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.

All The Money In The World

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: MA15+All The Money In The World

Directed by:  Ridley Scott

 Written by:  David Scarpa based on the book by John Pearson          

Produced by: Dan Friedkin, Bradley Thomas, Quentin Curtis, Chris Clark, Ridley Scott, Mark Huffam and Kevin J. Walsh

Starring Michelle Williams, Christopher Plummer and Mark Wahlberg. 

When a movie such as this is labelled ‘Inspired by True Events’ I can’t stop my mind constantly evaluating which of the events portrayed are true and which are pure speculation.

In this case the basic facts are that Jean Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer) is an American-born British industrialist who negotiated a series of lucrative oil leases with Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and was declared the richest American in 1957.

On 10th July 1973, Paul, his grandson, (Charlie Plummer- no relation), then age 16, was kidnapped off the streets of Rome. Paul’s mother, Gail (Michelle Williams) spends the rest of the film negotiating with a grandfather reluctant to pay the demanded ransom.

The film is based on a book on the Gettys written by John Pearson and this adaption from book to film does cause some narrative problems.

Although the kidnapping occurs very early in the film, a series of flashbacks quickly follow in succession, each dated to supply the necessary biographical information about the family’s background. I found this constant interruption of the main narrative quite disconcerting.

This is a film that moves slowly despite the potential for drama of a kidnapping. The tension is muted, crisscrossing between scenes of Paul and the kidnappers and his mother’s increasingly frustrated attempts to convince his grandfather to ‘pay up.’ It is only in the last half hour that the adrenalin really starts pumping.

Christopher Plummer and Michelle Williams give solid if somewhat pallid performances with Williams reprising the mood of her role as Alma, wife of Ennis Del Mar, in Brokeback Mountain – all stoic endurance.

Surprisingly, moments of emotion are few and far between and unexpectedly more often between the young Paul and Cinquanta, one of the Calabrian captors (played convincingly by Romain Duris), who does what he can to make the captivity endurable.

What intrigued David Scarpa, the scriptwriter, about the story were the psychological aspects, how “the obstacle wasn’t paying the ransom and rescuing his grandson – the obstacle was psychological, he just couldn’t bear to part with his money.”

This is a visually beautiful film from Dariusz Wolski, (Director of Photography) renowned for each of the first four films in the record-breaking Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.

The Italian landscapes fairly hum with an erotic energy and the lush interiors of the Getty mansions with their shadowy corners and opulent décor are more like scenes captured from the Old Masters that hang on the Getty walls.

The film however, exists in the shadow of that space where art and life often collide. Originally, Kevin Spacey, transformed by elaborate make-up and prosthetics, played the iconic tycoon. But when many men came forward alleging that the actor had sexually abused them, Christopher Plummer was hastily signed on as the replacement.

Many scenes had to be re-shot and interestingly Michelle Williams re-shot all her scenes with Plummer, refusing to accept recompense in solidarity with all those who had allegedly been abused by show business luminaries.

Perhaps this unfortunate interruption of reality goes part way to explain some of the film’s deficiencies and its rushed feeling. Sometimes the action verges on melodrama, especially in the several scenes where paparazzi on steroids surge like locusts around the Getty entourage or the one thousand newspapers delivered by Gail to Getty senior to capture his attention, swirl about him like snow. Nothing subtle here.

In the end Getty senior is a somewhat clichéd portrayal, the lonely old rich tycoon without no attempt to understand the causes of his rigid personality. There’s a deeper story here somewhere but unfortunately it’s tricky to find, much like the Getty ransom.

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Murder on the Orient Express

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Directed by: Kenneth BranaghMurder On The Orient Express

Written by:  Agatha Christie (novel), Michael Green (screenplay)

Produced by: Kenneth Branagh, Winston Azzopardi

Starring:  Judi Dench, Penelope Cruz, Kenneth Branagh, Willem Dafoe, Michelle Pfeiffer, Johnny Depp.

‘My name is Hercule Poirot and I am probably the greatest detective in the world’.

So simple and yet so effective, the line introducing the mastermind detective, takes the audience on a journey back in time. When travelling was still rough and dangerous, and the Orient Express became a showcase of luxury and comfort.

Regarded as one of Agatha Christie’s greatest achievements, the famous tale has been told many times before so you could say spoiler time has elapsed.Murder On The Orient Express

The most renowned adaptation may have been Sidney Lumet’s Oscar-winning film in 1974, but there was also a TV series in the early 2000’s starring Alfred Molina.

