Tag Archives: Riley Keough

The Devil All the Time (2020) Review

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The Devil All the Time

Time: 138 Minutes
Cast:
Tom Holland as Arvin Eugene Russell
Bill Skarsgård as Willard Russell
Robert Pattinson as Reverend Preston Teagardin
Riley Keough as Sandy Henderson
Jason Clarke as Carl Henderson
Sebastian Stan as Sheriff Lee Bodecker
Eliza Scanlen as Lenora Laferty
Haley Bennett as Charlotte Russell
Mia Wasikowska as Helen Hatton Laferty
Harry Melling as Roy Laferty
Director: Antonio Campos

A young man (Tom Holland) is devoted to protecting his loved ones in a town full of corruption and sinister characters.

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The Devil All the Time was one of my most anticipated movies of 2020. First of all it has one of the biggest casts of the year, with it including Tom Holland, Bill Skarsgard, Robert Pattinson, Jason Clarke, and Riley Keough, so naturally that had my curiosity. On top of that though, the prospect of a psychological thriller with a large group of characters sounded quite appealing and very much my kind of film. Having seen it, I can see why some people are mixed on it, it’s not for everyone, but I’m glad to say that I really liked the movie and it really worked for me.

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You could describe The Devil All the Time as like The Place Beyond the Pines as written by Cormac McCarthy or The Coen Brothers. It spans a number of decades and generations, and features a large number of characters with intertwining storylines. It can feel like it’s not driving towards something for most of the movie, it’s very much a character driven story. For me though it works, I found the story and characters compelling, and I was invested with what was happening. As mentioned earlier it is not for everyone. It is a very grim and bleak movie, a lot of graphic, violent and gruesome acts happen, there are some pretty dark themes and subject matter touched on throughout, and almost all of the main characters are pretty far from what you’d call ‘a good person’ to say the least. So it’s likely to turn a lot of people off. The movie is also just under 2 hours and 20 minutes long, it does feel quite long and it is slowly paced for sure. You could make the argument that some parts could’ve been trimmed. At the same time there are some plotlines that could’ve done with some fleshing out, particularly those of Jason Clarke, Riley Keough and Sebastian Stan. Maybe a mini series might’ve been able to flesh out all the aspects of the story while not feeling too drawn out, but I’m fine with how it is as a movie. One point of contention will be with the narration by Donald Ray Pollock, the author of the book the movie was based on. It will work for some, and others will hate it, I have very mixed feelings on it. It really did add something to the tone of the movie, making it feel like a gothic folk tale, and it also added some context to the characters and the story that it sometimes needed. So I wouldn’t say that it should’ve been completely removed or anything. However, it really needed to be cut back a ton. There’s many moments that would’ve been more effective if they didn’t have narration, it just explains way too much, including what some characters are doing and why they are doing it, and it just takes me out of the movie. This may be a nitpick but there are a few characters who are around from the 40s through to the 60s, and don’t look like they aged a day, and it can be a bit distracting.

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The cast are of course the standouts from the movie, and everyone is great on their part. Riley Keough and Jason Clarke play a serial killer couple, Sebastian Stan plays a corrupt sheriff, and Harry Melling plays a fanatical preacher, the later of whom was one of the biggest surprises of the movie, delivering a truly memorable performance. Although their characters aren’t given much to do, Eliza Scanlen, Haley Bennett, Mia Wasikowska do well on their parts, and Scanlen particularly gave an effective performance. Even amongst an ensemble of great performances, there were three actors that stood out. First of all is Tom Holland, as the main character of the story (despite appearing for the first time like 40 minutes into the movie) Arvin Russell. This was quite a different role for him, a much darker and emotional role for him, and he was actually great on his part. While I like him in the movies I’ve seen of his, I’d say that this is so far the best performance of his career thus far. I hope Holland branches out to more indie movies like this, because he’s definitely got a lot of range. Bill Skarsgard is also great as Arvin’s father, he really leaves a strong impression despite being in the movie for only like 30 minutes. He gives an intense and emotional performance, and possibly the best work I’ve seen from him thus far. Robert Pattinson is also a scene stealer as a sleezy, deranged and sinister reverend. He’s not even in the movie a ton but he makes the most of his screentime. His performance could’ve so easily failed, it is definitely over the top. However it actually really works, and he really did well at portraying the most hateable character in the film, and considering the lineup of characters in this story that is saying a lot. A particular scene between him and Holland is one of the best scenes of the year.

