Den Of Thieves

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: MA 15+Den Of Thieves

Directed By: Christian Gudegast

Screenplay By: Christian Gudegast

Story By: Christian Gudegast & Paul Scheuring

Produced By: Mark Canton, p.g.a Tucker Tooley, p.g.a.

Produced By: Gerard Butler Alan Siegel

Starring: Gerard Butler, Pablo Schreiber, O’Shea Jackson Jr. and Curtis ’50 Cent’ Jackson, Meadow Williams, Maurice Compte, Brian Van Holt, Evan Jones, Mo McRae, Kaiwi Lyman, Dawn Olivieri, Eric Braede, Jordan Bridges, Lewis Tan, Cooper Andrews, Nate Boyer, John Lewis.

I’m a huge fan of Heat (1995) – a crime thriller that graces my ‘Best of the Thrillers’ list and I’ll go there and state one of the best crime thrillers ever made.

In the same vein of Heat, Den of Thieves shows an armed robbery with machine guns and ski masks: these guys are ex-military and they handle their hard-wear like they’re still on the field of battle.

Led by special forces-trained and recently paroled, Ray Merriman (Pablo Schreiber), meet the Outlaws.

But when a robbery goes wrong and cops are killed, the Major Crimes Unit gets involved.  These guys are like a gang with tats included.  Add a badge and you’ve got the Regulators.

As the leader, ‘Big’ Nick O’Brien (Gerard Butler) says, they literally take no prisoners.

So, you get the tone of the film from the start with a familiar storyline where two crews face-off in a male-dominated pissing competition to see who can be the grande of men.

And I was dubious about rapper, Curtis James Jackson III, AKA 50 Cent, playing a major role as Enson Levoux; part of the Outlaws crew.  But hats off – 50 Cent can act as one big, scary robber/family man.

Talking of big scary dudes, it was cool to see some Pacific Islanders as part of the Outlaws crew; the effort made to authentically show Los Angeles’ southern-most neighbourhoods and one of many differences between Den of Thieves and its crime thriller predecessors.

The macho element pushed to its limit aside, there’s a point in the film where the script makes light of this brute male force with 50 Cent as Enson Levoux scaring the be-Jesus out of his daughter’s prom date by ushering him into a room full of his crew to confirm that yes, he’ll take care of his daughter, and yes, he promises to get her home by 11.30pm.

And the humanisation of these scary guys breaks the tension and leads to a more complicated and layered film with a high stakes play made by the Outlaws to rob the Federal Reserve Bank; a feat never successfully achieved and all the while under the surveillance of the Regulators leading to each crew trying to out-smart the other: showing brain more than brawn wins the game.

There’s clever building of tension with screenwriter and first-time director Christian Gudegast creating a film made of rapid gun fire and bullet casings spilling across the hood of cars, the soundtrack heaving with each impeding battle.

One notable scene with Big Nick and Ray Merriman shooting at a firing range – no words needed, just a show of skill and the double tap as ‘silver back’ Merriman shows his special ops training with a perfect configuration of shots through the target’s heart.

But a few holes in the story let down the believability.

Big Nick asks the question himself in the film, why did the Regulators go so bad?

And would police, even American, L.A. Major Crime Unit cops, open machine gun fire in a traffic jam?

And a few other bits (don’t want to give away too much of the story) that dent the cleverness of this multi-layered plot.

Overall, I was impressed with this film.  Even if Gerard Butler (and yes, I’m going to say it, Al Pacino did the same in Heat) overplays his role, just that little bit.

Yes, there’s echoes of Heat here, but there’s also a nod to other classics such as, The Usual Suspects.

Although a missed opportunity to make a unique classic itself, Den of Thieves evolves from a pissing contest into a layered absorbing entertainer ending with a knock of my knuckle-duster on the cinema cup holder in salute.

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Fifty Shades Freed

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: MA15+Fifty Shades Freed

Directored by: James Foley

Screenplay by: Niall Leonard

Based on the book by: E L James

Produced by: Michael de Luca, E L James, Dana Brunetti, Marcus Viscidi

Starring: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Eric Johnson, Eloise Mumford, Rita Ora, Jennifer Ehle, Marcia Gay Harden.

If you have read any of the books in the Fifty Shades trilogy or seen either of the previous two film adaptations, chances are you will probably want to see the concluding film just out of curiosity or in order to feel complete.

Originally inspired by the Twilight saga, Fifty Shades Freed continues the Mills’n’Boon-style story of the ludicrously wealthy yet brooding and mysterious mega-squillionaire Christian Grey and his icky obsession with the dewy-eyed yet incredibly sexy Anastasia Steele.

Fifty Shades Freed was filmed around the same time as Fifty Shades Darker, helmed by the same director, James Foley, and with many of the same production crew, which lends this film a consistent look and feel, although it isn’t as dark cinematographically as its predecessor. The highlight this time is the use of lots of pounding or atmospheric songs, particularly a re-working of the classic INXS “Never tear us apart” warbled moodily by Bishop Briggs. There is also some occasionally humorous dialogue that helps lighten the mood and makes the main characters seem almost three-dimensional.

