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

Steven Soderbergh’s iPhone Shot ‘Unsane’ Gets First Trailer

“A young woman is involuntarily committed to a mental institution where she is confronted by her greatest fear — but is it real or is it a product of her delusion?”

Directed by: Steven Soderbergh

Cast:  Claire Foy, Juno Temple, Jay Pharaoh, Joshua Leonard, Aimee Mullins

Release Date: March 23rd, 2018

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Logan Lucky

Year: 2017
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Daniel Craig, Riley Keough, Katie Holmes

Written by Corey Hughes

From time to time directors need to take a break, and I get it. Filmmaking must be an exhausting and difficult process. Even the great Stanley Kubrick took a well-deserved 12-year break between ‘Full Metal Jacket’ (1987) and ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ (1999). So when Oscar-winning Steven Soderbergh announced his ‘retirement’ from directing, it came as a surprise to see him back just four years later from his last feature.

He left on a high note with the critically acclaimed biopic ‘Behind The Candelabra’ being a film that defied expectations and met some sturdy opposition from audiences across the globe, due to its somewhat ‘controversial’ subject matter.

But an eagerly anticipated return to our screens means a return to a genre that is close to Soderbergh’s heart: the heist movie. The heist movie for Soderbergh is what I imagine the Sci-fi genre is for Spielberg.  Whilst both directors have ventured into unfamiliar territory, they both have their best films (arguably) in these particular genres. Although Soderbergh has made other interesting films (look no further than ‘Traffic’ and ‘Magic Mike’) it’s the ‘Ocean’ trilogy that puts his name on the movie-map.

His return to the heist genre has brought us ‘Logan Lucky’. The movie begins in West Virginia, where Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) is fixing a car with the adorable assistance of his daughter (Farrah Mackenzie, write it down). After being laid-off from his job due to being a liability to the company, Jimmy encourages his younger brother Clyde (Adam Driver) to assist him in his criminal adventure.

The seemingly simple-minded Logan brothers are both disabled, Jimmy having trouble with his knee and Clyde being an amputee (“it’s like the two of you add up to one whole person”), but the limit of such similarities end with Tatum and Driver’s contrasting performances. Whilst Tatum’s character is often cheerful and light-hearted in his approach to the unfortunate circumstances he finds himself in, Driver’s Clyde is much more solemn and serious. Put them both together, and Soderbergh has managed to bring forth a pair of interesting and empathetic characters.

Cauliflower. To you and me, an awful tasting vegetable. To the Logan brothers, a code word that acts as a trigger to a life of crime. Jimmy’s utterance of the word to the unfavourable ears of his younger brother means that they must work together to pull off a complex robbery that will be later known as the ‘Hillbilly Heist’ during a NASCAR race in North Carolina. But they can’t do it alone…

In comes Joe Bang and his two highly uneducated and unsophisticated (but utterly hilarious) hillbilly brothers. Joe Bang is a fitting name for Daniel Craig’s character, a name that emphasises his expertise in the explosive-making business. Craig’s unrecognisable performance couldn’t be further away from the debonair persona that he has become known for, playing James Bond over recent years; expect no sexy British ambience or sophisticated suave here!

As the opening scene reaches your eyes there’s an undeniable neo-Western vibe to Soderbergh’s return, from the Creedance Clearwater Revival soundtrack to the ‘tang’ of the West Virginian accent, there’s something truly appealing about modernising the somewhat out-dated Western genre. When it’s done right, it feels nostalgic and has a sense of resonation that can be enjoyed.

That’s not to say that the modern aspects of the film aren’t to be enjoyed, either. Most of the humour throughout the film, written by mysterious first-timer Rebecca Blunt (perhaps one of Soderbergh’s many pseudonyms?), is both fresh and effective. There are some truly hilarious moments, particularly the shots being fired at George R.R. Martin for his rather slow writing style. They’ve got a point, George…

Where ‘Logan Lucky’ really shines, is through Soderbergh’s trademarking caper-movie style. The heist plan montage explained methodically via non-diegetic narration, or even the final revelation explaining how the heist really panned out, is smartly executed; yet I do still have issues with the final third of the movie.

The main reason Soderbergh’s ‘Ocean’ trilogy succeeded, for me, was because it was exhilarating; it had an edge of excitement to the way in which the action unraveled on screen. Whilst those films had people on the edge of their seats, ‘Logan Lucky’ will have you firmly laid back against the backrest. This time round, Soderbergh guides you along an A-Z heist with no bumps in the road, nothing that feels detrimental to the gang’s success. Was this a perfectly planned crime, or perhaps a victim of plot convenience?

