The Game


Viewed – 22 August 2017  Blu-ray

20th Anniversary Edition

As an admirer of director David Fincher, this thriller from 1997 was one of those movies I’d forgotten he’d actually made.  At the time still riding high after the success of Seven, this rather high-concept but somewhat under-the-radar effort proved an obvious follow up; throwing in all the traits we’d come to expect from the director – bags of style, a twisting narrative and an attention to detail that has him often compared to Stanley Kubrick.

The-Game

Michael Douglas stars as wealthy businessman Nicholas Van Orton, a guy who seemingly has it all but is ultimately cold and miserable.  That is until on the day of his birthday, his brother, played by Sean Penn gives him the gift of ‘the game’.  Baffled and intrigued at the same time, Nicholas agrees to attend an interview at the organization responsible … and so sets into motion a unique thriller that clearly borrows from the likes of Hitchcock as Nicholas struggles to stay one step ahead of an increasingly bizarre series of events.

I’ve always liked Michael Douglas and he’s very good here, proving complex and likable for a character that is otherwise mean spirited and selfish.  Penn hams it up a little bit but proves enjoyable and Deborah Kara Unger is also decent.  The idea itself is great but ultimately isn’t fully realised and despite Fincher’s assured direction and best intentions … it could have gone further, been more elaborate but sticks rigidly to plausibility for the most part (despite throwing all that out the window for the final act).  Not one of Fincher’s best but still worth a look or revisiting for the concept or if you’re a fan of either Douglas or Fincher.

The Blu-ray boasts a quality image despite the occasionally soft-looking exterior or wide angle shots.  Close-up detail is good and dark scenes offer plenty of detail.  The movie is delivered in DTS Master Audio 5.1 and is for the most part punchy and immersive, even if in certain scenes dialogue gets a little lost in the atmospherics.  Extras consist of merely a couple of trailers – very poor, but perhaps not surprising for one of the director’s more over-looked movies.

Verdict:

(the movie)  3.5 /5

(the Blu-ray) 3 /5

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Life


Viewed – 15 August 2017  online rental

Science-fiction has become one of my favourite genres, with such gems as The Martian and Interstellar impressing me.  There seems to have been a bit of a resurgence in such movies, albeit stepping away from the flights of fantasy we’ve seen and instead focusing on a more semi-realistic tone.  The same can be said for this latest space-set thriller starring amongst others, Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds.

Life

A team of astronauts orbiting the earth reprieve a probe that has been on it’s way back from Mars, and discover a life form within it’s gathered soil samples.  Nurturing said life form in an incubator, the astronauts try to figure out how it responds and whether it’s harmless or deadly.  I’m guessing you probably know the answer to that one, huh?

I got a serious Alien vibe from this but stripped down to actual realistic space travel and science rather than H R Giger inspired horror aesthetics.   The creature, nicknamed Calvin is initially cute but eventually shudder creepy-crawly, and as the scientists attempt to contain it, this set into action some seriously well done thrills.  It’s not a subject that breathes new life into a tired genre but it’s done well, has some genuinely heart-in-mouth moments and is topped off by decent effects work (but for the occasional obvious CGI monster) and great set design that transported me right there … and I didn’t want to be there.  Gyllenhaal, considering his usual brilliance is a little side-lined and the star of this turns out to be Rebecca Ferguson who is very good.  Ryan Reynolds seems like he’s just playing Ryan Reynolds, but the rest of the cast do a decent job.  It’s also a movie, despite it’s familiarity that still managed to keep me gripped and wondering how it might end, and in this day and age that has to be commended.

Verdict:  4 /5

The Girl on the Train


Viewed – 05 August 2017  DVD

This is the latest movie adaptation of a best selling novel that seems to be a bit of a trend lately, what with similar suburban-set books like Gone Girl previously getting the movie treatment.  With such things we get the usual, tired reports of ‘its not as good as the book’ yadda yadda.  I am not a big reader so approached this from generally favourable word of mouth and the fact it has Emily Blunt in it.

