Honest Thief – Review

Rating: 12A
Cast: Liam Neeson, Kate Walsh, Jai Courtney, Jeffrey Dovowan. Anthony Ramos and Robert Patrick
Directed by Mark Williams
Written by Steve Allrich and Mark Williams
Length: 99mins

Liam Neeson explodes back onto our screens in brand new release ‘Honest Thief’ just in time for cinemas, bringing the hope many movie theatres need to pull audiences in while the industry faces potential collapse amidst the shockwaves of Covid:19. Neeson stars as Tom, the honest thief of the title, also known – much to his irritation – as the In-and-Out Bandit. Tom’s late-in-life bank-robbing career has bagged him $9million, but upon meeting Annie (Kate Walsh) decides that an honest, simple life might be worth more than the money he’d acquired.

Built around a solid idea, a master criminal choosing to hand himself in, Honest Thief begins by spending time on it’s characters, giving the roles a chance to develop which is a rarity in most contemporary action movies. It’s nice to see how the key relationship of the story starts and watch as the relationship develops, but also to get a glimpse into the lives of the peripheral characters without dedicating the whole plot to characterisation. It’s clever, subtle work of Mark Williams and Steve Allrich to bulk out the story and allowing the audience to empathise with characters that they might not had the time not been taken to include these moments in the script.

Most audiences will know exactly what they’re going to when the sit down to watch Honest Thief. Liam Neeson almost has his own ‘brand’ of films – very similar to some of his earlier movies like Taken; you know that his work is reliable, if perhaps a little predicable. Despite the similar narrative to some of his earlier works, credit has to be given – he’s 68 years of age and is still spitting out these brilliantly entertaining films with as must gusto as he did 10 years ago.

What I really enjoyed about this film is the themes surrounding guilt and personal responsibility woven into the plot. Again, it’s subtle and if you are looking for a steady action film without having to think about it you can happily enjoy the film for what it is. But it’s nice that it carries some deeper themes as well for the viewers who enjoy looking into the plot a little more. All in all it’s just a steady watch, as previously mentioned its a real treat for any cinemas that are able to open to be able to show a film with such a prestigious name carrying the feature. I urge you to support your local cinemas if they’re open; if this film is showing and you enjoy a solid action film then it will definitely be up your street.

Saint Maud – Review

Rating: 15
Cast: Morfydd Clark, Jennifer Ehle, Lily Knight and Lily Frazer
Directed by Rose Glass
Written by Rose Glass
Length: 84 mins

With Halloween only a couple of weeks away, it seems only right to shed some light on another great horror. ‘Saint Maud’ may deliver the most exciting thrills that you’ll see in the cinema this year, even with the re-release of classic horrors being so prominent at the moment. After a recent conversion to Christianity, and a new job as the nurse of a terminally ill dancer who fell from grace, Maud looks to start a fresh life. However, her past isn’t as far behind her as she may think, and hints of previous experiences begin to break through the cracks of her recently-formed pristine persona. 

With a fairly short runtime of just around eighty minutes, ‘Saint Maud’ uses simplicity to it’s advantage and focuses mainly on the relationship between Maud and her patient, Amanda. As a result of this, the intricacies that develop between the two allows the audience to read into every emotion that’s on display within their scenes, meaning we’re able to judge for ourselves who we believe is in the right or wrong. This feels like a breath of fresh air in the horror genre, where previously characters were often surface level reflections of the audience’s terror. This idea has become more prominent in recent years through the mother-son relationship of ‘Hereditary’ or the commentary of masculinity in ‘The Lighthouse.’ It could even be argued that within the film, the horror and thrill takes a backseat to the dramatic tension between these characters, with ‘Saint Maud’ becoming a drama focusing around obsession and envy. 

However, to glaze over the horrors hidden within this film would be a complete injustice, as ‘Saint Maud’ delivers one of the most thrilling narratives this year. Visually, the familiarity of the run-down and worn out seaside town provides iconography that we can all relate to, which creates an even more unsettling layer to the horror, as it feels as if it takes place in an area of the world not too dissimilar to our own. Similarly, the relationships between the characters shown on-screen feels very familiar. A chat with a stranger on a bench or popping round to see an old friend delivers instantly recognisable elements to the scene that makes you only fear more for the characters, as you are able to put yourself in the shoes of these characters. 

Horror is often paired with a fear of the unknown, which is a main reason why many horror films find their footing in a subject or idea that many people are unfamiliar with or uncertain about. For this reason, religions, cults and festivals are often the centerpoint for these sorts of films, from classics of the genre such as 1968’s ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ or 1973’s ‘Wicker Man’ to more modern examples like ‘Midsommar’ (2019) and ‘The VVitch’ (2015). ‘Saint Maud’ continues this theme and incorporates the ideology and imagery of Christianity to create its thrill, which of course utilises very extreme perceptions of the religion, but only to explore more fundamental questions surrounding faith and belief that many people can relate to. 

‘Saint Maud’ definitely stands out from the crowd within its genre through its brilliant performances, beautiful cinematography and intriguing plot, and so I’d definitely recommend it to anyone looking to enjoy an interesting horror in the run-up to Halloween, as well as supporting the arts and their local cinema.

