Category Archives: Mystery

The Outfit (2022) Review

FOLHQGJVgAMYJo1

The Outfit

Time: 106 Minutes
Cast:
Mark Rylance as Leonard Burling
Johnny Flynn as Francis
Zoey Deutch as Mable Shaun
Dylan O’Brien as Richie Boyle
Simon Russell Beale as Roy Boyle
Director: Graham Moore

Leonard is an English tailor who makes suits on London’s famous Savile Row. He must outsmart a dangerous group of criminals to survive a fateful night.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

The Outfit is a thriller from this year, and all I knew about the movie going in was that Mark Rylance was playing a tailor, that’s it. It turned out to be one of the more surprising and overlooked movies of this year so far.

9189_107054_movie_banner_2

The Outfit is a smartly written and engaging whodunnit crime thriller, with a well written and sharp script. It is set in one location and mostly taking place over one night. It is much like an Alfred Hitchcock movie in both setup and execution, in some ways there are comparisons that can be made to Rope. The plot is tightly woven and is very much a slow burn movie, which is very low key and dialogue heavy. With its steadier pacing, it builds up a lot of intensity. At the same time there is an upbeat nature to it, mostly with its snappy dialogue. It does have plenty of twists and while you could figure out some of them before the reveals, they were entertaining and I think that the payoffs were good. The biggest issue with the movie for me was the final 10 minutes. The Outfit does feel like it is very reliant on twists, but at the ends it adds some twists that weren’t really necessary and feels like it was a bit too much. It is a random additional climax that the movie didn’t need. At the same time, it felt like it was always intended to be included in the movie; its just that it was implemented in a clunky way and could’ve been handled better.

1642207568_focus-features_the-outfit_graham-moore_mark-rylance_dylan-obrien_zoey-deutch_johnny-flynn_unit-4

There is a great cast here, and everyone delivers in their roles. Mark Rylance leads this very well as a smart and mysterious tailor who figures his way around the situation that he finds himself stuck in. It’s a very subtle but very effective performance, and one of the highlights of the film. Other actors like Zoey Deutch, Dylan O’Brien, and Johnny Flynn play their parts very well. O’Brien plays a different kind of role than usual, and Johnny Flynn particularly works for this movie as one of the villains.

MCDOUTF_UC011

The film is directed well by Graham Moore, simple yet very effective. It is very well shot by Dick Pope and makes great use of the claustrophobic location in the tailor shop. There is a notable number of moments where Mark Rylance narrates and while it seemed like it would get grating and repetitive, it actually fits quite well in the movie.

THE OUTFIT (2022)

The Outfit is one of those classic whodunnit thrillers we only get every so often, but wished we had more of nowadays. Outside of the unnecessary and clunky final 10 minutes, its engaging and entertaining, sharply scripted, directly very well, and has a cast of great performances led by Mark Rylance. Definitely check it out, its probably one of the more overlooked movies from this year.

Twin Peaks: The Missing Pieces (2014) Review

FOT9QQcXwAUiqmJ

Twin Peaks The Missing Pieces

Time: 91 Minutes
Cast:
Sheryl Lee as Laura Palmer
Ray Wise as Leland Palmer
Kyle MacLachlan as Special Agent Dale Cooper
Mädchen Amick as Shelly Johnson
Dana Ashbrook as Bobby Briggs
Phoebe Augustine as Ronette Pulaski
David Bowie as Special Agent Phillip Jeffries
Joan Chen as Josie Packard
Eric Da Re as Leo Johnson
Don S. Davis as Major Garland Briggs
Mary Jo Deschanel as Eileen Hayward
Miguel Ferrer as Special Agent Albert Rosenfield
Warren Frost as Dr. Will Hayward
Pamela Gidley as Teresa Banks
Harry Goaz as Deputy Sheriff Andy Brennan
Heather Graham as Annie Blackburn
Michael Horse as Deputy Sheriff Tommy “Hawk” Hill
Chris Isaak as Special Agent Chester Desmond
Moira Kelly as Donna Hayward
Peggy Lipton as Norma Jennings
David Lynch as Bureau Chief Gordon Cole
James Marshall as James Hurley
Everett McGill as Ed Hurley
Jack Nance as Pete Martell
Michael Ontkean as Sheriff Harry S. Truman
Jürgen Prochnow as Woodsman
Wendy Robie as Nadine Hurley
Kimmy Robertson as Lucy Moran
Harry Dean Stanton as Carl Rodd
Charlotte Stewart as Betty Briggs
Kiefer Sutherland as Special Agent Sam Stanley
Director: David Lynch

A feature-length compilation of deleted and extended scenes from the 1992 film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