The novel, readily available since first published  in 1934, is one of my all-time favourites. So, not only did I know what I was getting myself into but how it ended. Literally. And there is a high chance you are in the same position I was. But you know what? Don’t let that stop you.

The film’s cast includes two Oscar winners: Judi Dench and Penélope Cruz; and four Oscar nominees: Kenneth Branagh, Willem Dafoe, Michelle Pfeiffer and Johnny Depp. I could not turn down the opportunity to see such an incredible cast coming together and I was not disappointed as they delivered such intricate characters effortlessly.Murder On The Orient Express

When you have a great story and a great team of actors, there is only one thing that may make or break a project: the director. But not many people can handle directing, producing and acting like Kenneth Branagh.

The audience can feel how, just like at the Orient Express, every detail has been accounted for. There is no room for error and the result is a visually-appealing adaption that is a joy to the senses.

This is Kenneth Branagh’s second movie to be shot on 65mm film. The first was Hamlet (1996). After 21 years, Branagh decided to use this film format once again because, according to his own words, he felt inspired by some independent movies he had been watching. Mostly, films by Michael Haneke.

I love train journeys and I did some research about the Orient Express as I was writing this review. Apparently, there was one actual murder on The Orient Express. Maria Farcasanu was robbed and murdered by Karl Strasser, who pushed her out of the moving train, one year after Agatha Christie’s book was published.

The original Orient Express route (from October 4, 1883) was from Paris to Giurgiu (Romania) but shortened as the years went by. The real Orient Express disappeared from European timetables in 2009, a ‘victim of high-speed trains and cut-rate airlines’.

The Girl With All The Gifts

GoMovieReviews Rating:
MA15+The Girl With All The Gifts

Directed by: Collie McCarthy

Adapted from the novel, ‘The Girl With All The Gifts’, Written by: Mick Carey

Music Composed by: Cristobal Tapia de Veer

Starring: Gemma Arterton, Glenn Close, Paddy Considine, Sennia Nenua, Fisayo Akinade, Anthony Welsh.

After recently starting to watch, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2016) and stopping after 15 minutes because I was just so sick of zombies, I surprised myself by taking in, The Girl With All The Gifts.

With Glenn Close starring and my avid love of thrillers, I thought the film looked good.

It made sense to me, fungi infecting the population and turning humans into blood thirsty beasts.  It’s the need for protein that turns the Hungries into killers.

And as, War Of The Worlds has shown us, and frankly this last flu season, it’s the micro-organisms and shown here, the fungi (not a micro-organism, but you get the drift) that will win in the end…

So, the premise of the film was interesting.The Girl With All The Gifts

The film begins with children, about 10 years old, being wheeled into a makeshift classroom, strapped to a wheelchair, wearing matching orange tracksuits.

The soldiers who transfer them from cell to classroom are obviously scared of the kids, yet, Melanie (Sennia Nenua) is a kind and polite, extremely intelligent school girl.

Until she’s hungry and can smell flesh.

After the compound’s attacked by seemingly endless hungries, Melanie’s favourite person and teacher, Helen Justineau (Gemma Arterton), along with Dr Caroline Caldwell (Glenn Close), Sergeant Eddie Parks (Paddy Considine), and soldiers Kieran Gallagher (Fisayo Akinade) and Dillon (Anthony Welsh) escape, to the outside world, back to London to wait for rescue.

Scottish director, Collie McCarthy (Outcast (2010), Endeavour (TV series, The Girl With All The Gifts2012) has brought a UK flavour to the film which is a nice change from the saturation of the American zombie takeovers, setting the film in London with native accented characters.

And there’s some good acting here – Glenn Close, who can do no wrong, brings a solid performance as the villainous researcher.  And young Sennia as Melanie holds her own as the hybrid fungal/human creature.

But it was difficult to take the hungries seriously when the fungus growing over their faces looked like green fur.

The infected blew the suspension for me – the hungries not always believable, so after the strong opening, the film waned.

There is some blood and guts for the those who like a bit of gore mixed with suspense.   And a few light moments to break the tension.

I appreciated the thought put into the script with some new ideas making the film more than just another zombie movie.

So, not a brilliant film, but worth a watch.

