Author Archives: Dave

Gone Girl Film Review











When it comes to directing a good mystery, there are few in the business with as fine credentials as David Fincher. Gone Girl is the latest film to be filed on that shelf of dark Fincher thrillers alongside Se7en, Fight Club, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Based on the best-selling novel by Gillian Flynn (who was brought on board to write the screenplay), Gone Girl is a weighty two and a half hours of tension based around young spouses Nick (Ben
Affleck) and Amy (Rosamund Pike). On the day of their fifth wedding anniversary, Nick returns home to find signs of a break-in and struggle, and his wife is gone without a trace. Amy is reported missing, and the case lands on the desk of Detective Boney (Kim Dickens), who is left to unravel the yarn and try to find the truth of the situation.

As with his previous films, Fincher is not afraid to spend time allowing multiple layers of plot to develop. Cutting between the ongoing investigation and flashbacks through excerpts from Amy’s
diary, fingers tentatively start to point in all possible directions as we discover some of the more problematic sides of the relationship, while an ever growing media profile adds extra tension to the
case. Affleck is on a career high with his portrayal of Nick, whose nonchalant demeanour begins to crumble, particularly when the shadow of suspicion falls on him. Pike’s Amy is also a force of
nature – revealed through sweet and cheery diary entries that darken as the days roll on. Both characters bring an easy attractiveness that is coupled with a sense of untrustworthiness; the end
result is a wonderful kind of ambivalence as you are expertly led through the narrative. The tension is kept tight throughout thanks to another incredible musical collaboration with Trent Reznor, who embraces his inner Brian Eno to put together an ambient but taut score.

Gone Girl is masterpiece of storytelling that underlines the importance of dramatic obfuscation and revelation, and refreshingly it doesn’t rely on a third-act twist to make sense. What we have is
a tightly wound thriller that peppers the audience with a plethora of questions and possibilities – there is a bucket load of tension, some bloody carnage, and even enough space for a little satirical
humour. Without a doubt Gone Girl is one of the most solid films of the year, see it before it disappears from the cinema.

8th October gone girl

’71 Film Review








Yann Demange’s ‘71 offers a unique and harrowing perspective on the Troubles – it tells the story of rookie soldier Gary Hook (Jack O’Connell) who gets left behind on the streets of Belfast. Injured, panicked, and unable to tell friend from foe, Hook’s journey along the barricaded and burning maze of streets turns into one of the most intense thrillers of the year.

With vying Republican factions out for Hook’s blood, along with Loyalists and undercover British Army officers looking to eradicate him for their own reasons, ‘71 is an unrelenting unfolding of
bad situation after bad situation. Following on from last year’s excellent Starred Up, this is another incredible performance from Jack O’Connell, who is able to capture the sbsolute anxiety and dread
of the situation.

At times shockingly visceral, this may not be the film that you’ll want to see while nursing a hangover, but horror and thriller fans will be in their element. The Belfast we see in ’71 is terrifying because of its credibility. Demange’s film plays out as a breathless meditation on the search for identity and the ultimate futility of violence.

8th October gone girl

Dolphin Tale 2 Film Review


dolphin tale 2 header





2011’s family friendly Dolphin Tale was a well-received dramatization of the true life story of Winter, a wild dolphin who lost her tail in a crab trap. The feel-good tale offered kids some food for thought on the themes of recovery and disability, while simultaneously granting adult viewers who had happened to watch 2009’s The Cove a kind of therapeutic reintroduction to dolphin-based cinema.

The earlier film felt like a story that deserved to be told – the young Sawyer (Nathan Gamble) finds Winter beached and injured, and forms an unlikely bond with her. Her life at Clearwater Marine
Hospital is in jeopardy until Nathan manages to wrangle and cajole the prosthetic expert Dr. Cameron McCarthy (Morgan Freeman) to attempt the audacious task of building an artificial tail for

Fast forward a few years and the cast is reassembled with all the added complexities that young teenage years could possibly bring. Winter is back in action, but her companion dolphin – who
acted as a kind of surrogate mother – has just died, and now Winter is acting out. Sawyer is the only person that Winter will respond to but his world is just full of adolescent dilemma: the don of
a famous marine biology school has flown out to his house to make him an offer of a scholarship he can’t refuse, but if he takes that it will mean walking away from Winter. There’s also a matter of his loyalty to Dr. Clay (Harry Connick Jr.) who runs Clearwater Marine Hospital, along with his daughter Hazel (Cozi Zuehlsdorff) who is starting to catch Sawyer’s eye.

