Dark Horse (2015) Movie Review

Horse racing is very popular in some parts of the world, namely the UK and even in the US. Horse racing was actually the only sport you could place bets on in the US for a long time, up until 2018.

Imagine being told that you will be doing some betting at the next Cheltenham, year after year. For the US horse racing lovers, that must have been a nightmare. Fast forward to 2015, and they had something to look forward to, namely the movie Dark Horse.

Dark Horse – A Short Synopsis

Dark Horse is a documentary, or rather a movie based on a real story. A couple of friends, working class people, decided to pledge their weekly salaries, to create a bankroll and purchase a horse. They ended up saving enough money by saving for a period of a year and they bought a mare for 600 pounds. Then they searched for a stallion with any kind of racing genes or racing history and bred themselves a future champion. They called the horse, a colt, Dream Alliance.

Dream Alliance needed a trainer, as it was an inexperienced horse. They opted to find an expensive trainer as they have an inexpensive colt which needs someone with knowledge. The colt ends up becoming the pride of the people who invested in it, bringing them happiness and joy, if not a ton of money.

Dark Horse – A Story of Warmth and Joy

Dark Horse is a story which easily shows you what achieving personal goals means for a person, or in this case, many persons. The people in this movie are the real heroes, or rather, the story which makes you relate to the people and their experiences. The working class people are often forgotten and there are few movies which tell their stories as well as Dark Horse.

Even though the movie and the story of the horse, Dream Alliance, starts off as a business proposal and venture, it quickly turns into a very personal story, once the owners fall in love with the animal. This is not really a rags to riches story, even though they do win races very often, but it is rather a personal story combined with the cultural background of the working class people. The story is turbulent and prone to change, just like Dream Alliance’s career.

A Tale of Sports and Emotions

While it has lots of drama, as such a movie needs to have, it is also ultimately a sports story. Even though there are a lot of emotions going back and forth, the story ultimately tells a tale of sports and cheering, losing and winning. It does well in that regard, capturing the essence of sports.

If you want a good documentary/drama on horse racing, Dark Horse from 2015 is the right movie for you. If you also want an emotional ride, it is also the right movie for you. Get to know the working class, determination and horses, in this lovely movie.

Slow West: review

John MacLean’s Slow West is a PG-13 version of The Revenant, where the story is similar, but everything happens during a welcoming summer.

Jay Cavendish (Kodi Smit-McPhee), a naive but courageous 16-year-old Scottish boy goes on a journey across 19th Century frontier America in search of Rose (Caren Pistorius), the girls he loves, while accompanied by mysterious traveller Silas Selleck (Michael Fassbender). Determined to find his love, this educated and frail boy creates a rather interesting contrast between his idealistic concepts of how things should be and the savage and raw nature of how things are in reality.

Slow West Poster

As they journey west, the story that connects Jay and Rose unveils through carefully placed narrated stories and flashbacks of when they were back in Scotland. With a touch of surrealism, director John Maclean manages to focus on all characters just enough so that the story does not digress from the main plot. As a result there is purpose and emotion added to each of them, even the rough around the edges Silas. Beyond the story, there’s a lot more to be had; the brilliant cinematography keeps everything together, never breaking character and keeping the illusion alive – everything feels real and looks fantastic.

It is a love story (just the Testament of Youth is), but a tough one, as it all started from a friendship between the two where they did not share the same kind of love for each other. Rose loved him more like a brother, while he was madly in love with her and everything she did. A hopeless romantic and a bit too soft to survive in that time and age, especially on the other side of the pond. Even more so, he is faced with the cruel reality of the new world, where life can end in seconds and for reasons that don’t really make sense to him.

As the story progresses, we find out that the reason Rose left Scotland is somewhat Jay’s fault, and that makes his journey seem like an act of redemption or a result of guilt. Nevertheless his reasons seem pure and true, making Sillas want to help him because he wants too, not because he’s paid to.

Slow West

From the start we see that Jay is out of his element, as the film starts with him staring down the barrel of a gun and if not for the skills of Sillas, the journey would have ended fast. That’s what makes this a good story, it is slow enough for you to enjoy the story, but exciting just at the right time and for the right reasons to, with a hint of good life lessons especially for the young at heart. Here comes the twist, where we find out that Sillas is a bounty hunter and he is after Rose and her father John Ross (Rory McCann), who have a $2000 reward on their heads.

