Rampage

Year: 2018
Directed by: Brad Peyton
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Naomie Harris, Malin Akerman, Jeffrey Dean Morgan

Written by Megan Williams

 

Video game-to-film adaptations have always had a bad reputation, and have rarely been accurate to their source material. However, the arrival of new film ‘Rampage’ might be able to destroy that stigma.

‘Rampage’ is based on the 1986 arcade game of the same name, where you have to control a giant gorilla, named George, a giant crocodile-type creature called Lizzie or a giant werewolf, called Ralph, and destroy as much of the game’s city landscape as possible to proceed to the next level.

After seeing the film, I can definitely say that this is the most accurate video game adaptation so far.

The film adaptation follows Davis (played by Dwayne Johnson), a primatologist and ex-military personal, and his friend George the Gorilla. When George is hit by a scientific experiment that has fallen from the sky, he starts to rapidly grow in size and aggression. Desperate to save his friend, Davis travels to Chicago in hopes of finding a cure and discovers that this same experiment may have also mutated a wolf and a crocodile…and citywide destruction ensues.

The performances are great: Dwayne Johnson and Naomi Harris play very likeable and interesting characters, and they work very well on-screen together. Even though Johnson seems to be in his comfort zone with this role, it looks like he had fun making this film, and I’ve grown to liking him more as an actor with every film I see him in. His on-screen chemistry with Jeffrey Dean Morgan was very charming to watch too (even if Morgan’s accent did get annoying very quickly).

The friendship between Davis and George was believable and, at times, heart-warming which made me care for the characters when the film’s storyline really kicks into gear; I wanted these characters to survive the chaos that was happening on-screen.

While the CGI was cartoon-ish at times (especially when focusing on George), the creature designs for Ralph the Wolf and Lizzie the Crocodile were fantastic and unique-looking. The soundtrack was also fantastic and perfectly worked with the visuals. On top of this, it was memorable, which I find rare in action films.

Overall, ‘Rampage’ is a fun-filled action adventure, and is probably the most accurate video game adaptation to date.

Megan’s Rating: 8.0/10

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Beast

Year: 2018
Director: Michael Pearce
Cast: Jessie Buckley, Johnny Flynn, Geraldine James, Trystan Gravelle

Written by Elena Morgan

Written and directed by Michael Pearce, Beast is an eerie and captivating debut feature film about isolation and secrets. Moll (Jessie Buckley) is a troubled young woman, stifled by her controlling mother (Geraldine James), the unwanted affections of nice but dull cop Clifford (Trystan Gravelle) and the isolated island community she’s a part of. When she meets loner Pascal (Johnny Flynn) she’s drawn to him even though people on the island suspect him to be behind a series of brutal murders.

Thanks to the music, performances and lingering shots on characters faces, you have a sense of unease throughout ‘Beast’. From the beginning you get a sense of something is not quite right with Moll’s family and the picture-perfect town she lives in. It’s the small-town mentality and the desperate need to keep up appearances for the sake of the neighbours, even if that could damage a loved one. When Moll meets Pascal she’s not sure she likes her family, or even likes herself, but with him it’s like she comes alive.

The chemistry between Moll and Pascal is electric, both know very little about each other, but they appear to bring each other out of their shells. They are in love and very little can stand in their way, but the suspicion of a community and doubts in each other’s minds might just do it. Jessie Buckley gives a powerful performance. She’s captivating whenever she’s on screen, portraying Moll as naïve but with a hidden steely core. Johnny Flynn is equal parts charming and menacing as Pascal, but he never manages to be unlikable. Both characters have dark pasts and secrets and you’re left to the very end wondering if either of them can be trusted.

The island is as much of a character as anyone else is in ‘Beast’. The woods, the beach and the rocky hills are a mixture of harsh reality and fragile beauty. It’s an almost dreamlike setting for Moll and Pascal’s relationship, giving them a weird and wonderful landscape for their twisty and passionate romance.

Towards the end of ‘Beast’, it did feel like the story was meandering along and there were multiple points where the story could’ve stopped and had a satisfying ending. But instead it carried on, attempting to tie up all loose threads while still leaving some questions unanswered and making the story feel longer and more complicated than necessary.

