American Animals (2018)

american-animals-movie-poster-review-2018Director: Bart Layton

Genre: Crime, Drama

Runtime: 116 Minutes

Main Cast: Barry Keoghan, Evan Peters, Blake Jenner, Jared Abrahamson, Ann Dowd

Plot: This is the true story of 4 young men who, after watching many heist movies including Reservoir Dogs, plan a heist of their own to steal millions of dollars worth of art from their University’s library.

My Thoughts: I went into this movie completely blind. It was my local Odeon’s “Screen Unseen” screening, a special event where they show a secret movie not yet released in the UK. I didn’t have any kind of inkling what the movie might be, and I hadn’t even heard of American Animals until the BBFC rating screen appeared!

So with that in mind, maybe the excitement of it all, combined with a complete lack of expectation will skew my thoughts, but I had a brilliant time watching this. It’s told in partly a documentary format with the men of the story making an appearance to give their own accounts of what happened back in 2003. Personally I had no idea so the outcome was always going to be a surprise, but seeing how old the 4 men are now and knowing how much time has passed since the heist, it was easy to deduce that nothing too serious went down for them to be walking free in the present day.

That said, it was a wild ride! You could quite easily split the movie into 2 distinct halves, before the heist and after the heist. The before half was interesting and quite humorous in the way it was filmed, think I, Tonya but not quite as outrageous.

However, it was the second half that makes American Animals so memorable for me. If you’ve ever watched a heist movie and thought “pshht, I could do that” then this is a much watch. It turns serious, fast, and I was honestly frozen in place with my heart thumping in my chest through some moments.

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Best Bit: The conflicting accounts from the 4 men, and how the movie changes with it. It amused me!
“The guy was wearing a blue tie” – Guy in question on screen has a blue tie.
“He had a dark coat and red tie” – Guy in question on screen’s tie has suddenly changed colour.

Worst Bit: I say worst only because it made me feel so uneasy (as intended really) but the moment when the guys ‘take care of the librarian’.

Fun Trivia: During filming the actors were not allowed to meet their real life counterparts because the director feared they would sympathise and/or play them in a certain light.

My Rating: 4 and a half out of 5 red ties. Blue ties. Oh, I don’t even know anymore! Did he have a beard?!

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Hereditary (2018)

hereditary-movie-poster-2018-reviewDirector: Ari Aster

Genre: Drama, Horror, Mystery

Main Cast: Alex Wolff, Gabriel Byrne, Toni Collette, Milly Shapiro, Ann Dowd

Plot: The Grandmother of the Graham family passes away, and the family she has left behind are left to not only grieve but uncover the mysteries and secrets behind their ancestry.

My Thoughts: So, not only did I pluck up the courage to even see Hereditary in the first place, I made it my movie of choice for my first ever solo cinema trip! Dive right in at the deep end, eh? To be honest I was probably better off alone so I could quake in fear without anyone next to me poking fun at me. What I love about seeing a horror at the cinema is the atmosphere, and the nervous laughter people do when they’re scared. It relieves some of the tension!

On to the actual movie though – it was pretty darn good, to say the least. The story itself left me pretty confused, I understood the gist of it but I have a lot of unanswered questions, and trying to explain it all to someone else would give me a headache. It’s one you have to think about and replay in your head for it to all come together if that makes sense.

Oh, boy was it scary though. Scary in the best possible way. I absolutely hate jump scares, but there’s only 1 here. The rest is down to shock tactics and subtlety. It’s so cleverly filmed, or edited I guess, and there are some really scary moments where you question if you’re actually seeing things because nothing else in the movie is telling you that something is going on. I really hope this is the way forward for all horrors because I could really get into the genre.

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Best Bit: The car scene. It was so unexpected, and I never thought it would turn out as badly as it did. Also, the part straight after, because the way this character reacted is honestly the same as I think I would.

Worst Bit: Tongue clicking. Is that what it’s called? Anyone who makes that noise anywhere near me in the foreseeable future is getting punched, and I’m not even sorry.

Fun Trivia: In an interview, Alex Wolff explains that he wanted to actually break his own nose for the scene where his character slams his head into a desk. Director Ari Aster respectfully declined that offer and told Wolff they’d give him a soft, cushioned desk for the scene. When it was time for the scene to be shot, Wolff slams his head into the desk only to discover that it was not soft nor made out of foam, that resulted into Wolff’s actual blood gushing down to his knees.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 chocolate cakes. They may or may not contain nuts…

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Review: Collateral Beauty (2016)

Seriously, what happened to Collateral Beauty? I saw a trailer for it once or twice last year, and then it just came and went. I can only assume it got buried under¬†all the Oscar movies and Rogue One. Anyway, my good friend Jenna came to see the new house last night, and trying to find a movie that neither of us has seen yet can be quite the challenge, so we settled for Collateral Beauty. Besides, we both love Will Smith (who doesn’t?) so we couldn’t go too wrong.

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Howard (Will Smith) suffers a terrible family tragedy that throws his entire life off balance. In his despair, he writes letters to Love, Time and Death, pouring his sorrow into the words. What he doesn’t expect is a visit from Love, Time and Death themselves (a bit like Scrooge’s visits!) which makes him see things in another light.

collateral-beauty-mixed-reviewsSomething I find really cool about this movie is how much it seems to have split the opinions of the viewers. Check out it’s current ratings chart on Letterboxd! I haven’t seen a more split opinion since watching The Fountain, which for the record, I still don’t know how to feel about. The other thing I got excited about very early on is that this movie is very different to how the trailer makes it out to be. There is so, so much more to the story that what those 2 minutes show you. This was a good surprise, rather than a “what?” kind of Passengers surprise.

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As for the movie itself, it’s messy, sadly. It has a huge, star-studded cast (Edward Norton, Kate Winslet, Michael Pena, Helen Mirren, Keira Knightley to name a few) and each has their own complicated story. There’s simply not enough time to get to know these characters well enough, so the emotions thrown at you don’t have a chance to really sink in, leaving you feeling like a bit of a monster for not really feeling anything for them. That said, they have interesting stories to be told, and given some extra time and better pacing, it could have been so good!

What you can’t argue with is Will Smith’s acting talent. I’m not sure if he was trying to bait the Academy with this movie (he was very quiet this year, no?) but his emotions feel genuine, and I can’t stand watching people cry, only because it makes me cry too! To tell you any more about this particular scene would spill into spoiler territory, and I really think if this is something you’d like to see then you should go in as blind as possible.

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I’m sure if I watched this again I’d pick up on all sorts of plot holes, but as a one-time experience, I really enjoyed it. It’s a movie with so much heart and a lot to say, so it’s a shame it wasn’t paced very well or in-depth enough. One thing I will say is that the ending in particular is shocking; for better or worse will depend on each individual viewer, but it’s an ending I certainly won’t forget for a long time.

Whether you love it or hate it, Collateral Beauty is a movie that’ll get any movie fan talking at least. I give the movie 3 and a half falling dominoes out of 5!

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