This as you can imagine does not end well, as in the final gun fight, Jay dies hit by Rose in the heat of things, a most regrettable accident as she does not realise what she’s done until the very end. A grim but honest ending to film that has all the good bits a western should have, and exceeds everything, just by making us think that True Grit is its brother.

Rise of the Guardians: review

The 2012 Dreamworks release of the adventure animation might have a pretty good cast and a story that everyone can relate to, but somehow Rise of the Guardians managed to flop the box office expectations and score an even 7 out 10 across the board.

Rise of the Guardians

Director Peter Ramsey did a great job in terms of how the animation looks, the art department being his main skill, but it is obvious that this is just his second attempt at directing. The story is good and it is building up to something, with conflicts and character dream-up along the way, but that is it. There is nothing special and more than anything, there’s nothing unpredictable. Everything just happens when and how you would think it would, so maybe it should have been marketed to a very young audience rather than try to accommodate everyone.

With Jack Frost (Chris Pine) as the main character, we follow his story as he fights evil as well as his greatest fear. He is seen evolving gradually as he joins North (Alec Baldwin), Tooth (Isla Fisher), Bunny (Hugh Jackman), and the very quiet Mr. Sandman, on their quest to stop Pitch (Jude Law) from bringing darkness over the world by getting kids to stop believing in luminaries. Pitch Black being the boogieman, thrives on fear and uses Mr. Sandman’s ways to give nightmares, instead of dreams, to children, slowly making them stop believing in North and all the others. This is important as the film shows us that it is a symbiotic relationship between them and the kids, and if the children stop believing in them, they stop existing.

The film does have a rather dark side, especially when focusing on Jack, as he is presented in a shroud of depressive loneliness. This does add some backstory about loneliness and being confused about who he is, something that all of them had to go through at one point, making it a key element that anyone can relate to. Therefore, if you look at it, it is a story about going from zero to hero, with Jack finding his purpose and reaching his potential, finally being able to become who he was meant to be.

Rise of the Guardians_scene

A breath of fresh air was that beyond the usual tales of Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, Sandman, and the Easter Bunny, the film adds a lot of interesting details. Such as the tooth fairies who collect teeth for the memories they hold, which just simply made sense to the story and did not seemed forced at all. But most of all, the visuals of the whole animation. The details of the characters and their respective worlds just shows how much work went into the making of this film. Unfortunately, like with every movie out there, just because it looks good, that does not make it good overall. Maybe it was the forced attempt to make everyone feel included by having a Russian North, an Australian Bunny, and so on. Or maybe it was the story that tried to be simple enough for children to understand, while at the same time creating complex sub-layers about finding yourself.

In any case, this is a must-see just to decide for yourself if it is one or the other. You will not be disappointed by the looks, the voices, sounds, and soundtrack, or the story in itself, but you might be hoping for more when you put them all together. In case you’ll be disappointed, go for a snippet of Wild tales, by Damián Szifrón.

No Escape: review

John Erick Dowdle managed to write and direct an unexpected action packed thriller. This film would have been the most underrated release of the year, if not for a few scenes that just ruin key moments.

While editing was done in such a way, that you won’t want to get your eyes off the screen, it results in you seeing the flaws that made this movie good instead of great. Nonetheless, being directed by the lesser known John Erick Dowdle, makes up for some of the wrongs and scores high for the effort.

No Escape

The movie is set in South East Asia, where Jack Dwyer (Owen Wilson) is relocating, along with his family, his wife Annie Dwyer (Lake Bell) and daughters, Lucy Dwyer (Sterling Jerins) and Beeze Dwyer (Claire Geare). As soon as they arrive in the new country, which is to become their home as expats, something does not feel right. They are not being picked up at the airport by the company, instead they have to hitch a ride to the hotel with Hammond (Pierce Brosnan) and Samnang (Thanawut Ketsaro), two individuals that prove to be very valuable to our protagonists later in the plot. With an eerie calm, the situation for Jack Dwyer and his family becomes more and more unnerving as nobody from the company he has come to work for has contacted him.

