Gerald’s Game is a real winner 


When a harmless game embarked upon by a married couple turns into a fight for survival, personal demons and possibly those in the house must be confronted if anyone is to make it out alive.
Jessie (Carla Gugino) and Gerald Berlingame (Bruce Greenwood) are a married couple on a downward slope. In a bid to save their relationship, they take a weekend trip to a rural retreat and attempt to spice things up a bit. However, events take a sharp turn, and Jessie is left to fight for her life, whilst battling her own demons as well.

Last weekend, I watched one of the new Netflix Original films, Gerald’s Game. It sounded… interesting, judging by what I got from the description. However, I wasn’t prepared for what actually happened in the film. It turned out to be a good psychological thriller that proved to use once again that Netflix isn’t messing around when it comes to it’s own projects.

I think the two lead performances were really, really good, and they helped to keep the film moving along at a good pace. Carla Gugino’s character was great to watch as the film unfolded. It was really interesting to see how she portrayed the unraveling that took place for her character as time went by. Gugino completely tapped into the film’s psychological tones with her performance as her character Jessie fought with herself as well as the situation she found herself in, and this was one area the film was able to build tension well, because you never knew whether or not Jessie would have it in her to do what she needed to do in order to escape. 

Bruce Greenwood was equally wonderful to watch. There was an uneasy dynamic between his character and Gugino’s right at the start of the film, and the character that Greenwood went on to portray later on in the film totally explained that. I think he nailed the abusive and chauvinistic side of Gerald, and when paired with Gugino’s performance, it worked tremendously well. As I said, it was these two performances that made this film so watchable.

I love how this film was absolutely nothing like what I had expected it was going to be. I also loved how effectively it built tension. When somebody can make getting a glass of water a heart-stopping event, that is at sign of good storytelling, by means of both writing and directing. There were moments in this film that were similar in nature to that episode of Breaking Bad where Walter White chased a fly for an hour. It was completely deliberate and by no means an accident that such moments had such a massive impact on the rest of the film. That being said, it wasn’t just the small things this film got right. Gerald’s Game also had some pretty big moments where you could say it really took the gloves off. It struck a good balance between these two elements, which ultimately paid off.

The way the film told it’s story was very clever in my opinion. It entertained, but also contributed to so many wider meanings and topics without becoming obscure and seemingly pretentious. For a film’s narrative to be able to do both of those things well has become quite a feat of late I think.

All in all, I was quite a fan of Gerald’s Game. It did everything it needed to do and did so very well. Obviously the performances were a massive helping hand in making this film so good to watch, but the writing absolutely did it’s fair share of the work. To anybody who is contemplating watching this, I say go for it, because it is one of the better psychological thrillers to surface recently.

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American Assassin is a solid action film, but nothing new

Following a terrorist attack on a beach, a civilian decides to take action against those behind the incident.

When Mitch Rapp (Dylan O’Brien) proposes to his girlfriend whilst on holiday at a beach resort, he didn’t anticipate the engagement being cut horrendously short by a terrorist attack in which almost everyone on the beach was injured or killed. In the months following the attack, Mitch decides that he wants sweet revenge. He puts himself in position to make a move on the man behind the attack that killed his loved one, only to be interrupted by U.S. armed forces just before he’s about to strike. He is held in custody before being referred to Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton), the man in charge of training individuals who are to involved in Black-Ops style missions. The men prove themselves to be a real match for each other, and it’s not long before the two are going out on their first operation together to put a stop to an ex-trainee of Hurley’s wicked ways.

I was quite excited about American Assassin. On the surface it looked like it was going to be a great action film that could potentially have been the making of Dylan O’Brien in slightly more grown-up cinema. Now I’ve seen it I have to be honest and say it wasn’t as good as I’d hoped it would be, but that it was worth seeing nonetheless, and I do think it my have succeeded in helping the lead shed some of those more adolescent roles.

