All posts by HermioneFlavia

A film critic and film maker, with some awards under my belt, I love talking movies!

A Quiet Place – Review

(This review may contain spoilers)

In rural America, the Abbott family try to survive in the aftermath of an invasion by strange creatures that hunt by sound. If you make a sound, they hear you and they hunt you with an incredible strength and speed. Survival is not easy. With one deaf child struggling, and another child on the way, is silence really possible? Can they survive?

It’s an incredible idea for a film, and with Emily Blunt and John Krasinski in the lead roles as the parents of the family, it seems like a sure fire winner. But sadly, it doesn’t deliver.

The film suffers from a few key problems of which horror films are prone, but the key issue is that it’s fairly slow and lurches from one situation to another, as though you’re watching a list of situations that someone has come up with in a room, as opposed to a logical plot points or events based around well realised character motivations. This means that the characters in the film do things that no one would do in real life in order to get to the next scene, the next scary situation. And it’s really annoying. The situations often feel quite contrived because of this, take for example the children who fall into the grain silo and start to sink, but the creature that falls in after them does not. The creature then breaks out of the metal walls of the grain silo, but can’t manage later to get to characters taking shelter in a car. The film is full of things like this, and with it’s lack of a sense of urgency, it makes the film a bit dull.

Image result for a quiet place

It’s also riddled with cheap jump scares.

There are two further points that I think need to be made in this vein. Firstly, that the weakness of the creatures that stalk them is introduced fairly early on, and repeatedly shown to us, but the characters can’t figure it out, for no reason real reason other than that if they figured it out the film would only be about 40 minutes long. And secondly, when the mother gives birth there is no recourse to reality. She has no contractions or anything, her water just breaks, and then she manages to deliver the child herself, with a minimum of mess or fuss in what seems to be about 20 minutes, without anaesthetic. Later that day, with no sleep, she manages to be up and walking around with a shot gun. If you think about it too hard, you could find this offensive. When I watched the film, it made me laugh.

OK, so the film has some pretty big flaws, and that’s disappointing when it’s a film starring two leads who I think are wonderful to watch. Well, you know what? In all fairness, they are fun to watch here too. For it’s all it’s structural flaws, this film has some redeeming features. And the performances are one of them. Not just the parents, played by Blunt and Krasinski, but also their children, who give very nuanced and realistic portrayals of children living a strange, dangerous life and struggling to come to terms with it. My favourite character was Regan, played by Millicent Simmonds, who plays a deaf teen, and manages to express toughness and vulnerability, as well as being interesting for hearing nothing while the creatures hear everything. A nice little touch.

Image result for a quiet place

The creatures themselves are pretty cool. They’re quite ugly and creepy looking, but are not shown in their entirety too soon, which I liked. They’re repulsive enough to be really creepy, and they’re both fast and strong, and make for interesting watching. There are some moments where they don’t entirely make sense, as mentioned above, for example, or when they make a lot of noise moving around but then randomly appear silently behind a character. But on the whole, they’re a well realised concept, and a great idea to make a film about.

Finally, even though the film is a bit slow, it’s quite beautiful. With it’s rural setting, the farm is often beautifully lit, and the characters forage for food in beautiful woods, by running streams, or wander through the grounds of their farm. It’s a very pretty film. Even the interiors have a rustic charm, with lots of thought going into the creation of a world which people must gather and collect things against a time where things will run out. (Of course, I did often wonder about the wisdom of trying to be silent in a house filled with clutter, but it felt like a well realised world). It’s also a film that uses it’s sound design so well. The characters must be silent, or almost silent, in order not to attract the attention of the monsters, so often we’re brought into that sense of silence through the use of natural sounds, heightened sounds, silence, and in the case of the deaf child, the numbness of what she hears, which is next to nothing. In contrast, the sounds that do go off, either by accident or design, feel so much louder and startling. It’s a really remarkable and clever use of sound in a film about silence. Really nicely done.

On the whole, this is a film with great performances and set around a great premise, creatures that will hunt and kill you if they hear you, and yet it’s so poorly realised that it feels slow and often rather stupid at times. It has it’s redeeming qualities, but not enough to save the film.

A Quiet Place is out on DVD & Blu-Ray now! 

