Escape Room (2019)

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Escape rooms as a concept are quite the mind-bending rage at the moment; the excitement of something different that both tests your brains and your friendships is a successful business model so surely this cinematic outing could gleefully mould the idea into a intelligent horror? Well not quite, however silly and fun it sometimes is.

Introverted student Zoey (Taylor Russell) is told to do something scary for once and along with five other people, she is sent a mysterious puzzle box which invites them all to take on a new, immersive escape room where the winner can gain $1 million. However things won’t be plain sailing as they realise the game has been tailored to kill them if they can’t get out.

From the outset this is a dumb flick, who would go to an escape room where the winner gets a cash prize? The whole point of them is that they are a team game so it already sounds like a dangerous scheme and generally speaking the story doesn’t get much smoother. The rules of this deadly game change at will which is a frustrating tact and as a games master myself; where I get to witness everyday folk do well, only to go and ruin their chances by making stupid choices as the stress of the 60 minutes whittles away, this film has many convenient points where characters just happen to work out stuff, even though all of them bar one have never played a room before and their panic levels are much higher than found in the place where I work. Obviously it’s a movie but don’t make their leaps to solving problems so sudden and uninspired.

It’s almost like ‘Escape Room’ views itself as smarter than it really is, it’s falls way short of the devilishly clever film it could have been. Mostly, this is a dumb narrative with a group of strangers missing any real pulls of tension which could help throw the audience into the game some more. The connection they have is more like some predictable, half-arsed writing decision and a lot of the film is a fun, yet stupid ride which isn’t majorly thrilling.

In terms of a series of distracting events, this is a great movie. There’s no doubt that the entertainment factor is there and though it is clearly a less than thought through screenplay feeling majorly like ‘Saw’ and ‘The Belko Experiment’, the actors get their teeth into the roles and convince us enough that the tests they’re facing are worthy of our time. The production design must also be praised as this Minos company has an epic scale and each nightmarish new room ups the threat, be it an upside down bar or a freezing cold landscape the look of this film is especially cool.

‘Escape Room’ never goes above and beyond the premise that was so ripe for the taking and it has a ridiculous conclusion but there are enough fairly neat puzzles and bursts of suspense to keep this from being a dud.

5.5/10

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2018 Top 50

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Smile folks, it’s been an absolute blast this year in the cinemas and on streaming services alike. Yes, if you want to jump right in with my top 10 movies, I have already compiled a top ten list which you can find HERE, but if like me, you can’t abide a whole ton of great movies not getting their dues then this is their time to shine as I’ve come up with my first ever Top 50 countdown!

*Disclaimer* – I have not seen certain films like ‘Mandy’ or ‘Leave No Trace’ hence their absence and no ‘Truth or Dare’ doesn’t rock up, though it was a fine comedy. Okay, away we go…

50 – NEXT GEN

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A surprisingly fun and pacy cartoon flick with futuristic ideas and a charming connection between gal and bot.

Review – ‘Next Gen’

49 – MARY POPPINS RETURNS

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Emily Blunt steps into the ten to two shoes of Julie Andrews and does a spiffing job as the prim and proper nanny with magic endlessly pulled from her special bag.

Trip the Light Fantastic over to my review – ‘Mary Poppins Returns’

48 – ROMA

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Alfonso Cuaron’s black and white semi-biographical tale which hit Netflix is absolutely beautiful to look at but I just can’t quite connect to the majesty that everyone else has seen. There’s a fine story and lovely cinematography but that’s about it, no higher in the list. Don’t @ me.

My review is here – ‘Roma’

47 – BUMBLEBEE

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If someone had told me that a ‘Transformers’ spin-off would have featured higher than a stunning foreign movie lauded for Oscar glory I would have scoffed…a lot. But Travis Knight has captured the fun and nostalgic appeal that Michael Bay could only dream of.

No Decepticons here, this is a good film, my review – ‘Bumblebee’

46 – A STAR IS BORN

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Bradley Cooper dons a stetson and the first-time director title in this fourth telling of ‘A Star is Born’, it has some issues but a mostly great soundtrack and the might of Lady Gaga help this romantic country and western musical come alive.

