Don’t Worry Darling

Directed by Olivia Wilde, based on Katie Silberman’s screenplay, Don’t Worry Darling is a thriller with a seemingly rather troubled production. Alice (Florence Pugh) and Jack (Harry Styles) live an idyllic life in Victory, the home of the Victory Project, a small town that looks like the embodiment of a perfect 1950’s American lifestyle. Beautiful homes, smart cars, men working important jobs and wives happily supporting them. When Alice notices neighbour Margaret (Keke Layne) become more agitated, she also starts to see cracks in the seemingly perfect world. Cracks that bring her into confrontation with her friend Bunny (Olivia Wilde) and also the founder and head of the Victory project, Frank (Chris Pine) it raises uncomfortable questions of what’s behind the project and uncomfortable accusations towards Alice.

While it’s had a supposedly troubled production and some mixed reviews, I enjoyed it. Wilde has taken a big swing at an idea and while she doesn’t land it perfectly, I admired the attempt.

The premise isn’t new, a seemingly perfect lifestyle that hides a dark secret. Wilde uses this to explore coercive control, misogyny and dark corners of the internet. But the familiar concept is a problem as you know a reveal is coming and it takes a long time to get there which makes it feel like it drags.

There are plenty of plusses though. It is brilliantly shot and Florence Pugh’s fabulous performance of growing desperation, in a world where all around her are making her feel it is her own paranoia, engages you completely and doesn’t let you go from start to finish. The film is at its best when she is alongside Pine, who is excellent as the dark and overpowering Frank. Other performances from Layne and Wilde also add well to the paranoia and underlying darkness.

While it has had mixed reviews, I enjoyed it and admired Wilde taking a big swing at telling a dark story, even if she doesn’t quite land it. While the story is laboured at times, in Florence Pugh it has a lead who keeps you hooked and fully engaged until the end. Not perfect, but more than watchable.

Ticket to Paradise

Written and directed by Ol Parker is this new romcom starring George Clooney and Julia Roberts. Clooney and Roberts are David and Georgia, once married and parents to Lily (Kaitlyn Deever), which means they still have to maintain a relationship that is, fair to say, less than amicable. When Lily heads off with her friend Wren (Billie Lourd) to Bali to celebrate her graduation, she’s meets, falls for and intends to marry Gede (Maxime Bouttier), much to her parents shock and displeasure. They decide they need to team up, head to Bali and stop the wedding and make Lily realise the terrible mistake she’s making.

Sometimes films surprise you and sometimes they are exactly the unsurprising vanilla genre film you expect and Ticket to Paradise is that romcom and it’s a perfectly serviceable one.

Firstly as the autumn kicks in, it looks wonderful whisking you off to the beaches of Bali (well Queensland, Australia actually) and shows you some wonderful sites, lovely sunsets and sunrises as it winds its way to its inevitable conclusion.

Clooney and Roberts are consumate professionals delivering exactly what you want from them, plenty of charm and plenty of enjoyable bickering. Kaitlyn Deever is less used, but is warm and strong minded, knowing what she wants but never coming across as spolit. But the film really is just a vehicle for Roberts and Clooney to exercise their underused romcom muscles.

The film is all very nice, it looks nice, David and Georgia’s bickering is nice and the ending is nice it’s just not very inspiring or memorable.

It is exactly what it sets out to be. A light and fluffy romcom showcase for two skilled comedic actors. It looks warm and lovely and you’ll enjoy it as it happens and in years to come you’ll find it on TV and watch it. It’s just very average, but nice with it.

I Used to Be Famous

New on Netflix.

Based on director’s Eddie Sternberg’s 2015 short film, is this story of a once famous pop star trying to relaunch his career. Ed Skrein is Vince, once front man of a 90’s boy band. Now he is trying to relaunch his career, but is very much a struggling musician, carting his keyboard from pub to pub desperate for a gig. While taking a rest from the rejection in a local market he sets up to practice but finds himself in an impromptu jamming session with a young autistic drummer, Stevie (neuro divergent newcomer, Leo Long). Posted to social media, it gathers great interest and is an opportunity at last for Vince to relaunch his career. But there are challenges to come, as Vince, Stevie and his mum, Amber (Elenaor Matsuura) all have to deal with their past and concerns for the future.