The main advantage of the film adaptations is being spared the dire writing style of E L James, with her grating descriptions of Ana’s “inner goddess” and coy references to her genitals. The plot and situations remain incredibly predictable and unoriginal, the dialogue is often trite and cringe-inducing, and actors such as Marcia Gay Harden and Jennifer Ehle are wasted in blink and you’ll miss them roles.

The main theme of the third film is revenge, with disgraced ex-publishing boss Jack Hyde (Jekyll and Hyde, get it?) hovering menacingly in the background plotting moustache-twirling vengeance against Christian Grey for being a successful businessman with much nicer suits, to say nothing of having snared the bootilicious Ana, whose penchant for wearing gossamer-thin yet uncomfortable looking underwear makes me long for a return to Bridget Jones’ more sensible grannie undies.

Newlyweds Christian and Ana delight in lots of would-be kinky (but actually rather boring) sexual escapades in exotic locations, with the threat from villainous Jack kept a secret by Christian, who is a bit slow appreciating that Ana is a modern woman who can actually look after herself. The biggest issue this photogenic couple faces aside from Jack’s threatening behaviour is Ana becoming pregnant, and Christian’s horror because he believes he is incapable of being a good father based on his own horrendous upbringing by his “crack whore mother”.

There is a reasonable amount of tension due to Jack’s escalating threats and extortion that force Ana to be secretively heroic and take matters into her own hands. The ironically annoying aspect of this film (given the series is known for its soft porn sex scenes) is the constant interruptions so that the overly horny couple can have lots of sex – in a car, the shower, a bath, on a table, etcetera, etcetera, always ending in such unrealistically excessive orgasmic ecstasy, which tends to dissipate whatever tension has been building in other scenes.

Christian’s continued bossiness and domineering ways have worn really thin by now, and I almost cheered when Ana told him off during a key scene to grow up. Her spurt of assertiveness endowed their confrontation with the closest thing to true, adult drama this series has ever depicted.

Definitely a film for Fifty Shades fans only.

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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Justice League

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: MJustice League

Directed by: Zack Snyder

Screenplay Written by: Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon

Story by: Chris Terrio & Zack Snyder, based on characters from DC, Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster

Produced by: Charles Roven, Deborah Snyder, Jon Berg and Geoff Johns

DC Super Heroes: Ben Affleck as Batman, Henry Cavill as Superman, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, Ezra Miller as The Flash, Jason Momoa as Aquaman, and Ray Fisher as Cyborg

Also starring: Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Jeremy Irons as Alfred, Diane Lane as Martha Kent, Connie Nielsen as Hippolyta and Joe Morton as Silas Stone, and expands the universe by introducing J.K. Simmons as Commissioner Gordon, Ciarán Hinds as Steppenwolf, and Amber Heard as Mera.

Based on characters from DC comics, Justice League is a team of superheroes brought together by Wonder Woman and Batman to fight against the world’s old nemesis, Steppenwolf.

Previously conquered in the ancient past by the Amazons, the inhabitants of Atlantis before the city sunk into the sea, and even the gods; they all fought side-by-side to stop the warlord from Apokolips from taking over the world.

Now, Steppenwolf has returned with an army of parademons (think a cross between an insect and vampire) to claim what he believes is rightfully his.

After seeing Wonder Woman in the recent film set during World War I, Justice League is present day – depicting an, approaching-middle-aged Batman and the ageless yet, powers-unseen-by-the-public, Wonder Woman.Justice League

Now that Superman is dead, the population is grieving and unable to see any hope for the future – chaos is gaining power as the people sink into darkness with newspaper headlines asking, Why are all the superheroes disappearing?  With Prince and David Bowie pictured alongside Superman.  Which I thought was quite clever, but also depressing, right?

I was also beginning to think the film was going to be a history lesson into each character.

Yet, the introduction of: Aquaman, shown to be just as strong on land as under water; Flash, the hero in training and Cyborg, a biomechanic meta human (and a new addition and update in the current techi-driven world), was necessary and brief.  And somewhat offset by the antics of Flash, adding some light humour to the mix.

The story could have gotten messy trying to give weight to each hero, but it worked.

Each character had their own personal conflict to conquer, giving the film layers beyond action.  And I could feel the humanity of Batman, not quite metahuman, his self-professed only super power being rich.

The need for this super-powered Justice League team fighting together stems from the power of Steppenwolf – the super villain.

The film flashes back to the past, giving Steppenwolf backstory, yet I wanted more grit, more than just another villain wanting to conquer worlds.  I would have also liked to have seen more of his home world of Apokolips…  But I had fun watching this film.

Gal Gadot has continued to shine as Wonder Woman and the sparks of humour from Ezra Miller as Flash were funny.

I wasn’t blown away, but Justice League was a fun ride – more of Aquaman in the water next time!

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  bigotry 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,  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 sinister 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 story.

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, 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 in.

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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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.