Film Review: Hotel Artemis

Drew Pearce’s crime thriller Hotel Artemis is an entertaining ride.  The film benefits from a good script and a solid cast.

In Los Angeles of the near future, the Nurse runs Hotel Artemis, a member-only emergency treatment centre for criminals. On a night when riots are taking place, she receives several visitors…

The idea behind Hotel Artemis is quite interesting, offering a hospital for criminal members under the guise of a dusty hotel. Immediately parallels will be drawn with John Wick. Pearce’s film distinguishes itself from this by placing emphasis on a number of different narrative strands. Inevitably these come together as the film progresses. 

The main strand follows the Nurse, who has been running the hotel for decades. Her story intersects with that of Nice and Waikiki. The Nurse is given sufficient background as the film progresses. Other characters do not receive the same attention. Nevertheless, this is not too much of a hinderance, with the action concentrating on the events of a single evening. Writer-director Pearce offers a good script. Dialogue is often funny, with some zinging lines.

Apart from the opening gambit at the bank, action is restrained until the final third of the film. At this point, Pearce unleashes the violence that has been building throughout. Action here is stylish, with Nice taking centre stage. Performances in the film are good. Jodie Foster is given the most to do, and she handles this typically well. Sofia Boutella is lively, while Sterling K. Brown is decent, when he is given screen time.

There is always the potential that balancing so many characters will be uneven, and Hotel Artemis suffers from this slightly. There are moments of emotion but these remain on the surface, as action quickly moves to the next scene. Notwithstanding, Drew Pearce has created an enjoyable picture with Hotel Artemis.




Previews: 10 Cloverfield Lane Trailer, Sing Street and more!

Plenty of film previews this week, including the 10 Cloverfield Lane trailer, Sing Street, The Secret Life of Pets and more…

10 Cloverfield Lane Trailer

This is a bit of a surprise. From the 10 Cloverfield Lane trailer, it is unclear whether the film is a sequel, prequel or sidequel to Cloverfield. Produced by J.J. Abrams, the film features Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Goodman seemingly as survivalists living in a basement. I’m sure more will be revealed soon. 10 Cloverfield Lane hits UK screens on 8th April 2016.

Sing Street Trailer

Set in 1980s Dublin, Sing Street is about a boy who is forced to transfer from a private school to a inner-city state school. Starring Ferdia Walsh-Peelo and Aiden Gillen, the film is set to have its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. Sing Street will be released in UK cinemas on 22nd April 2016.

The Secret Life of Pets Trailer

This trailer exhibits why no one should ever have a pet snake. The Secret Life of Pets is about what domesticated animals get up to whilst their humans are at work. The film features the voices of Kevin Hart, Louis C.K. and Eric Stonestreet. I think it will be one of my favourite animated films of the year, if filmmakers get things right. The Secret Life of Pets is out on 24th June 2016 in the UK.

Money Monster Trailer

Julia Roberts and George Clooney team up again for real-time thriller Money Monster. Julia Roberts is the producer of host George Clooney’s financial show when they are taken hostage live on air. Directed by Jodie Foster, Monster Money is set for release in May 2016.

Hail, Cesar! Trailer

The more I see of the Coen brothers’ new comedy Hail, Cesar!, the more I am looking forward to it. The film stellar cast is enough of a draw, yet the film also looks as if it will be hilarious. Moreover, I have just noticed that Dolph Lundgren stars in this. Give the film all the Oscars next year! Hail, Cesar! sweeps onto UK screens on 4th March 2016.

Film Review: Elysium


Science-fiction blockbuster Elysium ticks the boxes in terms of action and special effects. The only real negative is that the film feels a bit hollow.

In the late 21st century, the world has become overpopulated and the wealthy have fled to Elysium, an artificial environment built close to Earth. As a boy, Max dreams of living there, but it is only as an adult that his need becomes more urgent…

Elysium is standard blockbuster fare in that it offer a world-changing narrative through the microcosm of an everyman protagonist. Max is the unlikely hero with a momentous destiny. Elysium plots this protagonist against the might of the corporate overlord in a David versus Goliath style battle.

The dystopian world depicted in Elysium is one that will be familiar to sci-fi film fans. There is nothing wrong with this, merely that that film offers a recognisable dystopia. There are a number of elements which appear to have been influenced by sci-fi films from the last thirty years or so.

Although the setting is markedly different, Elysium evokes the same themes as Neill Blomkamp’s directorial debut District 9. Both films depict apartheid, and the stigmatisation of otherness. With Elysium, this is much more of a divide of class lines, rather than race. The film is very much a commentary on inequality and the distribution of wealth.

