A Ghost Story, Berlin Syndrome & The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane Movie Reviews

Three more quickie horror reviews. Well, none of them are actually “horror” films. Two thrillers & one pretentious bore…

A Ghost Story (2017)

Directed & Written by David Lowery

Starring: Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Affleck plays a man who becomes a ghost and remains in the house he shares with his wife (Mara).

My Brief Opinion:

What a load of pretentious twaddle. I was all prepared to like this, too, since I like Rooney Mara for some reason (even though she displays zero emotion in everything I’ve ever seen her in). To be fair, I can appreciate what this story was trying to achieve (does life have meaning or will we all just die and fade away and be forgotten blah blah blah). It’s actually quite a depressing film but do we really need to be reminded that life sucks, especially with the current state of the world?? Here’s my Twitter “tweet review” of this movie: Well. That was tedious. #AGhostStory βœ¨πŸ πŸ‘«πŸŽΉπŸŽ§πŸš— πŸ’’ πŸ’€πŸ‘»πŸ™πŸ»β€β™€οΈπŸ₯§πŸ‘©β€πŸ‘§β€πŸ‘¦πŸ‘»πŸ½πŸ’’πŸ˜±πŸšπŸ—πŸ™πŸ‘©πŸΌβ€πŸŒΎπŸ‘»πŸ’€πŸ’€πŸ’€πŸ πŸ‘«πŸ‘»πŸ‘»πŸ“œπŸ•³βœ¨

My Rating: 6/10

Berlin Syndrome (2017)

Directed by Cate Shortland

Based on Berlin Syndrome by Melanie Joosten

Starring: Teresa Palmer, Max Riemelt

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film tells about a young photographer Clare, going to Germany, where she meets an attractive guy Andi. Waking up after a stormy night of passion, Clare realizes that Andi locked her in the apartment and is not going to let her go.

My Brief Opinion:

I actually thought this was a decent psychological thriller. Starring Teresa Palmer & Max Riemelt, this is the IMDb synopsis: A passionate holiday romance leads to an obsessive relationship, when an Australian photojournalist wakes one morning in a Berlin apartment and is unable to leave. I’m always interested to see how a character will behave in this sort of situation (Teresa Palmer is the one being kept locked up in the apartment belonging to a stranger she’s slept with while on holiday). It’s strange to see him go about his daily life as normal each day while keeping her imprisoned and to see the “relationship” develop between them (he sees her as his girlfriend, of sorts, in his messed up mind). And she of course depends on him for food, etc, to survive. It’s based on a book so I’d be interested to know more about the characters’ feelings & motivations as I think the movie doesn’t explore this well enough. Maybe I’ll read the novel sometime.

My Rating: 6.5/10

The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane (1976)

Directed by Nicolas Gessner

Based on The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane by Laird Koenig

Starring: Jodie Foster, Martin Sheen, Alexis Smith, Mort Shuman, Scott Jacoby

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The plot focuses on 13-year-old Rynn Jacobs (Foster), a child whose absent poet father and secretive behaviours prod the suspicions of her conservative small-town Maine neighbours.

My Brief Opinion:

I watched this odd 1976 Jodie Foster film partly because I was sick of seeing it in my Netflix Watchlist (it’s been on there for years). I think I was under the impression that it was a straightforward horror but it’s more of a drama that almost feels like a play. Actually, the story would work quite well as a play (maybe it was a play – I’m too lazy to look into it). It drags & I found it a bit underwhelming but the young Foster did a good job as the mysterious 13-year-old who seems to live in a house all on her own.

My Rating: 5.5/10

I far preferred the Jodie Foster film Bugsy Malone, which I watched for the first time last year but never got around to reviewing. Seems to be a bit of a cult classic in the U.K. but barely even known in the U.S.

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Hotel Artemis (2018) Review

Hotel Artemis (2018)

Directed & Written by Drew Pearce

Starring: Jodie Foster, Sterling K. Brown, Sofia Boutella, Jeff Goldblum, Brian Tyree Henry, Jenny Slate, Zachary Quinto, Charlie Day, Dave Bautista

Plot Synopsis:(via Wikipedia)
The plot follows Jean Thomas, a nurse who runs a secret hospital for criminals in futuristic Los Angeles.

My Opinion:

I found this film to be a pleasant surprise. Maybe it was because I wasn’t expecting much after seeing the trailer. Despite liking the concept, it just looked a bit too much like John Wick to me. Actually, I liked it more than John Wick (Sorry, John Wick fans!). Hotel Artemis is one of very few movies these days that I felt was telling a fairly unique & original story. I really enjoyed it and the characters were pretty great. I’d love a sequel (or perhaps a prequel, which would be very interesting in this case – especially for Jodie Foster’s backstory).