Enola Holmes – Review

Rating: 12
Cast: Millie Bobby Brown, Henry Cavill, Sam Claflin, Helena Bonham Carter and Lewis Partridge.
Directed by Harry Bradbeer
Written by Jack Thorne (Screenplay) and Nancy Springer (book)
Length: 123mins

Enola Holmes is Sherlock’s little-known rebellious younger sister, invented in 2006 by author Nancy Springer. Played by the young force that is Millie Bobby Brown, Enola has grown up in the countryside with her mother, Eudoria (Helena Bonham Carter), homeschooled in science, literature and martial arts. But when Eudoria disappears, Enola sets about finding her mother (with the assistance of certain clues) and stumbles into a grand plot which asks our lead to use the skills that she’s developed throughout her childhood; a task challenging enough without her older brothers, both Sherlock and Mycroft, returning home and taking charge. Sherlock being somewhat sympathetic and perhaps amused by his young sibling, while Mycroft insists that she should be a young lady and immediately enrols her in a stuffy boarding school run by a Dickensian headmistress (Fiona Shaw). All of this coincides with a conspiracy to kidnap a young aristocrat and the fight for women’s rights…

Jack Thorne has adapted the first volume in Springers award-winning series of books to create this film for Netflix and there’s a whole lot to take in, arguably too much. This story would have perhaps been better suited to a mini-series but I’m not sure they would have secured their cast had it not been intended for a feature length production. Emmy winner Harry Bradbeer brings an infectious energy to the story by having Enola break the fourth wall from the beginning with amusingly self-aware asides, a choice that suits the film and character but was potentially overused.

Millie Bobby Brown has a nice, easygoing way with the material, cheekily outpacing her famous brother Sherlock played by the brilliant Henry Cavill who presents a totally fresh take on the famous detective. There’s a really nice balance of having Sherlock as a presence that pops up throughout the film without taking any of the shine away from Enola which is enhanced by the steely grit and determination her character. Sam Claflin’s Mycoft is a somewhat cartoonish character who literally gets a moustache to twirl as he snootily attempts to put his family’s affairs in order.

Enola Holmes is a really easy watch, it’s one of the best family films I’ve seen in a while. It’s fast paced, busy and has some amusing moments. Whilst still full of that famous Holmes problem solving, it highlights women suffrage, the importance of fighting for what you believe in and using your voice. It’s not a film that will change your world, but it’s a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours and escape reality for a short time.

Bill Murray in ‘On The Rocks’

The trailer popped up on my YouTube two days ago.

A Sofia Coppola film.

Bill Murray.

The same ‘Lost in Translation’ tempo and vibe.

I knew, without question, that this movie was exactly what I needed. I should tell you also, I saw ‘Lost in Translation’ five times in the cinema when it came out, and countless times since. It speaks to me in a way I can’t even explain.

So the fact that the band were back together and releasing a new flick was all I needed to propel me from a pandemic induced stupor, straight back into an inclosed room with a bunch of my favourite strangers.

Large coke.
Big screen.

I’d almost forgotten what this experience was like.

Then the movie started, and I felt at home.

But soon I was restless.

I like Rashida Jones (who doesn’t?), but Bill Murray took far too long to make an appearance.

When Bill Murray is on screen, you realise he’s at a level everyone else can only dream of.

Trying to put his magic into words is near impossible. As with ‘Lost in Translation’, here it feels like Murray just turned up unannounced and decided to be part of the story.

He bounces through the scenes as if nothing is at stake and he’s just there to chat and put a smile on your face.

It’s not until two thirds through that you realise his character is actually deep and complex. He hides this fact by the seemingly casual way he strolls through the movie.

How to tell you about this film without giving spoilers? All you need to know is Bill will make you laugh simply by sitting in a car.

Trust me.

There’s a shot of him sitting in his car outside Rashida Jones’s apartment and it’ll have you in near hysterics.

This isn’t a review; it’s just a reminder that sometimes an actor elevates the craft in a way that leaves us in awe.

The thing is, ‘Lost in Translation’ was a masterpiece, whereas this new flick is merely a trifle.

But it’s an amusing trifle, full of terrific ingredients.

There’s something about watching Murray as he ages which is poignant and moving. Every time I see him appear on screen I’m aware he’s a genius, and we won’t always have him around.

Often when we do see him, he’s not used in the best way.

That’s why I love that he worked with Sofia Coppola again, she gets him in a way few others do. This movie is an enchanting playground where Bill gets be subtly masterful.

And we don’t know how many more times we’ll get to see him do his thing in this way.

It’s not the best film ever.

Yet it’s Bill being Bill, and you have to go see it.

– Written by Daniel Johnson, https://www.danieljohnsonfilms.co.uk.

It Follows – Review

Rating: 15
Cast: Maika Monroe, Lili Sepe, Olivia Luccardi, Daniel Zovatto, Keir Gilchrist and Jake Weary
Directed by David Robert Mitchell
Written by David Robert Mitchell
Length: 101mins

All too often, horror films can be labeled as simply another cheap thrill that’s saved for a night in with your friends that doesn’t require too much attention, but in recent years there seems to have been a resurgence of original ideas within the genre, revitalising the industry and developing a greater respect for the work that goes into these films. 

