Oculus – 2014

oculusA woman tries to exonerate her brother, who was convicted of murder, by proving that the crime was committed by a supernatural phenomenon.

Directed: Mike Flanagan

StarsKaren GillanBrenton ThwaitesKatee Sackhoff

What we think: Mirror, mirror on the wall, are there any of us confused at all? That is certainly the question to ask here, as Mike Flanagan delivers up his 2006 short, Oculus: Chapter 3 – The Man with the Plan, to the big screen.

After moving into their new home things take a turn for the sinister as parents Marie and Alan Russell go a little bit nuts, and a little bit dead thanks in part to an eerily looking antique mirror.

Now grown up and trying to forget the horrors of their childhood, brother and sister Tim and Kaylie venture back to the house along with the mirror to exorcise the demons that have been plaguing them their whole life.

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Tim only just released from a mental institute seems to be fully recovered and convinced that everything that happened was in fact real. The same cannot be said for Kaylie who is sure that there is a supernatural force at play, and is determined to get to the bottom of it.

With enough modern day technology at her finger tips it’s only a matter of time before her theory starts to become a reality, and the shit really hits the fan. Plants die without warning, temperatures rise and hallucinations take hold.

One of the highlights of Oculus is the acting, Katee Sackhoff and Rory Cochrane deliver spine chilling performances, and give us a real sense of a couple gone bat shit. While the younger Tim and Kaylie go one better than most of the annoying child actors out there today, and make for a believable pair.

The tension is orchestrated well, and builds up at the right times before Flanagan releases the pressure cooker environment at a horrific pace. The gore is few and far between, but Flanagan goes for deep rooted fear than look away shock horrors.

However, for all its neat little scares and tension building scenes Oculus seems to let itself down in the final act. There is a lot going on that its hard to keep a grip of what is reality and what isn’t, the film moves in long tracking shots, keeping the past and present siblings in the same house facing the same terror.

In fairness that should be a credit to Flanagan, who moves the story at a frenetic pace giving the illusion that all will be well in the end, but as an audience we know that is not nessesarily going to be the case.

At the end of the day it’s another family, in another house, fighting another supernatural entity, so there is nothing new here really.

Oculus is an intricate and at times complex story with an ending that is less than satisfactory. Of course it opens the door for yet another franchise to be born, as if the horror genre is lacking in these at the moment.

View the trailer…

Visit the IMDB page for Oculus

What did you think of the film, leave a comment and let us know?

Non Stop – 2014

non stop largeAn air marshal springs into action during a transatlantic flight after receiving a series of text messages that put his fellow passengers at risk unless the airline transfers $150 million into an off-shore account.

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Stars

What we think: Liam Neeson has been dining out on the success of Taken for some time now, which isn’t a bad thing given his age and that he’s put his body through the ringer.

It would be a little callus to call Taken a fluke, a film that even Nesson thought would go straight to DVD. Not so, and off the back of that success he was offered action script after action script.

A sequel to Taken later with a third in the pipe he’s back on our big screen as air marshall Bill Marks, a man with a drink problem and a whole host of personal issues (so the perfect person to carry a loaded gun onto a plane).

Marks finds himself as the prime suspect in a deadly game of extortion and hijacking while trying to find a madman whose picking off passengers every twenty minutes until he gets paid a large sum of money.

Directed by , who orchestrated Neeson in the slightly disappointing Unknown, manages to keep the tension tight and at the right times. He doesn’t have much of a choice really to keeping the audience on tender hooks all within the confines of an air craft cabin.

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Along for the ride is Julianne Moore’s somewhat nervy frequent flyer who will straight away arouse suspicion from Marks along with all the other passengers on the manifest and cabin crew.

It opens with Marks loading himself up on liquor before boarding the doomed flight, all he while he’s keeping a close blurry eye on the surrounding passengers, building us up to think that everyone on board is going to be a suspect, and they are.

Marks’s communication with the unseen villain is through mobile phones (specially manufactured for air marshal frequency) the messages flash up on screen in a quirky way that keeps us on top of the dialogue.

It’ s an in flight whodunit, a guessing game of clues and links that ultimately hits turbulence during the third act, a real shame as it was holding its own 35,000ft up.