Step into the Shallow end with my review – ‘A Star is Born’

45 – JOURNEY’S END

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A sombre and reflective WW2 drama, this truly grips you and makes you thoughtful about the dark trench warfare these brave soldiers faced. Sam Claflin and Asa Butterfield are excellent.

The journey begins with my review – ‘Journey’s End’

44 – CAM

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Another Netflix feature that took me by surprise, this has dark and original ideas and a blisteringly brilliant performance from Madeline Brewer makes this tech-thriller/horror a sexy yet smartly creepy film.

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43 – GAME NIGHT

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Jason Bateman & Rachel McAdams are a fun pairing in this entertaining comedic flick but the true MVP and best selling point for the films worth is Jesse Plemmons.

Roll a dice, right foot yellow and review is yours – ‘Game Night’

42 – ISLE OF DOGS

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Another quirky and lovely stop-motion outing from the wonderful Wes Anderson, this poochy plot has moments of rabid darkness but plenty of delightful storytelling.

Woof! My review is out of the kennel – ‘Isle of Dogs’

41 – A SIMPLE FAVOR

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Paul Feig’s latest has definitely divided audiences but I for one thoroughly enjoyed this strange concoction of humour and thrills all tinged with a French cinema flavour.

Only a simple favour to ask but please check out my review – ‘A Simple Favor’

40 – THOROUGHBREDS

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Olivia Cooke and Anya Taylor-Joy are chillingly exceptional in this fairly cold yet entrancing off-beat film. It’s quite simply put, an original film with unsettling music and unpredictable moments.

Give my review a thoroughread – ‘Thoroughbreds’

39 – MOM AND DAD

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Crazy is as crazy does: surely a motto best suited to Nicolas Cage. This frenzied and pacy film may not be a superb film but I had a right good time watching the madness unfold and it knows what it is – a pure delightful crash of crazy.

Read more – ‘Mom and Dad’

38 – THE NIGHT COMES FOR US

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Woah Nelly! This Indonesian action which is on Netflix is a furious and bloody thriller which may be light on plot but is soaring to the heavens with hellish injury detail and electrically charged, fascinating fight choreography.

37 – GHOST STORIES

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Originally a stage show, which is somewhat evident at certain points, what with some theatrical elements and practical frights leading the way, this is a nightmarish and engrossing British horror with clever storytelling.

Boo! My review – ‘Ghost Stories’

36 – TULLY

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This is most certainly a film that goes somewhere a healthy percentage of audiences might not expect but it doesn’t tarnish the previously built maternal plot and Charlize Theron’s stunningly crafted performance, if anything it just makes it a more memorable story.

Don’t dilly dally – ‘Tully’

35 – THE HATE U GIVE

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Upon seeing the trailer I really wasn’t expecting to get anything from this film. Happily it’s much more than a generic YA adaptation, it has emotion, heart and the richest relevance to current world events. Amandla Stenberg & Russell Hornsby are mind-blowingly effective in this.

Don’t let the THUG-life get ya, read my review – ‘The Hate U Give’

34 – THE SHAPE OF WATER

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You can always trust on Guillermo del Toro to make a dark fantasy a totally captivating experience and this time the Academy Awards agreed, gifting this woman-loves-fish story the Best Picture trophy. It’s beautiful, weird and Sally Hawkins is the perfect lead.

The Shape of my Review can be found here – ‘The Shape of Water’

33 – BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE

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A true ensemble piece of cinema and a film noir that almost fully sinks its teeth into you. Aside from a slightly dissatisfying story that takes over, this is a clever, highly original movie and well acted thriller which deserved higher box office.

No bad times with my review – ‘Bad Times at the El Royale’

32 – CRAZY RICH ASIANS

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I openly admit I’m not an advocate for the rom-com genre but this family set story around an impending wedding really bowled me over. The luxurious visuals, stunning locations and more stunning cast balance romance and humour with finesse.

Take a walk down the aisle to my review – ‘Crazy Rich Asians’

31 – YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE

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Lynne Ramsay excellently weaves a gritty and immersive city thriller, aided by an astonishing turn from Joaquin Phoenix, this has threads of ‘Taxi Driver’ and is a bold and tense piece of cinematic art.

30 – RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET

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Fairly bloated with internet bustin’ gags and Disney references, but it’s fun, fast and a well animated sequel with Ralph and Vanellope just as endearing a friendship duo as back in 2012.

