The Movie The House with a Clock in Its Walls (2018) The Director Eli Roth The Cast Jack Black, Cate Blanchett, Owen Vaccaro, Kyle MacLachlan IMDB Synopsis A young orphan named Lewis Barnavelt aids his magical uncle… More
I am very, very behind in the film reviewing stakes and for that I am sorry.
I currently have ten on my To Do list and in order to catch up, I’m going to have to keep it short and sweet on the movies I liked least. Why bother with too many words when they don’t fit the experience, right?
Forgive me for being behind the curve, I’ll get back to normal soon.
Oh yeah, what have you been watching?
A Simple Favour (2018)
A woman seeks to uncover the truth behind the disappearance of her best friend.
This film is by far my favourite lately, if not all year – and there have been a pile of really good films so far. It just appeals to my bitchy nature with its zingy dialogue, incredible appearance and genuinely tense thriller vibe. It will be hard to talk about this without dropping #spoilers so I’m going to remain as enigmatic as possible – just like Blake Lively‘s mysterious Emily Nelson.
Stephanie Smothers (Anna Kendrick) is a slightly irritating mommy blogger who one day meets and befriends the chic and charismatic Emily Nelson at her son’s school. The two quickly bond over martinis and secrets. One day, however, Emily calls Stephanie for a simple favour – to pick up her kid while she deals with an emergency.
Days later and no sign of Emily, Stephanie is forced to contact her husband Sean (Henry Golding again), who is in the UK tending to his ailing mother. The two of them become closer as they try to work out what happened to Emily – and let me tell you I’ll probably have to stop myself here just to be safe. Let’s just say that Stephanie’s secrets aren’t the only ones out there – what could Emily’s be?
The story unravels via a series of vlogs put together by Stephanie whose views increase tenfold the more she updates her audience on the Emily case. This is a play on the ‘screen life’ format most recently used in Searching and I think it’s really fresh, although it doesn’t all play out on screen, we also visit present time and flashbacks to build up the story.
I must say that I went into this knowing I’d be impressed but not really knowing what to expect – Paul Feig‘s filmography contains a lot of broad comedy which I love but didn’t expect in this movie. Which I was right about, the humour is pitch black and sharp AF but it’s more sophisticated than usual.
Blake and Anna have never been better than here. They look great but they bounce of each other so well and the dialogue they’re given to play with made me cackle throughout. There’s a scene in which Stephanie confronts Emily’s fashion designer boss that was priceless and an excellent showcase for Kendrick’s comic timing.
Helen and I left the cinema just saying “Wow” to each other dozens of times. It’s just done very well and hopefully, along with the aforementioned Searching, will pave the way for more smart arse thrillers, I feel like they might be having a moment.
As for the costuming, don’t think I’m going to sign this off without swooning over both women’s wardrobes. More so Blake who rocks sharp tailoring like nobody’s business. Is there anything sexier that a woman in a well cut suit? I think you’ll find not. Anyway, I’m quite prepared to spend more time in the theater re-watching this movie because it’s bloody great and exactly what I wanted.
Whatever you do, go see this.
American Animals (2018)
Four young men mistake their lives for a movie and attempt one of the most audacious heists in U.S. history.
I feel like I had to work extra hard to catch this movie in the theater (by going to another one). The Odeon showed it for what felt like ten minutes before pulling it due to lack of interest so I had to seek it out. It was worth it.
Based on the true story of four acquaintances who attempt to pull off an extraordinary heist based on a load of crime caper movies they’ve watched as homework, it’s a really interesting ride. Spliced with interviews with all the real life ‘characters’, including all four robbers, it builds up to the day of the robbery from its moment of conception.
The fictional Spencer (Barry Keoghan) works in a supermarket and is dissatisfied with his lot in life. Waiting for something to come along and render his existence special somehow, an idea is born the day he visits Transylvania University and sets his sights on John James Audubon’s The Birds of America as well as a collection of other rare books (including Darwin’s The Origin of Species).
Initially just intrigued that such rare artifacts could fetch such a pretty penny, Barry mentions it to his best friend Warren (Evan Peters) who takes a grain of an idea and runs with it. Warren himself is a wild card and you could argue is the main instigator of the plan, though he might deny it (and more or less does on camera via the real Warren Lipka).
