10 Cloverfield Lane – Tense

I don’t think anybody expected to see a follow up to 2008’s Cloverfield and in fairness, despite the name connection there’s little else to draw on. But that’s not a bad thing. Cloverfield put Matt Reeves fairly and squarely on the map, demonstrating his directing chops and inducing all kinds of motion-sickness in the process. Of course, Mr Reeves has gone on to cement his reputation with the outstanding Let Me In and the franchise-busting Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, with Cloverfield being a slightly smaller footnote to his burgeoning career.

10 Cloverfield Lane surfaced with barely a whisper just a few weeks before release and is poles apart from its progenitor. There have been indications from its producer – none other than J J Abrams, who was also a producer for Cloverfield – that further instalments may come our way, so an overarching narrative pulling all the strands together could clear the muddied waters “connecting” these two films.

It’s always a pleasure to see John Goodman on screen and 10 Cloverfield Lane provides the rare opportunity for Mr Goodman to take a leading role. While his stature may allow him to physically dominate any film – even with smaller roles (see The Gambler) – this extended screen time allows us to bask in his obvious talents. His character, Howard, is an interesting creation, struggling to cope with the interlopers within his sanctum, a person with inner turmoil who must exhibit restraint to survive.

Said “interlopers” are Michelle, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) and Emmet, played by John Gallagher Jr. (The Newsroom). Michelle provides the audience with a focal point, asking the type of questions we hope we would, while Emmet is just thankful to have been “rescued”. This three-hander, played out in a single environment, manages to rack up the tension and stay half a step ahead of the viewer. It’s an intriguing premise played out over 103 minutes and deserves to succeed. I don’t wish to say any more about 10 Cloverfield Lane as it should be seen fresh, without any preconceived notions or knowledge of plot points. Suffice to say, Dan Trachtenberg has created a very nice piece of cinema on his directorial debut – it’s well worth your while taking a trip to the flix to see it.

Thank you for reading 🙂


Under the Radar

It doesn’t really happen in Hollywood any more. The advent of the internet probably put paid to that. But there’s still one stalwart of the value of secrecy. To that end, it was no surprise to see J J Abrams name attached to what looked like a pseudo-follow up to Matt Reeves 2008 monster-on-the-loose offering, Cloverfield. Of course the real surprise was the existence of such a movie in the first place. 10 Cloverfield Lane is to be released on 11th March in the US, with no date yet confirmed for the UK. A whole film, a kind-of sequel to a well received monster movie, has been made without “us” knowing. I love that! Take a gander:

John Goodman is always good value for money – his appearances in Community are priceless – together with Mary Elizabeth Winstead – Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Killer and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World to name but two star turns – and John Gallagher Jr. – whose work in The Newsroom was outstanding – form an interesting triumvirate. We won’t have to wait long to find out.


Thank you for reading 🙂

The Gambler – Confrontational

Gambler banner

Now, I consider myself to be a bit of a cinema enthusiast, but even I was unaware that Rupert Wyatt‘s latest offering was a remake of a film starring James Caan from 1974. I used to read a fair few reviews before I started this blog, but nowadays I don’t read any – I’d rather keep my thoughts free of any superfluous clutter. As such, these kinds of details sometimes get missed. I do, however, sometimes use Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb to ascertain the general consensus regarding a particular film and in this case, I think I may be missing something.

Gambler poster v01

With a 46% Rotten rating from (to date) 116 reviews and a (currently) 6.1 rating on IMDb from 8,983 users, where did all the love go for The Gambler? Ok, so it’s not exactly languishing in the sub-15%/ rating below 4 category, but still, with all that talent on show what went wrong for the audience? Well, nothing that I could see. If you *click* on the Rotten Tomatoes link you’ll notice the “Critics Consensus” tells us that “…The Gambler still suffers from comparisons to the James Caan classic that inspired it.” Herein lies the problem. Can we not just view cinema, unencumbered by comparison? Having not seen the original, I can do nothing but view The Gambler on its own merits and as far as I can see, those merits are good.

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Mark Wahlberg as Jim Bennett


The Gambler isn’t your usual run-of-the-mill fare – a narrative construct that allows the audience to root for the good guy, hope the bad guys get what’s coming to them and we all live happily ever after. There’s a complication to the characters involved that requires a level of empathy we may not be happy to imbue. There is no black-and-white within this world and perhaps it is those elements that turn off the audience. That Mark Wahlberg’s character, Jim Bennett, has self-destructive tendencies would possibly be to oversimplify of his characterisation; one thing is for sure though – he’s not very likable, but he is our protagonist.

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John Goodman as Frank


The concern/ humanity demonstrated by those Jim has to deal with to continue his “destruction-by-gambling” is refreshing and elevates each to a level that far exceeds any positive character traits demonstrated by our “hero”. His brutality with the truth cuts far deeper than any knife and will not endear him to anyone. The intelligence in the writing, a “non dumbing-down” if you will of the language used is refreshing, treating the audience as equals in the world that has been created. Once again, this does not conform with the usual and as such puts the audience on the back foot. There are no real winners and losers in The Gambler, just participants in this particular story.

