Sherlock Gnomes

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: GSherlock Gnomes

Directed by: John Stevenson

Screenplay by: Ben Zazove

Produced by: David Furnish, Steve Hamilton Shaw, Carolyn Soper

Executive Producer: Elton John

Voices provided by: Emily Blunt (Juliet), Johnny Depp (Sherlock Gnomes), James McAvoy (Gnomeo), Michael Caine (Lord Redbrick), Chiwetel Ejiofor (Dr Watson), Maggie Smith (Lady Blueberry).

With a vocal cast of A-grade actors most other films can only dream about, those entertaining garden gnomes are back in a sequel to the 2011 animated comedy Gnomeo and Juliet, which borrowed freely from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

Sherlock Gnomes, the 3D computer-animated comedy sequel, you guessed it, uses a lot of the ideas and characters from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic crime sleuth Sherlock Holmes, along with his partner Dr Watson and nemesis Professor Moriarty, to investigate the mysterious disappearance of garden gnomes.

Since the first film the gnomes have been forced to relocate to a new garden in London, where Juliet is so focused on getting everything sorted out or tidied that she has little time for Gnomeo, who tries to keep the romance alive in their relationship.

This situation helps to emphasise the importance of not taking what you have for granted, with Gnomeo and Juliet’s relationship subtly mirroring that of Sherlock and Watson, although the latter relationship is not romantic but more a partnership based on friendship and intellect. It takes a major threat to make Sherlock appreciate Watson’s equal contribution to their crime-solving escapades.

Adults accompanying their children don’t miss out entirely on being entertained, as there are plenty of references throughout the film to classic Sherlock Holmes stories and characters, not that the mostly young audience will be aware of this!

While this film has a fairly straight forward plot, what distinguishes it from other animated fare is the way it doesn’t dumb down the clues, which are quite complicated for Sherlock Holmes to figure out, ensuring audiences are kept engaged and guessing throughout its entirety.

Children will be entertained by the colourful and varied inanimate objects that come to life, and how they interact with each other. The backgrounds are beautifully realised and the animation of the characters is suitably cartoonish as one would expect. The film is quite fast-paced and seems to cram a lot of action, plot and subsidiary characters into its running time, so at least it doesn’t drag.

The catchy soundtrack music is provided by Sir Elton John, the executive producer, who also sings some of the songs, along with other artists who do cover versions from some of his extensive catalogue.

I haven’t seen the first film, but I gathered from my young companion’s comments that unlike Gnomeo and Juliet, which was apparently light and fun with some nice puns and an entertaining supporting cast, Sherlock Gnomes is darker, with less use of the supporting cast from the previous film and more focus on solving the crime, fixing mistakes and renewing relationships that are endangered. Younger viewers may find some of the scenes slightly scary, such as those involving the gargoyles (which look large and menacing but whose personalities balance out their appearance) or Moriarty’s penchant for destroying garden ornaments (although this is never done on screen).

While this film is obviously aimed at a young audience, the presence of such skilled vocal talent, along with lots of sly references to Sherlock Holmes, will hopefully ensure that adults will be entertained as well and not feel punished by having to sit through this animated offering.

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The Party

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: MA15+The Party

Written and Directed by: Sally Potter

Produced by: Christopher Sheppard, Kurban Kassam

Cinematographer: Alexey Rodionov

Starring: Patricia Clarkson, Bruno Ganz, Cherry Jones, Emily Mortimer, Cillian Murphy, Kristin Scott Thomas and Timothy Spall.

The Party is a film filled with cynical wit as newly appointed Shadow Minister of Health, Janet (Kristin Scott Thomas) celebrates her new post by hosting a party.

Bill (Timothy Spall), husband and long-time supporter sits in a daze with a glass in hand as each guest arrives: best friend April (Patricia Clarkson) and her New Age partner, Gottfried (Bruno Ganz), lesbian couple Martha (Cherry Jones) and Jinny (Emily Mortimer), newly pregnant, and the handsome financier, Tom (Cillian Murphy) – all sitting on their own agenda as a constant barrage of political and social standpoints are thrown around the room building to their very own announcements.

