Showing posts with label thriller. Show all posts
Showing posts with label thriller. Show all posts

18 February 2018


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18 May 2015

DVD Review - Foxcatcher

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Drama, Sports |
Entertainment One |
DVD Release Date:
18th May 2015 (UK) |
Rating: 15 |
Bennett Miller |
Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, Sienna Miller
| Buy: [DVD]

I'm aware that it's just the timing of the new home media releases, but I've had a run of true story Oscar bait titles recently. The two I've previously reviewed, Unbroken and The Theory of Everything, both shared the problem of feeling like they were more interested in being Academy catered affairs than being stand alone proper takes on what actually happened. I've always found the approach to making Academy pandering prestige pics to be just as shallow and calculated as the way something like Transformers is tailor-made to appeal to young teenage boys. I explain this to qualify my trepidation in reviewing Foxcatcher, which even without the reviewing streak I've been on, seemed like it belonged with the other two in being a true story with tons of awards buzz about it. I'm happy to say I was wrong. Foxcatcher is easily my favourite of the three films and definitely deserved better, if only to recognise the great performances held within.

Foxcatcher is based on a real story of obsession and murder, directed by Bennett Miller. Channing Tatum plays Mark Schultz, an Olympic wrestling gold medal winner. He, along with his fellow gold medallist brother Dave (Mark Ruffalo) are in training for the next big global competition. Mark is soon recruited by eccentric millionaire John Du Pont (Steve Carell) to have access to Du Pont's state-of-the-art gym and equipment in return for joining Du Pont's Team Foxcatcher. If you don't know the actual story, I won't spoil it for you, but suffice to say this is one bleak film. It's a dark and twisted little story that leaves you with more questions than when you started. The film certainly holds up its end of the bargain by making itself just as vague as to the actual motives behind what eventually transpired, but it certainly offers up some compelling theories.

Channing Tatum is really impressive as Mark. His character is not one to verbally express how he's feeling, so Tatum cranks up the physical storytelling. For one, Mark has a bit of a Neanderthal thing about him, with a furrowed brow and a stuck out chin. It's even down to the way he walks, kind of round-shouldered, like a Silverback gorilla. It's an intense performance and Tatum does really well. With this and Magic Mike can we stop calling the guy a bad actor now? He definitely isn't. Steve Carell's performance beneath a ridiculous prosthetic nose is a great one. Carell's roles normally require massively broad strokes and lots of yelling, but Du Pont is like an alien wearing a human suit. Everything from the way he shuffles around to the way he unconvincingly gives motivational speeches is straight from the uncanny. The performance does go comedic occasionally and it adds great depth to the character. At one point, Du Pont tells Mark that now they're friends, Mark doesn't have to call him “sir” any more. He then goes on to tell Mark, straight-faced and unironically, that his friends call him “Eagle” or “Golden Eagle”. Written down it looks like a joke from Step Brothers, but in practice, it's clear that Du Pont's got himself a bad case of arrested development, stuck in childish ways because he never had a proper childhood to grow out of .Overall, it's a great performance by Carell, I just wish the prosthetics had been toned down slightly. He looks more like a character in a comedy sketch than the real guy. Mark Ruffalo gives an incredibly naturalistic performance as Schultz Snr. Both Tatum and Carell are quite theatrical in their roles whearas Ruffalo plays an everyman dad and plays it straight down the line. He's a foil to the bigger acting and it works perfectly.

I didn't really enjoy Foxcatcher, but that's the point. It was never going to be a pizza and beer Friday night Netflix choice. It's a cold and bleak film that intentionally doesn't offer any easy answers when it comes to explaining what went down and why. It kept me glued to my seat. I was really taken in by the main three and no matter how uncomfortable I felt as things built up, I knew I had to finish it. Highly recommended, but not for date night.

Ben Browne

17 May 2015

Dead by Dawn 2015 Review - Ava's Possessions (2015)

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Horror, Sci-fi, Thriller
Distributor: TBC
2015 Dead By Dawn (UK)
Release Date: TBC
Rating: 15
Jordan Galland
Carol Kane, Dan Fogler, Jemima Kirke, Lou Taylor Pucci

The exorcism sub-genre has successfully stood its ground time and time again in every mode of the horror genre, so it’s a tough place to make your voice heard. Even then, Jordan Galland’s Ava’s Possessions is an absolute treat, not least because there seems to be a lack of post-exorcism films. Ava (Louisa Krause) is a young and beautiful girl who’s just been exorcised after a month of demon-fuelled mayhem. Agreeing to sign on with a support group for other people like her, Ava sets about atoning for her digressions, coming to terms with her benign other half, and unravelling the mystery of what happened to her.

Once the film starts, Galland quickly gets us on board, mixing his demonic PTS with staunch referencing, vibrant colouring, and a wicked sense of humour. The result is a Day-Glo package of horror goodies that might be camp as Christmas, but still has the balls to bite. Krause makes a splendid lead keeping a tight rein on Ava’s fluctuating personality and dark dark turns. Imagine Linda Blair going full-Cage for a demonic Bad Lieutenant and you’re getting closer to Ava’s Possessions. It’s a truly remarkable experiment in horror.

As with any experiment in horror, there might not be enough spooks and shade to keep genre-racists at bay, Ava’s Possessions is its own beast and doesn’t take kindly to shoehorning. Galland is an obvious fan of horror films, but he has no interest in recreating the gloomy nihilism of classic possession stories. Instead he exploits every facet of his script visually to ensure it’s a magnificent spectacle for any audience: a piece of possession pop art dripping with colour and an awareness of what its audience has seen and wants to see.

Like any great story, the film starts with the pieces scattered and shattered, confusingly, ominously out of reach. Like 13 Sins last year, Dead by Dawn 2015 has its twisting adventure: a moral sink-hole where characters and audience swirl until liberated by the crushing tide of familial secrets and spiritual danger. But the facts of the plot aren’t the only nostalgic endeavours. A fantastic, varied, and magnetic cast of genre regulars, and outright watchables, (William Saddler and Deborah Rush) pins Ava to the board of credibility in a rabid attempt at ensuring our engagement.

Whether or not Galland is a horror fan is totally irrelevant since the genre will only survive in the hands of people who have the audacity to change it, rather than releasing films that, though void of originals, are still really just remakes. Ava’s Possessions is a fresh-faced triumph and one of the most vibrant genre experiences you’ll have this year.

Scott Clark

Ava's Possessions (2015) Official Teaser Trailer from Jordan Galland on Vimeo.