First of all, Jodie Foster was really good in this. She’s the nurse running this secret hotel for criminals and has been for many years. She has a loyal assistant (played by Dave Bautista, also a great character) and several interesting criminal “guests”. There’s a lot of history to her character, unlike the characters in John Wick. The main criminal the movie focuses on is a guy who has just robbed a bank & whose brother has been badly injured in the robbery. This main dude was played by Sterling K. Brown and I liked him a lot as well. He’s very suave. I don’t think I’ve seen him in much before… I also thought Sofia Boutella, another criminal hotel guest, kicked ass. She had great chemistry with Brown.


This movie has a rating on IMDB which I think is far too low. I’m not sure what people were expecting. Maybe far more action (again, like John Wick)? It has surprisingly little action, which may be what people found disappointing but which I appreciated. As always, I prefer a good story & decent character development. The “baddies” (er, the REALLY bad baddies – not the kind-of-good baddies!) were very one-dimensional but our main characters were so good that it didn’t really matter. That’s not to say there isn’t any action, especially toward the end (mainly thanks to Boutella kicking ass while in a sexy dress). Oh, and I also loved that this is set “sometime in the near future” as they had some pretty advanced technology in this dim, dystopian setting. If you go into this not expecting wall-to-wall action and if you like a crime thriller with some good characters, you may enjoy this one. Also, don’t expect it to be quite as straightforward as a mainstream blockbuster. This movie feels like something a little bit different. In a good way…

My Rating: 7.5/10

Money Monster (2016) Review

Money Monster (2016)

Directed by Jodie Foster

Starring: George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Jack O’Connell, Dominic West, Giancarlo Esposito, Caitriona Balfe

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film stars George Clooney as Lee Gates, a TV personality who advises his audience on commerce and Wall Street, and who is forcefully interrogated by Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell), a grief-stricken bankrupt viewer who lost his money after a previous tip.

My Opinion:

I chose to go to this movie in this way: “Eeny meeny miny… Oh, Money Monster has a much shorter running time than X-Men: Apocalypse or The Nice Guys so let’s just watch that one”. Money Monster is a decent enough film but it’s one of those that you know most people won’t bother to make a trip to the cinema to see. It’s a home-watcher. I enjoyed it even though it’s a bit formulaic & predictable but, hell, most movies are. If you like any of its stars or want to see a Jodie Foster film (I thought she’d directed far more movies than she actually has!), you’d probably like this one just fine.

This movie (its basic plot, at least) reminded me a lot of Man On A Ledge & I did keep thinking of that movie thoughout this one. I remember really looking forward to that film as it had a great concept but it ended up being a stupid, silly mess. Luckily, Money Monster is much better than Man On A Ledge so don’t worry about my comparison! It has much better writing & acting plus situations that aren’t as ridiculously far fetched.

Unfortunately, it does fall apart at the end after a pretty promising start. It’s one of those films where the “surprise” of what’s “really going on” isn’t a surprise in the slightest, which was a little disappointing as I wanted it to be something more than just “Oh, that’s it? Well that was obvious from the start”. I think it also fails to get its message across (if it even has a message?). I suppose the message of sorts is just about how big business/money always screws over the little guy but we all know that’s a fact of life anyway. This movie could’ve provided a good commentary on that but instead just turns into a pretty straightforward good guy vs bad guy hostage drama. I’d have to say that at least The Big Short made this same sort of point in a much more effective way & had a message (I actually hated that movie, though. Snoozefest!). Money Monster takes the path of “entertaining movie” more than “thought-provoking drama”. But there’s of course nothing wrong with a movie being entertaining – I just wish Money Monster had dug a bit deeper to be a little something more.

A quick mention of the film’s stars: Clooney’s role has his name written ALL over it – I would imagine he was the exact person they had in mind for the role even as it was being written. So, yeah, that works but his performance can’t help but feel a bit phoned-in because of it. I’d have to say that Julia Roberts actually does a better job here (and that’s being said by someone who really isn’t one of her fans). This is the perfect sort of role for her these days, though, and I’d even possibly go so far as to say she’s the best one in this. I know there’s been a lot of positive buzz around Jack O’Connell after Starred Up & ’71 (both of which I’ve not seen) and he’s decent enough in this but I think that his character lets him down as the movie fails to make him as sympathetic as I think it had intended.   Dominic West, Giancarlo Esposito & especially Caitriona Balfe all did a good job and some of the smaller characters were pretty well-written and provided tiny bits of comic relief, even down to the cameraman who has to stay to film the whole thing while George Clooney has a bomb strapped to him.

I’d recommend Money Monster to anyone who thinks they’d enjoy it. As long as you don’t expect anything too deep, you’ll probably like it okay. I think it has slipped under the radar, which is kind of a shame as there aren’t a whole lot of similar films currently being made. I think Jodie Foster did a decent job with this one & should do more directing.