A film of contrasts, and not just because the entirety is shot in black and white, but because of the contrast of ideals and personalities.  Even the music played on the turntable by Bill is a bizarre backdrop and soundtrack to the emotive tension in the lounge room; tragedy and trauma played out to the rumba and reggae creating the ridiculous and send-up to all the seriousness discussed from life expectancy related to economics and class rather than diet and exercise – a statistic Janet and husband Bill have always agreed upon – to the question of life after death.

The setting of the film is the house of Janet and Bill – there’s no hiding as each character is forced to face the crisis looming in each relationship: the dying academic, the cheating wife; each person intellectualising their emotion into a rational argument all to the sound of Bill’s insistence of playing record after record, his need for music a compulsion to express.

This is a film driven by dialogue, and the set was created and shot on stage like a play where each character slowly unravels as each reveals the next revelation – the story’s interest in the layers of rationale used as self-protection being pealed away to show the raw human hiding underneath; argument and ideals and political stances made as an adult only to show the child still hiding underneath.  Except for April.  Now a cynic.  Janet asks her best friend, ‘Have I been emotionally unavailable?’

Of which April replies, ‘It’s not a productive line of thought’.

There are so many subtle moments that got me giggling.  Small details like Bill sitting confused, a glass of red in one hand and the celebratory glass of champagne in the other.

It’s sad, it’s tragic.  And the understanding of what we cling to, to keep our ego’s intact, is examined and oh so very funny.

Writer and director Sally Potter (Orlando (1992)), states she wrote the script with an awareness of the absurdity of human suffering; the highlight for me April as she cuts through any emotion with her scathing, but not to be taken personally, remarks aimed at revealing the true and rational perspective with her unblinking eye, ‘You’re a first-rate lesbian and a second-rate thinker.’

To which Martha, Professor of Women’s Studies replies ‘April, Really.  I am a professor. Specializing in domestic labour gender differentiation in American utopianism.’

‘Exactly,’ says April.

Left with nothing unnecessary for the story to come full-circle in 71 minutes, The Party is a clever film that takes you into the claustrophobic world of relationships in crisis viewed through the lens of a political satire; the most selfless of the group the coke snorting soulless financier, Tom – now that’s cynical.

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Abracadabra

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: 18+Abracadabra

Director/Writer: Pablo Berger

Produced by: Pablo Berger, Ignasi Estapé, Mercedes Gamero, Mikel Lejarza

Music by: Alfonso de Vilallonga

Cinematography by: Kiko de la Rica

Starring: Maribel Verdú, Priscilla Delgado, Antonio de la Torre, José Mota, Quim Gutiérrez, Joep Maria Pou, Javier Anton and Rocίo Calvo.

Language: Spanish with English subtitles.

If it was a choice between an egotistical, abusive and dismissive husband or a loving, appreciative but crazy murderer, who would you choose?

Abracadabra is kind of a love story, if you can call the choice between a chauvinist and a murderer romantic, mixed with weird humour and eye-brow raising moments of blood and drama and fantasy.

After Carmen (Maribel Verdú) with daughter, Toñi (Priscilla Delgado) finally drag husband and father, Carlos from watching the football to a wedding, they wonder why they bothered when he continues to listen to the football match with headphones shouting, Yes !!! right as the priest asks if anyone contends this most romantic and completely loved-up couple from marrying (their current feeling expressed in precious promises the complete opposite to Carmen and Carlos).

The wedding reception show-cases Pepe (José Mota), the mighty hypnotist, (and obsessed with the sequined, gorgeous but somewhat gaudy Carmen) daring an audience member to volunteer.  Carlos doesn’t like the way Pepe looks at his wife, so volunteers confident in his domination over the powers of the eye-lined hypnotist, Pepe.

