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Film Review: A Cure For Wellness

Do You Know What The Cure For The Human Condition Is? Disease. Because That’s The Only Way One Could Hope For A Cure…”

Rather annoyingly, the use of the term “visionary” is something of which is pushed around so often in the current cinematic climate that to be regarded as such is somewhat of a negative down-stroke. With the likes of Zack Snyder and now Gore Verbinski proclaiming themselves as visionaries of modern cinema, directors who have released such “classics” such as Sucker Punch and Mouse Hunt respectively, the term has now officially become defunct and saved only for those who are deserved of the term, you know, like directors who have actually made films of some worth. Anyhow, Verbinski returns this year with the 18 rated A Cure For Wellness, a film which harks back to everything from The Ninth Configuration to Lars von Trier’s Riget, and a picture which can only be regarded as one of the most boring, misjudged and overlong works of horror I can remember within the remits of recent history. Whilst many have condoned A Cure For Wellness as simply nothing more than a Shutter Island rip-off, Verbinski’s latest makes Scorsese’s OTT two hours of mania look like a modern masterpiece, with it more likely to send you into a deep coma of confusion than inflict any real tangible sense of threat throughout a barnstorming length of two and a half hours.

After dropping a job-losing clunker and subsequently threatened with criminal prosecution, egotistic Wall Street flunky Lockhart, played by The Place Beyond the Pines’ Dane DeHaan, is sent to a mysterious health care centre in the heart of the Swiss Alps in order to retrieve a AWOL financial executive who has supposedly regressed into a complete and utter basket case and refuses to return to the US of A in order to complete a huge financial deal. Cue creepy looking patients, a mindless and ridiculously overcooked narrative and a concluding feeling of watching a movie which not only could lose at least an hour of its’ running time but one in which nothing actually happens, A Cure for Wellness suffers primarily from a runtime which is unbearable to say the least, and although Verbinski is renowned for an array of miscalculated movie lengths, with Pirates of the Caribbean 3 being a prime example, A Cure for Wellness is his pièce de résistance in terms of runtime malpractice. Whilst Jason Isaacs does do the best with what he’s given in the cliched “foreign stranger” role, the movie can’t escape the problems of its’ silliness, particularly within scenes of unnecessary violence including a cheesy R-rated dentist appointment and an attempted rape scene which borders on the outskirts of being a utter cringe-inflicted misstep. If you wish to see the type of movie A Cure for Wellness is so obviously attempting to be, seek out something like Shutter Island or The Shining instead, relieving you of the utter tedium of delving into a horror which is neither horrific or interesting. A cure for wellness? A cure for sleep deprivation.

Overall Score: 3/10

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Film Review: Split

 “Let Us Show Them What We Can Do. Let Us Show Them How Powerful We Can Be…”

If there is one thing to be said about M. Night Shyamalan’s career in the business of movie-making so far, to say it was one of the most diverse and critically haphazard back catalogues of all time wouldn’t exactly be a raging overstatement. Whilst films such as The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable continue to be Shyamalan’s support beam for his seemingly imperishable reputation, people tend to forget the cinematic bombs such as After Earth, The Last Airbender and Lady in the Water, films which not only are regarded as utter, utter stinkers but films of which Shyamalan tends not to remind people of their existence in fear of not actually being allowed to be behind the camera ever again in Hollywood. With Split, Shyamalan seems to be on similar and overtly familiar territory, with a creepy, psychological premise at the core of the film’s screenplay and a final twist which is both surprising and overtly on-the-nose in terms of its’ utter silliness but one which too will leave the lay cinematic audience scratching their heads.

Featuring a scenery chewing central performance from James McAvoy, one which echoes the full-blown madness of his role in the black-hole darkness of Filth, Shyamalan’s latest is undeniably a welcome return to some sort of form, with the obvious b-movie silliness actually resorting in a movie which is much more fun in terms of its’ exaggerated ripeness than one might have first expected, due mainly to the headline performance of McAvoy, whilst the go-to actress for creepy leading ladies in recent times, Anya Taylor-Joy, continues to impress after continuing on from her stand-out roles in both The Witch and Morgan. Of course, now the un-embargoed reveal of the very final act of Split is one of which will baffle those unaware of Shyamalan’s previous work, yet for those privy to a particular early Shyamalan picture, the concluding seconds bring with it a surprising sense of wanting to pat Shyamalan on the back for having the audacity to attempt it, let alone actually film it.