As I was watching Twin Peaks and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, I was very curious about The Missing Pieces. Essentially it is a compilation of deleted scenes from Fire Walk with Me, there were so many that they were made into a full on movie (which interestingly took over 20 years to come out after the initial release of the movie). While it’s not a movie in the conventional sense, it’s well worth the watch for Twin Peaks fans.

image-w1280

The Missing Pieces is a hard movie to review. As I said, it is a feature length compilation of deleted and extended scenes from Fire Walk with Me. As such, the movie isn’t cohesive and there isn’t much of a plot structure. However, I’d argue that it’s mandatory to watch this if you’re a Twin Peaks fan. It fills in holes in the series and the movie, and there’s a lot here I wished made it to the final cut. The early scenes of Fire Walk with Me involving the FBI agents felt a little disjointed, as it turns out it wasn’t fully fleshed out and some of the key scenes didn’t make it into that movie. With these additional scenes now in The Missing Pieces, it makes that storyline better. David Bowie appeared briefly in Fire Walk with Me but now gets more scenes here, in some of the most memorable parts of the movie. There are also additional Laura Palmer scenes which makes her story even stronger. It also sheds light on some storylines not in Fire Walk with Me. There are entire appearances from familiar Twin Peaks characters including Sheriff Truman, Deputy Hawke, Dr Jacoby and more here. There’s even an extension on the massive cliff-hanger ending of Season 2 of Twin Peaks

palmers

I will say that it’s probably for the best that some of these cuts happened for Fire Walk with Me, especially when it comes to what it was focusing on; you wouldn’t want to have too much agent stuff when really this is Laura Palmer’s. Nonetheless, its very interesting to watch. Tonally it isn’t as dark as Fire Walk with Me and has more of the quirks and humour from the original show. However, The Missing Pieces aren’t just deleted scenes added to fill in the holes, there are some greatly handled sequences, especially on a directing level. One involved a scene of Laura being possessed by BOB, which was incredibly creepy and memorable.

tumblr_61af95ed537f28629cf8968bba364426_dd0cfc69_1280

If you liked Twin Peaks and Fire Walk with Me, I would say that The Missing Pieces is essential viewing. Again, it feels like a collection of scenes more than a movie and you can tell why some of these scenes were cut. Nonetheless it helps with the Twin Peaks experience, and I highly recommend it.

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992) Review

shutterstock_5880137b

Twin Peaks Fire Walk with Me

Time: 134 minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1]
Cast:
Sheryl Lee as Laura Palmer
Ray Wise as Leland Palmer
Kyle MacLachlan as Special Agent Dale Cooper
David Bowie as Special Agent Phillip Jeffries
Moira Kelly as Donna Hayward
Chris Isaak as Special Agent Chester Desmond
Harry Dean Stanton as Carl Rodd
Director: David Lynch

In the folksy town of Deerfield, Wash., FBI Agent Desmond (Chris Isaak) inexplicably disappears while hunting for the man who murdered a teen girl. The killer is never apprehended, and, after experiencing dark visions and supernatural encounters, Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) chillingly predicts that the culprit will claim another life. Meanwhile, in the similarly cozy town of Twin Peaks, hedonistic beauty Lara Palmer (Sheryl Lee) hangs with lowlifes and seems destined for a grisly fate.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1]

Twin Peaks was one of those shows I was late to watching, but once I started, it quickly became one of my favourite TV shows. I knew that the initial run of the show wasn’t the only piece of Twin Peaks media, I then moved onto the film Fire Walk with Me was next, a prequel to the show with particularly emphasis on Laura Palmer before her death. It was also received poorly upon its release but gained a cult following over the years. I heard some great things about it but Fire Walk with Me really surprised me. Its not only one of David Lynch’s best, but also one of my favourite movies.

Twin-Peaks-Fire-Walk-With-Me-1-1600x900-c-default-1230x692

As I said, Fire Walk with Me is a prequel to Twin Peaks and in hearing that, some might be tempted to watch it before seeing the show, but I wouldn’t recommend that. While its certainly possible to watch the movie first, it just wouldn’t have the same effect; it plays a lot better when you know about the characters and how they intersect with Laurie, along with knowing what happens. Besides, for those not familiar Twin Peaks, much of the movie would probably come across as a bit baffling considering it plays with strange elements which are quite common through the show (The Black Lodge being an example). Given that Twin Peaks was cancelled after the second season, David Lynch seemed to intend this movie to also serve as a sendoff, and I think it works well as that. Most other filmmakers would’ve just shoved in fan service, but Lynch knows what he is doing. The movie initially begins with a focus on FBI agents as they investigate soon to be killer of Laura Palmer. I like this section, but initially I was wondering the purpose of this segment, especially as I thought that Laura was going to be the main focus of the film. It took away from the flow of the movie a bit, but it eventually paid off, and after 30 minutes it shifts to Laura Palmer.