I do think Dylan O’Brien did a good job with his performance. He made the change that occurred in Mitch following the beach attack so easy to spot, and I think this was something that was of utmost importance to the role. It was the single motivation behind his character, so the amount of emphasis placed on it by O’Brien’s performance and the story itself was key, and I feel like this was one thing the film got bang on.

Michael Keaton clearly had fun with his role as Stan Hurley. It was good to see him revelling in the part he was playing. He was as tough as old boots on the surface, but deep down there was a man who had feelings and who was having his own issues, especially with the nature of the mission he was embarking on now. Basically there was quite a lot more to his character than you were initially greeted with as a viewer. I think the combination of his and O’Brien’s character worked really well, and was a dynamic that lifted the film considerably as they both complimented each other.

There was some really good explosive action in this film, which was nice because I don’t think we really get enough of these films where the action is one of the main events. Obviously we’ve had some good action comedies such as The Nice Guys, and some off-kilter action thrillers in the form of The Accountant and Baby Driver lately, but it’s been a while since we’ve had a half decent serious action film. For that reason, I enjoyed the film because it didn’t hold back at all, especially during a torture scene that had quite a few people in the cinema cringing (pulling fingernails off does that to people I think). It’s also been a while since I’ve seen an opening scene that was as intense as the one here in a film that didn’t venture off into some next-level obscurity.

Despite everything I’ve just said, however, I have to be honest and say that I felt as though something was missing, or there was just something about it that meant it didn’t quite manage to join the greats of the genre for me. I’m glad I watched the film, and it definitely is something I would have watched at some point because of the type of film it was, but I can’t say that I’d rush to watch it again. It was just a bit too generic for me to go screaming from the rooftops about it, you know? It took quite a formulaic approach in the way it told the story and did a bit messy at one point about halfway through where I’ve still not 100% figured out what happened.

Overall, American Assassin is a solid film that I think adequately fulfils the need some of us were starting to have for a serious action flick that didn’t leave a terrible taste in our mouths. It was great to watch the dynamic between O’Brien and Keaton, and the action was full-throttle. It’s just a shame it couldn’t have been slightly more original, but hey, you can’t have everything all the time.

You’re Next was surprisingly wonderful


A family reunion is violently disrupted when a group of masked hooligans gate crash anniversary celebrations.
When the Davison family got together for their parents’ 35th wedding anniversary, they knew some sort of drama would be on the cards. After all, what family reunions aren’t without a little… excitement? However, during dinner, a group of masked killers descend upon the house, and one by one they set about picking off each and every member of the Davison clan. Well, almost all of them.

You’re Next is one of those films that hadn’t really appealed to me until recently. By now, you guys will know that I’m not exactly a horror fanatic, and because this is billed by a lot of people to be a bit like that, I hadn’t been in a hurry to watch it after being majorly let down by roughly 90% of the horror films I’ve seen. However, in the last few months or so I’ve heard a few people really rave about this film, and seeing as it was on Netflix at the minute, I decided to watch it. I am very pleased I’ve seen it now, because it was really good. Packed full of action and a wonderful heroine, plus something that actually resembled a plot, it was a very pleasant surprise!

Sharni Vinson played the hero of this story. Erin was everything I want all horror characters to be from now on. She was intelligent; she stayed calm when everyone around her was losing their heads, and she could put up a bloody good fight. Words can’t describe how happy I was to find that I was finally watching a film such as this where the lead had a brain.

Inevitably, there were more idiotic characters to be found here, but they helped to highlight how this film got things right. It took the characters who had straw where their brains should have been and killed them off first. This was a film with horror elements that got the idea of natural selection spot on. Charles Darwin would honestly be so proud of the film makers here, as am I!

There was so much creativity used in this film too. I’ve discovered so many different ways in which I can now arm myself in the event of a home invasion in my own house, and some of them were hugely ingenious. I mean, I’d never seen someone get their head blended before seeing this, but now I have, and I must say my eyes have been opened. The various different ways people got killed or injured in the film meant the action could be stretched out across more or less the whole film, and this made for a packed 90 minutes. It was absolutely brilliant!

