The Overnight


Written and directed by Patrick Brice (Creep, 2014). This is a perfectly fine piece of entertainment. I say this because given the subject matter and story line it could have been made a number of ways, from a Woody Allen 1970’s angst ridden social farce or a glorified soft-porn TV movie.  Instead Brice manages to pull off an exploration of the fears  and weaknesses. tumblr_nq7ddbul0d1uwiej5o1_1280

Alex (Adam Scott, Krampus, 2015) and Emily (Taylor Schilling, Argo 2015), together with their young son RJ are new to LA and don’t know many people. Against this they meet Kurt (Jason Schwartzman, Fantastic Mr. Fox, 2009) an extroverted Los Angelino while at the part with their son RJ, Kurt is there also with his son. After a short conversation (which leaves Alex and Emily scratching their heads) they are invited to dinner with Kurt and his wife Charlotte. Dinner starts off normal enough with Alex and Emily learning that Charlotte is an actress. They later see some of Charlotte’s “work” as they get to know their new friends better during the night.

Indeed as the night progresses we are exposed to the extroverted confidence of Kurt and Charlotte, which ultimately  reaches the point where Kurt decides they should all take a plunge in the pool outside, obviously the hosts are all for it, while our more reserved guests are somewhat shy about doing so nude. A reservation “justified” by the large size of Kurt’s manhood, compared to Alex’s. We can see the tension between everybody, Alex is not too comfortable with the events of the night while Charlotte is more open to allowing events unwind as the night develops.

This leads to some tension, which Kurt seeks to remove by showing Alex his pool-house where Kurt practices his art (the majority of the paintings are of the female reproductive organ) and also his breast suction pump films which they make for the Scandinavian market.

Alex, not at all comfortable with the night would be more than happy to leave. As the night progresses he spends some time talking with Kurt, as Emily and Charlotte also spend some time talking in the bed room.

As it turns out Kurt and Charlotte are not the perfect couple of their image, they have the same insecurities as the rest of us, but they do not want to accept these. While they all come from the point of not being happy with their lot in life, they begin to realise that what they have is not as bad as they thought it was.

On the down side the camera work resembles that of a cheap made for TV movie that does not inspire the casual viewer to sit down and watch the movie, the dialogue is a little stained in places but overall it works.

This is a safe 3*** movie with no pretensions of greater.

The House on Pine Street

The House on Pine Street.

Directed by Aaron and Austin Keeling (more known for their short movies) An interesting idea which ultimately lets itself down by giving us too much and tool little at the same time, creating a movie which is a mixed bag of everything.  A young couple recovpinestreetering from issues which reveal themselves as the movie goes on, move in to a house in a sleepy Kansas sub-urban town.  Here immediately the film falls for its biggest weakness, cliché; as the couple is introduced to us arriving at the home, the host/estate agent is the type of mono-syllabic character Which makes Lurch (Adams Family 1964) seem carefree and reckless, as it turns out he was a red-herring, appearing nowhere else for the film.

We find out that Jennifer (Emily Goss) is 7 months pregnant and has agreed to move back to her home town with her partner while he takes a temporary job locally. Straight away the scene is being set as we see the house deliberately set to look suitably old and scary. Which is fine except, one room is perfect and nicely restored, while the hallway etc. has bubbling peeling paint.   Nothing much happens at first, then little things start to happen, but only as long as we the watcher sees them. As the house continues to make its presence felt, the stresses build up for Jennifer.  Stresses which are not helped by her over-bearing mother. It turns out her mother arranged the house and job, despite the two of them barely being on speaking terms.  As Jennifer is drawn deeper in to the horror of the house, the others (including some local friends of her mother) are more and more inclined to believe it is Jennifer, and not the house which is the issue.  It also does not help, that as her hate of the house and her surroundings grows, her husband (Taylor Bottles), is settling in to town and has accepted a full-time position.

This could have been an excellent movie, but there was nothing new in the offering, if the writers had decided not to actually show the entity, it might have been a better movie, as it would have kept the mental terror whole.  The tension between Jennifer and her mother (Cathy Barnett) is perhaps a little too much given the already occupied story-line. Somewhat cluttered in its presentation, leaving the viewer to try and catch-up a number of times, it could have tried to do its own thing.

The film builds to its ultimate end, not a million miles from expected and so not reaching too high an achievement. The Taking of Deboragh Logan (Adam Robitel, 2014) was a much better piece of work. Over all a familiar take of a familiar story, which could have been much more interesting.