d67e9c6340100e199b34e9561113fed5

Fire Walk with Me is very much Laura Palmer’s story as it shows her downward spiral and her final days in life. The show in its two-season run presented you an image of Laura Palmer, we spent two seasons not knowing about Laura except for what people remember about her. The movie on the other hand actually shows you what happened with her and everything that she went through; the show might’ve mentioned what happened, but as shown here, it was way worse. You can tell it is Twin Peaks, but the tone in the movie is incredibly different to the show. Twin Peaks leaned into the comedic and weird elements. FWWM stays with the darker elements and discards the melodramatic and humorous tone of the show, playing everything straight. Fire Walk with Me really has some of Lynch’s darkest work, it definitely wouldn’t have worked as a show at the time, especially with network television filters. It is constantly unsettling, there is a sense of dread right from the start, especially when you know what happens to Laura. Connections to the TV series aside, it is a breakdown of the human psyche, and it’s an emotionally devastating one at that. Laura’s death is not treated as some big twist or spoiler, but instead as a tragic inevitability, and this is indeed Lynch’s most tragic film.

twinpeaksfirewalkwithme

The acting is great from everyone. You get some newer Twin Peaks actors involved like Kiefer Sutherland, and even David Bowie makes an appearance. A large part of the cast is made up of returning Twin Peaks actors, it even finds a way to utilise Kyle MacLachlan’s Dale Cooper in a way that doesn’t feel forced. Out of the supporting cast though, its probably Ray Wise who stands out the most as Leland Palmer (Laura’s father), he’s phenomenal here. With all that being said, this really is Sheryl Lee’s movie. We’ve only seen little bits of her as Laura Palmer in the first two seasons of the show, but here she delivers quite possibly the best performance in anything that David Lynch has made. Laura was a bit of an enigma in the show but in the movie she’s a fully realised human being, and Lee brought that incredibly well. It feels so real and raw, and she perfectly conveys Laura’s emotions and struggle with inner demons. Sheryl Lee definitely deserved a lot more acclaim for her work here.

MV5BYTZlZDgxZjYtZTNjYy00OWQ5LWFlYTQtNzRlYmZhNTFhYjI1XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNDU2OTIyMTc@._V1_

While you can tell that the movie is very reminiscent of the show, its still distinctly a David Lynch directed movie. There’s a dreamlike atmosphere but it definitely leans more on the nightmarish side. The cinematography is gorgeous, and the imagery is memorable and disturbing, while not falling into being for cheap shocks. Twin Peaks composer Angelo Badalamenti returns to make the score for this movie, and as expected he gives some great work here. It is softer, but fitting for the tragic story, with the opening theme particularly setting the tone for the rest of the movie.

twin-peaks-image-01

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me is a fantastic film. It’s a great prequel to the main show, and was in itself a fantastic and disturbing portrayal of trauma and grief. Dark, surreal and harrowing, its riveting, visually stunning, and is very well performed, especially from a phenomenal Sheryl Lee. I highly recommend watching it after watching Twin Peaks, and I consider it to be one of David Lynch’s best work.

Twin Peaks (1990-1991) TV Review

gettyimages-93741501-2000

Twin Peaks

Cast:
Kyle MacLachlan as Special Agent Dale Cooper
Michael Ontkean as Sheriff Harry S. Truman
Mädchen Amick as Shelly Johnson
Dana Ashbrook as Bobby Briggs
Richard Beymer as Benjamin Horne
Lara Flynn Boyle as Donna Hayward
Sherilyn Fenn as Audrey Horne
Warren Frost as Dr. Will Hayward
Peggy Lipton as Norma Jennings
James Marshall as James Hurley
Everett McGill as Ed Hurley
Jack Nance as Pete Martell
Ray Wise as Leland Palmer
Joan Chen as Jocelyn “Josie” Packard
Piper Laurie as Catherine Martell
Kimmy Robertson as Lucy Moran
Eric Da Re as Leo Johnson
Harry Goaz as Deputy Sheriff Andy Brennan
Michael Horse as Deputy Sheriff Tommy “Hawk” Hill
Sheryl Lee as Laura Palmer and Madeline “Maddy” Ferguson
Russ Tamblyn as Dr. Lawrence Jacoby
Kenneth Welsh as Windom Earle
Creator: Mark Frost and David Lynch

An FBI agent, Dale Cooper, is assigned to investigate the murder of a 17-year old schoolgirl, Laura Palmer, in Twin Peaks.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1]

Twin Peaks was one of those shows I had been hearing about for a while. It’s a show by David Lynch that seemed to have an significant impact on pop culture and heavy influence on various forms of media following it. It also spawned a movie called Fire Walk with Me, and a revival series called The Return in the late 2010s. I was curious about it and wasn’t sure what to expect from it, or whether I was going to like it at all. Eventually I checked it out and it quickly became one of my favourite shows.