While mocking the powers of Pepe an opportunistic ghost possesses Carlos changing him from macho-nasty to doe-eyed lovely, breakfast-in-bed included.

When Carmen and daughter Toñi realise it’s too good to be true, the last straw his greeting of Pepe with a kiss and hug, they consult the mighty Dr. Fumetti (Joep Maria Pou) to find the truth of who inhabits the body of Carlos.

And on the story goes, reaching into the bizarre with a flavour of comedy that held the film from falling into a complete mess of over-dramatisation.

It was those subtle details that were funny: the vibrant white of Dr. Fumetti’s teeth while posing as a dentist; the frothing and spitting of the real estate agent to re-enact blood spurting as a mother’s head was sawn off by the hand of her schizophrenic son… I love a bit of dark humour and there were many moments well executed (ha, ha!) by the cast.

If you don’t like funny-strange humour, then stay away.  The film was also melodramatic with emotion shown with that, hand to mouth, Oh! face, often.  But as the film plays out there was a bit of lead in the story.

An interesting movie experience into the unexpected and absurd, with the drama of weddings and unrequited love and madness that was surprising and silly, pushing the suspension of belief as the script skipped across disaster by keeping the underlying humour present in those unexpected and bizarre details.

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Pop Aye

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: MPop Aye

Written & Directed by: Kirsten Tan

Produced by: Lai Weijie, Deng Li, Zhang Jianbin, Huang Wenhong

Onset Photographer: Lek Kiatsirikajor

Composer: Matthew James Kelly

Starring: Bong (as Popeye), Thaneth Warakulnukroh, Penpak Sirikul, Chaiwat Khumdee, Yukontorn Sukkijja, Narong Pongpab.

Foreign Language: Thai with English subtitles.

Winner Sundance World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award
Winner Rotterdam VPRO Big Screen Award
Winner Best International Feature Film Zurich Film Festival

Popeye is the name of an elephant, a street elephant, lost now found by Thana (Thaneth Warakulnukroh), an architect reaching middle-age and realising that everything he’s worked for is now broken – like his first building about to be destroyed to make way for a new design, a new building aptly named: Eternity.

Finding Popeye (named after the cartoon ‘sailor man’) on the streets of Bangkok, it feels like a chance, a new beginning; the broken Popeye the only Being in the world to understand what it is to be taken for granted.

Leaving his wife, Bo (Penpak Sirikul), job and city, Thana sets out on a journey, taking Popeye with him on the roads of Thailand to return the elephant to his childhood home, their home.

It’s the circle of life, suddenly finding the world different – changing, always moving forward and brutal in leaving the old and weak behind: like nature.  But in nature it’s a slow process.  In the city it’s not about watching the day pass, it’s about money – and it passes fast.

The film is a classic tale of a man having a midlife crisis but shown in the unique setting of Thailand with colourful trucks, ladyboys and the relationship a man can have with an elephant.

Writer and director (debut feature) Kirsten Tan is able to show the animals with real personality – the antics of Popeye as he makes a break for it to continue his own journey from a shopping carpark, shopping trolley being dragged behind; to confused dogs barking at a giant immovable adversary; to long-eared cows lost without their cowbell to announce their coming and going.

There’s a bitter-sweet tone to this film, watching Thana project his life-crisis onto his lost childhood pet, because life is bitter and sometimes sweet.

As Tan states: “Tonally, I believe that life is—and has always been—simultaneously tragic and comic. It only depends on the perspective and distance with which one is watching events unfold. In my films, this inadvertent mixing of tragedy and comedy is important, because that is the truth of life.”

Money is an important part of life, but so is that wondering about what happened to past loves, the yearning to return home – the acceptance of others.

Pop Aye is a quiet film to show the cruel and the kind and those on their own path and how each can connect or break apart shown in a timeline that shifts back and forth but always back to Thana and his struggles – the simple things have meaning like the offer of sandals to ease tired feet, the response to hesitation, ‘They’re old not dirty’.

