When Carlos (Luis Tosar) decides to take his kids to school one morning, he imagines that the breakfast time argument with his wife Marta (Goya Toledo) is the worst thing that would happen to him. Little does he know that his car is rigged to a bomb which will explode when they leave the car. But who is this mystery stranger responsible, and what does he want?
Retribution a.k.a. El Desconocido (‘The Stranger’) is a 102 minute long white knuckle ride, a crime-action-thriller so tense that I found myself agitatedly yelling at the screen. Believable, and with good performances from our leads including the stranger (Javier Gutiérrez).
when her daddy is played by the mercurial Brad Dourif, you know things aren’t as straightforward as she has been led to believe.
Anna has spent her whole life locked in a cabin in the woods with her daddy, the last survivors of an apocalypse where the monstrous “wildlings” devoured all of mankind. Now blossoming into teenagehood, she finds herself seeing things in a way she hadn’t considered before. And anyway, when her daddy is played by the mercurial Brad Dourif, you know things aren’t as straightforward as she has been led to believe.
Wildling is a fantasy-horror which does not fit the mould. An unusual film, it not so much twists and turns, as it is surprises us as it wends its way. This film will not appeal to everyone. Why? Its very genre changes as the film goes on; we see the ground shift beneath us and suddenly things are different again. Therefore, being a bit of a genre-bending pic, it won’t be pure horror enough to satisfy some horror fans, nor fantastical enough for many of the fantasy crowd, and it just has too much everyday drama for the first two groups. None-the-less, this is an entertaining, original film which sucks you into its world.
There are great performances from the aforesaid Dourif and his fellow players. Especially good is Collin Kelly-Sordelet who gives a sensitive and believable performance as Ray, Ellen’s younger brother, a quirky outsider himself who is able to connect with Anna. These strong performances are the iron track that this quirky tale runs assuredly on.
Wildling was Fritz Böhm’s first feature length screenplay. He did so well that he’s obviously become a trusted quantity as he will be directing the upcoming Escape Room 2 (2021).
A wonderful tale that, while not everyone’s cup of tea, should be sampled by all.
A nurse struggling to overcome a recent tragedy starts work at a rundown hospital where an evil presence menace the young wards under her charge.
Fragile features a measured and convincing performance from Calista Flockhart. Sadly, her co-stars don’t quite convince, especially Elena Anaya (nurse Helen) and mandatory mental kid Maggie, Yasmin Murphy.
The story was fairly generic, but none-the-less decently constructed. It’s just that this is something we’ve seen many times before. None-the-less, the “abandoned” part of the hospital has a believably thick and creepy atmosphere, highly believable, and this kept us watching (more-or-less).
Not bad stuff at all, but subpar and fairly forgettable. Better execution from all players and the special effects department is what Flockhart deserved for her performance.
if you can suspend your disbelief … enjoy the ride
Mario (Luis Tosar), a nurse in an old folks’ home, and Antonio Padin (Xan Cejudo), a legendary drug lord now residing there, make an unlikely double act. But when they meet, they just seem to hit it off, almost as if they have a bond which runs deeper. Certainly, they’re bonded by suffering.
Mario looks forward to a bright new life with his heavily pregnant wife Julia (Maria Vazquez) whilst trying to push away demons from his past which just won’t lie. Meanwhile, our feared drug lord Antonio has interred himself in an old folks’ home and is just waiting the inevitable while his two sons, Kiko (Enric Auquer) and Tono (Ismael Martinez), busily ruin his empire.
Eye for an Eye a.k.a. Quien a Hierro Mata (‘Who Kills Iron’) is a story of pain and revenge, it has some truly shocking moments. For the most part, a believable film, but my only issue is that the entire second half hangs on a very James Bond Villain’s Speech which one character gives to another; without this speech, the film doesn’t crank up a gear, yet it was totally unbelievable that this particular character should launch into that monologue. But if you can suspend your disbelief, then you can enjoy the ride.
A great character study set against the background of a drugs deal gone awry.
1551. A brutal and bloody civil war has ravaged Japan for a hundred years, ferocious warlords have been locked in a death struggle for supremacy in the fractured land. Age of Samurai: Battle for Japan tells the tale of that era and how, through a painful birth, the modern Japan would be born.
Age of Samurai is a limited docuseries featuring the usual shtick: talking heads, narration, recreations with actors, and maps. So many juicy, juicy maps. However, it’s the way you tell ’em, and Age of Samurai has some wonderful acting, artfully but not distractingly shot talking heads, lush graphics, phenomenal editing, and a narrative structure that sucks us in. Forget anime and manga: this series is a gateway drug to Japanese culture. My only criticism is later important characters sometimes just pop up instead of being mentioned or having their importance artfully foreshadowed.
A kind of real life Game of Thrones… set in Japan, the twists and turns were riveting. I’ve never much been interested in Japanese history, but this has started a fever in my brain; let’s see where that fever leads.
Live Twice, Love Once a.k.a. Vivir Dos Veces (‘Live Twice’) is the touching story of a retired university lecturer Emilio (Oscar Martinez) who, upon being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, decides to track down the one who got away. Think of it as a geriatric Road Trip, with a less severe neurodegenerative disorder.
Funny and heart-warming, all four of our leads convince and the characters win our hearts. Emilio, a passive-aggressive and sardonic old stick-in-the-mud; Julia (Inma Cuesta), his somewhat naggy but deeping caring daughter; Blanca (Mafalda Carbonell), the cheese to her grandfather’s chalk; and Julia’s online life coach husband Felipe (Nacho Lopez), more believable and less zany than you’d think.
