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47 Meters Down

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Reviewer: Philip Price

Director: Johannes Roberts

Stars: Chris Johnson, Claire Holt, Mandy Moore, Matthew Modine, Santiago Segura, Yani Gellman

Released: July 26th, 2017

The best kinds of thrillers and horror films don’t have to rely on the big bad antagonist that is chasing our heroes around for actual scares, but rather they build up the tension and expel the terror through the situations they create given the circumstances no doubt involve a big bad killer or evil spirit chasing our heroes. Over the past two years we’ve received two very different, but startlingly effective shark movies that utilize this technique really well and fortunately 47 Meters Down is one of those with last summer’s The Shallows being the other. To go one step further, I’d say 47 Meters Down is the better of the two. At a lean eighty-nine minutes writer/director Johannes Roberts (The Other Side of the Door) doesn’t waste time setting things up, getting into the action, and most importantly-he doesn’t muffle that action or story with supplemental material. Instead, he executes his and the characters primary objective as successfully as one could hope in this day and age and he does so by keeping things simple. Within five minutes of the film beginning we know why our two lead characters, sisters Lisa (Mandy Moore) and Kate (Claire Holt), are vacationing together, we understand the dynamic that has existed between them in the past, and we quickly come to note their motivations for seeking out the thrills that inevitably lead them to their unfortunate predicament deep within the ocean. There is no messing around, there is hardly even any submerging us in the environment that is the coast of Spain because this isn’t the environment Roberts wants us to get comfortable with-in fact, he doesn’t want us to get comfortable at all. This brings us back around to the opening sentence which comes up only to say that the sharks are actually the least of Lisa and Kate’s worries here. Both Roberts and co-writer Ernest Riera are well-versed in utilizing the natural horrors that come with being plunged nearly 155 feet into the ocean waters and it is in such a scenario that 47 Meters Down continues to build upon the number of hurdles our characters must face if there is any chance of survival; only reminding us of the sharks when we think we can’t handle another thing hurting those chances of survival. In short, it’s kind of brilliant.

Brilliant may be over-selling it a bit, sure, but in terms of a movie setting out to do something specific and accomplishing exactly that-47 Meters Down kind of nails it. That said, it’s obviously not an exceptional piece of cinema or any such thing, but it’s solid B-movie fun and I dug almost every decision it made from the beginning. For starters, how much effort and creativity you put into your title screen counts for a lot with me and it’s clear Roberts appreciates the style of it all and so from that first moment on I knew I was getting into something that was at least very aware of the kind of movie it was and desired to be. Furthermore, after being introduced to our characters and giving us what the, admittedly amateur and rather terrible, reasons are for their motivations Roberts makes his intent with this feature clear by his choice in soundtrack being a generic mainstream rock record that could have come from any number of bands in the late-90’s or early 2000’s to the general aesthetic he and cinematographer Mark Silk enlist to capture the potentially skeezy operation being run by Matthew Modine’s Captain Taylor and the two fellas Lisa and Kate meet in their search for escapism. The boat is dingy, but the people are pretty. The same is true of the locations in that they are naturally gorgeous, but are shot in such a way we see the cracks, the crevices, the rust, and the time worn elements that give us pause to just how often this boat is used (or not) or how often these waters are traveled (or not). Given a heads up about the thrills Taylor can offer (as well as the discount, considering he’s a friend) it would seem Louis (Yani Gellman) and Benjamin (Santiago Segura) are up to no good and, without going too far into spoilers, Roberts is intent to keep that suspicion going even after Louis and Benjamin take the dive themselves followed by the submersion of Lisa and Kate. While we may want to believe one thing or suspect as much because the movie does this thing to make us think certain hunches might in fact or not in fact be true the trick is we never know and I’m certainly not going to ruin anything here. This is the trick throughout as well as every time we think the more adventurous and spontaneous Kate might have a leg up on their escape something else happens that knocks them back into hopelessness. Most notable is a sequence where Lisa is asked to swim out over a ridge to retrieve a flashlight and the moment Lisa swims out over that open water I’ll be damned if I wasn’t holding my breath as well.

