the boys from the outset. Then he neatly shows the twisted values from the long arm of the law with the Sheriff being a figure not to trust. I won’t go any further but he’s one ticked off antagonist. Watt certainly knows how to grip his audience with the opening providing that uneasy set-up and continuing it from time to time as the cop car bounds along the movie run time.

Watts joins with Christopher Ford to write this film and it’s scripted beautifully. The two boys are drawn well with their love of adult language being like all pre-teens, then they shift wonderfully as they get over the heads in cop catastrophes. The way they cut back in time with their screenplay is great, it introduces us to the Sheriff and sheds light on just what may be even worse for Harrison and Travis by taking the vehicle. Oh and though there’s some shaky processes as the film progresses, I lapped up the ending with it being morosely ambiguous.

It does have some predictable moments, such as the stand off on a clear long strip of road, the introduction of a new character however well acted, also weakens from just the approaching doom of the Sheriff hunting down the kids. We also never really gauge who this new character is, why the kids want to run off and what happens to that poor cow!?

Kevin Bacon is killer grouchy as this determined sheriff to keep his name clean at all costs. He does hold a suitable amount of menace and swagger that makes him a cop to fear. The cold stare in his eyes is near constant which adds to why it should just be him providing the obstacles for the boys. Hays Wellford and James Freedson-Jackson portray Harrison and Travis and they did grate on me for the first quarter/third of the film, it’s hard to have kids and animals as they say but by the end, these two actors proved they’re capable and showed the emotion needed in their dire situation. Shea Whigham crops up too and provides a crazy eyed routine, a nasty speech and a character with desperation that peaks and peaks.

It may not be the thrill ride I’d hoped it would be, or the horror road trip I sensed from the trailer but it’s screeching with tension, Kevin Bacon is smoothly chilling throughout and ‘Cop Car’ comes through with grit and awareness.


Lost River (2014)


Tying in drama, fantasy, darkness and suburban American life, Ryan Gosling’s feature as debut director is a far cry from the interesting piece it could have been. It received both a chorus of cheers and boos when it premiered at Cannes and it isn’t difficult to see why. It has some neat moments but comes to a sticky mess of ideas that feel majorly pretentious.

In a neighbourhood losing houses fast and emptying of folk lives single mum Billy (Christina Hendricks) who is trying her best to keep her home and raise her boys. Bones (Ian  De Caestecker) is the eldest who learns from Rat (Saoirse Ronan) that the town is cursed and a beasts head must be removed to stop it. Against shady bankers and twisted criminals, ‘Lost River’ is a place in dire need of saving and fast.

You instantly get that feeling from this film that Ryan Gosling has picked up some mannerisms from ‘Drive’ mentor Nicolas Winding Refn. The surreal and mostly slow pace to the film builds that dream like sense that both ‘Drive’ and ‘Only God Forgives’ had. Though this fantastical tale sadly falls into the weird and not wonderful category that ‘Only God Forgives’ is in. It’s a bit too much of all things and though the style is there, it over runs substance or can even feel indulgent.

Great shots and interesting cinematography stop you completely nodding off in this obscene dream landscape and some frankly odd neon set ups showcase that Gosling has some potential in crafting some different to the norm, but I believe it’s something that needs a lot of honing because even for the off circuit festivals and art house places this movie suffers from being less than subtle and disturbing in the story it’s telling.

Ryan Gosling also writes, showing he really means it when he wants to step down from the acting lark he was involved in. He is truly a better director than writer. The script incorporates a lot of themes and ideas that feel like an acid Alice in Wonderland style trip, character names are the least obvious trait that this film will take you somewhere unexpected. A nightclub portraying bloody acts, underwater towns and a Miss Havisham granny play their parts in this mix of nightmares.

The music, I must mention is top notch listening. He’s clearly picked up a knack of hearing fine electronic sounds that wash nicely into your ears, tunes that gently provide that backdrop for a cool nighttime drive. Of course it pales in comparison to the vibe of ‘Drive’ and that soundtrack but Johnny Jewel’s score helps the film stun the senses.

Christina Hendricks is a fine actress, getting the emotional mother role to play, she becomes stronger as she falls further down the rabbit hole. Saoirse Ronan is masterful in everything I’ve seen her in. A beautiful young actress who gives this Rat character guts, fear, intrigue and kindness that feels the most real amongst the other characters. Ian De Caestecker doesn’t do much for me here, it’s a good enough role but not enough to break the mould I see of him from ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D’. Ben Mendelsohn rises up here in a thoroughly creepy portrayal as no nonsense Dave. The almost still facial expression and slither of his push towards Billy is gross and Mendelsohn can rival Oscar Isaac’s dance from ‘Ex Machina’ with the moves he puts on show in this film. Matt Smith shaves his hair, buffs up and plays a nasty bully aptly named Bully. It’s a panto sort of role but he does sell this villainous crime lord well.

It might seem unfair to call it a mess because it does have some magical imagery and cool ideas but it’s not something that evoked any strong desires to watch it again, think of it other than to write this up or recommend it to anyone else. I can say I’m glad I saw it to witness Gosling’s clear knowledge of building atmosphere and lucid fairy-tale points and that’s about that.


Everly (2015)


Grimy and bloody, this character motivated action thriller is slim on plot pickings and only stays watchable because of the charisma in Salma Hayek and certain fine moments of style within the main frame of the movie.