tvin

As discouraging as it might sound, Twin Peaks is something that you’ll have to persist at when watching it. Not that it starts out bad, in fact the first episode is very well handled. Its just that you have to get used to the slower pace, large amount of odd characters and storylines, and the weird tone. Within the first three episodes however, I got on board with the show. The mystery itself is intriguing, initially focussing on the death of a girl named Laura Palmer. There’s a lot that is unclear, not there’s plenty of things aren’t explained, and in some instances you’ll have to theorise an answer or just accept it and move forward. You’ll get used to that eventually though. I found myself being quickly addicted to the show, slower paced as it was. The handling of tone is great, it is strange how weird how well it balanced the grief and camp elements. There is this level of ironic soap opera to it and it is weird in that David Lynch way, yet it is funny with the quirky dark humour. It also does a good job at conveying grief and how people would react to a death. The show takes the time to really focus on the grief and emotional responses of the people who knew Laura. Its very sincere and does this very well. Season 1 is fairly short at 8 episodes, and it is abrupt in how it ends. But at the very least, it gets you on board to check out season 2.

twin-peaks-watching-superJumbo-v3

Season 2 is where a lot of people are somewhat mixed on the show. From what I could tell, at a certain point, original creators Mark Frost and David Lynch becomes less involved with the show, However I liked it for the most part. There’s a lot there that I liked more than season 1, it definitely picks up the pace more. Then after a particularly major episode where a lot of things have been resolved, the movie really winds down and staggers onwards. People who have watched the series know about this section. It stretches the mystery further and adds plenty of plotlines that were hit or miss, some of them feeling like timewasters (one of them not even taking place in Twin Peaks). It felt so weird for this show to become a grinding experience. At a certain point however, it picks up and I became interested again, and it culminates in an incredibly memorable finale. The final episode is one of the most shocking and haunting episodes in a show I’ve seen, especially considering that it ended on the most gripping cliffhanger in a show of cliffhangers.

Twin Peaks - 2

There are plenty of memorable and strange characters in this show, too many to list them all. There are definitely some characters who are better than others, some really fall flat and are either annoying or boring. More often than not though, they work, same with the acting. However, the highlight for me and many people is Kyle MacLachlan as Dale Cooper. Watching the first episode, it quickly becomes clear why Cooper became one of the most iconic characters of all time. As the FBI agent looking for who killed Laura Palmer, he’s charismatic, likable, smart, enthusiastic and confident. Even in the show’s lowest points, it picks up whenever he’s on screen. There’s some other great performances, including Sheryl Lee, Dana Ashbrook, and Ray Wise. Even David Lynch gets to make an impression, and he is entertaining whenever he’s on screen.

TwinPeaks_3919200_CBS_TWIN_PKS._V346569531_RI_

Twin Peaks quite strong on a technical levels, everything from the cinematography (even the aspect ratio), environments, locations, use of colour and shadow, all of it really works. I wouldn’t say that the show is strictly horror, but it is definitely a notable part of it. The moments of horror are incredibly effective and creepy. The editing and visuals could be off kilter and quirky or surreal and off-putting. The Black Lodge is an example of everything being made to feel strange. The music is fantastic, Angelo Badalamenti has composed some fantastic themes for the show. From the title theme to Laura Palmer’s theme, all of it is excellent and adds to the atmosphere of the show.

6993c58ce7ee3f480ac8f709430155b9

Some have call Twin Peaks one of the greatest tv shows, and I can’t disagree. Mark Frost and David Lynch has made an iconic show. It is very flawed in parts, some storylines are messy or don’t hold up, and there is a decent chunk in season 2 where the show meanders aimlessly. But I can’t help but love Twin Peaks, flaws and all. The characters, performances, tone, and writing all work together to make a satisfying experience and one of my favourite TV shows.

[REC] (2007) Review

5cac6c0b29c2320b3f5c8cad_086e90eb-7200-4e31-9f51-dbb211243cb0

p180341_p_v8_ae

Time: 85 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, offensive language, sex scenes & nudity
Cast:
Manuela Velasco as Ángela Vidal
Pablo Rosso as Pablo
Ferrán Terraza as Manu
David Vert as Álex
Jorge-Yaman Serrano as Sergio
Vicente Gil as Older Policemen
Carlos Vicente as Guillem Marimón
Martha Carbonell as Mrs. Izquierdo
Director: Jaume Balagueró, Paco Plaza

A television reporter and cameraman follow emergency workers into a dark apartment building and are quickly locked inside with something terrifying.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

I haven’t disliked the found footage movies that I’ve seen but its not been one of my favourite genres. One of those I have been meaning to check out was a Spanish film called [REC], which proved to be very popular, spawning sequels and an American remake named Quarantine. I decided to check it out, and it was far better than I expected it to be.