Overall Score: 7/10

Film Review: Snowden

“Terrorism Is Just An Excuse…”

A dramatic tale of one of the most controversial figures in recent history you say? Who shall we bring on as director for that then? Oliver Stone of course, the man renowned for shall we say, colourful political views but more importantly probably the right man for the job when admiring his previous work such as the renowned Vietnam trilogy which included Platoon and Born on the Forth of July, both of which supplied Stone with Oscar wins, as well as his work on astute US political dramas such as JFK and Nixon. Although the Oscar winning documentary Citizenfour provided an in-depth examination of Edward Snowden and his role as the notorious whistle-blower, Stone’s dramatisation of similar events features Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the titular role, alongside a strange rafter of familiar faces such as Timothy Olyphant, Tom Wilkinson and Nicholas Cage who come and go in less-than supporting roles. If the man at the centre of the movie wasn’t so darn interesting, Snowden could have been in danger of being a sour, cold drama, yet with a top performance from Gordon-Levitt, Snowden is a interesting, if rather overlong, political drama.

Where the film is in its’ most interesting is scenes in which we delve into the technological aspect of Snowden’s past, whether it be hidden away in some James Bond-esque spy cave in Hawaii or hiding under a false name in the metropolitan sprawl of Geneva, yet Stone is also interested in the personal side of Snowden, giving us an in-depth examination of his relationship with partner Lindsay Mills (Divergent series’ Shailene Woodley) and the strain put on such by his classified occupation. Unfortunately for Stone, this aspect of the film is undoubtedly the weakest and therefore becomes an issue when at least two-thirds of the drama is focused upon such instead of the more interesting, political issues that Stone is renowned for taking more of an interest in. Throughout the course of the drama, the movie does seep into frank ridiculousness, particularly when Snowden is greeted to the pantomime silliness of the enlarged face of an angry Rhys Ifans, a scene in which it was hard to not laugh at the sheer OTT nature of Stone’s decision to enforce a higher level of dramatisation than the already interesting storyline needed. Snowden is overlong, silly and boring at times but with the one-two of Gordon-Levitt and Woodley attempting to do the most with what they can, the film does work on some level, just not the level the pedigree of Stone should be settling for.

Overall Score: 6/10

Film Review: Allied

“Being Good At This Job Isn’t Very Beautiful…”

Brad Pitt. Marion Cotillard. Robert Zemeckis. Add into the mix screenwriter Steven Knight, best known for Eastern Promises and Peaky Blinders alongside a range of lesser work such as Burnt and last years’ unbelievably dire Seventh Son, and Allied could be regarded as a much anticipated meeting of the majestic, with all factors of the film’s main quartet being able to hit full stride when needed. Unfortunately for Zemeckis and co,. Allied isn’t exactly a work of cinematic art, in fact, it is far from it, with the film’s impressively strong beginning being offset by a shabby middle and end, alongside some strange plot decisions and an ending so fluffy it wouldn’t be amiss in a Disney movie. As for the film’s narrative, Allied follows the relationship of Max (Pitt) and Marianne (Cotillard) who fall in love after their success during a mission within German-occupied Morocco in the height of the second world war. After returning to London, Max is told some grave news regarding his recently wed wife, grave news which shakes his life to the core.

As is the perils of modern day cinema, if you’ve seen the trailer for Allied, which wouldn’t be much of a surprise seeing how it seems to be absolutely everywhere at the moment, you’ve basically seen the majority of the film, albeit the movie’s climax, a climax which isn’t entirely much of a shocker in itself, and this is a fundamental issue regarding the film’s overall quality. IF the big reveal wasn’t blasted at the audience before they’d even set foot into the cinema, maybe the attraction of Allied would have been less so but this may have been made up for in terms of shock factor when the reveal was made in the actual film. Who knows, and more importantly, who cares. Allied isn’t the best work to come from the likes of Robert Zemeckis, the man behind fantastic work such as Back to the Future and Forest Gump, and instead is rooted somewhere between the likes of What Lies Beneath and The Walk. A solid, if rather hokey, thriller sums up Allied but hey, hokey is good sometimes.