It’s good and that’s not bad, my thoughts – ‘Ralph Breaks the Internet’

29 – SORRY TO BOTHER YOU

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Truly original and absurd, two qualities which you can’t complain about in the climate of sequels/prequels and the like. Boots Riley goes all in directing & writing a superb screenplay that links to current affairs and issues in an offbeat, comical and twisted manner.

Giddy up over to my review – ‘Sorry to Bother You’

28 – PHANTOM THREAD

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Possibly Daniel Day-Lewis’ final feature, his role under the direction of Paul Thomas Anderson is sublime, as are Vicky Krieps and Lesley Manville…and a beautifully acted breakfast scene for the ages. This early UK 2018 film looks gorgeous and bursts with spits of spite and comedy.

Sew, a needle, pull and thread – ‘Phantom Thread’

27 – IN THE FADE

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Diane Kruger’s first German feature and one that’s put across the audience in three parts. Not every part is as strong as the other and a finale may be slightly lacking but a gritty opening and glossy, tense court room second act along with Kruger’s formidable performance make this a solid thriller of loss and revenge.

1, 2…Kruger’s coming for you – ‘In the Fade’

26 – BLACK PANTHER

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A massive hit and an even bigger stepping stone for black representation in superhero movies, this Marvel entry deals with spectacle, politics and leadership with detail and thought, fuelled by a great villain expertly handled by Michael B. Jordan, ‘Black Panther’ is a near-perfect comic-book film.

Enter Wakanda – ‘Black Panther’

25 – AMERICAN ANIMALS

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This is a clever spin on the heist genre as director Bart Layton mixes truth and fiction by blending the real life people alongside his actors. As the films plan nears fruition, the gang and audience alike are left unable to back out to culpability.

A review is up for grabs just here, go on, go – ‘American Animals’

24 – THE INCREDIBLES 2

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After 14 years too long, Pixar returned to the Parr family and their mix of city saving powers. The one animated feature deserving of a sequel, this one does not disappoint. Apart from a predictable turn of events and villain, this is a joyous and stunning animation to watch and any return of Edna Mode is a positive in my book.

Dash over to my review – ‘Incredibles 2’

23 – BLACKKKLANSMAN

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This Spike Lee joint is a funny and disturbing tale of KKK infiltration. It makes you laugh but importantly, it’s something which makes you irate, angry and fits nicely against the backdrop of divide so felt nowadays. Style and power rip through this film.

Don’t be a Duke, click my review – ‘BlackKklansman’

22 – THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS

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The Coen Brothers enter the Netflix way of life with this western anthology of six mini stories. The likes of James Franco, Tim Blake Nelson and Zoe Kazan excel in their segments. Sure, not all the tales are great and there may not be a resolute connection between them but it’s masterfully acted and captures the heart…and dust of the western genre.

21 – OVERLORD

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You’d not be wrong in thinking from outside glance this would be a naff horror but it’s in fact so much better than that. A gem of war, thriller and gory zombie effects, this is a brain-splattering delight.

Come on over – ‘Overlord’

20 – WILDLIFE

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Paul Dano & Zoe Kazan create a thing of quiet beauty in this drama about family. The former calls the shots as debut director and this adaptation of a 1990 novel is stunning not to just to look at but to revel in the towering acting from Jake Gyllenhaal and Carey Mulligan. Scenic views, fraught relationships and a teen running home in the snow are tenderly accomplished.

Check out the ‘Wildlife’

19 – THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI

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I’ve always enjoyed the writings of Irish playwright and ‘In Bruges’ commander Martin McDonagh, this angry tale of grief and, well anger is no exception. The mix of great comedy and uneasy darkness clouding over Ebbing are thickly coated but don’t outweigh Sam Rockwell and Frances McDormand.

More of my musings – ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’

18 – HEREDITARY

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Jinkies, this horror from Ari Aster is a chilling and terrifyingly effective narrative of family tensions. If you took out all the damned creepy moments then this would be a drama on grief and that only highlights the weirder, scarier qualities included by Aster. Toni Collette is absolutely fantastic in this.

