Suburbicon

GoMovieReviews Rating:
SuburbiconRated: MA 15+

Directed by: George Clooney

Written by: Joel & Ethan Coen, George Clooney and Grant Heslov

Produced by: George Clooney and Gran Heslov

Starring: Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, Noah Jupe, Oscar Isaac.

Director George Clooney has collaborated with the Coen brothers (No Country For Old Men) to package together one dark, tasty treat.

This is a story that could only be set in the 50s.  A setting I initially found off-putting, the feeling the formula of 50s dark comedy already been done.  But I was pleasantly surprised by the clever script and how the 50s attitude was used to create a rising tension and darkness of bigotry and racism in the story.

Suburbicon explores the real America, back then, the racism and petty nature of society hiding behind perfect houses, set hair and freshly mown lawns.  The idea of a suburb is a new-found way of living – affordable post war housing built outside of the city where families can grow with kids hanging out with the neighbours and everyone’s safe and secure and the same.  Until the Mayers move in.

Based on the true events that unfolded in Levittown, Pennsylvania in 1957, where William and Daisy Meyers became the first African American family to move to the town, only to be subjected to 500 people yelling abuse on their front lawn, complete with the hanging of Confederate flags and a burning cross…Suburbicon

Suburbicon builds on the tension; cracks begin to form in the community, with well-mannered folk becoming increasingly agitated by the presence of the family.

And then, Gardner Lodge (Matt Damon) and his family, Rose (Julianne Moore), her twin sister Margaret (also Moore) and son Nicky (Noah Jupe) are tied up and robbed in their own home – something must be done.

The Lodges are a seemingly normal family with twin sister Margaret visiting often to help Rose who’s wheelchair bound after a vehicle accident.

And I use ‘seemingly’ as the story of the film is the depiction of the family unravelling as the robbers, Louis (Alex Hassell) and Sloan (Glenn Flesher) return to pressure Gardner causing the film to turn in dark and completely unexpected ways.

This is a surprisingly violent film but made in such a way that the shock is funny.Suburbicon

It’s a dark film, that clever script and direction using that 50s flavour to show the violence like an old-school detective movie with images of shadows and jagged edges of broken glass instead of blood and guts.  The soundtrack also adds to that crime/detective flavour.

But there’s much more here than a cloak and dagger crime story.

The audience is shown life from the way the son, Nicky, sees the world.  Like the innocence of childhood is the only normality in the story.  And this is beautifully shown in the friendship between Nicky and the Mayers son, Andy (Tony Espinosa).

Add the well-balanced pacing where each twist and reveal is shown with dead pan delivery, I couldn’t help but appreciate the timing and cleverness of the script.

The Snowman

GoMovieReviews Rating:
The SnowmanMA15+

Directed by: Tomas Alfredson

Based on the Book by: Jo Nesbø

Screenplay by: Hossein Amini and Peter Straughan

Produced by: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Piodor Gustafsson, Robyn Slovo,

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, Charlotte Gainsbourg with Val Kilmer and J. K. Simmons.

Waking up from another bender, lead detective, Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender), needs a case to distract him from drinking.

When he receives a disturbing letter signed-off with a picture of a snowman, he may have found the case.  And as the film continues and the bodies pile up, Harry’s eyes become clearer.

Based on Jo Nesbø’s global bestseller, the attempt to condense, ‘The Snowman’ into a film was not entirely successful.

There’s so much going on in the film that I have to say, my confusion grew as the film continued.The Snowman

The inclusion of so many characters, like Rafto (Val Kilmer), another disgraced drunken detective and Mathias (Jonas Karlsson) a detective thrown in the mix for reasons unknown led to time wasting red herrings.

Which is a pity because the main storyline was good.

But without the depth of character given in the novel, a lot of time was spent scratching my head asking, Why?

An avid fan of the Jo Nesbø novels, I was excited to see his story come to life on the big screen.  And Michael Fassbender suited the role of Harry, if not better looking and smaller than imagined from the text – he was a sincere brute, playing the damaged sincerity of a complicated man perfectly.

I also liked Rebecca Ferguson as the junior recruit, Katrine Bratt.

However, the rest of the cast felt superficial with so many and so little backstory.

The English language used, instead of the novel’s original Norwegian, followed on like the book being translated, so I didn’t mind as that’s how I read the book.  Another successful example being the English version of Wallander, set in the original series’ native Ystad, Sweden, yet the characters speaking in English…

The setting of The Snowman was filmed entirely in Norway with the snow falling and the vast landscape keeping the feel from the novel authentic.

Director Tomas Alfredson (Let the Right One In, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) has used that feeling of vast space and isolation to build the creepy feeling of The Snowman watching.  But that’s as creepy as the film gets.