However, I wouldn’t say that this has ignited a love for horror films with me. I personally wouldn’t class this as a horror film. There were elements, I am not disputing that, but this was definitely more of a thriller than anything else. The only reason I would say this got handed some horror status was because of the amount of blood that was spilled in it, which is fine, but for me I need to more than that before I can start throwing the H word around. Still, that shouldn’t take away from how good this film was. I was probably just being nit-picky.

I would definitely recommend You’re Next if you hadn’t already gathered that much. This is basically what The Purge tried to be but ended up failing miserably as. There are so many plus points for this film, and I could go on for hours more about the finer details. The bottom line it this was a fun, action-packed violent thriller with a brilliant lead character who shames so many others who came before her. I absolutely loved it!

Charismata is a decent effort but needs a bit polishing


The film is about a female detective following a Satanic cult murder case. As she begins to uncover more bodies and more details, she starts to become obsessed with the darkness of the case and the possibility that the potential suspect is trying to victimise her. As she, and those around her, begin to question her sanity, it’s clear there is more to lose than just her life.So, Charismata. This is a film that I think shows there is a lot of potential for the people involved to go onto bigger things, especially writers and directors Andy Collier and Tor Mian. However, I do think there are little tweaks that need to be made, as there were a few things that I struggled with whilst I was watching the film.

One of the biggest problems I had was with the characters. I simply didn’t like them. There were no obvious redeeming characteristics for me to cling onto with them, and personally this is something I need to really be able to get behind the story and the film. For example, the character of Rebecca Farraway had such a huge chip on her shoulder. She was too stubborn for her own good. I like strong female characters and am all for more of them being written, but she didn’t know when to ask for help and this led to a lot of unnecessary hardship coming her way. The same thing kind of goes for the Eli Smith character, as well as many of the other men. There was a lot of male bravado floating around, and it was hard to get past this. I think had the more negative qualities possessed by these characters been toned down a bit and accompanied by a bit more humility, it may have been a different story.

That being said, I quite liked much of the rest of the film. The storyline had Se7en vibes, but didn’t feel like a rip-off of the film. It took the idea and put it’s own twist on it, and I liked that because with a film as great as Se7en, the temptation would be to copy it, but here it seemed to inspire something different altogether. Of course, the filmmakers themselves may not have been influenced by it at all. Either way, the story was a winner for me. It needs polishing a bit just to take it to the next level, but what the writers did with it was not a bad idea. I also liked the psychological element of the film, and liked how big a part it had. What I thought worked so well here was that it felt fairly realistic that Rebecca was having all the hallucinations that she was because of the line of work she was in. It was believable and this made it easy to watch and go along with.

Overall, Charismata was a decent psychological horror film. It needs a bit of work doing to it, mainly where the characters are concerned so that you can find yourself being a bit more supportive of them, but generally it is not a bad effort at all. The storyline worked very well in it’s favour, and it’s psychological themes were also effective. I don’t know if I’d watch the film again, but I certainly don’t regret seeing it.

You won’t want to make a quick getaway from Baby Driver


A coerced getaway driver finds himself caught up in a heist that is doomed to fail.
For a while, Baby (Ansel Elgort) has been the getaway driver of choice for Doc (Kevin Spacey), who considers him a lucky charm. Baby has undertaken a series of jobs which have all been successful, with little interference from the law. However, he didn’t get into that line of work by choice, and with his debts almost paid off, it’s not long before Baby will be a free man. Unfortunately though, the true nature of the contract he entered into with Doc soon becomes clear when Baby is called out of retirement, and the life of his new-found love, Debora (Lily James), is threatened. With this at stake, Baby agrees to take on a heist with Buddy (Jon Hamm), Darling (Eiza González) and Bats (Jamie Foxx), and it is set to be the biggest job ever pulled off, meaning the risks are higher than ever before too.

