Knives Out (2019)

With a star line-up including Daniel Craig, Chris Evans (aka Captain America), Jamie Lee Curtis and even Katherine Langford from ‘13 Reasons Why’, how can this film not peak interest? An interesting plot following the classic tale of a whodunnit but with quirky differences and a feel that anyone could have been the suspect in this murder case.

MORNING BELL

‘Knives Out’ has such a modern flavour running throughout the whole film – crime, drama, comedy, mystery and a thriller – a bit of everything thrown into one unique film. You would presume a classic plotline; firstly, find there has been a murder, a detective comes to the case and interviews begin, all leading to the final end where the big reveal eventually comes to light. A classic Agatha Christie plotline, as we’ve seen numerous times before from Poirot or Miss Marple. Where ‘Knives Out’ follows this significant pattern to a T, the middle is somewhat flooded with difference, which only leads to more intrigue. I actually felt quite deflated at one point feeling the film had nowhere else to go – but I was so wrong! The film knew exactly what tricks to play to keep the audience guessing at every single word told on screen.

In front of a spiral of knives, the detectives interview the suspects. Behind the detectives someone creeps in the shadows, he soon comes to light stepping forwards as PI Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig), the audience quickly catch on that this is the man who is to uncover the truth at what happened the night of the father-of-the-household’s birthday party, the night he apparently committed suicide. The characters are brilliant, all so different and interesting in their own way. It’s a quick discovery that all are willing to lie giving them all motive to kill their father. The film unravels and unravels, where the audience are convinced by a successful conclusion to be tricked and landed back into confusion.

Knives Out - Jamie Lee Curtis

‘Knives Out’ is such a clever, unique film. Light comedy launched into segments makes the audience chuckle while they are still intrigued by what completely happened that night. The downfall would be Daniel Craig’s accent, which is definitely a shock when first heard. Nevertheless, I would recommend this film as something new and different, while returning to a classically beloved whodunnit.

Pulp Fiction (1994)

So let’s be honest, I have been incredibly slow to watching this absolute Quentin Tarantino classic! Who hasn’t heard of ‘Pulp Fiction’? Yet I quiz you to actually tell me the plot because after watching this classic, after too many years and recommendations from family and friends, I could not tell you a define plot of what actually happens over this two-and-a-half-hour film.

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‘Pulp Fiction’ is split into named chapters which tell the stories of mini movies. There are recurring characters and the whole film is cleverly linked into a circle – which I loved. But everything in the middle doesn’t seem to have much connection – this tended to confuse me as I didn’t really understand what was going on. However, the ‘mini movies’ as such, were excellent. I was absorbed into each story, mesmerised by what was going to happen, horrified by the extremities, intense with the unknown.

There were some stories I appreciated more than others. I think the best would have to be the one with John Travolta and Uma Thurman. Within this chapter, there were so many memorable and classic moments – such as the coolness of the twist dance, the ‘comfortable’ silences, the famous meme of John Travolta confusingly wondering around the house (you know the one). Both actors are phenomenal, all are in the entire movie, of course! With actors like Uma Thurman and John Travolta, is Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Willis and Tim Roth. Then, we have Quentin Tarantino as one of his films he’s made a cameo in.

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As a Quentin Tarantino film, every chapter had some sort of violence in it, some a lot more extreme than others. This film is one riddled with crime embedded with symbolism; in every chapter there is a lot of meaning. Gangsters are at the centre of this film but they do not control over the narrative; other characters have a lot more input than you would believe.

‘Pulp Fiction’ is odd, puzzled in a single narrative. I don’t fully understand what the whole film is about, but every chapter is a film on its own and clever in its creation. The cinematography and acting is outstanding, every character comes to life on screen and it so unbelievably real – particularly the main three (Travolta, Thurman and Jackson). It is so obviously a classic in its own right, phenomenally executed. I would watch it again!

American Hustle (2013)

A film with amazing stars, phenomenal actors and actresses who are magnificent throughout the film. Stars such as Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence and Jeremy Renner. They all are brilliant in creating this crime-ridden world with secrecy and plotting along the way. Christian Bale has to be at the forefront of this phenomenal cast, his acting is excellent as always.

Christian Bale Bradley Cooper Amy Adams Jeremy Renner Jennifer Lawrence

Two con-artists; a man who’s secret work is one of America’s best and a seductive, cunning woman on his side, Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams); are forced to work with a very ambitious FBI agent, Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper). Sadly, the film sounds a lot better than it actually is. It could have explored this FBI takeover in a much more exciting way, but I was left just trying so hard to understand what was going on and it takes a lot of concentrate when it’s quite a long talky-talky film. I have to admit, the narration throughout the whole film, from the characters explaining what is happening, is essential to understanding everything, and I liked the addition. But overall, I just felt more could have happened, particularly with these amazing actors. It felt a bit empty, where I was waiting for something to happen. When the con occurred, I was pleased to finally welcome its arrival into the film, but I think I created way better cons in my mind guessing throughout the movie.