The meeting of the fortune teller able stop time, to ‘feel a bit like a tree.’  And Thana wants to stop the world turning.  ‘But even trees have to die.’

Pop Aye’s a film to absorb and ponder – a journey to lift the soul; not a fast-paced entertainment.

And I can relate to reaching a crossroads and the wanting to wander ‘til it all makes sense; to be able to slow down time, just for a little bit.

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Blockers

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: MA15+Blockers

Director: Kay Cannon

Writers: Brian Kehoe & Jim Kehoe, Jon Hurwitz & Hayden Schlossberg, Eben Russell

Produced by: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, James Weaver, Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg, Chris Fenton

Executive Producers: Nathan Kahane, Joseph Drake, Josh Fagen, Chris Cowles, Dave Stassen, Jonathan McCoy

Stars: Leslie Mann, Ike Barinholtz, John Cena, Kathryn Newton, Geraldine Indira Viswanathan, Gideon Adlan.

The latest in a long and never-ending line of American teen comedies, this film follows three parents, played by Mann, Cena and Barinholtz, who discover their teenaged daughters have made a pact to lose their virginity on prom night, and try to stop this from occurring. The film was originally titled “The Pact” but was later changed to Blockers with a silhouette of a rooster preceding it, thus inferring “Cock Blockers”.

One reviewer thought this film was “empowering” because it “shows girls flourishing on their own terms, surrounded by supportive friends and nice boys and well-meaning parents.” While this may be true, it isn’t the message one will take away from viewing this film. What lingers is the enthusiastic way teens seize on any opportunity to get totally drunk, and how easily they mislead their well-meaning yet clueless parents.

I expected this film to be composed of wall-to-wall crass humour (based on the trailer) and yes, there was a lot of vulgarity, but there were also some sweet moments between the parents and their children that helped to establish close bonds between them from their first day at school right through to their prom, which explained the parents’ over-protectiveness. In many ways the children seemed more savvy and worldly-wise than their parents, whose similarly rebellious acts during their youth appeared tame in comparison.

A theme running through the film concerned the undeclared sexual preference of one daughter, which I wasn’t expecting to see in this type of film. Her father’s desire to prevent her from bowing to peer pressure was actually quite thought-provoking and mature in a film mainly devoted to depicting drunkenness and vomiting. It was also amusing yet touching how the object of this daughter’s desire was usually photographed in heroic slow-motion, recalling a super hero.

The three male dates for the prom were not depicted as stereotypical brainless hunks with only sex on their minds, with one of them having an enterprising side line in recreational chemicals. While the boys did behave like teenagers, they were also shown to be capable of courtesy and consideration, and were so good humoured about the train wreck unfolding around them that they seemed too good to be true.

The parents were less endearing, with former pro wrestler John Cena probably the weakest link as he overacted like He-Man and his delivery of dialogue was often hampered by poor sound quality or possibly just his enunciation. Lesley Mann reprised her scatter-brained, slightly dippy depiction of a mother who was scared of change. Ike Barinholtz as the outcast father had some touching moments trying to set the record straight while mostly being ignored.

The funniest moment for me was when the three parents snuck into the house of another couple who were into role playing, with amusing results as the three intruders got caught up unintentionally in the other couple’s shenanigans.

So while it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting, with some funny moments, it was just another one of those juvenile American movies with lots of swearing instead of witty dialogue, numerous drunken escapades by teenagers and adults alike, and all that rites of passage stuff (getting drunk, trying to lose one’s virginity on prom night, etc.).

If you enjoyed the Bad Moms movies you’ll probably like this one as well. But if you prefer your humour to be more sophisticated and subtle, then this isn’t the movie for you, being just another unoriginal comedy, with predicable situations and largely two dimensional characters.

