The Drop – There’s enough to play with


The Drop (US/2014)

UK Release by 20th Century Fox – 14th November 2014

Directed by Michaël R. Roskam

Brief Synopsis: Everyone in the neighbourhood works together to make a living. The past can be haunting and the future must be sourced at any cost, law abiding or not. Bob Saginowski finds himself entangled right at the centre after a string of unfortunate events. 

There is an assuring sense of dread, morbid humour and a fine American setting for a simmering thriller: the deep of Brooklyn. This weighted tale from Dennis Lehane (we know the work must be formidable coming from the guy who wrote Mystic River and Gone, Baby Gone) is deliberately paced with a natural development of cause-effect. However, it can feel all too similar at times, and the plot can certainly dwindle depending on your viewpoint. I think the key to this film is that it is character driven, the dialogue is intriguing through its disparate layers of meaning, and that it has Tom Hardy approaching the material with absolute sensitivity and an extraordinarily convincing Brooklyn accent, especially for a born Londoner.

Although, it is not quite the memorable James Gandolfini performance I was hoping for, perhaps Hardy is too impressive; it is certainly exciting to see Hardy rise to similar heights as Gandolfini and even beyond. Whilst great actors pass, new generations continue to bring their organic insight to the field; there are more great stars in the making today (and certainly more actors lingering for the near future) than, I believe, there ever have been.

Directed by Michaël R. Roskam, in what is only his second feature, it is great to see more European sensibility come to the screen. The mood is tinged with uncooked sadness, but there is a contentment to be found in the Brooklyn low-life. Roskam directs with hope, he captures even the smallest acts and moments that give purpose to Hardy’s life. These moments creep up on us and draw to a riveting conclusion, but a conclusion that still has plenty of room left for reflection and doesn’t defy the depth of mystery under the veil of Hardy’s character, Bob.

3.5/5 stars


A Walk Among the Tombstones – It sounds far more enticing than it really is


A Walk Among the Tombstones (US/2014)

UK Release by Momentum Pictures – 19th September 2014

Directed by Scott Frank

Unfortunately, this film leaves no room for curiosity or character insight. Yet, those elements are not entirely necessary for the film to play out in its own confidence as a systematic and noirish thriller.

Liam Neeson is hard at home with tough nails, fierce jujitsu skills and ex-cop attire. However, there is no explosive dynamite, but rather a late package that Neeson carries on his shoulders at a steady pace, marking off every checkpoint along his obstacle course. The obstacles are not thick and fast, but they are hollow and potholed. I may have been in a passive mood, but the two killers who Neeson is after appear pathetic on all fronts: they are not scary, they are whimsical in their approach to crime and there is not the slightest chance that they will get away. The victims and their relations, who act as the catalyst for Neeson’s seemingly unprompted involvement, also come across as ill informed and lacking the bite for what should be nail-biting thriller. The plot is straightforward and clear-cut for a no doubt exciting experience, but the elevating spine is missing.

To conclude, it appears that the lack of subtlety, the lack of reasoned time and place of the characters and intelligible events, left me stricken with a rather dry experience.

2/5 stars


Gone Girl – David Fincher is not afraid of failure or the atypical = extraordinary storytelling

Gone_Girl_Rosamund_PikeGone Girl (US/2014)

UK Release by 20th Century Fox – 2nd October 2014

Directed by David Fincher

Brief Synopsis: When a young marriage begins to loose the attention it deserves, conflict ensues in the most extraordinary of fashions. Guilt, innocence and the media all play their key role in the onset of twists and turns in this unflinching thriller.

I struggle to find a place to begin in expressing the inexplicable horrors that rein this piece of chilling and flawless cinema from David Fincher. The director is a mastermind at conveying complex storylines and ferocious characters with bloodcurdling subtlety. Gone Girl pushes the psychological thriller into a domestic space amongst a post-structuralist backdrop of American lifestyle. The unbelievable becomes the believable and deceit becomes a biological way of life.

