Tag Archives: Kiefer Sutherland

Phone Booth (2003) Review

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Phone Booth

Time: 81 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence & offensive language
Cast:
Colin Farrell as Stuart “Stu” Shepard
Kiefer Sutherland as The Caller
Forest Whitaker as Capt. Ed Ramey
Katie Holmes as Pamela McFadden
Radha Mitchell as Kelly Shepard
Director: Joel Schumacher

Stuart Shepard (Colin Farrell), a publicist, finds his life under threat when he answers a ringing phone a phone booth. The caller (Kiefer Sutherland) tells him that he will be shot the minute he cuts the call.

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I heard about Phone Booth for a while, I knew that it was a thriller directed by Joel Schumacher and was about Colin Farrell stuck in a phone booth and terrorised by a shooter on the other end of the call. I had already heard that it was pretty good, but it actually turned out to be much better than I thought it would be, and was engaging all the way to the very end.

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Phone Booth is a pretty short movie at an hour and 20 minutes long, and that was the right length for this plot. It makes the most of that runtime, quickly setting up the main character, as well as the situation that he finds himself in for the rest of the movie. From the point that he gets the call from Kiefer Sutherland’s character, you are locked into the plot and the tensions only raise as it progresses. It’s all paced rather well too, never allowing for a dull moment. While I wouldn’t say that it’s nothing that any other movie has done before, it’s nonetheless a very good movie and absolutely succeeded at what it set out to do. Looking at it on the whole, it’s a very good script from Larry Cohen, and the dialogue is great, especially between Colin Farrell and Kiefer Sutherland. I wouldn’t say that Phone Booth is a great movie, but the only significant criticism I have of it is something that happens at the end. While I’m fine with the ending, there was something implausible that happens towards its conclusion I couldn’t really buy, and up to that point I was on board with the rest of what happened. It’s a small gripe but it really does stick out.

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The performances are also very strong. Colin Farrell is the protagonist stuck in the phone booth, and he does very well on his part. His character goes through a lot emotionally during the film and Farrell really sells it incredibly well, especially in the last act. He’s front and center for the whole movie and carries much of it, however he’s not the only one who gives a great performance. Kiefer Sutherland is the voice of the caller, and while this movie is pretty good, in all honesty I’m not sure that this movie would work quite as well without him. Sutherland is truly menacing and deliciously evil in his part, his voicework really made this movie work even better. Other supporting actors work well enough, including Forest Whitaker who is decent as the police captain who is trying to handle the tense situation.

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Joel Schumacher directed this movie very well, raising the tensions effectively, especially with the editing and cuts to windows and vantage points. He also helps make it feel claustrophobic, with it primarily taking place at one closed off location at the phone booth. You can tell that it’s a movie with a lower budget but it was put to some good use here. The only part of the direction I didn’t really like was the editing which feels very early 2000s to say the least, at some points there are some split screens and really I think they could’ve done without those.

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Phone Booth is an engaging, claustrophobic and tense thriller, directed very well and featuring two great performances in Colin Farrell and Kiefer Sutherland. I’d say that it’s among Joel Schumacher’s best movies for sure. If you want a brief yet very effective thriller, I highly recommend this movie, it’s rather overlooked.

Dark City (1998) Review

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Dark City

Time: 100 minutes (Director’s Cut: 111 Minutes)
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Rufus Sewell as John Murdoch
William Hurt as Inspector Frank Bumstead
Kiefer Sutherland as Dr. Daniel P. Schreber
Jennifer Connelly as Emma Murdoch/Anna
Richard O’Brien as Mr. Hand
Ian Richardson as Mr. Book
Director: Alex Proyas

John (Rufus Sewell) awakens in a hotel with no memory and learns that he is wanted for a series of murders. While seeking answers, he discovers a group of aliens called the Strangers who are controlling the city.