Blockers – Review

Yes, there’s a rooster on the top of the title on the poster, but apparently the cock is silent. The title though does kind of give you the right idea. This film stars John Cena, Leslie Mann, and Ike Barinholtz as the parents of three teen girls who are best friends. On the night of their prom, they discover that the three girls have made a pact to lose their virginity that night, and they set out to stop their girls. But their plans go hilariously awry.

It’s a pretty simple concept, with the adults invading their children’s world, trawling through the prom, trying to figure out where secret house parties are, but always just missing them, or winding up negotiating situations in a world they’re no longer familiar with. All with R rated comedy results. And on the whole, it really works.

Image result for blockers

Although it’s mostly the adult’s movie, as they face their own fears about their kids growing up, their parenting mistakes and their attitudes to their daughters entering the adult world, the three girls often steal the show. They feel genuine and real, not just the McGuffin to their parents plotline. They have their own narrative arcs (including a nicely explored subplot about coming out as gay) and they have some really sparkling dialogue too. Their friendship is part of the beating heart of the film.

And what’s surprising about this film is that it actually has a lot of heart, for an R rated comedy. There are some moments in this film that will almost have you tearing up a bit, as everyone, child and parent, grows up a little and chooses how they want to take on their next phase of life, and friendships are cemented. It’s a really lovely touch to what could have potentially been a forgettable comedy.

The comedy itself is largely situational and plays out in set pieces, much as you’d expect. And you can perhaps judge the book by the cover (or the film by the poster in this case) as to what kind of comedy it is. If you think this humour is for you, you’ll probably find it is, but if college humour puts you off, maybe you won’t like this. I have to admit, it made me cringe sometimes and the film lost me a little in the middle, but on the whole, I was laughing out loud and generally had fun.

The film also does explore a little that the idea of blocking your daughter from having sex is pretty sexist. It ends up moralising that teaching your daughter to be confident and strong means she will make the right decisions about what she wants to do for herself,  with a basis in self esteem. It was a neat way of exploring the generation gap, especially in regards to attitudes to sex, and it handles them quite sweetly, which was a nice touch, again, in a comedy of this type.

Image result for blockersRelated image

Which last of all brings us to the three lead roles, which may be the reason you’re drawn to this film in the first place. Since seeing John Cena making cameos in films like Daddy’s Home, we’re starting to see a side of him that loves to make fun of himself and his persona as a tough guy who initially made it big as a wrestler. He manages to show a great deal of warmth and sense of comic timing, which he really gets to display in this film in a lead role. He’s really entertaining, funny and warm here. He’s joined by Leslie Mann, as a vulnerable but determined single mother who values her relationship with her daughter as a point of pride, and who is afraid of losing the person she’s closest to, her daughter, when her child goes to college. She’s a desperate, frenetic woman, and one who hasn’t looked at her own past and reconciled herself to it, as she struggles to protect her daughter. She’s both sweet and a little scary, but always very funny and relatable. And finally, they’re joined by Ike Barinholtz, a bit of a Mark Wahlberg look alike, who is a Dad who wants to make up for his many mistakes as a father, who has been absent and alcoholic, and yet somehow is perhaps the parent who knows his daughter best out of the three. He’s blunt and funny, and seems to have a miasma of sadness around him in this film, which was a nice touch. He’s a good foil to the other two, who try so hard to be perfect.

On the whole, the film is probably a lot funnier and a lot sweeter than you might expect. It’s a comedy with really sound performances, startlingly so in the younger actors, and it has some excellent one liners as well as silly situations. It’s not a perfect film, some scenes in the middle were just off-putting without being clever, but if you like this kind of humour, don’t over look this film. You’ll get a laugh out of it.

Blockers is out on DVD & Blu-Ray now! 

Ready Player One – DVD & Blu-Ray Review

It’s 2045, and the world is an awful place to live. The poor live in the “stacks”, unsafe high rise trailer parks, while an evil corporation, IOI, keeps them there by encouraging them to stack up debts that are impossible to pay off. Everyone escapes the awfulness of reality by entering The Oasis, a VR world where you can do, be or have anything.

