Tag Archives: dark

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 Overlord by Jonathan Evans

(3 / 5)

Nazis are great, easy villains. They have a simple, distinct name, have an iconic look and logo so can be easily visually recognized as well as overenunciated accents. Plus they obviously committed such atrocities that they lend themselves to any deplorable situation, whether it be factual or some fantastical, made up scenario. This movie is the latter.

Overlord is not a movie like Apocalypse Now, Paths of Glory or Platoon where you come away from it with a unique view of war as well as the human condition. No, it is like running the gauntlet of video game levels where characters are simple, the explanation is minimal and about the experience. From boss fight, the sneaking around to full-on shooters this is like a really cool video game you won’t get to play but is still really cool to watch.

Little time is wasted, as soon as the movie starts we are in a plane filled with paratrooper ready to be dropped into their mission. Said mission is to destroy a radio tower, in France, that is blocking communication for American soldiers which makes it difficult. Bullets start popping up from below them so now it’s time to jump out.

On the ground, some survive the journey down and others don’t. Who we do have is Ed Boyce (Jovan Adepo) one who is possible too gentle a soul to face the harshness of this war, Captain Ford a very experienced, no-nonsense soldier that has a Kurt Russell swagger about him (convenient because he is his son), Tibbet (John Magaro) a wisecracking sniper that is by no means sensitive or an optimist, Chase (Ian De Caestecker) a photographer, Dawson (Jacob Anderson) that wants to write a book about all his experiences after the war and Rosenfield (Dominic Applewhite) Boyce’s friend.

During the course of the movie characters die, I don’t mean the Nazi’s themselves or some random character that was introduced for a minute then gets their brains blown out, I mean the core group that we get introduced to. We get to know them, they have their characteristics and some happen at different points in the movie. These people aren’t invincible and it adds to the action because now we know there are in fact stakes. I consider myself to be wise to the usual way conventional movies playout and there were some surprises to me so there may be some for you too.

When we get under the radio base we learn that there is much more going on that blocking signals. They are using some hidden element and using it to raise the dead. Yes, that’s right, Zombies! In fact Nazi Zombies! But not the Romero dumb, slow walking ones, these seem to remain intelligent but are driven mad because of the heat and are imbued with great strength, feel no pain and are no easily killed at all (then again what zombies are?).

This is stylized action and depictions of the war. The explosions are VERY loud and the soldiers don’t ever seem to suffer the consequences of being rather near an explosion (except the ones that die). Also whenever someone is shot there is half a bucket of blood that is thrown out from the other side. It’s not at the level of a Tarantino movie, but it’s near it, most likely inspired by it.

During the sequence where – sneaks into the base, I realized that the camera was just following him around and the story was being told through visuals. This is the movies Hitchcock scene, usually, these kinds of movies don’t have much faith in their audience to keep their attention beyond gunfights and yelling dialog, but in this scene, it shuts up and embraces the cinematic, visual storytelling element of cinema. This isn’t necessarily a great scene, but it is much more than what I would have expected.

When all is over the war is still going on and some characters survive which opens it up for a sequel which will most likely happen

 

Review The Secret of Marrowbone by Jonathan Evans

Horror works best when the frightening moments are left in the blank spaces. We can have scream’s and see horrific sights but the elements that truly grip us are what we do not see or the things that go by unexplained and we are left to conjure the terrifying within our own minds. The Secret of Marrowbone uses this as the launching point to hook us as audience members and keep us watching through the experience.

A family enters a run-down old mansion way out in the middle of the countryside. The mother marks a line in the dust and says once they cross it all things before will be forgotten and this is their new start, especially Father. The family is Jack (George MacKay) the eldest at twenty years old, Billy (Charlie Heaton) the angsty younger brother, Jane (Mia Goth) the peacemaker and little Sam (Mathew Stagg). They live in the house under the name Marrowbone, fix up the house and have a fun time, one day out all of the children meet Allie (Anya Taylor-Joy). Meanwhile, the mother is getting sicker and sicker and eventually passes. If her death is known before Jack turns twenty-one the children will be put into care so it has to remain a secret. One peaceful day a shot comes through the window, Jane looks through and there is a man standing across the house, she yells, Jack runs and then it cuts to months later. This is where the movie truly begins.

Now it is months later and all the mirrors have either been removed or covered in sheets, there is a large red stain on the ceiling and they all speak of a ghost in the loft. Only Jack is allowed to venture into town for the essentials.

