Movie Reviews

The Guilty (2021)

the-guilty-2021-movie-poster-reviewDirector: Antoine Fuqua

Genre: Drama, Thriller, Crime

Runtime: 91 Minutes

Main Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Riley Keough, Ethan Hawke, Peter Sarsgaard, Christina Vidal, Eli Goree, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Paul Dano, Bill Burr

Plot: Joe Baylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) has been demoted to a call dispatch desk after an incident. He’s coming up towards the end of his shift when a call comes in from a woman who has been kidnapped.

My Thoughts: I only learnt about The Guilty around 5-6 weeks ago but I’ve been desperate to see it ever since. I’m a huge fan of Jake Gyllenhaal and I heard the movie being compared with Tom Hardy’s Locke (2013) which I found fascinating, so I’ve been counting down the days! I find these one-location movies to be quite spectacular. They could quite easily be boring so a lot of tension is needed to keep the tempo, and The Guilty has tension by the bucket-load!

It’s a remake of a Danish movie from 2018 by the same name, and I’ve heard the original is far superior. You’ll have to forgive me for not knowing about it sooner but I guess not being able to compare greatly helped my enjoyment of this remake, because I loved it! Well, as much as you can enjoy an hour and a half of being stressed beyond belief, that is. Joe isn’t a likeable character, he’s clearly done something wrong to have been assigned to this desk in the first place, he’s separated from his wife, and he’s hostile towards his colleagues. But his dedication to the job and wanting to do the right thing is admirable.

So, I’ll hold up my hands and promise to watch the original, but for now I have to say, The Guilty was everything I wanted it to be and more. I loved pretty much every second, I didn’t want to pause it for anything, I just needed to know what was going to happen next!

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Best Bit: I mean, the reality is shocking but watching Joe shout at the cyclist calling for help and repeatedly hanging up on him made me laugh so hard and it was the perfect way to ease the tension just a little!

Worst Bit: The only thing I can really find to complain about was the ending. It was good to finally find out what happened in the events leading up to that fateful night on call, but at the end of the day it didn’t really add anything to the story, really. Maybe that’s one part that’s done a lot better in the original, I’ll have to find out for myself.

Fun Trivia: Because someone near director Antoine Fuqua tested positive for Covid-19 mere days before the film began shooting, he had to isolate. Faqua directed the entire film from a van with monitors rather than on the soundstage with the actors.

My Rating: 4 and a half inhalers that I almost needed myself whilst watching the last few scenes of this movie.

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Movie Reviews

Hidden Gems: Jake Gyllenhaal

I started August off so organised that I was scheduling blog posts instead of publishing them straight away, and even started compiling my ‘What I Watched’ monthly round-up post as the days went by, and yet here I am on the night that Hidden Gems is meant to be posted furiously putting my post together having only just watched my third pick. Can’t will them all, eh? If you aren’t familiar with Hidden Gems, it’s a challenge created by Mettel Ray, where you pick an actor or actress for each month of the year, pick 3 movies of theirs you haven’t seen yet and give them a watch in the hopes of finding a gem. If you haven’t guessed already, my August choice was Jake Gyllenhaal!

Why Jake Gyllenhaal?

He was my first love. You may laugh, but I’m serious! Back when I was a sulky, young teenager, I watched The Day After Tomorrow (2004) and ended up with a bit of a crush on Jake Gyllenhaal. At the time, I wasn’t hugely into movies but this was the beginning of my hobby blossoming. I’d also discovered online retail (remember when Amazon and eBay were new?) and got myself copies of Donnie Darko (2001), Bubble Boy (2001) and The Good Girl (2002) on VHS just to watch more of him. The former is still one of my favourite movies of all time, and is the reason I love dark, twisty movies the most! So clearly, Jake had to be a part of this challenge for me.

Statistics

I was using Letterboxd for these statistics until now but it’s so tough weeding out all the unreleased movies, shorts and other anomalies that I think doing a manual count on IMDB is going to be easier. So, IMDB has 39 feature movies listed under his name. Of those, I’ve seen 21, which is a pretty decent figure if I may say so myself. Some of my favourites include Donnie Darko, Prisoners, Enemy and Nightcrawler.

I’ve also seen Spider-Man: Far From Home, Zodiac, Brokeback Mountain, Nocturnal Animals, Okja, Velvet Buzzsaw, Source Code, Life, The Day After Tomorrow, End of Watch, Everest, Jarhead, Demolition, Brothers, Bubble Boy, The Good Girl and Moonlight Mile.

