September 2018 has been a strange one for film – we’ve had crazy big successes such as Crazy Rich Asians and films with miles to go before they break any box office records like Mile 22.
Check out my round up of blockbusters for the month!
The thriller film: Searching
Stars: John Cho, Debra Messing, Joseph Lee
Director: Aneesh Chagantry
Synopsis: 16 year old Margot Kim is a normal teenager – she goes to school, studies, and takes piano classes when she’s not hanging out with her friends. Like every other normal teenager, she spends a lot of time online, until one day when she suddenly goes missing. With no leads in sight, her desperate father turns to her virtual life for clues.
Review: Searching was a breath of fresh air. At first glance it might seem like the been-there-done-that, Taken–style thriller focussing on a hero dad trying to rescue his daughter, but it’s far from that.
From the very first shots of the film, it’s already a clear that there’s something different about it – a sharper, modern take on suspense. Instead of the camera work you’d expect in a Hollywood blockbuster, this clever little movie pans out through screens only – I’m talking laptop screens, webcams, phone screens, CCTV, and more. The whole film is “online”, and it sucks you into the plot line – you’re investigating with David, you’re Facetiming the police, you’re watching a viral video, you’re researching a location and plotting it on Google Maps…it’s almost like a choose-your-own-adventure game where you’re utterly entwined with the plot yet completely taken by surprise at every twist.
I’d definitely recommend if you’re looking for a new thriller that’s a little different to the usual!
The edgy film: American Animals
Stars: Evan Peters, Barry Keoghan, Blake Jenner, Jared Abrahamson
Director: Bart Layton
Synopsis: Four young men, bored of mundane every day life, plan a robbery when they discover that the local university is home to some of the most expensive books in the world.
Review: Evan Peters in a movie usually pretty much guarantees a thumbs up from me. He doesn’t always appear in the household name movies (though he has on occasion), but the films and shows he does appear in tend to be dark, witty and have a little bit of edge compared to others.
It’s not that American Animals didn’t have this edge, it’s just that it doesn’t really utilise it as well as it could. Based on a true story, it’s a mash-up of documentary interviews with the real robbers and those involved, and dramatised re-enactments where Peters and co. come into play. It’s a good way to learn about the men behind the characters, and the editing cleverly exploits the variations every story takes on when told by a new person to give a somewhat distorted sense of the story line and the film’s reality, which is entirely fitting considering its leads are stoners who thought it was a great idea to plan a robbery!
The film did leave me with a bit of a sour taste and sense of conflict though. It’s a reasonably good story that kept me interested, so I get why Hollywood wanted it to be told. However, the men behind the robbery wanted their lives to be like the movies; filled with adrenaline, cash and notoriety – and despite going to prison, they’ve literally had their lives turned into a movie, got that sense of notoriety and probably got a fair amount of cash from it!
The indie film: Upgrade
Stars: Logan Marshall-Green, Melanie Vallejo, Steve Danielsen
Director: Leigh Whannell
Synopsis: A traditional mechanic and self-professed technophobe, Grey Trace has his world turned upside down when his only chance to live life the way he wants to lies with a computer chip implant called Stem.
Review: I went into Upgrade not knowing much about it, and expecting it the kind of movie you see on Movies 4 Men in the middle of the day when you’re flicking through the channels on your day off work. I know, high expectations, right?!
However, I was pleasantly surprised! I actually enjoyed it. It follows Grey Trace, who’s your cookie-cutter male – likes cars, drinks beer, likes to fix things, has a bit of an attitude but is tamed by a loving wife etc. Grey leads a pretty normal existence in a somewhat futuristic world, until one day, a series of unfortunate events change his life forever. Left paralysed, he ends up agreeing to have a mysterious implant embedded in his spine by a software magnate who promises it will revolutionise his life.
Once the implant kicks in, Grey is basically a super soldier, and uses his newfound power to hunt down the men who ruined his life. In the meantime, the police woman assigned to his case is becoming increasingly suspicious of the supposedly paralysed man whose case she’s working, and begins to tail him as he goes about securing justice.
It’s a reasonably clever take on technology and its implications, and the human mind and emotions when stretched to breaking point. It’s not the best film I’ve ever seen, but it’s worth a watch if this kind of thing’s your cup of tea.