Don’t click your tongue, lcckk – ‘Hereditary’

17 – WIDOWS

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Steve McQueen tackles the thriller genre but makes sure to keep his sturdy understanding of character to make this an investing movie, led by four strong women. The moments of heist drama are tense and the more politically angled aspects are wonderfully handled.

Mission: read my review. I’m sure you’ve got the balls to pull this off – ‘Widows’

16 – COCO

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Two Pixar releases for the UK in 2018 and both make my top 50, mostly because their animation is always so delectable but on top of this they’re a studio almost always capturing emotional and captivating stories. ‘Coco’ is no exception, this Day of the Dead inspired animation tugs on the heart strings and incorporates tingling music and colourful visuals.

 Don’t forget to click my review, Remember Me – ‘Coco’

15 – ASSASSINATION NATION

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This is 100% a movie which will split people, I can see why some will dislike the heck out of it but I positively loved the stuffing out of this bold, loud and violent film. It pops with trigger warnings of every nature and the feminine power of the above fearsome foursome are a force to be reckoned with as their town turns on them.

Reveal some more secrets – ‘Assassination Nation’

14 – ANNIHILATION 

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Shamefully Alex Garland’s recent sci-fi didn’t get to UK cinemas but it’s streaming on Netflix and is a sheer masterpiece of visuals and is also a movie which leaves you thinking. Headed by a brave team of females, this mix of science and horror is dreamy, ambiguous and downright superb.

Enter the Shimmer – ‘Annihilation’

13 – UPGRADE

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Rammed to the skies with inventive camera shots and pacy fight scenes, this adrenaline fuelled futuristic flick bursts out of the screen with entertaining energy. On top of this, it has flashes of humour, body-horror and stylish flair.

There’s no need to Upgrade to find my review – ‘Upgrade’

12 – A QUIET PLACE

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This film has magnificent levels of sustained threat, wince-inducing visuals of pain, smart uses of playing around with sound and Emily Blunt on top form as a pregnant wife caught up in a farmhouse of fear. John Krasinski becomes feature director for the first time and really gets to grips with the model of horror building making this one of the most effective cinema experiences I’ve ever been part of.

Ssssh, my review is over here – ‘A Quiet Place’

11 – THE BREADWINNER

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The creators behind ‘Song of the Sea’ have gifted the world another animated gem. This one is less fantastical though and this Middle-Eastern texture only makes the film a much more heart-felt trip, one that’s interspersed with yarns of magic but the plight of a girl stepping up and out to help her family is a powerful and outstanding watch.

My review for #11 is here – ‘The Breadwinner’

There we have it, those were my top 40 films of 2018 and now it’s time to reveal my faves of faves as I collect the big 10.

10 – SEARCHING

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John Cho leads a frenzied hunt for his missing daughter in a screen-set thriller that is anything but a cheap gimmick. The tension is palpable and the story is riveting, as it’s portrayed through calls, Facebook and other social media searches.

No need to search far as the review is here – ‘Searching’

9 – HALLOWEEN

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Michael Myers returned, swiftly and thankfully, slashing away all the sequels, letting this story follow on 40 years after what happened to Laurie Strode that fateful Halloween night. David Gordon Green shows he has a skill for the horror genre and the entire team clearly adore the original which is why this feels like a perfect chilling return to form for the Shape.

Don’t fear the Boogeyman – ‘Halloween’

8 – LADY BIRD

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Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut is a brilliant, humour filled coming of age story about mothers and daughters. There are great pangs of emotion and with perfect performances from Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf, you feel wrapped up in a comforting blanket watching this film.

It’s the titular role – ‘Lady Bird’

7 – HEARTS BEAT LOUD

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Well, here is a film that utterly bowled me over and completely surpassed my expectations for it being a generically mediocre Sundance indie. What this film is, is pure charm and sunshine, with Offerman and Clemons providing great music as a dad and his daughter. The songs are glorious and I’d be lying if I said I don’t listen to them almost constantly.

Don’t blink, my review isn’t a million miles away – ‘Hearts Beat Loud’

6 – BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY

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I truly don’t care what some filmy types and critics have been saying about this film. I positively adored the majority of this foot-tapping, hand-clapping tale of Queen and its front man, the legendary Freddie Mercury, who is exquisitely played by Rami Malek. The film is fun and the music speaks for itself. A stadium sized biopic that will rock you.