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This is the first movie I watched from Antonio Campos, and from this I can tell that he’s a great director, and I do want to watch his other movies. It’s very well put together. The cinematography is great and really sells the environment and time period effectively. The 35mm and the grain really also really fit the movie and tone. You really get the gothic rural feeling throughout. The use of music was pretty great, both the song choices and the score, and really worked particularly well in some certain scenes. The violence and brutality is really effective and impactful, it feels very realistic, and there are some moments and particularly some imagery that really stick with you.

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The Devil All the Time has some issues with some of the executions of its ideas and with its writing, but on the whole I think it’s great. I was invested throughout, it’s very well directed, and it features some fantastic acting, particularly from Tom Holland, Bill Skarsgard and Robert Pattinson. It’s not for everyone, the aimless story might drag for some, and the grim tone might turn some people off. With that said I think that it might be worth watching for the ensemble of great performances alone.

Under the Silver Lake (2019) Review

Time: 139 Minutes
Cast:
Andrew Garfield as Sam
Riley Keough as Sarah
Topher Grace as Man at Bar
Laura-Leigh as Mae
Zosia Mamet as Troy
Jimmi Simpson as Allen
Director: David Robert Mitchell

When his beautiful, mysterious neighbour (Riley Keough) disappears without a trace, Sam (Andrew Garfield) tries to find the parties responsible, unravelling a string of strange crimes, unsolved murders and bizarre coincidences in his East Los Angeles neighborhood.

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Under the Silver Lake was a movie that I heard about for a little while. I knew that Andrew Garfield was in the lead role and came from the director of It Follows, and I also knew that the release date kept being pushed back. It left the people who have watched the movie rather polarised and I was curious to see what the reaction was about, and having seen it I can see why people left split about it. While I wouldn’t say I loved it or anything, I liked it quite a bit.

Under the Silver Lake is sort of a throwback to noire and conspiracy films, and if you’re a big fan of either of those genres, you are probably going to like this movie quite a bit. You can heavily feel the Alfred Hitchcock and David Lynch influences, and it never once feels like a rip-off, it feels like its own original movie. This movie goes to some pretty weird places, it’s the strangest movie I’ve seen in a long time. If you’re a third of the way into the movie and find it weird already, you haven’t even gotten to the weirdest parts yet. The only movie that I could compare Under the Silver Lake to is Inherent Vice, with the offbeat tone, writing and both being in the same genre and all. It’s a little unfocussed and messy, a little too confusing at times, and as a result it took me out of the movie at some points. Because I wasn’t entirely invested with the movie, I really felt the 2 hours and 20 minute runtime drag at points. With that said there are a lot of things about the writing that I liked as well. I felt like it was trying to really say something, even if it doesn’t completely succeed at that, I do like where they took the story and themes. Really I liked the story as a whole, even though it could be a little messy at times.

Andrew Garfield gives probably his strangest performance yet here as the lead character, who becomes obsessed with some sort of conspiracy. He’s not exactly the most likable of characters but the film seems to know that at the same time, it’s rather critical of the character. Garfield shines in the role, it really is his movie throughout. There is also a supporting cast which includes Riley Keough and Topher Grace and while they are good in their scenes, they don’t appear in the movie a lot. It really is Garfield’s movie throughout, he’s in every single scene.

One of the reasons why It Follows worked so well was the direction by David Robert Mitchell and he once again does some great work here. This is a stunning looking movie, they really captured Los Angeles incredibly well. There are times where you can tell Mitchell was clearly influenced by classic noire movies with regards to the editing, use of music, and the way certain shots were filmed. Also returning from working on It Follows is Disasterpiece, who provide the score for Under the Silver Lake, which was really good and worked for the tone and vibe of the whole movie.

Under the Silver Lake is definitely not going to work for everyone. As messy and unfocussed as it could be at time, I liked it. Andrew Garfield was great, the direction by David Robert Mitchell worked really well and the writing was unique and wonderfully weird, and as someone who likes noire, I enjoyed it. Honestly there’s no way to tell if you’re going to like this movie or not, you’re just going to need to go into it and see it for yourself.

The House that Jack Built (2018) Review

Time: 155 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Graphic violence, sadistic cruelty and sexual violence
Cast:
Matt Dillon as Jack
Bruno Ganz as Verge
Uma Thurman as Lady 1
Siobhan Fallon Hogan as Claire Miller – Lady 2
Sofie Gråbøl as Lady 3
Riley Keough as Jacqueline – “Simple”
Jeremy Davies as Al
Director: Lars von Trier

In five episodes, failed architect and vicious sociopath Jack (Matt Dillon) recounts his elaborately orchestrated murders — each, as he views them, a towering work of art that defines his life’s work as a serial killer in the Pacific Northwest.