In 2014, director David Robert Mitchell released his first mainstream film, ‘It Follows.’ Much like many other films within the horror genre, the overused tropes of teenage friend groups and their sex-obsessed motivations are present within the film, but the director turns these attitudes into intriguing plot devices. The threat from the monster of the film is spread through sexual intercourse, and can only be escaped by passing the ‘disease’ onto the next person. As a result of this, the sexual intrigue that used to play as light relief in classic horrors such as ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ and ‘Friday the 13th’ instead becomes the catalyst for the threat of the film. After young adult Maika Monroe (Jay Height) becomes the latest victim in a chain of recipients, she must either run or face up to the monster that incessantly follows her, even when those around her are unable to see the threat. 

Although often a characteristic that is parodied often within the horror genre, the threat faced by a monster that can only walk at a slow pace towards you seems almost laughable at first, but the way in which this idea is presented within ‘It Follows’ feels fresh and menacing. Constantly sweeping the background of any scene for a creature that is walking directly towards the film’s lead, the audience begins to understand just how unsettling this threat is, and the idea that it will never stop adds brilliantly to the tension of the film. The way in which the antagonist hunts its victims benefits greatly from both the score and the cinematography also. The camera patiently turns effortlessly to follow the action of each scene, which often contrasts with the audiences desire to immediately see the threat that’s being faced, especially when the loud blarings of the 80’s inspired synths filling the score indicate oncoming danger. 

The greatest horror films will generally have a deeper message than just unrelenting violence or jump scares, whether that be the recent popularity of cultural ritualism within Ari Aster’s ‘Hereditary’ and ‘Midsommar,’ or the anti-consumerist messages upheld in George A. Romero’s classics like ‘Night of the Living Dead. In the case of ‘It Follows,’ the sexually-transmitted basis for the spread of the film’s threat feels like an important commentary on the horrors of unprotected sex. The idea that just one interaction with a stranger after only a few dates can change your life seems appropriate for a world filled with online dating and instant gratification. Furthermore, the actions of the male characters also seem interesting, with their desire to sleep with the main character not wavering even when they know that she’s haunted by a monster that came from her very own sexual experiences. This could perhaps be read as an exploration into the role of toxic masculinity and the seemingly unrelenting desire for sexual fulfilment that plays a large role in many people’s lives. 

Given that Halloween is coming up soon, now seems as good a time as any to begin delving once again into the world of horror, and if that’s the case then I would highly recommend you place ‘It Follows’ at the top of your list, but only if you fancy looking over your shoulders for days after.

Brooklyn – Review

Rating: 12a Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cogen, Domhnall Gleeson, Jim Broadbent and Julie Walters Directed by John Crowley Written by Nick Hornby and Colm Tóibín (Novel) Length: 117mins

John Crowley’s Brooklyn tells the story of a young Irish girl, Eilis (Ronan) who finds herself moving to New York to make something of herself; a timid girl thrown into the brash new world of post-War America. While sad to leave her mother and sister behind, they insist she escape her poor prospects in County Wexford and fight for something more. Whilst inevitably she struggles to fit in, Eilis finds her feet when Tony Fiorello (Cogan) asks her to dance, but when weddings and funerals call her back to Ireland, Eilis’s heart starts skipping to a more familiar beat when the charming Jim Farrell catches her eye and has her questioning what she wants from her future.

Nick Hornby’s adaptation of Colm Tóibín’s classic leaving-home story focuses sensitively on Eilis’ vulnerability and conflict. Whilst, as you would expect, the film doesn’t include nearly as much detail as the novel, Hornby manages to extract the heart of the book and presents a real character driven story that allows the audience to travel the journey alongside Eilis. The film carries a deceptively low-key charm that appears to be very deliberate, both in dialogue, subtext and direction.

Whilst aesthetically brilliant, Brooklyn wouldn’t be the film it is without it’s star studded cast. Saoirse Ronan is outstanding. With her timeless appearance and flawless ability to perform with perfect nuanced gesture and expression she brings Eilis to life, this film can only add to the widely considered opinion that Ronan is one of the most compelling screen presences of her generation. Whilst Ronan carries the film, the supporting cast of Cogan and Gleeson give strong performances as Tony and Jim. Throw in Julie Walters portraying Eilis’s matriarchal landlady and Jim Broadbent as the unwavering Father Flood, it’s unsurprising that Brooklyn was a regular nominee throughout the awards season of 2016.

Contemporary audiences may have to recalibrate their reactions to appreciate John Crowley’s brilliant work in this film but for those who enjoy a tale with a true classic feel I highly recommend this watch. It’s restrained but unashamedly romantic which is achieved with a beautifully subtle, old fashioned elegance that this coming of age tale deserves. Brooklyn evokes the sense of being torn between time, place and identity. In Ireland, Eilis is a daughter with a history; in America she is a woman with a future. This film has the power to elicit emotion from it’s audiences, provoking the audience to question what they might do in Eilis’s shoes.