‘Beast’ is a tale of two halves, the first is a dark, brooding mystery, the second is a strange and unsettling drama. It’s an uneven film, but that does add to the sense of unease that’s present throughout this atmospheric film.

Elena’s Rating: 7.2 out of 10

Mom and Dad

Year: 2018
Directed by: Brian Taylor
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Selma Blair, Anne Winters, Zackary Arthur

WRITTEN BY JESSICA PEÑA

As parents, you’re supposed to protect and care for your children, right? Sign their permission slips, feed them, make sure they make curfew, and one day kill them. No? Well, ‘Mom and Dad’ is so strangely engrossing and completely batshit crazy that you can’t help but enjoy your time watching it. Brian Taylor, responsible for those ‘Crank’ films starring Jason Statham, goes out on a limb here as he tries to create something uniquely bold. There’s no better way to tackle a film so bizarre than to assess it just as ferociously as its titular actor, Nicolas Cage. From ‘Vampire’s Kiss’ to ‘The Wicker Man’, Cage has never discouraged his passion to tackle everything. His career of oddball roles and an Oscar win have led him to this role. We see Cage demolish a pool table all while singing the Hokey Pokey. This is admirable in a way only the Nic Cage could pull off, because after all, he is a treasure-seeker. Alongside Selma Blair, ‘Mom and Dad’ tabs quite the impression, just so long as you forgive its crumbling narrative and abnormal editing. It is ridiculousness wrapped up in pure adrenaline fun.

‘Mom and Dad’ is unlike your usual nonsensical trip. Imagine your modern suburban society. Now imagine it if all parents were to suddenly snap into feral instincts to kill their children. That’s pretty much the premise of ‘Mom and Dad’ and it never lets go of you. It cranks up the psycho and leaves you unsupervised to deal with its mess. Fast-paced and sketchy, it makes its way through a string of violent chases to give the audience an erratic feeling of discomfort without ever really saying anything, but that’s it. There’s nothing more to offer here than a nihilistic approach to parenting. One day, parents just show up early outside of school cafeterias just waiting for that bell to ring so they can wring some necks themselves. It’s oddly amusing to see these same parents tackling and murdering their children running across the football field. The choreography is really loose and wild, allowing for some quick camera work to focus in on the madness.

The film doesn’t take itself too seriously, and for that, we’re grateful. You could even give it a pass as a thrilling comedy. Cage and Blair give convincing performances that snap to fluid hysteria like a weak twig. Cage breaks into a maniacal, kill-hungry father and it’s a no-brainer this performance will be recorded as another cult “freak out” in his career. Cage is unabashedly charismatic and glorious in this role. We couldn’t have expected much else here, and hey, we can really get a kick out of this! Anne Winters and Zackary Arthur star as the two kids trying to escape from their parents’ grasp. They have to work together to overcome this insatiable strike and we can sort of get behind them at some points. The game of cat and mouse gets a strange twist here. More than its unnecessary parent backstories and questionable origins, the film suffers a lot out of its abrupt ending. Maybe we didn’t come in for much, but it leaves a bad taste in your mouth. Nothing is quite resolved and we realize it was just all show, no prize.

If you watch ‘Mom and Dad’ hoping for a critically good film, you’re not going to have a good time and you’re going to be greatly disappointed. It’s the kind of film you put on when you have friends over and you just want to see them squirm at just how laughably insane the film is. Truly, it’s a film better enjoyed if you just roll with its lunacy. It’s safe to say it’s self-aware of how crazy the core concept is, so it plays with its execution, although a complete mess, and gives us a backbone of crazy resilience to feast on. I’ll say it, it’s my favourite Brian Taylor film (though that’s not saying much). Our beloved Nic Cage did not go underused and that’s all we really care about.