While in town one day he meets up with Allie and they clearly want to be together, however also on the scene is Tom (Kyle Soller) a lawyer that is also interested in Allie and is seeing to the Marrowbonbe’s affairs.

The cast is one of the most solid elements of the movie. Everyone fills a certain role but they are able to reach different emotional levels, from being passive aggressive to full rage. The standout is Anya Taylor-Joy, who brings such realized, caring nature to the performance.

Some of the most effective moments of the movie are the sequences of fright. We all know them, dark room, something’s in there, and somethings gonna go boo! But this movie times its shots very well and there is an appropriate amount of buildup to them. The most effective element is that there are moments when something can happen and all the air gets sucked out of the room for a few moments. Sometimes something does go boo, others nothing happens so we are always left guessing.

Within these moments are tender ones though, moments of the family having fun, joking. An entirely doom and gloom movie would ultimately become a purely depressing experience, contrast needs to happen.

By the end of the movie, all is revealed. Perhaps if all wasn’t it would be a better movie, but I digress. It took me a bit to go over some of the details that didn’t sit right with me immediately when everything was revealed but after going over it it does all hold up well.

The Secret of Marrowbone cuts deep by leaving you not knowing when it will cut or even what by. When it does it is sharp and efficient. It has a heart, which many horror movies lack, comes with a talented and invested cast and understands the mechanics of the genre very well.

Rating: 4 stars

Review Hereditary by Jonathan Evans

“I was watching Poltergeist last month, I got a question. Why don’t white people just leave when there’s a ghost in the house?”

-Eddie Murphy

(1 / 5)

This isn’t the main problem, but it is one of the many that plagues Hereditary.

Horror is a medium that at it’s best reveals our deepest insecurities and troubles as people. This movie means nothing and simply seeks to gross and horrify us with, the images and sounds it slaps us with.

We open with a house and inside it is a family that is preparing for a funeral. It is the grandmother who has died and the mother, Annie, is dreading the ordeal. Meanwhile on the side is her daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro) that keeps to herself, draws in her sketchbook and makes a clicking noise with her mouth. The son Peter is a pretty normal, apathetic teenager. We learn that Annie’s mother was very nice at all during her life and won’t be missed now she’s passed. But just because she’s passed doesn’t she’s done tormenting her daughter and grandchild and all sorts of strange things start happening from here on.

You get to a point where you’ve seen enough movies to have an understanding of typical genre movies. In comedy, you tell when there will be a misunderstanding or a bit of slapstick. Horror is one where you know if there is blank space on the screen then something will move or jump out, or when there will be a build-up to something and nothing will happen only for the character to take a breath and that is when the thing goes boo! This movie is guilty of being predictable. I could tell how the scenes were going to play as soon as they started.

For some of it you don’t know where it’s going then you don’t care because all it’s doing is stitching one gross-out, disturbing moment with the next to give you a tapestry of horror. It doesn’t, it’s just annoying.

In the recent years, we have gotten some original voices and experiences in horror movies. Like, Don’t Breathe, Mother!, Get Out, A Cure for Wellness, A Quiet Place, Unsane and The Babadook. All of these movies tap into a core fear that individuals feel or the problem of people as a whole and have a whole vision. These movies will be remembered, this one will be forgotten.

It is easy to overlook the acting when the concept doesn’t work or the writing is garbage. But this movie does have actors that genuinely good performances. Toni Collette as Annie truly and clearly conveys terror across her face, I believe she is scared in these situations. Likewise, Alex Wolff has to be a few things over the course of the movie and does them all well. What a shame that these talented people and all their effort go into a big pile of garbage like this.

 

This movie is not boring, it is however frustrating. Frustrating in how it uses the most simple, stupidest tolls to scare you, when it doesn’t, it just goes boo! Frustrating that all these actors and crew had to waste their time on a rotten project. Horror is a brilliant genre that can reveal things about ourselves, not this, it’s just a waste.

 

Review Avengers: Infinity War by Jonathan Evans

 

(5 / 5)

 

Avengers was the accumulation of years of planning and character development that had originally started in 2008’s Iron Man. It wasn’t the first to bring multiple characters together from other movies but this was the one that clearly had a plan, each character got their own movie so they could all be here and gathered together. In the end, it made a promise of a villain that there was more. Infinity War is the payoff.

Now, ten years later and eighteen movies we have arrived at where the plan was apparently alway to be. Many heroes, many different locations, visuals, effects, moments etc. This movie takes everything in the toy box and throws it at us and introduces new ones while doing so.

