Tag Archives: Academy Award

Netflix Film Review: “Fatal Deceit” a.k.a. “Gaslit” (2019)

read the 150 word review of Fatal Deceit / Gaslit here

… like something from Garth Merenghi’s Dark Place

Olivia’s (Zoe McLellan) world is turned upside down when, following the death of her estranged husband in a car accident, her teenage daughter goes missing while on a camping trip with the neighbours. But when her neighbours deny taking her on the trip, or even having met or seen any “daughter” in Zoe’s house, ever, Zoe’s whole world, and mind, rapidly unravel. Has someone taken her daughter? Does she even have a daughter?

Fatal Deceit a.k.a. Gaslit (2019) is nothing new. The whole have-they-taken-her-kid-or-does-she-even-have-a-kid thing has been done many times before. None-the-less, the basic storyline was entertaining and capably written by Writer-Director Colin Edward Lawrence and co-writer Erin Murphy West. One of the key plot points was, however, clumsily and blatantly telegraphed quite early on, consequently much of the suspense which was otherwise rather well developed was slightly deflated. And the general release title, Gaslit, has to be the biggest spoiler-title since “Return of the King”.

The direction was — interesting. Some of it was unusual but worked, other shots were like something from Garth Merenghi’s Dark Place: a bizarre, TV movie parody, almost. But the hit and miles wide direction was nothing compared to the acting.

Zoe McLellan is a decent television actor. She seems to know what her range is, and she works to push her abilities. Yet despite being an admirable second-rate TV / small screen actor, she was made to look like an Oscar contender such was the truly abysmal work from her castmates. Daughter Hannah (Stevie Lynn Jones) gave an early and shockingly bad turn which actually caused me to turn the movie off. I took a breather, had a think, and plowed back on. But it was that shocking. The rest of the cast do no better: husband Layne, Matthew Pohlkamp, the neighbour Mary, Stephanie Charles, the friend Bruce, Chris Dougherty: all were poor. Only supporting character Jack, Mike Erwin, gave a half-decent go. It’s no exaggeration to say that Zoe McLellan might wish to use this movie as her new demo reel such is the gulf between her performance and that of her castmates: an average turn/performance has been made to seem quite impressive, just as eggy bread looks like haute cuisine next to a dog’s dinner.

This movie is basically trash. A TV movie for the insomniac. But it’s trash with some redeeming features.

2/5

© 2021-2022 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://res.cloudinary.com/jerrick/image/upload/c_scale,q_auto/5fac2467bf56e2001c728019.jpg

Netflix 150 Word Film Review: “Fatal Deceit” a.k.a. “Gaslit” (2019)

check out the full length review here

Flightplan in the ‘burbs.

Olivia’s (Zoe McLellan) world is turned upside down when her teenage daughter Hannah goes missing just weeks after the death of her estranged husband in a car accident. But when people deny having seen Hannah, ever, Olivia’s whole world rapidly unravels. Has someone taken Hannah, or did Olivia’s sick mind make her up in the first place?

Fatal Deceit a.k.a. Gaslit (2019) is nothing new. It’s Flightplan in the ‘burbs. None-the-less, the basic storyline was entertaining and capably written. Sadly, a key plot twist was clumsily and blatantly telegraphed early on, a real suspense-killer. And Gaslit itself has to be the biggest spoiler-title since “Return of the King”.

The direction was unusual, often ridiculous, but always sublime compared to the acting.

Zoe McLellan’s a decent television actor. She did well. But her co-stars’ performances were so uniformly awful that it made McLellan look like an Oscar contender.

A trashy TV movie for the insomniac — but with redeeming features.

2/5

© 2021-2022 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://res.cloudinary.com/jerrick/image/upload/c_scale,q_auto/5fac2467bf56e2001c728019.jpg

Film Review “Mother!” #NetflixReview @MotherMovie @DarrenAronofsky

I couldn’t take my eyes off it. Sadly, I don’t ever want to set my eyes on it again.

Mother! stars Jennifer Lawrence as “Mother”, a devoted wife to emotionally damaged artist “Him” (Javier Bardem) who is suffering a debilitating bout of writer’s block. She single-handedly rebuilds his childhood home, which had mysteriously burnt down, in the hope that this idyll in the middle of nowhere will reignite his creative, and perhaps even sexual, passions. However, this paradise-in-the-making is disturbed as a series of unexpected random visitors pay them a visit from out of nowhere, to catastrophic results. Weird, unique, challenging: director Darren Aronofsky is back.

