Tag Archives: Crime

Review The Girl in the Spiders Web by Jonathan Evans

(4 / 5)

The cases of Lisbeth Slander, The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo, are not for the faint of heart or the for people that lack the ability to pay attention to the details happening on-screen. They are sharp, modern Gothic thrillers that never go easy on the characters and won’t let leave you feeling too optimistic by the end. As soon as this movie starts there is images and visual hints for the rest of the story at hand, two sisters playing chess together and a spider crawls out from under one of the pieces, their father calls them into his room and he pats some kind of machine, the sister Lisbeth takes her sister by the hand and runs away. On the edge of a balcony, the sister goes back to her father while Lisbeth takes the chance of falling out of a balcony and into the snow.

Then kicks off a wild opening sequence that incorporates key imagery of the movie and launches us into present time. It is unique, memorable and effective.

Filling the big black boots of Lisbeth Salander is Claire Foy. She fit into the leather jacket and trousers well while being given an appropriate punky head of hair. Foy’s true strength comes through when the character says hardly anything, many times in the movie she must process information, or listen intently or clearly be pushing her emotions down.

One day she gets a new assignment from a rich man named Frans Balder (Stephen Merchant), he has created a programme called Firefall which is capable of giving whoever has it full control of any missiles in the world. This, of course, was a terrible idea and only now does he regret making such a thing (say nothing of that this is something out of a Saturday morning cartoon idea). So Lizbeth has another case on her hands.

Lizbeth successfully takes Firefall and a special National Security Agent, Edwin Needham (LaKeith Stanfield), whose priority it is now on Lizbeth’s trail. One night while she is quietly bathing she hears a rummaging and men in masks are in her place and they take the laptop with Firefall and set her place aflame. Being that all this is happening there is, of course, a story here and investigating needs doing so in comes Mikael Blomkvist (Sverrir Gudnason), her lover/partner from the previous stories and head of Millenium Magazine. Along with all these players, there is the crime syndicate called The Spiders with a figure that has a very important connection to Lisbeth’s past.

The original Millenium Trilogy was published posthumously from the author Steig Larsson but alas an endearing character and success mean that nothing is really sacred so the books were continued with different authors. I actually cannot attest to the quality of the book because I have not read them. However, the question is raised about being true to style, characters voice, and message.  This is a world of victimized women, brutality, information is true power and there are either bittersweet or certainly no happy endings.

Being the established tone of this world director Fede Alvarez was a good choice to take the reigns as director. With his remake of Evil Dead and Don’t Breathe, he is a creator that has a talent for creating haunting images and visceral experiences. These are Gothic tales, where moments from the past carry over to the present and such such images must be striking and say something about the story, I won’t describe them, you will see them and understand. Also, there are more than a few visceral encounters throughout and you feel the impact of the punches and bullet shots, with the use of a shaky camera that always knows what to focus on and sharp sound design, hearing every tightening rope, gasping breath and shattering glass.

The whole stories construction is well built. Characters have their own voice, serve their purpose as players in a game, yet you still believe they are real people, there are a MacGuffin and plenty of twists and turns throughout. Though there are just a few times when things play too neatly for Lisbeth and the concept of Firefall is not the most feasible.

Heightening most of the scenes is the score by Roque Banos. He invokes Bernard Herman’s score in Psycho with mostly strings played fast to produce a shrieking effect. Other times he brings in drums to emphasize the rhythm and time sensitivity of the scene at hand.

This world and these characters have become like Sherlock Holmes, Zatoichi, James Bond or Batman. Where it is fertile landscape for stories, though they are distinct and the characters are defined but also malleable enough for other actors, writers, and directors to come in and give their interpretation of the world.

If you are a fan of any of the other movies then this one will also appeal to you. If you care for hard-hitting spy thriller then this one will check all the boxes also. If are a fan of both of those but also care for deeper subject matter in terms of characters and why they do what they do then this one, again is for you, if not then pass on by when you buy your ticket, but if so get right on it!

 

 

Review Widows by Jonathan Evans

(5 / 5)

We have a gang that performs heists together, they all have wives, during one job it goes as bad as it can and now all the members of the gang have widows that must go on without them. A simple and solid set-up that can lend itself to many different end products, what we get is one of the greatest heist movies I have ever seen.

Pretty much as soon as the movie begins you realise you are in the hands of a master. Showing one married couple while startlingly parallel cutting to a disastrous heist that all the husbands are a part of. Already we efficiently have a grasp of who these characters are, how they relate to each other and what the setup is.