If that was the entirety of the plot, there would be enough to go on to happily fuel 90 minutes of engaging-enough schmaltz. Unfortunately some cack-handed storytelling leads to a narrative
that grows to be as twisted and complex as a stray fishing net cast adrift in a particularly rough sea. When another dolphin, Mandy, is rescued, who could be a perfect match for Winter, Sawyer
is forced to confront yet another dilemma: should they keep Mandy in captivity to save Winter, even if she is now well enough to be released into the wild? Add in the return of Morgan Freeman
for some sagely life advice involving his grandfather’s pocket watch, and a liberal sprinkling of Kris Kristofferson, who routinely appears to just nod judiciously with his hands on his hips in the way that only Kris Kristofferson can. And then there is a health inspector’s visit (played by director Charles Martin Smith) cranking up the pressure, a sea turtle that needs an MRI scan, and several other lovable but ultimately unnecessary scenarios that drag this film on to almost 2 hours.

You could adopt a little more of a live and let live attitude to the narrative foibles of Dolphin Tale 2 if the plot was just a fancy ribbon tying up a nice bundle of underwater shots, but the non-human
element of the film is pretty much on the same substandard par as the rest of it. It is an unnecessary sequel that may have its heart in the right place, but has very little to say. The most authentically engaging and moving elements of the film are the real life camcorder clips of children and adults that use prosthetics visiting Winter that roll through the credits. Against a recent streak of films aimed at kids that managed to nail the task of providing both thought-provoking content and an engaging story, this is a bit of a belly flop that should only be seen if your child has a genuine obsession with cetaceans.

2nd October dolphin

The Boxtrolls Film Review



There is a certain magical quality that is unique to stop-motion films, undoubtedly connected to the tactile, time-consuming, and subtle manipulation that goes into bringing the characters and their world to life. Of late, US studio Laika has taken the process to new levels through incredible features like Coraline (2009) and Paranorman (2012). Their latest production The Boxtrolls carries on the tradition, using the studio’s funereal aesthetic to spin out a fantastical story that has a lot going on underneath.

Adapted from Alan Snow’s novel ‘Here be Monsters!’, The Boxtrolls takes place on, and under, the spindly streets of Cheesebridge – imagine Roald Dahl’s take on Dickens’ London and you’ll
be somewhere close to the visual and cultural vibe. Cheesebridge is ruled over by the White Hats, a bourgeoisie elite led by the gormless Lord Portley-Rind (Jared Harris), who spends more time sampling rare cheeses than dealing with municipal matters. Down on the cobbles, there is a widespread fear of Boxtrolls, who come up through the sewers at night to rummage through the
rubbish, collecting sprockets, springs, and other bits of metal to tinker together some steampunk creations for their underground world. Led on by the lure of being awarded a White Hat, Archibald
Snatcher (Ben Kingsley) sets out on a mission to destroy the Boxtrolls, and it is up to Eggs (Isaac Hempstead Wright), a boy raised by Boxtrolls, to stop him.

The Boxtrolls is a film that is brimming with little details, the sets underground are densely populated by whirring trinkets, and beautiful makeshift instruments. Despite what the humans above might think, the Boxtrolls live a peaceful, egalitarian existence. Each Boxtroll is named after the box they wear (alongside Eggs, we have Fish, Sweets, etc.) and they fulfil roles that serve the greater community. By night they set out to scavenge materials and food, and by day they sleep stacked up together in a perfect example of cosy, cardboard communism. In contrast, the streets above are overflowing with all the travails of modern society – cramped houses that threaten to topple over, populated by people that are living life blinkered to anything other than the fulfilment of their own desires.