Girl on the Train

Blunt plays Rachel, an alcoholic who never got over the failure of her marriage and spends most of her life obsessing over her ex-husband’s new relationship and trying to deal with a growing jealousy.  Blunt is one of those dependable actresses, and is incredibly convincing here and after she suffers a black-out following an attack in a tunnel, starts to piece together a mystery involving her ex-husband’s missing nanny.  Offering up plenty of red herrings and clues as to what actually happened … with an alcoholic as the lead anything that is recalled is of course open to question.  So this made for a rather different take on the who-dunnit than I anticipated..  Add to this decent turns from The Hobbit’s Luke Evans and Justin Theroux and I found myself thoroughly entertainment.   Helps that I really felt for Rachel’s plight.

It goes out of it’s way to cleverly fool the viewer and mislead, which was initially confusing, but came together effectively even if I felt rather stupid for not guessing the outcome.  An easy  recommendation.

Verdict:  4 /5

Get Out


Viewed – 01 August 2017  Online-rental

I kept hearing very good things about this relatively under-the-radar horror-thriller so thought I’d check it out.  A black guy goes to spend the weekend with his white girlfriend’s family but not long after arriving he starts to feel there is something rather strange about these people.  Is it simply paranoia or is there really something sinister afoot?

Get Out

Think of this like a more seriously creepy version of Meet The Parents.  I quickly began to get absorbed by the concept and the racial tension take was refreshing.  British actor Daniel Kaluuya (Psychoville) proves an effective lead and support from Catherine Keener and Allison Williams were also decent.  It’s what makes this work so well; a strong cast and a foreboding, well handled sense of dread and eeriness.  The eventual revelation of what is really going on is also pretty damn disturbing.  Comic relief from motor-mouthed newcomer LilRel Howery felt a little out of place but still kind of worked and although not a horror in the traditional sense, this holds up a compelling reflection of modern racism and social classes that is surprisingly scary and probably still relevant.

It descends into typical horror survival territory towards the end despite maintaining a freaky atmosphere (with echoes of The Wicker Man).  However, along with good use of foreshadowing, solid performances and leaving this viewer with plenty to think about post-credits …  this remains one to see.

Verdict:  4 /5

War for the Planet of the Apes


Viewed – 14 July 2017  Cinema

Following an invasion of their home by a military force, ape leader Caesar (Andy Serkis) vows revenge and sets off to hunt down Woody Harrelson’s ruthless Colonel with a small group of fellow apes.  Along the way they stumble upon a young mute girl who may be evidence of a mutated strain of the disease that has already killed off most of mankind.

war-planet-apes

A decidedly strange experience.  I went into this with very high expectations and have to say what I got was a different movie than I was anticipating.  It has the word ‘war’ in the title but it’s not the humans vs. apes smack down the last movie set us up for.  Instead it explores an on-going conflict set at ‘war time’ between said apposing military force and the still attempting to live in peace apes.  However what we do have is once again a movie with a great deal of heart, some very touching character moments, themes of loyalty, family and friendship as well as a little comic relief in the form of an ageing lone ape who turns up half way through.  We get a lengthy prisoner-of-war sequence that is brilliantly played out with echoes of The Great Escape, and some decent action although nothing on par with the last two movies.  This one’s less about explosions and spectacle and more about the search for a safe haven and a potential future, even if that future is hopeless for humans.  As a conclusion (?) to the trilogy, it feels a tad uneventful and drags in places, and that ending was rather a damp squib.

Yet for fans like myself this is still solid entertainment.  It’s superbly acted with again top marks going to Serkis, whilst Harrelson delivers a fine villain.  It’s also absolutely stunning to look at (can these apes get any more real?) aided by plenty of personality and bags of emotion.  I just suppose by a third movie, I was expecting more not … less.

Verdict:  4 /5