The Shallows

Just when you thought it was finally safe to go back in the water…

Jaws (1975) revolutionised cinema in three ways. 1) It established the career of a certain well-known director by the name of Steven Spielberg. 2) It was one of the first, if not the first, Blockbuster movie. 3) It made sharks seem really really scary, continuing to turn generation after generation into galeophobics (those with an intense fear of water due to sharks). 41 years later (yep, just take a minute to ponder that!) The Shallows comes along, using a great white shark to once more terrify audiences. Does it work? For the most part yes it really does!

Shortly after the death of her mother medical student Nancy (Blake Lively) decides to take a break from college and go travelling. She’s decided to retrace her mother’s steps and has travelled to a secret beach in Mexico to surf. Her favourite photo of her mother is her being stood on the beach, surfboard in hand, just after finding out she was pregnant with Nancy. Kind local Carlos (Óscar Jaenada) drives Nancy to the beach and drops her off. Nancy proceeds to surf for hours, first alongside two local residents and then on her own. After sensing a commotion in the water she travels a little further out when a great white shark attacks. A badly wounded Nancy drags herself to a pile of rocks roughly 200m from the shore, but the beast is circling and stopping her from reaching the shore. What will follow is a test of wills between man and nature – will Nancy survive?

In the 41 years since Jaws (again, can you believe it?!?) about 83 movies (yep, I counted) featuring killer sharks have graced big, small and non existent screens. For every Jaws there’s been at least ten Jaws:The Revenge. Thankfully The Shallows  is more like the former than the latter.

There’s a few reasons The Shallows has the makings of something of a modern masterpiece. There’s the fact it’s a bottle thriller – a movie set solely in one small location, think Buried (2010), Moon (2009) and 127 Hours (2010)- is an excellent decision. Bottle movies play us right in the situation the characters are in , we the audience cannot escape just as the character we are watching cannot. Having Nancy trapped on a small pile of rocks, that are soon to disappear with the tide, really ratchets up the tension. It allows us to connect with the tension she is feeling and develop our own sympathy tension. Even though we have only just meet her we know quite a chunk about her and we are desperate for her to pull through, no matter how unlikely that regularly seems.

This, however, would not be as effective were it not for Lively’s performance. It is not hyperbolic or oversimplified to say she carries this film. For the majority of the film, aside from a temporary companion seagull she names Steven, she is alone on screen. At least 60 minutes pass where she has no-one to communicate with and no-one to help her. Lively excels in communicating every emotion – from the pain of her energy, the horrendous worry over her situation to her savvy quick mindedness as she handles each situation. Should it have really been warranted Lively truly proves her skill as a fine actress.

Her excellent performance is immensely well served by the cinematography. The sequences of the shark attacking are as chilling as you’d hope/expect/want. The scenes where the shark cannot be seen, when we know it is lurking, are equally-wracking. An excellent balance is used between showing the beauty of this secluded and breath-taking beach along with the horror that lurks beneath the surface. There’s also an effective integration of social media/mobile phones early on which whilst highlighting this is a modern movie also had to the believability of the situation and of Nancy as a character.

The only negative has to be the final 5 minutes/ ending which really test the realms of believability.

All in all The Shallows has plenty of thrills and chills, with scares that will compel  most of the audience. And, at less than 90 minutes long, it’s a taut and lean thriller. Well worth a watch.

3.4

‘The Shallows‘ is in cinemas now. 

Mike & Dave Need Wedding Dates

The men might have their names in the title but it’s the women who steal the show.

It you’re in need of an antidote to disappointing blockbusters (see Suicide Squad), you’re not a big fan of science fiction (see Star Trek Beyond) and for whatever reason can’t stand kids films (erm maybe you’re heartless…see Finding Dory, I guess..?) then this film just about does the job. If you like your frat pack movies and love watching a bit of raunch then you’re going to love this.