Find out for yourselves. Of all the films to be enjoyed this month, Logan Lucky is up there with them. It’s definitely worth your hard earned cash.

Corey’s rating: 7.5 out of 10

Watch This Space: August 28th – September 3rd

This week we’re excited to re-launch our weekly feature – Watch This Space. Every Monday we will be recommending films that are on TV that week, films playing at the cinema, and also remind you of those brilliant films hiding on streaming services, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, and possibly in your own collection.

In Cinemas

Rough Night: This female-led comedy finally released in the UK last Friday, with most territories getting it in June and July. You can read Fiona’s review here, in which she calls it “an enjoyable night at the cinema“.

Logan Lucky: Can Jimmy Logan shake his family’s bad luck and pull off a $14 million heist? Corey shares his thought’s in a brand new review coming later today. We’ll update this article with a link when it’s up.

Terminator 2: Judgement Day (3D Special): Arnie is back! ‘Terminator 2: Judgement Day’ has been digitally enhanced and for one day only will be screening in 3D in cinemas across the UK. The film originally released in cinemas in 1991 and is back for old fans and new to enjoy on the big screen. We’ll have a special review up later this week!

On TV

Monday

Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994): Tune in to this British rom-com classic from the 90s for sharp-scripted silliness from Richard Curtis. Yes – the film is centred around bumbling, floppy-haired Hugh Grant, but it’s the eccentric ensemble that make this film both hilarious and heartfelt. If you’ve not seen it before, where have you been? If you have seen it before – cheer yourself up by surrounding yourself with a familiar group of friends and letting it wash over you like a warm bath. Tune into this classic on Film4 at 9pm. 

Footloose (1984): Kick off those Sunday shoes and go crazy for this 80s classic with a toe-tapping soundtrack and some eye-watering fashion choices. Kevin Bacon makes an appealing central character, backed up by a supporting cast that includes early Sarah Jessica Parker and Chris Penn. John Lithgow is the standout as the preacher who has declared a Southern town to be a “no-dance” zone and if you think the rebellious teenagers are going to take that lying down, then you’re mistaken! Brighten up your life with this cheesy feel-good caper. 5Star thinks you’ll love it so much that they’re playing it twice, the first beginning at 7pm, and the second straight after at 8:20pm.

Tuesday 

Shaun of the Dead (2004):  Edgar Wright’s debut feature and first entry to his Cornetto trilogy – ‘Shaun of the Dead’, stars the hilarious duo of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. ‘Shaun’ simultaneously pays homage to and parodies the ‘of the Dead’ films from the late George A. Romero in a way that is both exciting and easy on the eye. It’s truly a must-see, and you can catch it on ITV2 at 9:00pm.

Snakes on a Plane (2006): Samuel L. Jackson says enough is enough, he’s had it with the “MOTHERFUCKING SNAKES ON THIS MOTHERFUCKING PLANE”.. Need I say more? Okay, I will.. David R. Ellis’ ‘Snakes on a Plane’ gained considerable hype before the film released in cinemas 11 years ago, and despite how quickly that hype died down once it hit cinemas, I challenge you to find anyone who doesn’t know THAT line from the film. You can swear your heart out with Jackson from 9pm on Sky1.

Wednesday

About Time (2013): Combining a romantic comedy with some light science-fiction may be a somewhat bizarre mix, but Richard Curtis’ ‘About Time’ is, for my money, one of the finest romcoms of the last decade. With winning performances from the whole cast, a great sense of humour, bags full of heart, and a very fun time travel twist, it’s hard not to fall in love with the film from the very first scene. Fair warning though, Domnhall Gleeson and Rachel McAdams will ruin your base expectations of boyfriends and girlfriends for life. You can catch ‘About Time’ on Film4 at 6:40pm

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011): This undervalued and overlooked origin story within the MCU has suffered from being overshadowed by its sequels, particularly ‘The Winter Soldier’. In my opinion, The First Avenger is the superior film. With its World War Two setting, Hayley Atwell’s Peggy Carter and some great CGI (the wimpyfying of Chris Evans is fantastic) – ‘The First Avenger’ is one of the highlights of the MCU. If the rumours about the upcoming Infinity War are true, perhaps you should take the chance now to remind yourself of Cap’s shining greatness before shizz gets real dark. The action begins 9pm on Film4! 