Next day, as Jack goes to find out what is going on, or at least to find a newspaper to give him some idea of what is happening. As he finally finds a newspaper, but which only has a 3-day old issue, he heads back to the hotel, only to find himself in the middle of a clash between police and protesters. He then makes his way back to the hotel, passing streets where inexplicable rioting, violence and looting is happening. As he reaches the hotel, he and his family find themselves trapped inside, with a mob of people surrounding the building. They then realise that the reason for the riots is the company that Jack came to work for, being hunted as a result. This is where the film makes you move to the edge of the seat until the final scene.

No Escape_scene2

Their first plan is to get out of the hotel, and in between trying to find one of his daughters that wandered off and trying to keep quiet while hearing and seeing people getting killed all around them, they manage to get to the roof. As it stops being a safe place, with a helicopter shooting from above and quite a few protesters breaking the doors down, they take a quick decision to jump onto the roof of a nearby building.

As they are being hunted, and the run moves into the streets and into the night, they try to find shelter at the US embassy. Which, after Jack gets a closer look, he realises that it is far from being safe, with everyone inside either dead or gone. Being spotted by a group of rebels, they try to lose them but end up being cornered. Here is where Hammond and his friend save the day, by getting them to shelter for the night, at the top of a brothel. Jack and Annie find out exactly why and how this whole civil war started, as well as giving them a hint of how to get out of this mess.

Next day, as they are found by rebel forces, Hammond and his friend die but manage to save and keep safe Jack and his family, who now know that they need to get to Vietnam, if they are to survive this.

As they finally manage to find their way along a river and into Vietnam territory, the film ends well for the Dwyer family. And although it was a story about how much one is willing to do in order to protect his loved ones, it might not be truly relevant for everyone out there. Finally, the movie would have scored so much higher if it wasn’t for the final scene, where suddenly the protesters understood English, something that did not happen for the entire movie until then (but if you watch Timbuktu, for instance, you will be truly astonished from start to finish).

No Escape_scene

Mr. Right 2015: review

A very appropriate RomCom for this day and age, with just enough action to keep everyone entertained and plenty of witty jokes and comebacks: this is what Paco Cabezas did with this title and he should be very proud considering that this is his first major project.

With Martha McKay (Anna Kendrick) being the girl that always falls for the wrong guy, she one night meets Mr. Right/Francis (Sam Rockwell) (this reminds us a little bit of Love and Mercy, romance and drama everywhere). Only he’s not really the Mr. Right. everyone refers to. He is a professional hitman turned good, killing the people that hired him instead of the targets. And you can see how good a plot that is when you see the first fight scene.

Mr. Right

Martha is a very quirky character and Anna Kendrick does a very good job at being just that, and with the hint of madness from Sam Rockwell, you’ll know why they are such a good match and why they’ve made this film work on so many levels. Sparks lights the fire between them, and while you would think someone would fall for a criminal, he casually tells her jokes that are actually true. When she later realises that, she gets to terms easier and that makes sense in a way – it is a film after all. Francis did not make it easy for her, being a very charming yet scary individual, he wins her with his fun personality and weird sense of honesty.

Their chemistry just feels so real which is what makes their relationship make sense, even if she’s a frail soul that just broke up with her boyfriend and he’s a cold blooded killer. The action in the film is what makes it even more original and what gives it that upper hand over other RomComs. It’s just like Seven Psychopaths, but one that you can go on a first date without being weird or anything.

Mr. Right_scene

It is not a film to go to and expect anything close to reality, the thread of the story often does not make sense and some things are just plain wrong, but do go and watch it if you just want to see something funny and easy to relate to. Your boyfriend is probably not a killer and your girlfriend might not be OK if you were one, but there are plenty of things to choose from that you’ll be able to relate to.

If you’re a fan of Tim Roth, he plays Hopper/Reynolds, a former partner of Francis, hired to kill him. He, as well as all the others, does a great job at playing his character, which fits him perfectly. Another plus for Orly Sitowitz, the man behind the casting for this film, something that many overlook, but deserve some appreciation on this occasion.

There’s a hint to know if you’re going to like it as the man who wrote it, also did American Ultra, which somehow seems similar and absolutely different at the same time. You can actually see the style and putting that together with the casting and the pretty decent directing, you’ve got something really good to see on your night out with dinner and a film.