Gillian Flynn does what most other authors wouldn’t dream of, she adapts her own novel and manages to pull off a compelling and Finchable screenplay. The two instigators weave together pieces of a story that never gets lost amongst its intricacies and manages to continually swallow the audience’s attention for the next bit of information. The silver screen is lit up with a formidable and haunting tone within which there is no escape, or rather a light at the end of the tunnel; one deserves to talk in metaphors to imagine the power of this story and the mental state of the characters. I even found myself short of breath at one point in the film, a sheer example of how character immersive Fincher’s films can become. He throws you down the well and teases you, if you like, think of Bruce Wayne trying to escape the walls of Bane’s prison in Gotham, except he fails (sorry for the spoiler)!

Extraordinary credit is due to Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike who maintain an enticing and complex presence for every millisecond of their screentime. What are you thinking? We wonder this and so do they; it is a key theme that opens and closes the movie. More to the point, we might ask ourselves: “What on earth is going through the mind of Amy Dunne? What is she truly thinking?” Fincher hits a home run with one of the most exasperating and vexatious questions that dominate our day to day interactive conscience. To answer your question: there is no answer, only you can formulate one.

Pike’s performance is Oscar-worthy. It may not be the right material for the award, but the fact that she can be utterly believable in utterly unbelievable situations is remarkable on her part. Not to say, this situation wouldn’t happen in reality, but it certainly isn’t an easy one to disarmingly convey to a potentially critical audience. Pike is pitch perfect at expressing her unconceivable beauty cluttered with cunning body language, both of which wrap poor Nick Dunne’s mind into a fruity blender.

Affleck is passive in his portrayal of Nick and although we are thrown almost immediately into his concerned shoes, we continue to learn ways about Nick that test our own moral code and compassion. By the end of the film, the audience may not be able to comprehend a stance of empathy; they will most likely position themselves on the brewing sea of questions, answers and within the forthcoming storm. It is a storm of thoughts that will be swimming around in your mind as you leave the theatre; never have I wobbled down the aisle and almost tripped face-first down the escalator as when departing from Gone Girl.

5/5 stars




Before I go to Sleep – It deserves an audience, but not a place in the history books



Before I go to Sleep (UK, 2014)

UK Release by StudioCanal – 5th September 2014

Directed by Rowan Joffe

Brief Synopsis: Christine Lucas wakes up feeling exactly the same every morning: confused as to her whereabouts and believing she is still in her twenties. She is only able to store information for a day, but soon begins to seek terrifying truths in her life when her psychiatrist gives her the upper hand. 

Credit is due for Nicole Kidman who continues to take on interesting and challenging roles (Grace of Monaco, The Railway Man, Stoker, The Paperboy), or rather she isn’t afraid of a bit of independent spirit. Admittedly, Grace of Monaco and The Railway Man are largely forgetful, but her elegance and depth as an actress is always current. Here we find her playing Christine who is battling with daily memory loss, a role that shows off Kidman’s effectual paranoid traits evident in The Others. It isn’t Memento and it isn’t Spellbound, but it isn’t entirely insensible either. The film leaks a steady rush of adrenaline in the viewer and will continue to trick them, even if the twist finale does come with a slight pinch of salt.

What I find most appraising is the achievement by Rowan Joffe to get this project off the ground (or quite literally the page) and boast British talent from Ben Davis’s noteworthy cinematography that plays on every axis to Melanie Oliver’s watertight editing. The project clearly had international backing with Sweden (Filmgate), France (StudioCanal) and Millennium Films in the US all packing their heat. Although, Ridley Scott’s Scott Free Productions involvement does a great deed to make this film British, or does it? Who knows, at least we get to see it over a month before the US! London is also on great show with wide-shots of the city from the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. The British weather is also heralded with rain more often than not and a remote house in the woods, where most of the action takes place, provides the complimentary backdrop; this is a thriller after all.

Whilst the film doesn’t dig deep enough to obtain a meaningful psychological existence in the viewer, it does highlight the importance of keeping a healthy brain (or mind rather) and how intolerable it must be for one without so. The condition here labels Christine as an amnesiac, in fact, this is clearly reiterated throughout, though it induces efficacious reality in the viewer more than it does frustration. Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth’s chemistry rightly demonstrates the dedication and audacity needed to live such a banishing lifestyle. Here, Colin Firth as the sinister husband of Christine, Ben, is thankfully somewhat more infusing than usual; lets just say it is more daring and the emotion far more vivid and certainly less pretentious than his abominable portrayal of Eric in The Railway Man and even more so Harry Deane in Gambit. I nevertheless, highly anticipate Firth’s role in Woody Allen’s Magic in the Moonlight, lets see if Allen can make good of him.