The Snowman didn’t live up to expectation because the momentum and therefore suspense was lost by trying to fit too much into the story.

I liked Fassbender as Harry, the setting was beautifully captured, and the story was good.  But could have been much better with a more focussed plot.

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Good Time

GoMovieReviews Rating:
MA 15+Good Time

Directed by: Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie

Written by: Ronald Bronstein, Josh Safdie

Produced by: Sabastian Bear-McClard, Oscar Boyson, Jean-Luc De Fanti, Terry Dougas, Paris Kasidokostas Latsis

Composer/Soundtrack: Oneohtrix Point Never

Cinematographer: Sean Price Williams

Starring: Robert Pattinson, Ben Safdie, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tahliah Webster, Barkhad Abdi, Buddy Duress.

The Safdie brothers (Josh and Ben) return with their fifth feature film, building on their gonzo-style street films with Official Selection and winner of the Cannes Soundtrack Award, Good Time.

And I was hooked from the opening scene.

When Nick Nikas (Ben Safdie) is questioned by a psychiatrist (Peter Verby), you can tell there’s something not right with Nick.  He’s slow.  But asking for word associations for, ‘water and ‘salt’, the sadness and beauty and insight into the always lost but understanding all the same was given when Nick makes the association with the sea while tears run down his cheeks.

Then his brother, Connie (Robert Pattinson) bursts into the room, dragging his brother from a place that’s making him cry – it’s wrong to take Nick from a place trying to help him, but he does it for all the right reasons.  It’s love.

Connie’s not a bad guy, he just does bad things.  He wants his brother to feel what he feels.  Good Time

Sharing the experience of robbing a bank seems easy.  Connie’s smart.  Street smart.  He can manipulate others to get what he wants.  He’s bad because he’s misleading but Connie doesn’t want to hurt people, he just wants to help his brother making the character all the more believable because people aren’t purely bad or purely good, there’s always that somewhere in-between.

After Nick gets caught by the police, Connie has to come up with ten-thousand dollars to get him out on bail.  And he knows there’s only so many times Nick can change the TV and annoy the other inmates before he gets beaten to death.  So there’s desperation to get that $10K.  Nothing good comes from desperation.Good Time

Good Times felt like real life – a moment-by-moment record of controlled chaos.  Like life, sometimes there’s just no time.

Decisions are made in the moment to try to get through and survive.  The raw nature of the film reminding me of Oscar winner, ‘Moonlight’.  But I related more to the 90s vibe here.

I enjoyed seeing Robert Pattinson embrace his role, the Safdie brothers pushing that Brooklyn element of the film.

Ben Safdie and Pattinson wrote letters to each other for weeks as Connie and Nick, discussing their lives in character to develop the relationship between the two brothers to translate onto the screen.

People will go to see Pattinson in a new role but the stand out for me was Ben Safdie as Nick.

And the soundtrack has to be commended.

The more I get into film the more I understand the integration of image and sound to give the story its emotional landscape.

Sound can give so much more than words.

Here, the thought of the ocean began the emotional tone of the film which continued with the soundtrack.

Daniel Lopatin who records under the name Oneohtrix Point Never has created an electronic-based score with the film ending with a song recorded in collaboration with Iggy Pop.

Add the dialogue, sometimes written just before recording, the film had a chaotic feel, making the fiction truthful – believable because only real life can be that strange.

I’ll be keeping an eye out for more from the Safdie brothers.

Good Time had balls with a dash of genius.  And it wasn’t a harsh ride.  It just felt honest.

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Wind River

GoMovieReviews Rating:

MA 15+Wind River

Directed and Written by: Taylor Sheridan

Produced by: Elizabeth A. Bell, Peter Berg, Matthew George, Basil Iwanyk, Wayne L. Rogers

Music by: Nick Cave, Warren Ellis

Starring: Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Kelsey Asbille, Julia Jones, Teo Briones, Apesanahkwat and Graham Greene.

“While missing person statistics are compiled for every other demographic, none exist for Native American women. No one knows how many are missing.”

After writing the screenplay for the two highly regarded crime/thrillers, Sicario (2015) – which I gave a 5/5, and, Hell or High Water (2016), Taylor Sheridan has returned as writer and as director (debut) of the crime/mystery, Wind River.

Set in the cold and snowy wasteland of Wyoming, hunter for US Fish and Wildlife, Cory Lambert (Jeremey Renner) is called out to the Wind River Reservation to track a lion after his ex-father-in-law discovers a cow killed on his land.

While tracking the lion, Cory finds a teenage girl dead in the snow.

The Sheriff (Graham Greene) calls in the FBI where Jan Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) turns up ill-prepared for the below freezing conditions and violence that lurks under Wind River’s icy surface.  She soon discovers in this environment, you either survive or die.