The Death Of Stalin

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: MA 15+The Death Of Stalin

Directed by: Armando Iannucci

Produced by: Yann Zenou, Laurent Zeitoun, Nicolas Duval Adassovski, Kevin Loader

Based on the comic books: THE DEATH OF STALIN by Fabien Nury and Thierry Robin

Original screenplay by: Fabien Nury

Written by: Armando Iannucci, David Schneider and Ian Martin

Additional material by: Peter Fellows

Starring: Steve Buscemi, Simon Russell Beale, Paddy Considine, Rupert Friend, Jason Isaacs, Olga Kurylenko, Michael Palin, Andrea Riseborough, Paul Chahidi, Dermot Crowley, Adrian Mcloughlin, Paul Whitehouse and Jeffrey Tambor.

The poster for, The Death Of Stalin warns: ‘A Comedy of Terrors’ –  I should have realised a film based on the days in the Soviet Union after Stalin’s death had senseless murder and mayhem.

I’m not saying there’s gratuitous blood and guts, but the ridiculous behaviour of those in power – Stalin’s Politburo including the security forces of the NKVD and The People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs – who rape and murder while patting each other on the back astounds and at times, tickles:

‘When I piss I always try to make eye contact with an officer,’ says Malenkov (Jeffrey Tambor) to Khrushchev (Steve Buscemi) while peeing against a tree. ‘It ruins their day’.

The majority-rules-group-mentality spearheaded by the iron fist of Stalin unravels when he dies.  The fear felt by his people shown by the hesitation in speech, the inability to come to his aid when he strokes-out on the floor in his own ‘indignity’ because the soldiers are too scared to check what that thud on the floor actually means: What if nothing’s wrong?

So the soldiers wait until morning, safeguarding Stalin’s dying brain, waiting for the housekeeper to arrive with his morning tea.  All based on fact.

Writer-director, Armando Iannucci has created a dark satire that turns the facts into something so terrifying and ridiculous it’s funny.

Once Iannucci was on-board, the cast came together starring the likes of, Steve Buscemi, Michael Palin and Maria Yudina as the concert pianist, Olga Kurylenko: a solid cast working a dynamic script, much like the beloved communist dictum of a working machine focussing on the whole rather than its parts.

Although the decision was made to allow each actor their own native accent (rather than speak with a Russian inflection), it’s difficult to highlight any individual as they were all different yet essential in the ridiculousness of their nature: from the sad clown Malenkov who knows he’s way over his head as Stalin’s Number 2 (girdle included), to the sociopathic tub of evil genious, Beria (Simon Russell Beale), to Khrushchev (Steve Buscemi) who could make Stalin laugh; notes taken every night by his faithful wife, drunken quotes read in the morning to remember topics that worked to those that didn’t to CAAAAA: the sound of a throat being cut.

In other words, he’s on, The List.

The Death of Stalin is gallows humour with the back and forth of words spoken with a blank face changing the meaning so it was more about the way the words were spoken and how best not to get caught saying them.

I expected a laugh-out-loud comedy but the truth of evil doesn’t allow for that; it’s hard to let go of the terror.  Instead, there’s a quick brilliancy; a film of dialogue that could be played out on stage including gems like, ‘Can you ever trust a weak man?’

The film tickled with subtle comment by walking the fine line between the seriousness of committing mass murder against the humour terror brings when people are behaving at their evil worst.

With so many layers it’s a film I’d watch again.

Game Night

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: MA15+Game Night

Directed by: John Francis Daley & Jonathan Goldstein

Written by: Mark Perez

Produced by: John Davis, Jason Bateman, John Fox and James Garavente

Starring: Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams, Billy Magnussen, Sharon Horgan, Lamorne Morris, Kylie Bunbury, Jesse Plemons, Danny Huston, Chelsea Peretti, with Michael C. Hall and Kyle Chandler.

What makes Jason Bateman such a good comedian is not what he does but the ridiculous that happens to him and how he takes it on the chin because what else is he supposed to do?  He’s relatable and a crack-up with no exception here as Max teamed up with his wife Annie (Rachel McAdams): it’s all about winning the game for this couple.