0_l6V0xfws-abM8Qdk

[REC] is a very straightforward and simple movie. It starts out following a reporter and her cameraman as they cover a night shift at a fire station, but an incident happens, they are locked into a building, and things quickly develop from there. It doesn’t explain too much and the details are very minimal. It is not made immediately clear to these characters what is happening and that goes to the audience to. You are right there with these people as everything escalates. It is a zombie movie, and when you look at the genre, like most of the movies there is definitely a familiarity. You’ve seen these zombie outbreaks happen like this before. However it is very well executed so it doesn’t really matter that much. The atmosphere is very intense, and there is a real feeling of desperation and hopelessness which only increases as the movie continues. It is very chaotic and if I watched the movie again, I could probably identify parts that might’ve been a bit too chaotic for its own good. Whatever the case, from what I experienced, it was incredible effective at giving that feeling nonetheless. One could say that there is a lack of substance to the story, and the characters are one dimensional. But I don’t think that the experience would’ve been as visceral if that was changed. This movie is very short at under 80 minutes, but it utilises every single minute to its fullest and not a second is wasted, so it really was the perfect length of the movie. The plot is very fast moving and never allows itself to drag, making sure it gains momentum over time. The final 30 minutes or so are where its at its peak terror, and ends with one of the most memorable final shots in a horror movie.

MV5BOTlkOGRkMzgtNzk3Yi00NTk4LWJhYzItNDk5ZmNkOGY3ZjE3XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTAzNTg1NjU4._V1_

The performances are a bit rough around the edges, but fittingly realistic and intense. The characters are one dimensional, but the actors convey the urgency and threat around them. Even the physical acting of the zombies is good. Manuela Velasco plays the lead character as the reporter, and she delivers a very believable performance.

top-365-films-rec

The direction from Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza is great and is what made the movie as effective as it was. The movie has a budget of a million dollars, so I’m not quite sure that I would call it low budget. Nonetheless, it doesn’t feel like an expensive movie either, and that only helps the feel of the movie and adds to the realistic and disturbing feel. Much of the movie is confined to one hotel, and it makes you feel closed in and claustrophobic, just like the characters. The shaky camerawork can often work against a found footage movie, but it fits this perfectly. The shakiness is used at the right moments and only adds to the tension and terror. Through the camera lens, you get a first-person view of everything that happens. Not only that but the use of a camera actually makes sense in the movie, the main characters are filming a news report initially and when things go sideways, they try to capture everything they can on camera. The practical effects and makeup are great and seem very real, especially in this found footage look. It is very violent and the gore is very effective.

REC_AKA_REC-848993339-large

[REC] is a lean, mean and tense ride, a simple approach that’s incredibly executed, strongly directed, and has solid performances. It’s my favourite found footage horror movie, and probably one of the scariest movies I’ve seen. If you like horror movies, I think it is well worth checking out, even if you’re not a fan of found footage films.

Lake Mungo (2008) Review

lake-mungo

Lake Mungo

Time: 88 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Sex scenes
Cast:
Rosie Traynor as June Palmer
David Pledger as Russell Palmer
Martin Sharpe as Mathew Palmer
Talia Zucker as Alice Palmer
Director: Joel Anderson

Alice drowns while swimming and her family begins experiencing inexplicable events in their home. The family hires a parapsychologist whose investigation unveils Alice’s secret double life and leads them all to Lake Mungo.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

I heard about Lake Mungo for a while; it’s a found footage mockumentary horror movie. There have been plenty of people referring to it as one of the most underrated and overlooked horror movies, and in the years following its release has slowly become a sleeper hit. I have to say, that newfound love is well deserved.

lake mundo-1200-1200-675-675-crop-000000

At its core, Lake Mungo is a look at grief, tragedy, trauma and belief, and the way a family learns to move forward after a tragedy. It is a found footage and mockumentary movie, and while I know that both aspects are often seen as a gimmick (especially with horror), I think it works here. The reason for this is that it’s deliberately staged like a documentary and is committed to that concept. It’s not just a typical found footage movie in terms of story structure, nor is it just a camera crew staying in a haunted house while being spooked and surprised by random jumpscares. It actually felt like a documentary telling the story of a family going through a tragedy. It is filled with archival footage, family photographs and personal interviews, and they were used effectively; sometimes you forget it is a movie telling a fictional story. It is haunting and unsettling throughout, with a creepy vibe from the very beginning. However for me, I think it’s more sad and depressing than scary. So if you’re looking for more of a thrilling kind of found footage horror movie, I would recommend Cloverfield or Rec more.