Based on actual events, Wind River is a tragedy beautifully told.Wind River

There’s a poetry in the words spoken and insight into the isolation of living amongst the wolves and sheep, mountains, lions; the predators stalking the prey – the contrast of the outsider, the FBI agent, showing just how different life is out on the snow.

I was surprised at the casting of Elizabeth Olsen (the younger sister of the Olsen twins, previously starring in films such as the witch in, Captain America: Civil War (2016) and receiving critical acclaim for her role in, Martha Mercy May Marlene (2011).  Her role as Jane Banner (the FBI agent) is such a mature, complicated character.  The expression and restraint shows a real depth here, the character believable as law enforcement while also human, understanding she’s out of her depth and smart enough to enlist the help of local hunter, Cory Lambert.Wind River

Jeremy Renner wears the quiet wisdom of Cory well – his ability to show humility captures the essence of this hunter, an acceptance of the inevitable as the cold slowly freezes the land leaving hearts full of sadness.

Since starring in, The Bourne Legacy (2012), Renner has been used in roles with a far calmer demeanor, in my view, stepping up in his role as Ian Donnelly in, Arrival (2016) and again here as Cory.

First time director Taylor Sheridan is to be commended in his success in making the most of the cast and talent.

From the beginning, I felt Taylor had put together a strong film, where each moment, word and gesture show more than just the surface.

Wind River is a film about crime but it’s also about people and place.

There’s a rawness to surviving the land that lends to a contemplation of spirit and wisdom creating a poetry of emotion because the characters are forced to rise above the tragedy, to embrace the sadness to survive.

Taylor has a true talent in showing the tragedy in the fight for survival while also showing the beauty of the reality.  And I continue to admire and congratulate his work.

Logan Lucky

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Directed by: Steven SoderberghLogan Lucky

Written by: Rebecca Blunt

Produced by: Gregory Jacobs, Mark Johnson, Channing Tatum, Reid Carolin

Starring: Farrah Mackenzie, Channing Tatum, Jim O’Heir, Riley Keough, Katie Holmes, Boden Johnston, Sutton Johnston, David Denman, Charles Halford, Adam Driver, Seth MacFarlane, Mark McCullough, Daniel Craig and Jack Quaid.

Logan Lucky is about the not-so-lucky Logan Brothers who put together a heist to rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway during the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR race – one brother, Clyde Logan (Adam Driver), with one arm, I mean, one hand missing after being blown off on the way to the airport in Iraq, about to come home after fighting in the war.  And the other brother, Jimmy (Channing Tatum) with a limp, just fired from his truck driving job because of said limp – not that the limp would’ve affected his driving.

The Logan brothers enlist the help of demolition expert, Joe Bang (Daniel Craig) (ha, ha, Joe Bang), currently incarcerated; sister and hairdresser, Mellie (Riley Keough) and Joe Bang’s younger brothers, Fish (Jack Quaid) and Sam (Brian Gleeson).  Add these characters together and you’ve got a motley crew of robbers attempting a complicated job: the release of a prisoner, accessing the cash at the raceway, extracting and removing the cash from the site and the re-insertion of an escaped convict.Logan Lucky

After the introduction of these slow talking, seemingly thick-headed hillbillies, the film just kinda fumbled its way through the motion of the heist while expressing all those white trash clichés like child beauty pageants, John Deer trucker caps, long painted nails, big hair, NASCAR and energy drinks.  Well, the energy drinks were a bit different, as was the poodle-haired, race-car owner, Max Chilblain (Seth MacFarland) who owned the stuff and was forever trying to promote the drink by forcing it down his driver’s throat.

So, you can see there’s a parody here, of the backward North Carolina culture – but there’s also a paradox with smarts here too, like a tasteful martini made with one hand; a bomb made from bleach and gummy bears on the other…

I admit the dry humour eventually got me tickled and once tickled it was easier to laugh.  But the humour didn’t always hit the mark.

The stand-out for me was the one-armed Adam Driver as Clyde Logan.  Maybe I find amputee humour ticklish?  But, yes, his quiet take on the world was the highlight for me.Logan Lucky

There were some sweet moments, particularly between Jimmy Logan and his daughter Sadie (Farrah Mackenzie) – passing the flat-head screwdriver or the wrench or singing a heart-felt country and western song.  And there was a coming around and twist here and there with the story but I was too far gone on the hillbilly nature of the characters.

I got bored with the clichéd and any twists in the story felt cheap, like an Ocean’s Eleven (2001) (of which Soderbergh also directed) re-make, but staring hillbillies… without action…

So, it was a weird mix of: intelligent plan with backward characters.

The film outsmarted itself by building the hillbilly nature of the characters at the loss of story, so Logan Lucky ended up being kinda funny and kinda smart.