That level of detail spills over into characters too. Humans in The Boxtrolls are repulsive in the best possible way. An homage to that visceral and belchy-style of Roald Dahl embodied in books like The Twits, there is enough slurping, bug-eating, and nose-picking to make adults wince and kids laugh out loud. Kingsley’s Snatcher character, all pot belly and gangly limbs, has no doubt secured a spot alongside Cruella de Vil and Lord Voldemort in the pantheon of genuinely creepy childhood villains.

But what is so refreshing about The Boxtrolls is that while delivering a straightforward narrative, it never feels like it relies on stock characters – in many ways Snatcher is the typical evildoer, but we are given enough information to understand his motivations. While the show stealer for laughs is assuredly the precocious Winnie (Elle Fanning), every character on screen has idiosyncrasies that prevent the story devolving into tried-and-tested territories.

The unconventional style of The Boxtrolls will make it will be immediately appealing to some, but those on the fence should be encouraged to take the leap. If children’s films can be read as a
measure of a cultural zeitgeist, then here is one that above all others deserves to be seen. At its heart, it is a film that asks us to question what defines family, individual identity, and ones place in
the society. Make sure to stay with the existential musings through the credits to get an incredible glimpse behind the scenes.

september 18th boxtrolls clipping

Before I go to Sleep Film Review


before I go to sleep

Based on a best-selling novel of the same name, Before I Go to Sleep is a grim psychological thriller revolving around the theme of loss of memory. After an accident in which she sustained head
injuries, Christine (Nicole Kidman) suffers amnesia, thereafter keeping complete memories only up until her mid-twenties – a decade of her life is a total blank.

Waking up feeling twenty but then rapidly coming to terms with being forty is a horrific fate that we can all empathise with, but things are worse for Christine. She awakes anew each morning to a
house, a husband, and a life that is completely strange – no longer a university student she is now living in the relatively affluent outskirts of London, with her loving husband Ben (Colin Firth), who is the head of the Chemistry department at the local school. Ben has a well-established routine that he wearily delivers over breakfast, which details their meeting, their marriage, and her accident. Once Christine is in a suitable state of confusion, Ben leaves her in the house alone and goes to work.

A phone call from a Dr. Nash (Mark Strong) each morning prompts Christine to find a camera she has hidden in the wardrobe, and reminds her that it must remain hidden from Ben. Furtive self-
shot video diaries are recorded on the camera from previous days and they repeat the message that there are secrets being kept from her, and that she should trust nobody. So begins another day of
mystery as Christine attempts to build on the snatches of digital memory from yesterday to unravel the truth of the situation before sleep wipes everything clear.

Ostensibly, Before I Go to Sleep offers an interesting setup for a thriller, with a dependent protagonist stuck in a bind between two unfamiliar, controlling men who each feed her contrary information. By nature of her accident, Christine becomes the ultimate unreliable narrator and as viewers we remain in the dark alongside her when it comes to the aims of both Ben and Dr.
Nash. Each day that passes is another turn of the screw that tightens dramatic tension, calling into question the sanity of Christine and motives of the other characters around her.

Before I Go To Sleep plays out like a nightmarish version of Groundhog Day, smearing over the snowy white charms of Punxsutawney with ashen London dreariness. To his credit director Rowan
Jeffe manages to nail the right kind of atmosphere, teasing out the tension while maintaining a subtle air of menace that lies beneath the most mundane of circumstance. Firth follows suit with
his performance, skilfully walking the tightrope of ambiguity – we are never quite sure whether his efforts to guide Christine fulfil his best intentions or hers, or whether his outbursts of anger are the natural consequence of attempting to cope with the predicament or if they betray some darker intentions.

As the pivotal piece of the puzzle, Kidman perhaps has too much placed on her shoulders, seemingly never stepping off camera for the entire duration. While her scenes with Firth play out brilliantly, capturing both the tension and tenderness of the situation, there is some jarring overkill in the use of video-diary shots that have a tendency to rapidly cool down what is otherwise a happily bubbling broth of mystery. It is something that could be overlooked if the rest of the film held up, but an unfortunate third act sees the tension and characteristic style descend into the safety of tried and tested genre conventions resulting in a promising, but fittingly forgettable film.

4th September Forget