Set to be possibly THE biggest blockbuster of the summer, if not this year, is Edgar Wright’s latest project, Baby Driver. There has been a lot of buzz surrounding this film, with the hype reaching it’s peak this week. All I can say is this film is a real crowd pleaser – there is something for everyone dotted throughout the action, the comedy and the teensy-weensy bit of romance, so I cannot recommend it enough. However, I must say that this conclusion was only reached based largely upon the second half of the film purely because that was the part of the film I was fully tuned into due to an incident that occurred at the start of the film (but we won’t go into that because this is a review of the film, not of my experience at the cinema). All I’ll say is if you don’t feel I’m doing the film complete justice with this review, please forgive me.

The mix of characters in the film is brilliant. There’s a number of different personalities that make every scene in the film enjoyable to watch. I have to be honest and say that I didn’t find Baby to be the most exciting character in the film, but I found that in the scenes where he really came alive, Ansel Elgort nailed the performance. Kevin Spacey is Kevin Spacey, so you know his character is going to be wonderful to watch anyway, and he fully delivered as Doc, who I likened to Joe Cabot in Reservoir Dogs with the way he planned the jobs and kept everyone in check. Jamie Foxx also did as was expected of him as Bats, who waded in with a considerable amount of ego. Surprisingly enough, I also was quite a fan of Lily James’ character, who clearly was prepared to do anything for Baby. My favourite character has to be Buddy though, who was brought to us by the delightful Jon Hamm. People may or may not know by now, but I love a good villain, and he ended up being just that. 

There are some huge chase scenes to be found throughout Baby Driver (as you’d perhaps hope), and I know for a fact that there was definitely one that lasted for the best part of five minutes where I sat forward in my chair, mouth wide open, holding my breath with my eyes glued to the screen. It was fantastic! That, of course, wasn’t the only chase in the film, but for me it was the most memorable, and most certainly the one that got the adrenaline flowing.

Edgar Wright has done a very good job with this film. As I said to start with, this will suit the broadest of audiences because it is such a mixed bag. Personally, I think the highlights were the perfectly choreographed chase scenes (yep, those again) and the more comedic moments that also frequented the film. It was genuinely very funny in a number of places in a way that I think would survive multiple watches. Such a mixture kept the film feeling fresh for the entirety of it’s duration, so watching it didn’t feel like a huge endeavour, and the time flew by.

All in all, I can only side with those people who are tipping this to be one of the films of the year. Baby Driver proved to be a highly entertaining ride, even after the situation that occurred at the beginning which we shall not speak of. I may have to have a second viewing of the film in order to get the full experience and in order to provide you with a review that will give a truer reflection of what I thought. In the meantime, all I can say is you should probably seriously consider seeing Baby Driver at some point before it leaves cinemas, although I think it’ll get a good run given the majorly positive response it has received.

The Gift fully delivered


A young married couple have their live’s thrown into disarray when an acquaintance from the husband’s past turns up and reveals a horrific secret about him.
When husband and wife Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall) move from Chicago to California, one of the first things they do is head to a home furnishings store. There, they bump into Gordo (Joel Edgerton), a man who seems to Simon, despite Simon not being sure that he’s ever met him before in his life. Through a series of unplanned meetings at their new home, Simon realises that he went to school with Gordo, and that events from their childhood may have had an adverse effect on him. Simon tries to convince Robyn not to worry, however still unnerved, she decides to do some digging of her own. When she finds out what exactly unfolded between the two men years ago, she’s not entirely sure who the bad guy is anymore.

The Gift is one of those films that I had heard a lot of good things about, so was eager to watch it in order to see what all the fuss was about. I have to say, for a film that was shown in trailers to be a bit jumpy, I had half expected it to fall flat, despite the rave reviews. I can happily inform you, however, that it fully delivered on what was promised, with everything culminating in a horrifically twisted ending that will leave you questioning who the real villain was yourself.