I wanted to like the film more, but didn’t quite get there.

PS. What was the deal with the Hillary Swank FBI character, Sarah Grayson? Brought so late into the film the character felt tacked on, a little like this PS.

Baby Driver

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Written and Directed by: Edgar WrightBaby Driver

Produced by: Nira Park, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner

Starring: Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Jon Bernthal, Eiza Gonzalez, Jon Hamm and Jamie Foxx.

If you’re going to open a film with a car chase, there’s nothing better than synchronising the action to, The John Spencer Blues Explosion.

Now this band brings back some memories – not burn-outs or car chases but I did manage to maroon my VC Commodore on a boulder out on a backroad near Byron Bay.  What a road trip; the music in the tape deck including the, John Spencer.  So, I was already grinning when the opening of Baby Driver exploded onto the screen.

What I didn’t expect was the huge part the sound track played in this film.  Almost to the point of being a musical with the stylised drama and overacting that somehow fit because all the moves were in time to some cool track.  See sound track here…

Baby Driver

Obviously the film’s about a driver named Baby (Ansel Elgort).  Who’s managed to get himself into the debt of a criminal mastermind, Doc (Kevin Spacey) who puts crews together to do jobs like rob banks – any Job that requires a driver, Baby gets called.  And like his name there’s something sweet about the guy.

Baby Driver is an interesting blend with this sweetness potentially turning the film into cheese.  But director and screenwriter Edgar Wright has replicated the same tone of comedy and romance and music as his previous films (think, Shaun of the Dead (2004), Hot Fuzz (2007) and The World’s End (2013)) but then adding action, reining in all the elements so one didn’t take over from the other but instead complimented: the romance being the motivation; the action creating adrenaline; the comedy for that bit of relief…  Along with camera shots completely in tune with the soundtrack to make a very entertaining film that felt different because of that tone of sweet.

And the love story added a nice touch.  From an absolute kick arse driver opening up to the most amazing car chases I’ve seen on screen to the love Baby finds with the waitress, Debora who dreams of, ‘heading west on 20 in a car I can’t afford, with a plan I don’t have’.

It’s a match made in heaven.Baby Driver

And I really liked the cast here – the character, Baby, needing a strong, likable performance from Ansel Elgort to get away with those dance moves which he did when he could make cars dance the same way.  And Lily James as Debora (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)) reminded me of the late Brittany Murphy which made me a little sad.

I loved seeing Jon Hamm as the bad arse Buddy.  And Kevin Spacey as the master criminal, added a little grounding.

With initial concern about the title, Baby Driver (I mean, what the?!  Baby?!  How cheesy is that!), I get the tone after seeing the film: that 50s vibe coming through with the setting of the diner and Debora the waitress wearing those old-style outfits with a classic openness of character you’d expect from earlier times with no cynicism in sight.  I get it.

So, not the action/thriller I was expecting, instead, Baby Driver’s kinda cool, without being slick.

Jasper Jones

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Director: Rachel PerkinsJasper Jones

Producers: Craig Deeker, David Jowsey, Anita Sheehan

Written By: Shaun Grant, Craig Silvey (story)

Based on: the novel ‘Jasper Jones’ by Craig Silvey (2009)

Starring: Angourie Rice, Hugo Weaving, Toni Collette, Dan Wyllie, Levi Miller, Aaron L. McGrath

The purpose of a good film is to resonate with its audience and to change our perspective: Jasper Jones did just that for me and stuck around long after I left the theatre behind.

The story of Charlie’s coming of age is about the choices we make based on what we think we know and how sometimes misinformation gets confused with facts.Jasper Jones

We tell ourselves our life story everyday, shaping our sense of identity, our purpose. To the point that only a catalyst event can set things straight.

The night Jasper Jones finds Laura’s body, he knows that would be the end of him. As a mixed race outcast, the town he calls home would find him guilty in the blink of an eye.

And so he reaches out to young Charlie, asking for help in the middle of the night. It is a move made out of desperation, as he fears for his life.

As the plot advances, we submerge into a time and place where gossip is the common currency and nothing is what it seems behind closed doors. Where Jasper, Charlie and Eliza embark on a courageous adventure to solve a mystery, while most of their community chooses to look away.Jasper Jones

As director Rachel Perkins stated: ‘Stories, in the words of our writer Craig Silvey, exist to promote empathy, to test preconceptions and to transform opinions. The audience will ultimately be the judge if we have succeeded in that quest.’

Jasper Jones is a best-selling Australian novel by Craig Silvey. 
The novel has received broad critical acclaim and commercial success including being shortlisted for the prestigious IMPAC Dublin Literary Award 2011 and shortlisted for the Australian Miles Franklin Literary Award in 2010.