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Having watched Lars von Trier’s past few films (Nymphomaniac, Melancholia and Antichrist) recently, I had been meaning to check out The House that Jack Built. It’s yet another controversial film from the polarising director, with his next movie following a serial killer. With the movies I’ve seen by him, I can usually appreciate and like them, but there’s something about them which I couldn’t bring myself to love or get on board fully with. The House that Jack Built however managed to be the exception to the rule and really was a real surprise of a film. Entertaining, fascinating, full with ideas and led by a fantastic performance by Matt Dillon, The House that Jack Built is one of the best films of the year.

The House that Jack Built is 2 hours and a half and when it comes to watching this movie, you have to really be prepared to sit yourself down to watch all of it. It’s divided into 5 ‘incidents’ as well as an epilogue and is basically a dive into the mind of a serial killer. The incidents all sounds very repetitive on paper, even with Jack finding new ways to kill his victims, however they do make sure that each of these killings have their own significance to Jack. It’s pretty clear that these aren’t the only murders that he has committed, it’s just the 5 instances that he decides to talk to a voice named Verge (Bruno Ganz) about. Speaking of that, the movie isn’t just about killing, a big part of the movie is Jack narrating talking with Verge, while some of their discussions are about his actions, their discussions can also range to art, icons in history, architecture and plenty of other things as well. Like with some bits of the discussions in Nymphomaniac, it can be a little too self indulgent at times but most of the conversations were interesting to listen to. There’s even a moment when they’re talking about art and it shows on screen some of Lars von Trier’s own movies. There is a real self-awareness to this movie which I think benefited it, and that’s possibly why I enjoy watching this one more than his others, Lars seemed to be genuinely having a good time making this movie and you could feel it. I think something that will surprise everyone is the effective dark comedy that is used. For example, the first two incidents are mostly hilarious. An example is in one of the incidents where Jack has murdered someone and is trying to leave a crime scene but because of his OCD keeps thinking that there’s still blood left behind and keeps having to go back inside the house to clean up the non-existent blood, even when the police can be heard coming closer. The movie is not a laugh riot from beginning to end though, there are some particularly grim moments, incidents 3 and 4 stand out as being that. Now the movie has an epilogue that is so far removed from the rest of the movie. It could polarise some but I personally loved it, it worked to tie together the whole story and the ending was really the only way the movie would’ve ended. Side note but I think a large part of watching the movie is that it’s probably Lars von Trier reflecting on himself and his work, he even said that out of all the characters that he wrote, Jack is the closest to himself. Going into the movie knowing that made things more interesting but I’m sure you could watch the movie perfectly fine not knowing too much about the reviled director.

Matt Dillon gives one of the best performances of the entire year as Jack. Whether The House that Jack Built would work as a movie relied on a number of things (it could’ve easily turned out to be a disaster), and one of the most critical things was the performance of the titular Jack character. I haven’t seen Dillon in much outside of Crash but he did a fantastic job here. He is great at showing Jack’s development over the 12 years, especially how he starts off not being that great as a killer, and then him becoming much more unstable, experienced and more willing to take risks as the film progresses. He also showed great range, going from being awkward and hilarious and intimidating in the next. The supporting cast which includes Riley Keough and Uma Thurman were all pretty good, though usually just limited to one scene appearances. The standout supporting actor was Bruno Ganz who voices Verge, who Jack speaks to. I didn’t mention this before but I feel like Verge was essential to this movie working, as during the narration portions when they are talking, they conflict and debate a lot. Without Verge, we would just be watching Jack discuss his killings and talking about his perception about art without being challenged at all. The film needed some sort of moral centre and it certainly wasn’t going to be Jack’s victims who get like 10 minutes of screentime max. On top of that, Verge calls out Jack for a bunch of things, whether that be his misogyny, arrogance or his ego. Because of this, I highly disagree with all the criticisms of this movie glorifying serial killers or being misogynistic, the movie is pretty much condemning Jack throughout.