The acting from Lawrence, Bardem, and Michael Pfeiffer is topnotch, perhaps even Oscar-worthy. Ed Harris is pretty special in this, too. They really are on top of their game here. The set up and first third of the film is wonderful, classic almost Twilight Zone mystery territory: who are these people, what do they really want, and why is everyone — including her husband — acting so off? The film is both a pensive slow-mover and at the same time a rocket-charged rollercoaster. I couldn’t take my eyes off it.

Sadly, I don’t ever want to set my eyes on it again. The film totally goes off its rocker after an unfortunate incident occurs in the house. The imagery and the acting and set design were magnificent and brutal. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. None-the-less, any pretence of story is launched through the window (or the wall) with all the ferocity of Yuriy Sedykh’s hammer throw at the 1986 European Championships. It makes no sense, nor does it want to. Aronofsky is a challenging but brilliant filmmaker (Black Swan, Requiem for a Dream, Pi), but this film just eats itself in pretension (you already noticed the “names” of our two protagonists, didn’t you? “Mother” and “Him”). Both totally open-ended and easy to interpret any way you want — as per our writer’s own work (ooooh meta) — and yet incredibly straight-forward, this movie doesn’t so much think it’s cleverer than it is, but rather it doesn’t give a flying f***. Frankly, it’s bonkers, but in a way that makes no sense (in contrast to Aronofsky’s previous works).

As I have said, this movie has genuine Oscar contender vibes. So why only two stars? Because story has to come first, that’s why; a movie that tosses story out of the window to go down some kind of nightmarish drug trip which makes no sense at all, cannot have a “good” rating no matter how undoubtedly brilliant aspects of the film are. The last section of the film began to genuinely test my patience with its out-and-out nonsense. Being a visionary director who has succeeded in getting first rate performances out of his team is not an excuse for self-wallowy rubbish.

2/5

© 2021-2022 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://buzz.tt/media/posters/1742/posters_3_1500.jpg

Netflix Film Review “Get Out” (2017) #NetflixReview @GetOutMovie #GetOutMovie @JordanPeele

a refreshing mix of familiar ingredients in a new form, the hallmark of much groundbreaking work

Jordan Peele’s feature debut as writer-director, Get Out, is the story of young African-American Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and his Caucasian Apple Pie American girlfriend Rose Armitage (Allison Williams). They take a road trip to meet Rose’s posh WASP family for the first time. Chris is nervous, but Rose reassures him: “They woulda voted for Obama a third time if they could!”. Her family greets him with warm and open arms. But something’s amiss, and Chris just can’t put his finger on it. But as the hours and days go by, Chris begins to realise something is very wrong with the Armitages.

Get Out is a wonderful and surprising horror-mystery-thriller which keeps you guessing until near the end. It’s quite different: a refreshing mix of familiar ingredients in a new form, the hallmark of much groundbreaking work.

It’s thrilling and mysterious, and at times surreal and funny. I thought this worked well, but surrealism and comedy might be a discordant turn-off for some viewers.

Peele says it’s a “social horror”. And it’s certain that it’s on the back of this antiracist message that the film picked up four Oscar noms and one win. Indeed, the point he makes — that white liberals can have a racism every bit as dangerous if not more so than hillbillies can — is important and not often made in cinema. Sad,ly the message was undercut by the thoroughly surreal nature of proceedings; surrealism is a key part to making satire effective, but I feel things stretched too far in this picture. Frankly, this film is best viewed as a horror-mystery-thriller and not as some sort of satirical social commentary (although your Guardian-reading friends surely sold it to you as such).

The final twist seemed a step too far into absurdity to make its social satirical points. But worse, it isn’t quite consistent with what comes before. Although fair play to writer-director Jordan Peele: the ending wasn’t merely tacked on as so often is the case with the shock twist, but was clearly the direction we were headed in all along, with hindsight. Nonetheless, it doesn’t really work. And the biggest twist is revealed through something unbelievable (a scheming character just leaving something incriminating lying about).

Original, refreshing, thrilling, albeit with an ending that doesn’t quite work. Just don’t watch it as a serious take-down of racism.

