Tag Archives: Lewis Pullman

The Strangers: Prey at Night (2018) Review

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The Strangers Prey at Night

Time: 85 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, offensive language & horror
Cast:
Bailee Madison as Kinsey
Lewis Pullman as Luke
Christina Hendricks as Cindy
Martin Henderson as Mike
Damian Maffei as Man in the Mask
Director: Johannes Roberts

A family’s road trip takes a dangerous turn when they arrive at a secluded mobile home park to stay with some relatives and find it mysteriously deserted. Under the cover of darkness, three masked psychopaths pay them a visit to test the family’s every limit as they struggle to survive.

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The Strangers originally released back in 2008 and became something of a horror classic, especially when it comes to home invasion movies. However, I was one of the rare people who didn’t think it was very good. Strangely it ended up getting a sequel 10 years later, and while I heard some mixed things about it, it gained something of a cult following. I decided to check it out despite my scepticism, especially since some people have said that it was distinctly different to the first movie. I’m glad to say that I enjoyed it, way more than I was expecting.

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First thing to note going in this is that its not essential to have watched the first Strangers movie beforehand. The only similarity between the two movies other than the title is that the killers wear the same masks and have the same names. The approach to the movie is also different, which extends to its style. Whereas the original Strangers was going for a realistic home invasion, Prey at Night is a 70s and 80s slasher inspired horror film. I never felt that the first Strangers movie really worked with its attempt at realism, but I think Prey at Night worked much better for me. I thought the first half an hour was a little bland and underwhelming to begin with. During this segment it tries to make you care for the characters by focusing on a family with some problems. While it doesn’t feel lazily tacked on, it is cliched and is almost forgotten about once people start being killed, so it doesn’t seem to matter. From the moment that characters notice that things aren’t right however, that’s when it started to work for me. Its filled with thrills and I had a lot of fun with it, culminating in an intense and bloody third act. Prey at Night is under 90 minutes, and I think that it was the right length for this film. I wouldn’t claim that this film is original by any means. There have been plenty of home invasions, slashers and 70s and 80s inspired horror films, and they stand out more and are better than this film. But for what it is going for, I think Prey at Night succeeds. It takes a lot from other movies, but gets away with it more here since its self-aware and blatantly a homage. As to be expected with this being a slasher movie, there are conveniences and implausibilities which do get a bit annoying. More frustrating are the dumb decisions made by the characters, and while they are almost a staple of slashers (and horror movies in general), the homage excuse can only go so far. There are some movies where the bad decisions are realistic, especially when it comes to characters who are in a state of panic, and so it makes sense. Prey at Night is not one of those cases however.

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Despite the character establishment in the first act, the characters are a bit hollow and shallow. However, the acting does make up for it. Martin Henderson and Christina Hendricks play the parents, and the brother and sister are played by Lewis Pullman and Bailee Madison. These four are believable as a family and they do some good work in spite of the writing.

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The direction from Johannes Roberts is great, it is definitely taking the old-fashioned slashers from the 70s and 80s as inspiration. This is especially seen with the cinematography; with the camera setups and slow zooms from the 70s, and the neon visuals from the 80s. The violence is very brutal and certainly does not hold back. At the same time, the movie manages to be genuinely tense. Even the killers are effectively intimidating here, more so here than the original movie. It definitely helped that they actually fitted in this kind of movie. One scene that I heard about long before I got to actually watching the film involves a pool, its probably the most well known part of the whole movie. Without saying too much about the context, the praise was well deserved. Finally, the soundtrack is great, very synth inspired and again the kind of thing you could imagine being in a John Carpenter movie.

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The Strangers: Prey at Night is not without its faults. The character development is weak, the first act is underwhelming, and it falls into some of the typical failings of slasher movies. However, I found it very fun to watch. The cast are decent and somewhat elevate their roles, its directed well, strong on a technical front, and does well at being a homage to some classic slashers. If you’re looking for more of the same from 2008’s The Strangers, you won’t get it with Prey at Night. But if you like those classic 70s and 80s slashers, I think it is well worth a watch.

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Top Gun: Maverick (2022) Review

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Top Gun Maverick

Time: 131 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence & offensive language
Cast:
Tom Cruise as Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell
Miles Teller as Lieutenant Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw
Jennifer Connelly as Penelope “Penny” Benjamin
Jon Hamm as Vice Admiral Beau “Cyclone” Simpson
Glen Powell as Lieutenant Jake “Hangman” Seresin
Lewis Pullman as Lieutenant Robert “Bob” Floyd
Ed Harris as Rear Admiral Chester “Hammer” Cain
Val Kilmer as four-star Admiral Tom “Iceman” Kazansky
Monica Barbaro as Lieutenant Natasha “Phoenix” Trace
Director: Joseph Kosinski

After more than 30 years of service as one of the Navy’s top aviators, Pete “Maverick” Mitchell is where he belongs, pushing the envelope as a courageous test pilot and dodging the advancement in rank that would ground him. Training a detachment of graduates for a special assignment, Maverick must confront the ghosts of his past and his deepest fears, culminating in a mission that demands the ultimate sacrifice from those who choose to fly it.