Lars von Trier’s direction is great and had a really good look to it. His previous movies do this but they have that weird unnecessary cutting in scenes, I’m used to it by now though but I can see other people finding it rather distracting. Overall though the editing really helped and added to the movie. The third act is vastly different from the rest of the movie, and without spoiling anything has some stunning visuals, it truly is a spectacle to watch. I pretty much loved everything they did with the movie. Now to deal with the elephant in the room: the violence. I heard much of the scenes of violence before going in. With the violence, they go the more realistic route rather than the bloodbath approach, I’d say that less blood was seen here than in American Psycho (to compare it to another serial killer movie). I know it’s a weird thing to say but honestly I found the violence to be way tamer than I thought it would be (not to say that most people will be perfectly fine with the violence in this movie). I’d say honestly its more about what exactly happens that’s disturbing than how it’s portrayed. That’s not to say however that there aren’t scenes that aren’t hard to watch (again primarily in incidents 3 and 4), but they are careful not to be too gratioutous with what happens. For example there’s a moment when Jack can be seen cutting off a body part (at least in the director’s cut) and it only lasts for like one second, and that was one of the more graphic moments of the film. There are two versions of the movie, the director’s cut and the theatrical cut, I managed to watch the director’s cut. I have a feeling there’s a slight difference regarding the violence, with some cuts to slightly tone it down a bit. However, if you’re really questioning which version to watch, I don’t think it would be a major difference honestly (I still think the director’s cut is the way to go). I will say this though, if you could stomach von Trier’s Antichrist, then I don’t think you will have too much of a problem with this film.

The House that Jack Built won’t be for everyone, along with the violence and the fact that it’s about a serial killer, it is quite an ‘arty’ movie and has a lot more going on with it. People just expecting a simple serial killer movie will be let down. To me, it’s one of the best films of the year. Along with its great direction, its darkly hilarious, fantastically made and features one of the year’s best performances by Matt Dillon. I have a feeling that this is von Trier’s last film, given some of the things that happen in the movie as well as the ending, if that’s the case then he’s ending on a high note.

Hold the Dark (2018) Review

Time: 125 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1]
Cast:
Jeffrey Wright as Russell Core
Alexander Skarsgård as Vernon Sloane
James Badge Dale as Donald Marium
Riley Keough as Medora Sloane
Julian Black Antelope as Cheeon
Macon Blair as Shan
Director: Jeremy Saulnier

Summoned to a remote Alaskan village to search for the wolves that killed three children, a wolf expert (Jeffrey Wright) soon finds himself unravelling a harrowing mystery.

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I recently watched through Jeremy Saulnier’s filmography, he seemed to be getting better with every film and having loved Green Room on rewatch, so I was looking forward to his next film Hold the Dark. It actually wasn’t quite what I was expecting but it really worked for me. It’s very ambitious, dark and haunting, with really great performances and as usual Jeremy Saulnier’s direction really was great.

This is a very different kind of movie for Jeremy Saulnier to be taking on. This is the first film that he’s directed that he hasn’t written, instead the script is written by longtime Jeremy Saulnier collaborator Macon Blair, and the script was really great. It’s based on a book of the same name written by William Giraldi, I don’t know how much the movie differs from the book since I never read it. The plot summary about Jeffrey Wright being hired by Riley Keough to hunt down the wolf who took her child is pretty much just the first act, it takes a very different path after that and I didn’t know this going in. In that it surprised me, and I recommend not going into this movie knowing too much about it. People who are expecting the guy who made Green Room to make a straight forward thriller based in a snowy environment are going to be taken aback at the complex story and the amount of thematic elements to it (the thematic elements I’ll let you find out for yourself). The story is dark, disturbing and haunting, and it just all really worked for me. Something that a lot of people will take issue with is that there are some unanswered questions, especially towards the end. It’s pretty ambiguous with how it ends and I myself am not quite sure about how I feel about it. With that said I didn’t dislike it and I was fine with it, but I can see a lot of people taking issue with it. Also if you’re not completely paying attention to what’s going on, it can be easy to miss some details of the movie. For example, I was paying attention to the movie quite a bit and there was a reveal involving Alexander Skarsgard and Riley Keough’s characters that I missed until hearing it from others after the movie, I don’t know if it was the movie or just me. Saulnier’s films are pretty self contained at around 90 minutes, but Hold the Dark is longer at around 2 hours long. This film takes place over a period of time in various different places, and as previously mentioned is much more complicated. That does mean that the pacing can slow down a little, and some of the tension can be reduced, but it still worked for the type of movie it was going for, and on the whole I was invested from start to finish.