 JESSICA’S RATING: 5/10

A Quiet Place

Year: 2018
Directed by: John Krasinski
Starring: John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe

Written by Jessica Peña

Silence can truly be deafening. Even in a packed theater, it’s daunting how a small sound becomes amplified in the absence of others. Sound is the enemy in John Krasinski’s newest film, ‘A Quiet Place’. Yes, Jim Halpert from The Office has grown some exceptional directorial skills and has given us an ingenious thriller about a family surviving in a post apocalyptic reality where monsters hunt you down by sound. Supremely inventive with its world building and familial ties, ‘A Quiet Place’ is cutting edge intensity and it deserves your praise (and money).

A family of five are forced to live their lives in utter silence in order to survive. Creatures with super agility and hearing hunt by sound, and it poses detrimental risks to the family’s fully aware lifestyle. The film has an interesting creature concept that, from the get-go, is well established to the audience. It leaves a few curiosities unanswered, but it introduces enough of these monsters to pique interest. Rather than stretching the imagination of what they look like (like how many modern horrors work), it’s decided that the tension build is given more respectively to the film’s fight for survival and the things they become aware of themselves. What a relief it is to have a film that doesn’t waste time with exposition. We aren’t given any backstory to the family, but it’s refreshing because it still works. Immediately, we are thrown into Day 89 of this tragic stricken reality, and it’s shown just how high the stakes are. The tension begins and lasts throughout the runtime, giving us a visceral, dreaded satisfaction.

Krasinski, who has a writing credit on the film, implements a great deal of dread in the form of its story structure and how exactly the family dynamic plays out. Their natural way of living has been compromised and they have nothing left but survival. You could say this has become their natural way of living, as they’ve perfected alternatives down to using lettuce leaves as plates and felt pieces for Monopoly. In this sentiment, the production value pays off.  It drags us into the tension by letting us in on things unknown to the characters; plot devices that further put us over the edge of our seats. The sound design lends itself impeccably in the way it can make the shatter of a lantern one of the first outbursts of quick desperation in the film. Marco Beltrami’s score complements the way tension transcends and finds a home in the film. Daring, intimidating, and nuanced, it’s easily become a favorite to hopefully seek an Oscar nomination. We’re treading lightly in this world with the family and Krasinski’s direction is well enough to see all of these aspects through to the audience.

Krasinski and Blunt’s chemistry as they take on the roles of industrious, resilient parents is so gratifying and real. Krasinski, a full-bearded, sweater wearing dad here, is meticulously cautious. He’s not over the top great, but he gives enough of himself to sustain a very deep likability. He’s keen to prepare their farmhouse bunker into a sound-proof environment they can live in. Blunt also full heartedly lays it all out on the line and truly is the star here. Her character’s maternal instinct to protect and defend is something that lends a relatability to the film. One major element, as shown in the trailers, is that she’s pregnant. This is used cleverly later on, but it’s just so hard to believe that, in a world where you could literally die if a sound you make is remotely loud enough, you’d be careless enough to become pregnant here. Possibly a cop out to ensure sentimental impact, or maybe just a way for them to find new hope in a desolate existence, it’s still quite reckless to believe. That said, it really doesn’t take away from the film overall.

Blunt and Krasinski embrace their roles with a very realized fear: “Who are we if we can’t protect them?” And it’s at that level when we realize that the “horror” you will find in the film isn’t so much the idea of these monsters, but of feeling powerless to aid and protect your children from these evils. Arguably, it’s as much a deep dive into the insecurities of parenthood as it is a monster thriller, and these themes are carefully merged into a successfully immersive final cut.

Coming off the indie success of ‘Wonderstruck’ last year, Millicent Simmonds is casted here, by the enormous perseverance of Krasinski to get her in, and gives a wonderful performance that truly needs no words to convey. Every pained remark told by the eyes and every intense build is told through her facial features and hand motions. Her signing comes to life in ways that leans us into emotional weight with her inner guilt. Simmonds’ casting choice is highly representative of both the hearing impaired and disabled community, where it’s apparent not enough is done to cast these actors. It’s so satisfying and even more telling to how it touches others in the community. So, thank you, John Krasinski. Moreover, Noah Jupe plays his role stupendously as the young brother afraid of the shift in responsibilities and what’s to come, but manages to step up to the plate quite convincingly to do what he needs to do.