Lake-Mungo-01

The performances from the cast are very natural and realistic, mainly from the actors playing the family (Rosie Traynor, David Pledger, and Martin Sharpe). The interview scenes really ground the film in reality, and a big part of that were the actors, who felt incredibly authentic and grounded in their portrayals.

lake-mungo-4

Joe Anderson’s direction is strong, and the movie is very well crafted. The budget is definitely on the lower side and is occasionally rough around the edges, but I think that works for the movie. The mockumentary style makes the movie feel real, especially with the grainy and low level of quality of the recorded footage and photos. There’s a lot of blink and you miss it imagery. Most found footage movies seem to have lots of jumpscares; not so much in the case of Lake Mungo however, there’s only one and it is earned. It has a great atmosphere and makes everything unsettling. The simple yet effective zooms of images and photographs are uncomfortable, especially in the instances where it seems to focus on ghostly imagery in the background. There is a very famous moment that this movie is particularly known for (you’ll know when you see it). Beforehand I watched the scene out of context and not knowing what it was about. However watching it in the context of the movie, it is one of the most unsettling and haunting scenes I’ve seen in a movie.

mungo-bedroom

Lake Mungo well deserves its newfound following, a horror film that utilises its found footage and mocumentary genres to the fullest to create a grounded, unsettling and depressing viewing experience. If you like horror I think it is worth checking out. Even if you are sceptical about found footage horror, I highly recommend watching it.

Ju-on: The Curse 2 (2000) Review

keFhddKfBSh8AcgajOdXOfJOkTA

Ju-on The Curse 2

Time: 76 Minutes
Cast:
Yūko Daike as Kyoko Suzuki
Makoto Ashikawa as Tatsuya Suzuki
Kahori Fujii as Yoshimi Kitada
Yūrei Yanagi as Shunsuke Kobayashi
Ryota Koyama as Toshio Saeki
Takako Fuji as Kayako Saeki
Takashi Matsuyama as Takeo Saeki
Director: Takashi Shimizu

After losing both her boyfriend and her unborn child in a car crash, Kyoko is horrified to learn that something is still growing inside her.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

Ju-on: The Curse was an interesting movie, it was very flawed especially on a technical level, but it ended up being a very effective horror film. So with the follow up Ju-on: The Curse 2, I just expected more of the same and in some ways that is what it was, mostly for the worst.

FIpD_-sWYAAPyJX

Something that needs to be noted going into the film is that the first 30 minutes of this movie is the last 30 minutes of the previous film. It wouldn’t be so bad except that the runtime is 76 minutes long, meaning that this movie has 46 minutes of actual new footage. Unless you forgot the ending of the first movie, you’d be well advised to just fast forward through this section, which is easy enough. That being said, there’s still issues with it. The new story we get here is pretty much just more of the same, almost like they used up all their best ideas in the first movie, and what we see here is just leftovers. Given the short runtime it doesn’t really get to jump around to different characters like in the first movie and instead mostly follows a realtor who can’t sell the murder house (which was the subject of the last movie). It’s not as interesting and the story being so similar to what came before played a big part in that. The 46 minutes certainly doesn’t help, its needed a longer runtime to develop things better. There’s not much of substance here and its fairly forgettable. The eeriness just isn’t as strong and the carefully built atmosphere isn’t as effective. That being said, there are some memorable sequences, mainly near the end.

MV5BYTJhNDU5NTctMTRlMy00NjEwLWJkNjgtY2IxODIzZTdkOTQ3XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNzI2NzgzMzc@._V1_

The direction from Takashi Shimizu is about at the same level as the first movie; lower budget and fairly standard, but sometimes that can add to the atmosphere. However, it doesn’t seem to have the same level of doom and dread that its predecessor had generated. Then again, part of that had to be with the first movie’s slow build up over the course of the runtime, where it quietly sneaks up on you. As I said before though, The Curse 2 is less than an hour long.

FIpEAAcXIAIHCuA

Even if you discounted the first 30 minutes, Ju-on: The Curse 2 has a lot of similarities to the first movie except its shorter, and not as good. If it’s possible to check out an edit with the two movies spliced together into a longer movie, that would be the best option, even if the stuff in 2 isn’t as good as in 1. Otherwise, if you enjoyed The Curse 1 then I think 2 is worth checking out (provided you skip the reused footage). I am glad I watched it at the very least.