My Rating: 7/10

Elysium (2013) Review

Elysium (2013)

Directed & Written by Neill Blomkamp

Starring: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley, Alice Braga, Diego Luna, Wagner Moura, William Fichtner

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
In the year 2154, the very wealthy live on a man-made space station while the rest of the population resides on a ruined Earth. A man takes on a mission that could bring equality to the polarized worlds.

My Opinion:

I had a bit of a “Matt Damon sci-fi” weekend: I watched Elysium & The Martian (finally – I’ll review that on Wednesday). I did really like Blomkamp’s District 9 and was very much in the minority, I think, in quite liking Chappie. I missed out on Elysium but after it got such bad reviews I didn’t rush to watch it. I still planned to watch it someday, though, as I love sci-fi and am always far more forgiving of flawed films in that genre. Elysium was a tiny bit better than I was expecting (but my low expectations due to bad reviews probably helped). Don’t get me wrong, though – it’s a total mess.

Elysium actually started out quite promising but, man oh man, it really lost its way. It looked impressive so I enjoyed watching the sci-fi elements such as the robots (that looked a lot like Chappie) and the utopian space station Elysium (although it was very derivative). I thought Matt Damon did quite well and I liked the story involving his childhood friend. I didn’t read any reviews of this in detail as I knew I’d watch it someday but I assume the main complaints were about the “baddies” (Jodie Foster & Sharlto Copley). They’re godawful! There are some pretty big problems with the script but the one-dimensional bad guys (with some really weird accents) are what let this film down more than anything else. Atrocious.


This movie had a good concept so I wish Blomkamp had managed to actually explore the themes and issues he clearly had in mind. Instead, the story becomes a messy & predictable action film in the second half.  It was just disappointing as I wanted the film to be a bit “deeper” than it ended up being. There are loads of mediocre sci-fi action films like this – I wanted a “smart” sci-fi (something like Moon or Ex Machina). It’s just frustrating when a film has the right elements but can’t make things work due to a weak script.

Summary:

I didn’t hate Elysium but it was certainly a disappointment. It “looked” good, though, and I liked the first half of the film plus I thought Damon did a good job. The movie showed a lot of promise until the second half when it totally lost the plot. A weak script that doesn’t at all explore the social & political themes as well as truly horrible, one-dimensional bad guys really let the film down. I’m glad I finally watched this but I’d only recommend it if you’re a big fan of sci-fi, otherwise you’ll probably feel like you’ve wasted two hours of your time. 

My Rating: 6/10

The Silence Of The Lambs (1991) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Niall of Raging Fluff. He also reviewed North By Northwest HERE and Gladiator HERE. Thanks so much for the reviews, Niall! πŸ™‚ Now let’s see what he has to say about The Silence Of The Lambs, IMDB rank 24 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE.

Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB Review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos I’ve used at the top of any of these guest reviews. I know I’ve made a few that are specific to the movie being reviewed. I’ll also do an IMDB update post soon & will post some more logos.

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Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Summary: In order to catch a serial killer, ambitious FBI-Trainee Clarice Starling enlists the help of another sociopath, Hannibal Lecter, who only helps her in exchange for revealing personal information about her childhood.

Directed by Jonathan Demme. Screenplay by Ted Tally. Based upon the novel by Thomas Harris.

Starring Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Scott Glenn, Ted Levine, Anthony Heald.

***SPOILERS THAT WILL HAVE THE LAMBS SCREAMING***

Oscar trivia buffs know that only three movies have won The Big Five: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Screenplay. The three films are It Happened One Night, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and Silence of the Lambs. It’s easy to see why the first two swept the Academy in their respective years. The Gable-Colbert comedy represents the very best of 1930s sophisticated – and risque – romantic comedy; it is sexy (legend has it that sales of men’s undershirts plummeted when Gable strode around bare-chested); and it has a madcap heiress at a time when films about the rich were a Hollywood staple (you don’t see many madcap heiresses these days). The Milos Forman film about inmates of an asylum bucking against the system and falling foul of authoritarian Nurse Ratched caught the pessimistic mood of the 1970s; it’s as much about Vietnam and violence in the ghetto as it is about mental illness (perhaps even more so).