Being consistent with what could be considered a thin premise is key. As my screening reached its half hour mark my question became how the movie would be able to sustain itself even with its short runtime, but as soon as such questions began to populate my brain the film was sure to answer them by paying off complications and little bits of information it had fed us earlier. There is of course talk of how much air Kate and Lisa have left in their tanks, but beyond that they can’t just exit the cage and swim back to the surface as not only could a shark come from anywhere at any moment, but also at that depth a quick ascension would cause the nitrogen in their tanks to create nitrogen bubbles in their brain which would kill them. To avoid such a sneakily gruesome fate the sisters would have to swim to the surface at a slow pace so as to allow the nitrogen to decompress, but having to stop in five minute increments isn’t exactly ideal when the boat hovering above you has intentionally been working to attract hungry sharks. The point being, the film naturally and intelligently continues to up the stakes and that is what matters most in a movie like this-that the audience first buys into the scenario which is where 47 Meters Down is a little flimsy, but is general enough that we buy into it without too much hesitation, with the setbacks continuing to be credible enough that they don’t feel forced in a way that they’re only present to extend the plot to feature length. This would seem to be a movie like 47 Meters Down’s biggest obstacle, but one of the best surprises coming out of this film in particular was that it more or less glides over as much in an effortless fashion. To reiterate this point, I always tend to judge a scary movie or thriller by how bad it makes me want to yell at the characters on screen due to their lack of good decision making skills which can be fun in its own right, but mostly the verdict comes down as frustrating. In 47 Meters Down it is clear both Lisa and Kate are competent and intelligent adults that fall into these unfortunate circumstances due only to the fact they wanted to do something exciting and spontaneous. Encouraging and reassuring to the viewer is the fact Lisa and Claire each try everything you would want them to do with only the fact the majority of such efforts fail making said experiences all the more frightening.

And so, this brings around to the necessary discussion of how Moore and Holt do in conveying all of these emotions while having little else to play off of besides each other and the dimly lit depths of the ocean. While the aforementioned set-up, which includes Moore’s Lisa being upset and feeling like a failure because her boyfriend broke up with her for being too boring, is executed in a somewhat laughable fashion Moore is enough of a pro to know how far to push the somewhat pathetic nature her character displays to the background. On the other side of things, Holt’s Kate is the exact opposite as someone who has never settled down, but is the type who it seems likely was on a different vacation with a different friend the week before because she’s great at meeting people, making friends, and having a good time, but terrible at sustaining any type of stability in her life. These characteristics are reiterated through the way each of them interact with the guys they meet, but more so in how quick Kate agrees to the idea of going down in a shark cage and how hesitant and concerned Lisa is about every factor surrounding the situation. Both Moore and Holt give compelling performances though as we’re totally invested in their plight and, more impressively, remain that way until the end. Even if the script leads us to believe in one instance that it gives the inherently timid sister more reason to think her outlook on life was more appropriate than her sister who would presumably be viewed as being punished for her more optimistic and open view on life thus scaring her into an existence of fear and seclusion. While I’m not sure 47 Meters Down is the type of film that necessarily wants to make its audience think about anything or even considers an idea to craft its main narrative around there is a sliver of a moral that tells the audience member not to do something just to prove you’re someone else to someone else. This would no doubt be the path Roberts would take were he questioned about the reasoning’s behind his character’s motivations and personalities-that we have to ultimately embrace our fears and that despite the fact they’ll test us they’ll eventually make us stronger-it would seem the actual lesson is the conservative, homely sister was right and we should all remain as guarded as possible. People don’t go to movies like this for life lessons though, and thankfully 47 Meters Down doesn’t make a point to dwell on its half-baked ideas, but rather on the climactic moments it earns and the brutality that is served up in the final moments paving the way for a surprising, fairly tragic, but satisfying close to a surprisingly satisfying experience.

I love movies, simple as that. I watch them with an intent to write about them and have always enjoyed discussing the latest news and releases with others. I received a Bachelor of Arts in Writing and Mass Communications/Digital Filmmaking and combined those interests when I began writing about cinema. Hope you enjoy the reviews, Happy reading!

Movie Reviews

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again ★★★★

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Released: 20th July 2018

Directed By: Ol Parker

Starring: Lily James, Meryl Streep, Cher, Christine Baranski, Amanda Seyfried, Julie Walters, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgard

Reviewed By: Darryl Griffiths

The iconic Swedish pop group said ‘Thank You For The Music!’. An overjoyed studio said ‘Thank You For The Box Office!’.

Sure. Pierce Brosnan singing ABBA’s SOS had a hint of the Borat (Sorry Sacha!) about it. But the summer of 2008 bared witness to a cinematic juggernaut in ‘Mamma Mia’, a jubilant jukebox musical whose sense of joy and fun proved irresistible for audiences. Considering life’s too short. Ten years on we return to the sumptuous setting of Kalokairi Greece with ‘Here We Go Again’, as the sequel fleshes out the timeline, remaining keen to create more cinematic memories.