The boys find themselves involved in a world they’ve never experienced before, taking meetings with fences and buyers (when Warren travels to Amsterdam), doing their research (all manner of heist movies, including Reservoir Dogs) and generally focusing all their attentions on their mission to steal the priceless books and sell them on.
When they realise they’ll need more help, they enlist the assistance of Eric (Jared Abrahamson) and Chas (Blake Jenner) though both are kind of reluctant participants, particularly when it comes to any sort of violence, a dash of which they’ll need to deal with the one person standing in the way of their prize – librarian Betty Jean ‘BJ’ Gooch (Ann Dowd).
Can they pull it off or are they doomed from the start? As the story gains momentum, the relationship these men share are tested to the max and they are forced to deal with their own individual feelings of guilt, failure and regret.
I bloody loved American Animals. I’d be lying if I told you it wasn’t Evan Peters that initially pulled me in but I also love a good heist movie. Especially one based on a true story and one that examines four normal real life characters and their motivations. The whole concept of wanting that one incredible thing to happen is very relatable and the fact that we get to see interviews with their families reminds us of the consequences of their actions.
Barry Keoghan is amazing as Spencer and he sold his character to me the most. I really enjoy him as an actor, having really been creeped out by his role in The Killing of a Sacred Deer so I’m quite interested to see more of him.
Hereditary‘s Ann Dowd is great as always, though we don’t see nearly enough of her. During the will-they-won’t-they heist scene, she is heartbreaking in her vulnerability and it left me feeling genuinely uncomfortable. I definitely recommend this film which is subtly stylised in its look but also holds up as a dark and genuinely tense crime caper.
Crazy Rich Asians (2018)
This contemporary romantic comedy, based on a global bestseller, follows native New Yorker Rachel Chu to Singapore to meet her boyfriend’s family.
I feel like CRA is more of an experience than just a film. On the surface of things, it’s a snapshot of a totally different way of life, one I could never comprehend nor have a slice of – but it’s so much more than that. And as a white woman, I will never fully understand what it feels like to watch a mainstream Hollywood movie with a purely Asian cast (without a white character in sight to save the day, no less). From the live-action Ghost in the Shell to the remake of Old Boy (and everything in-between), white-washing is a very real thing and it’s completely unacceptable – so you’re damn right this is important.
Based on the novel of the same name by Kevin Kwan, the film adaptation takes place mainly in Singapore, when the handsome Nick Young (Henry Golding) takes his girlfriend Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) to attend the wedding of his best friend – and to finally meet his family. What Rachel doesn’t know is that her beau is rich – crazy rich – and his family is practically royalty.
But how will Nick’s super traditional mother Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh) take his relationship though? After all, Rachel is more or less a peasant and could never be good enough for her favourite boy. So, despite smarts and a fantastic job, kind Rachel is subjected to a series of humiliations and branded a gold digger by Singapore’s elite – something she is completely unprepared for.
Luckily, she has her old college mate Peik Lin Goh (Awkwafina) on hand for support as well as lovely Astrid (Gemma Chan), who has her own cross to bear in the form of a cheating husband. What follows Rachel’s arrival in Singapore is a luscious battle of wits as she find the inner courage to challenge the behaviour of Eleanor Young, who is hellbent on sabotaging Nick’s relationship, whatever the cost.
I had such a good time with this movie. It’s gorgeous to look like, obviously – all breath-taking location shots and designer wardrobes but it’s sweet too – corny in places – but also genuinely moving when it wants to be. The traditional values of Nick’s family are touching, though the stubborn need to keep everything in check is hard to comprehend – and Eleanor’s disregard for her son’s happiness is frustrating. Will there be a happy ending for our lovers?
I went to see this with my friend Helen who visited Singapore this year and has been to a number of the places featured, including the huge hotel with the pool on the roof. This made it even more special to her – for me it was nice and feel-good. It made me laugh where it wanted me to – Awkwafina is a good comedic actress and very different as Peik Lin to her character in Ocean’s Eight.
