Monday, 27 July 2015

60 Second Film Reviews #21

Quick movie reviews, without the waffle. 60 Second Film Reviews is a regular feature where I compile together brief reviews of recent films I've watched at home or at the movies - and generally couldn't be arsed didn't find time to write a proper review for.

On the slate this month, we have a some recent DVD releases; The Loft, It Follows and The November Man.

The Loft (2015)

The Loft is an erotic thriller starring James Marsden, Karl Urban, Wentworth Miller, Isabel Lucas and Rachael Taylor. It sees five married men (Marsden, Urban, Miller, Eric Stonestreet and Matthias Schoenaerts) who, in order to elude their wives, have split the cost of a secret apartment where they can take and bed their mistresses. A remake of a 2008 Belgian movie of the same name, it's essentially one really long bottle episode of the five dudes arguing interspersed with flashbacks of their deeds and flashforwards of their fate.

The film pins its hopes on being a thrilling game of cat-and-mouse, full of twists, turns and red herrings. You're meant to be kept guessing, but with characters this thin and annoying, it's impossible to care. Almost none of these characters can be sympathised with, leaving the audience hoping that they all get what's coming to them.

Some of the dialogue is straight-up atrocious - things like "you know exactly what I'm talking about" which leads into a flashback that shows us exactly what they're talking about. Other gems include "I don't know man, what does it say up here? Deaf or dick?" and "Tell me Mr. Stevens, are you a gambling man?", to which the reply is "As a matter of fact I am, especially when I'm holding a hand of hearts". What. Does. That. Even. Mean.

And the acting? Sheesh, I've seen log cabins that were less wooden. Aussie actress Rachael Taylor, who plays Anne, is putting on one of the weirdest accents - it's not quite Australian, and sort of American. I don't know, maybe she's got split-personality or something. Karl Urban tries to work some of that trademark charm but just comes across as sleazy, whilst Wentworth Miller and James Marsden are just plain bored or disinterested with the whole affair.

Not only that, but poor Eric Stonestreet is hideously miscast. I just couldn't shake his huggable Modern Family persona every time he opened his mouth and spouted something R-rated at one of the thin, disposable female characters that are purely there for the sleazy soft-porn scenes. Cheap, nasty and uninteresting, The Loft isn't worth your time. You're better off gathering the family and playing a good 'ol game of Cluedo.

I give The Loft: 2.5/10 

It Follows (2015)

It Follows is an American horror film from director David Robert Mitchell; starring Maika Monroe (The Guest) and Keir Gilchrist (United States of Tara), it sees a 19-year-old girl, Jay, followed by an unknown supernatural being after a sexual encounter.

Unstructured, unusual and unconventional, It Follows isn't your typical horror film; yes, there are jump scares and deep, pulsating noises to make you shit your pants, but the film doesn't rely on shrieking ghouls, excessive gore and demented children to generate fright. Instead, we're presented with this premise; Jay is being stalked by an unknown being which is transmitted via sex. No-one else can see the hideous shape-shifting monster that won't stop following her, and the only way to rid herself of the stalker is to sleep with someone else before it can reach her and suck her soul dry.

Mitchell employs some really striking camerawork in this film, from long, dizzying takes to sparse, open frames that force your eyes to scan for a focus point, only to realise there is none which makes it even more terrifying. It's a really slow burn; the film doesn't start to dial up the terror until over 30 minutes in, after which it really kicks up a gear. One scene where Jay and her friends are chilling on the beach quickly turns into one of the most heart-pounding you'll see this year.

Monroe gives an electrifying lead performance as the embattled Hitchcockian blonde who can run but not hide. It's her troop of friends that muddy the waters a little; some are great, but one or two are a little flat. The sound editing and score on this film is a beautifully haunting mix of deep, pulsating throbs and retro, 80's sounding synth. It's distinct, refreshing and oddly fitting.

It Follows is the kind of film with subtle undercurrents that can be read in different ways - including ways that are less than favourable. Don't get me wrong, I can see that this isn't your typical horror film and plenty of people will dislike it. That being said, I was captivated by this film; if not a universal horror classic, It Follows is at least a cult horror classic.

I give It Follows: 9/10

The November Man (2014)

First we had Liam Neeson in Taken; then we had Denzel Washington in The Equalizer. And now, one of the most recent ageing action stars to step up the plate is an ex-007, Pierce Brosnan in The November Man.

The November Man sees Brosnan play Peter Devereaux, a retired CIA agent who is brought back into the fray and into conflict with his past partner, David Mason (Luke Bracey).

One of things I liked about this film is how it didn't adhere too rigidly to Brosnan's suave Bond persona - Devereaux is an angry, vengeful old man who isn't afraid to push the limits and break the rules. However, it kinda made me sad that he didn't stay on as an ageing Bond for a few more films, or at least received some better scripts than those he had during his tenure as the super spy - he would've been great as a harder-edged Bond.

This is the kind of spy film that seems sorta straight-laced and middle-of-the-road at first, and then they through a really trashy nightclub scene full of tits and thongs in there. Usually I don't mind this kind of thing, but I'd been enjoying the slick post Cold War vibes and this scene felt out of place and a little bit tonally inconsistent with the rest of the film. There are one or two really bloody moments where people get stabbed or slashed, and I thought that the film would've worked better without them. Plus, poor Olga Kurylenko is lumbered with essentially the same storyline as she had in Quantum of Solace - I'm not kidding, they pretty much just copied and pasted it across. Whilst she smoulders in every scene she is in, her character is flat and merely there to give Brosnan something to swoop in and save.

All in all, The November Man is a slick if uninspired spy thriller that showcases the skills of Brosnan and the sultriness of Kurylenko but little else. The direction is smooth, but the action is sparse and the plot is unnecessarily loopy. If, like me, you're looking for something to plug a gap at 11pm on a Sunday night, this might be for you.

I give The November Man: 5/10


  1. I've only seen The November Man and you pretty much nailed it. Hope to see It Follows soon. Wasn't planning on seeing The Loft. Looks like I'm not missing anything.

    1. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on It Follows - it's definitely quite divisive. Thanks for commenting :)



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