The plot in Before I go to Sleep thickens fast, yet one is always aware of where it will lead even if the ending is far more sentimental than I had expected; a sharper note would have brought the picture to a close with far more substance. Still, good performances on show (Mark Strong is also admirable as Doctor Nash) and a definite watch for psychological thriller fans, just don’t expect it to make any of your top ten lists.




Night Moves – An atmospheric gem


Night Moves (US, 2013)

UK Release by Soda Pictures – 29th August 2014

Directed by Kelly Reichardt

Brief Synopsis: Three environmentalists turn radical in taking on the biggest protest of their lives; they battle their conscience and try to remain ethical in what becomes a very unsettling environment. 

I am no skeptic to the fact that this thriller is slow-paced, but it is more than calculated for by the intensely paranoid and highly energetic performance from Jesse Eisenberg as Josh, the radical environmentalist with a conscience too great for his own good. As the events unfold, and they do in great depth, the film promotes a totally immersive character study of Josh and reveals the true depth of his concern, guilt and all the other distressing facets that lay beneath the surface. This exploitation of subtext allows the viewer to fully engage their imagination on feeling his every emotion. Point of view shots chart Josh’s every move, we see exactly what he sees: ordinary lives passing by, and yet with every inch of movement there is the sense that something drastic may happen. And here’s the paradox, when there is a dramatic climax, it appears no different, life remains at the same pace and the nightmare continues. This is psychological depth.

Dakota Fanning and Peter Saasgard make up the team and give equally intriguing performances as wannabe radicals. Saasgard is particularly endangering and the conflict between the three is taut with absolute playwright precision. Driven by passion and nerve, or perhaps idiocy of the innocent, they set off on this weekend journey that will greatly alter their lives; the viewer will be side by side for every encounter and feel every nuance of angst and occasional fortitude felt by the characters/actors.

What appears so liberating about Reichardt’s direction is that she allows and clearly encourages the actors to appreciate and grasp an eclectic sense of their time and space, their surrounding environment (or set if you will). The actors are wholly aware of the world they are living in, and thus its components (for example, objects, space) to counterbalance their characters emotions and expression. Consequently, the actor truly becomes one with the world they are living. For example, Reichardt will show Josh working alongside others who are more productive, or she will counterbalance Josh’s silence and reflection with active participants going about their morning affairs; the contrast between Josh’s deep thought and everyone else’s peace of mind couldn’t be more powerful. This is no new discovery for directors, or audiences alike, and these are largely subtleties, but Reichardt has dissected a truly powerful film when it may have otherwise been quite simply a tedious tale. In other words, Josh/Jesse is complemented by factors allowing him to magnify his intricacy of emotion.

There is no sense of urgency in the script; a single event must be explored in great detail for the film to work the way it does. Yet, a paradox is that the visual analogy is one of great urgency and this is made possible by the magical chemistry between the cast. And further still, within this straight-lined exploration lie indefinite truths; each character has a dark shadow and at times it is up for the audience to decide for themselves (did that actually happen?). Cinema can show things, but rarely can it make up your mind for you; such is the truth of well-directed pictures.

It may not satisfy everyone’s attention for fast-cut action, but it will never suggest such a method and neither will it attempt to expand on any sub-plot. This is not a derogative, you could argue the film supersedes any need for it, the imagination can replace such need: it knows what action may avail, it can picture the prevailing action and it can design a feeling of compelling either way. The mind is key.



The Guest – A delicious guilty pleasure



The Guest – US, 2014

UK Release by Icon Film Distribution – 5th September 2014

Directed by Adam Wingard

Brief Synopsis: In what is fundamentally a new spawn of Stoker, a hard-hitting solider fools a family into welcoming him into their home. The rather intense accidents that follow are no coincidence.. 

One may initially ponder why they bothered to make the effort, but Dan Stevens and the atypical character he plays called David will soon keep you entranced. David, at first, is presented as the lad prototype, the guy who gets all the girls and beats up the bullies, but he soon becomes far more than this, he is bound to a complexity and his presence becomes mysterious. He shows no purpose or desire; it appears that he even has to pretend to become excited when a beautiful young woman rides half-naked on top of him. Then, in an instance, the territory switches and the scales rise, although we are never quite sure what to believe and Wingard successfully lets us play with our imaginations throughout and beyond.