Legend 2015: review

Legend is a pretty good film that could have been great, but isn’t because nothing really happens. Brian Helgeland, better known for Man on Fire and L.A. Confidential, did a good job adapting the book by John Pearson, into this film, but we all hoped he would have done a better job.

Legend Poster

With so much to work with and Tom Hardy in the leading role(s), it all seemed like the perfect recipe for what could have been a classic in a few years. Or maybe the British mafia isn’t as exciting as the American one.

As the film looks good, and it does have really good scenes, it is hard to tell if it was a lack of building the story up to something worth of a drama, or if it was just the editing to blame. Tom Hardy plays both Ronald and Reginald Kray, in this story about the famous identical twin gangsters of 1960s London. While this might sound like the wrong mix, Tom Hardy playing the Krays does not look or feel bad at all, not even during the scene where the brothers fight.

Legend 2015

While the film is about the Krays as gangsters, it does spend a lot of time focusing on their individual “romantic” relationships, rather than on the story that everyone wanted to see – the rise and fall of the Krays. With this in mind we are presented in detail with the relationship between Reggie and Frances Shea (Emily Browning), from start to finish, which seems to change the twin from the calm and calculated man into the violent and mindless gangster everyone thought he was.

In contrast, Ronnie was a medically declared psychopath with a very unpredictable personality, especially when he would not take his medication. Moreover, he was an open homosexual, a shocking thing to be in the 1960s, especially in the business of being a gangster. But everyone seemed to respect that, and whoever didn’t, they had to pay a painful price for it.

Brian Helgeland

The story goes back and forth between the separate lives of the Krays and their evolution as gangsters. Always having policemen Nipper Read (Christopher Eccleston) and Constable Scott (Joshua Hill) one step behind them, mostly thanks to Reggie. That until Ronnie decides to go after a rival gang, without any consideration for consequences, taking some of his own down along the way. This is the tipping point, where police take the lead with the help of Albert Donoghue, who turns from henchman to informant out of fear from the unpredictable Ronnie.

In the end, Emily Browning and Tom Hardy’s performances make up for the lack of a better told story. A gangster film should never be a “flat line” of events, even if it presents itself as a biography. Stories should be told with a bit more passion, otherwise there’s nothing to relate to or feel excited about. All in all, it is still a very interesting film and it does a good job of showing how organised crime had its hands in the right pockets, and how it almost managed to take over London.

Deadpool Review

Directed by Tim Miller and starring Ryan Reynolds as the lead actor, this action and adventure filled comedy lived up to the hype and then some.

By the time the film got released on the 10th of February 2016, the Deadpool marketing campaign managed to make this as famous as possible, definitely more famous than the actors we were all about to see on screen, and that includes Ryan Reynolds. What seemed like an eternity of trailers, promos, posters and what not, did not disappoint.

Deadpool_3

The plot is good and everything fits – a former Special Forces soldier works now as a hired mercenary, but for all the good reasons. He helps teenage girls by protecting them from stalkers and the likes. At one point, Vanessa Carlyle (Morena Baccarin), steps into the picture as they meet and fall in love at a local bar. Everything seems to be just perfect until a year later when Wade Wilson (also known as Deadpool) collapses, with further investigations showing that he has cancer.

From here on everything goes a bit dark, Wade tries to push Vanessa away, to stop her from getting hurt as his illness is getting worse. He is then approached by someone who offers him a cure in the form of an experimental project. Struggling to make a decision, he leaves Vanessa in the middle of the night and accepts to join this secret program.

He is then faced with the reality of the program which went beyond healing his cancer. Being tortured by Anged Dust (Gina Carano), Wade Wilson realises that this is a program designed to create super humans with the help of mutations. Being disfigured as a result of the experiment he is then faced with another challenge – that Vanessa will reject him – therefore leading him on a path of revenge against the people that did this to him.

Deadpool_2

With his newly acquired ability to heal from any wound and the self-appointed name of Deadpool he starts hunting down the ones responsible for destroying his life. As he comes to terms that he might need some help along the way, he persuades Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) to join him.  

As the movie ends with a very exciting battle, Deadpool is faced with the truth – there is no cure for his disfigurement. While Colossus tries to bring reason to the table, Deadpool still shoots Francis (Ed Skrein) ending the battle in a not-so-predictive manner. Although revengeful, the protagonist accepts his situation and reveals himself to Vanessa, who, although angry that she was made to think Wade was dead, is still very much in love with him and accepts him as who he is.

With all this in mind, the movie does a perfect job at keeping the audience laughing for the whole 108 minutes of it. A small surprise at the end lets us know that there’s going to be a second movie. And as we had hoped that this won’t disappoint, we are even more anxious for the next one. This was a movie that might change the superhero movies forever or create a whole new genre in itself. From the time of the first trailer until the end of the credits, the film checks all the boxes, making it a must-see even for those that are not a fan of the genre.

Deadpool_1

Cowboys & Aliens: review

Jon Favreau, mostly known for being one of the producers behind the Iron Man franchise, took the task of directing this film back in 2011. While Cowboys and Aliens sounds like a mix as good as ice cream and beer, this is not what the film is.

You can see that Steven Spielberg got his hands dirty on this one as the first thing you get to think about when the first alien show up, was E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. And it is a good familiar feeling that makes everything look more promising than the premise of the film.

Cowboys & Aliens

The movie starts with Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) waking up in the middle of nowhere with a wound that he can’t remember getting, much like anything else. With an out-of-this-world bracelet (for that time and place) that he cannot get off, he is soon found by a group of not very friendly individuals that he swiftly gets rid of by showing some very good fighting skills. He then heads to a near town where he seeks to fix himself up, luckily being discovered by a priest that helps him out.

Jake heads to the town bar, meeting Percy Dolarhyde (Paul Dano), the son of a very powerful and ruthless local on the way. Jake humiliates him in a dispute, but the altercation is interrupted by Sheriff John Taggart, who arrests Percy for shooting the Deputy (Brian Duffy). In the bar, Jake meets Ella Swenson (Olivia Wilde), but before she can help him remember who he is, the Sheriff comes in to arrest Jake, as he is a wanted man.

With Jake and Percy chained together and on their way to the County Marshall, the Sheriff is met by a party of men led by Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford), the boy’s father who is demanding that he gets both men into his custody. Then, a light is shown in the distance, and as it approaches everyone realises that they are demons (aliens) and that they do not mean well. A fight breaks loose and as people are getting killed and kidnapped by the demons, Jake realises that his bracelet is a weapon. This is when he manages to take one of the flying alien ships down and make the others scatter.

Cowboys & Aliens_scene

Next morning, a group of whoever is left alive gets together to track and find the demons, and release all of the people that got kidnapped. On the way, they are attacked by the former gang of Jake Lonergan and the demons as well. Ella gets seriously injured and most of the others flea, die or get kidnapped. As Jake tries to carry Ella back, they reunite with the group, only to be ambushed by a group of Native Americans. Assuming that Ella is dead, the natives throw her into the fire, only for her to come back to life unharmed, revealing the fact that she is an alien as well, from another planet that the demons destroyed previously.

As she unveils the story to everyone, they all join forces, including Jake’s old gang, in an attempt to destroy the demons and rescue the people that they have kidnapped. As everyone distracts them by drawing them out of their base, Jake and Ella sneak inside the mothership rescuing everyone who was left alive. But as the ship takes flight, Ella sacrifices herself in order to destroy any chance of them coming back to earth.

That sounds like a mouthful, but it is definitely a movie you have to watch, if not for the plot, then at least for the cast and for how good it looks, despite the weird mix between old and new. On the other hand, we also recommend you go one step further, onto the horror section, and watch It Follows by director David Robert Mitchell, and make a movie night marathon out of one of your weekends.

The Fundamentals of Caring: review

The Netflix exclusive, The Fundamentals of Caring, is proof again that the streaming service giant is heading the right direction, offering more and more original content across all genres.

This film was written and directed by Rob Burnett, the man best known for writing and producing the Late Night show with David Letterman. He did a great job of bringing to life a story with character and managed to stay on the good side of Drama and Comedy. While some might get a feeling of déjà vu, in connection to “Untouchable”, a movie with a similar premise, this film does a very good job of setting its own style look (just like Olivier Assaya does with Clouds of Sils Maria).

The Fundamentals of Caring

With Trevor (Craig Roberts) in the spotlight as a boy with duchenne muscular dystrophy that hides his true self in a sea of sarcastic and sometimes quite grim jokes, and Ben (Paul Rudd) as a writer turned caregiver after losing his son in a tragic accident, the movie portrays the evolution of their relationship. They both have certain things that they need to face, Trevor with his insecurities and the absence of a father, and Ben to accept that the death of his son was just an accident.

As the movie progresses, they find themselves on a road-trip, a previously impossible idea given the over-protective mother of Trevor, Elsa (Jennifer Ehle). Along their trip towards the “deepest pit in the world” their connection grows even stronger, but not without a few bumps along the way. Luckily, they keep running into Dot (Selena Gomez), a lone teen looking to get to Denver where she would start her new life, which mends the fences between the two with her “very honest” and blunt personality.

The Fundamentals of Caring_scene

Further along the journey they pick up Peaches (Megan Ferguson), a pregnant lady in distress whose car breaks down, forcing her to hitchhike, but fortunately meets the trio. She later gives birth with the help of Ben on the bottom of the “deepest pit in the world”, the same place where Ben reaches the end of his healing process regarding the loss of his son. Just before that, Trevor finally meets his father and realises that he’s not been receiving letters from him, but that these were only in his name and written by his mother. Finally, as Paul finds that the car following them was the worrying father of Dot, who was just trying to make sure that his daughter gets to Denver safely. She then leaves the group and lets her father drive her there as they figure out their own issues. All of this while things heat up between Trevor and Dot, with them even going on a date, boosting the morale of the trip and of Trevor especially.

What started as a buddy flick, progresses quickly into what has to be the best that Netflix released in terms of exclusive indie-like films. Paul Rudd, Craig Roberts, Selena Gomez, and Megan Ferguson, all do a great job of bringing the story to life, making their characters seem as real as possible.

Top films to expect in the summer of 2016

The summer of 2016 promises to be jam-packed with great titles, which we will watch over and over again even, why not, in the years to come.

Here is a list of the best releases in 2016:

The Big Friendly Giant (22 July 2016 – UK)

You can never go wrong when you hear the name Steven Spielberg, and this does not seem to be an exception. Telling the story of a girl named Sophie that encounters the Big Friendly Giant, Spielberg is set to make us connect with the child inside us once more. Similar to E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, with the story of a child that meets an unknown life form and forms a bond with it, this release is sure to warm our hearts.

The Big Friendly Giant

Jason Bourne (27 July 2016 – UK)

The franchise starring Matt Damon is a hit again, with a new iteration simply called Jason Bourne. A very simple but powerful marketing strategy that uses a very good insight: “you know his name”. With this release we will see Jason Bourne remember who he is as well as him trying to find the secrets of his past life. We only hope that it does not follow the path of so many sequels, by ruining a pretty decent run so far. After watching Jason Bourne, try on a few of the best mafia movies ever – Bourne will definitely help you get in the mood of those.

Jason Bourne

Suicide Squad (5 August 2016 – UK)

Another Comic Book movie, but this time everyone is excited from the start. It has been the focus of many ComiCons since the release of its first trailer, and while the story behind it might not be as popular to normal folks, it does seem to score high in popularity. That and the fact that it has quite a high profile cast (Margot Robbie, Cara Delevingne, Will Smith, Ben Affleck, Jared Let) makes it even more interesting. A must see for anyone who does and doesn’t love the genre.

Suicide Squad

Finding Dory (29 July 2016 – UK)

Finding Nemo is a classic already, and for good reasons to be so. It had everything you would want, no matter how old you were or if you even liked animations of not. Our only hope is that Pixar does what it always does: deliver. So we’ve saved our seats for what seems to be great fun, featuring the friendly and adorable Dory on her journey to find her family. And how could she not be, with Ellen DeGeneres doing her voice.

Finding Dory

Sausage Party (2 September 2016 – UK)

IMDb says that this is “an animated movie about one sausage’s quest to discover the truth about his existence”, and we believe them, especially after we’ve seen the trailer. There’s nothing more to add here as this just sounds insanely funny. Nothing too complicated, and no subliminal messages, just pure, simple, and uncensored comedy. Give blockbusters a break and give this a chance.

Sausage Party