Only recently has MARVEL done better in having better villains in their movies. But most of them weren’t really serious threats, they were scene chewing, fun bad guys. Thanos (Josh Brolin) is one of the biggest and baddest of villains in the comic book world and has now been realised on the big screen. He stands eight feet high, bulky with muscle and a plan that will devastate everyone. He believes that there is too much population in the universe so he has taken it upon himself to wipe out half the population to stabilise it. This is quite mad and the characters point it out. Dread is packed into the way the characters talk about him and he proves that he is indeed someone to fear. Not only does he pack a punch, but can take one and has a sophisticated way with words and philosophy. Brains and brawn, he most certainly has a few key elements of a great screen villain.

His plan revolves around acquiring six Infinity Stones that all control a certain aspect of existence (reality, mind, time, soul etc.). Once he has all of them he can accomplish his goal with a literal snap of his fingers. These Infinity Stones have been scattered throughout the other MARVEL movies so for us watching we can connect the dots. Now the race is on to either get to a stone before he can, get them away from him or destroy them. Failure means the death of half the universe.

To describe all the different scenarios going on and who is where will take up too much space in the review, so I will simply name the players. Iron Man (Robert Doweny Jr.), Cpatian America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Panther (Chadwick Bosseman), Spider-Man (Tom Holland), Winter Soilder (Sebastian Stan), Dr. Strange (Benedict Cummberbatch), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Vision (Paul Bentny), War Machine (Don Cheattle), Falcom (Anthony Mackie), Star Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Groot (Vin Diesel) and Rocket (Bradley Cooper). There are a few more but that’s enough.

This is obviously a big cast. Approximately twenty characters that are not just present but are essentially their own main character. What helps is that they have had their own movies previously to help develop them so they can come into this movie smoothly, a lot has been established so the writers have plenty to work with and the actors know the characters inside and out. But what if this is the first movie you’ve seen and have not viewed any of the others yet? Well, you’ll probably suffer from overload, I don’t recommend this as your first MARVEL movie but it will definitely be someones. There is just enough in terms of efficiency establishing the characters in their moments of introduction to understanding who they are and roll with it for the rest of the movie.

Beyond having all the characters on-screen at the same time what the filmmakers have to consider is the different visual style all the other heroes have. The Guardians have a stronger, disco colour pallet, Black Panther has more jungle colors and Dr. Strange comes with psychedelic visuals. All of them have to be represented here. They are. Along with that, this is (along with tone) the darkest MARVEL movie color wise. There is a lot of blacks on-screen, deep, true blacks, contrasting with other deep, vivid colours that pop out. It makes for an engaging image and adds to the dire nature of the story.

As I have mentioned at least once in my recent review’s of the MARVEL movies the screenwriters are prone to adding quips in the dialog. Or sometimes having what feels like mandatory jokes happen every ten minutes. The tone of the movies has always been a light-hearted one to a degree so it wasn’t off-tone and they were funny so that also wasn’t a bother. They are present here as well, a character makes comments on the others attire, name, mentality etc. But these are moments of characters either being themselves within moments of respite or even dealing with this seemingly hopeless situation.

This movie naturally comes with its share of action set pieces. As previously stated we have had many other movies to get to know these characters and in the time they have in this movie is enough to connect with them. So we care a little about who is going into battle. But when it comes to the fights everyone has different abilities and they use them like great pieces in a strategy game, others get close, while one attacks from a distance and another distracts (these are just examples).

A popular criticism of other MARVEL movies is that their aren’t any real stakes because none of the main characters ever die. Only a handful of important characters have died and these movies are light as a feather and so forth. Well, it’s as if this really was all part of the plan because now characters do indeed die. I won’t spoil who (go see the movie!), but early on they do and later on others. So being that some can it means anybody can die, which adds great gravitas to the action scenes that now have the biggest stakes of all.

I have to mention directors Anthony and Joe Russo and scriptwriting team Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely that took on this monumental task of juggling all these characters and taking all the story threads and weaving them into something not only consistent but effective.

This movie doesn’t work as a single character arc, nor does it work as a self-contained story, because of the immense story and characters, this is actually part one of two. This is a grand accumulation of seeing all of the characters and worlds we have come to know and love over the course of many movies and face something that is too big for any one of them to handle on their own. It shows all the amazing images and feet’s of imagination and drama that the world of Superheroes is able to present before us. All the fun times and pulp from before is brutally stripped away and since we had that mindset in the previous movies the darkness and brutality hit all the harder.