Ju-On: The Curse (2000) Review

ENqOocQWkAAOKCJ

Ju-on The Curse

Time: 70 Minutes
Cast:
Yūrei Yanagi as Shunsuke Kobayashi
Chiaki Kuriyama as Mizuho Tamura
Hitomi Miwa as Yuki
Takako Fuji as Kayako Saeki
Takashi Matsuyama as Takeo Saeki
Director: Takashi Shimizu

In a jealous rage, a man kills his wife and son in their home, and everyone who visits falls prey to a terrible curse.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

I had seen the American remake of The Grudge many years ago, so I was interested in watching the original Japanese film. However, I found that Ju-on: The Grudge is actually the third film in its series. So I started with the first two Ju-on movies first, they are direct to video and I ended up watching them on YouTube. Those films clearly have their issues, but they had enough to them that it was worthwhile checking them out.

Ju-on_The_Curse_2000-1366x445

Ju-on: The Curse is not exactly a conventional horror movie. The story is split into six separate stories, each of them building upon the previous parts. Not only that, but the film jumps all over the place in time, with each segment being out of order in a way that doesn’t make immediate sense. That being said, I don’t think it would be more compelling if it was just placed in timeline order. I do like the idea of the story, with it centering around a curse that comes into existence and ties itself to a specific location which affects multiple people. That being said, it didn’t exactly start out the best. It wasn’t interesting early on, and for two thirds of its runtime it doesn’t quite work. The characters are hard to care about, there’s not much of a drive to each of these sequences, and it just felt underwhelming to watch. Ju-on was very much going for minimalist horror instead of shoving jumpscares in the audiences’ faces, and I respect that. However, the scares felt cheap and didn’t really work. At a certain point however, it really picks up. As it approaches the last third, it builds on itself and the atmosphere escalates and becomes claustrophobic. At this point, the minimalist horror actually becomes effective here. The movie is very short at 70 minutes, and while on one hand it seems like a decent length for this kind of story, it does feel abrupt with the note it decides to end on.

E_Ouf_PWEAAJNOq

Takashi Shimizu is the director, and his work here is a bit of a mixed bag. This has mostly to do with the technical elements and the low budget; the cinematography is crude, the production level is poor, and the soundtrack is generic. It doesn’t help that I had to watch these first two Ju-on movies on YouTube, but if anything, this made the home video feel and aesthetic even stronger, and it felt more eerie and cursed. As a consequence of the lower budget, the visuals seem real with only a small amount of CGI. The scares don’t always work, but are simple yet effective with not much jumpscares or gore, and are stronger because of the budget limitations. Not all of the technical elements work, but it is commendable nonetheless. For a low budget straight to video release, it is actually decent.

1_uKkg58ZbdQrwhSyIt9-d8Q

Ju-on: The Curse has its issues for sure. The budget and direction limitations are definitely felt, much of the movie can be uninteresting, and a lot of the scares aren’t that effective. Yet there are some good aspects which do work. The low budget and limitations help to convey an eerie atmosphere, and the messy nature made it feel unsettling. I can understand people not liking it or even skipping it to go straight to The Grudge, but I am glad I checked it out at least.

Decision to Leave (2022) Review

Decision to Leave-2000-2000-1125-1125-crop-fill

Decision to Leave

Time: 138 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence, offensive language, sex scenes, suicide & content that may disturb
Cast:
Tang Wei as Seo-rae
Park Hae-il as Hae-jun
Director: Park Chan-wook

A detective investigating a man’s death in the mountains ends up meeting and developing feelings for the dead man’s mysterious wife in the course of his dogged sleuthing.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

Park Chan-wook is one of my all time favourite filmmakers and I was excited to see him direct another movie, especially since its been 6 years since his last movie (the excellent The Handmaiden). He did not disappoint with Decision to Leave.

MV5BNjc4MmMyZDktNDdiZC00ZDI0LWFkYjQtMWY4YjY0ZWM4YTMxXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjk1NzU1Mjk@._V1_

On paper, Decision to Leave looks like a very standard police procedural thriller, the he plot following a detective investigating the death of a man and his mysterious wife. Surprisingly though, its more of a romance, its almost like a Wong Kar-wai film if it was made by Park Chan-wook. I loved the first half, I was engrossed and intrigued with the story. Its filled with detailed clues, deceit, and is layered with important subtleties. That mostly comes down to the central relationship that is unconventional and weird, yet incredibly compelling, and one which I was wrapped up in. The movie isn’t without its issues. Unfortunately, around halfway into the movie (without spoiling anything), there is a notable shift in the story, and I became less invested. There are points where the plot could also get a little too convoluted, more so in the latter part of the story. It’s a film that is deliberately paced across its 2 hours and 20 minutes, it was very appropriate and allowed things to naturally develop, especially with the central romance. However, I found that it could drag in parts (mainly the second half), and there are parts of the movie which could’ve been tightened a little bit. That being said, the film does end on a great and memorable note.

decision-to-leave-movie-review-2022

All the actors play their parts well, but it really comes down to the lead characters played by Tang Wei and Park Hae-il, both of whom are excellent. Their relationship is what kept me invested throughout the film; there is a lot of intimate tension between the two, and you feel that every gesture, glance and action are significant. The relationship felt believable, and the two definitely played a big part in the movie working as well as it did.