Washed up pop star, finds young prodigy, who go on to inspire and change each others lives is a well worn story and you could plot it out from thirty seconds in and you’d be spot on. But that is okay, because as it moves through ticking off all the bits you expect, it is done with such warmth and heart that you struggle not to enjoy the predictable journey.

It doesn’t particularly do depth and backstory but that’s not really the point. The story is the relationship between the three main characters, all who deliver believable and engaging performances. Skrein’s hard working but occasionally troubled Vince, Elenaor Matsuura’s portrayal of Amber a mum desperate to help her son navigate what will be a tricky road ahead and Long’s engaging performance full of heart and humour. But it’s the development of Stevie and Vince’s friendship that truly keeps you engaged, as it helps Stevie to grow and believe and gives Vince a new purpose.

What I Used to Be Famous, lacks in depth or originality it makes up for in warmth and heart. It won’t change anyone’s world, but as a pleasent 100 minute Netflix diversion it works a treat and will leave you with a smile on your face.

Bodies Bodies Bodies

Director Halina Reijn brings this dark comedy horror to the screen. Sophie (Amandla Stenberg) and Bee (Maria Bakalova) are in a new relationship and are heading to Sophie’s childhood best friends David’s (Pete Davidson) palatial parental home for a “hurricane” party. There Bee is introduced to a a group of people from Sophie’s past including their relationships and old grudges. As the hurricane sets in they decide to play a game of Bodies Bodies Bodies. But when the game becomes real, the house guests have a long night ahead of finding a killer, before the killer, their grudges or their own paranoia finds them first.

This wasn’t really the film I was expecting, the trailers painted it more as a satire and genre parady. But in reality it is just an update of a very well trodden horror/thriller story.

While it is not particularly original, I did quite enjoy it. The story is relatively light hearted and the ending has a fun “twist”. It’s well shot and makes good use of mobile phone torches as a way of lighting with the small circle of light helps building tension as people move cautiously around the house avoiding what may be in the shadows.

The films occasional satire was best highlighted in the conversations between the group. With use of current vernacular such as triggered, toxic, silencing me amongst other “popular” phrases that are over used or misunderstood. One scene particularly, where four of the protagonists have a particularly angry confrontation which includes the reckless use of a gun. But rather than done in a way to “attack” a new generation the film instead shows that the generations behave the same. Even if the language is different.

The cast are all very watchable and Amandla Stenberg continues to show her talent in an ever widening variety of roles.

While it wasn’t particularly original it was a solid example of its type and nicely updated to reflect a modern generation. The story whizzes along at a pace and the humour that is there is delivered well by its cast. While it won’t last long in the memory, while it was there I enjoyed it.

See How They Run

Written by Mark Chapel and directed by Tom George is this pastiche of 1950’s whoduunits. It’s a party for the 100th performance of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, but there is tension in the air. The shows producer Petula Spencer (Ruth Wilson) has sold the film rights of the play to John Woolf (Reece Shearsmith), which has created tension between director Leo Kopernick (Adrien Brody) and both screenwriter Mervyn Cocker-Norris (David Oyelowo) and the plays star Richard Attenborough (Harris Dickinson). After Kopernick and Attenborough come to blows, Kopernick heads off alone and meets an untimely end. The metropolitan police arrive in the shape of constable Stalker (Saoirse Ronan) and inspector Stoppard (Sam Rockwell) to investigate the crime and find the killer in the murky world of theatre!

I found this great fun from Kopernicks opening monologue that basically tells you the film your about to see through to the ending you’re promised! It looks great with George borrowing heavily from Wes Anderson with its smart framing, colour palette and quirky characters.

What really makes it work though is the always fabulous Saoirse Ronan’s Constable Stalker, new to the job, bright eyed and eager, but it’s her fabulous comic delivery that makes it work. Her relationship with Rockwell’s world weary inspector is the warm heart of the film.

George and the cast have a great time poking fun at the concept of a Christie whoduunit and their theatrical depictions, from its caricaturing of its cast to the story tropes they rely on. But it’s only poking warm hearted fun at them.

The ensemble cast alongside it’s two excellent leads all deliver the quality you’d expect, even if their characters are a little light on detail.