Overall a “Middle of the road” 2.5/5 (I could not stretch to 3)


If I was writing a school report from this movie, I would probably write “Could do better…”. It is not a bad movie, but given who is involved, I was expecting more. Directed by Michael Mann (Public Enemies, 2009), I came away with the feeling the effort that should have been put in to the movie was not used. Despite the name this is simply a police procedural, thriller type movie with relatively little in the way of “techno-plot” indeed given some of the errors and continuity breaks I think those involved perhaps did not have the technical know-how to close out the movie from a plot perspective.

The movie opens with an excellent graphics sequence (possibly a highlight) showing code being sent to a computer which turns off a fan at a Chinese nuclear power station and causes a breach (they said meltdown at one stage, but if it was, there would not have been people running around the site in civilian clothes just days afterwards). Shortly after the commodities markets in New York are hacked and feedstuffs a spiked netting a $75m profit for our bad guy. While working on the nuclear a Captain, Chen Dawai, (Leehom Wang, My Lucky Star, 2013) in the PLA (a rising Princeling judging by his description) he recognises some old code he is responsible for, he along with his old room mate in college, Nick Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth, Thor 2011), who just so happens to be doing a prison sentence for hacking some banks and costing them about $50m, depending on which part of the movie we refer to, he is either doing 13 or 15 years in prison for this.

Long story short, Hathaway is released on furlough after Captain Chen links with the FBI and his Network engineer sister ( Wei Tang, The Golden Era, 2014). Despite initial reservations the FBI lead investigator, Carol Barrett ( Viola Davis, The Help, 2011) sees their worth and backs them as they end up following clues around the Far-East.

Eventually Hathaway puts the clues together, not so much from his cyber skills as from his ability just to stand back and look at the complete picture.

If you ant to look at this movie with any sense of seriousness, you will be disappointed, if however if you like a movie with people running all over the place, shooting everybody and anybody while seemingly never getting in trouble, then you will love this.

There are a number of huger plot holes – if you are trying how to disable a pump PLC system , you don’t need to find one of the pumps at a nuclear power plant, which will raise headlines. Speaking of PLCs (Programmable Logic (not Launch) Controllers are a fairly basic piece of kit that even I was programming when in college a generation ago, so no big challenge there. There are also a number of continuity errors, in Tshirts changing colour, stains on suits suddenly disappearing etc.

Hathaway who is supposedly a SW genius does some funny stuff like use a browser/domain name to indicate an IP address (dodgy) and I’m not going to ask when he got in to an illegal server farm, how he managed to find the drive he needed and hack it.

As a chase-‘em, shoot ‘em up movie it works, but anybody with more than an ounce of engineering or coding skills is going to be entertained much. The closing scenes in Jakarta also strain the imagination, it is noteworthy how many people ignored gun & knife toting westerners as they possessed along the road with their torches. I also have a problem with the “little things”. After arriving in Malaysia (illegally) they seemed to have no shortage of ready cash and indeed in the closing scenes Hathaway actually takes €5000 out of his, supposedly secret Swiss bank account; two things in the few hours he was in Malaysia, how did he mange to get his bank card (there nothing to suggest he had this or other private belongings prior to the last arrival), oh and why use Euro when going to Switzerland, rather than Swiss Francs.

I started off giving this a *** rating but the more I think about it, and how unconvincing the movie was from both a characterisation and technology perspectives I have to revise down to **. This might be a little harsh, but like I said at the beginning “could do better”. A final comment is the effect of mixing the digital and 35mm camera work, hmm – small doses please, it was certainly over used and grated a few times.

Project Almanac

Director Dean Israelite’s first feature length movie works well for him. Opening with High-school kid, David Raskin (Jonny Weston, Insurgent 2015) making a video presentation to MIT for acceptance on one of their college programmes with the help of his two friends Quinn (Sam Lerner, Nobody Walks, 2014) and Adam (Allen Evangelista, Belas, 2013). The film is largely shot in POV (Point of view) format, that is always through a camcorder or such like always used by one of the kids. David’s sister Christina (Virginia Gardner, The Goldbergs. 2013) is the primary recorder. The POV format largely works, even if there are one or two sequences where it is not as successful.

Routing through some old belongings in the attic he comes across a video-camera once owned by his father who was killed in a car accident about 10 years ago. While looking at footage, David notices something, just a frame or two, but he notices it. Reviewing the home-movie in question it is clear David in in the movie as his 17year old self, with his 10yo self also there. Noticing that the David in the film was heading for the basement, they decide to check down there.

Now here is a significant weakness in the film, centred around a young technically gifted student, whose father was an engineer, he (David) only now goes down to the basement and “discovers” his father’s workshop and very quickly its secrets.

