The Card Counter: Film Review

Universal

Rejoice, Oscar Isaac fans – he’s back on our screens already! Less than a month after his appearance in Dune, we get to watch him as the leading man in Paul Schrader‘s The Card Counter.

This revenge thriller tells the story of William Tell (Isaac), an ex-military interrogator-turned-gambler who is haunted by the ghosts of his past. These dark memories are brought closer to the surface when Cirk (Tye Sheridan), the son of Tell’s former colleague, bumps into him at a hotel and ends up following him and his associate La Linda (Tiffany Haddish) on the poker tournament circuit.

I went into The Card Counter completely cold and genuinely expected a thriller about gambling and someone getting into trouble for counting cards – and I was very mistaken! Schrader’s film is an intimate and complex study of a man who is looking for redemption for his past sins and the story goes in a completely unexpected direction and gradually builds towards an intense conclusion.

However, the pace was too slow and occasionally I found my attention waning, plus I thought the film was emotionally sterile and I didn’t love how Schrader decided to handle certain moments in an understated and subtle way instead of going for the most obvious yet most satisfying option. Without getting into details, there were a few scenes I would have preferred to see play out on screen instead of our imagination having to fill in the blanks.

Although I had issues with the storytelling, I cannot fault the performances. Isaac is impressive as a man who appears calm and collected on the surface but is actually wrestling with the thoughts of what he’s done and trying to keep them buried. Haddish is best known for her comedy work, so it was refreshing to see her playing a straight, dramatic role as La Linda and I found her totally captivating. Sheridan didn’t let the team down as a young boy fuelled by revenge and Willem Dafoe makes a small but pivotal and memorable appearance.

The Card Counter wasn’t quite for me but I appreciated many things about it, particularly the cast.

In cinemas Friday 5th November

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Voyagers: Film Review

Courtesy of Sky Cinema

Voyagers was originally due to be released in cinemas in July but then it disappeared off the schedule and has now been dumped on Sky Cinema.

The sci-fi thriller, written and directed by Neil Burger, is set in the year 2063, when a planet is discovered that could possibly sustain human life. A journey to the planet takes 86 years so the astronauts who go will need to reproduce on the ship and their grandchildren will be the ones who investigate the planet. Naturally, not many people want to sign up for this job, so children are made via genetic donors and raised with the sole purpose of the mission, supervised by Richard (Colin Farrell). The ship takes off when they are teenagers and everything runs smoothly until they discover they are being drugged by “the blue”, a drink that keeps them docile and rule-abiding. All hell breaks loose when they stop taking the blue.

I’m being deliberately reductive, but this film is basically The Lord of the Flies in space, as chaos reigns in the ship, all sense of law and order and the mission are lost and most of the teenagers give into their darker, more carnal desires to fight, kill and have sex, with the evil Zach (Fionn Whitehead) leading the charge of the savage pack, who ignore the pleas of the sensible chief officer Chris (Tye Sheridan) and chief medical officer Sela (Lily-Rose Depp).

I really liked the premise but I thought the story could have gone in a more interesting direction. The intriguing set-up had so much potential which was squandered in favour of a storyline that essentially descended into the sensible and reasonable crew members being hunted by the bigger and wilder pack. It wasn’t boring or anything, but I couldn’t shake the sense that there was a better story in there somewhere and more compelling themes to be explored.

Whitehead plays a convincing villain, a nasty piece of work who is so charming that he manages to gain control of the majority and get them to follow through on his orders, no matter how brutal they are. Sheridan and Depp are the voices of reason and the ones who try to get the mission back on track, although they know they’ll have to get their hands dirty to achieve their goal. They don’t have as much of a showy role as Whitehead but their performances were fine.

Voyagers has some solid thrills and is simply an okay watch – it had the potential to be so much greater than it is and ended up being a bit too familiar and simplistic.

On Sky Cinema from Friday 8th October

Rating: 3 out of 5.

X-Men: Dark Phoenix – Film Review

After the shambles of 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse, I was pretty much done with the franchise and not at all excited for Dark Phoenix. Despite this, I tried to go in with an open mind and it’s actually quite good. It has a lot of problems, but I was entertained for the most part.

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The Mountain: Venice Film Review

I knew nothing about Rick Alverson‘s The Mountain and I didn’t even have it on my list of films to watch in Venice, but I made it a last-minute addition due to the cast, and what a mistake that was.

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Ready Player One: Film Review

I am a massive Steven Spielberg fan but I have to admit that I wasn’t fussed about Ready Player One at all because it just looked like a massive CGI fest, which is something I cannot stand, and while it is mega CG heavy, I loved the story so much that I just didn’t care.

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Top Films for March

It’s the start of March, aka monthly movie preview time! Here are the releases I’m most looking forward to in March.

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The Stanford Prison Experiment: Film Review

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Now I am a psychology nerd, I did it at A-level and it was absolutely fascinating, so obviously I was going to check out the latest film reenactment of the infamous 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment by Philip Zimbardo. I know this case well, it is one of the most memorable studies (besides Milgram), so I was keen to see it onscreen after a disappointing recreation with Adrien Brody and Forest Whitaker in 2010’s The Experiment.

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X-Men: Apocalypse – Film Review

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The initial reaction to X-Men: Apocalypse was very mixed so I went in with low expectations and this probably helped because I actually liked it. Sure, it’s not as good as Days of Future Past and it’s pretty bleak, but it is still a decent watch with some great performances so I definitely recommend checking it out if you’re into this kind of thing.

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Dark Places: Film Review

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Dark Places came out in America in the middle of the 2015 and I kept an eye on it because I wanted to see the latest Gillian Flynn novel-to-movie adaptation following the success of Gone Girl. The original U.K. release date was in March or April 2016 and I did not realise it had been bumped up to January until I saw a newspaper review yesterday. Why has it not been promoted over here? Why release it if there is going to be no marketing about it whatsoever? I soon realised the reason when I watched it –it’s simply not very good.

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