It’s also great to see Gemma Chan in such a choice role. I’ve seen her in a few TV bits over the years and I think she’s an angel. She definitely gave me the most feels as nice girl Astrid, who has to hide her extravagances from her rags to riches husband, who cannot deal with her vast wealth. So much so that he has to bang someone else. Her pain is hard to bear but her R-E-S-P-E-C-T moment as the end is very satisfying.
I love the whole cast really, and it’s good to see familiar faces pop up. Michelle Yeoh’s brittle Eleanor is bloody marvellous and her head-to-head with Rachel is very powerful. As for the central romance, it’s fine of course, you’re rooting for them as they’re both so deserving of their happy ending – but it’s standard popcorn love and not the main pull of the film for me.
I would love to live my life in this decadence for just one day. Can you even imagine?
The Predator (2018)
When a young boy accidentally triggers the universe’s most lethal hunters’ return to Earth, only a ragtag crew of ex-soldiers and a disgruntled science teacher can prevent the end of the human race.
We’re all really here for the alien action, right? Who cares about anything but how pretty The Predator is? Well, lucky for us, he’s back and looking as buff as ever and that’s even before his big evolved brother rocks up. The rest of it is… not great.
Let’s start with Casey Bracket (the lovely Olivia Munn), a ballsy scientist with a special investment in space animals. She’s pretty good and more than just a pretty face, thankyouverymuch. Her connection to The Predator is a little flimsy, something about a letter to the president when she was a kid and I couldn’t even work out if she was joking. Anyway, she’s there when the freshly captured Predator busts loose and is lucky when he approaches her butt naked, unarmed form and decides to let her live. Oooh, fishy…
Then there are our ‘heroes’. First up Quinn McKenna (the unbearable Boyd Holbrook) who witnesses the crash landing of the Predator’s space ship. First on the scene and still reeling from the slaughter of his mercenary colleagues, Quinn does what any sensible person would in the same situation. He steels alien hardware (a helmet and wrist cuff) and posts them back to his PO Box in his hometown. Well THAT won’t come back to bite him in the arse will it?
Add to the mix the rest of the gang – and in my opinion the most important part of the movie – and, well it’s a bit hit and miss I’m afraid. When Quinn is detained by the authorities, he meets Nebraska, Coyle, Baxley, Lynch and Nettles (Moonlight’s Trevante Rhodes, Keegan-Michael Key, Thomas Jane, Alfie Allen and Augusto Aguilera respectively) – all bad (ish) men in trouble with the military – and admittedly, probably a good bunch to affiliate yourself with when shit hits the fan.
The Predator is exactly what you’d expect really. It’s a romp, it’s really stupid and it is enjoyable in places if you can suspend your disbelief. The rag tag bunch are fun if a little bit terrible (Nebraska is good but not the greatest stretch for an actor that moved me to tears in Moonlight).
One of my main problems with it is that it feels like a kids film which doesn’t blend well with the hyper-gore (which I love). The focus around Quinn’s autistic son Rory (Jacob Tremblay) is interesting but gives it an 80’s Flight of the Navigator tone that doesn’t work for me. I want Shane Black on acid, using all the special effects he can in the modern day and some of them are just shocking. I’m quite sure he’s kept them schlocky as a nod back to the 80’s though which might have been a mistake. Also, our super villain Traeger (Sterling K. Brown) needs to shut his mouth. Literally. (Dude looks like a cow chewing cud and it’s really distracting).
In 1993, a teenage girl is forced into a gay conversion therapy center by her conservative guardians.
When teenager Cameron Post (Chloë Grace Moretz) is caught by her boyfriend getting it on with her best friend Coley (Quinn Shephard) at prom, all hell breaks loose. For her anyway. Her concerned older sister packs her off to religious camp God’s Promise to attend a program designed to convert her back to the only acceptable sexuality in God’s eyes.
Here she meets a rag-tag bunch of like-minded kids at varying degrees of their therapy. Luckily for her she is able to bond with two fellow cynics, Jane Fonda (American Honey’s Sasha Lane) and Adam (Forrest Goodluck), who make her time there more bearable. Run by ex-homosexual Reverend Rick (John Gallagher Jr.) and his formidable sister, Dr. Lydia Marsh (Jennifer Ehle) – the camp expects each guest to adhere to a strict set of rules. The more they co-operate, however, the more privileges they’ll earn.