‘A Quiet Place’ is high octane survival in an everlasting slice of tension. The film is so well paced and finds success in these moments of a fear so loud it falls silent. John Krasinski pulls out all his tricks to quietly convey the kind of suspense that will lead among other successes this year. Thrilling and nail-bitingly good, you’ll find yourself forgetting to exhale.

JESSICA’S RATING: 8.5/10

Looking Glass

Year: 2018
Directed by: Tim Hunter
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Robin Tunney, Marc Blucas, Ernie Lively

Written by Tom Sheffield

The latest addition to Nicolas Cage’s CV,  ‘Looking Glass’, heads straight for digital release tomorrow, and coming to DVD later this month. Despite some fine performances from the film’s leads, this shallow thriller fails to build any suspense, and consequently struggles to keep the viewers attention.

Following the death of their daughter in a tragic accident, Ray (Cage) and Maggie (Tunney) buy a motel in an attempt to start a new life together. After Ray makes an unusual discovery in the basement he begins to question the history of the motel, and his life begins to spiral as his investigation uncovers a dark truth.

The opening scene instantly gives off a nostalgic feel to it – as if you had just sat down to watch a film you’d rented from Blockbuster on a Friday night. The credits swoop and fade in during the first few moments of the film, and even the transitions during the brief flashback of their child’s fatal accident are reminiscent of an old-school thriller. These little nostalgic nods really set up what sort of tone you should expect for the 99 minutes that follow.

The film really does feel like an old-school Friday night rental, from the visuals, to the tone, and even the direction. Sadly, that’s about as far as my praise for the film itself goes for me.

60 minutes go by and nothing all that much actually happens – nor is there ever really even a hint of suspense in this ‘thriller’. Despite this, Cage and Tunney kept me invested in their characters and the events happening at their motel – even if the writing didn’t. This is actually one of Cage’s better roles in my honest opinion, and I feel like had it had it been better written, it could of been one of his most memorable – but let’s face it, nothing will top him as Ben in ‘National Treasure’.

‘Buffy’ alumnus, Marc Blucas, plays Howard – the local Sheriff intent on uncovering the mystery behind the events at the motel. Despite being on the side of the law, his character comes off just as weird as the interesting characters that rent rooms at the motel. The film often focuses on a couple of these characters in particular as we discover the motel serves a certain purpose for these regular visitors, but despite the films best efforts to make them feel somehow involved in the mysterious events at the motel, they couldn’t feel further detached from it all.

I think Tim Hunter, whose most recent directorial efforts have been on TV shows such as ‘Breaking Bad’, ‘Hannibal’, ‘Riverdale’, and ‘Bosch’, did a reasonable job directing this film. The seedy Peeping Tom scenes were really well shot, and the subtle changes in transitions for some of the scenes really add to an ever-present nostalgic vibe. I really think the fault with this film lies in the poor writing – there’s an incredible lack of depth to any of the characters, the dialogue often feels as though no thought went into it, and it’s constant failure to create any sort of suspense is ultimately it’s downfall.

The film dips it’s toes into the act of voyeurism but doesn’t really go anywhere with it, despite feeling like it will heavily lean on that aspect of the plot in the run up to it’s conclusion. In the end, it kind of feels like they just threw that aspect in to make some of the scenes more exciting. The whole plot in general feels like it loses its way after the first act, despite a promising premise.

It’s not until the last 20 minutes we actually learn not only what happened to Ray and Maggie’s daughter, but also what the pair were like before the incident and why their characters have behaved like they have throughout the duration of the film. However, this doesn’t make the climax better in any way, shape, or form, and despite it’s attempt to surprise you with its twist, its falls flat on its face and is incredibly anti-climatic. If the film managed to keep your attention up until that point, the ending is very predictable.