Overall Score: 6/10

Film Review: Nocturnal Animals

“Do You Ever Feel You’re Life Has Turned Into Something You Never Intended..?”

With only his second feature after A Single Man, designer-turned-filmmaker Tom Ford returns to the cinematic spectrum this month with Nocturnal Animals, a gripping, white-knuckle thriller featuring a stellar cast on top of their form and a film which not only develops the reputation of Ford as an intelligent and sophisticated filmmaker but a film which resonates with you long after you arise from your sweat-covered seat and leave the cinema. Not only is Nocturnal Animals one of the most original films of the year, it is undoubtedly one of the toughest thrillers I can remember seeing in a long time, producing scene after scene of unbearable tension all the while mixing between a wide range of genres in an effective and unashamedly top-notch fashion. With an unbelievable bunch of A-List stars such as Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal and the always brilliant Michael Shannon at the film’s core, Nocturnal Animals is an essential movie for anyone tough enough to withstand its’ scorching sense of nihilistic suffering.

After receiving the first print of former husband’s latest novel “Nocturnal Animals”, fashion designer Susan Morrow (Adams) begins to delve deep into the dark and twisted story that her former lover has created, all-the-while reminiscing not only her own, personal life struggles but the way in which her relationship with former husband Edward Sheffield (Gyllenhaal) came to an end. Mixing in a somewhat Lynchian nihilism to developments as well as a wide range of thrilling yet hard-going set pieces, reminiscent of films such as Lynch’s Blue Velvet and even films such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in terms of the film’s relentless darkness, Nocturnal Animals will indeed not be for everyone, yet much like Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon earlier this year, some will revel in its’ extreme genre crossing boundaries; myself included. Whilst the film’s rather off-kilter and entirely misjudged opening title sequence prevents the movie from being anything close to perfection, Nocturnal Animals is one of the most refreshing and original movies of the year.

Overall Score: 9/10

Film Review: The Accountant

“Sooner or Later, Different Scares People…”

Call it Taken meets A Beautiful Mind, Gavin O’Connor’s latest, The Accountant, is a wild ride of genre bending drama, focusing primarily on the titular accountant, Ben Affleck’s Christian Wolff, who aside from being a mathematical genius relies too on his skills as a stone-cold killer to protect himself in the land of illegal book cooking for infamous criminal organisations. Sound preposterous? It sure is, and whilst a film such as Taken and the subsequent B-Movie-esque action thrillers that have seemed to take note of its’ success in recent times tend to dwell on their fundamental silliness, The Accountant seeks to look deeper into the characterisation of its’ leading character, a figure who is bound to the weakness or strength, depending on how you look at it, of his autistic nature and uses such to become the cold and calculated killer in the heart of the picture. Does this added air of differentiation result in the movie being more than just another throwaway action movie however? Um, not exactly.

Aside from being half an hour too long and featuring yet another annoying add-on character in the form of Anna Kendrick, following in the footsteps of the similarly annoying add-on character in Jack Reacher: Never Go Back recently, The Accountant is a film which tries to balance ambiguity with exposition for its’ plot whilst trying to tangle together too many plot lines in order to seem much more complex than it really is. Do they work? Not entirely, yet once the film does get going and into the realms of the B-Movie action genre it really wants to delve into, The Accountant becomes a much more enjoyable ride, one which doesn’t scratch above the surface of its’ silliness and just becomes another Taken, Jack Reacher and all the other recent action movie throwaways that have somehow become bankable franchises. All in all, The Accountant is pure baloney from start to finish, and the added mystery of its’ titular character’s differences only adds to the movies’ sheer silliness. It doesn’t break new ground but doesn’t dent the foundation either, it’s just too long and too ordinary to be anything special.