Image result for ready player one

The creator of the Oasis, Halliday (Rylance) has died, and IOI are keen to get their hands on the rights to the Oasis, to take control of it and make it lucrative rather than free for everyone. But to do this, they’d have to find the clues that lead to the Easter Egg at the heart of the game which would grant them control. So far no one has found any clues, until Wade Watts, aka Z, (Sheridan) manages to find the first one. With the help of his friends, including online best friend Aech (Waithe) and the girl he has a crush on Art3mis (Cooke), he sets out to find the egg and keep the Oasis as a haven for everyone. But can he outwit the evil Sorrento (Mendelsohn) who is determined to win at any cost?

Based on the book by Ernest Cline, Ready Player One is a film full of 80’s nostalgia because of Halliday’s obsession with that era. Old games, books and films are referenced everywhere and with great love, which makes having Steven Spielberg as the director an added layer of nostalgia, though he doesn’t reference his own 80’s film classics.

It’s a film for gamers or action lovers, with it’s focus on light, sound, action and spectacle. There are some truly exciting set pieces in this film, and one that you’re going to get a real kick out of seeing on the big screen. Car chases, otherworld avatars and anti-gravity dance floors are all huge spectacles, thought the smaller VR scenes are beautifully realised too. Most importantly, in the masterful hands of Spielberg, it’s more than just a spectacle, unlike a lot of blockbuster films of recent years. It’s fairly light, but the characters are all well delineated and give good performances. Yes, you’re going to be blown away by that world creation, but you’re also going to hate that bad guy, and want to see the good guys win, and in that sense, it has a lot in common with classic 80’s adventure films, which is a nice subtle touch. This film uses character to make you care about what happens, to make you invest in those big scenes.

Image result for ready player one

Though the characters appear in live action and in the VR world of the Oasis, they are whole and well realised, and never feel wooden in when they’re VR. They’re clearly recognisable. The central performances from Tye Sheridan as Z, our brave hero and all round good guy, and Olivia Cooke as the brave adventurer and love interest Art3mis are really beautifully are really warm and real. They feel down to earth even as they go on a huge quest to find keys and save the world. Ben Mendelsohn is a wonderfully despicable bad guy, but he’s not one dimensional, he feels like he has real motivations, although they’re misguided. He’s a dangerous man who genuinely believes in what he does and will stop at nothing to get what he wants. While there are laughs and romance in this film, he’s it’s dark, unimaginative and controlling heart.

It’s a fast paced thrill ride that’s got enough differences from the book it’s adapted from to feel fresh to all those who’ve read it, and yet keeps all the important things intact: the characters, the main premise and the general plot. It’s a star studded cast who make sure the film stays grounded in relationships and emotions, and yet it’s also definitely a delightful tent pole film, with a focus on 80’s music and culture, chases, action, explosions, and gaming. Perhaps a bit loud and overwhelming for some, it’s an incredible feat of film making from a masterful and imaginative director, and well worth a watch if you like your films big. (I do!) It’s a great ride, and should please sci-fi fans, gamers and a teen audience too. Great fun.

Ready Player One is out on DVD & Blu-Ray now! 

I Kill Giants – Review

Barbara Thorson (Madison Wolfe) has issues. She has no friends at school and she is being raised by her sister, which means her home life is a little chaotic. But Barbara has a bigger problem. If she doesn’t maintain the rune spells and traps she’s set up around her home and her town, giants will come to destroy everything and everyone around her.

While Barbara believes wholeheartedly in the giants that threaten her life and community, we realise that they might be a mask for some insurmountable problem that she can’t bear to face head on, and a guilt that she can’t come to terms with.

Image result for I Kill Giants
Based on a graphic novel, this film has beautiful moments of fantasy and imagination, mixed with the everyday life of a small seaside town. It’s a beautiful mix of the everyday, the small, and the fantastic. I loved the costume design and the little Nordic magical touches, the rune stones, the different kinds of giants, the tent Barbara chooses to sleep in. It’s a child’s magical world, threatened by the tragedies of growing up and grown up life.

The heart of the film is Barbara, a bespectacled awkward child, with her own way of dressing, out of step with those around her. Madison Wolfe plays her beautifully, making her both strong and vulnerable. A pugnacious child full of imagination and fire, but who is also genuine and likeable. She delivers some great one liners so beautifully. She’s joined by Zoe Saldana as the school counsellor tasked with getting through to Barbara, but struggling to help the closed off child. Imogen Poots is Karen, her older sister, who can’t keep the household together and tries to nurture Barbara but can’t always find the right way to be close to her. Barbara is a wonderful character to watch in a film, but would be a very hard person to live with.

