Rapid Review: Lights Out

Lights Out

Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) has been estranged from her mother Sophie (Maria Bello) for years. However when her brother Martin (Gabriel Bateman) starts seeing the same strange figure called Diana that she saw as a child, she realises she must return to face her fears.

Based on his short film of the same name (which I found quite scary), director David F Sandberg manages to make an effective big screen debut. Although there are some jump scares Sandberg also makes effective use of sound and evokes a sinister figure in Diana (Alicia Vela-Bailey), who Sandberg smartly keeps from being shown too clearly. The relationship between the central characters are also well realised and the acting is good.

However while the film has great moments, I did not leave the cinema fearing Diana or having to leave my lights on when I went to bed. It was enjoyable enough while watching but it did not leave much of an impression afterwards. It’s also unfortunate that the film’s depiction of mental illness ends up being quite offensive (something that Sanberg has stated was not intentional and hopes to rectify in a sequel).

Rating 3/5 – some creepy parts but not enough to be a classic horror

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The Shallows

The Shallows

If The Shallows had been a Syfy movie it would surely have been called Blake Lively vs Mega Shark. But can The Shallows avoid it’s potentially B-movie trappings?

Trying to cope after her mother’s death, Nancy (Blake Lively) travels to a secluded beach her mother used to visit before Nancy was born. After an idylic start surfing, the trip takes a dangerous turn when Nancy is attacked by a great white shark. Alone, injured and afraid Nancy must use all her wits and skills to survive.

At the start we have an idyllic beach and a gorgeous girl with lingering shot of the luxurious scenery and Lively in a bikini. But if you thought this film was just a way to oggle Lively you’d be wrong. After the first shark attack the beach changes to a sea full of blood and danger and we are forced to watch Nancy as she tries to heal her wounds in close up detail. Warning this is not for the squeamish.

Lively is more known for Gossip Girl and being married to Ryan Reynolds than for her acting, meaning that her stellar work in films like The Age of Adaline and The Town is sometimes overlooked. But hopefully she’ll start getting more recognition from The Shallows. With a very small cast, Lively is mostly on screen alone (along with an injured Seagull who Nancy excellently names Steven Seagull) and she commands attention as the troubled but resourceful Nancy. It’s not easy to have an entire film on an actress’s shoulders but she elevates the movie from being a cheesy shark attack movie along with tight direction and inventive script. I also liked

For the majority of it’s running time The Shallows maintains a tension-filled survival thriller with some well times scare jumps and unerving dread. However in the last 10-15 minutes the movie starts to get a bit silly and start looking more like a SyFy movie.

Rating 3.5/5 – it’s daft ending aside¬† The Shallow is an effective survival thriller with a great lead turn by Lively

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Before We Go (2015)

Before_We_Go_Poster

Turns out Chris Evans is more than an extreamly good looking guy playing Captain America. Before We Go is Evan’s directorial debut. But should he have just stuck to kicking butt in Marvel movies?

Nick (Evans) is busking in New York Grand Central Terminal when he meets Brooke (Alice Eve), who has just missed the last train to Boston. Desperate to get home but broke due to her bag being stolen, Nick tries to helps Brooke so that she can get home before morning.

A much more low key affair then Evans’ Marvel films, Before We Go is an indie romantic drama that wears it’s heart on is sleeve. With a lot of it’s time spent with the two protagonists a lot rides on the chemistry between the two leads, luckily Evans and Eve have that in spades. The film focuses on the night of these two strangers as they walk around New York trying to get Brooke home, and it’s engaging just watching the two of them talking about their lives. It’s also interesting seeing what the two initally try to conceal about themselves, such as why Brooke is so desperate to get home. Slowly their insecurites and flaws come through as we see two indiviudals who are making trying to make decisions about where their lives are going.

Of course the plot – two strangers wondering around a city for the night – is reminiscent of Before Sunset and it’s sequels.¬† While Before We Go tries to play out the drama and events differently to those movies, it can’t help but still be compared to them (it even has Before in the title). Of course this will mean it falls short of those romantic classic but it still has enough charm from the script and actors to survive on it’s own merit. Evans’ also shows promise as a director, keeping the action close on these characters and evoking a bond between them. The film maybe strecthes out the plot a bit too much (even though it’s only 95 mins long) but for the most part it’s an enjoyable movie.

Rating 3.5/5 – a small little gem that’s easy to watch and get swept up in.

 

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Suicide Squad

Suicide squad

After Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was released to terrible reviews but an impressive opening weekend, all eyes are on DC’s latest release Suicide Squad. But is this DC offering worthy to stand against the Marvel franchise?

At Belle Reve Penitentiary, intelligence operative Amander Waller (Viola Davis) leads a secret government operation to use the most dangerous supervillians and force them to help save the world for leaner sentences (and under threat of the bombs in the necks exploding). However with a team as deadly as Deadshot (Will Smith) and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) not everything goes exactly to plan.

Ok so Suicide Squad is an improvement on the dull Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice, and is not as bad as some reviews would suggest. However it is a long way from being a completely successful film.