You are the Champions if you give my review a read – ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’

5 – I, TONYA

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Margot Robbie steps onto the ice as Tonya Harding in this fresh and exciting visceral take on an ill-fated moment of Winter Olympics drama. Allison Janney is a great supporting feature as Harding’s mum and throughout we see a story presented in way that’s unreliable but entertaining, which makes the latter emotional moments that more resounding.

Get your skates on to the review – ‘I, Tonya’

4 – REVENGE

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This is a blood soaked film, one which side-steps away from the schlock way of vengeful flicks and becomes an engrossing thriller capably led by bad-ass Matilda Lutz. This is an explosive female led and directed movie from Coralie Fargeat which arrived in May and I haven’t forgotten about in the slightest.

My review won’t put up a fight – ‘Revenge’

3 – AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR

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Snapping its fingers and claiming bronze, this is an epic comic-book celebration that I saw three times and didn’t tire with any minute of it. Unlike repeat viewings of ‘Iron Man’ or ‘Age of Ultron’, this is a blockbuster outing which grows better upon more watches. There’s the purple might of a superb villain, great visuals and a cracking conclusion to ten years of MCU building.

You don’t need to assemble any heroes to locate my review – ‘Infinity War’

2 – SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE

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Miles Morales swings into the hot spot of silver, in the only animation to feature on my top ten. This is not only one of the most sensational animations I’ve seen but one of the best films, full stop. The styles are incredible, the voice work is perfect and the story is just right for the Spider-Man world.

Sling yourself over to the review – ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’

1 – MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT

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This is the sixth instalment in the M:I franchise and it is showing no signs of exhaustion, in fact quite the contrary, with action hero Tom Cruise and director Christopher McQuarrie again teaming up to make Ethan Hunt and his globe-trotting, ankle-breaking antics an exhilarating treat to see. The stunts are next level and knowing they are practically executed makes you appreciate the action that much more than a second rate movie filling in set pieces with CGI. Fallout is 100% the real deal and is one of the finest action films I’ve seen…ever.

My review won’t self destruct in 30 seconds – ‘Mission:Impossible – Fallout’

Bird Box (2018)

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It has been claimed by streaming giants Netflix, that this film gained over 45 million viewers in its first week, those are some impressive figures and it isn’t too difficult to see why because ‘Bird Box’ has an interesting premise, stellar cast and flitting moments of chilling unease to draw you in.

Around the world, masses of people are committing suicide causing great hysteria for people hoping to survive. It becomes quickly clear that covering your eyes and not stepping foot outside can be helpful but stuck in a house with a mixture of personalities leads to frayed tensions. Malorie (Sandra Bullock) tries to remain calm in her situation but as the film shifts back and forth in time we see what a dangerous journey she has to make.

Based on a 2014 novel by Josh Malerman, this is a post-apocalyptic movie with a fairly interesting plot. It definitely could have gone further with the premise, these mysterious dark influencers causing folk to kill themselves are a worrying threat but the ideas don’t ever fully reach their target, it just feels like this film is almost missing something.

What with the silence of ‘Hush’ and the quietness of ‘A Quiet Place’, sense deprivation in horror is proving to be a diving board for storytelling in strained circumstances. Unlike those two, this one doesn’t stand as strong, there are one too many moments throughout that detract from the film, either by feeling ridiculous, posing too many unanswered questions or having the characters move and therefore the film loses impact.

It is this latter issue which made the film less exciting than I hoped it’d be. A house bound portion of the film is filled to the rafters with acting talent and lets cabin fever settle in but as ‘Bird Box’ jumps forward and backwards in time, it loses tension and the river boat sequences just aren’t that good. Then after a certain point the remainder of the film feels weak, as if trying to claw on with the chilling factor but it can’t quite sustain the brilliant burst of doom witnessed in the beginning.

Sandra Bullock is great in this, her frustrations and angry eagerness to persist are note perfect as is her sarcasm. John Malkovich is bold as the man all thrillers have, in where they speak words no-one else wishes to utter, you’re meant to dislike him but in world ending moments I’d kind of agree with what he says, is that bad?! Trevante Rhodes is the heroic figure, always staying on the side of caution and kindness and he has good chemistry with Bullock. Tom Hollander pops up and once he does, the entrapping quality of the house is amplified by his magnificent performance.