The change in Emilio’s very personality is poignant, and the trip (literal and metaphorical) which our characters embark on is by turns funny and touching. However, I felt there was something lacking in the somewhat forced double climax to the movie.
When a home birth goes tragically wrong, Marta (Vanessa Kirby) and Sean’s (Shia LaBeouf) marriage and lives spiral viciously downwards as they struggle to deal with their awful loss.
Pieces of a Woman features powerful central performances from Kirby and LaBeouf. The film was realistic and often crushingly depressing. But it also dragged. Slow to move, it wasn’t so much a slow-burner as a slow-flickerer. It was missing that little something extra. None-the-less, the brilliance of the cast, the direction, the editing, and the realism of the script make it one worth seeing.
Not so much a well-structured narrative but rather well-drawn characters.
A good psychological thriller which is somewhat short on thrills.
When young mother Katie flees an abusive relationship with her newborn, she settles in a new town where she befriends another mum Angela. Katie seems like just what struggling Angela needs: a new best friend to help support her in her own moving on from a troubled period. But when Angela starts to notice strange things about Katie, we’re left to question is Katie all she makes herself out to be?
Inconceivable is an entertaining psychological thriller. It features good performances from Oscar winners Nicolas Cage and Faye Dunaway. However, the pacing felt somewhat plodding, the runtime seeming to stretch beyond its 105 minutes, and the key twists were resolved too early and thus deflated the tension. The main issue seems to be that the script isn’t sure what it’s trying to do. Is Katie the protagonist, or Angela? Do we live the journey of Angela’s descent into madness, or not? Is it an is-she-isn’t-she-crazy film, or not?
A good psychological thriller which is somewhat short on thrills.
a very standard movie … [but] never felt staid or boring.
Daniel (Rodolfo Sancho) and Sara (Belén Fabra) lead an itinerant life: they buy houses, do them up, sell them off, and then move on to the next project, but in the meantime they live in their worksite. This has caused their son Eric (Lucas Blas) some emotional problems as he can never embed himself properly into the local community — until the most recent community, that is, which Eric has been traumatically ripped from. So when Eric begins to hear voices, his psychologist thinks to look no further, but the source of the voices is far more disturbing.
Don’t Listen a.k.a. Voces (‘Voices’) is, in a way, a very standard movie of its kind. Old and possibly haunted house, evil presence, kid picks up on it first, bad stuff starts to happen, the terrorised family turns to an “expert” in pseudology or whatever, final showdown, etc. However, Don’t Listen never felt staid or boring. The presence is genuinely disturbing, the signs of a person affected by the presence are also disturbing and believable — and this is sold wonderfully by first victim (played by Beatriz Arjona).
The twists and developments never feel forced. The reactions of the characters are believable. Just when you fear the film may fall apart by Hollywoodising in the final act, the movie triumphantly soars.
the characters didn’t feel like cut-outs waiting to be killed, but like real people.
Six strangers from very different backgrounds have been invited to take part in an escape room together. Escape rooms are a chance for people to come together, build social skills, be creative, and have fun — win or lose. But it soon becomes apparent that when it comes to this particular escape room, losing is not an option.
A strong concept piece featuring a motley assortment of characters, Escape Room felt like a horror movie in the model of a classic Twilight Zone episode, an exciting mystery. It had shades of movies I’ve enjoyed so much, such as Cube (1997) and Saw (2004), but very much did not feel derivative. Escape rooms themselves are all the rage now, probably because, as one of our players Danny (Nik Dodani) enthuses, they’re like real life computer games. And so this feels a very 2019 twist on those older movies.
Escape Room had plenty of well-judged humour, scares, moments of real tension interspersed with genuine mystery and a sense of the marvellous, and the characters didn’t feel like cut-outs waiting to be killed, but like real people. This definitely elevates Escape Room above most other examples of the survival game subgenre where character, motivation, and plot are so often very much secondary to the creativity of the games and the kills.
The movie began with a bang and then slowed right up in order to introduce all of the characters and the setting. But then the pace kicked back in and didn’t let up. Thrilling. I particularly enjoyed this playing with pacing and also of realism; the movie stretches and snaps back like a rubber band, never breaking nor going too far, but pushing the viewer to the limit.
Escape Room isn’t the first movie based on this concept — for example, we have the confusingly named and dated Escape Room (2017) dir. Will Wernick and, err, Escape Room (2017) dir. Peter Dukes –, but it’s the best so far. It really felt like I was watching this generation’s Saw. And like Saw, there were twists and turns — although, admittedly, none as shocking as that twist from the original Saw. Just as in Saw, each room / trial is brilliantly imaginative; you almost feel yourself “playing along” at home. And just like Saw, I felt myself thinking, “This could easily be a franchise. I think they could make more! I hope they make more! Although any sequel would be milking this concept dry” As it happens, the films ends not with the hint, but the definite confirmation, of a sequel. I felt excited, but also a little sickened by the self-assuredness of this film: gone are the days of teasing the audience and hoping for the box office receipts to make a second movie profitable, now are the days of the five film Netflix deal. None-the-less, the set-up for the sequel looks anything but milking the concept: it promises to be a thrilling and wonderful development, and it’s to be released in 2021.
A great concept, entertaining and real-feeling characters, thrilling, horrific yet fun, Escape Room was both familiar and yet refreshingly different. I loved it, and I cannot wait for the sequel.