The subsequent motive is a post 9/11 rant, a chance to vent frustration that the government did not do enough to prevent the attack and that they should now pay. It’s a lame attempt at a conclusion, made even more sickening by Neeson’s endearing speech.

The supporting cast don’t offer a hell of a lot, with an off duty NYPD cop, a techno whizz who just happens to be handy with mobile phones, and in a ironic twist a muslim whose portrayed as saving lives.

After boarding and take off it plateaus out, and falls short of delivering as a perfect Hitchcockian styled thriller.

View the trailer…

Visit the IMDB page for Non Stop

What did you think of the film, is Nesson still capable of delivering as an action hero, leave a comment and let us know?

 

Only God Forgives – 2013

only god forgivesJulian, a drug-smuggler thriving in Bangkok’s criminal underworld, sees his life get even more complicated when his mother compels him to find and kill whoever is responsible for his brother’s recent death.

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Stars

What we think: Now here is a film that has completely split critics the world over, it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea and its clear to see why.

Anyone expecting a well constructed follow up to Winding Refn’s hit Drive are going to be sorely disappointed, as Only God Forgives serves up a mix of beautiful neon visuals, character dreamscapes and minimal dialgoue.

Julian (Gosling) runs a Thai boxing club deep in the heart of Bangkok, using it as front for a drug smuggling ring with his brother, events take a horrific turn when his brother rapes and murders an underage prostitue.

Enter retired cop Chang (Pansringarm), more well known as the ‘Angel of Vengence’ who has a unique and almost godlike way of handing out retribution to those who cross his path.

When he allows Julian’s brother to be murdered by the father of the girl he killed Julian’s mother Crystal, and family matriarch heads out to demand that Julian take revenge for his brothers death.

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It’s a film that is doused in red, deep colours that awash the actors on screen and cast them in a variety of different lights, it all feels a bit art house and at times arrogant.

This must have been the easiest pay cheque that Gosling has ever picked up and barely speaking he stamps any authority on screen by long drawn out stares, he is the master at this.

Scott Thomas is not the mother figure that you would expect to have, goading Julian into submission in a vile and disgusting manner she belittles him, prompting the question that he is half the man his brother is.

She is one of the few standouts here, all blonde hair and jewellery along with a arsenal of foul language. However it will be Chang that leaves the after thought, as he glides about unleashing his sword on those who stand in his way.

Only God Forgives is violent, and it is certainly not for the feint hearted, the spilling of blood (particularly one hard to watch scene) is in keeping with the tonal colour of the setting.

It certainly doesn’t have Drive’s slickness, but does come with an equally pulsating sound track, although I still have no idea just what benefit the karaoke scenes had to the film.

There is no arguing that from a cinematography angle this film his head and shoulders above others, but there is the odd occasion when you really have to question the director, and just what it was that he set out to achieve.

Check out the trailer…

What did you think of the film, leave a comment and let us know.
 

Pain & Gain – 2013

pain and gainA trio of body builders in Florida get caught up in an extortion ring and a kidnapping scheme that goes terribly wrong.

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What we think: Based on a supposed true story Pain & Gain sees Michael Bay swap the world of mechanical robots for the world of constructed hard core fitness.

Set in the Florida (Bay goes back to Miami) in the early 90s, Daniel Lugo (Wahlberg) is a manager for a run of the mill gym, he has a strong set of beliefs that he tries to emphasise to his clients, however they don’t seem to appreciate his set of life rules.

He seems to be completely oblivious to the real world, almost to the fact that he is envious of the life he doesn’t have.

Annoyed by this he decides to take it upon himself to steal the possessions and money of one of his clients, Victor Kershaw () but to do so he needs the help of fellow muscle heads Paul Doyle (Johnson) and Adrian Doorbal (Mackie).

What should have been a simple plan of kidnapping and extortion turns into a nightmare of drugs, missing toes and murder as the group realise that the best things in life will always come at a price.

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With a considerably reduced budget the film is set in the self obsessed world of high flyers, glamorous women and fitness geeks, with no robots to smash heads, Bay directs a bumbling trio to take centre stage in planning and pulling off the grab in comical circumstances.

It’a film not without it’s faults, for one, its just over two hours, and while the time doesn’t drag there is wonder if certain scenes that appear hardly relevant could have been cut out.

