Film Review: Isabelle

Director Robert Heydon’s thriller Isabelle offers a decent premise, yet lacks the requisite tension. The narrative allows for some interesting ideas, but none of these are capitalised on.

Matt and his pregnant wife Larissa move into their new home, shortly before Larissa is due to give birth. When tragedy strikes, Larissa becomes preoccupied by her neighbour, who watches her from the window…

Written by Donald Martin and directed by Robert Heydon, Isabelle has the aura of a psychological thriller, but is more at home in the supernatural horror category. The film transitions from one to the other, never really dwelling in the former.

Isabelle wastes no time in accelerating the narrative. A pivotal incident occurs very early on in film, paving the way for Larissa to descend into delusion. At eighty-one minutes, the film does not hang around. This short run time is an advantage; the film never drags.

The film introduces a number of themes fairly early on. Isabelle could have focused on the loss and trauma felt by Larissa and Matt, yet this is dismissed rather quickly. A creeping look at the effect of loss may have worked better than what Martin and Heydon go with. Instead, Matt jumps straight to the idea of possession, before rowing this back. The spectre of exorcism looms early on, but the filmmakers opt for a different tact.

With her precarious state of mind, Larissa’s paranoia is a focal point. Yet Heydon really does not opt for subtle; instead, jump scares are favoured over psychological exploration. The script does not really flesh out the characters sufficiently for more substantial examination. Some of the exposition is awkward, and the reliance on the disabled shut in feels rather tired. By the end of the Isabelle, any tension has evaporated.

Special effects are poor. The one particular effect is very jarring; smarter use of lighting could have had a more chilling effect. Adam Brody does his best with the material he is given, while Amanda Crew is not always convincing. Sheila McCarthy is suitably haunted as Ann.

Isabelle is by no means a slog, however the film fails to offer a engrossing story, or bring the thrills.

Isabelle is available on Sky Store, iTunes, and UK digital platforms from 30th September 2019.

Film Review: Ready or Not

With Ready or Not, directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett may just have made this year’s most entertaining horror movie. 

On her wedding day, Grace is nervous about joining her new husband’s wealthy family. They invite her to play a game in an initiation ceremony, which turns lethal…

Ready or Not boasts an outlandish premise, but one that is played in exactly the right key. Written by Guy Busick and Ryan Murphy, the film is directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett. Within the world that Ready or Not creates, the game seems plausible despite its craziness. 

The narrative unfolds fairly quickly, although Busick and Murphy are careful to keep viewers guessing. Characters are introduced succinctly, and given enough depth for the narrative. The motivations of all are not not clear cut, which adds to the intrigue. Situated with Grace, audience members will wonder if she has any allies in the cat-and-mouse chase. The filmmakers dangle the prospect of escape in creative ways. 

Ready or Not mixes a horror thriller with a comedy. The dark aspects functions to drive plot, although any supernatural activity is wisely left up in the air. The are real nervy moments as the film continues,  as well as sufficient gore. The film is frequently funny, which adds immensely to the fun. Even the gore is often played for laughs. 

The film is exceptionally well paced. Running at 95 minutes, Ready or Not never outstays its welcome. Tension is interspersed with humour. These breaks work well to reset for the next build up; Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett realise it would be very difficult to maintain such a tense atmosphere throughout. 

Samara Weaving delivers a winning performance as Grace. Weaving is both charismatic and convincing as the protagonist. Among the assemble cast, Andie MacDowell and Adam Brody are on good form. Kristian Bruun also brings the laughs. 

Ready or Not is a lot of fun. The perfect movie for those who like their horror gory and very humorous. 

Previews: Last Christmas Trailer, Ready or Not, More!

Lots of film-related goodness in this week’s preview of coming attractions, including the brand new Last Christmas trailer, Ready or Not, and the BFI Musicals season…

Last Christmas Trailer

The latest Last Christmas trailer was released today. The romantic comedy is about a young woman who works as an elf, and a stranger who works into her life. The film stars Emilia Clarke, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh, and Emma Thompson (who co-writes and produces). Last Christmas is directed by Paul Feig, coming of the success of last year’s brilliant A Simple Favour. Last Christmas hits UK cinemas on 15h November 2019.

Ready or Not Trailer

Ready or Not has been receiving a great response in the US, and UK audiences only have to wait a few more weeks to see it. The film is about a young bride who must take part in her new husband’s eccentric tradition. The film stars Samara Weaving, Mark O’Brien, Adam Brody, and Andie MacDowell. Ready or Not lands on UK screens on 27th September 2019.

BFI Musicals Season

The BFI is launching a season of musicals at BFI Southbank and across the UK later this year. The season will celebrate the work of Gene Kelly, Barbra Streisand, Doris Day, and other icons of the genre. Highlights include UK-wide re-releases of Singin’ in the Rain, Tommy, and The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. The BFI Musicals season runs from October 2019 – January 2020. Full details can be found here.