At times, the film reminds me of Quentin Tarantino’s work because we find ourselves connecting with an unlawful character that moves across the screen with sufficient pardon. Not to mention the outbursts of violence and borderline parody that is often adopted. The music is also explosive and dynamic in its use of sound effects that bridge the action effectively; the tone is close to becoming a pulp bonanza. There are inevitably loose areas in such a film that attempts to play its audience around, but plot holes are looped with bullets and captivating face expressions. There is a hint towards David’s real background, but it is largely bumped of as one of these experiments gone wrong; we are left to imagine and the realm of science fiction is certainly on the cards. The last shot of the film will let you decide for yourself on the latter.

Both Brendan Meyer, the awkward son of the family, and his sister, played by Maika Monroe (definitely one to watch as they say) are terrific and give the believable performances that are needed alongside the taut David. They are the necessary sounding board for the temptation and animosity that Stevens brings to David. He indulges in their affairs for better or worse and ignites in them quite a life experience to behold. It can get pretentious, but hold out as you will be entertained and this film will make you think, despite what its marketing campaign may suggest.



Non-Stop – Hanging off the bulky shoulders of Liam Neeson



Silver Pictures, US
107 Mins
UK Release: 28th February 2014 

Director Jaume Collet-Serra
Producer Alex Heineman, Andrew Rona, Joel Silver
Screenwriter John W. Richardson, Christopher Roach, Ryan Engle
Cinematographer Flavio Labiano
Cast Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Scott McNairy, Michelle Dockery, Corey Stoll, Lupita Nyong’o

Lets not take this film too seriously, if one was to do that they may break down and end up looking like Cate Blanchet did at the end of Blue Jasmine.

Liam Neeson teams up once again with Jaume Collet-Serra to play a grizzly, alcoholic, divorced, troubled and killing machine veteran. In this movie, he is also federal air marshal on a business class transatlantic flight. What is remarkable about Neeson’s performance in recent roles is that he manages to play it straight all the way through even as the events around him become drastically implausible. The audience will laugh aloud as Non-Stop ticks of its checklist of clichés. Is this necessarily a bad thing? It wouldn’t appear that way if we place ourselves in the seats of a mass audience after a virtual ride of entertainment.

The varied and actually rather interesting ensemble cast keeps us guessing as to whether they are good or bad guys. Playing the flight attendants we have Lupita Nyong’o, Oscar winner for 12 Years a Slave, who has about three throwaway lines of “What is going on?” and Michelle Dockery, our fantastic Lady Mary from Downtown Abbey. Among the passengers, Julianne Moore plays Bill’s (Neeson) seatmate as a relatively suspicious lady who becomes a female obstacle of wonder for Bill by the end. Corey Stoll from House of Cards plays a New York cop who is the first to take real test amongst Bill’s actions, though, of course, in the end they salute in brotherhood as fellow men of the law.

Liam Neeson provides the comedic relief in this movie. He is emotionally troubled as always and uses this emotion to fuel his brutal hand-to-hand combat in toilet cubicles and tight aisle spaces. We know everyone who tries to mess with him is making a big mistake, if only they had seen him take on the pack of wolves in The Gray and the callous villains in Taken.

The screenplay, written by a bunch of guys, has a few slapdash twists and a few touches of sentimentality amidst the fists and thrills. In light of modern technology, a boy on the flight is able to video Bill acting violently towards a passenger and post it online to a viral reception, which in turn stirs news reporters to broadcast the event and consequently alert the flight passengers on their TVs. Technology isn’t on Bills side here. Bill has also recently lost his daughter, at which point some of us may confuse what film we are watching, and consequently acts excessively mawkish towards the young girl who happens to be all alone on this flight.

So, this is yet another hijack movie in which the pay-off is frankly preposterous, but in which there are occasional heightened moments of action. It doesn’t match up to Air Force One or Con Air, but it does nevertheless have a powerful statement behind it. Lets just say it reaches for some sharp post 9/11 political commentary that entirely exceeds its grasp and becomes utterly excruciating.