Whilst the film ticks along as it should, and there are some great action sequences, there is an inescapable feeling of hollowness. There are points at which tension is successfully generated. However, the main characters feel a bit too bland for the audience to fully engage with them. The inclusion of a child (although it makes sense in the overall narrative) feels like a ploy to pull at the heart strings.

Special effects in Elysium are faultless. Performances are also good, with Matt Damon ever the competent action hero. Sharlto Copley is great fun whenever he is on screen, and Jodie Foster is well cast.

Perhaps it is simply the dashed hope that Blomkamp would do something smarter than this, which makes the film a little disappointing. Elysium is proficient and entertaining, but there is a lingering feeling that the film could have gone beyond this.

Stuff To Look At

Posters and trailers for some of the summer’s most anticipated releases here, including Only God Forgives, Elysium, and Kick-Ass 2

Only God Forgives

One of the most anticipated films of the year, Only God Forgives reunites Ryan Gosling with Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn. Also starring Kristin Scott Thomas, Only God Forgives hits UK screens on 2nd August 2013.

The Counsellor

I think ‘star-studded’ is the correct term with which to describe The Councellor. Directed by Ridley Scott and starring Michael Fassbender, Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz and Brad Pitt, The Counsellor  is due for release later this year.


Here is the latest trailer for future-set blockbuster Elysium. The film, which stars Matt Damon and Jodie Foster, offers a dytopian vision of Earth, with its inhabits trying to get to a perfect planet. Elysium is released in UK cinemas on 23rd August 2013.

Kick-Ass 2

Kick-Ass 2

Kick-Ass 2 has been in the news thanks to Jim Carrey’s recent comments. I don’t think this bit of publicity will hurt the film’s box office chances too much. Kick-Ass 2 hits UK screens on 14th August 2013.

The Conjuring

Here is the latest trailer for horror The Conjuring. I tend to find a lot of recent horror films quite disappointing in their ability to scare. I hope The Conjuring will do the trick. The film is out in UK cinemas on 2nd August 2013.


Above is a featurette for upcoming biopic Rush. The film focuses on Formula 1 rivals James Hunt and Niki Lauda. Starring Chris Hemsworth, Rush is released on 13th September 2013.

Film Review: Carnage

Roman Polanski’s Carnage works fantastically well as a portrait of social etiquette and the human condition. The film should have audiences laughing, although it has a deeper resonance than simply humour.

After Nancy and Alan Cowan’s son gets into a playground fight with the son of Penelope and Michael Longstreet’s son, both sets of parents agree to resolve the dispute at a meeting. The meeting begins cordially, with all four adults agreeing on the best course of action to take. It does not take long, however, for the atmosphere to descend as the bickering begins…

Originally a play, it is easy to see why Carnage would work on stage, with the vast majority of the action taking place in one apartment. Thankfully, Yasmina Reza’s screenplay also works well on screen. With a running time of under ninety minutes, Polanski’s film feels brisk and energetic. Sufficient time is allowed for the situation to develop, but incidents never feel laboured.

Carnage explores the dynamics of appearance and social conventions in a way that is both humorous and thought-provoking. The breakdown of etiquette is something that is directly referenced by the characters. It is as if the couples undertand their social faux pas, but are too overcome by the notion of carnage to stop themselves. The desintegration of normal social behaviour is depicted in a realistic way; it is gradual rather than rushed.

Comedy in the film is frequent and hits the right note. There is some physical humour, which does generate laughs. More integral than this is the wit of the screenplay, with cutting remarks inducing much of the comedy. Polanski’s direction is great in balancing movement in the very controlled environment.

Performances from the four leads are excellent. Christoph Waltz, in particular, excels as Alan Cowan. Waltz brings energy to the role, as well as relish in the demise of social etiquette. Kate Winslet holds her own as Cowan’s wife Nancy, while Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly make good antagonists in the form of the Longstreets.

Carnage is a great comedy. The film depicts a level of intelligence, which does not detract from the universal enjoyment of it all.

Carnage Trailer

I have heard nothing but positive comments about Roman Polanski’s Carnage. I was dismayed to have missed it at the London Film Festival this year, but the film is being released on 3rd February 2012. Based on Yasmina Reza’s stage play, Carnage focuses on a meeting between two sets of parents attempting to sort out their sons’ playground dispute. The film stars Kate Winslet, John C. Reilly, Jodie Foster and Christoph Waltz.