Quite often with Jeremy Saulnier movies, the characters are a little underwritten, but Blair’s script actually gives the main players enough depth. Jeffrey Wright is one of the most underrated actors working together and it’s great watching him lead his own movie. He gives one of his best performances and seems to have a lot going on in his personal life. Unlike Saulnier’s other film protagonists, his character of Russell Core is competent enough for the task ahead of him, yet he still feels rather vulnerable in his situations. I do wish though that we got to know a little more about his character. Alexander Skarsgard is really great and haunting in his role, he’s unnerving when he’s on screen and was such a great screen presence. Riley Keough is also really good in her performance as the mother who hires Jeffrey Wright at the beginning of the movie, definitely deserving of a lot of praise. All the acting is quite great, James Badge Dale is good as a police chief and Macon Blair is also good in a smaller role.

Jeremy Saulnier’s direction is great as usual, Hold the Dark is a much more ambitious film and was on a much larger scale, and he was more than up for the challenge. It feels like it’s convincingly in this snowy and cold environment being rather isolated, it feels very much like Wind River. Saulnier as usual builds up a great atmosphere over the course of the movie, with so many scenes adding to the tension. There is a shootout sequence which is definitely one of the best filmed scenes of 2018. So incredibly tense, violent and captivating from start to finish. I think Hold the Dark might actually be worth watching for that scene alone. The score was done by Brooke and Will Blair, who also did the score to Green Room. Once again it’s really good, suitably chilling and haunting, just like the whole movie.

Hold the Dark is on Netflix and it’s really worth checking out, I know that it didn’t quite work for everyone, but it’s one of my favourite films of 2018. It’s a very affecting and gripping movie, with great writing and performances and fantastic direction. It may not answer all the questions that are posed earlier on, but it nonetheless was an effective movie, and one that I loved. It’s around about at the level of Green Room, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of Jeremy Saulnier’s future work.

The Discovery (2017) Review

Time: 110 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Cast:
Rooney Mara as Isla
Jason Segel as Will Harbor
Jesse Plemons as Toby Harbor
Riley Keough as Lacey
Robert Redford as Thomas Harbor
Director: Charlie McDowell

In the near future, due to a breakthrough scientific discovery by Dr. Thomas Harbor (Robert Redford), there is now definitive proof of an afterlife. While countless people have chosen suicide to reset their existence, others try to decide what it all means. Among them is Dr. Harbor’s son Will (Jason Segal), who has arrived at his father’s isolated compound with a mysterious young woman named Isla (Rooney Mara). There, they discover the strange acolytes who help Dr. Harbor with his experiments.

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The Discovery was one of my most anticipated films of 2017. With its talented cast, its very intriguing premise and trailer, it looked like an interesting and unique movie at the very least. After finally watched this movie, I have to say, it didn’t disappoint. The acting, direction and most of the story was great. There were a couple of aspects which didn’t work well but it’s not enough to affect the overall viewing experience in a major way.

The premise about the aftermath after the discovery of the afterlife is very interesting, and I was invested throughout the entire running time. I never felt bored or confused in the movie (I was however confused at the end but I’ll get to that later). Each twist and turn only increased my curiosity in what direction the film was going in next. For the most part this movie works very well. That’s not to say that everything was as good as it could’ve been. The film does rely on a lot of exposition and while I liked it, I felt like there was too much of it. And then there is the ending… I’m still not sure what I think about it. The ending does add yet another twist to the numerous other twists in the movie. It is such a big twist; however the film doesn’t really allow much time for this twist to play out before the movie ends. The twist itself is one that I’m a little confused about, and I wasn’t sure about what the ending meant. Overall, I guess I sort of liked the ending but I do think it should’ve been handled better.

The acting in this movie is great overall but Rooney Mara delivered the most stand out performance out of everyone. Rooney played her role incredibly well, she also had a lot of humorous moments and lines. Her character was the one I was most interested in throughout. She and Jason Segal played off each other and had great chemistry. Segal was pretty good, however he did feel like a weak link, I’m not sure why it feels that way. Possibly slightly miscast, but he wasn’t bad. Robert Redford is always great, and does have quite a presence here. Other actors like Jason Plemons and Riley Keough were good but they were underused.

The direction and cinematography were great, this film is visually beautiful, both in regard to the way that the film was shot as well as the locations chosen. This film also has this almost eerie feel to it, which is helped by it’s score. I don’t know why but this really made me even more invested and interested in the movie.

The Discovery is very intriguing and interesting throughout. The acting was great (especially from Rooney Mara), the direction by Charlie McDowell is really good, and the story was really riveting. There are some problems I have with the movie, especially with the way they handled the ending but what it gets right, it gets right so well. I definitely recommend giving it a view, it’s now on Netflix. Not everyone loves this movie, but it might just surprise you.