[Early Review] Greta (2018)

Director: Neil Jordan

Cast: Isabelle Huppert, Chloe Grace Moretz, Maika Monroe, Colm Feore, Stephen Rea

Screenplay: Ray Wright, Neil Jordan

98 mins. Rated R for some violence and disturbing images.

 

I was told by a pretty reputable colleague who had caught Greta at TIFF last year that I needed to see it when it hit theaters, and earlier this week, I was given that opportunity. I didn’t realize that the film was directed by Neil Jordan (The Crying Game, Byzantium) until the credits started to roll, which raised my expectations considerably, but I did not expect the seasoned director to turn in something quite like Greta.

When Frances McCullen (Chloe Grace Moretz, Let Me In, Suspiria) finds a purse left behind on the subway, she makes a point to do the right thing and drop it off with its owner, a woman named Greta Hideg (Isabelle Huppert, Elle, Eva). Upon meeting the older widow, Frances begins a friendship with her until she discovers that Greta has a number of secrets. She’s a very lonely woman and Frances isn’t able to cut ties with her very easily. As the cat-and-mouse game spirals out of control, Frances finds that Greta isn’t ready to let go.

Let me be clear: Greta is a little cheesy. There are elements of it that fall into cliché. After leaving the film, I began to think more about the nature of the characters and I found a couple of plot holes I couldn’t wrap my head around. But all that didn’t really matter to me. The film sets out to tell a creepy stalker thriller, and it succeeds.

Director Jordan propels himself out of these problems by keeping the runtime as tight as possible. There’s only a moment or two toward the end of the film where the pacing struggles, but there’s no time to think as he rockets the narrative forward.

He’s also placed confidence in his leads. Moretz and Huppert are on fire as they match wits onscreen. Huppert’s Greta turns from a sweet older woman into a mild annoyance before evolving into a menacing terror. Seriously, I had my hands shaking during some of the more intense and tightly plotted scenes. Jordan’s film oozes with tension in large part to Huppert’s performance.

Greta’s filled out nicely with solid performances from Maika Monroe (It Follows, Tau) as Frances’s friend Erica, a woman who is a bit more focused on fun than fear, Colm Feore (Chicago, TV’s The Umbrella Academy) as Frances’s father, who is attempting to rebuild a relationship with his daughter after the loss of his wife, and especially the terrific turn from Stephen Rea (V for Vendetta, Black ’47) as the private investigator who is hired to find out more. It’s amazing how much Rea can do with so little screentime.

Greta is pure cheese at times, but I didn’t mind it because I was so entranced and tense during my experience in the theater. The trailers give away a bit too much but overall, this is a very fun and creepy stalker thriller that kept my nerves tight the entire time. I highly recommend seeing this one in the theater this weekend.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Neil Jordan’s Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles, click here.

[Hobbit Day] The Lord of the Rings (1978)

thelordoftherings1978a

Director: Ralph Bakshi

Cast: Christopher Guard, William Squire, Michael Scoles, John Hurt, Simon Chandler, Dominic Guard, Michael Graham Cox, Anthony Daniels, David Buck

Screenplay: Peter S. Beagle, Chris Conkling

132 mins. Rated PG.

 

Wait, so what is Hobbit Day?

thelordoftherings1978c

Hobbit Day is September 22nd, the birthdays of both Bilbo Baggins and Frodo Baggins. I thought, since I have never seen the animated Ralph Bakshi (Wizards, Cool World) film version of The Lord of the Rings from 1978, why not today to celebrate?

That being said, Tolkien Week is the Sunday through Saturday containing Hobbit Day, so unbox your extended editions of the Peter Jackson-directed films too!

The Lord of the Rings covers roughly two thirds of the saga originally crafted by JRR Tolkien. It begins with the passing of the ring from Bilbo Baggins to his nephew Frodo (Christopher Guard, Memoirs of a Survivor, The Haunting of Helen Walker). As Frodo begins his journey with Samwise Gamgee (Michael Scoles, Sweeney 2) to Rivendell, Gandalf the Grey (William Squire, Where Eagles Dare, Anne of the Thousand Days) travels to Isengard to discover what type of Ring of Power they are dealing with. Eventually, Frodo’s journey brings him to the creation of a fellowship also containing Aragorn (John Hurt, V for Vendetta, Hercules), Legolas (Anthony Daniels, Star Wars – Episode IV: A New Hope, The Lego Movie), and Gimli (David Buck, The Dark Crystal, The Mummy’s Shroud), all headed to Mount Doom in Mordor to destroy the One Ring before the ring finds its way back to Sauron.

thelordoftherings1978d

The Lord of the Rings was unique and very important when it was made. It was the longest animated feature film of all time as well as being the first fully-rotoscoped animated feature ever. What is rotoscoping, you ask? Well, it involves filming actual actors in black-and-white and then animating over it. That’s what gives the finished product such an unusual and unique look.

