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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The Walking Dead got off to a decent start


A sheriff wakes up from a coma to find the world in ruins after an outbreak of some sort of disease.
Whilst on duty one day, Sheriff Deputy Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) is shot and left in a coma. After some time, he comes round only to find that the world has changed beyond all recognition. Something that can only be described as a zombie apocalypse has occurred, and it’s not long before he finds himself in another spot of bother. Thankfully, there are other survivors, who Rick teams up with in a bid to survive.

I’m a bit behind on this one, but I’ve just recently started watching The Walking Dead. I’ve got the first season out of the way, and so far I’m liking it. There’s a good bit of action to be had, and it’s also very funny in places. The characters that I’ve been introduced to so far have shown a lot of promise, and I’m now eager to see where things go from here.

There hasn’t really been a stand out character for me yet. Obviously we have our hero in Rick, but I think he’s fairly standard so far. I think it’s going to be interesting to see how his relationships with some of the other characters develop as there’s already some tensions growing. I think that Andrew Lincoln has presented Rick well with his performance. It’s clear that a lot of emotion is bubbling away under the surface, and so I’m definitely very interested to see where things go from here on out. Norman Reedus’ character Daryl has definitely been the most entertaining so far – I do love those loose cannon types! What I like about him is you cannot tell what he’s going to do next, which always makes for a decent amount of unpredictability. One thing for certain, however, is that there is a lot more to come with all of these characters, so I’m watching this space for now.

The story has also been set up nicely. With this being the first season, there’s not a huge amount that it really delved into, but it has created a number of possible plot lines that I’m hoping will be explored further down the line. For example, the mysterious disappearance of Merle Dixon (who I was very surprised to see was played by Michael Rooker) is one I need closure on. I don’t believe for one minute that I’ve seen or heard the last of that. Then there’s also the tensions between Rick, his missus and his old partner Shane. I’m just glad to see there’s plenty of potential for where the show could go now, and so I can’t wait to get my hands on season 2.

A big shoutout goes out to the make-up department on this show. The zombies looked good! I’ve seen a few zombie films and I think these ones have looked the best out of all of them. There was something about them that made them seem a bit more undead than the others, and the noises they made were better too. After reading a little bit about the show’s production, I discovered that there is such thing as a Walker School, which would probably explain why these zombies were a cut above the rest.

All in all, my first experience of The Walking Dead has been a good one. This pilot season has set up the seasons to come very well, and there’s been enough hints given regarding what sort of things might be to come to capture my attention for a while long yet. I’m interested to see how the characters and their relationships develop, and to see who else they gather along the way. All I have to do now is find myself a copy of season 2 on DVD…

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.

Trust Me… it’s worth watching


When a nurse is fired for whistle-blowing, she has to take drastic action to provide for her and her daughter.
Catherine Hardacre (Jodie Whittaker) was a good nurse in a crumbling healthcare system. However, whilst trying to carry out her duties with integrity, she rubbed a lot of people up the wrong way, and this eventually cost her her job. In a bid to prove herself, she steals the identity of an old friend and poses as a doctor in Edinburgh, away from her home town of Sheffield, with the big question being this – how long can she survive in the huge lie she’s spun?

When I saw that the BBC was bringing out yet another medical drama, I rolled my eyes so hard that they nearly fell out of my head. I just wasn’t feeling it. Of course, my mum had said the words, ‘Oh, that could be quite good,’ which basically translates to, ‘We’re watching that whether you like it or not,’ so I didn’t have a lot of choice in the matter. However, as much as it pains me to say it, mum did us a favour with this one. It was actually quite a bit better than I thought it would be, which has been a hard thing to say with new BBC dramas of late.

Doctor Who fans have a lot to look forward to if Jodie Whittaker is half as good as the Time Lord as she was as Cath here. You got a real sense of the desperation her character was experiencing, and this got better as time went by and the whole lie she was living unraveled. I liked the other characters who were placed into her story too. Andy Brenner and Brigette Rayne, played by Emun Elliott and Sharon Small respectively, both piled the pressure onto Cath, and were two figures who I think really enhanced the story. They were well written into it, and that is probably one of the things that made this show as good as it was.

The characters weren’t the only thing that was well written. The actual storyline itself was very good, and ratcheted up the tension nicely. There were so many things that could’ve gone wrong for Cath, and it was because of this that you could never be sure of when things were going to come crashing down for her. The short run of the show (which consisted only of four hour-long episodes) massively helped this side of things. This allowed so much scope for when exactly Cath could be found because it would’ve been very easy to make a story to fit. It was nice for them to not drag the show out until viewers zoned out for once.

On the whole, I enjoyed watching Trust Me. It was a lot better than I had thought it was going to be. This was largely down to the wonderful lead performance, but also the terrific writing that went into creating this show. Not only did it make for great prime time viewing, but with a bit of luck it has marked a turning point for the BBC after a string of productions that have been less than brilliant. If you didn’t catch the show, I’d recommend you rectify that as soon as possible because it was well worth seeing.

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!

I hope Ozark goes onto be Netflix’s next big thing


A financial advisor is forced to move his family to a rural community when the money of one of his firm’s clients goes missing.
For years, Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman) has led a very uneventful life. As a financial advisor stuck in a marriage on a downward slope, he has had little in the way of excitement of late. However, the life that he has been struggling to hold together is thrown into even greater disrepair when one of Marty’s clients, who just so happens to be part of a huge Mexican drug cartel, discovers some of his money has gone missing. When Marty promises to make the money back, he is forced to relocate his entire family to the Ozarks, where it would seem even more trouble awaits.