Everly (Salma Hayek); a prostitute working for criminal nasty Taiko (Hiroyuki Watanabe) finds herself holed up in her apartment after a misery of sex and torture. Trying to escape to see her mother and daughter, Everly finds her route out of the building a tough ask as all forces come to try and kill her and take the hit money hanging over her head.

In some ways, perhaps a skewed version of what I hoped it could be, this movie appears in style and simplicity like ‘The Raid.’ Of course, not anywhere as near as fun or stylish but it has leaps of flair from time to time and the basic plot structure is reminiscent of Rama’s journey through dull battle torn buildings. This film however does seem even more stripped of interest and therefore the story becomes thin and the bloody nature of the action surfaces in a more exploitative way than necessary.

Joe Lynch does a neat thing with his direction, the shadows and explosive aftermath of Everly’s deteriorating home are seen in cool frames or lighting and even some snappy Edgar Wright like edits come to fruition for Lynch’s vision of making the movie more pacy and blood pumping. The end starts weakening but on the whole he’s a director that knows how to shoot these kind of all out barmy yet simple action fests. Oh and also, check out his Venom/Brock short called ‘Truth in Journalism’, I saw it a couple of years ago and it’s marvellous.

The entire film seems to squander excitement by getting stuck in one place. At first I liked the idea of it being centered on the entrapping nature of Everly’s predicament but by the end, the apartment is a place you’d never hope to see again and utterly get sick of. At least ‘The Raid’ has movement and ‘Rope’ has the one shot take wonder going for them, this feature doesn’t fall back on any cool tricks.

Yale Hannon’s screenplay is gimmicky, with arguing call girls, shady Asians and a feisty capable strong woman somehow knowing how to combat even the SWAT team drag this film quite very nearly into the swirling abyss. There isn’t much great dialogue to listen to, for an action film of this calibre you want action but it’d be nice to have some believable character process to and all of Everly’s lines are pithy even with Hayek doing her best.

Salma Hayek is a brutal feminine warrior who won’t back down and she portrays this scared yet ready female with sheer conviction. I honestly think the film survives because of utilising on a dependent heroine. Hayek gives both emotion and gritty kick ass skills. I liked Akie Kotabe’s Dead Man, who for a small-ish role is actually interestingly nice for the story and stands out. Watanabe doesn’t really power through, appearing for the final piece of the film as the big bad, he’s believably calm and violent but nothing outstanding for the evil menace manipulating Everly’s life until that point.

It doesn’t feel brutally silly just brutal and in that this movie becomes a bloody mess of something you keep watching but don’t want to see again. It has a few peaks of directing style and enigmatic fierceness in Hayek but they’re two points that don’t save it from feeling VHS nasty.


Pressure (2015)


Plummeting to predictable depths, ‘Pressure’ does build on some well set pieces but also runs out of air quite a way before the end, leaving you as an audience member waiting and wanting the obvious finale to arrive.

In the Indian Ocean, an oil ship sends four deep sea saturation divers down to check on its’ pipelines. 650 feet down to be exact, the four men end up stranded as their diving bell is damaged and disconnected from the ship. They may not get on but they’ll have to try to as the oxygen decreases and the pressure mounts.

I saw ‘Black Sea’ starring Jude Law earlier in the year and they share similar premises, one with oil and one with gold, both under the sea and both in confined dramatic situations. The Law outing survives better with more gripping suspense helping the thriller. This one does offer some tense moments to a degree but there’s nothing special in these four characters fight to stay alive. I think ‘Black Sea’ had cultural stand offs and interesting arcs to help it whereas this film has little in the way of character momentum, or if it tries to it becomes wholly bland and expected.

Ron Scalpello directs a deep sea thriller as you’d expect it to look, so in that sense it’s not bad. The diving bell itself is a fine location, blinking lights and intense framing piles on the cabin fever and it is actually a demonstration of nicely making you feel claustrophobic watching the plot play out. The constant far shots of the bell shining on the bottom of the ocean are annoyingly repetitive and Engel’s pithy backstory to aid his grumpy no hoper attitude are shot in a dismally ethereal way like most A Level flashbacks would be done. Though the bloody underwater dream sequence is stylish and cool for the film, standing out in being a little different from what has come before.

Alan McKenna and Paul Staheli are the writers and they come up with some alright scary moments for the divers to tackle, the whole underwater idea frightens me anyway, so the tasks they face are dealt with well and written in a pacy enough manner to justify the title of the movie. It’s in terms of the characters that they crumble, Engel has his past, Mitchell has his faith, Hurst has his addictions and demons and Jones has his youth and expecting partner. They’re so clichéd that it hurts, it’s clear who’ll survive from the time you meet each person and it’s obvious what obstructions each character will provide.

Danny Huston plays Engel well, the grouchy nature of his experienced diver filling the diving bell twice over. He has the face for that lived in down in the dumps behaviour but with Huston you end up rooting for him too, knowing that he’s right in what he knows. Joe Cole is the cocky yet growing anxiously youth with little experience and a pregnant missus at home, he’s good with the thinly drawn character if that’s all I can say. Matthew Goode has a knack for acting there’s no denying, he’s good in everything I’ve seen him in, the emotive eyes he has and the dramatic wavering in his delivery help him in this film as the hopeful Mitchell. Alan McKenna doesn’t have too much to do but convinces as the troublesome Hurst.

It’s a short movie with satisfying bubbles of intensity and longer stretches of dwindling potential. This is certainly not terrible but so much more could have come from this deep sea threat of human life and death.