The voice work from many of the performers is pretty solid, especially John Hurt and William Squire. The real issue of the finished film is in the pacing. The gorgeous and intricate cinematography is troubled by pacing issues. Director Ralph Bakshi was more focused on creating stunning visuals than he was with putting it all together. He did have a vision, and I can’t take that from him. He originally envisioned Led Zeppellin music as a score to the film (many Zep fans will note that the band had a lot of Tolkien imagery associated within their lyrics).

thelordoftherings1978b

The Lord of the Rings was a daring endeavor, one that is beloved by many. It even created some images so iconic they were even replicated for the Peter Jackson-directed live action saga. On the plus side, it is an adult look at the saga, treated with respect and vision. On the opposite hand, it tries to jam too much together into such a small space that the editing and pacing of the finished product suffer and pull the viewer out of the film. Overall, this is a flawed but very interesting take on Tolkien’s classic world.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Harry Potter Day] [Oscar Madness Monday] Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)

 harrypotterandthesorcerersstone2001a

Director: Chris Columbus

Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, John Cleese, Robbie Coltrane, Warwick Davis, Richard Griffiths, Richard Harris, Ian Hart, John Hurt, Alan Rickman, Fiona Shaw, Maggie Smith, Julie Walters

Screenplay: Steve Kloves

152 mins. Rated PG for some scary moments and mild language.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Art Direction-Set Decoration
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Costume Design
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Music, Original Score

 

Happy Harry Potter Day, everyone! Why is today Harry Potter Day? Well, for diehard fans of the series, today coincides with a major battle that took place that, for spoilery reasons, I will not completely jump out and discuss. I imagine some of you have yet to read or see all of the story, and that may be why you are reading, so I will let you get there in good time. No matter…

harrypotterandthesorcerersstone2001b

Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe, Trainwreck, Victor Frankenstein) doesn’t have a great life. His parents are dead. He lives with his dreadful Aunt Petunia (Fiona Shaw, The English Teacher, The Tree of Life) and Uncle Vernon (Richard Griffiths, Hugo, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides) in the closet beneath the staircase of their home. All that gets turned upside down when an onslaught of letters arrive at the home for Harry and a towering behemoth named Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane, Brave, Arthur Christmas) arrives to tell him that he is a wizard, just like his parents before him. Harry’s world quickly changes around him as he discovers that he is a wizard of legend, is whisked off to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, gains new friends in Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint, CBGB, Charlie Countryman) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson, Regression, Noah), and learns of a new enemy in He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, a dark wizard with a terrifying connection to Harry.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone had a hell of a task to accomplish. A film and series with this much scope had not been attempted in some time if ever. Director Chris Columbus (Pixels, Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief) had a lot on his plate. So when I tell you that this first film in the eight film saga ranks as the seventh best, don’t let me stray you from my appreciation of it.

Working with child actors isn’t easy, especially when you have so many. Columbus had been praised in the past for his ability to work with children and get the most from them. The three main stars were still pretty new to acting, and they don’t give bad work, but it is clear from later entries that they were to make leaps and strides as the series continued. Thankfully, they are aided by a top notch supporting cast like John Cleese (A Fish Called Wanda, Planes), Richard Harris (Gladiator, The Count of Monte Cristo) and John Hurt (V for Vendetta, Hercules) to help add strength and impact to their scenes.

The screenplay too had some difficulty in narrowing down exactly what was important. At the time of release, there were only four books published of the seven books planned. J.K. Rowling was very helpful in plotting out the series trajectory with Warner Bros., a fact that saved several plot holes through the filmmaking journey. Sadly, though, the film feels bloated at times and Columbus doesn’t direct it but merely meanders through it, spending too much time on trivial moments that slow the movie down.