Initially a little slow, the film builds as we are drawn into Barbara’s world. As she slowly and a little reluctantly makes friends with new girl Sophia (Sydney Wade), we learn about the giants, who they are and what they look like, about the traps and charms Barbara has set, but what we don’t learn is what Barbara is running and hiding from.

Perhaps that’s a little flaw of the film, because although the movie is full of emotion and genuine feeling, when you don’t know what that feeling is about, it’s harder to invest in it. It’s not that we need to know everything at once, but rather that there are not enough hints and titbits, not enough clues dropped. After all the reticence to talk about Barbara’s big secret, the reveal falls a little flat. This reluctance to reveal also means that there are some questions we’d love to know the answer to, but are not explored, though these are minor.

Image result for I Kill Giants

The film is also a little bit too much like A Monster Calls, which is a shame. As it’s adapted from a graphic novel, we know that it’s not a copy or a cash in, but it still feels too similar to feel totally unique. But with it’s excellent special effects and design, it feels different and fresh, too.

But all of that said, it’s a really charming and heartfelt story, and Wolfe is a true delight as the odd and snarky Barbara. It’s a film that’s beautiful to watch, and creates a small, childlike world for us to enter into, reminding us of how we all feel sometimes, the way in which we can’t always face our pain and problems head on. Never is this more true than in childhood. It’s a charming film, with small, sweet delights, and well worth a look.

I Kill Giants is out on DVD & Blu-Ray now!  

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – Review

In a small town in Missouri, Mildred (McDormand) takes out advertising on three billboards that ask the local police chief why there have been no arrests in the case of the rape and murder of her daughter. It’s a small act of defiance, and yet it has some big repercussions.

From the writer/director of In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths, Martin McDonagh, it’s a fine return to form for a man whose films tend to have serious tones, violence and yet also humour and some heart felt moments. Taking on the subject of small town America, of incompetent police, dysfunctional family relationships and of course, the deep sadness of losing a child to violence, this film could have been a very different story in the hands of someone else. Because whilst it explores the grief of Mildred, it focuses on her strength and her ability to act, her toughness and determination. It’s an underdog story.

Image result for three billboards

It’s also a story that is bittersweet and darkly funny, but manages to hit you right in the feels.

Part of what amused me about this film is that in small towns, everyone knows everyone. So when one character enacts violence and physical harm on another, here we see it forgiven, but you also know that the story will be all over town and also repeated for years to come. Everyone knows everyone’s business, and yet, since you have to live with them, it’s also easier to forgive than live with a grudge. It also means that if you put up a billboard demanding answers and action from the local police, everyone will have an opinion on it.

The police in question fall into two camps, personified by Chief Willoughby (Harrelson), the kind who care but have their own problems, and Officer Dixon (Rockwell) who feels the badge entitles him to do whatever he wants and who has a reputation for violence towards anyone of colour. When it comes to light that beloved Willoughby has cancer, there’s a sense that Mildred should go easy on him, as opposed to him not being able to do his job, which I found interesting. Whilst Willoughby is a calm voice of reason, Dixon is a man who lashes out. And the billboards have both men upset.

Though many people in the town of Ebbing Missouri are drawn for the viewer, and we see a little into their lives, it’s Mildred’s film. She’s a complex person. While clearly bowed under the weight of her grief, and yet she isn’t breaking. While she’s a mother who has lost a child, she’s not drawn as a perfect parent either. She can’t let go, and yet her strength in holding on makes her quite impressive. She pugnacious, argumentative and takes action.

Related image

Which is impressive considering some points, this is a town where in this film: a girl has been raped and murdered and no one has been arrested, Mildred’s marriage was abusive and her husband is still violent towards her, her dentist tries to drill her teeth without anaesthetic in order to get her to comply with how he’d like her to behave, a cop punches a woman in the face and knocks her down and it’s never mentioned again, a woman is arrested and held without bail on trumped up charges because she is Mildred’s boss, and Mildred’s son is comfortable calling her a c-word. And both the police chief and Mildred’s ex-husband have partners who are a great deal younger than them. These are all moments taken out of context of the plot, but my point is that it’s not a safe place for women, the consequences of acting out are high. But Mildred punches, kicks and swears her way through, unabashed.