If you’re a Nicolas Cage fan (and I know there’s some of you out there!) then I’d recommend you give this film a watch for his performance alone – and expect very little from the film itself. Cage, Tunney, and Blucas make the film watchable, even if you do find yourself uninvested in the plot. In the end, it’s the failure to build any suspense that is the most frustrating part of this thriller, as well as being left with more questions than answers (which there are next to none of…

Tom’s Rating: 2.5 / 10

Ghost Stories

Year: 2018
Directed by: Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson
Starring: Andy Nyman, Martin Freeman, Paul Whitehouse, Alex Lawther

Written by Lucy Buglass

For years, mankind has pondered over the existence of ghosts, demons and the paranormal. Many have claimed to have experienced it firsthand, while others dedicate their lives and careers to debunking those experiences. It seems to be a question that no one has been able to answer or prove one way or the other, and this fear of the unknown has been the basis of a number of popular horror stories.

Based on the stage play of the same name, ‘Ghost Stories’ follows skeptic Professor Phillip Goodman’s (Nyman) investigation of three unsolved cases, each one detailing a different haunting. After meeting with his idol and fellow skeptic Charles Cameron, and feeling deflated when he begins to question his lifelong skepticism, Goodman meets with former night watchman Tony Matthews (Whitehouse), teenager Simon Rifkind (Lawther), and businessman Mike Priddle (Freeman) to learn about their firsthand experiences with the supernatural. The film is split into three segments, allowing each character to explain their case through the use of flashbacks where we get to see exactly what happened to the characters.

Throughout these flashbacks, Nyman and Dyson have utilised a number of popular horror techniques that will make you jump out of your seat, or hide behind your hands.  There’s a serious feeling of unease throughout the entire film, and you have no idea what’s going to happen next. Even as an avid fan of the genre, I found myself genuinely terrified during a large portion of the film. ‘Ghost Stories’ knows exactly how to pace a horror film, and how to leave an audience uncomfortable yet unable to look away from the screen. Whilst the jump scare is inevitable, the film doesn’t overuse these and instead finds ways to build tension and fear, which actually heightens the experience because you find yourself trying to predict when something’s going to pop out at you. It leaves you on edge for the entire ninety minutes, which in my mind, is exactly what a horror film should do.

The stories told by each of the men are gripping, and the actors all do exceptional jobs of portraying their characters. Each of the men interviewed by Goodman are very different in their class backgrounds, beliefs and personalities, but are united in their adamancy that they did experience hauntings and that they left them completely shaken up afterwards. This reinforces the idea that the supernatural can target anyone, and leave anyone feeling helpless. Particular praise has to be given to Alex Lawther; after seeing him in season 3 of ‘Black Mirror’ I had high hopes, and he delivered. He’s certainly one to watch and I look forward to seeing what he gets up to next.

‘Ghost Stories’ is incredibly British in nature, mixing the right amount of dry humour and satire into what is an utterly terrifying experience overall. Other critics have said it’s the best British horror film in years, and I couldn’t agree more. It’s an incredibly gripping story that has a lot of twists and turns, and tugs at all of your heartstrings. Alongside the characters, I went through a number of emotions and felt fully invested in their lives. These are all characters that feel familiar, they’re your average human, which throws realism into the mix. Being able to identify with characters in a horror film makes your fear 100 times worse.

This film is best experienced with as little context as possible, if you walk into it completely blind, I believe you’ll get maximum enjoyment out of it. The trailers have done a great job at keeping it as vague as possible, which was a bonus. There’s nothing worse than trailers giving everything away in a few seconds. ‘Ghost Stories’ does have a twist ending, but I thought this was done brilliantly and I personally was unable to predict it. Nyman and Dyson have put so much effort into crafting an intense, thrilling, mysterious story and it’s seriously paid off. I’m now hoping ‘Ghost Stories’ will be returning to the stage soon, because I’ll be first in line for a ticket!

Lucy’s Rating: 8.0/10

Isle of Dogs

Year: 2018
Directed by: Wes Anderson
Starring: Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Greta Gerwig, Frances McDormand, Liev Schreiber, Koyu Rankin.

WRITTEN BY RHYS JONES

Wes Anderson’s 9th directorial venture, and his 2nd stop-motion feature, ticks all the boxes of what you’ve come to expect from the extremely unique Texan. You have your perfectly symmetrical shots, you have your whip pans, you have your lateral tracking shots, you have your borderline pretentious dialogue, and you have a cast to end all casts. The cast list above isn’t even half of the voices you hear in ‘Isle of Dogs’, and every character, in true Anderson style, leaves an impression in one way or another.