Columbus also looks back on the visual effects, which are rushed but not to the point of ruining the movie. He learned a lot about handling such a big budget and vowed to hone his visual effects for the follow-up (a fact that I laughed at when noting some of the other issues that the director seemed to have missed).

harrypotterandthesorcerersstone2001c

Still, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is looked on more critically because of how great the series would become by its end, and the film itself is a triumph in many ways, showing fans and newcomers alike that movies can still leave one with a sense of awe. I absolutely love watching this series and harbor no ill will towards its more humble beginnings, because it is still an enjoyable experience by all.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Happy 5th Birthday!] Your Highness (2011)

yourhighness2011a

Director: David Gordon Green

Cast: Danny McBride, James Franco, Natalie Portman, Zooey Deschanel

Screenplay: Danny McBride, Ben Best

102 mins. Rated R for strong crude and sexual content, pervasive language, nudity, violence and some drug use.

 

Some movies are divisive, with praise and derision in equal measure. Your Highness isn’t even one of those. But I’m still going to watch it for you.

yourhighness2011b

Your Highness is the story of two brothers and a quest to end all others. One of them, Fabious (James Franco, TV’s 11.22.63, 127 Hours) is a rugged and valiant prince on his way to rescue his beloved Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel, TV’s New Girl, Elf) from a frightening and perverse warlock. The other brother is Thadeous (Danny McBride, This is the End, Sausage Party), a fat loathsome slob of a prince only interested in getting laid, a task not so easy for the failure of a son. The two set out to complete Thadeous’ first quest and gain his father’s respect. Along the way, they meet Isabel (Natalie Portman, V for Vendetta, Jane Got a Gun), who also has reasons to defeat the wicked warlock.

The premise is rather simple and rather stupid. According to director David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express, Our Brand is Crisis), the concept came from a game between him and McBride about coming up with hilarious titles and then making up a movie premise about them. Apparently, this was the best one. McBride then proceeded to write a draft, and then most of that was thrown out in favor of improv. How this movie even got made is a shock, and how it managed to bring on multiple Oscar nominees also confounds.

McBride cannot carry a movie, funny as he is. Franco (who did sword training and flew back and forth between set and his classes across the country) and Portman (who only signed on to get Black Swan financed) do capably enough to keep this flimsy story going.

All this is important as it creates a movie that doesn’t really want an audience. That being said…

yourhighness2011c

I laughed my ass off at a lot of this movie, and I have to applaud them for trying to craft a unique mixture of fantasy and raunchy comedy. Still not a great movie, but it isn’t the worst viewing experience I’ve ever had.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Star Wars Day] Return of the Jed-Five…Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005)

starwarsepisodeIIIrevengeofthesith2005a

Director: George Lucas

Cast: Ewan McGregor, Hayden Christensen, Natalie Portman, Ian McDiarmid, Samuel L. Jackson, Christopher Lee, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Bakers, Frank Oz

Screenplay: George Lucas

140 mins. Rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence and some intense images.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Makeup

 

As we continue the tradition of Star Wars Days, on Return of the Jed-Five (it is a term I coined so that I can continue celebrating well into Revenge of the Sixth tomorrow), we will look at Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, the final film in the Star Wars Saga that was released almost ten years ago. Fans have waited a decade for the upcoming Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens.

starwarsepisodeIIIrevengeofthesith2005b

The Clone Wars have waged for three years, but the battle is far from over. Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen, Jumper, Vanishing on 7th Street) is now a full-fledged Jedi Knight and, along with Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor, Trainspotting, Mortdecai) have been leading armies into battle against the Separatists and the tyrannical Count Dooku (Christopher Lee, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Dark Shadows). Anakin’s secret marriage to Padme (Natalie Portman, V for Vendetta, Knight of Cups) is further complicated when she discovers she is pregnant, and Anakin’s nightmares of her dying in childbirth lead him towards the dark side and a few revelations about his friends on the Jedi Council and those in the Galactic Senate.

If one were to look at the prequel trilogy, Revenge of the Sith is easily the best in the series. A nearly perfect entry in the Star Wars Saga, Episode III features some of the more incredible action sequences and emotional beats.