I quite enjoyed all the performances here. Jason Bateman, or, as someone kindly pointed out to me via Twitter, Jason Great-man, played a good part as Simon, as did Joel Edgerton as Gordo. I mention them both together because in a way, they took on similar roles. I couldn’t really be sure about either of them for the whole film. I think they complemented each other’s characters really well, and a few of the scenes where the pair sized each other up were majorly intense.

Speaking of intense, something this film was very gifted (you’re welcome) at was building tension. You may or may not be aware by now that I am a jumper, and I will have you know that I watched this film late at night – an excellent combination I later discovered! The mix of the dimly lit shots plus the use of only the film score alongside the overall tone of the film made for a very eerie atmosphere, and just like lighting follows a clap of thunder, this eventually culminated in a jump scare that got me every single time. 

I have to give full credit to Edgerton. Not only did he star in the film as a terrific character, but he also wrote AND directed the whole thing as well. I’ve seen people give themselves this workload before, but usually one part of it is at least slightly below the standard the other two meet. Edgerton, however, handled all three components masterfully here, proving that what I’ve heard from fellow bloggers and human beings is true – he is a very talented man, and one that I shall be keeping an eye on for the foreseeable future.

Overall, I have to say I’d recommend The Gift to people, in fact, I already had before writing this post. For a film that just seemed to pop up out of nowhere, it does alright. One thing it knows how to do is build an atmosphere, whether that be through pitting characters against each other or the use of all resources involved in making the film. It’s a good watch, and one that proved to me that once a jumper, always a jumper.

Drive is a film that fires on all cylinders


A Hollywood stuntman/mechanic with a sideline as a getaway driver for L.A.’s finest criminals finds himself in a spot of trouble when he does a favour for his neighbour.A mystery man (Ryan Gosling) who is a stuntman and mechanic by day, and a getaway driver by night, seemingly looks to get out of the shady life he’s been living when he falls for Irene (Carey Mulligan), whose husband is in prison, and is raising her son alone. Just as it would seem the man is about to get his feet in under the table, Irene’s husband Standard (Oscar Isaac) gets out of prison. However, the driver’s role in their lives is not quite over, as it would seem that Standard got himself into a spot of bother whilst he was in prison, and the people he upset have found their way to him on the outside. When the life of his and Irene’s son is threatened, Standard gets the driver involved in a scheme to get the money he owes to his debtors, but when things take a turn for the worse, the driver is becomes much more deeply involved than he ever usually would intend to get.

One of those films I’ve been meaning to watch for a long time is Drive, and an afternoon catching up with my friend this week just so happened to be the best time to acquaint myself with it. Was it worth the wait? Absolutely! What a film this was – a terrific watch that both me and my best friend thoroughly enjoyed.

Ryan Gosling gives a hugely understated performances as the driver in this film. He was brilliant as the man of few words who was rather talented at getting bad guys out of tight spots. The shortage of dialogue on his part left a lot to be communicated by his body language, and he did so very successfully indeed. One scene in particular at quite a late stage in the film showcased his abilities in this field spectacularly, and made me realise that I should have paid far more attention to Gosling as a serious actor long before now.

What I really loved about this film was how there was such a dramatic change of pace in the second half compared to the beginning, but that’s not to say the first half of the film dragged at all. Quite the opposite, in fact. The start of the film built tension excellently, that culminated in the second part going absolutely mental. I’ve never seen somebody’s head explode in quite the way character’s did, but hey, I guess there’s a first time for everything. The tempo went from 0 to 60 in a heartbeat, changing the tone of the film completely, and keeping you hooked right until the very end.

The film score enhanced the overall atmosphere that came with Drive. As I was watching it, I made sure I paid special attention to the music after what a number of people had told me about it, and I can tell you that everything I was told was true. It really added to the chase scenes, but even in sequences with less action, and those where there were just long shots of the cityscapes, the music had a strong presence, and certainly didn’t go amiss.

On the whole, I can only recommend Drive, and I also have to ask myself why it took me this long to see such a wonderful film. It was exactly my sort of thing and was one of two hugely enjoyable films that made for a great afternoon during the bank holiday just passed.