Content with her unorthodox triple father situation in Harry (Colin Firth), Bill (Stellan Skarsgard) and Sam (Pierce Brosnan). Sophie’s (Amanda Seyfried) fierce determination to honour her mother Donna’s (Meryl Streep) dream of renovating her surroundings into a lavish hotel, coincides with the severe turbulence she’s enduring in her ongoing relationship with Sky (Dominic Cooper).

Increasingly doubtful of her own capabilities. The dynamo duo of Christine Baranski’s Tanya and Julie Walters’ Rosie look to bolster her confidence by delving into Donna’s past, as Lily James’ enthused younger incarnation of the character guides us through her eventful youth with the dungarees intact, reliving her initial encounters in 1979 with Sophie’s dads (Hugh Skinner/Jeremy Irvine/Josh Dylan).

Previously unapologetic in its ramshackle charm and high camp. Director Ol Parker to much relief resists applying restraint to its energetic, big-hearted song and dance numbers, whilst technically and narratively tightening up the deficiencies that perhaps plagued its 2008 counterpart for the purists, with a sharper focus on emotional engagement. As a result, it may not be as quick to overwhelm us with its blindingly sunny disposition like its predecessor, occasionally labouring in its first half with its time-hopping.

Yet when those glorious highs arrive like a new take on ‘Dancing Queen’ and Cher’s stellar firework-heavy rendition of ‘Fernando’, whose cameo evoked hearty cheers in the screening i was in. They are now armed with a poignant and reflective slant, reinforcing the ingenuity in how these timeless songs are integrated into the framework, in order to offer fresh interpretations.

Lighting up the screen as a young Donna Sheridan. Lily James captures the carefree spirit and mannerisms of the character superbly, proving a solid counterpart to Meryl Streep’s original performance and Amanda Seyfried’s Sophie in the singing stakes. Speaking of Streep, much has been made about her (lack of?) involvement in this follow-up. Without slipping into spoiler territory, her gorgeous screen moments this time around epitomise why many fans deemed her an instant hit in the first film. Elsewhere, Christine Baranski and Julie Walters continue to provide fantastic farce, stealing much of the script’s zingy dialogue whilst Andy Garcia’s enigmatic hotel manager is a disarming and dashing addition.

It may not have been a sequel we were warming up the vocal chords for. Yet in striking a killer balance between emotive and euphoric. ‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again’ is a truly wonderful follow-up that brims with sincerity and show-stopping splendour.

Dig out the spandex and unleash your inner ‘Super Trouper’…

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Featured Review

Hotel Artemis ★★★

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Released: 20th July 2018

Directed By: Drew Pearce

Starring: Jodie Foster, Charlie Day, Sofia Boutella

Reviewed By: Van Connor

Iron Man 3 alum Drew Pearce makes his feature directorial debut with this slick future-set actioner – evoking the neon-tinged hyperbolic aesthetic of John Wick and applying it to a more stripped-down set-up akin to Joe Carnahan’s strangely forgotten Smoking Aces. Hotel Artemis sees the eponymous underworld hospital of the future come under siege by forces both outside and in, with a who’s-who of “hey – it’s….!” figures to bring its gleefully vitriolic war well and truly to life.

On Pearce’s part, Hotel Artemis knows its own playbook pretty well – tense action beats are played with coherence but don’t skimp on imagination, and the staging of it all is first rate. Jodie Foster, meanwhile, leads an engaging cast that includes a wonderfully sleazy Charlie Day, the brilliantly deadpan Sterling K. Brown, and an amusingly in-her-comfort-zone Sofia Boutella. It’s best to keep as much of its casting a surprise as possible, but there’s tons of fun to be had via mere cast reveals to keep proceedings engaging.

On the action front, though, it is strange that Hotel Artemis feels as subdued as it does as regards its own sense of internal rage. Whilst far from a bloodless PG-13, Pearce’s film never quite embeds itself as much in the hyperviolence of its world as you’d expect, or, rather, hope. It’s certainly no John Wick in that sense, and, though there is a decent share of world-building to kick things off, it’s quickly evident that this element of restraint is self-imposed by Pearce’s writing, rather than a by-product of now requisite franchise-creation. Hotel Artemis, incidentally, could easily garner itself a cheap and cheerful sequel or two, were there somehow a demand.