Hayden Christensen again continues to underwhelm as Skywalker. His performance is carried by Portman, McGregor, and Ian McDiarmid (Sleepy Hollow, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels) as Supreme Chancellor Palpatine. In fact, just about all the performances here with the exception of his are amazing.

starwarsepisodeIIIrevengeofthesith2005c

Director George Lucas (American Graffiti, THX 1138) has learned from his previous mistakes here and gives fans exactly what they want here. Revenge of the Sith ties up the franchise with a nice little bow. The flow is great, and the opening sequence, in which our heroes attempt to save Palpatine from the mechanical General Grievous, is stunning, with special regards to the first shot of the film.

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, click here.

For my review of Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, click here.

[Star Wars Day] May the Fourth Be With You…Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002)

starwarsepisodeIIattackoftheclones2002a

Director: George Lucas

Cast: Ewan McGregor, Hayden Christensen, Natalie Portman, Ian McDiarmid, Samuel L. Jackson, Christopher Lee, Frank Oz

Screenplay: George Lucas, Jonathan Hales

142 mins. Rated PG for sustained sequences of sci-fi action/violence.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Visual Effects

 

Happy Star Wars Day, and May the Fourth Be With You. Today we will look back on Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, from director George Lucas (American Graffiti, THX 1138).

starwarsepisodeIIattackoftheclones2002c

Ten years after the events of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen, Jumper, Vanishing on 7th Street) and his master Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor, Trainspotting, Mortdecai) have been called to Coruscant to protect the former Queen, Senator Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman, V for Vendetta, Knight of Cups) against those who wish to assassinate her. As Anakin and Padme grow closer, Obi-Wan finds himself getting closer to the truth as he encounters the sinister Count Dooku (Christopher Lee, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Dark Shadows) and an army of clone troops trained to be an Army of the Republic.

The second in George Lucas’ prequel trilogy fixes a lot of the problems that the first film had, though not all. I love the tone of the film as it shifts from mystery to romance to war to fantasy and back to mystery. The tonal shifts keep the film invigorated and interesting. McGregor and Portman turn in excellent work as Kenobi and Amidala, as do Ian McDiarmid (Sleepy Hollow, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels) as Chancellor Palpatine and Samuel L. Jackson (Pulp Fiction, Avengers: Age of Ultron) as the Jedi Master Mace Windu. New character Count Dooku is excellent and terrifying.

Hayden Christensen is a better Anakin than Jake Lloyd, but not by much. He is by far the biggest problem here.

As always, George Lucas presents us a stunning vision of his galaxy. The film is stitched together nicely and is beautifully scored. There are a lot to love here. Now the aging of the special effects is noticeable here and could have been avoided with a more practical touch. I miss the look of the original films, but I can deal with it.

starwarsepisodeIIattackoftheclones2002b

Attack of the Clones is a fantastic Star Wars event. It has a few detractors, but it is lovely nonetheless.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, click here.

Hercules (2014)

hercules2014a

Director: Brett Ratner

Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell, John Hurt

Screenplay: Ryan Condal, Evan Spiliotopoulos

98 mins. Rated PG-13 for epic battle sequences, violence, suggestive comments, brief strong language and partial nudity.

 

Why does the world let two movies come out in the same year? It happens a lot more than you think? For every Armageddon, there is a Deep Impact. For every Expendables, there is a Losers. And for every The Legend of Hercules, there is a Hercules. This one is the Brett Ratner (X-Men: The Last Stand, Movie 43) one.

hercules2014c

Hercules is the story of, well, Hercules (Dwayne Johnson, TV’s WWF Raw, Fast & Furious 6). After he completes the Twelve Labors, Hercules is approached by Ergenia, daughter of Lord Cotys (John Hurt, V for Vendetta, Snowpiercer), who asks him to help train warriors to defend from the warlord Rheseus. Stuff happens.

You want to know the most upsetting thing about this film is? I was bored two minutes in. It wasn’t so much as a terrible film as an uninspired one. Nothing happens in this film that can be remotely considered interesting.

And then there’s the incredibly disappointing set design. Some of the sets look gorgeous and others have completely noticeable fakeness to them. I saw a volcano less convincing than the one I made in the second grade for the science fair in one scene. I saw particle board columns. I saw Brett Ratner’s direction. Truly sad film in many ways. That’s what it comes down to here. Boredom. The end credits were the best part of the film and not just because I could leave then.

hercules2014b

Seriously, I haven’t even seen The Legend of Hercules, but I know this was is likely the lesser of two evils. Still pretty damn evil though. I have absolutely nothing great to say here.

 

1/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of X-Men: The Last Stand, click here.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