Her pain is hard to watch sometimes, and yet this film is heartfelt, warm, and has a lot of love and humour at it’s heart. It’s hard not to love Mildred, and even the people around her who on the surface may not be nice, but who show their solidarity, their vulnerability or demonstrate forgiveness in a way that is never cheesy or dramatic, but it simple and kind. It’s a beautifully shot film, showing the beauty of the Missouri, and the music gently supports the emotions of the films moments. The performances in this film are brilliant, not just McDormand, but Harrelson and Rockwell (who manages to be awful, funny, terrifying and vulnerable all at once), but the side characters too. It’s lovely to see Caleb Landry Jones and Peter Dinklage given roles that are more diverse than what they’re usually given. In a year when a lot of films were big shiny spectacles with not a lot of heart (of course, we love those films too), this film manages to be beautiful and heartfelt, as well a darkly funny. A wonderful watch.

Three Billboards is out on DVD & Blu-Ray now! 

Truth Or Dare – Review

Olivia and Markie have been best friends since high school. Now at university together, they head off for their last Spring Break in Mexico with a group of their closest friends. At a bar on the last night of their holiday, Olivia lets a cute guy buy her a drink and convinces her friends to head off with him to a spooky house to have a few last drinks. When they end up playing a game of Truth Or Dare, the friends soon find that they’ve started something they can’t finish. Something evil within the game won’t let them stop playing. If they refuse to play, they die, if they choose “dare” they may not survive, and if they choose truth, their lives might be destroyed by the secrets they hide from each other.

Related image

The idea that a game could be haunted isn’t new, but one that doesn’t have a physical component is a novel idea. There’s no board or props in a game of Truth Or Dare. Truth or Dare is also fun because it seems to be harmless, and yet there’s something mean spirited about the game, when you think about it. It’s designed to be a no win game, where either way you incriminate or embarrass yourself. There is something dark about the whole idea, and it makes a nice dark heart for a scary story. The film explores this idea, taking it to it’s darkest places, and has fun with itself. It has interesting twists and turns, which I won’t spoil for you, and it also has been thought through pretty well, there are no plot holes or moments where you think “why don’t they just (insert genius escape idea here)”, other than the opening idea that the group would follow a stranger to an abandoned building.

In a film like this, the emphasis is not so much on character, but on concept and story, but this film actually does have nicely delineated characters. In some ways, the characters are modern stock types, but not overly so. There’s the classic horror movie sleaze, who you kind of want to see die. The boyfriend that helps the lead chick. The lead chick who cares about things like the environment and her grades. The blonde who is a bit too promiscuous for her own good. But this feels satisfying and familiar, and little twists on the characters give them more depth and interest. The boyfriend who helps the female lead? He’s not her boyfriend, but is with her best friend. And the most important relationship is not between romantic partners, but between the two girls, who have helped each other through hard times (and who might have some interesting, twisty secrets to hide). It has a nice way of ticking the teen horror genre characters off the list, but also updating them a bit too.

Image result for truth or dare

The film feels quite modern and shiny, as you would expect from a high budget horror. The characters use Facebook and Google to find information, and have YouTube channels and are constantly on their phones. The characters quip with each other, but unlike a lot of recent horrors, the dialogue is not littered with comedic moments. There are times when it does feel a little cheesey, but it’s part of the fun. As the game stalks the characters, there are some great moments of tension and scares, you think one thing is coming, but another thing does. And there are some really creative and spooky ways that the game talks to the characters, including through the creepy smiling faces you’ll have seen in the trailers.

It’s a cool, fun concept for a horror film, and it’s nicely and professionally executed (no pun intended). It’s a genuinely entertaining watch, but whether or not this film is for you really comes down to what kind of horror films you like. It’s really a teen horror in the old school mold, and for some scary movie lovers, it won’t feel original enough. It’s more of a crowd pleaser and feels like it’s aimed at teens and college age viewers, however, I’m not that age group and really enjoyed just going with this film and enjoying the ride.

Truth or Dare is out in cinemas now!