Ozark is one of the latest shows to come from Netflix, and, my word, is it a knockout. Billed as a mix of Breaking Bad and Fargo with a little bit of Jason Bateman thrown in for good measure, this certainly seemed to have all the ingredients that would make it a roaring success with Netflix users. All I can say is the ten episodes flew by, and I already very excited to see where season two takes us.

A few things occurred to me whilst I was watching this. One of those things was that Jason Bateman is brilliant. I might be jumping the gun a bit here, but I can definitely see where people were coming from when they were likening this to Breaking Bad. I was getting some serious Walter White vibes from him at times (before he became Heisenberg at least). He was doing what he was having to do for the sake of his family, and I think you always get interesting performances from people when they play a character dealing with those circumstances. Laura Linney’s character, Wendy, grew on me as the show progressed, and I think she really came into her own in the last few episodes when Wendy accepted the situation she was in and decided to take control. One of my other favourite characters was Ruth Langmore, who has a very significant part to play in the whole story. She was played by Julia Garner who really drew you in with her performance, and I’m intrigued to see how her own story plays out from here because she was so good.

I was a big fan of the story told here. I liked the idea of all the upheaval the family faced right from the off, but I also liked how it was never once plain sailing for them even after ‘settling’ in their new home. The Byrdes ruffled so many feathers when they landed, and the ripples were felt all throughout the show. What stood out for me though was the fact it wasn’t like a problem occurred, the main character solved the problem, and then a new, completely unrelated issue arose, but more the idea that new antagonists came along and the story evolved and then carried them with it. I’m not sure if that makes sense to you guys, but for me it does and I’m hoping that if you’ve seen the show, or are going to see it, you’ll find out what I mean. 

The writing that went into the show was just as good as every other aspect of it. It combined so many different things and balanced them perfectly in my opinion. There were some super intense scenes, but there was also a fair amount of dry, witty dialogue which is always a hit with me. This all helped to keep the show moving along nicely, and meant you didn’t get worn out watching it because there was some variance in the overall tempo.

On the whole, I think you should give Ozark a go. This is a show that has the potential to become yet another of Netflix’s huge hits, and I think that’s a good indicator of the kind of quality you’re getting here. If you liked Breaking Bad, which I did until they ballsed up the final season, then this is definitely a show you should pay some attention to. And if you’re just some one who likes a kind of alternative crime thriller type thing, you should also give this a watch. Ozark is going to go onto big things I reckon – jump on the bandwagon now and save yourself the task of having to catch up before everyone else has the chance to ruin for you.

Riviera went a bit belly-up


When a billionaire businessman dies in an explosion on a yacht, it is up to his new wife to figure out exactly what happened to him.
Georgina (Julia Stiles) is the wife of the super rich Constantine Clios. When an explosions engulfs a yacht party that Constantine is attending, he dies and Georgina is widowed. It is in these dark times that she learns her husband’s riches were maintained through violence, deception and murder, and Georgina must do things she never thought she would in order to protect the family she married into little over a year before.

Riviera is the latest big budget show to be brought to us by Sky Atlantic, and it is also the latest show to not really deliver all that was promised. I’ve to be honest and say that I’m not entirely sure how to feel about it. It started well, but then it dipped, only to pick up again with two episodes remaining. I guess I expected better from the channel because they show so much potential with all their promos.

One of the main things I struggled with was the fact that I didn’t really like any of the characters. To me, none of them were that interesting. One thing I had read about the show was that Georgina, played by Julia Styles, would undergo a Michael Corleone-esque transformation (no points for guessing why I decided to watch the show). There were times when I could see this, but it wasn’t until quite late on, and even then it didn’t seem to be that enduring. It felt more like they tried to make the character of Georgina like that, but it simply didn’t work for her. And because that character wasn’t very engaging, I struggled to connect with the performance from Stiles. Anyone could have played Georgina, and the same could be said for all the other main characters. There was simply no one who I’ll look back on and say, ‘You know what they were great in? Riviera.’ In a sentence, the dull characters made for dull performances.

There also seemed to be some real pacing issues with this show. It started off brilliantly, and I think it was one of the best first episodes I’ve seen in a while. It really set the show up nicely with all the intrigue and the questions it raised. But then it never made use of much of what it set up in the first episode. The plot became very drawn out over the next handful of episodes before picking up again in the last two. This was a huge issue because there were ten episodes in all, so I watched about 7 weeks of nothing, but like an eejit I stuck with it because I thought the first episode was awesome and they would surely make use of the foundations at some point soon. I think one of biggest reasons it seemed to drag on so much was because it started on so many different possible strands and ended up losing itself (and me) along the way. Ultimately, the real problem was it didn’t really know what story to follow, so tried to tell multiple ones all at once.

All in all, Riviera wasn’t what I’d hoped it would be. Looking back now, there wasn’t much that I actually liked about it, and I’m not fussed whether it returns for a second season or not. I can’t say that I’d recommend the show because it just wasn’t nearly as good as it’d looked to be. The characters were the biggest downfall because they could’ve been it’s saving grace, however they were all so wooden and as a result gave you nothing to cling on to. The bottom line is, there was potential here, but not for the first time with a film or TV show, it was wasted.