I’ve had one Jake Gyllenhaal movie in my watchlist forever so only had to pick another two this time round thankfully. My three choices ended up being Wildlife (2018), Love & Other Drugs (2010) and Stronger (2017).

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Wildlife (2018)

This is the movie that’s been on my watchlist since it was released. Something stopped me from seeing it as soon as it came out, and over time I guess I’ve forgotten what it was even about. One thing I didn’t know at all until now is that Wildlife is Paul Dano’s directional debut! Which makes me happy because he’s so talented. Anyway, this stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Carey Mulligan as parents of a teenaged boy. Gyllenhaal’s character loses his job and his sense of purpose, and leaves his family temporarily to go and fight a raging forest fire.

The best word I can use to describe Wildlife is devastating. It wasn’t the movie I thought it was at all. It’s not a bad movie at all, quite the opposite, but it will weigh heavily on your mind for quite some time. Watching this family lose faith and seeing the effect that has is just so upsetting. I can applaud the technical aspects of everything to do with the movie but I didn’t enjoy it enough to call it a gem.

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Love & Other Drugs (2010)

Look, I’m as surprised as you are that there’s a Jake Gyllenhaal romcom that I haven’t seen yet! This one was an odd experience to say the least due to the subject matter. Gyllenhaal plays Jamie, a salesman struggling with his numbers but not for charm. He lands himself a job as a sales rep for the medical company Pfizer (heard of them?!) and starts a relationship with Maggie (Anne Hathaway), a woman with a lot of health issues but a wit even sharper than Jamie’s.

Oh, 15-year-old me would have eaten this movie up for breakfast and then watched it every weekend until she knew the words by heart. 32-year-old me has a guilty appreciation for the sheer amount of nudity on display, but can accept that this movie is total garbage.

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Stronger (2017)

I’ve found myself watching a lot of sad movies for this challenge so far. Am I unconsciously avoiding them when casually watching movies or do I need to take more time when making my selections for the challenge each month? Who knows. Stronger is based on the real-life story of Jeff Bauman (Jake Gyllenhaal), a man who lost both of his legs in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

What an inspiring story, about an inspiring man. He went through so much, and did all he could to stay positive through it all, too. I can’t even imagine what it must have been like to have been in that situation. This would have been a decent, interesting movie with any cast, but Jake Gyllenhaal acts his absolute heart out here and just raises the bar of the whole thing. Without a doubt, Stronger is a hidden gem, I just wish I watched it sooner and didn’t have to rush at the end of the month.

Final Thoughts

It feels so good to have found a gem this month, I was starting to lose faith a little bit! It’s clear to me however that not only have I seen a lot of Jake Gyllenhaal’s movies, I’ve seen the majority of the great ones. He’s an actor who I’ll always be excited to see, no matter what kind of movie he happens to star in next. September is Octavia Spencer’s month and I’d love to hear some recommendations from you if you have any?

Movie Reviews

Nocturnal Animals (2016)

nocturnal-animals-2016-movie-poster(I’m on vacation right now celebrating my 30th Birthday! To fill the void whilst I’m away I’m posting some old movie reviews that I wrote for the blog I had before I started Often Off Topic. I’ll be back in early September.)

I don’t remember ever going into the cinema as blind as I did last week for Nocturnal Animals. I’d heard a lot of buzz surrounding the name, I’d watched the trailer (once) which didn’t give much away at all, and I knew Jake Gyllenhaal was in it. That was enough for me, and I somehow convinced my husband to come along too. I don’t know how I did it, but I have a feeling it may have been something to do with the ever beautiful Amy Adams.

Before I go into an actual review, I have to share a funny moment with you. Tuesday and Wednesday showings have a silly amount of adverts before the movie, because of the wildly popular ‘Meerkat Movies’ 2-4-1 deal. This poor couple in front of us were already there when we arrived, sat through the whole slog of ads, the 5 trailers (although we were shown the Arrival trailer twice in a row, odd) and when the BBFC rating screen came on with ‘Nocturnal Animals’ emblazoned on the left-hand side, they realised they were in the wrong screen. I hope they didn’t miss too much of Doctor Strange, because that opening scene was awesome.

Anyway! Nocturnal Animals is a dark movie split into two narratives. First, we have Susan (Amy Adams), an art gallery owner living a seemingly-perfect life in her mansion of a house adorned with staff, and a husband who sadly, is hardly ever at home. One morning she receives a parcel from her ex-husband Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal), a manuscript for a book he’s written that he wants her thoughts on. The book turns out to be dedicated to Susan, but is a dark and twisted story, which haunts her.