Mike (Adam Devine) and his younger brother Dave (Zac Efron) are renowned  for their behaviour at family events. They think they get the party started, their family think they end all the parties with reckless and dangerous behaviour after getting each other relied up. Their sister Jeanie (Sugar Lyn Beard) is about to get married to Eric (Sam Richardson) so the family issue the brothers an ultimatum to prevent them from running their big day – if they want to attend they must bring wedding dates. They post an ad on Craigslist – offering an all expenses trip to Hawaii for two ‘nice girls’ in return for accompanying them as their wedding dates. The ad goes viral, with the brothers even going on tv to discuss their search. That when definitely not ‘nice girls’ Tatiana (Aubrey Plaza) and Alice (Anna Kendrick) find out about the search, deciding to pose as ‘nice girls’ they end up accompanying Mike and Dave to the wedding. The boys quickly discover their newfound companions  are far wilder than expected. 

This film is not the greatest comedy to come out of this millennium. In fact once this summer finishes I doubt it will ever be remembered. And yet, for right now, it more than serves its purpose of a summer comedy. It easily passes the six laugh test and most of the jokes are hits rather than misses. And even with the misses the jokes come so frequently the miss is quickly remedied. The standout joke, which was so throwaway you might even miss it, has to be when Tatiana is talking about one experience when she was so high she read a shampoo bottle for 13 hours. The delivery and the punchline itself caused me to giggle myself silly, so much so I nearly had tears of laughter.

The story rarely strays from an unexpected path and is at times rather predictable – though this is not a huge problem considering how entertaining it ends up being. Based ‘sort of’ on a true story (one which I fully intend to investigate further) it’s great fun to watch the situation escalate with a series of raucous situations. The film is reliant, almost overly, on it’s cast to provide the personality and charm of the characters. Yet, rather pleasingly, it’s something all of the cast succeed at.

We’ll go in order of introduction. Mike, played by Devine in his first leading man role, does well. He brings the oddball charm he’s most known for providing in both Pitch Perfect movies (here’s my review of the sequel ) and tv series Modern Family whilst going to even more extreme lengths. Whether it’s the fact he shares most of his screen time with old pro Efron (old pro aged 28- ha!) it occasionally comes across that he is trying to too-hard leading his character to be gratingly over-the-top. On the whole, however, he provides many laughs. Best moment: his meltdown over his behaviour.

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Then there’s Dave. Efron plays the role with ease, providing a nice and easy comic groove he has been displaying in recent years. His character here is far more likeable than his character in Bad Neighbours 2 and plays the more rational of the two brothers very well. At times it does feel like he’s coasting on his admittedly innate charm and yet then brings it out with some excellent delivery. Best moment:  his relationship with Alice.

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The film’s most valued player has to be Aubrey Plaza. She plays Tatiania to deadpan perfection – think April from Parks & Rec but wilder and raunchier. She easily out-grosses and out-does the boys. Her adept skill at manipulating the boys and concealing their boozy and stoned behaviours provides much hilarity. Best moment: the aforementioned shampoo gag.

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The big surprise from the four had to be Anna Kendrick as Alice. Kendrick USP tends to be character who are clever, deadpan and kick-ass with a bit of goofiness. Here she is more than a bit ditzy, a bit dim and completely goofy. Normally she seems really with it and together, here she’s a total loose cannon. It really works, bringing a sweetness and sincerity that balances well with Plaza’s powers of evisceration. Best moment: her flashbacks of her not-quite wedding.

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 It’s down to the chemistry and in-syncness of the four leads that allow this film to work so well. It’s crude, rather rude, not massively memorable and yet funny enough to fill in 100 minutes running time. If the heatwave we are promised in the upcoming weeks does actually arrive this film is a great excuse to hide in an air conditioned cinema!

stars

‘Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates’ is in UK cinema now. 

 

Ghostbusters

Bustin’ makes me feel good!