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Jessica Lange as Roberta


As for the participants, I for one think Rupert Wyatt has fashioned a worthy piece of cinema. He is clearly a talented director. There is an uncomplicated approach to his presentation that works extremely well and his particular use of music within The Gambler is outstanding. Mark Wahlberg – as usual – is great to watch and this performance harks back to a level we first saw in Boogie Nights. Brie Larson shines in her role as student/ “love interest” Amy, while it’s great to see John Goodman with a role to get his teeth into, although a bit more screen time would have been great. The same can be said of Jessica Lange, who is fantastic as Jim’s mother Roberta, but you have to take what you can get I suppose. That’s by no means a criticism though, just a personal preference to see both Mr. Goodman and Ms. Lange eating up the screen more often with this kind of quality writing.

Film Review The Gambler

Brie Larson as Amy


Would I recommend The Gambler? I certainly would! It’s probably no going to be showing much beyond this week, but if you get the chance to see it, please do.

Thank you for reading 🙂

The Week Ahead

I’ve given my Cineworld Unlimited card quite a bashing so far this year and there’s no let up in the week ahead. Although the good people at Cineworld also give you a 10% discount on the “wonderful” sweetmeats and comestibles that are available at the counter, that’s certainly something I don’t indulge in. At the current rate of cinema-going, by the end of 2015 I may well have seen around 150 films, but never spent a penny on the stuff that makes our local multiplexes any money. I’m paying £196.80 per year for my card, but at £9.32 per film ticket I could be spending a whopping £1,398 to see 150 films this year – I like those kinds of numbers!

Testament of Youth quad

Anyway, back to the more important stuff. This week sees the opportunity to view Mortdecai, Testament of Youth, The Gambler and A Most Violent Year. Now, I’m pushed for time this week – life getting in the way and all that – so I’m probably only going to be able to catch 3 of the 4. Here’s the films I’m going to see and why…


This has been pushed quite hard in the UK both at the cinema and on TV and, I’m reliably informed by my wife, on the side of London buses! It’s a pretty good indication that all is not well with the world and a quick look at Rotten Tomatoes confirms that. Rated at 13% Rotten from 57 reviews (to date) I think we may well have seen all the “best bits” in the trailer. Ouch! There’s 2 reasons why I’m going to see it.

  1. A potential car crash for a well-appointed cast, I see it as my “duty” to experience it and then possibly warn you off the experience!
  2. The show times fit in with my schedule.

They also have a nice little set of character posters, although I would also have liked to see one for Paul Bettany.

A Most Violent Year

  • The latest offering from J.C. Chandor – the man who gave us All Is Lost (which, to my shame, I still haven’t seen!) starring Robert Redford.
  • Two Oscar Isaac films in less than a week can’t be a bad thing.
  • The chance to see Jessica Chastain, who is fast becoming one of my favourite actresses.
  • And the hot-right-now David Oyelowo, who was utterly captivating in Selma.

It’s a match made in cinematic heaven! Oh, and they’ve got a nice one-sheet.

A Most Violent Year poster v01

The Gambler

This is Rupert Wyatt‘s follow up to Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Having “walked” during pre-production for Dawn…, Mr. Wyatt now presents us with The Gambler. While it’s had some fair-to-middling reviews, I’m all-in when to comes to anything from him after being blown-away by his break-out feature The Escapist. Starring a rather paired-down Mark Wahlberg, I was hooked not only by the trailer but also at the opportunity to see Jessica Lange and John Goodman. Hopefully it will be nice to see them flexing their acting muscles in more substantial roles than those given to them of late.

The other reason to see it? Well, bearing in mind those reviews, it’s on its second week of release and I’m not sure it’ll be showing at a time conducive to my cinema outings in its third week, if at all. So I’m catching it while it’s still around. Oh and the poster is merely ho-hum. Shame…

Gambler poster v01

So that leaves Testament of Youth, which I’m going to try to catch the week after next. It’s one of those films that’ll run for a while and be popular with the “older” afternoon crowd, so I’m hoping I’ll be able to see it then. Plus my mother-in-law wants to know what it’s like. Unfortunately she’s going to have to wait a little longer to find out if it’s any good!

Thank you for reading 🙂

Monsters! Monsters Everywhere!

Monsters University

I’m not sure that the winning formula for Pixar is to revisit our favourite characters. There seems to have been a subtle sea change since the Disney buyout/ takeover/ merger (whatever you wish to call it) in 2006. Ratatouille, WALL-E and Up proceeded the transaction from 2007 to 2009, but all would have been in full swing at Pixar at the time of the merger. So the first bone-fide feature to be green-lit under the Disney/ Pixar umbrella was Toy Story 3. Now, don’t get me wrong, I think Toy Story 3 was the best of the set and a fitting conclusion to the narrative arc of Woody, Buzz et al. But since then we’ve had Cars 2, Brave and now Monster’s University – sequel, Brother Bear retelling, sequel. I enjoyed Cars 2 and was moderately taken with Brave.

I also enjoyed Monster’s University. A nice answer to the “how did Mike & Sulley meet?” question. It tipped its hat to the original with the use of the same style of “hand-drawn” animated credits at the beginning of the feature and it was great to see other characters from the original cropping up. But it was good. And let’s not kid ourselves, there are a fair number of animation studios out there that would kill to be “Pixar good”! And that’s just it. Pixar raised the bat to dizzying heights, peaking with the quadruple-whammy that was Ratatouille, WALL-E, Up & Toy Story 3. We wished they could go on ad infinitum, producing animated features that not just pushed the envelope of what was technologically possible, but what could also be considered as bold story choices. Monster’s University was good. But I don’t want good from Pixar.