Aside from an ending where a location of haven is revealed and is pretty laughable and a mixture of good and bad points swirling like a boat bashing on water, ‘Bird Box’ has chilling qualities and stock characters to make for a neat thriller if only it took flight more.

6.5/10

2018 Top Ten

Well, another year has gone by and it’s been a barnstorming year for cinema. From superheroes becoming dust and Black Panthers to a luxury Singapore wedding there’s been a boom in film from all walks of life. Also, it’s definitely been 365 days where the horror genre has stepped forward as an exciting one to watch…if you forget about ‘The Nun’. It seems that each year it gets tougher and tougher to whittle down a best of list and this year is no exception, so much so in fact that I just can’t leave some movies out so a Top 50 run will follow very soon…

So without further-ado, here is my countdown of my favourite ten movies to be released in UK cinemas from 2018:

10 – SEARCHING

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John Cho leads a frenzied hunt for his missing daughter in a screen-set thriller that is anything but a cheap gimmick. The tension is palpable and the story is riveting as it’s portrayed through calls, Facebook and other social media searches. No need to search for my review as it’s right here — ‘Searching’

9 – HALLOWEEN

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Michael Myers returned, swiftly and thankfully, slashing away all the sequels, letting this story follow on 40 years after what happened to Laurie Strode that fateful Halloween night. David Gordon Green shows he has a skill for the horror genre and the entire team clearly adore the original which is why this feels like a perfect chilling return to form for the Shape. Head down Haddonfield with my review — ‘Halloween’

8 – LADY BIRD

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Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut is a brilliant, humour filled coming of age story about mothers and daughters. There are great pangs of emotion and with perfect performances from Ronan and Metcalf, you feel wrapped up in a comforting blanket watching this film. My review — ‘Lady Bird’

7 – HEARTS BEAT LOUD

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Well, here is a film that bowled me over and completely surpassed my expectations for it being a generically mediocre Sundance indie. What this film is, is pure charm and sunshine, with Offerman and Clemons providing great music as a dad and his daughter. Check out my thoughts at Flickfeast — ‘Hearts Beat Loud’

6 – BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY 

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I truly do not care what some film fans and critics have been saying about this film. I positively adored the majority of this foot-tapping, hand-clapping tale of Queen and its front man, the legendary Freddie Mercury, who is exquisitely played by Rami Malek. The film is fun and the music speaks for itself. Rock on over to my review — ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’

5 – I, TONYA 

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Margot Robbie steps onto the ice as Tonya Harding in this fresh and exciting visceral take on the wintry ice-skating scene. Allison Janney is a great supporting feature as Harding’s mum and throughout we see a story presented in way that’s unreliable but entertaining, which makes the latter emotional moments that more resounding. Skate on over to my review — ‘I, Tonya’

4 – REVENGE 

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This had been a blood soaked film sitting pretty in my top three up until the very last moment. It’s still no less fantastic, a film which escapes the schlock way of vengeful flicks and becomes an engrossing thriller capably led by bad-ass Lutz. This is an explosive female led and directed movie from May, that I haven’t forgotten about in the slightest. See my review — ‘Revenge’

3 – AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR

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The spot most recently filled by ‘Revenge’ has snapped its fingers and shifted up a place, I mean, I saw it three times and didn’t tire with any minute of it, so it has to claim a bronze medal. Unlike repeat viewings of ‘Iron Man’ or ‘Age of Ultron’, this is a blockbuster outing which grows better upon more watches. There’s the might of a superb villain, great visuals and a cracking conclusion to ten years of MCU building. Further thoughts — ‘Infinity War’

2 – SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE

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Miles Morales swings into the hot spot of second in the only animation to feature on my top ten. Yes, he’s fended off Pixar’s ‘Coco’ and the internet busting moves from ‘Ralph Breaks the Internet’ because this is not only one of the most sensational animations I’ve seen but one of the best films, full stop. The styles are incredible, the voice work is perfect and the story is just right for the Spider-Man world. My review — ‘Spider-Verse’

So…they were my top 9. It’s time to unveil my all time favourite movie that I saw in 2018. A movie with grand stunts, great scope and a moustache to set the internet alight, yes here is my number 1 – 