Pretty quickly they find the time machine, or at least the workings of it and all of the necessary blue-prints, and as any kids do, they decide to finish building it. With much chaos and experimenting they manage to move something back through time. Of course all of this has the added benefit of entangling one of David’s school mates; Jessie Pierce (Sofia Black D’elia, Born of War 2013), David has a crush on her and as with most young lads of his age, he is totally unable to act on it. A good section of the movie deals with the youngsters building and improving the time machine, often with mixed results.

First the five youngsters experiment with sending inanimate objects back and forth through time, but David is eager to move things on and after much tinkering and adaption, they have a time travel device which they can bring with them, which can transport them to when they want to go (within a limited window of a couple of weeks, but growing as they tinker)

As the movie progresses it starts to take on a slightly darker more sinister hue. After firstly starting off with small things, they decide to “surgically” (my words) interfere with the past, but very quickly learn that one event might have a knock-on effect on another even though the two may not seem linked. After making changes to the time line. On their first trip back they see how the lawas of nature actually kick-in to prevent them from meeting themselves in the past, if they do, bith are removed from nature, no longer existing.

These trips back in time start of light enough, with Quinn using the trips back to ace a pop-quiz in chemistry and then get more intense as they try to undo changes to the timelines brought about by their travel. These changes which seem like nothing much have implications which spread far and wide, the ripple effect being nicely expounded here.

This film is a lot more watchable than I thought it would be and indeed deals with some of the more fundamental aspects of time travel, concentrating on the effects (as thought) rather than on the pure science of the physics. Indeed this is where the film lets itself down slightly, but only slightly.

Without going into the physics of time travel the movie looks to the impacts and how the people involved try to deal with and correct what they have done. One could argue that there is not a whole lot original in the first half of the movie, when even the movie itself draws parallels with some of those time-travelling presentations which came before (even down to video shots of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (Stephen Herek, 1989).

The second half is where the movie really kicks in and ups the tempo. This is an interesting look at the whole area of time travel and its consequences and might be compared to About Time (Richard Curtis, 2013). Much of the tension surround the undoing of the consequences of even the supposedly smallest actions when they went back in time. One of the issues with Time travel movies is the potential for the heroes to go anywhere, any when in time. Almanac carefully circumvents these issues by building in practical limitations to their device and so keeping the movie on a relatively (sorry for the pun) tight perspective and prevents it from tackling too many physics questions.

Over all it works, with perhaps just a little bit too much time spent on the concert in the baseball stadium, but then again there are implications for the event. It also manages to convey some of the science of time-travel without breaking into applied physics. The movie does have some convenient plot holes but nothing that takes away from the picture overall.

Fruitvale Station

This award winning movie is based on the last day in the life of Oscar Grant III (Michael B. Jordan, That Awkward Moment, 2014) , a young black man from the Oakland/San Francisco Bay area who despite all that is wrong in his life wants to do things better. Directed by Ryan Coogler, this was his first feature length motion picture.

Oscar is a small time criminal who has served time in the near distant past ( the film does not go in to details of why he served time, but that is a matter of public record). Although out of prison a while not, he is still struggling to do this right. Indeed our first scene with him is of he and his girlfriend, Sophina (Melonie Diaz, A guide to Recognising Your Saints, 2006) discussing his having cheated on her with another women. We quickly get an insight into his life; His girlfriend is the mother of his child, but they do not all live together, instead staying with respective families.

Trying to convince Sophina, he is on the right track, he resolves to do things right. With this begins a journey that takes him through his day. I’m not going to recount the day, play-by-play. What we see is a young man trying to make things right and start over. This is at one and the same time the most importantant aspect of the movie and also perhaps in the weakest. Some watching this have thought that the first half of the film tended to paint Oscar in to some kind of Saint who has had his Damascus moment. This is not necessarily the case. At least two of the events in his day have no basis in fact and were added by the director to further build the character of Oscar.

Apart from his girlfriend, Sophina, Oscar also has two other powerful females in his life, his daughter Tatiana (Adriana Neal, Repentance, 2013) whom he adores and his mother, Wanda (Octavia Spencer, Snowpiercer, 2013) who plays the archetypal mother, strong and though when she needs to be and loving at the same time.

In many ways this movie could be a case of “What ifs” but it is not, it is a case of “this was”. The movie takes us through the day in what is essentially a well stitched together set of scenes which culminate with Oscar, Sophina and friends taking the BART to and from San Francisco to see the new Year’s Eve fireworks. Having previously decided to drive in , Wanda persuades Oscar to take the BART, on the thinking that it should be safer.