I love Ghostbusters (1984). I even love Ghostbusters 2 (1989). I now say loudly and proudly that I love Ghostbusters (2016). Whether it’s a reboot you wanted and whether it’s a reboot you thought necessary, well, it’s here. And it’s great. Just because it’s rebooted doesn’t mean the original does not exist – it’s still there if you want it – but the new film does a fantastic job of bringing the ghostbusters to the 21st Century and hopefully inspiring younger generations. I’m not going to comment any further on the (needless) controversy surrounding the film, except the villain of the film is a ‘weirdo’ loner millennial male who hides behind technology rather than humanity, who thrives on negativity and rejects modernity – few villains have been so well-timed and apt…

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Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) is a scientist and lecturer at Columbia university. She’s extremely close to getting tenure there, a job for life, when both that and her academic reputation is put under threat by an old friend re-entering her life. Years earlier she and Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) wrote a book on the existence of paranormal phenomenon. Erin walked away from the book and Abby. Abby has put the book back on sale and has continued to work in investigating the paranormal, now working alongside  Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon). When Erin goes to Abby to persuade her to take the book off the market she gets swept back into her old line of work when ghosts start to appear all over New York. The trio are soon joined by Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) and the four of them make up the Ghostbusters, ‘aided’ by the world’s worst secretary Kevin (Chris Hemsworth).

I really enjoyed watching this film. Hooked in from the first scene – which featured Zach Woods aka ‘Jared’ from Silicon Valley – I laughed. A lot. The film is centered on feel-good and it’s a watching experience that is really uplifting – spirit raising in more than one way (sorry-not-sorry for the pun!) Deciding to make the film, yet another reboot some of you may cry, probably was an easy decision for the studios. But, considering the aforementioned controversy  (which I will discuss no further, promise) it required director Paul Feig and his cast to be fearless. And they really are!

Watching the film is a truly enjoyable experience for on many layers and for many reasons. Some are saying the film is ‘safe’ or ‘not enough’ – I personally think it’s a step in the right direction. An entry-point update of a classic which can be pushed further with the next in the franchise (which is the same criticism most gave of The Force Awakens no..?) And, arguably, this film does better than TFA at blending the old with the new. The ‘old’ doesn’t detract attention here. It doesn’t distill the zeitgeist with nostalgia. Instead Ghostbusters has nods to the past whilst being fun, funny and full of energy. Much of this is down to the cast, whom there is not a weak link amongst- all are extraordinarily brilliant in their own ways

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. Wiig as Erin is probably the closest I’ve ever seen a cinematic version of myself; a woman driven by logic who totally loses all rationale around her passion (the paranormal) and attractive members of the opposite sex  (Kevin). Her journey kick-starts the film and then drives it to the end as she rediscovers what she truly believes in  and who the people that truly matter to her are. Best line: Books can’t fly and neither can babies!

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Melissa Mccarthy = comedy gold. No matter the film she still manages to sparkle and steal most of the scenes she is in. This film is no exception. Abby is classic Mccarthy character, a joy to watch and laugh with/at. Her timing is immaculate whether that be swapping lines or kicking ghost-ass. Best line: I will kick the the unliving crap out of you and you and especially you! 

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I hadn’t really heard of Leslie Jones prior to her casting in Ghostbusters (sorry Leslie in the unlikelihood you ever read this!) but she’s definitely a comedian I will be checking out. Not only is she a fellow tall lady (we’re both six feet tall) but her facial expressions are hilarious and her delivery of lines is beyond on point. I know there has been a lot of discussion over the fact she is the only non-scientist of the group but her character is very well-presented, she’s just as smart as the others but in a different yet no less important way. Best line: I guess he’s going to Queens – he’s going to be the third scariest thing on that train.

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If I really had to choose my favourite Ghostbuster (and that’s only if, to paraphrase The Princess Bride, death was on the line) I’d have to pick Jillian. Kate McKinnon is a truly magnetic performer, every scene she featured in I found myself drawn into watching her. She brings a crazily wonderful energy to the role and creates a fantastically memorable character. Also, her lip syncing ‘Rhythm of the Night’ by Debarge caused me to have many unexpected feelings… Best line: Just try saying no to these salty parabolas!

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I have to also briefly mention Chris Hemsworth as Kevin. Not only is the man the physical embodiment of human perfection he is also utterly hilarious (is there no justice in the world?!?). Everything he says is funny, and you have to stay during the closing credits for his dance number. Best line: An aquarium is a submarine for fish.

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All in all, I loved Ghostbusters. It may even be one of my most enjoyable film watching experiences of the year so far. It’s a feelgood classic in the making and a whole lotta fun to watch. I ain’t afraid of no ghosts!

4 stars