Film Review: The Beaver

Jodie Foster’s paean to togetherness hits and misses in its attempts to elicit emotion. The Beaver may have an amusing premise, but the tone is distinctly serious.

Walter Black suffers with depression, despite efforts to treat his illness. When his wife Meredith throws him out of the house, Walter makes a failed suicide attempt. Waking up, he decides to use a discarded beaver puppet in order to communicate with his family and colleagues…

The narrative of The Beaver can become plodding at times. In its attempts to retain an air of seriousness, the film is rather stodgy. Much of the duration is spent on the initial set up, and the beaver puppet coming into prominence with Walter’s family and his career. Therefore the puppet’s demise feels abrupt in comparison. The Beaver does not flow as smoothly as it should.

The film never really gets to the heart of Walter’s illness, which is of course the raison d’être of the story. Instead, it feels as if the issue is skirted around, giving indications but never overtly dealing with the subject in a suitable degree of detail. It is never made clear why previous attempts to treat his depression were unsuccessful, for example.

In one sense, it is good that the topic of mental illness is dealt with sensitively. Walter is a character to be intrigued by and pitied, not derided. However, Walter’s need to use the puppet is indicative of a failure of the mental health professionals, as well as his wife in not raising the alarm soon enough. There seems to be confusion in the message delivered by The Beaver. It is unclear whether the onus is on the patient to recognise the problem, or on the support network to source appropriate treatment.

More interesting than the main narrative is the plot concerning Walter’s son Porter, and his burgeoning friendship with Norah. This story seems more authentic, and generates more of an emotional investment. Jodie Foster’s directing style is adequate, but the film is stilted in some places. The voiceover works well, and could have been employed to a greater extent. The numerous cross cuts between Walter and the beaver labour the point somewhat.

Mel Gibson is good as Walter, but seems to be trying too hard at times. Perhaps this is understandable though, after the damage done to his reputation by revelations about his personal life. Foster is decent as Meredith, while Anton Yelchin stands out as Porter. Jennifer Lawrence appears authentic as Norah.

Ultimately, The Beaver is not wholly satisfying. There are some great performances, but the film does not engage in the way a good drama should.

Film Review: Taxi Driver

Taxi Driver is one of Martin Scorsese’s best films, featuring one of Robert De Niro’s finest performances and Paul Schrader’s excellent screenplay. Simply put, it is one of the greatest films in cinematic history.

Insomniac Travis Bickle drives a taxi in New York City at night. Gradually, Bickle’s instability is revealed as his disgust with the city grows, leading to him making some life-changing choices…

Taxi Driver is an affecting film because it works on numerous levels. It is both a study of violence and a violent film. Taxi Driver depicts Bickle’s disgust at the violence that surrounds him, yet later reveals his inclination to turn to this same method to make his stand. Whilst the climax of the film is famously desaturated to lessen to the effect of the gore, this does not detract overly from this incredibly violent scene. Although the graphic nature of the climax may be shocking to viewers, it is depicted as an act of heroism by the media in the film. Thus, Taxi Driver offers a view of violence in society but remains refreshingly ambiguous in passing judgement.

To describe Travis Bickle simply as an anti-hero does a disservice to the complexity of the character. Schrader has constructed such an intricate protagonist in Bickle. He elicits both sympathy and aversion from the audience. Bickle exhibits in awkwardness in social situations which is sometimes difficult to watch. At the same time, some of his actions appear antagonistic for both other characters in the film and the audience watching. Bickle describes himself as “God’s lonely man”; a very perceptive description of his isolation. This facet of his character is quite relatable, and stands in contrast to other aspects of his personality.

Robert De Niro gives an exceptional performance as Bickle. He truly inhabits the character, portraying his mental disturbance through more subtle tics as well as the troublesome nature of his narrations. Jodie Foster is convincing as young prostitute Iris; she is remarkably solid considering her young age. Cybill Shepherd’s Betsy is the other woman is Bickle’s life. There is quite a divergence between these two females; each of them fuelling his motivation in different ways.

Taxi Driver offers us the final score of legendary composer Bernard Herrmann. And what a score it is. Ranging from a laid-back sax solo to a thunderous rumble, Herrmann’s music is the perfect accompaniment to the visuals, setting the tone for the film.

As a tale of urban alienation, Taxi Driver remains unrivalled. Often movies are described as “must-see” films. In the case of this 1976 classic, that really is the most fitting label.

Taxi Driver was screened at Brewer Street Car Park by the Jameson Cult Film Club. It was introduced by Riz Ahmed.