Saying this, I really liked the flawed characters. I think with these sort of actors you can’t not be invested in the characters on screen. I was constantly guessing who was playing a con, who could be trusted, who was going to be fooled. But it turned out, we already knew quite a lot in the film as it was going on. I really liked the addition of Jennifer Lawrence’s character, her cunning and bossy ways were intriguing to learn about in the film. The whole film does feel like if you add a bit of violence, it could have easily had Robert De Niro at the centre. But it didn’t quite hit the mark of one of his crime films.

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In conclusion, American Hustle isn’t a bad film but it isn’t great. It has an incredibly long build up, where you wait and wait for the ending and it’s not as revolutionary as I had hoped, although still good to be fair. American Hustle definitely had stardom over plot, style over substance. I don’t think I’ll be watching this one again, there was a bit of too much hope for something more.

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile (2019)

This drama is inspired by the true story of Ted Bundy – one of America’s most infamous serial killers during the 1970s. The film does seem to follow very closely to real-life events with embedded flashbacks of the televised trial from the 1970s at the end. However, with drama thrown in, not every aspect was shown in this film and there were some false identities too, so don’t take this as a truthful documentary of what actually happened to this “extremely wicked, shockingly evil and vile” murderer.

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When first exposed with this film, my initial reaction was a confusion to the extremely long name. Although after watching it, it seemed a fitting name from the Judge’s own words from the 1970s when he sentenced this pathological killer. The sentencing of the film is one unusual yet mesmerising to watch in the cinematic elements with the speech performed by the brilliant John Malkovich. Something that cannot be denied is the excellence of the acting in this film. Whereas everyone is proclaiming that Zac Efron is the star of the film as Ted Bundy; I believe that the fiancé whose side the story is told from, is the most powerful performance on screen. This being Lily Collins playing the betrayed, broken Liz Kendall who fell deeply for Ted Bundy.

I do have a few reservations for ‘Extremely Wicked’. Where the trailer may make the film seem riddled with the killings of this guilty man, watching the film I felt a completely different presence that dominated. I couldn’t shake the feeling that every moment of the film, until the very end, just tried to plea the innocence of this man. It seemed to glorify a serial killer as innocent where doubt only shook at the very end. This was because those that believed innocence dominated the screen, where those proving his guilt shared much less time. I feel this is where the film did fall, they should have persisted more with the facts of guilt, rather than dramatizing a pathological liar with more innocence. I do understand this was an element of history, where people did believe his innocence due to his ‘looks’, although he was found guilty and if I was presented with the film only, I wouldn’t completely understand why until the end. Which is hauntingly creepy at the thought.

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Overall, this is not a terribly film, far from it. It’s a highly dramatized rendition of a prolific killer in America’s past. Acting is brilliant and you do become drawn into the opposing sides of Ted Bundy. Additionally, time does race past and you do need to pay attention to everything happening to grasp the full understanding of this version of Ted Bundy’s life from the point of view of his fiancé. Safe to say, Zac Efron is a completely different actor from his Troy Bolton days. 

Hotel Artemis (2018)

Set in Los Angeles 2028, the city is close to lock-down with riots and criminal activity at a high. In the middle of this crazy unsafe city, there’s a mythical hotel just for criminals. A place for them to hide and looked after during injury. A place that must be kept a secret. But there’s rules that must be obeyed: members only, rooms are not to be held for someone, guests must be at a minimum, no cops, and the no.1 rule, not to kill other patients. Safe to say this “normal Wednesday” has all rules broken pretty quickly, and only gets worse throughout the night.

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This was an interesting film, very unusually designed and created. ‘Hotel Artemis’ doesn’t have a plot what-so-ever. The film just seems to escalate and escalate to utter madness. It’s starts off as a “normal Wednesday” then slowly gets worse throughout the film until there is a breaking point and the film ends. The problem was we couldn’t see how this hotel functioned normally, so when it got to escalation, we could tell this wasn’t the “normal Wednesday” but there wasn’t anything we could connect to. You don’t really get much explanation for reasons, to why the future is the way it is, to the riots, to the need of Hotel Artemis, to anything really. Or to any of the characters, I didn’t really feel like I understood their presence, other than a few which felt a bit forced. The whole film feels so open-ended, with the beginning, middle and end. The whole thing was just unanswered. It also takes quite a while for the action, especially all that is seen in the trailer, to actually hit the screen of the film.