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Top Gun: Maverick was a movie I was a little curious about; a sequel to the original over 3 decades in the making. There certainly was a talented crew involved, Tom Cruise of course returns, Joseph Kosinski (Oblivion, Tron: Legacy) is directing, and it has a cast that includes Miles Teller, Jon Hamm and more. However, I wasn’t admittedly super hyped for it. I liked the original Top Gun but to me it was just pretty good, a lot of 80s cheese and some good action sequences, not much beyond that. Yet the new film seemed to be receiving overwhelmingly positive praise, akin to the level of praise that Mission Impossible: Fallout had. So I checked it out, and I can confirm that Maverick is more than deserving of all the acclaim.

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While I expected great things from the cast and the direction, the most surprising aspect is that of the story, which was actually really good. It improves in every single way over the first movie. Even when certain story beats are similar to the first movie, it’s executed much better here. It loses the 80s cheese of the original and instead instils the movie with a real sense of gravitas. It also helps that it actually feels like the story has a structure rather instead of feeling like a compilation of highlight scenes strung together. There are real drama here with a lot more emotion and heart, and the characters are given more depth and are fleshed out. The emotional core of the movie involves Maverick and Rooster (Tom Cruise and Miles Teller), and it pays off wonderfully by the end. It’s also a fun movie to watch, with a lot of entertaining scenes and comedy throughout.  You also feel the stakes a lot more here. In contrast to the first movie where the pilots are just training before suddenly needing to complete a mission in the last act, the training in Maverick is for a near impossible task, giving the aerial training sequences a lot more weight. So, by the time it reaches the third act, we really feel the stakes and tension. Some could say that the movie drags in the second act, and I can see that even though there was never a dull moment for me. However all the build up towards the final act is completely worth it, as it ends with one of the most exciting climaxes in recent memory. As for how it works as a sequel, Maverick does the original justice. It really is a mix of old and new, honouring the original while moving forward to do its own thing. It actually felt like there was a genuine reason for this sequel to be made, especially considering that the first movie was made all the way back in 1986. Most of the fan service moments are handled well and don’t get too distracting, and makes sure it doesn’t spend too much time dwelling on the past. Top Gun: Maverick is very much a legacy sequel, not only by being a sequel to an original classic from decades back, but also being itself an examination of legacy, specifically for Maverick/Tom Cruise. It is a surprisingly introspective movie. As for whether you need to know the original film in order to watch the sequel, it does certainly help know about the characters and story from the first, Even then, Maverick does touch upon the main points well enough that you’ll be able to pick up what happened in the past even if you hadn’t watched the first movie.

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The cast are all great in their parts. Tom Cruise reprises his role of Maverick. Cruise is really sells his role incredibly well, while he was fun enough in the first movie, here he delivers potentially one of his best performances. He brings such an emotional weight to his scenes. Jennifer Connelly plays Maverick’s love interest in a romantic subplot and while it its perhaps unneeded and shoved not the movie, I thought it was believable and well-handled enough with enough subtlety, especially when compared to the romantic subplot in the original movie. Val Kilmer is the only other returning cast member from the original film aside from Cruise, reprising his role as Iceman. Without giving too much away, his role in this sequel is a small, yet memorable part of the film, and is effectively emotional and hard hitting. The rest of the cast including Glen Powell, Lewis Pullman, Monica Barbaro, Jon Hamm and more all play their parts well. However the standout in the cast aside from Cruise is Miles Teller who plays Rooster, Goose’s son. This is probably Teller’s best performance since Whiplash, he is great here. The relationship between Maverick and Rooster are the emotional centre of this movie and that is handled fantastically, helped by the believable chemistry between the two actors.

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Joseph Kosinski directed this, his work here is phenomenal and probably his best yet. I highly recommend watching it on the big screen, it truly is an experience and it just wouldn’t be the same if you watched it on a smaller screen. Kosinski gives the movie so much energy throughout. The visuals are truly amazing, and the cinematography is stunning, particularly when it comes to the scenes filmed in the air. The movie is worth watching for the intense aerial sequences alone, they’re all fantastic. You actually feel right there with the actors in the air. What makes these scenes work so well is that these flight sequences are all practical, with the actors even having to do actual training to learn how to fly. None of it looks fake at all and the cinematography, editing, sound and everything else all come together to make for scenes that are absolutely exhilarating to watch. The soundtrack is also great, of course the original movie utilised plenty of iconic 80s songs, and some of those songs make appearances here (including Danger Zone). However, it doesn’t overuse or over-rely on them and also allowed for more uses of the composed score from Harold Faltermeyer, Lady Gaga, and Hans Zimmer. The score itself was great, taking tunes from the score of the previous movie and revamping it. They particularly complement the action sequences and make them feel even more thrilling.