Overall Score: 6/10

Film Review: Inferno

“I Want To Know What I’m Involved With…”

In the IMDB trivia page for Inferno, the wildly unwanted continuation of Ron Howard’s big screen adaptations of Dan Brown’s ridiculously popular string of novels, one of the most interesting facts was that during production the film was hidden under the code-name “Headache” due in part perhaps to the constant concussion that professor of symbology Robert Langdon apparently suffers from throughout most of the film’s bloated 120 minute run-time, yet in my own personal opinion, the “headache” in question can only relate to one thing; the effect the film has on those who bear to see it. Not only is Inferno one of the most painfully boring films I can remember seeing in a long, long while, with recurrent fidgeting and patches of drowsiness inevitably resulting in short yet effective cat naps, my experience of watching Tom Hanks and Felicity Jones run amok across Europe in order to locate their next museum-infested clue was indeed one of utter horror, one which will not escape my memory quickly, unlike the bland and completely ludicrous story which encompasses Inferno.

Where other films this year, particularly the woeful array of summer blockbusters, have suffered from fundamental issues of awful storytelling, Inferno takes such a core element of film-making and throws it into one of the rings of hell, with not one moment of dramatic tension or effective storytelling giving the movie the right to command its’ shockingly long two-hour runtime, a runtime which feels almost twice as long due to the filmmakers decision to create dull, two-dimensional characters who are hell bent on running from museum to museum in order to find the titular “Inferno”, a deadly disease created by Ben Foster’s kooky radicalist, Bertrand Zobrist, who believes the only way to sustain humanity is basically to destroy it, a plot line left over from Utopia anyhow, and a plot line which results in the said disease being carried inside a jiffy bag which floats harmlessly within the Basilica Cistern. No, I’m not kidding.

With a twist as obvious as the “radical” twist-ending in this year’s Morgan, which although I’d fallen asleep already to really understand what it all meant, still managed to annoy me to the extent I thought falling asleep might make it better, and an ending what verges on the edge of cheesy, cliche-ridden claptrap, Ron Howard has succeeded in creating a true stinker of a movie, one in which not only the audience will be bored of ten minutes in, but has even effected the actors on-screen with Tom Hanks seemingly passing the time in order to pick up the cheque and ride out his mistake of signing on for three Dan Brown-based movies, and whilst Felicity Jones at least brings some sense of kooky campness during the second half of the movie, you can’t help but feel she would rather be back on the set of Rogue One as fast as possible. Inferno isn’t the worst film of the year, but it is definitely the most boring cinematic achievement I can remember in recent years. And remember, I’ve seen The Cobbler. 

Overall Score: 3/10 

Film Review: The Girl On The Train

“What Happened That Night In The Tunnel?”

Much like the unreliable UK train service in out current state of affairs, this review comes somewhat a little late to proceedings in contrast to our usual disciplined services, due in part to my reluctance at seeing the big screen adaptation of The Girl on the Train, the ridiculously popular novel published last year and written by author Paula Hawkins, a novel in which I came to thinking it was something completely different, a novel which was indeed gripping in places but ultimately felt like a jumped up Midsummer Murders with an added slice of spice in order to fit in with the literary era of a novel such as Fifty Shades of Grey. Although book reviews aren’t a speciality of Black Ribbon just yet, Tate Taylor’s cinematic adaptation was somewhat something of a mystery on the face of it. Coming to the movie being well aware of the plot, it could have been an utter bore, yet with a cast that boasts pedigree left, right and centre, The Girl on the Train isn’t exactly remarkable, it’s just straightforwardly solid, featuring a stand out performance from Emily Blunt and sticking so close to the source material of which had the inherent problems the film contracts onto the big screen.