MISSION:IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT

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This is the sixth instalment in the M:I franchise and it is showing no signs of exhaustion, in fact it’s quite the contrary, with action hero Tom Cruise and director Christopher McQuarrie again teaming up to make Ethan Hunt and his globe-trotting, ankle-breaking antics an exhilarating treat to see. The stunts are next level and knowing that they are practically done makes you appreciate the action that much more than a second rate movie filling in set pieces with CGI. Fallout is 100% the real deal and is one of the finest action films I’ve seen…ever. My review if you choose to accept it — ‘Fallout’

Suspiria (2018)

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Premiering at the Venice Film Festival, ‘Call Me By Your Name’ director Luca Guadagnino’s homage to the 1977 ‘Suspiria’ is a film that has vastly polarised critics and audiences alike and is definitely an example of a weirdly hypnotising film, whether it be good or bad.

Dancer Susie Bannion (Dakota Johnson) has always felt an urge to be where top choreographer Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton) is. This desire takes Susie to the Tanz Academy in Berlin where she quickly grows accustomed to the methods of Blanc and other madams and their front as a dance school slowly disappears to reveal them as a chorus of witches.

Off the bat I must admit I have not seen the Dario Argento original but shall definitely seek it out after watching…whatever this was. The whole look of this update doesn’t go down the usual glossier redo but keeps the film in bland, bleak tones of browns, greys and whites which makes the bursts of red all the more alarming. The entire feature has this odd pull; like it’s drawing you into a state of hypnosis which nicely mirrors the inexplicable connection Susie has always had with Madame Blanc.

Guadagnino utilises on some neat shots and clever style choices throughout this film. Whether the frame rate is slowed right down or cameras suddenly whip and zoom toward someone, there’s definitely a smart tactic made by the director in presenting this strange horror with a flair of confidence and compelling curiosity.

People will likely be talking about the near final scene for a while. A carnival of Dionysus proportions with a river of red is outlandish and mad. This creepy coven shows off a beastly display of blood and ritual that is so horrific and over the top that it’s very nearly unintentionally amusing. Better flashes of horror comes from a dance section with the ladies draped in ropes of red which is amazingly choreographed and an earlier back and forth rite of passage between a debut rehearsal and a victim trapped in her own freakish hall of mirrors. This moment is squeamish and damn effective.

‘Suspiria’ does have an abundance of flaws though, a major one lies with the screenwriter’s choice to present the narrative in a 1970’s setting with too much room spent on the aftermath of the Berlin divide and post-war anxieties and grief. This theme is fine but on the whole it drastically takes away from what could have been a more focused look at just the dance academy and its witches. Thom Yorke’s soundtrack provides a heavy dose of piano which adds to the mesmerising quality but often makes the movie like a lullaby to rest your eyelids to. Also, that carnival explosion of gore and coven craziness has a great sinister sound backing the visuals and then Yorke’s vocals come in again and make the whole thing feel dreamy and ridiculous.

Johnson definitely knocks back anyone who says she can’t act because her turn as Bannion is a fantastic journey of passion, training and a personal core of unsettling change to where she ends up. Swinton is as strangely alluring and magnetic as always, just the way she delivers her lines like a precise poet carries a maternal yet worrying edge. The likelihood is that she also plays two other characters and one is of an aged male doctor which further proves what a brilliant chameleon Swinton is as an actor.

‘Suspiria’ to the uninitiated really goes places you won’t expect and feels like a mysterious yet slow descent into hell. It’s often too drab and floaty but has great attacks of visual horror along the way.

4.5/10

Overlord (2018)

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Now this may not be the fourth instalment in the ‘Cloverfield’ world as people had speculated when word got around that J.J Abrams was behind this feature, but that’s truly for the best because this is a stonking great stand-alone movie that blows the roof off with tremendous energy and B-movie revelry.

It’s the day before D-Day and a squadron have orders to reach a church in a French village and destroy a German planted radio tower. A few of the men survive and band together, Private Boyce (Jovan Adepo) heads out and on his wanderings he uncovers a deadly secret concocted by a sinister doctor, who is carrying out a series of tests to produce a serum which could gift the Nazis some soldiers that can’t die.