Thursday

Superman (1978): You’ll believe a man can fly all over again. Richard Donnor directs the original comic-book adaptation- 1978’s ‘Superman: The Movie’. In a time before the superhero genre churned out by the book, CGI dazzling and star-studded movies year after year, travel back to more innocent, more family-friendly era with Christopher Reeve as the greatest Man Of Steel ever. A soaring soundtrack by John Williams and a wonderful cast and story help bring Superman to life in one of the most iconic, original and memorable super-hero films you all need to see. You’ll want to switch to ITV4 at 4pm to see Reeve’s in action! 

Predator (1987): You can see how great Arnold Schwarzenegger is as an action and comedy star when you remember one year after shooting up the jungle in ‘Predator’, he was playing simple-minded Julius opposite Danny DeVito in ‘Twins’. But I digress. No family-friendly comedy here. It’s just balls to the wall action and suspense to the highest level when Arnie and his tobacco chewing, machine gun toting, foul-mouthed squad turn from hunter to hunted, going up against the alien life-form known as The Predator. With direction from John McTiernan, special effects from Stan Winston and support from the likes of Carl Weathers, Jesse Ventura and the late Sonny Landham, this is classic Schwarzenegger – when you’ve finished watching, don’t forget to “GET TO THE CHOPPA!”. Get in on the action on Film4 starting at 10:45pm

Friday

Inception (2010): This one is a no brainer… It’s on TV this week, therefore you need to watch it! Christopher Nolan assembles an impressive cast, which includes the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy and Marion Cotillard, and if that line-up alone doesn’t sell it then you’re still in for a treat. Nolan keeps your full attention for the entirety of the film’s 2 and a half hour runtime, as we venture from dream to dream and watch DiCaprio and his team attempt to plant an idea in the mind of a CEO by using their dream-sharing technology. 

Role Models (2010): Having recently watched this film again, I can whole-heartily say that this film is still as funny as it was 7 years ago. Paul Rudd and Sean William-Scott are sentenced to community service and are sent to ‘Sturdy Wings’, an organisation that pairs children with adults to help build friendships. Rudd and Scott meet their matches when paired with Augie (a LARPing geek) and Ronnie (a foul-mouthed youngster), and hilarity ensues. The fun takes place over on 5Star at 11:15pm.

Hiding Online / In Our Collection

Kill Bill – Vol I and II (2003, 2004): Do yourself a favour and watch Tarantino’s masterpieces, featuring one of cinema’s greatest creations – Uma Thurman’s The Bride. The first is the all-action, kung fu heavy whirlwind featuring mind-blowing set pieces such as the House of Blue Leaves. The second is a different beast, exploring The Bride’s relationship with the titular Bill, a tour de force by David Carradine. Choosing which is better out of the two is a Sophie’s Choice for me. Do yourself a favour and watch both. Both films arrive on Netflix September 1st

Dead Poets Society (1989): O Captain My Captain. A tender central performance by Robin Williams can get a little schmaltzy at times, but this coming-of-age poetic film is worth your time for some classic lines and heart-warming scenes. The ensemble cast of High School students is a “who’s who” of current film and TV, Ethan Hawke, House’s Robert Sean Leonard and The Good Wife’s Josh Charles all got their breakthroughs here. As an English teacher, I have to say I aspire to the level of inspiration William’s Mr Keating brings to his lessons in literature and life. ‘Dead Poet’s Society’ will arrive on Netflix September 1st. 

Bronson (2008): Nicolas Winding Refn’s stylistic masterpiece, ‘Bronson’, is a biopic that explores the anarchic life of notorious British criminal Charles Bronson, played emphatically by the sublime Tom Hardy. Whilst it might not be everybody’s cup of tea, I can’t recommend it enough. Give it a go if you think you’re hard enough.

Deep Blue Sea (1999): Whilst no other shark movie can really hold a candle to the mighty ‘Jaws’, ‘Deep Blue Sea’ is one of the better ones out there. It’s ludicrous of course, but that is exactly what you should expect and want out of a movie about harvesting the brains of DNA-altered sharks to find a cure for Alzheimer’s. It has Samuel L. Jackson, terrible CGI sharks and plenty of gruesome deaths, what more could you want really?! ‘Deep Blue Sea’ is heading to Netlfix on Friday! 

A huge thank you to contributors this week: Fiona Underhill, Chris Gelderd, Sarah Buddery, Rhys Bowen Jones, and Corey Hughes.