Except when it comes to playing against their neighbour Gary (Jesse Plemons): they were friends with his recently divorced wife, not creepy Gary.

Obsessed, the team/couple host a weekly game night with friends each with their unique relationship issues (bar Gary: not that he doesn’t have issues but because he’s not invited), each unaware that when Max’s brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler) decides to host a Murder Mystery party, it’s not a game but a real kidnapping.

Brooks isn’t just the competitive and ‘most likely to succeed’ brother, he’s also a bad boy.

There’s always a feeling of a formula at play with these heart-felt, comedy, throw-a-bit-of-action-in-the-mix, movies.  Here, we have sibling rivalry, couple issues, the bond of friendship; conflicts overcome by the common goal of winning the game and saving the brother.

Directors John Francis Daley & Jonathan Goldstein have teamed up before, Game Night being their second film as co-directors, following the comedy, Vacation (2015).   And like Vacation, there are some genuinely funny moments.

Gary-the-creepy-neighbour is a highlight and point of difference with his death stare and continued patting of his white fluffy dog reminiscent of the villain, Dr Claw petting his white fluffy cat in Inspector Gadget.

It’s the extra effort and detail that tickles.

And Max being the normal guy in such silly situations grounds the story while also making the film funnier.

Rachel McAdams can be hit and miss for me.  She plays such a wide variety of roles, from Spotlight to Dr Strange to True Detective 2 – an impressive performance of a dark and tortured cop  – to her role here, as the innocent, game-obsessed suburban wife; her character not the funniest but adding the cutesy aspect, provoking the required, Aww, response.

So, there’s attention to detail from a clever script with lines like, ‘You got the knife right in the bullet hole’ (ha, ha, cracks me up), a techno 80s-style synthesiser soundtrack to combine that action/comic flavour with a bit of added romance.

 

 

Lady Bird

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: MA15+Lady Bird

Directed and Written by: Greta Gerwig

Produced by: Scott Rudin, Eli Bush, Evelyn O’Neil

Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges.

We’ve all been there – growing up, becoming a teenager, trying to find your own identity whilst also trying to deal with so many pressures that seem insurmountable when you’re only 17. It’s the age when events conspire to seem like the biggest tragedy, provoke the most embarrassment or the deepest emotion, without any sign of how to get beyond them.

So it is for Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson, played with intense believability by Saoirse Ronan, who is trying to find her sense of self while living in Sacramento, California during 2002.

She constantly clashes with her mother Marion (the outstanding Laurie Metcalf), who is a prickly, bossy woman with a life full of pressures and stresses her daughter barely glimpses or understands.

These two are so alike yet they can’t see it: opinionated, emotional and yearning for something beyond their ordinary existence.

Writer Greta Gerwig in her directorial debut said that this mother-daughter relationship is the love story of the film, and this relationship is what resonates far more deeply than the daughter’s awkward dalliances with two boys.

The opening scene shows us Lady Bird and Marion both sighing with deeply shared emotion after listening to an audio book during a long car ride, an experience that draws them closer together, yet within moments a carelessly expressed comment leads to a huge misunderstanding and a reckless reaction.

This scene sets the tone for the rest of the movie, with numerous situations between the mother who loves but cannot communicate with her daughter without provoking a backlash, and the daughter who in her turn feels misunderstood and unwanted.

The director aimed to have each of these people be “painfully failing to reach each other”, an aim that is convincingly and realistically achieved.

Gerwig’s skill allows the audience to cringe in shared dismay at each new outburst, seeing it coming and wondering why Lady Bird and her mother can’t help themselves or learn from their earlier mistakes.

The director succeeds in making the film “frothy and exciting like waves breaking on a beach”, followed closely by “a sudden undertow…and before you know it, you are in much deeper waters than you expected.”

