Brain on Fire


Viewed – 04 July 2018  Netflix

It would be easy for some to pass off this Netflix original movie as just another TV-movie style ‘illness of the week’ effort … but that would be doing it a disservice. A powerful and gripping true story that has the always likeable Chloe Grace Moretz, who plays plucky young reporter Susannah who is living the dream; ideal job, the musician boyfriend and all.  That is until some strange symptoms rear their head sending her into a downward spiral.

Brain On Fire

With the ‘mystery illness’ at the centre and thoroughly believable performances not only from Moretz who delivers possibly a career best, but also a support cast that includes the often underrated Carrie Ann Moss as her mother … this made me feel so affected not just by Susannah’s struggle but also that of her estranged parents, boyfriend and work colleagues.  Watching a family come together but also feel so helpless was utterly heart-breaking.

With solid direction from relative newcomer Gerard Barrett and particularly effective use of sound to portray some of Susannah’s symptoms – this is one of those movies best approached knowing little about it and letting the mystery unfold.  The only negative remains a somewhat sugar-coated ending that glosses over certain struggles. However, for a woefully dismissed movie critically, I have to say ignore such opinions and give this little gem your immediate attention.

Verdict:  4 /5

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The Equalizer


Viewed – 14 February 2017  Netflix

I really don’t know what’s taken me so long to get around to this.  It’s Denzel Washington in a remake of the much loved cult TV show that starred the late Edward Woodward.  Now, I can’t say I’m all that familiar with the show, but Denzel killing bad guys never gets old.  So here he plays a mundane blue collar guy who works in a hardware store and by night frequents a diner to read books and swap small talk with the local troubled young prostitute (Chloe Grace Meretz).  Now before you make the leap that I did that this was more Taxi Driver than anything else, firstly you wouldn’t be far wrong but said blue collar guy also possesses mad skills as demonstrated when he goes up against a gang of Russian mobsters after said prostitute winds up in hospital.  So less the social commentary and more a strong case of picking on the wrong guy, ala John Wick, Leon etc.

The-Equalizer

What this lacks in originality it more than makes up for with several solid performances and well choreographed action and some brutal violence that makes every stabbing, every punch and every broken bone really hit home.  Denzel is on great form, charismatic and deadly and plays the duel ‘everyman’ and ‘trained killer’ personas effortlessly.  This is aided well my a scenery chewing, stand out turn from Marton Csokas as the man called in to solve the problems Denzel creates.  Moretz is also good if a little underused for a large portion of the movie, but every scene she’s in is decent, with clear echoes of Jodie Foster.

Sad then that in the final act, a very stupid decision by the supposedly intelligent bad guy lets the show down and plausibility is stretched as the movie tries to tie everything up in a neat bow, regardless if it rings true or not.  Which is a shame because Antoine (Training Day) Fuqua’s movie is otherwise stylish, thrilling and confident … and a helluva lot of fun.  If this was the 80’s and it was Arnie or Stallone, I could forgive such developments, but cemented in a fairly believable world, I didn’t think the ending worked in the context of what had come before.  That said, this is still worth your time, especially if you’re a fan of Denzel Washington.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

Carrie


Viewed – 15 April 2014  online rental

It’s difficult to really say what we as movie lovers actually want from a remake.  In my opinion they have usually only worked when the source material is ropey or lacking in the first place, with some exceptions of course.  So now we come to what was possibly one of my most dreaded rehashes.  First mistake – remake a bonafide classic of the genre, Brian De Palma’s 1976 adaptation of Stephen King’s debut novel.  Second mistake – the casting of pretty starlet Chloe Grace Moretz, something I have ranted about here on this very blog.

Carrie

But brushing such fears aside, what is it actually like?  Well let’s back track a little and tell you what we have here.  Moretz plays lonely, bullied high school kid Carrie White, who lives in the shadow of her god-fearing, domineering mother (Julianne Moore) and pretty much tries to go unnoticed … until that is she gets her period in the school showers and becomes a cruel laughing stock to everyone who witnesses it.  But hey, Prom Night is on the horizon, so things can only get better … right?

Let’s just say straight away, I was wrong about Chloe Grace Moretz.  She is actually surprisingly convincing as the outcast Carrie, something I didn’t see coming and hey I’ll admit when I am wrong.  She portrays the iconic role previously played by Sissy Spacek very well indeed, and even seems to have grown somewhat as an actress in the process.  The second slam dunk is Julianne Moore – absolutely perfect as Carrie’s demented bible-quoting mother, and does the impossible by equalling the performance of the excellent Piper Laurie – possibly the true highlight of the original.  The rest of the cast aren’t quite so interesting; we get the token popular girl who grows a conscience, the bully who basically is like every other bitch in such movies, and the do-gooder gym teacher … all not adding much.  Director Kimberly Pierce however is clearly well-traversed in De Palma’s movie and this is basically a very close never-really-daring-to-try-anything-new sort of remake – although when the original pretty much hit all the right notes, that can be (mostly) forgiven.

Some bits are drawn out (the car sequence…), there’s too much CGI and the final prom bit fails to go for the jugular … oh and sorry Chloe you don’t look scary covered in blood.  Yet this was still better than I expected.  Worth a look.

Verdict:  3 /5

Everything right and wrong about Chloe Grace Moretz


chloe_moretz_14-wide

Now before you think this is going to be some sort of character assassination post … I personally am a fan of this talented young actress.  I thought she stole the show in the movie Kick-Ass, a role that deservedly launched her to stardom.  Yet the next thing I saw her in was a remake of the excellent Swedish vampire flick ‘Let The Right One In’.

chloe-moretz-let-me-in_edited  lina leanderson

Now the problem I have with such role choices she seems to be making (or her agent is) is that following a relatively daring turn in Kick-Ass the logical next step is to turn to horror roles?  Erm, why?  In the original movie they chose a pale, gothic looking actress in the form of Lina Leandersson (right) and it was perfect.  Why was Moretz wrong for the remake?  She’s too cute and pretty to believably come off as a vampire that’s hundreds of years old!  No I say!  That and many other mistakes the questionable retitled ‘Let Me In’ made.  Yet for some reason her agent (or herself) repeated this casting error with the recent remake of ‘Carrie’.

carrie

I haven’t actually seen this movie although I plan to, but again she’s replacing an actress (Sissy Spacek – right) who was cast for her plain, wall-flower look, and again Moretz is too pretty for the role!  This is meant to be a bullied, picked on character … and I imagine Moretz would be fairly popular in school!   I may be wrong about this but it made me immediately doubt the credibility of the performance and the subsequent reviews seem to support my theory.

Now look at her in a movie like Hugo, perfect … quirky, cute and likable – even returning to Kick-Ass 2 will undoubtedly work I’d imagine (another one of my to-watch movies).  So I sincerely hope that in the future Chloe Grace Moretz starts going after roles that suit her look and style, not dark horror roles better suited to dark, gothic actresses … perhaps its cool she has such diverse career opportunities, and she has the talent, is funny, charming and deserves to do well … just perhaps leave the remakes alone unless you’re really right for the character, huh?