I am not one myself for flying, but even if you are, certainly do not watch this film on a transatlantic flight.

It is an okay terrible film. 2 stars

Watch the trailer below:


The Limelight Index: Vincent Grashaw – Writer/Director


Vincent Grashaw is a filmmaker from LA who recently completed directing his successful debut feature film Coldwater. Here, we talk about how he got there, the film and his plans for the future.

When did you first become interested in filmmaking?

I started out in junior high, 1994. This was more or less the beginning of the impressionable years, where you’d absorb all of an artist’s work – for me this was movies. From 14 to 18, a lot of the movies I watched really had an effect on me even if they weren’t necessarily the best movies. I was young and used to ‘hack’ projects that’d I’d seen, using similar elements, pulling stuff from it for my own scripts. Sometimes you even do it subconsciously. So at some point you stop hacking films you love and start to come up with your own film aesthetics, style, and vision. So I suppose it was never a bad thing because I knew the creative wheels were turning and that film was something I really wanted to do. It was my schooling process since I never went to college. The movies I watched at that time molded the kinds I want to make and who I am as a filmmaker.

What kind of films do you like to watch?

I have so many different movies I like to watch, the ones I can watch over and over are completely different to my favourite movies. For example, I could watch What About Bob, The Witches, Stand By Me or The Big Lebowski over and over. These movies I connected within and they are comforting and humoring, however these are very different to what films I actually make.

Am I right in thinking your movies lend themselves to violence?

Yeah, I tend to gravitate towards the darker subjects in movies. I have a couple of movies to make that aren’t violent in the pipeline that I intend to make.  I’m not harnessing myself to just one genre.


What’s your opinion on directors who stick to one genre?

It depends on the director.  If a filmmaker only makes horror films then that’s their thing, I don’t have a problem with that at all. Filmmaking is such a personal thing that it has to be relevant to the filmmaker… it’s a huge release as an artist.

You acted in and produced in one of last years acclaimed indie movies ‘Bellflower’, how did you get involved with this?

Evan Glodlell, the director, is a good friend of mine and we used to make short films together. The film was a very long process; Evan had been working on the script for a while. We shot the movie in 2008 on a tiny budget. Initially, we weren’t sure how to proceed, but we had a little bit of money and just went for it.  We became obsessed with getting things done, at ALL costs. We did many things, most illegal to make that happen.  The only reason I was acting in it was because he couldn’t find anyone to play the role, and we’d acted in each other’s shorts, so I just did it.

Are your short films online anywhere?

Its funny, once Bellflower got into Sundance, we pretty much took all our stuff off the net. We used to make ridiculous stuff, it was outrageous and weird, and we didn’t want it out there! One day, some of it might be re-released, maybe through a compilation Dvd.


When did ‘Coldwater’ become a reality?

I had the project on my plate throughout my entire 20’s. I had a loose connection to a kid who was abducted one night, so this was where the idea originally came from. However, it wasn’t until several times trying to get the film made that it came through.  Trying to make the film was basically my film school; I’d meet lots of different types of producers, some who were absolute weasels, playing wannabes, and some who were just in over their head. It’s definitely better it wasn’t made back then because over 13 years I learned a lot more about the reality behind the movie as well, which lends to its credibility. All these elements combined drove the film into what it is today.

What is your take on crowdfunding for indie filmmakers?

I just produced a movie in September with the guys who I made Bellflower with. It’s a gritty, turf-war action movie; we crowdfunded this film using Indiegogo and raised about $180,000. We then partnered with a couple of production companies who funded the rest. So, crowdfunding was great for this movie because we obtained a following with Bellflower, so it was a great way to get things going.

Are there any other projects in the works for you?

I recently acquired a script for the next feature I will be directing, which is a psychological horror movie.  I’m very excited about this. We are currently aiming to shoot around spring/summer 2014.

Any release dates planned yet?

In some cases, in the indie world you don’t really know where your going to be until you do it. It’s not like the studio system where you can set dates years in advance. We’ll take the film to a festival and it will hopefully sell there, unless we presale the movie because of the actors I attach.


What’s your favourite thing about filmmaking? 