This is only the second full length film to come from Australian director Julius Avery but it’s a blistering delight. The first steps of ‘Overlord’ are much more gripping and dramatic than you’d expect. The whole WW2 angle and the mission that these soldiers are given are dealt with by Avery with fantastic explosions of fear stemming from German-occupied France and amongst this you can find some softer moments in the script as the comradery grows and the humour rounds out the edges.

What works so well is the way the movie sort of reveals its true intentions as a zombie film, at first glance a spectator who’d seen no trailer, poster or any information would see the first half an hour as a solid war movie and it is. There is great mystery building amongst the horrors of this occupation, which culminates in a horror of a very different kind.

Once the gritty style of the war moves into the more gross out zombie-horror section you can expect large dollops of bloody prosthetics and gory VFX that might not shock but it certainly grabs the attention and pulls you into this extremely visceral genre piece. It is true to say that along the way the characters we follow are two-dimensional and their journeys are fairly predictable but these paper thin characteristics aren’t trying and in fact, the poor decision making and off character choices are very much the bread and butter of horrors so it can be forgiven.

There is a huge amount of fun to be had whilst watching ‘Overlord’, the entire feature may be brash but it’s brilliantly enjoyable and it feels like some science fuelled nightmare with moody Call of Duty visuals and twisted nastiness to boot.

8/10

Halloween (2018)

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October is rocketing into the latter half and soon All Hallows Eve will come around so what better mood setter than this film. There’s been a lot of expectation riding on this since its announcement back in 2016; the first is a personal favourite and the many sequels failed to capture the same magic. So, with Blumhouse taking over the reins and John Carpenter on board as creative consultant could this film restore hopes in the franchise?

Forty years after the Haddonfield murders, Michael Myers is visited in his sanitarium abode before he’s transferred to a more secure prison but on the way the bus crashes and Myers escapes hoping to track down the survivor of his spree, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis).

The fact that this film ignores everything that came after the 1978 movie is great, it keeps the story tighter and really hones in on the cat and mouse set-up of Laurie and Michael. Any fear that ‘Halloween’ would be awful are lost sharply; the opening scene is foreboding and sets the scene well and as soon as the revamped score blasts out and orange credits open on the screen, goosebumps prickle over the skin and a welcome smile covers the face as if a long lost friend is coming home.

David Gordon Green may not have a strong calibre of films in his back pocket but with Jeff Fradley and Danny McBride, he’s crafted a neat modern spin on the icon of slasher horror. The new stylistic choices never overshadow the simple but effective story of boy wants girl and vice versa and along the way there are fun, knowing winks to moments from the original. Green ensures that the most important factor remains after retconning the other sequels and that’s delightful thrills.

The Shape is as dominant as ever, this unstoppable force with just his trusty knife and mask still has a predilection for Halloween playfulness and this is darkly amusing to see. Michael is a powerful entity of evil, a version of us if we were to have every emotion drained from our being. He certainly lights up, or perhaps darkens the screen with the same spine-tingling sense of dread as his mission for Laurie escalates. No more can this be seen than in a superb but short-lived unedited trick or treat sequence in the suburbs where the camera follows Myers roaming along the sidewalk and through homes getting back into the murderous swing of things.

In a way, what’s more effective than The Boogeyman’s rampage is this movie casting a well focused eye on trauma and the prolonged aftermath it can rustle up for someone. This paranoia and constant living fear are explored really well and come to a head within Strode’s fortress in the woods. The house is a fantastic metaphor for her fearful nature concerning the ordeal 40 years prior but it doubles up as a nifty home of tricks mirroring her internal pulse to not let the past defeat her and take a further hold over her family.

Brilliant horror stereotypes rear their head, from stoner boyfriends to promiscuous babysitters who engage in premarital sex and each part are played appropriately. Andi Matichak is pleasing as Laurie’s granddaughter, a character framed as the kind, innocent pure final girl to follow in her grans footsteps. Laurie Strode is the ultimate bad ass scream queen and Jamie Lee Curtis is the ultimate, nobody can capture this scared yet brave duality like she does throughout the movie.

‘Halloween’ knows it’s a spooky romp and has great fun with the antics of building characters and their possible slaughters. It might be a simple sequel but a feeling of pin-point classic horror brilliance showers the entire film.

8.5/10