Because of this, the film feels extremely character-led, since there was no story to lead the film. ‘Hotel Artemis’ just seems to be delving into the life of the Nurse (Jodie Foster). The story of her past before the Hotel, her anxieties and her progress, the development of closure and the need for answers. But it doesn’t feel like a pressing issue for the character, it just feels like an ache of the protagonist throughout the whole film and it slowly reveals why. It is strangely done. The escalation was supposed to lead to the biggest criminal of the city arriving, the Wolf King (Jeff Goldblum), but that was definitely a let-down. He really wasn’t a great character, not interesting or otherwise.

Sterling K. Brown and Sofia Boutella in Hotel Artemis (2018)

I can’t say this was the best crime film I’ve ever seen, but it’s not the worst. I was intrigued to what was going to happen, but a bit deflated by the forced escalation to not really understand it. It could have been so much more with the idea of a criminal hospital for members-only, but it didn’t quite hit the nail on the head. Instead, I only have more questions that I’m not too desperate having answered.

American Psycho (2000)

Another apparent top 100 films to see. ‘American Psycho’ follows a rich business man who puts on a pretend front with a hidden personality with desperate homicidal needs. Played by the phenomenal Christian Bale, Patrick Bateman is brought to screen as just an arrogant man demanding his way through life, but at night be becomes a predator with emotions of “greed and disgust” only, slaughtering his victims with knives, chainsaws and axes.

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Crazed lives of killing competitors, jealously, greed. Losing grip of sanity, bursts of anger outrages. A mad intensity rising throughout the whole film, escalating. We watch as all this happens to the main protagonist as he tries to stick to his strict routines and remain pretending he is just like everyone else, when rather there is something hysterical and homicidal burning inside. The ridiculously of getting away with the amount he does becomes almost comical, in his outbursts and claim to music knowledge to hide his true identity. Bateman is constantly on edge, creating this tense feel throughout the film, as you never know how he is going to react to such simple social interactions.

The film is fuelled on the narrative of the main protagonist, where we get the insight of this man’s mind. How his anger rages over who has the better business card or how the person talking to him is such an inconvenience. The narration is so formal, but definitely means we know more than those on screen, especially with how Patrick Bateman thinks. The music is also iconic in its rejection of Bateman’s actions. It’s odd how some parts even become comedic in his hysterical state and obvious distraction tactics.

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An 18 for all reasons possible. There’s gore, nudity, sex, drugs, swearing, etc. The language is quite vulgar and there are some graphic sex scenes. However, it’s understandable how this film has become so known and classic. It is a brilliant film in its creation. By the end, it all seemed misleading and confusing, although this just means the audience are even more drawn in. It’s a clever crime film. Christian Bale alone should be a reason of watch, as he is truly excellent in this role.

Taxi Driver (1976)

A Martin Scorsese film starring Robert De Niro, with all the other classic Scorsese tell-tells. The underbelly of New York city, violence, crime. I completely understand this is a film of its time, it is politically situated relevant to 1970s America. I would just say that one time for me watching this is enough, don’t think I need to be watching this film repeatedly, it’s not that kind of movie.

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I don’t really know how to explain the plot. It’s all revolved around a night-time taxi driver, Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro), driving around in the underbelly of a city. He becomes infatuated with one woman, Betsy (Cybill Shepherd), but doesn’t quite understand the social ques of how to talk to her appropriately. He then falls down a track of “cleaning up the streets” himself as he’s on a mission we don’t fully understand or know what this unpredictable man is capable of doing.

This film feels like it doesn’t have a designated purpose, it feels unsettling and emotionally draining throughout the whole movie. As ‘Taxi Driver’ embodies the darkness and underbelly of the city, the film becomes an 18 rather quickly. It is full of violence, particularly by the end. The language is horrid; I’m not a fan of the language throughout this film, however it does just reflect the flawed protagonist in his unnerving state.

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‘Taxi Driver’ made me constantly feel uncomfortable, it was quite hard to watch. Especially as there wasn’t a hook to bring me in. It doesn’t start interesting and we just watch a realism type of film, with silent and very quiet real noises. The main protagonist is very untrustworthy, there’s an uneasy edge where you cannot quite understand or grasp who he is. This film is a film of iconic scenes, which are remembered in cinematic history from the 1970s. As I said, I wouldn’t watch this again, it feels quite slow. But it’s one of those classics.