Annabelle: Creation

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: MA 15+Annabelle: Creation

Director: David F. Sandberg

Produced by: Peter Safran, James Wan

Screenplay: Gary Dauberman

Starring: Stephanie Sigman, Talitha Bateman, Lulu Wilson, Philippa Coulthard, Grace Fulton, Lou Lou Safran, Samara Lee, Tayler Buck, Anthony LaPaglia and Miranda Otto.

Coming out of the cinema whistling, You are my Sunshine, after watching a horror movie may sound sinister, but there was a tongue-in-cheek, wry streak to, Annabelle: Creation.

Set in what looks like the 1930s, Samuel Mullins, a dollmaker (Anthony LaPaglia) and his wife, Esther (Miranda Otto) live an idyllic life in the countryside with their daughter Bee (Samara Lee), short for Annabelle.

Then tragedy strikes and Bee is taken from them.

Years later, time has taken its toll on the dollmaker and his wife, but they decide to make their home into an orphanage where several young girls and Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman) come to live with them, to bring some happiness back into the household.

It only takes one night for the daemonic Being inhabiting a life-sized doll to make its presence known.  And slowly, the creation of Annabelle, the possessed, is revealed.

Annabelle: Creation

Producers, Peter Safran and James Wan, who brought, The Conjuring series have partnered up once again for, Annabelle: Creation.

Directing is David F. Sandberg (Lights Out (2016)) from a screenplay written by Gary Dauberman who also wrote the first, Annabelle.

Happily, for fans of, The Conjuring, there are threads tying pieces of the films together and the linking of, Creation to the original, Annabelle is seamless.

New to the franchise is the cast with, Anthony LaPaglia as the foreboding husband and, Miranda Otto as the wife.

I can’t decide whether I like Lulu Wilson as Linda who also had a starring role in the recent, Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016).  I liked her better here, with  direction highlighting her, too-good-it’s-creepy personality adding to that wry flavour.

There’s a fine line between comedy and horror.  You don’t want the audience laughing at the movie, you want the audience to laugh with the movie and at some points of the film, particularly with Linda on scene, it was a close call.Annabelle: Creation

But as the film progressed and the ramping of tension increased with Sandberg once again making use of light and darkness and classic devices such as super-freaky scarecrows and sheets over the, ‘not there’, I was happy for a bit of comic relief from young Linda.

But I have to admit I wanted the film to be scarier.

I felt there was a lighter touch here, compared to say, the recent, The Conjuring 2 (2016) (which I gave 4.5/5) as there wasn’t enough reason for the daemonic Being inhabiting the doll to attack some and not others.

Strengthening the backstory would have added so much more.

Sure, keep the mystery but showing more would have added to the fear – it can’t be just because one person is more physically weak than the others, right?

Not the super-scare factor I was hoping for, but there were a few jumps and tense moments with effective use of the soundtrack; and linking to the original, Annabelle and, The Conjuring series will satisfy fans.

The Wall

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: MA15+The Wall

Directed and Produced by: Doug Liman

Written by: Dwain Worrell

Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson and John Cena.

A taunt psychological thriller set in 2007 when President George Bush declared the War in Iraq over.

Rebuilding the country, contractors are brought in to build pipelines across the desert.

After been radioed for assistance, two soldiers, Sergeant Isaac (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) an Army Ranger who serves as a spotter to Sergeant Matthews (John Cena), lie amongst the rocks, camouflaged, waiting for movement.  All they see on the dusty ground is the bodies of dead contractors, all head shots, and one marine holding a radio in his dead hand.

All is quiet, yet they wait, watching, trying to figure out the story behind the dead and if there’s still a threat.

As the story unfolds, so do the men as they’re stripped, piece-by-piece by the faceless, hidden sniper who pins Sergeant Isaac behind a crumbling wall, to then speak into his earpiece, to burrow like a worm into his mind.

Although, The Wall is about soldiers, this isn’t a movie about war, this is suspense created through stretches of quiet: a patient relentless waiting of a killer who plays with his intended kill like a cat with a mouse.

The soundtrack is the wind whistling through the bricks and the distant clap of metal sheeting and the crackle of voice; of men fighting and hiding behind words.

Director, Doug Liman (Mr & Mrs Smith, The Bourne Identity) has taken a solid script from first-time screenwriter Dwain Worrell and made a low budget film into a simple yet very effective suspense thriller.

Dwain Worrell researched the daily life of soldiers extensively, including PTSD.  Creating a story of strangers murdering each other.  About legendary Iraqi snipers creating a paranoia that comes to life.