4/5

© 2020-2021 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from http://buytheway.ascjclass.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/21/2017/03/get-out-mainstage-v2-reduced-58daa3d64781d-1.png

Film RE-view: Crash (2004) [SPOILERS!!!]

a whiff of self-satisfaction, self-righteousness, and self-congratulation emanate from this flick.

This RE-view has spoilers

WHY RE-VIEW?

Crash is about racism in America today and the different forms and faces it takes. Institutional, white-on-black, black-on-white, conscious, unconscious bias, rich, poor, and all between: the film was awarded three Oscars for its in-your-face message. It confronted racial tensions in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. Various story strands are interwoven in what I can only call a Love Actually ensemble stylee — although the film seems to think itself more Pulp Fiction. Yes, a whiff of self-satisfaction, self-righteousness, and self-congratulation emanate from this flick. And that’s why I gave it 2/5 when it came out. But a friend kept begging me to give it a second look. So finally I did.

THE GOOD

It’s true, there are some great moments. The sweet story of the protective cloak that a father tells his daughter stands out as genuinely touching and believable. The film is well directed and the plot well structured. You can’t fault writer-director Paul Haggis for his mastery over the craft. And despite the large cast, there is good character development, and the film is well paced and zips along nicely. Despite this, some characters are completely extraneous and should have been cut. Particularly, the roles played by Sandra Bullock and her on-screen husband.

THE BAD

The film is also very funny in places. Although I strongly suspect that was unintentional. Either way, it’s certainly odd. The two African American car-jackers provide much of this unintentional comic relief. They drive around procrastinating on race and racism, like a crap Travolta-Jackson Pulp Fiction rip-off duo, whilst their actions confirm the negative stereotypes that they rail against.

This is the worst thing is that nobody reacts normally. Everybody is ready to fly off the handle over the slightest thing. It’s this constant hysteria that jarred so badly thirteen years ago and jars so badly now. And in these sobre days, where 9/11 is now history, we can see this film for what it is. Over-the-top characters and cartoonish racism are par for the course. Everyone constantly make shouty outbursts laced with racial slurs that seem shoe-horned in and never genuine. Example: “So tell me, who gathered these remarkably different cultures together and taught them all to park their cars on their lawns” says a black man whilst hanging out of the back of a Hispanic woman…. Another example: a moronic, obnoxious Iranian shopkeeper — driven to rudeness by post-9/11 hysteria and racism, we are meant to think — does not do what his locksmith told him to, consequently gets robbed, and then does what anyone would: get a gun and go shoot a child… I mean, seriously, we never see him get pushed to that breaking point. By opting for pure melodrama at every turn, the message that racism comes in many forms, not just the obvious KKK lynch ’em kind, is completely undermined.

IN CONCLUSION: OVER-HYPED

I still think the hype and the three Oscars were overboard. Right after watching this again, Midnight Express came on the telly. So I watched that — also, for the first time in ten years or so. Wow, that is what a multiple Oscar winner is all about (despite an equally dubious portrayal of race), not this melodramatic, unrealistic portrayal of racism designed to exorcise middle class white America’s racial and 9/11 demons. Crash was the kind of film America needed in 2004, but that doesn’t mean it lived up to the hype. Crash‘s ideology and surreal histrionic racism are just as jarring as ever. But I have a renewed appreciation for the craft of this film and the moments when it is believable. For that, it earns an improved mark: 3/5.

© 2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from http://image.tmdb.org/t/p/original/x0zz5XjT9FkZqoktcb7zGdbx8la.jpg

100 Word Film Review: The Blind Side (2009)

altruism at its best — or is there an ulterior motive?

The Blind Side is the true story of a wealthy WASP family, headed by Mater Familias Sandra Bullock, who take in a seventeen year old homeless black kid from the wrong side of the tracks. Battling social prejudice, lavishing him with clothes and an education, this is altruism at its best — or is there an ulterior motive? A prestigious football scholarship is at stake.

This fish-out-of-water tale has plenty of heart. Success is never a foregone conclusion. Tight scripting earnt this flick an Oscar nom for best screenplay, Bullock herself won Best Actress for her subtle, humane, and convincing portrayal.

4/5

© 2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image http://truesportsmovies.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/the_blind_side1.jpg