Where the film succeeds is in the casting of Blunt in the lead role of Rachel, who takes to the challenge of giving her all to the max, swaying in a drunken mess throughout most of the movie, unaware of her actions and the consequences that are the cornerstone of the movies’ mystery, whilst The Magnificent Seven’s Haley Bennett also deserves a mention for the conflicted Megan Hipwell. Aside from the movies’ two leading ladies, The Girl on the Train features a rafter of one-dimensional male characters, with Luke Evans and Justin Theroux being portrayed as sex/power hungry misogynist pigs, a cold portrayal of humanity in a film similarly cold and lifeless without much dramatic effect to keep it entertaining. Aside from characterisation, The Girl on the Train suffers from having the same problem as the novel; it’s just not that groundbreaking. Sure, as a two-part ITV drama it may have succeeded, yet on the big screen, Tate Taylor’s latest isn’t anything apart from good and for a film with such a cast list, I expected more.

Overall Score: 6/10

Film Review: Deepwater Horizon

“Mayday, Mayday. This Is Deepwater Horizon…”

Proclaimed as the worst oil disaster in U.S history, Deepwater Horizon brings to the big screen the events which unfolded on the titular oil rig back in 2010, starring Mark Wahlberg as Chief Electronics Technician Mike Williams as well as a strong supporting cast consisting of Kurt Russel, Kate Hudson and John Malkovich. Directed by Peter Berg, whose back catalogue includes The Kingdom, Hancock and Lone Survivor, also starring Mark Wahlberg, Deepwater Horizon is a surprisingly effective disaster drama, one that focuses on the buildup of characterisation and plot and then throws you into submission with a slender mix of both practical and digital effects, resulting in an experience both impressive and terrifying in its’ attempt to showcase the horrific events that took place aboard the titular oil rig only six years ago.

Questionable accents aside, particularly from John Malkovich, as well as a wondering Texas accent from Wahlberg, and a tendency to resort to technical jargon and mumbling, of which was sometimes hard to unravel, Deepwater Horizon follows in the conventional genre-converting blueprint of attempting to tell the tale of a disaster from the POV of many, whilst primarily focusing on one in order to form an emotional and physical connection to occurrences on screen and whilst Wahlberg is effective in the lead role, the beginning of the film recalls a court case featuring the real life Mike Williams after the events of the Deepwater Horizon and thus prevents the audiences’ ambiguity regarding the fate of its leading character. A strange move indeed, but nonetheless, when put up against recent movies of similar ilk such as San Andreas and Everest, Deepwater Horizon is indeed the most effective, unexpectedly so and whilst it isn’t exactly groundbreaking in terms of cinematic originality, Deepwater Horizon is indeed worth the ticket price for its’ big screen quality if nothing else.

Overall Score: 8/10

Film Review: Mechanic: Resurrection

“You Have 36 Hours…”

Who doesn’t love The Stath? An actor who knows his strengths as well as his limits and makes the big bucks by doing what he does best year in, year out; meaty action movies. Although the 2011 version of The Mechanic was a reboot/remake/re-imagining of 1972 Charles Bronson thriller itself, its’ relative success didn’t exactly warrant that of a sequel in any shape or form yet here we are, with Mechanic: Resurrection being an A-Z in the blueprint of Jason Statham movies; little plot yet a hell lot of action. Supported by a rather starry cast with Jessica Alba, Michelle Yeoh and Tommy Lee Jones all fighting for screen time, Mechanic Resurrection is pretty much everything you would expect from an end of summer action flick starring The Stath, with Resurrection going in one ear and heading swiftly out the other without preaching anything other than adrenaline-fuelled mayhem.

Where the first Mechanic attempted to delve a bit deeper into the ambiguous livelihood of Jason Statham’s Arthur Bishop, the titular “Mechanic”, a hired gun who articulately kills people in ways that makes their deaths appear like accidents, Resurrection simply wants to kill as many people as possible, dropping in the idea of a plot as background for Bishop to shoot, punch, stab, blow up and eradicate as many hired goons as possible without ever leaving a scratch on his silky bald head. Although strictly not a comedy, the sight of endless waves of bodyguards being swiftly culled in the most violent ways possible did manage to produce a few fits of laughter, and although the film is incredibly violent, it never stops long enough to dwell on such as well as not having the chance to be regarded as lazy and offensive as something such as London Has Fallen. Yes, both films are ridiculously stupid and so lacking in plot it would make first year media students cry in fear, the truth is Resurrection is just plain dumb fun, something of which we can all do with sometime.

Overall Score: 5/10