All the drama and bullshit that coincides with filmmaking really has nothing to do with it. There’s a key relationship with everyone involved, it’s like being family. You come together for a period in your life and then it’s all over and you get a new family. Filmmaking is so much fun and, for me, actually a very peaceful experience. It’s a very collaborative art, even though at the end of the day the director has to make the ultimate decision. It is a very fun process, I mean why else would I be doing this? It’s not like we’re all getting fat and foolish from all the money we’re making!

Any advice for filmmakers starting out?  

There’s a lot of advice I could give, but I have a couple of main things. Always stay humble, there will be a lot of things you’re married to in your script, but things will evolve and you’ll have to accept changes. Being open to this process is very important; nothing will be exactly as you pictured it in your head. Basically I am saying that your project evolves into many forms throughout the process and instead of fighting it, embrace it and see what transpires.

Secondly, don’t look at the business as a competitive thing. It can appear so competitive on the surface, which is overwhelming.  Don’t let that affect anything because at the end of the day it’s just you and your film.  People will try and knock you down, tell you that you’re doing something wrong, or unconventional. Before everything took off for me, the month before Bellflower took off, I think we were all in the darkest phase because we were getting all of this negative energy and feedback from people we should’ve never been listening to in the first place. So find a group of people you can trust with your material for honest criticism. Potentially from other artists who are relevant to what you’re trying to say; no one knows your material better than you.

Check out the trailer for Coldwater below:

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Big Bad Wolves – shock value and comedy go hand-in-hand



Big Bad Wolves
United Channel Movies, Israel 
110 Min
UK Release: TBA for 2014 by Metronome Distribution

DIR Navot Papushado, Aharon Keshales
PROD Tami Leon, Chilik Michaeli, Avraham Pirchi
SCR Navot Papushado, Aharon Keshales
DP Giora Bejach
CAST Lior Ashkenazi, Tzachi Grad, Rotem Keinan, Dov Glickman, Menashe Noy

Hailed by Quentin Tarantino as the best film of the year, so far, at Busan international film festival, it’s easy to see why with the flair, punch and shock value that Big Bad Wolves brings to the table.

The film is, ultimately, a black comedy that takes you headfirst into the rather corrupt underworld of the Israeli police. However, it is also a spin on the horror film with torture scenes designed to make your jaw drop one minute, and the next, to laugh out loud. This is by no means a new experience, but there is something fresh about the way Navot Papushado and Aharon Keshales (the directors) combine horror and comedy. The horror itself, is not funny, it is overwhelmingly shocking, but it is constantly being switched on and off with unforeseen interruptions of almost burlesque value. We are bounced back and forth in our seats.

The story is quite straightforward: A reckless cop, Miki (Lior Ashkenazi), and a missing girls irate father, Gidi (Tzahi Grad), are drawn to the attention of Dror (Rotem Keinan) who they relentlessly believe is guilty of raping and beheading the girl. The pair duo up and take things into their own hands in order to find a way to extract the truth from Dror. It is the classic set-up for an acrimonious torture scene.

It is within this torture-ology that the film swims in the murky waters of good vs. evil where perspective is the only thing separating the two. You are left constantly trying to guess what the characters will do next, which keeps us tied right to the edge of our seats. This tense atmosphere infuses an air of moral superiority into the narrative. You can’t help wondering, surely there is a better way to go about this? There is also a comical play-off between the local Jews and Arab communities – a statement of change and novel friendship between the two.

The only thing lacking for me in the film was the absence of any real character development. Okay, it is not entirely necessary for the script to work as our squirming and laughing out loud soon sidetracks us. Also, part of the reason this film is so impulsive lies in the lack of back-story. However, there is also nothing to explain why Miki and Gidi are so focused on Dror, the man they are targeting as the killer. Towards the beginning, there is simply an anonymous throwaway line regarding someone alleging to have seen Dror with the child.

Big Bad Wolves is, nevertheless, beautifully crafted, from its apprehensive and muted prologue to sinisterly lit forest scenes and pronounced, sweeping camera shots of the basement corridors and walls. The film is innovative in nearly all respects, it is brimming with the unusual and it boasts a brilliant genre fare. Not since Park Chan-wook’s pictures has a director managed to maintain such a light tone whilst depicting a deeply troubling subject matter.

4 stars

Watch the trailer below: