A mind-bending Spanish psychological thriller with Penelope Cruz, which later was remade as Vanilla Sky, an ill-received American version with Tom Cruise and, bizarrely, Penelope Cruz again. I’ve watched this in a rather groggy state of mind after a poor night’s sleep, and the movie’s twists and turns definitely perked up my brain by the end of it all.
Another book club read, this time a crime novel by an author with a perfect crime writer name (imagine if she wrote romance instead; Forbidden Love, a new luscious bodice-ripper from Karin Slaughter).
The book is about a family destroyed by the unsolved disappearance of the eldest daughter, Julia Carroll, who went missing near her University of Georgia dorm when she was 19. Her father Sam became obsessed with his own investigation, retreating from the rest of his family and ignoring his two remaining daughters, and eventually committed suicide. Sam’s anguished diary entries introduce the central mystery, and serve as one of the three points of view used to tell the story.
This big-screen version of Stephen King’s 1,200-page doorstopper is not great, but solid enough, and considering the overall woeful track record of King film adaptations, it can be counted as a success. I haven’t read the book or watched the popular 80s mini-series with Tim Curry, but knowing King’s propensity to write and write and write and write some more, I gather that the screenwriters pruned away the verbiage and streamlined the novel to its basic story about a bunch of kids in a small American town who are terrorised by a creepy, cackling clown Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård). Actually, make it half of the story, as the filmmakers split the novel into two cinematic chapters, with the follow-up a certainty now that this movie has made a mountain of cash.
I’ve read quite a few John Grisham legal thrillers over the years. At their best, they’re tightly constructed, entertaining, compulsive page-turners you can’t put down. At their worst, they’re… well like this dud of a book.
It starts off rather promisingly. Our protagonist is Samantha Kofer, a young associate working in commercial real estate who loses her job at New York’s massive law firm after the financial crash of 2008. With hundreds of lawyers left unemployable, even non-paying internship positions are hotly contested, but eventually Samantha finds a pro bono opportunity in small-town Appalachia, where she’s to provide free legal aid to the downtrodden. There she meets Donovan Gray, a fearless lawyer crusading against the Big Coal, companies whose strip mining practices defile the land and poison the local population. Oh and he’s young and handsome too, though an estranged wife and kid put a damper on a potential fling.
A stark and powerful mystery thriller, with a mood of deep melancholy that stuck with me long after I’ve left the theatre. Part of it is the natural setting, the vast, silent wintry expanses of snow and forbidding mountains of Wyoming, where the story takes place. While beautiful in its own way, this desolate environment makes for a harsh life. Another part is the sorrow and desperation of the people who live on the edge of this wilderness, and the hard-hitting, ugly violence of some key scenes. And there’s the haunting, sparse score from Nick Cave and Warren Ellis.
Ah, Keanu Reeves. For a long time, I foolishly dismissed him as just a mediocre wooden actor, and I still consider his performance in Bram Stoker’s Dracula a crime against cinema. With time, I learned to appreciate his unique onscreen presence and a peculiar blend of masculine and feminine qualities; he might not have the greatest range but he’s a fantastic physical actor and in a right role, his performances are truly iconic. John Wick is one of those perfect vehicles for Reeves’ particular set of talents.
The title of this movie is rather misleading. It’s named after John Klute, a detective played by Donald Sutherland (who I’ve never seen onscreen as a young man before), but the character at the centre of the film is Jane Fonda’s New York call girl Bree Daniels. I guess “Klute” is a punchier name than “Bree”? Fonda received a Best Actress Academy Award for her role, and she absolutely owns the movie. As a thriller Klute is only mildly diverting, but it excels as a character study and a display of Fonda’s intelligent, fascinating tour-de-force performance.