On the back of this pretty solid ninety minute actioner, that’s absolutely a consideration. The world it builds is fleshed out enough to intrigue, the cast are game for an intriguing balance of quirk and creepiness, and Pearce steps up to the director’s chair with unbroken confidence and a comic book sensibility that takes him deftly to the finish line. Stoker cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung astonishes as ever, and, while not his showiest work to date, Cliff Martinez’s score fleshes out the bonkers world of Hotel Artemis nicely.

Best aimed at those looking for another round of Smoking Aces-grade action – though, without quite the same singular ferocity – Hotel Artemis is a nice bit of bullet-laden fun with a lively cast and some slick visuals. It’ll never be one of the iconic points on the timeline of action cinema, but it’s a worthy stop-off on the way between the ones that are.

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Movie Reviews

Skyscraper ★★★★

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Released: 12th July 2018

Directed By: Rawson Marshall Thurber

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Neve Campbell

Reviewed By: Van Connor

Be honest. Sooner or later, you knew The Rock was going to make Die Hard. It was inevitable. As he ascends higher and higher thought the upper echelons of the – increasingly spartan – Hollywood star system, this was always going to be coming. The only question really, was going to be whether or not it was going to be either any good, or even welcome in a world in which even a bonafide Die Hardsequel now typically ranks among the worst of whichever year it’s released in.

Alas, Dwayne Johnson is no Bruce Willis, and that quality control barrier could not be any clearer as Die Hard meets The Towering Inferno – with a dash of The Fugitive – for Skyscraper. Rawson Marshall Thurber’s adrenaline-fuelled ride takes DJ to China as amputee and former FBI tactical agent Will Sawyer, an American tasked with signing off on the security of The Pearl – the tallest building in the world. When terrorists seize The Pearl, however, Sawyer finds himself the subject of a Chinese manhunt and forced to find a way back into the building in order to save his wife and children from not only the terrorists seeking to fulfil their own agenda, but also to the out-of-control blaze that threatens to consume them all.

Johnson’s played in the sort of arena on more than a few occasions now, with Skyscraper arguably skewing closest to San Andreas as regards the sort of tone and polished spectacle you’re in for. There are some offhand nods to more classical genre archetypes – hell, it makes more Die Hard references than Jake Peralta – and there’s the requisite degree of fistbumping and utilisation of the term “brother”, but those still unsure of what to expect can rest easy on the promise of what’s essentially an Irwin Allen movie with a Neal Moritz sensibility. It ain’t clever, it doesn’t want to be, it just wants you to sit on the edge of your seat and then cheer afterwards. Which you will. A lot.

Neve Campbell brings an impressive amount to what’s an already impressively sketched out female supporting character in Sawyer’s wife (take notes, Bedelia – that’s how you handle hostage takers), and Pablo Schreiber (Orange is the New Black) continues to make for an engaging added value element. Roland Møller, meanwhile, makes for a decent enough villain, but lacks the charisma needed to really sell the ludicrously named Kores Botha as much of an evil mastermind. Sure, he was never going to rival Hans Gruber on the scale of action movie villains, but Botha’s so thinly devised as a villain that he’s not up to the grade of Tommy Lee Jones’ Under Siege villain either. And that’s a real detriment when your action hero lead is someone as genuinely charismatic as Dwayne Johnson. Both Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Joe Manganiello took the wrong Rock movie, would be a decent takeaway.

In lieu of a captivating villain, Thurber nonetheless ensures value for money is had with a barrage of spectacle-fuelled set-pieces the likes of which will have you squirming in your seat biting your fist for dear life – IMAX could well inspire a sense of vertigo with this one. It’s a glossy-looking actioner – thanks to some smooth production design and slick visuals from cinematographer and Mission: Impossible alum Robert Elswit – and fight choreographer Allan Poppleton goes above and beyond to stage Johnson’s antics not as the all-powerful action commando, but a credible fighter dwarfed by the spectacle of what’s up against him.

It’s a good time for all. Sure, it’s in no way destined to become an enduring classic of the action genre – though, the spoilerific marketing campaign does well and truly show off what will become one of this summer’s more memorable movie moments – but it’s Die Hard on fire. With The Rock. In 2018. And if there’s an easier sell for a good time at the movies than that, it just means Dwayne Johnson has another movie out. In which case, still see Skyscraper first.

 

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