Decision-To-Leave-1

As to be expected, Park Chan-wook’s direction is phenomenal, and Decision to Leave is fantastic on a technical level. The cinematography is spectacular, and the visuals are alluring and vivid. Whether it is showing a mountain, an ocean, or anything else, it captures them beautifully. The camerawork is very creative and inventive, especially with its movement and focus. It is already one of the best shot movies of the year. The editing is energetic and fantastic too, with some particularly outstanding and smooth shot transitions. On top of all those is a hauntingly beautiful score from composer and frequent Park Chan-wook collaborator Jo Yeong-wook, which fits the film perfectly.

decision-to-leave-2

Decision to Leave is another fantastic film from Park Chan-wook. There are some issues I have with it, the second half particularly brings down the movie from being on the level of some of his very best movies. That’s a little disappointing, because everything else is amazing. It is stunning to look at, Park’s direction is outstanding, and for all the faults in the story, the central relationship is compelling and is performed beautifully by Tang Wei and Park Hae-il. Decision to Leave is not to be missed, and it is already one of the best movies of the year.

National Treasure (2004) Review

national-treasure-2.0

National Treasure

Time: 131 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] contains low level violence
Cast:
Nicolas Cage as Benjamin Franklin Gates
Sean Bean as Ian Howe
Diane Kruger as Dr. Abigail Chase
Justin Bartha as Riley Poole
Jon Voight as Patrick Henry Gates
Harvey Keitel as Agent Peter Sadusky
Christopher Plummer as John Adams Gates
Director: Jon Turteltaub

Modern treasure hunters, led by archaeologist Ben Gates, search for a chest of riches rumored to have been stashed away by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin during the Revolutionary War. The chest’s whereabouts may lie in secret clues embedded in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, and Gates is in a race to find the gold before his enemies do.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

I remember watching National Treasure for the first time, I was quite young at the time, and it was the first film I saw that had Nicolas Cage in it. I enjoyed it but wondered how it would be on rewatch, and whether it would still hold up over a decade and a half later. Thankfully, I think I can say that it does. While its not great, National Treasure is still a lot of fun to watch.

nationaltreasure

The story is a fairly interesting and fun adventure with a lot of excitement throughout, helped by the fast pace. You’re right there with the main characters as they make discoveries and solve puzzles in order to unravel the central mystery. As far as adventure movies go, it occasionally meets its aspirations, but could’ve been better. As it is, it’s a solid riff on much better action adventure movies. Its not just limited to the main characters exploring tombs, there’s also a conspiracy aspect, as well as a heist aspect. The history and science are definitely messy and aren’t realistic, but it is an absurd movie overall. One of the things most known about this movie is that a key part involves Nicolas Cage having to steal the Declaration of Independence, and that is gloriously silly as that sounds. Even some of the logic of the plot can be hilarious. Nicolas Cage and Sean Bean start off hunting treasure together, but they separate when Bean wants to steal the Declaration of Independence and Cage doesn’t want to. So when Bean decides to go get it himself, Cage decides to go and steal it first. Thankfully, National Treasure has the right tone, not taking itself too seriously, but not going too overboard and risking becoming a self parody.

National Treasure 1

The cast are quite enjoyable. Nicolas Cage made for a charismatic, likable and entertaining lead as Ben Gates. Its definitely not one of his craziest performances in some of his other movies like Face/Off, but he gave his character a lot of energy, and is fun to watch. Diane Kruger is also good, and Justin Bartha is solid as the comic relief with some great comedic timing. There are also other great actors who have parts to play in this, including Jon Voight, Harvey Keitel and Christopher Plummer. Sean Bean is the villain and while the writing for him is nothing special, he does deliver on his part as an antagonist.

National-Treasure

If there’s an aspect of National Treasure that I wished was better, it was the direction. Jon Turteltaub’s work is decent, but it needed something more. The action is relatively fun, there are some good environments sets and designs, and the score from Trevor Rabin is good (especially the catchy main theme). Its just that there’s nothing distinct about this movie on a directing or style level that separates it from other similar movies.

national-treasure--cf6aa9cb6f1141f78358a2297f0aa5a6

National Treasure is comparable to The Mummy movies starring Brendan Fraser, not the best action-adventure movies (i.e. not on the level of Indiana Jones), but nonetheless very entertaining for what it is. It’s a fun ride that doesn’t take itself too seriously, helped by the solid cast led by Nicolas Cage. If you haven’t seen it already, I think its worth checking out.