Events unfold on the train, having previously been the scene of good-natured cheers, things turn south very quickly and indeed end almost as quickly. Having stopped the train, BART transport police come on scene, led by Officer Carruso (Kevin Durand, Real steel, 2011). Coming in hard and heavy the situation is tense, Oscar and his friends, defend themselves and react to the police behaviour, vigorously but politely and non-aggressively.

Events unfold as they did and are presented in a tense atmosphere.   The movie, while perhaps trying to find its feet early on, builds up to a crescendo with the scenes at Fruitvale Station, which come to the audience quickly and hard once they come. There is no escaping the emotion of the events of that night and indeed the events of subsequent years elsewhere have pushed this movie in to a very exact focus.

This film has an agenda, to show the needless death of a young man. Whatever your views on these events, this movie shows a young man, trying to make something of his life, despite the challenges he faces, only to be cut down as he looked to start a new life for himself.

A firm 7/10 with some issues regarding the direction, but overall it brings us the viewer along and allows us to be caught in the emotion of the events of that day.

San Andreas

I went to this one with open views, having seen it get some fairly poor reviews, that said I came out of the cinema thinking some of the reviews were perhaps a bit harsh. Brad Peyton’s movie is quite entertaining and almost immediately manages to stand on its own without the 1974 classic earthquake (Mark Robson) looming over it. Like the “original” there are two central strands, the scientists and the hero. The film opens with the scientists in Cal Tech led by “Lawrence” (Paul Giamatti, sideways, 2004)discovering they may be able to predict earthquakes, events quickly over take them and as the movie progresses the team at Cal tech essentially becomes something of a conscience for the movie as well as the vehicle for explaining what is coming and what effect it will have, this sounds rather mundane but Giamatti and Co. deliver a good support plot.

The movie proper starts of by giving us a background of the hero, chief pilot Ray, who works with the LAFD and is separated from his wife and daughter – we learn later the reason for the separation, something which might just be reversible. We meet his ex-wife Emma (Carla Gugino, Watchmen, 2009), daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario (Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, 2013) and emma’s new beau, the billionaire property developer, Daniel Riddick, (Ioan Gruffud, The Fantastic 4, 2005) who happens to be building the biggest and strongest high-rise in San Francisco.   This extended family gathering ofcourse causes the usual tensions which play to the plot.

So the family safely in LA, now has daughter Blake and step dad off to San Francisco , while Emma stays in LA to have lunch with Richard’s ice-cold sister; Susan (Kylie Minogue, Holy Motors, 2012). Then of course all hell breaks lose. As it happens our hero is in his LAFD copter and first things first goes to rescue his wife (ex). This is where the action sequences start to quickly roll in. As it happens Emma was at a restaurant on the top floor of a sky-scraper when the first quake strikes. Through much survival against falling building, explosions and general mayhem, Emma survives and manages to be rescued by our hero.

Pretty quickly they learn that Blake is trapped in San Francisco, separated from Richard and trapped. Trapped she may be, but she is rescued by a young man, Ben (Hugo Johnstone-Burt, Goddess 2013) and his little brother, Ollie (Art Parkinson, Dracula Untold, 2014).Through Blake’s smart thinking they manage to raise her father & mother in LA. What does dad do, only turn his copter around and flies directly in San Fran. Of course life is never easy and Father Ray’s copter runs out of fuel, the road is split in two, the tsunami is on the way and meanwhile there are the various shocks and after-shocks to deal with. Just as Ray and Emma struggle to get to their daughter, she and her two friends also struggle to survive. In a moment which reflect current movie trends, the boys decide to stick with Blake after young Ollie asks his big brother is he had any of the survival skills Blake has shown, No! they are staying with her.

Needless to say both parties eventually reunite and after much struggle manage to make it to safety. This is not a bad movie, but it is not a great one either. If is suffers in any area it is in editing. I felt watching it that it was rather episodic, moving from one scene/challenge in to another. As I mentioned at the time to a friend, I am not sure if Ray is the most unlucky person in the world or actually the luckiest on the basis everything he tried either ran out of fuel, broke, died, blew up or suffered another such fate and he manager to not only survive but reach his daughter and with the help of his wife (in a very Rambo moment) mange to actually rescue them.

I would give the movie a fair ***, not the greatest movie, but not the worst by any means. I’m not a great fan of Dwayne Johnson, mainly on the basis that nothing he has done has inspired me, although this is no Shakespeare, he does manage to act and deliver some good lines. The Stars of the show are however, the two leading women, Mother and daughter Emma and Blake.

Watch it and enjoy it, it does exactly what it does on the tin.