Her

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Technology and society’s relationship with it has been the focus over many films over the years. In Spike Jonze’s film we see how technological advances leads to an unconventional romance.

In a futuristic Los Angeles Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) is lonely and going through a stressful divorce. When he purchases an A.I operating system called Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) the two begins to form an unexpecting relationship.

The world inahbited in Her is very similar to ours  but where technology is five minutes into the future. I could believe a lot of the technology we see here being made in the future, if not already being developed. The main focus is on humans relationship with technology, while you would expect all this new tech to be isolating (and some early scenes show how this could be the case) Theodore’s relationship with Samantha opens him up to the world in a way he never did before.

At first I thought that Theodore would come across as a bit creepy and be unable to cope with a real woman with her own thoughts and that’s why he’s in a relationship with an OS. Luckily the film is more complex than that and while Samantha may be an A.I she also comes across as real and complicated just like everyone else.

Phoenix is great in the lead-which is good as he is in practically every scene. And he’s especially good when you think about the fact he is reacting to someone who wouldn’t have been present in the room with him, yet you believe in his bond with Samantha. As someone who is only present through her voice Johansaan is a dominating force and manages not to come across as robotic but still have an otherworldly feeling to her character that marks her out as not human. I also liked Amy Adam and Rooney Mara in supporting roles that add differing views on the central relationship.

The only thing I wasn’t sure of was the ending, not that it was a bad ending but the whole third act seemed a bit random. Hopefully if I watched it again maybe the climax will make more sense.

Rating 4/5 – intelligent, funny and strangely romantic

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Don’t Breathe

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I’m not overly keen on home invasion movies. Why would I want to see a film about people’s houses being burgled? (Then again, why do I watch horror movies where people are getting murdered? So many questions for therapy!) Don’t Breathe director Fede Alvarez promises a fresh twist on the tired format.

Rocky (Jane Levy), Alex (Dylan Minnette) and Money (Daniel Zovatto) are three friends who burglarize homes but find they’ve met their match when they break into the house of a blind man (Stephen Lang) who won’t take their tresspassing lying down.

 

Don’t Breathe introduces us to  three thieves with varying degrees of likeability and sympathy and a deceptively vulnerable antogonist, forcing the audience to question who we should be rooting for and where our sympathies should lie. It would have been more interesting if the film had kept some ambiguity with this but it soon becomes obvious who is the true villian of the piece is, even if other characters can not whiter than white.

For the first two thirds of the movie the direction is tight and the limited set is contained to one house bringing a claustraphobic atmosphere that is well maintained. Tension is derived from the littlest thing, where a squeak of a shoe or an inhale of breathe can be a deadly error. Alvarez gives us great moments such as a chase in the basment in total blackout. The small cast make the most of their moments with Minnette as the sensible member of the group Alex standing out performance wise and Lang making for an intimadating antagonist.

It’s a shame the last third becomes silly and one scene verges on becoming something much nastier which left a sour note behind. It prevents the movie from being the top notch thriller that it wants to be however it doesn’t undo the previous good work.

(As an aside note I couldn’t help thinking as I was watching Don’t Breathe that this would make for an interesting and contrasting film to the Audrey Hepburn movie Wait Until Dark.)

Rating 3/5 – a tense twist on the home invasion movies decends into silliness in it’s final act

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Bad Moms

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We’ve previously had Bad Santa, Bad Grandpa, Bad Neighbours, now prepare for the Bad Moms. But can the antics of these bad moms provide good entertainment?

After suffering one completely awful day, over stressed and underappreciated mom Amy (Mila Kunis) suddenly snaps and quits the rigid PTA. Together with repressed stay at home mom Kiki (Kristen Bell) and slutty single mom Carla (Kathryn Hahn) the self confessed bad moms decide to let loose and start behaving badly.

Based on the trailer I didn’t have high hopes for this latest crude comedy. However I’m pleased to say that it was a movie that consistently had me chuckling away in my seat. If you’ve seen films like Bad Neighbours or Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates then you can imagine the sort of humour involved. While Bad Moms does involve many raunchy jokes it also takes some amusing swipes at the unrealistic expectations to be the perfect mother.

Even if, like me, you don’t have kids you’ll still find yourself relating and sympathising with the bad moms. While Kunis looks a bit too glamouress to convincely portray a stressed out mother she does make up for it by gamely throwing herself into the comedy. All the moms are good but the most memorable moments come from Hahn’s outrageous single mom and Christina Applegate’s mean mom.

Having already made over 100 million at the box office it wouldn’t surprise me if we end up with a Bad Moms 2 and this time around I’ll be looking forward to it.

Rating 3.5/5 -constantly funny with amusing performances

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Rapid Review- 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

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Based on true events, 13 Hours tells the story of six security team members who have to defend the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya on September 11 2012.

As you can imagine with Michael Bay as the director, 13 Hours is about as subtle as a sledgehammer. The script is not up to much and the characters are indistinguishable from each other, making it hard to know who is getting shot at and who is at death’s door. But you have to hand it to Bay, when he’s up to it he can make some engaging action scenes, as we witness a ground level attack on the compound you can’t help but get drawn in, even if the editing sometimes means you can’t work out who you’re watching.

While at times the film can feel like a straight faced version of Team America (“Fuck Yeah!”), it’s not as bad as I feared it could have been. I’m not sure of the historical accuracy of the movie but if viewed as purely an action thriller it can be gripping and exciting.

Rating 3/5 – much better than I would have expected from a Michael Bay film

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The Purge: Election Year

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2014’s The Purge: Anarchy was a rare horror sequel that was better than it’s dull predecessor The Purge. Now The Purge: Election Year hopes to end the trilogy on a high, but is it a winning film?

It’s election year and the New Founding Fathers of America are worried that Presidential Candidate Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell) will win the election and end the annual Purge. In a bid to eliminate her the NFFA abolishes the rule that protects high ranking government officals on Purge night. In order to survive the night Roan’s head of security Leo (Frank Grillo) will have to use all his skills to protect her from the NFFA and the general public.

It’s a crazy time in real life politics at the moment, so no wonder  James DeMonaco wants to capatlise on the maddness and make digs at political figure and politics in his movie. However the film continuously hits you on the head with it’s political agenda that it becomes distracting. The previous Purge movies have underlying themes about class and race and I like the fact that a horror movie attempts to bring them to the forefornt of it’s themes. But the film is so concerned with it’s depictions of politians that at times it forgets it’s also a horror movie and needs to scare it’s audience too.

Bringing back Grillo character from Anarchy was a smart move as he is someone for the audience to relate and follow on this wild night. Especially as Mitchell’s Roan is too annoying and preachy to care about. It’s also good to see how the working class people (usually the main victims of the purge) struggle and surivive duing Purge night. I was also glad to see the return of Edwin Hodge’s Dante Bishop, as the only character to appear in all three movies it’s a nice bit of familiarity to link the previous films together and see how far he’s come.

So better than the original that started it all but not as intense or scary as The Purge: Anarchy. If you enjoyed the previous movie then it’s probably worth seeing.

Rating 3/5 -a good start and an underlying creepiness keeps the film afloat, but it’s probably time to end the purge now once and for all.

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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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