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Top Gun: Maverick is so many things. It surpasses the first movie in every aspect, its one of the best legacy sequels, and its up there with Mad Max: Fury Road and Mission Impossible: Fallout as some of the best action films of recent years. The story and characters are given enough depth and heart, the cast are great in their parts (especially Cruise and Teller), and the excellent direction and phenomenal action sequences are incredible to watch. Even if you’re not a fan of the original movie or haven’t even watched it, I highly recommend watching it on the big screen, it is truly an exhilarating experience. One of the best films of 2022 thus far.

Bad Times at the El Royale (2018) Review

Time: 141 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence & offensive language
Cast:
Jeff Bridges as Daniel Flynn
Cynthia Erivo as Darlene Sweet
Dakota Johnson as Emily Summerspring
Jon Hamm as Seymour ‘Laramie’ Sullivan
Cailee Spaeny as Rose Summerspring
Lewis Pullman as Miles Miller
Chris Hemsworth as Billy Lee
Nick Offerman as Felix O’Kelly
Director: Drew Goddard

The El Royale is run-down hotel that sits on the border between California and Nevada. It soon becomes a seedy battleground when seven strangers — a cleric (Jeff Bridges), a soul singer (Cynthia Erivo), a traveling salesman (Jon Hamm), two sisters (Dakota Johnson, Cailee Spaeny), the manager and the mysterious Billy Lee (Chris Hemsworth) — converge on a fateful night for one last shot at redemption before everything goes wrong.

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I had been hearing about Bad Times at the El Royale for a while. I heard of the cast, with Jeff Bridges, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm and Chris Hemsworth among others. However, what really got my interested was when I heard that Drew Goddard was writing and directing this. Goddard on top of writing Cloverfield and The Martian, also directed and co-wrote The Cabin in the Woods. I was interested to see how this movie would be with this cast and director. I actually ended up liking Bad Times at the El Royale a lot more than I thought I would. With its killer cast, twisty story and writing, I really dug it and I was on board with it from start to finish.

Like with The Cabin in the Woods, Bad Times at the El Royale is better experienced when you know as little as possible. The movie for a lot of it is split up into different sections, for example a title card saying ‘Room 1’ would come up and then it would focus on that character in that room and their backstory. Because of this structure, this will lead to some find the movie to drag and I can see why some people would feel that way. It’s just what comes from having this kind of structure, personally it didn’t bother me at all, the pacing was fine enough for me. Every character has their own story and the movie finds some way of tying it all together. There are some questions that aren’t entirely answered, some of them are purposely left ambiguous, but I feel like there are some other answers that I would’ve liked to have seen. I will say that it does get better more you think about it, as there are some connections in the movie that I didn’t pick up until the following day. Bad Times at the El Royale is a long movie at 2 hours and 20 minutes long but as I said I never felt bored throughout its running time.

As previously mentioned, this movie has a great cast and all of them bring their A game to their roles. We have Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Lewis Pulman, Jon Hamm, Dakota Johnson, Chris Hemsworth, Cailee Spaeny and even a little bit of Nick Offerman, all great. With almost all of them we get to see things about their characters (although I would’ve liked to have seen a little more of Jon Hamm). Jeff Bridges gives a pretty great performance as a priest who doesn’t seem like much of a priest. Bad Times is Cynthia Erivo’s big screen debut and she’s a Tony Winning actress and singer, she’s really great here. She’s probably the most trustworthy and likable character out of the main cast and she does really well here. I can’t wait to see her in this year’s Widows. Lewis Pullman is also quite good, as someone who pretty much runs everything in the hotel. He doesn’t seem like much at first but he really ends up being a real surprise. You don’t see a massive amount of Chris Hemsworth till like the last act but he steals the show when he’s on screen, its quite a different role for him, with him being a cult leader and he absolutely pulls it off.

Drew Goddard’s direction is very stylish and great, really working for the movie. At the same time it’s not so stylish that it’s self indulgent or distracts from the rest of the movie, its just at the right level. The cinematography, lighting, the set design and the use of music is great, you really feel (for the most part) like you’re with these characters just around this hotel with a late 60s vibe.

I had a lot of fun with Bad Times at the El Royale. It’s an entertaining mystery thriller, with a talented cast delivering great performances and has some really nice surprises throughout. It might not end up being for everyone, it does have a slower pace and I kind of wished it had some more surprises and answers but it really worked well for me.