The couples are Harry Rawlins (Liam Neeson) and Veronica (Viola Davis), Carlos Perelli (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) and Linda (Michelle Rodriguez), Florek Gunner (Jon Bernthal) and Alice (Elizabeth Debicki). All come from different worlds, are different ethnicities, have different relationships and would certainly never be together by their own choice if we’re not for the job and their husbands.

Their husbands may be gone but the consequences are still waiting for them. Harry stole money from a man named Jamaul Manning (Brian Tyree Henry) a crime boss that is also running for office but still wants his money back, also is his younger brother Jatemme (Daniel Kaluuya) a truly merciless creature that kills and tortures without any sign of sympathy.

Veronica is living in a penthouse and has some things to sell but nowhere near the amount Harry stole, however, he did keep a notebook with detailed notes on how to do every job, including the next one that none of them can perform now but the target and money is still there. All that’s required are people that are willing to do it and have the incentive.

Steve McQueen as a filmmaker has never shied away from the tough subject matter. For his debut made Hunger, about IRA prisoners that slowly die due to a hunger strike, then made Shame about a spiraling sex addict and 12 Years a Slave about a free man taken into slavery. Widows is a solid premise that is actually based off a miniseries in the eighties, which McQueen, along with coscreenwriter Gillian Flynn (who also doesn’t shy away from the tough material) have taken the concept and modernized it as well as shifted the setting to the United States. Within his works, we are always given a variety of techniques, from wide still shots to a scene being played out in closeup and sequences of rapid editing. He also incorporates sound very skillfully, some scenes will play very quietly then there will be a loud bang to cut the peaceful mood, others there will be a continuous sound through to the scene to provide timing and texturing of the scene and mood.

Veronica’s and Harry’s penthouse is a slick modern all-white suite that looks out on the city. Also are most of her clothes (slick, modern and white). When she decides to descend into the world of crime by performing a heist there is the inclusion of some black items of clothing before wearing all black for the job itself. Not the most subtle filmmaking ever but effective is effective.

This is a heist movie. However there are still many variations to be had within a genre, recently I reviewed Oceans 8 and talked about how it had a graceful, smooth camera throughout. Such an approach is appropriate for that movie because it is very Hollywood, about witty talking characters and, glamorous outfits and has an upbeat tone. This is street level with, obvious brutal realities and things can go very wrong very fast. When they do the camera goes to shaky hand-held, this is so we feel like we are there in the midst of the running and the catastrophe.

Widows succeed because like any other genre it is not really about the subject matter but a framing. Godzilla isn’t about a monster but a catastrophe, Apocalypse Now isn’t really about the battles but the mentality of war itself and we are not invested in LOGAN for the action set pieces but the character in that situation. Little of the movie’s runtime is the heist itself, but before we go into it we learn who all the characters are and why they are doing this and what is at stake. It is a story about bold, beautiful, damaged and flawed characters dealing with the very difficult hand life has dealt them.

 

Review Ocean’s 8 by Jonathan Evans

(3 / 5)

When Debbie Ocean is describing her new plan for a heist to her colleague she says that she doesn’t want to rob a bank simply because that is boring. This describes her character as well as the Ocean’s movies as a whole, a simple heist in a location we all know and have seen before isn’t what these movies were conceived for. They are needlessly complicated and ambitious because that is simply more interesting and attractive.

Said job is getting into a special event and getting a one hundred and fifty million dollar necklace to be worn by a movie star Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway) who is hosting the event, stealing the necklace, sell it off and make a profit. Again, just robbing a bank would be so much more simple but also less interesting.

But let’s backtrack. We open with Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) being released from prison and mourning the loss of her brother (who may or may not really be dead), she instantly has a job in mind. She gets in contact with her old buddy Lou (Cate Blanchette), she is enticed and agrees.

In order to pull off the job, a team needs to be assembled, each with a specific set of skills. There’s Amita (Mindy Kaling), an expert in jewellery cutting. Tammy (Sarah Paulson) who is all about shipping hot items. Constance (Awkwafina), a fast-talking, fast hand card player. Nine Ball (Rhianna), a codename for an offbeat hacker. Rose Weil (Helena Bonham Carter), a washed-up fashion designer. Each of them has a purpose to serve and fills in certain character type within the movie.