This is exactly how it felt watching “Lady Bird” – one moment you’re laughing at the silly things and situations the main character experiences, and then the whole mood changes and things get serious when moments of amity are quickly shattered by a thoughtless or misconstrued comment.

Lady Bird also struggles to be one of the cool, sophisticated kids at school, ashamed of her family’s working class roots.

She falls madly in love with boys because she hungers to be in love more so than with an actual person.

She lies to find acceptance with the cool gang at school.

Her experiments with fashion, alcohol, drugs and music all reflect her constant drive to discover who she is (hence her rejection of her birth name in favour of the more exotic “Lady Bird”).

Her struggles and relationships with her family, best friend and assorted acquaintances are often depicted with humour, reflected by the audience’s gentle laughter at her predictable reactions, behaviour and affectations.

Her friendship with a girl at her school (Julie, played by Beanie Feldstein) is particularly sweet, showing how teenagers often view the world naïvely.

What was particularly moving about this film was how little people learn from their mistakes, repeating them in astonishing variations even when they gain some wisdom.

There is no happy ending, no neat resolution with all forgiven, just an ever-evolving awareness, hard-won maturity and an appreciation of one’s childhood home and family, just like real life.

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Insidious: The Last Key

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: MInsidious: The Final Key

Directed by: Adam Robitel

Based on Characters Created by: Leigh Whannell

Written by: Leigh Whannell

Produced by: Jason Blum, Oren Peli, James Wan

Starring: Lin Shaye, Leigh Whannell, Angus Sampson, Kirk Acevedo, Caitlin Gerard, Spencer Locke, Josh Stewart, Tessa Ferrer, Aleque Reid, Ava Kolker, Pierce Pope, Bruce Davison, Javier Botet.

Set as a prequel to the original, Insidious: The Last Key begins with parapsychologist, Dr. Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye) growing up in 1954, living in an abusive home: 413 Apple Tree Lane in Five Keys.

Elise has the gift, she was born with the gift.  And her father hates her for it.

She lives with her brother, Christian (Pierce Pope) who’s understandably afraid of the dark, and is given a silver whistle to call his mother if he ever feels scared.

But when their mother dies, Elise finally leaves home at 16, leaving her little brother and the terrors of her childhood behind, including Key Face (Javier Botet), a demon who convinced her that setting it free would bring her more light.  Key Face wants Elise to set them all free from The Further, because she’s the only one who can.

A phone call from Ted Garza (Kirk Acevedo), the current inhabitant of her childhood house, brings her back to all those bad memories.  Haunted, Ted asks for help.  And reluctantly, Elise returns with her new family, Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson): The Spectral Sightings crew.

There’s a different feel to this fourth instalment, with new director, Adam Robitel bringing a more human drama to this otherwise suspenseful, supernatural franchise.

There’s less reliance on the soundtrack, the suspense built on silence broken by footsteps on floorboards and the squeaking turn and fixing of a light bulb.  It’s a slow burn that builds into a surprisingly sinister tale.

But I had trouble with holes in the script – OK, maybe not holes.  Everything was there, but there wasn’t enough weight given to the why and backstory of Key Face.  I don’t want to give too much away, but the death of Elise’s mother felt superficial to me, not supernatural.

And her death is an important part of the film as the story relies on this essential part of the fable and the power of Key Face.

The object of the whistle gives the supernatural a touch-stone of reality.  And restraint makes the ghosts from The Further all the more believable.

So, there’s thought about the detail here which makes the glossing over the essential annoying.

Lin Shaye as Dr. Elise Rainier continues to bring authenticity to the difficult role of a parapsychologist who can commune and see ghosts.  And the humour of Leigh Whannell and Angus Sampson as Specs and Tucker works in this instalment; the humour given more time to work unlike the over-editing in Chapter 3 (where Leigh Whannell was also the writer), which rendered the jokes mis-timed and inconsequential.

As producer Blum says of writer Leigh Whannell: “There is a real relationship that has evolved between the audience and the characters in the movie.  Leigh understands that what makes a good scary movie is not the scares, but what comes in between them.”