The film starts off well, as we are introduced to the team and Waller’s plans. These are the strongest parts of the film as we are thrown into the world of the Suicide Squad. I liked seeing Deadshot and Harley Quinn’s backstories although maybe could of done without so much of the cute kid in Deadshot’s story. Providing humour and lightness with her maddness, Harley Quinn was the best character in the movie with an interesting backstory . However I wanted the film to go deeper into her character (such as why would a supposedly intelligent character fall for someone like the Joker? I know she went crazy but was there more to it?) instead of focusing on so many shots of Margot Robbie’s ass-as great as she looks. Viola Davis is also good as Waller,who might be more evil than those she has locked up, and Jared Leto brings his own unique (and brief) take on the Joker which makes you hope he appears in the solo Batman movie.

Out of the rest of the Suicide Squad only Jay Hernadez’s Diablo is vaguely interesting. The others are just there to fill up the numbers. Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) just doesn’t work as the main anagonist. As for one of the film’s few “good guys”, soldier Rick Flagg (Joel Kinnaman) has an uncompelling backstory and no chemistry with his on-screen romantic partner.

The film’s main problem is the tone, which is all over the place. Then there’s the script which is a bit too cheesy in the dialogue at times. The characters’ motivations aren’t always convincing either and they come together as a team a bit too easily for me. One character refers to the other in the squad as family which seems a bit far fetched (even in a film with witchcraft and the like). Acquaintances maybe, even friends at a push, but family? The film hasn’t done enough for the audience to feel that connection between the characters. Also for bad guys we also don’t see them do that many bad things, maybe they have been toned down a bit too much?

Rating 3/5 – lower your expectations and you may kind of enjoy this messy but interesting DC addition

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Rapid Review: Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates

Mike_and_Dave_Need_Wedding_Dates

As the self explainitary title suggests Mike (Adam DeVine) and Dave (Zac Efron) need respectable wedding dates for their sister’s wedding. As they don’t know where to find such girls they put an ad on Craigslist (strangely that part is based on a true story). Their prayers are answered when they meet two seemingly clean cut girls, Tatiana (Aubrey Plaza) and Alice (Anna Kendrick). Howver these girls may be more trouble then the boys can handle.

Ok so Mike and Dave Need Weeding Dates is not big and it’s not clever but it did make me laugh. The four leads gamely give the film their all, DeVine and Plaza get most of the rudest material while Efron and Kendrick get the more likeably sweet but still badly behaved characters. I enjoyed the fact that the girls are as outrageous (and maybe even worse) than the boys and provide just as much laughs with their antics.

However the laughs do overly rely on crude humour, sex jokes and nudity to get laughs, which becomes a bit repetitive over the course of the movie. If it could have tried to branch out in it’s humour it would have been more successful. But then nobody who saw the trailers were probably expecting highbrow humour.

Rating 3/5 – rude and crude, probably best enjoyed on a night out with your friends

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Jason Bourne

Jason_Bourne_(film)

Set twelve years after the events of The Bourne Ultimatum and Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) has been living off the grid. However when he’s contact by his old ally Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) with new information about the Treadstone project Borune soon finds himself pulled into another conspiracy.

I love the original Bounre trilogy and Jason Bourne is a worthy addition to the franchise. However it’s not as jaw-droppingly amazing as the previous movies. A few new revalations about Bourne’s past and some far-fetched coincidneces drags the film down. But while Jason Bourne doesn’t hit the highs of the series best it’s only because the original trilogy is such a high benchmark to live up to that even the dream team of Greengrass and Damon struggle to reach it.

Damon steps back into Bourne as though he’s never been away and it’s satisfying seeing him fight and strategize his way through the movie. There isn’t an iconic action scene to rival the series best but Greengrass can still produce impressive chases and fight sequences.

If Tommy Lee Jones and Vincent Cassell provide strong but predictable roles to the film their spotlights are stolen by fellow newcomers Alicia Vikander and Riz Ahmed with Vikander’s CIA employee Heather in paticular being a welcome addition with a character who is intelligent, ambitious and determined.

Rating 4/5 – exciting and thrilling if not quite the best in the franchise

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Rapid Review: Finding Dory

Finding Dory

In the sequel to 2003’s Finding Nemo, it’s a year after the events of that movie and Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) suddenly has a flashback about her past. As she remembers her parents it sets her, Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Nemo (Hayden Rolence) off on a new adventure.

I loved Finding Nemo so I’m glad to report that Finding Dory is a worthy sequel. As the breakout character of the original movie it’s great to see Dory take centre stage. It’s also a relief that she remain the same loveable character as before and still as funny as ever. In fact the movie is consistently funny and the new characters brought in -such as Becky the dimwitted common loon or a pair of laidback sea lions voiced by Idris Elba and Dominic West- add to the feelgood fun of the film. Amid the laughs the film also has a satisfying emotional core with Dory’s struggle to find her family giving the movie more depth.

It perhaps isn’t the most original of Pixar’s films, and obviously has a similar plot to Finding Nemo. But when Pixar’s good they’re very good.

Rating 4/5 – Pixar have done it again with this superb sequel

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