Jake Gyllenhaal is probably my favourite actor at the moment, so anything he stars in will grab my attention. This latest has him as a troubled LAPD cop doing a night shift at a 911 call centre. When he receives a call from a frightened sounding woman giving the impression she’s been abducted, he decides to make it his mission to save her.
This is one of those single location movies, and I have often felt despite the limitations of the concept, these can be more engrossing that you might expect. The same can be said here, with a focused, intense script cleverly putting the viewer into various situations where they have to picture a scene or characters only going by a voice or how Gyllenhaal’s character interacts with them. It’s very effective and I’m guessing will be different for each viewer, with them having different ideas of what certain characters look like etc. It’s a way of telling a story that lives or dies based on how much attention you pay and how you picture events you don’t get to see. Thankfully, Director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) squeezes every ounce of tension and drama out of the idea, so that the your efforts are worth it.
Jake Gyllenhaal again is excellent, delivering a complex character with more than a few problems of his own. I certainly sympathised with him even if some of his actions are occasionally questionable. So I came away from this rather impressed … and quite emotionally worn out. A must watch.
There’s not many new ideas in the horror genre, but on reading up on this slasher take on Freaky Friday from the Director of the equally unique Happy Death Day, I thought I’d give it a go. A serial killer has been stalking a small town and offing teens. So the local kids are a bit nervous. During one after-school party however, social outcast Millie finds herself the killer’s latest target when her mother forgets to come and collect her. However after being attacked, something strange happens, and despite surviving the encounter, following morning Millie wakes up to discover – she’s swapped bodies with the killer.
A great idea, making for a fun little slasher comedy-horror. After the body swap occurs, Vince Vaughn as the masked killer gets to play decidedly camp and is clearly having a ball. Kathryn Newton as Millie in serial killer mode is basically The Terminator, portrayed fairly one-dimensional. We get some entertaining kills, plenty of energy and a decent soundtrack. Yet the movie is also one of a glut of ‘woke’ message movies of late, particularly portraying the concept of male masculinity as something evil or wrong… sigh. It’s again very forced and completely unnecessary. However I still had fun with this.
I’d have liked some back story for Vaughn’s killer, especially how he knows about the mystical knife that causes the body swap, but anyone looking for depth should probably go elsewhere. Overall this was dumb, occasionally gory, frequently funny entertainment that’s still worth a watch … but is unlikely to become a classic of the genre.
The latest outing for Ian Fleming’s famed spy, Daniel Craig reprises his role as the iconic James Bond for the fifth and reportedly final time. Following on from the last movie, Spectre – this finds a now retired Bond living life with new wife Madeline. However after choosing to help out old CIA friend Felix – Bond unexpectedly uncovers a new threat to the world.
What we get here certainly follows the usual blueprint … the tricked out car, gunfights, beautiful women, stunning locales. However we also get a great deal of character moments, with Daniel Craig impressing in not only the role of the hero, but as a human being. It’s probably his most layered performance as the character. He’s also aided well by a very good Lea Seydoux as Madeline, Ralph Feinnes’ M and a scene-stealing Ana De Armas as a plucky fellow agent. However a particular stand out is Rami Malek’s very creepy villain.
The main plot is fairly typical and Malek’s motives not all that interesting – and certain bold plot developments didn’t sit right with me. Also Billie Eilish’s theme song is just awful. Yet with a greater focus on character and emotion than I think there’s ever been previously, as well as a fun subplot surrounding a rival female agent… this delivered a great deal of heart and personality amongst the pyrotechnics. A worthy swan-song for Craig as the famed spy and a highly enjoyable, often surprising Bond movie at same time. Check it out.
A sound engineer named Jack, working for a small time movie company stumbles upon a conspiracy after witnessing what at first looks to be a freak car accident whilst out recording sounds. However after rescuing a woman he finds in the crashed car, he reviews his recording and realises someone must have shot the vehicle’s tire, and it wasn’t simply a ‘blow out’.
John Travolta stars as Jack, in this thriller directed by Brian De Palma (The Untouchables, Dressed To Kill). This was an absorbing story, with a very good Travolta, aided by De Palma regular Nancy Allen. What grabbed me instantly was De Palma’s direction – he uses split screen, imaginative camera work and clever editing to their fullest to deliver a very unique look and feel. Alongside movies like Carrie this is probably up their with the director’s best. The murder-mystery plot is also a fascinating one, but does get a bit silly at times, with a slightly uneven tone. An extended chase towards the end, whilst creative and visually impressive, also stretches plausibility.
However this was above all else really entertaining, aided by solid performances (including a memorable John Lithgow) and pacey, stylish direction that makes for a firm recommendation from me.
The Blu-ray from the U.K. division of The Criterion Collection has a newly restored image that has plenty of detail. It’s a bit overly dark in night scenes and there’s a lot of grain, but for a movie released in 1981 it’s in great shape. The soundtrack in DTS HD Master Audio is very clear with only occasional echoing in certain dialogue scenes. The soundtrack, one of the movies highlights is very effective throughout. Extras consist of several interviews amongst new and archive material. There’s also a behind the scenes photo gallery and a detailed booklet with an essay by critic Michael Sragow. I’d have loved a commentary but sadly there isn’t one. Other that that this is a great package and a must for fans.
Ryan Reynolds is quickly becoming my go-to actor for decent comedy these days, especially following his two hilarious turns as Deadpool. This latest outing has him as video game character ‘Guy’ who leads his life blissfully unaware he’s inside a game. However when a female character catches his eye, causing him to break free from his programming, he stumbles upon a programmers quest to uncover some stolen code hidden with the game world.
This vibrant and immediately enthralling concept really captures the wacky style of game worlds like Fortnite and Grand Theft Auto, whilst at the same time blending the concept of Ready Player One with The Truman Show. Reynolds is perfect as the loveable ‘Guy’ and is aided by a great pairing with Killing Eve’s Jodie Comer, as the real-world programmer and gamer who’s avatar in the game world is a gun wielding badass. Every second there’s something new to spot, references to music, games and pop-culture and although it may not be consistently funny, mostly down to a deliberate over-the-top approach, for me it’s was still a joy to sit through and take in.
Taika Waititi’s main villain does grate quickly and despite him being a character in the real world, his performance is very video-gamey. It is also a tad too sugar-coated as it ends, but these are small gripes in what is otherwise a genuinely fun time. Check it out.
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