And seeing Spectural Sightings together in their van, AKA, The Winnebaghost, with Tucker sporting an impressive mullet, was a definite highlight.

Insidious: The Last Key manages to create a unique tone and story to the previous instalments.  A more adult and suspenseful drama with some good humour to break the tension with a few scares that could have been so much stronger with better understanding of the Key Man and his power.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: MA+THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI

Written and Directed by: Martin McDonagh

Produced by: Graham Broadbent, Peter Czernin, Martin McDonagh

Executive Producers: Bergen Swanson, Diarmuid McKeown, Rose Garnett, David
Kosse, Daniel Battsek

Starring: Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Abbie Cornish, Peter
Dinklage, Lucas Hedges, John Hawkes, Caleb Landry Jones, Sandy Martin.

Not since 1986 have I applauded out loud, in a packed cinema, for a movie that blew me away with the dynamic force of its female lead and its nuanced emotional and moral rollercoaster, of great cinematic story.

Eight years ago, English/Irish, playwright/filmmaker, Martin McDonagh, wrote Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri in one single draft.  A third film after the slow burning cult success of, In Bruges and the darkly twisted, Seven Psychopaths.

The narrative tightrope of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is taut and confronting, pathos rich, in equal parts both tragic and hilariously funny.

Within ten minutes you will think you have sized up all the characters but you will be completely unprepared for what McDonagh does next.

The story opens with Mildred (Frances McDormand) her terrible grief has no tears left as she stands beneath three newly pasted billboards, billboards she has hired, billboards that witnessed the rape, murder and torching of her teenage daughter Angela, seven months earlier.

Since then there have been no arrests and the local police department have no leads.

Unable to accept the paralysis of her grief and fueled by fury, Mildred embodies the fight or die quality of a lone cowboy making a last stand against the local police and emblazons what must be the largest victim of violence impact statement and directs its lethal force at the town’s much loved, Chief of Police, Chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson).

Raped while dying
And still no arrests?
How come Chief Willoughby?

There is no word for the place that Mildred is left in the English language as the parent of a dead child.

When a child loses a parent, they are an orphan. When a parent loses a child, there is no word.

Mildred’s relentless rage, blows apart the small town, minding-everyone’s-business, complicit charm of Ebbing, Missouri.

When shooting Three Billboards, McDormand to intensify the combative fury and isolation she would bring to the screen and her fellow cast, McDormand kept herself isolated, only seeing the cast at shooting.

And it worked.

McDormand is simply outstanding in this role. Simply dressed in one commando-like-overall with barely no facial expression, her seething and impact are latent and volatile and you just know that her lethal cocktail of fury, grief and a sense that justice has not been served, will suffer no prisoners.

In a quote worthy scene, Mildred strides into the Police Station – her town popularity at the bottom of the heap, oblivious to a herd of police mulling about, she calls out to Officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell) – a cop we’ve already sized up as the worst kind – a cop that is racist, stupid and armed.

‘Hey fuckhead!’ says Mildred.
‘What?’ says Dixon.
‘Don’t say what, Dixon, when she comes in calling you fuckhead’ says a Policeman.

McDonagh’s script is peppered, rich with racial taboos, social taboos, humanity. His characters, dark in pathos, humour and humanity. As a master storyteller, McDonagh’s skill is in serving up humour as a cathartic release after scenes heavy in tragic sadness.

Dixon tells Mildred, they don’t do “n– — r torturing” no more but “persons-of- color torturing”.

In a packed cinema we gasp together, in horror at Dixon’s racism and in a packed cinema, we laugh out loud, together at his stupidity.

The power of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is in its straightforward truths.

There are no ambiguous wonderings. We are served a plate full of raw humanity and we love it. We recognize the truth of our shared humanity, all our shades of despair, rage, tragedy and ultimately our ability to use humour from that dark place to release tenderness, hope and redemption.