To me the film had the good old fashioned hallmarks of a Bay classic, certain camera shots are present that are staple of a Michael Bay film, such as the sweeping arc shot and shots looking up at the subject.

However, and here we go back to the faults again, it is extremely grotesque in parts which gives credence to the R-rating it received. Rightly so, an upshot of a women’s skirt prior to waxing was not needed, and leaves us wondering if we’re to take Michael Bay seriously at all.

The action drifts in and out, but this has the feeling of a low budget inde film rather than a main stream gung-ho blockbuster.

The cast are a colourful bunch with Johnson the clear winner, his ex con whose turned to religion for want of a better life is brilliant and he handles himself with charismatic charm throughout the early part of the film, then spiralling out of control through the third act.

Wahlberg and Mackie make up the trio but they don’t have anywhere near as much presence that Johnson brings with him, Mackie himself almost feels like the third wheel.

The film has its funny moments but it certainly won’t have you splitting your sides, its a slapstick caper of epic proportion that you’d have to wonder if any of this actually happened in reality, and nearing the end of the film we have to be reminded via a caption that “this is still a true story”.

Anyone who would suggest this is Bay’s best film to date are clearly deluded, if anything its Bay’s debut Bad Boys and The Rock that are the stand outs for me. This when action scenes were explosive, characters were simple and the need for degrading debauchery was kept to a minimum.

It is enjoyable and there are some highlights, but I was left scratching my head in some parts as to the sheer madness of what was unfolding in front of me.

Check out the trailer

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oblivion – 2013

oblivion posterA veteran assigned to extract Earth’s remaining resources begins to question what he knows about his mission and himself.

Directed

Stars

What we thinkOblivion is visually stunning, as far as Sci-fi films go it must be one of the best looking films of 2013, I cannot think of any others that come close?

The opening monologue sets the scene with Earth all but reduced to a desolate radioactive wasteland after the war with an Alien race called the Scavengers (or Scavs) who wanted the Earth’s resources.

The humans won the war but lost the Earth, and only once famous landmarks are now slightly recognisable pieces of rumble. The rest of the population have left to take residence on Titan, one of the moons of Saturn while others inhabit a large space station called the Tet.

Like a real life version of Wall-E Jack Harper (Cruise) is a drone technician who as the title would suggest goes out from his home high in the clouds to fix and track the many drones (protecting hydro-rigs that send energy to humanity’s survivors) that need assistance, getting them back online with the twist of a fuel cell.

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Harper is paired with Victoria () who acts as his co-ordinator and guides him through the missions that are handed down by commander Sally (who I didn’t at first recognise as Oscar winner Melissa Leo).

The pair play out their daily lives and chat at the prospect of completing their mission and finally joining the others on Titan, but Jack still regards Earth (what’s left of it) as his home and from time to time escapes to a secluded lush hide away by a lake.

It’s clear to see where Kosinski’s efforts lie, and that is with building the surrounding landscape and scenery. From the dust ridden plains to the high tech living quarters above the clouds so much attention to detail has been put into it.

It’s a shame then that for the second half of the film, that attention to detail wasn’t spent on the plot, especially when Morgan Freeman’s cigar smoking rebel, Beech turns up to drop a massive bombshell.

It gets even more confusing when a woman () that Jack sees in his dreams suddenly appears up mid way through, and via some flash backs we get that part explained to us, but it still feels a little disjointed.

With the film shot on real locations (Iceland) much credit can be attributed to the fact that it doesn’t require a green screen, actors get to feel the real surroundings of Earth post nuclear war.

There are some cool action sequences, a canyon dog fight involving a trio of drones let’s Cruise show off his fighter pilot skills and there is a nice shoot out within the abandoned and derelict New York library.

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Cruise just ambles about doing what he does best, but this role doesn’t feel like its anything that he can really get his teeth into. If anything the stand out is Riseborough, she has to battle with a number of different feelings from love, to jealousy to hate and does so with gusto.

Overall howe ver the underlying theme is one of humanity and survival, but this is not something that is really delved into too much. The ending boarder lines on the ridiculous, like an Independence Day rip off  there will be many questions left unanswered.

View the trailer…

What did you think of Oblivion? Was it what you were expecting, leave a comment and let us know.