The Wall

Adam Taylor wrote an article in, The Washington Post, in January 2015: “There were similar legends of Iraqi insurgent snipers.  Probably the most famous was that of ‘Juba’, a sniper with the Sunni insurgent group Islamic Army in Iraq, whose exploits were touted in several videos released between 2005 and 2007.  Some attributed scores, even hundreds, of kills to the sniper, and accounts from the time suggest he got deep under U. S. troop’s skins.”

The idea of psychological torture reminded me of the original, Saw film (2004), similar in that the characters are trapped and tormented through the words of a faceless enemy.  And dang it, after the film finished and I was walking out of the cinema, I overheard another critic saying they had the same feel as the, Saw Franchise, because that feeling of being trapped is there.  Yet, The Wall is more about the suspense then the gore.  Giving a glimpse into those suffering from PTSD: the tense waiting for the bad to happen, the waiting being the torture.

A seemingly simple film: two characters, one wall set over the course of one day.  Yet, The Wall was a thoroughly absorbing story handled by the sure hand of smart director.

If you like your suspense, this is a well-paced journey with a well-thought ending.  Much better than expected.

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Dunkirk

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: MDunkirk

Written and Directed by: Christopher Nolan

Music by: Hans Zimmer

Cinematography: Hoyte Van Hoytema

Starring: Fionn Whitehead, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles, Aneurin Barnard, James D’Arcy, Barry Keoghan, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance and Tom Hardy.

I’m still trying to figure out the feeling, that swell in the chest I felt while watching Dunkirk.  Whether it was pride or love of humanity or patriotism, Dunkirk was an emotive intersection of timelines during Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of troops from, Dunkirk, France, during World War II.

The film focuses on three different Fronts from:

1. The mole: Tommy (Fionn Whitehead) the soldier who’s been on the ground for a week;

2. To the steadfast Commander Bolton (Kenneth Branagh) for a day;

3. To Farrier (Tom Hardy) the pilot of a Spitfire in the air for an hour.

All of these men are fighting the same war and all of these men are either trying to escape or save the men surrounded by the Sickle Cut (war strategy) the German forces have maneuvered on French soil; the Allied forces stranded on the beach where they desperately wait for ships to take them back to Britain, just across the channel:

Commander Bolton: You can practically see it from here. 
Captain Winnant: What? 
Commander Bolton: Home.

With leaflets falling from the sky depicting the hopelessness of their effort to escape – an arrow pointing: ‘You are here’, surrounded by the enemy and literally being pushed into the sea only to be picked off by fighter pilots dropping bombs, the soldiers watch battleships sink, one after the other to then watch the tide bring in the dead.

But this film isn’t about blood and guts, Dunkirk is about celebrating the small victories and how all those victories eventually add up.

Hence that swell in the chest because there’s this overriding feeling of people doing the best they can and somehow the everyday civilian can make all the difference: Sometimes doing right, wins.

Take that notion and add the suspense of the desperation to escape, full credit going to Hans Zimmer and his soundtrack creating tension with music like a ticking time-bomb.  Director and writer, Christopher Nolan uses little dialogue, instead it’s about the words unspoken, just a nod here and the audience knowing the music is building.

There’s a simplicity to each scene combining the different threads of storyline in real time like a formula pulled together by sound: the low thud of bombs, the droning of jets, the running of boots on sand and bullets popping through the hull of a ship like copper coins hitting tin.  There’s much to be said about the soundtrack, but watching the film on IMAX with that big square screen?  Can I say it didn’t really need it?  But what am I saying, go see that expanse of beach and ocean on IMAX – why not?

Dunkirk

The effort to film the movie on 65mm film (transferred to 70mm for projection) brings the story to life all the more, leaving little room for error.  Dunkirk is such a solid film, with such beautifully orchestrated performances (was also a win to see Harry Styles finally get a haircut!) to see the views from air to the beach to under the water on such a large screen just added more to an already impressive project.

Lastly, I just want to say I usually struggle with war films.  The reality of the violence of war makes my blood boil. I love the fact that there’s no unnecessary violence here.  We all know what happens when a bomb goes off.  We don’t need to see or imagine our ancestors or grandparents getting blown apart.

Nolan has used his talent to bring the true story of Dunkirk to the screen without over-dramatising, allowing us to admire the courage and valour of the civilians of Britain who saved more than 330, 000 soldiers’ lives.