Isabelle Trailer

Isabelle is a new thriller with influences from Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist. The film is about an expecting young couple who move to a new home, and their unusual neighbour. Isabelle stars Adam Brody and Amanda Crew. The film will be released on digital platforms in the UK on 30th September 2019.

Film Review: Lovelace

Lovelace

Lovelace is an absorbing biopic of the infamous Linda Lovelace. The film boasts great performances, although a more nuanced depiction of the title character would have been welcome.

At the beginning of the 1970s, Linda Boreman is living with her parents in Florida. When she meets Chuck Traynor, she is initially charmed by him. When he gets her involved in the porn industry, the fame comes with an abusive lifestyle…

Directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman divide the film into two perceptions. Lovelace offers two depictions of Linda’s foray into the porn industry. The first shows a willing participant. The film then flips, going back to show the other side, the underside really, with Linda being abused by her husband. The switch in perceptions is also a change in tone; with the second part much darker than the first. It is a good way to reflect the public and private persona of the title character.

Lovelace is a drama, with welcome flecks of humour. At first the film seems as if it will be similar to Boogie Nights, with its obvious parallel. Nonetheless, this is a more serious story, which is reflected in the tone.

Lovelace depicts Linda as a victim. It is a shame that the film does not go beyond this. That is not to say that she was not a victim, but merely that she was more than just this. It would have been interesting, for example, to depict her later interactions with feminists of the period.

Amanda Seyfried delivers a solid performance as Linda Lovelace. Peter Sarsgaard is most convincing as Chuck, while Adam Brody exhibits his comedy chops as Harry Reems. The soundtrack, costumes and styling really give a feel for the era.

Lovelace is not a comprehensive portrayal of Linda Lovelace. For what it is, however, the film is suitably engrossing.

Film Review: Damsels in Distress

Whit Stillman’s Damsels in Distress is a treat. The film is frequently amusing as it satirises the American college movie.

When Lily begins to study at the Seven Oaks college campus, she is welcomed by Violet, Rose and Heather. The three girls see it as their mission to rescue their fellow students from low standards. In the male-dominated campus, Violet, Rose and Heather have their work cut for them…

The humour of Damsels in Distress will not appeal universally.  The film is off beat, and the comedy matches this. Some will find the repetitive phrases amusing, for example, while others will consider them tiresome. The interactions between the main and supporting characters are well written, and generate several laughs.

Based around a new member entertaining an existing group of friends, Damsels in Distress functions in a similar way to the type of film it satirises. Damsels features the stock characters of a college-set film, with the addition of Violet. She acts in a narrator type role, offering judgements on the other characters. These serve to highlight her own peculiarities.

There are definite parallels between Damsels in Distress and Mean Girls. Violet fulfils the Regina George role, albeit with less viciousness. Violet and Lily in particular excel past these stereotypes into well-developed characters. Damsels in Distress ponders on the social structure of the American college, but ultimately plumps for fun and quirk rather than a definitive statement. Stillman’s film is also reminiscent of Heathers in that it is focused on social hierarchy and teen preoccupations with a dose of humour and satire.

Greta Gerwig is great as Violet. Gerwig really embodies the quirks of the character. Analeigh Tipton is also good as Lily, while Adam Brody brings his accustomed charm to the character of Charlie. Ryan Metcalf stands out as Frank, among the supporting roles.

Damsels in Distress is well written, well directed, and frequently funny. The dance craze tangent of the film is joyous.

Film Review: Cop Out

Reviews of Cop Out have been mediocre overall. By no means a classic, nonetheless, Cop Out is not as bad as the reviews suggest either.

Jimmy and Paul, two NYPD detectives, happen upon a Brooklyn drug ring after Jimmy’s prized baseball card is stolen. A simple mission to recover the card by the duo becomes much more complicated after they discover more than they were expecting…

 The fundamental problem with Cop Out is that the film is not as funny as you’d hope it would be. While there is humour, it is not as consistent as one would expect from a movie directed by Kevin Smith and starring Tracey Morgan.

The pairing of Morgan with Bruce Willis works well; with Willis playing the straight man to Morgan’s funny guy. Elsewhere Seann William Scott plays an annoying but genial thief. Although Scott does well in these side character roles, it will be interesting to see whether he will eventually break out of the archetype Stifler mould.

Smith continues with his cinematic-referencing preoccupation in Cop Out, in an overt and sometimes humorous manner. In a sense, Cop Out is a film about wanting to be cops, in a brashy, television/film way. This is most evident through the detectives played by Kevin Pollak and Adam Brody; two back office cops who jeer at Jimmy and Paul, but long to do the dangerous, action hero thing themselves.

Cop Out does not do anything to redefine the buddy cop genre, but it is unlikely the film intended to. Instead it serves as a fun addition to the genre. A few more laughs would have been welcome, though.