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I heard a bit about Dark City, the main thing I knew of it was that it was a sci-fi movie that was quite similar to The Matrix, and in fact came out a year earlier. It didn’t do well with critics or at the box office upon its release but has since become a cult classic. I went in not really knowing what to expect but I ended up loving it. There are some roughness to it for sure, but it just really appealed to me, and I found it to be a unique, engaging and visually stunning sci-fi film.

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I should mention that I watched the director’s cut of Dark City, and I highly recommend seeing this version of the movie. I’ve heard that the director’s cut fleshes things out a lot more compared to the theatrical, and having seen the former, I definitely say to watch this version. The director’s cut also doesn’t have an introduction explaining the setting and world that the movie takes place in, and that really added a lot to the experience as you (like main character John) are trying to piece together and figure out what is happening. Therefore, I highly recommend going into this movie knowing as little as possible, it makes the experience a lot more enjoyable. As that, Dark City has an intriguing plot with a great atmosphere, it is a mix of sci-fi, mystery and film noir, and that combination is guaranteed to have my attention. The mystery itself is very interesting and I found myself wrapped up with the main character as he tried to find out what was happening in this strange world he woke up in. In terms of criticisms, the characters aren’t all that great or interesting, they serve their part in the movie but that’s sort of it. It didn’t bother me too much however, I was invested enough in the plot.

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As I said earlier, the characters aren’t all that interesting, but the actors elevates them with their performances. Rufus Sewell is in the lead role and he does very well, even if his character is sort of a blank slate, with him not remembering anything and essentially serving as our entry into this strange world. The supporting cast also work on their parts, including Jennifer Connelly and William Hurt. Kiefer Sutherland is also in this, and I think this is one of his best performances, one of his most unique and different roles for sure. Additionally, there’s the villains of the movie known as The Strangers, who are effectively menacing and sinister yet intriguing characters.

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The direction by Alex Proyas is spectacular, I really liked The Crow but I’m pretty sure this is my favourite film from him. I love the style, it is visually stunning and very much noir influenced, especially with the lighting and colour pallet. The setting is so great, it’s always dark and shadowy, and while the world is familiar, it always feels off and rather alien. There is so much attention to detail, especially with the environments and production designs. Now some of the CGI don’t hold up all that well (especially with the climax in the third act) but you can accept that with it being a 1998 movie. The rest of the effects surprisingly hold up quite well. The score by Trevor Jones I thought was also effective and fitted the tone of the movie perfectly.

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Dark City is a fantastic, atmospheric and engaging sci-fi noir, that’s directed excellently, and acted incredibly well. On top of that, this movie also appealed a lot to me stylistically and thematically, and I have a strong feeling that this is going to quickly become one of my favourite movies. I highly recommend that you check it out (preferably the director’s cut) as soon as you can, you won’t be disappointed.

Melancholia (2011) Review

Time: 135 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language & nudity
Cast:
Kirsten Dunst as Justine
Charlotte Gainsbourg as Claire
Alexander Skarsgård as Michael
Kiefer Sutherland as John
Cameron Spurr as Leo
Charlotte Rampling as Gaby
John Hurt as Dexter
Jesper Christensen as Little Father
Stellan Skarsgård as Jack
Brady Corbet as Tim
Udo Kier as The Wedding Planner
Director: Lars von Trier

On the night of her wedding, Justine (Kirsten Dunst) is struggling to be happy even though it should be the happiest day of her life. It was an extravagant wedding paid for by her sister (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and brother-in-law (Kiefer Sutherland) who are trying to keep the bride and all the guests in line. Meanwhile, Melancholia, a blue planet, is hurtling towards the Earth. Claire, Justine’s sister, is struggling to maintain composure with fear of the impending disaster.

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I had heard about Melancholia for a while, I heard that it was Lars von Trier’s most accessible film yet, which wasn’t an easy thing to narrow down to considering his filmography. After watching and mostly liking his two part film Nymphomaniac, I decided to check this movie out. Melancholia is a great and impactful film about depression, with great performances and some really good direction. It’s not for everyone and is a bit overlong, but I thought it was really good.

Melancholia is pretty long at around 2 hours and 15 minutes. The film is split into two parts, one titled Justine (Kirsten Dunst) which is focussed on her wedding, and the other is titled Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg), which is more focussed on the approaching planet of Melancholia potentially being the end of Earth. I don’t have a lot of problems with the movie but I will say that it might be a little overlong, it’s mostly with the first half. The first half is important in showing glimpses of Justine’s depression and all that, however this wedding section feels a little too drawn out and could’ve been shortened quite a bit. You do need to know going into Melancholia that it’s pretty slow paced, particularly early in the movie. Despite the plot sounding large scale on paper, it really is a character driven movie, and is more intimate than you’d think it would be. You have to really be focussed on everything that’s going on or you’re just going to lose interest in it all, I was and I had a good time with it. Melancholia is also a very artsy movie, with the way some of it is written and the way certain things are shown, and that could turn people off, for me it didn’t really. The first 8 minutes is full of just slow moving images and video, it could annoy some but personally I though it was fantastic and really haunting. Now know that I’m basing it off Nymphomaniac and what apparently is in von Trier’s other movies, but Melancholia doesn’t have this overwhelming feeling of just absolute bleakness that’s in his other movies. Nor does it force a ton of thematic elements all at the audience or anything like that. It’s much more straightforward, with the main theme being really about depression, and the parallels of Justine’s depression with the looming planet. Despite it being Lars’s most accessible movie, it’s not necessarily an easy watch, it’s a rather sad movie (as you can gather from the title, it’s not just in reference to the approaching planet) and as mentioned earlier, it’s a bit of a slow burn. There’s a reason why this movie along with Antichrist and Nymphomaniac have been called the Depression Trilogy. Without spoiling anything, despite knowing the ending, the last scene of the movie was really impactful and effective.

The acting all around is fantastic. Kirsten Dunst gives a career’s best performance in the lead role of Justine as someone with depression. A big part of the film is her character going through depression and she carries it incredibly well. It’s not a very showy performance, she just really embodies the character incredibly. Charlotte Gainsbourg is about as equally great as Dunst’s sister Claire. The relationship between the two sisters are one of the driving forces of the movie, especially how differently the two react to the looming threat of Melancholia. Justine seems to feel nothing, whereas Claire is constantly worried about it. The rest of the supporting cast are all great as well, from Kiefer Sutherland as Justine’s brother-in-low husband, Stellan Skarsgard as her boss, John Hurt as her father, Charlotte Rampling as her mother and Alexander Skarsgard as her husband. Most of them are just in the first half, we do however also get Sutherland in the second half, and his performance in Melancholia might be one of his best. The only thing about the casting that bothers me a little is that both Stellan and Alexander Skarsgard are in this movie, but they don’t play father and son or relatives or anything, so it’s a little distracting.

It seems like no one directs like Lars von Trier, his work on this movie is nothing short of fantastic. The cinematography is stunning and beautiful, and is done incredibly well. Some of the editing is a little weird where there are unnecessarily a lot of cuts done in many scenes, which is something that von Trier does sometimes. I guess it’s something that you have to get used to when it comes to his films. Throughout the film there is this sense of dread, with the whole thing about the planet Melancholia potentially going to destroy Earth, and it’s effectively haunting. While his films are usually more gritty and grounded, this film does involve some larger scale elements, with the whole film surrounding a planet potentially colliding with Earth. Now it’s not a full on sci-fi movie and most of it doesn’t have a bunch of crazy visuals, but nonetheless these big visual moments are also done really well.

Melancholia is probably the easiest of von Trier’s films to digest, by far the most accessible. I know this, because when it comes to recommending the movie, I don’t have to necessarily give a big warning about what his movies are like and all that. It is still not the most fun film to watch and it is a little overlong but it’s an incredibly well made and directed film and the performances are fantastic, especially from Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg. If you’re open to depressing slow-moving art films, I’d say definitely give Melancholia a chance, it’s really great.