See How They Run is tonnes of fun, a light hearted pastiche, it uses its 50’s whodunnit story to great effect. It’s warm, funny and never too serious. At its heart is the fabulous Saoirse Ronan and Sam Rockwell who take you along on a wonderfully silly adventure. If you’re after a smile then run down to the cinema and give it a whirl.

I Came By

New on Netflix is a British crime thriller, written and directed by Babak Anvari. Toby (George McKay) and Jay (Percelle Ascott) are disaffected young men and graffiti writers. They have decided to “attack” the establishment by breaking into homes of influential people and tagging them with their signature graffiti “I came by”. However when Jay finds out his girlfriend (Veranda Sethu) is pregnant he tells Toby he’s out. Toby decides to carry on alone and targets a well known judge, Sir Hector Blake (Hugh Bonneville). However, when he breaks into his home he makes a shocking discovery. When nobody hears from him, his mum Lizzie (Kelly McDonald), not satisfied with police efforts, decides that she is going to investigate and discovers the shocking background of Blake and the institutional connections that are seemingly covering it up.

This is an intriguing if rather nuts and bolts crime thriller which is elevated by a wonderfully sinister central performance from Hugh Bonneville. As with all the best movie baddies, less is more, his restrained menace and casual approach to his acts are chilling. As is his arrogance and privilege, that seemingly protect him from justice.

He is well supported by other strong performances from McKay, Prescott and Kelly McDonald who all bring differing levels of desperation with their situation.

While it is intriguing and has surprising turns It’s not perfect. It has a bit of an odd time jumping narrative that takes you a while to catch on to, so can confuse. But most importantly it is hampered by the classic thriller issue of people making stupid, unbelievable decisions, decisions that I found distracting as I tried not to shout at the screen “why would you do that?”.

While not destined to be a classic, it is a solid thriller. What makes it worth watching is Bonneville’s fantastic performance which is full of restraint and sinister motive. It’s hard to tell whether his actions or the way his privilege seemingly protects him from the law is the most chilling! Because that feels a little to close to reality for comfort.

Three Thousand Years of Longing

George Miller directs and co-writes (with Augusta Gore) this adaptation of a short story The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye. Tilda Swinton is Alithea Binnie a narratologist, she describes herself as a solitary creature, engrossed in her work. That work takes her to a conference in Istanbul where she is approached by a mysterious man who warns her of the stories of Istanbul. As she presents at her conference she sees visions of mystical figures in the audience. Pushing away the concerns of those around her she heads off to the market where she finds an intriguing bottle. Returning to her room, she attempts to clean the bottle but in doing so she releases its contents, a Djinn (Idris Elba). Now released he is in her debt and grants her three wishes, before doing so he shares with her his story of his attempts to be freed and return to the world of the Djinn.

The film itself is a bit disjointed and its messages are hard to pull out. There are stories of love, the impact of stories replaced by science, the risks of trying to dictate and control the future and the frustration with been unseen by those around you. But often those stories get lost as the film moves through its complex narrative.

There is also a charm and the stories are beautifully told and presented on screen as we move through the ages and the parts of the djinns life.

Tilda Swinton is watchable as Alithea and you’re never quite sure how much of the story is her own creation or a magical reality. Elba is equally enjoyable as the Djinn, his presence and delivery help you to buy in to this magical creature. However, what works less well is the relationship between them. You never believe there is some great love story developing.

The film is a little uneven, but there is a charm to the story telling and it is beautifully presented on screen. Elba and Swinton are both watchable, even if together it doesn’t quite gel. I did buy into its storytelling and enjoyed it but some will probably find it too disjointed to enjoy.

Beast

Director Baltasar Korm├íkur brings Jaime Primak Sullivan’s story to the screen in this man versus beast adventure. Idris Elba is Nate Samuels, on a trip to South Africa with his two young girls Mere (Iyana Halley) and Norah (Leah Sava Jeffries) to visit the birth home of their recently deceased mum. There they meet old family friend Martin (Sharlto Copley) who runs the game reserve and helps on the frontline against poachers. When they all head out on a tour of the reserve, they make a very disturbing find. It looks like a lion attack but not by any type of Lion Martin has ever seen before. But they all will soon meet him as their trip turns into a battle for survival.

It is clear when we meet Nate’s daughter who is dressed in a Jurassic Park t-shirt, what we are getting, it’s a humans against killing machine in a very paint by numbers survival story.