‘Isle of Dogs’ is set in a dystopian future Japan in which canine flu has infected every dog in the city and threaten to cross the species barrier and infect humans. As such, the dictatorial Mayor Kobayashi has banished every dog to Trash Island, including his ward Atari’s (Rankin) dog, Spots (Schreiber), and Atari takes it upon himself to fly to Trash Island to find and rescue Spots. On the island, he meets a ragtag group of dogs, lead by Bryan Cranston’s Chief, who offer to help Atari find Spots.

Immediately, the film’s stop-motion animation impresses you. In a superb opening credits sequence to the sound of Taiko drumming, as scored by recent Oscar winner Alexandre Desplat, you see 3 drummers and the camera whip panning around them, and you realise that every single drum beat was stop-motion. Every time the drumsticks hit the drum, you know a human placed them there. The film is filled to the brim of astonishing animation that borders on arrogance, but stays just the right side of it to be impressive. There is a 2-minute sequence of sushi being sliced and diced, just because they can. Honestly, Isle of Dogs is an amazing feat of animation.

Adding to the stellar animation, the voice cast doesn’t disappoint. Cranston’s voice is impressive in any environment, but his gravitas adds to Chief’s highly defensive nature and proves to be a brilliant leading dog. In his group, Edward Norton’s Rex is the democratic voice of reason, Bill Murray’s Boss is the childlike, enthusiastic dog who at one point fully breaks the fourth wall in a moment of amazement, Jeff Goldblum’s Duke is the dog who, for the ‘Game of Thrones’ fans, is this film’s version of Varys as no rumour or bit of news escapes him, and finally Bob Balaban’s King follows orders as he is told, and is a fervent supporter of Rex, but sadly Balaban is relegated to a bit-part player as he simply doesn’t stand out against the vocal stylings of Cranston, Norton, Murray, and Goldblum.

This main group is the heart of the film, each of them has honestly tragic backstories of where they came from back in Japan, several of them missing the home comforts of dog soap and eating anything other than leftover trash dumped on the island. Anderson and company do a fantastic job on the island of merely showing you how things work without explicitly telling you what you need to know. There is a hierarchy in place – there are areas of the island dedicated to certain clans of dogs, there are rumours of cannibalism on the island, and so on. ‘Isle of Dogs’ does a brilliant job of fleshing out the canine world having been relegated to living in squalor.

It is a shame, though, that the other parts of the film, following Greta Gerwig’s Tracy Walker, a foreign exchange student fighting to bring the dogs back from Trash Island as she attempts to convince the city of a possible cure, aren’t so endearing or interesting. The impressive animation remains, but there is an over-reliance on narration and telling us exactly what’s happening. At the beginning of the film, we are told that the dogs’ barks have been translated into English and the Japanese characters all speak in their native language, crucially without subtitles, and the only translation into English comes through an in-film translator, voiced by Frances McDormand. I noticed this the most in the first third of the film; there is so much information to be given to us before we can get to the main story that it becomes overwhelming. McDormand delivers her tremendously long monologues reliably brilliantly as she translates speeches, but this becomes tiresome as the film progresses. There are sequences of the film where there isn’t any translation and we have to interpret what’s being said through visuals and body language. These scenes are superb as they manage to convey all the key information we need as an audience without explicitly telling us, and it forces us to engage with the film, it’s just a shame these weren’t more common.

‘Isle of Dogs’, by and large, is very good. It’s constantly impressive with its animation and its impeccable set design, and there are sections of the film that rank up there with some of the best I’ve seen this year, mainly when the dogs are on screen. As the film progresses, the film focuses more on Chief and Atari’s building relationship and unfortunately forgets about Rex, King, Duke, and Boss which does remove my favourite part of the film which was the relationship and banter among the dogs.

‘Isle of Dogs’ stumbles occasionally when the dogs aren’t on screen, but this doesn’t
diminish the film as an impressive achievement in animation. Most importantly, ‘Isle of ‘Dogs is better than ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’  in my opinion. Yes, I went there.