With movies about plans, a certain chunk of the movie is about explaining the plan to both the team and the audience about how it’s supposed to go. Then it is put into action and either something goes dramatically wrong, something shakes it up, or it only seems to have gone wrong but really it all went off without a hitch. There wouldn’t be much suspense if all went smoothly, at some point, there has to be a piece that isn’t going as they intended.

Director and writer Gary Ross brings a sharp, smooth mentality to the choreography of the camera movement. It slickly moves through the sets and with the cameras and with mostly long takes with a few snappy closeups. This is the way to shoot a movie like this, the characters are confident and talk fast, you want the language of the camera to reflect the well thought out and choreographed nature. If it was handheld and shaky then it would give a rocky, chaotic feel it, which would be a mistake.

You don’t need to see the other Ocean’s movies to enjoy this one. There is a certain amount of emphasis on Debbies brother and if you are at least aware that there are other Ocen’s movies then you’ll get it but seeing them is not mandatory. I myself have only ever seen the first movie (Ocean’s 11) and found this movie stood on its own merits fine.

This movie seeks to entertain by doing things a little grander and with more pizazz. It reinvents nothing and accomplishes nothing to great feats. But there is talent in front and behind the camera and both gel well enough to warrant a watch for fun’s sake.

 

Review Not Dead Enough, New Theatre Cardiff by Jane Bissett

 

(5 / 5)

NOT DEAD ENOUGH

Review by Third Act Critic, Jane Bissett

NOT DEAD ENOUGH – if ever there was a understatement for a title of a play this is it. This adaptation, although from a book of the same title, was a very much alive, fast moving drama which moved at a pace that ensured the audience was running alongside, wanting more but never left behind.

Peter James is an acclaimed author of crime fiction and Not Dead Enough is the third book in a series of 13 featuring DS Roy Grace. As a writer of crime fiction James has researched extensively interviewing convicted murderers and has a great insight into the criminal mind and indeed that of the seasoned detective. As an avid reader I am always in awe of the person who has the ability and imagination to adapt a book for the stage but Shaun McKenna has this cracked. He has done an outstanding job of bringing the story to life in the most believable way and I am sure with the approval of the novelist, Peter James.

All credit to an amazing Creative Team of; Director, Designer, Lighting, Sound, Production, Costume and Props who have created an environment before us of a Pathology Laboratory, a Police Station and an outside scene where it is as easily believable as the more sophisticated setting of the lab. In fact the staging of this production is the key to its ability to draw the audience into the world that James’ has created for us.

It is difficult to talk about the story line without giving away too much. If you have read James’ novels then you will be familiar with DS Grace and know him already and you will be entranced as the James’ characters are brought to life before you.

I guarantee this crime thriller will have you on the edge of your seat. Indeed at one point the gentleman sat next to me exclaimed out loud, in reaction to DS Grace searching for something, “It’s not in the box!” clearly this audience member was totally immerced in the investigation, as were we all.

All productions have their leading roles however, in Not Dead Enough all the characters were of equal importance to the storyline and you would be easily convinced that they were police officers who had worked together for years not actors playing a role.

However, that said I have to mention Gemma Stroyan who played Bella Moy and Gemma Atkins who played Sophie Harington.

Stroyan gave us a confident portrayal of a female police officer which was seamlessly believable at every level, comfortable in her skin and confident in what she was about. I would like to think that maybe James would take her character in the future and promote her to the central character in her own novel(s).

Atkins also gave a polished performance as Harington keeping us guessing about who she really was and what (if anything) she was really up to.

During the interval the auditorium was alive with chatter and theatre goers were talking not only amongst themselves and also with neighbouring audience members as to what they thought was going on, who had done what and making predictions about how it was all going to conclude.

Like DS Grace, I wanted to believe the main suspect, but how could we?! What was the evidence showing us? Who was safe? Who was next? WHAT WAS GOING ON?!

It would be wrong for me to tell you more but be aware it is not over till it’s over and even then not all the questions will have answers.

At curtain call the volume of the applause was only just that above the whistles of approval. This is an unmissable crime thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat and wanting more all the way until the end.

I for one will be looking more closely at James’ novels and perhaps it will be my summer reading for 2017.

And for the record, on the way out people were still chatting and animated about what they had just seen.

NOT DEAD ENOUGH plays at Cardiff’s New Theatre from;
Tuesday 13 June – Saturday 17 June at 7.30pm
On Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday there are performances at 2.30pm.
For further details about the show or to book tickets call the Box Office on 02920878889.