They’re each also required to fill in a personal ‘iceberg’ – e.g. a basic diagram of what’s going on beneath the surface, and what could possibly be part of the reason for their SSA (Same Sex Attraction). It’s a bad, no-good place to be basically and even worse when you consider that teens are still sent to conversion camps today.
Cameron struggles with the ‘punishment’ she’s received and is later forced to deal with the concept of guilt as Coley suggests she took advantage of their friendship.
On the sidelines we also meet Cameron’s hopeful roommate Erin (Emily Skeggs), musical Helen (Melanie Ehrlich) and Mark (Owen Campbell), who will break your heart in two. Genuinely, it’s very hard to watch any kid go through what these children do but especially when they’re warm and kind like Mark. His arc is hard to stomach and devastating for all involved. And it will make you mad as it should rightly do.
Thankfully, we get a feel-good ending and I’m down with that. One thing to note is how lovely this movie looks – it almost makes God’s Promise look like a pleasant holiday destination. Directed by the brilliantly talented Desiree Akhavan, it also illustrates Cameron’s flashbacks with proper sex scenes which are beautiful and real, something you don’t always see, particularly between two women. It’s not gratuitous, it’s more a visual ode to the beauty of women and the appreciation of them on the whole.
I love the characters, I love the dialogue and I really enjoy the scene in which Cameron gets up on the kitchen counter to do a rendition of 4 Non Blondes’ What’s Going On. As part of the new wave of gay movies we’ve been getting over the last couple of years, TMOCP holds its head up high and sticks two fingers up at ‘convention’ at the same time. Well worth a look.
The Nun (2018)
A priest with a haunted past and a novice on the threshold of her final vows are sent by the Vatican to investigate the death of a young nun in Romania and confront a malevolent force in the form of a demonic nun.
The thing about The Nun is that it was exactly how I expected it to be. Heavy on the jump scares, light on all the elements that would have made it really good. The Nun herself just isn’t scary beyond her ability to pop up in unexpected places, the make-up is dreadful and I don’t feel as though I know that much more about her character than when I started. I mean, she was thrown up from the bowels of hell… but why does she manifest as a nun? Who is the actual nun? And if there is something I missed here it’s because there’s just too much going on at once and shame on the makers!
That said, I had fun and enjoyed my experience despite myself. And there are elements that did work so it might be a better review if I try and focus on the bits I did like. A couple of reviews have remarked upon the strange casting choice in Taissa Farmiga, someone not really synonymous yet with the big screen (though is the sister of The Conjuring Queen, Vera so it makes sense). I thought she was good but then I’ve always enjoyed her slightly monotonous delivery. As Sister Irene I think she holds her own quite admirably and her doe-eyed demeanor suits the role.
The setting is gorgeous – a wonderful Gothic landscape and if only they’d played more with the creepy, rather than cheap shots. The other nuns and the mysterious Miss Haversham-esque Mother Superior – any of the scenes involving them are the best bits. As they keep the chain of eternal praying going to ward off evil, we’re treated to ghostly shadows and mysterious noises that make the skin crawl. In the graveyard, we can hear the little bells tinkle, as if to suggest that it’s full of the undead and that’s a horrid thought.
When handsome (sue me) Father Burke (Demián Bichir) gets buried alive, it’s nasty but you just know he’s about to encounter something nasty beside him in his coffin – and lo! While he battles with this unholy land, he also has to tackle his feelings of guilt around a failed exorcism in the past and you’ll never guess who pops up to haunt his arse at the same time! Like come on. Plus there are zombie nuns and lots of snakes, for no good reason. Much like the first few American Horror Stories, it just throws everything at you and all I’m saying is – less is more, people.
Some of the cinematography is really something though and I like Irene enough to want her to survive. While Frenchie (Jonas Bloquet), a local farmer makes the ultimate sacrifice to protect her, she remains resourceful and cute throughout.
I’d like to see more of her as we no doubt will because this does leave it wide open for the further adventures of Sister Irene. I just hope they do away with some of the horrible special effects. The love child of Marilyn Manson & Noel Fielding just ain’t that spooky.