It ticks all of the tropes. We have broken relationships, Nate and his daughters. Loss with the girls and their mum and regret as Nate looks back at a failed marriage and missed chances with his daughters. You need all of that to get some recuse and redemption. But that, alongside a question about whether it’s right to deal with poachers in any way, are only brief distractions from its main reason for been, a lion led chase through the jungle.

Don’t misunderstand me, this is not terrible. Why? Because Korm├íkur knows exactly what he wants Beast to be and discards anything that may get in the way and that’s perfectly fine. In fact I admired that about it.

There are other good things too. The chase scenes are well done and the story brilliantly builds tension, even if it partly builds it with the endless stupid decisions the characters make. The CGI lions work as well, you know they are effects, but work well nonetheless.

Beast is very predictable and disposable, it’s Jaws with lions and jungles and less intellect. But it is fun and fires along at pace moving swiftly between set pieces without letting story get in the way. It’s not great, but it knows what it is and it commits to it and has fun on the way.

Me Time

John Hamberg writes and directs this new Netflix “comedy”. Kevin Hart is Sonny a dedicated husband and father, who does the important job of bringing up the kids, and running the home to support his wife Maya’s (Regina Hall) successful career as an architect. Sonny is more than happy, however, when his best friend Huck (Mark Wahlberg) gets in touch asking him to join him for his 44th birthday, he finds himself pressured by his wife to go do it and take some me time, so she can get some time with the kids. The thing is when he gets with Huck things get crazy and when he is convinced that one of Maya’s clients is making a move on her. He and Huck fight back, which does, unsurprisingly, not go to plan.

There is an idea that Netflix make films based on their algorithms. Well if that’s true and it creates Me Time, you need a new algorithm. The theory of it is fine. Hart, Wahlberg and Hall are all good comedic performers, so if you put them in a story structure that has worked before (many times before!) then it will work, right? Wrong, you get rubbish like this.

You know almost immediately where this is going and how badly it’s going to struggle getting there. Hart, Wahlberg and Regina Hall are all reprising roles from elsewhere and that’s the problem you’ve just seen it all before. But that’s okay surely it is at least funny, ah if only. There was maybe two laugh out loud moments and one of those is in the trailer.

The plot is non existent or if it exists, despite Hart’s best efforts, I lost interest in trying to figure it out after about 5 minutes.

Me Time is exactly the film you expect. Just the worst version of it. It’s derivative, dull and just not funny. All the main cast play exactly who you expect and have seen them do in other films. To be honest this is so dull, my advice is go watch any other Kevin Hart or Mark Wahlberg film instead, yes any!

Thirteen Lives

Ron Howard directs Dan McPherson and William Nicholson’s dramatisation of the true life story of the rescue of 12 boys and their coach from a Thai cave. The boys and coach (Teeradon Supapunpinyo) head off to a local cave system as part of the birthday celebrations for one of the team. While in the caves unexpected heavy rains start to flood them. When parents become worried about the boys they head to the caves and realise that the flood waters have cut them off. The films tells the story of how, what starts as a local emergency response, becomes a global effort. With an incredible rescue plan, led by British rescue experts Rick Stanton (Vigo Mortensen), John Volanthen (Colin Farrell) and Australian doctor Harry Harris (Joel Edgerton).

The issue with well known stories like this, is how do you keep the audience engaged? Luckily Ron Howard has experience of doing just that and does a fantastic job of bringing this truly remarkable story to the screen.

The rescue itself took 14 days, so Howard has to be very lean within 147 minutes of storytelling. But he uses this to his advantage as he moves from one tense snippet to another gripping you from the very beginning through to the stories incredible climax.

While the script can be a little clunky, the star studded cast are almost invisible as they vanish into these incredibly brave and skilled rescuers. No big performances, just lots of wonderfully balanced ones, letting the calm heroics shine threw.

The cinematography strikingly recreates the horrific conditions that the boys and rescuers had to deal, dragging you through every tense, underwater challenge.

Even though I knew how the story played out, incredibly the film kept me hooked right until the end, just to be sure!

Ron Howard has form bringing incredibly dramatic real life tales to screen and does it again. Capturing every moment of the tension and fear of the boys and families and doing justice to the bravery and ingenuity needed to rescue them. Available on Amazon Prime, take a deep breath and dive in.

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