The slick film: A Simple Favour
Stars: Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, Henry Golding
Director: Paul Feig
Synopsis: When Emily goes missing, her best friend Stephanie makes it her mission to find her, and unearths some chilling secrets about the woman she thought she knew better than anyone else.
Review: I knew I’d like A Simple Favour before I entered the theatre, and thankfully, it lived up to the hype for me!
Emily and Stephanie are unlikely best friends. With Stephanie known as the sweet yet over-eager stay-at-home mommy blogger, she’s worlds away from the mysterious, refined, razor-tongued Emily in her giant mansion filled with G&Ts and erotic art.
With Emily forever disappearing on work trips for the high-end fashion company she works for, Stephanie isn’t surprised when Emily asks for yet another “simple favour” – to pick her son up from school. However, when it becomes clear Emily is missing, Stephanie launches an investigation to find her and get her home.
Along the way, she encounters sinister camps, angry artists, pretentious designers and more, with all leading her to a sinister twist that she couldn’t have imagined. It’s one of those films where you don’t know what to expect, you don’t know who to root for, and you don’t know what’s real. There’s morally grey areas that make you question what you’d do in that situation, and plenty of moments where you wonder who the “bad guy” of the piece is.
If you like a good mystery with a twist, September’s double-whammy of A Simple Favour and Searching is a winner for you!
The overnight success film: Crazy Rich Asians
Stars: Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh, Gemma Chan
Director: Jon M. Chu
Synopsis: Rachel Chu is a normal Chinese-American woman, dating a normal (or so she thinks) Chinese-American man. However, when she flies to meet his family in Singapore for a wedding, she’s immersed in a world of wealth beyond anything you could imagine, and a culture she would never dream could be so different to what she thought she knew.
Review: Now, let’s preface this by saying I am not one for rom-coms. Yet despite this, Crazy Rich Asians is my film of the month and I’m now reading the book!
It’s one of those films that kind of hard to explain and accurately portray how good it is without giving spoilers, but I’ll try and hype you up to watch it without revealing anything! It’s a kind of modern-day Beauty and the Beast – not that you can call Henry Golding a beast, but you get what I’m trying to say!
Anyway, our “Belle”, otherwise known as Rachel, is thrown into Chinese high society and despite being Chinese-American, realises she is worlds apart from the traditional Chinese woman Nick’s family expect him to bring home. She’s forced to question her worth, before coming back like a phoenix from the ashes and proving that there’s one “common” “poor” “not really Chinese” girl who is worth more than the multi-billion dollar company her boyfriend could inherit.
Full of vibrant characters who will evoke love/hate reactions, Crazy Rich Asians is a brilliant modern-day take on the traditional rom-com.
The run-of-the-mill action film: Mile 22
Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Lauren Cohan, Iko Uwais
Director: Peter Berg
Synopsis: A team of elite undercover officers in a top-secret unit of the American government must smuggle a police officer with information that could kill thousands out of his home country to refuge in America.
Review: Eh. Where’s the shrugging emoji? That’s pretty much this film. You know I mentioned earlier that I expected Upgrade to be like one of those low-budget, straight-to-TV movies you see on Movies 4 Men? Well, it turns out I should have thought that about Mile 22 instead.
Wahlberg’s been in some great movies over his career, but he’s pretty much always plays the same character – Mr Tough Guy with the emotional range of a tea spoon, whose traumatic past is revealed in drips and drabs so we realise why he’s a bit of an ass and sympathise with him even though he ain’t got no time for you and probably wouldn’t spit on you if you were on fire.
Well, depending on the film, that can be okay, but in this film, I pretty much just rolled my eyes. He was too much of an asshole and did far too much dick-swinging for me to remotely care who he was or what he was doing next. By the time he did something vaguely noble, I was at the stage where I just thought he’d probably got ulterior motives anyway.
The movie wasn’t bad, per se, it was just your stereotypical action movie – explosions, bullets, copious fighting, swearing, a few bloody injuries, and of course, a protagonist who dodges EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THE 500 BULLETS AIMED AT HIM BY PROFESSIONAL SNIPERS! Sigh.
I’m kind of making this film sound worse than it is, which isn’t fair. To put it in a nutshell, it’s not a bad watch – I just wouldn’t pay to see it at the cinema.