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At first glance it’s less clear why Silence of the Lambs did so well. Firstly, the film was released in March, and conventional wisdom has it that only films released in the brief run-up to Christmas get Oscar’s attention. Secondly, its director had a small and devoted following but was hardly a mainstream name, and he made offbeat, quirky comedies (Married to the Mob, Something Wild ), not suspense thrillers. Thirdly, while Jodie Foster was a hot property after her Oscar-winning turn in The Accused, her co-star was essentially an unknown to most mainstream audiences. If Anthony Hopkins was recognised at all, it was probably as that guy from The Elephant Man (not the one under all the makeup, the other one). In fact, as is widely known, Hopkins was nobody`s first choice for the part. A lot of others turned it down first, including Gene Hackman, and I think that Hackman would have done a good job. I don’t know how it ended up on Hopkins’ desk; Hollywood had not been that good to the Welshman – he was stuck in garbage like Hollywood Wives, and he had a reputation as a difficult actor (perhaps deservedly so: for many years he was an angry boozer). Fourthly, the Thomas Harris novel had been a bestseller: would the film be faithful to the book? Finally, its subject was really quite gruesome, and the marketing people must have scratched their heads trying to figure out how to sell it. A man who kills and skins women? Another who eats his victims? And the cannibal and the FBI chick have a weird kinda-sorta romantic connection? Ew!

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As we all know, of course, they needn’t have worried. The film was a huge success and made the 50-plus Hopkins a character-star. I think he’s splendid in the part, but I’ve never understood why he wasn’t up for Best Supporting Actor, considering how little time he spends on screen (less than twenty minutes out of a two-hour movie). As for Foster, well, the cinema hadn’t had a truly strong female protagonist in a while, and it hasn’t had many since. Her performance is note-perfect; there isn’t a false moment in it. There’s a marvellous moment at the beginning when she steps into a lift and is surrounded by men: she’s tiny and she looks to be years younger than her classmates – how on earth can this little girl hope to catch a psychotic criminal?

The film also started a regrettable trend in Hollywood for serial killers (a trend that has produced very few truly decent films) and a much over-used trope: the genius bad guy. Even more regrettably, Thomas Harris and Hollywood didn’t know to leave well enough alone. Hannibal Lecter would appear in two further novels (one good, one awful). While the latest incarnation of Lecter on television has garnered all sorts of praise, critics and audiences were less impressed with Ridley Scott’s Hannibal (Foster refused to be part of it) and Hannibal Rising.

And before we move on, let’s not forget the elephant in the room: Brian Cox. The Scottish actor was in fact the first Lecter – in Michael Mann’s very stylish Manhunter (based on the novel Red Dragon). Cox only has a couple of scenes, but he’s terrifying, mostly because he appears to be so ordinary. It’s a far less baroque take on the character than what Hopkins does with it.

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Hopkins’ inspiration for Lecter’s distinctive nasal tone was, of all people, Katherine Hepburn. Everyone remembers Starling’s first encounter with Lecter: after enduring the oily attention of sleazebag Dr. Chilton, she walks down a long, dark stone hallway, a setting that would not look out of place in a gothic horror, the psychotic Miggs hissing obscenities at her … and then we see Lecter, standing perfectly still and bathed in light in the middle of his cell, a strange smile on his face. Then the whole bit about her perfume, his ridicule of her accent and bad shoes, the census taker’s liver, the nice chianti … fffffsssfffssssfffsss

Silence of the Lambs has a very different look and feel to Manhunter. Mann’s palette has bright colours, pastels, sunshine, a lot of white (Cox is in white prison garb in a white cell under harsh flourescent light), and much of it takes place in a slick-looking Miami (Mann created Miami Vice). Demme’s film has a wintry look (bare trees, strewn leaves) and drab and dreary settings (unkempt and kitschy homes in shitty small towns). The cinematographer is Taj Fukimoto. The sombre score is by Howard Shore.

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Considering its subject, the film is rather restrained. The most frightening moment in the movie is when Chilton shows Starling a photo of one of Lecter’s victims, and we don’t get to see it; all we see is the look of horror and revulsion on Foster’s face. Demme makes some very interesting choices where to point his camera, and there are a lot of point-of-view shots, and they can be unsettling. That is deliberate, because at its heart this is a film about coveting: about seeing and wanting what we see, and it’s also about what it feels like to be a young attractive woman who has to suffer men’s eyes roving all over her. Demme would go on to use a similar technique in Philadelphia with less effect.

I think the film does have some missteps, and they’re mostly to do with editing. The suspense of Lecter’s escape is dissipated by the fact that Demme chooses to focus too long on the bloody but still alive figure of β€œPembry” lying on the floor. Five seconds into a scene that should be about fear and confusion and cops on the hunt, and the audience has already guessed that it’s Lecter on the floor, which kills the surprise in the ambulance. Similarly, when Starling gets to Jame Gumb’s house, the film uses a cliche cross-cutting device between where she is and where the other agents are (different house, different city).

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I haven’t even talked about Ted Levine as Buffalo Bill. There are two things of note to remember when you watch him in this. One, this is the guy that played the bluff police captain in Monk. Go watch an episode and see if you recognise him. Two, Levine maintains he was better in the audition than he was in the film. Can you imagine how creepy he was in the audition? Considering all the attention the film received, it’s a shame Levine didn’t even get a Best Supporting Actor nod.

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