Whenever Susan starts reading the book, we get to see it played out, by Jake Gyllenhaal himself and his book-wife (Isla Fisher). Their story isn’t for the faint-hearted, it’s a cruel and violent tale. Some scenes are particularly difficult to watch, and I get the feeling they were deliberately made as long as possible to make the audience uncomfortable. If that is the case, it definitely worked on me. I kept thinking to myself ‘Oh that won’t actually happen though, they wouldn’t show us that’ and then they did! I’m getting the shivers just thinking about it.

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So, whilst we see Edward’s story played out in snippets, we also go back to Susan often to learn more about her, and more importantly, what happened all those years ago between her and Edward. There’s a theme of revenge here for sure, and we know that Susan left him, but not why, or under what circumstances. It’s really well edited in these sections, the way something happens in the book that then takes us back to real life, and editing isn’t something that I normally take notice of.

Of course, I won’t give anything away, but I love an ambiguous ending. One that’s satisfying enough when taken at face value, but when you start to analyse every little detail, you begin to come up with different theories about certain elements.

I really loved this movie, but I will NOT forgive that jump scare. You can witness it for yourself, I’m not going to warn you, but it scared the crap out of the entire screen. Then I had to watch the next ten minutes from the corner of my eye in case something else happens. My poor nervous wreck of a husband now labels Nocturnal Animals as ‘that piece of sh*t movie that scared me’. He liked it of course, but he’s a bigger scaredy-cat than me!

So yes, a big seal of approval from me. Just…skip the opening credits if you can…trust me.

Movie Reviews

Spider-Man: Far from Home (2019)

spider-man-far-from-home-2019-reviewDirector: Jon Watts

Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

Runtime: 129 Minutes

Main Cast: Tom Holland, Jake Gyllenhaal, Samuel L. Jackson, Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau, Zendaya, Jacob Batalon, Tony Revolori, Angourie Rice, Remy Hii, Cobie Smulders

Plot: Following the events of Avengers: Endgame, Peter Parker is struggling to come to terms with his new role, and the footprints he is expected to fill. All he wants right now is to enjoy his school trip to Europe and tell MJ how he feels about her. Of course, when elemental monsters show up trying to destroy the world, his plans must be changed.

My Thoughts: After the breathtaking, nailbiting and exhausting for all the right reasons movie that Endgame was, this was definitely the right way to go next. Far from Home brings a much lighter-hearted story, although it does still touch upon the sad events from earlier this year. I don’t know why you would anyway, but don’t go and see this before Endgame, because the first 10 seconds are full of spoilers!

As one of the few who loved Andrew Garfield’s Spidey, I’ve been on the fence about Tom Holland up until recently. Now, I’m 100% sold. He really is perfect for the role, and brings all the boyish innocence that the character should have. Watching his relationship grow with MJ was one of the highlights of the movie for me, I just love how awkward they are together. I’m also so glad that MJ is smart enough to point out how clearly obvious it is that Peter is actually Spider-Man!

It’s also so great that Samuel L. Jackson is having a more prominent role in the Marvel movies recently. I think he was my favourite part of Captain Marvel earlier this year and he brings some laughs in Far from Home, too. That said, there was something stopping me from really loving the movie, and I can’t put my finger on it. It could be down to the fact I was simply exhausted (thanks, teething toddler) but I’m not sure. The mid-credits scene has got me very much looking forward to the next installment, though!

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Best Bit: It’s expected with Marvel movies now I guess, but the visuals as far as Mysterio’s powers are concerned were so, so cool. The bit that I laughed hardest at though was on the coach when Peter almost accidentally blew up himself and all his friends!

Worst Bit: I was so excited for Jake Gyllenhaal to be a part of the MCU, and his character has some really fun moments, but once it’s revealed just how his ‘powers’ work, the whole thing feels a bit anti-climatic. The fight scenes between him and Spider-Man seem to go on forever, too.

Fun Trivia: First MCU movie not to have a cameo by Stan Lee; he died shortly after filming wrapped for this movie, but never made it into this movie (most likely due to his declining health), which means that Avengers: Endgame (2019) was his final on-screen appearance. However, this movie does pay tribute to him and fellow Spider-Man creator Steve Ditko.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 dahlias that you shouldn’t trust with the guy trying to sleep with your Aunt…

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