RHYS’ RATING: 7.8/10

Unsane

Year: 2018
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: Claire Foy, Joshua Leonard, James Greer, Sarah Stiles, Mark Kudisch

Written by Jo Craig

“Is she or isn’t she?” asks the tagline of Steven Soderbergh’s first horror-thriller, addressing the timeless conundrum of diagnosing one’s own sanity when no more shit could possibly hit the fan. Soderbergh’s affair with retirement was put on hiatus for the production of 2017’s ‘Logan Lucky’ and this uprising — from the directorial afterlife — has facilitated the release of his answer to the B movie genre.

Premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in February, ‘Unsane’ highlights Claire Foy in her first departure after Netflix’s ‘The Crown’, where her noteworthy display of poise and gumption forms paranoid working girl Sawyer Valentini. Still suffering with psychological trauma after falling victim to stalking, Valentini seeks counselling from a local institution (filmed in the abandoned Summit Park hospital of Pomona, New York) where she becomes involuntarily admitted and harassed once again by her stalker; or so we’re lead to believe.

Jonathan Bernstein and James Greer’s joint original screenplay with Soderbergh follows Valentini’s unreliable mental stability over a seven day period. This timeline somewhat reflects the ten days it took Soderbergh to shoot his iPhone 7 Plus creation that excels at enhancing themes of intrusion and exploitation. Camera angles are innovative from the outset — shooting from lighting fixtures, underneath desks and bar tops — that allow audiences to experience spying from the antagonists point of view.

The stalker in question is Joshua Leonard’s David Strine — continuing his hair-raising demeanour from TV’s ‘Scorpion’ — who succeeds at making skin crawl as the guy nobody wants to have outside their bedroom window. With no disrespect to Leonard, Strine carries an unhinged expression you wouldn’t hesitate to jab under the circumstances. The central figures play well together in a game of cat and mouse and build a convincing familiarity with each other that validates their exhausting history.

Foy’s Sawyer Valentini — mythical as her name might sound — is an advocate for headstrong women and sheds light on unspoken mental health issues. Her character refuses to play the victim card and Foy frequently ignites the rebel spark and mirrors the insurgence we would all act upon in helpless situations. This hair-pulling daymare has undoubtedly given Foy the platform needed to showcase her talents outside playing royalty, swapping a well-spoken dialect for a few growling f-bombs.

‘Unsane’ initially becomes mislead when one of Soderbergh’s Hollywood pals makes a juggernaut cameo, injecting an odd dose of satire you would only expect from the Coen Brothers. Furthermore, where time was taken to evolve the complexity between hunter and prey, the denouement sadly settles for a clichéd final chase that ultimately weakened its antecedent originality.

If anything else interrupts this lucid dream, it’s the writers — whose highest credit is the 2006 bubble-wrapped rom-com ‘Just My Luck’ — and their inability to honour one train of thought. By no means is the story nonsense or disengaging — as it reimagines the clawing stress-dream we’ve all had — but rather adds too many rational explanations that contradicts the allure of mystery. Trippy double-exposure and bleak cinematography — from Soderbergh’s pseudo name Peter Andrews — aids the first-person experience by displaying the visual effects of pill-popping. However, it is forgotten that audiences are paying to be mind-fucked and will accept and even welcome some corridors to be left in the dark.

For what was initially approached as a student film — going as far as letting Foy apply her own makeup — production company Fingerprint Releasing made an underwhelming $6 million at the box office on its opening weekend, finding it relatively easy to rake back the impressively low budget of $1.2 million. Largely applauded in Claire Foy’s favour for her composure outside Buckingham Palace, ‘Unsane’ exercises Soderbergh’s capabilities of working as a one-man show (director, editor, writer, DoP and camera operator) and offers a compelling cerebral maze to work through, despite leaving neon exit signs towards the end.

 Jo’s Rating: 7 out of 10

Ready Player One

Year: 2018
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Simon Pegg, Mark Rylance

Written by Jo Craig

During the eighties and nineties, standing before a chunky black mirror — fingers and thumbs strategically placed over buttons — was the norm for the vintage gamer. Saturday nights resembled the ‘Stranger Things’ arcade scene and the blind belief of beating an anonymous high score was initiated by one on-screen statement: “Player One, Ready!”

Encasing this nostalgia within a fictional epic was Sci-Fi writer Ernest Cline back in 2011, praised for his tale of friendship and pop culture explosion inside novel ‘Ready Player One’. Arriving seven years later — amidst a flurry of disco era revival in TV and film — marks the thirty-third release from the BFG of directors, Steven Spielberg. As predicted, it’s a spectacle not to be missed.

Masterful in filming thrilling adventures and creating memorable companionships, ‘The King of Entertainment’ was undeniably the man to bring Cline’s vision to life. Quoted as being his third most difficult movie to shoot behind ‘Jaws’ and ‘Saving Private Ryan’, Spielberg has roared a geek war cry and we have come running.

The complexity of RP1’s world of pure imagination was always going to be a high level endeavour to visually reconstruct. For Spielberg (who is no stranger to tackling Science fiction), transitioning a story largely set in a virtual reality interface demanded attention to detail and creative trust in effects team Industrial Light and Magic. Shot in Panavision, our first trip down the technicolour rabbit hole — where a rush of mass media characters are live, active and driven by civilians of the year 2045 — is nothing short of an eye-widening wonderland.

The OASIS (Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation) is a limitless, retro universe and in outline, provides real-world outcast, Tye Sheridan’s Wade Watts, a platform to enter Anorak’s Quest — a competition designed by the late OASIS inventor James Halliday (Rylance) — and win full control of the multi-user program. Watts’ VR avatar Parzival is rock star cool — sporting hypnotic locks with a sleeveless, denim jacket — and introduces the OASIS’ main attraction: Being somebody/something else. In addition to escapism, themes of friendship, innocence and courage give a gooey centre to this technological gobstopper and equips a diligent plot with a solid, emotive core.

A level balance is constant between reality and fantasy, guiding you back to the grounded motifs after gawking too long at the ‘Gears of War’ styled gunfight surrounding The Iron Giant’s PvP battle against Mechagodzilla. Frontrunners Tye Sheridan and Olivia Cooke avoid scrutiny by being their charming selves, proving — along with Mark Rylance’s quirky Halliday and Ben Mendelsohn’s deceitful businessman Sorrento — that Spielberg’s casting is meticulous and loyal to the source material.

As awesome as it is watching central Gunter (Easter egg hunter) Art3mis (Cooke) annihilate Sorrento’s (Mendelsohn) army of Sixers by use of a Lancer assault rifle with a chainsaw bayonet, viewers unfamiliar with Cline’s material will be forgiven for missing plot details in the thick of ocular overload. While 3D IMAX might be a component too far for our motion sickness threshold, Spielberg enhances our first-person experience of virtual reality gaming by altering Cline’s Halliday challenges to accommodate a more visually acceptable result on screen. Left unaltered and we might have had to watch Parzival play hours of competitive Joust.

Weaving through a plethora of movie references (including a whole sequence dedicated toThe Shining’), gaming-inspired escape plans and equilibrium-altering camera movements, Spielberg — working closely with writer Zak Penn and Cline — stack several elements and every Easter egg imaginable into a cyberspace treasure hunt on steroids, without letting any eggs fall out of the basket. In simpler terms, it’s an adrenaline-pumping, good versus evil race to the finish line, complete with a down memory lane Alan Silvestri score blended with an 80’s classics soundtrack.

‘Ready Player One’ is a geekgasm that incidentally excites us for Marvel’s behemoth later this month, achieving $53 million coins on its four day debut at the Easter weekend box office. After Warner Bros. pushed forward RP1’s premiere from December – to avoid clashing with ‘The Last Jedi’ — fans of lightsabers, video games and cheeky superheroes will be grateful for the release date staggering, precluding the possibility of geeky heart-failure. Ultimately, one of 2018’s most anticipated productions does not disappoint, nor purge Ernest Cline’s concept of its defining qualities. Instead, Sir Steven — God of euphoric adventure — deserves one thunderous high-five for letting us break free from the mundane and witness a magical journey too colossal for the real world.

Jo’s Rating: 9 / 10