True Story

Yes or No_ (30)

More based on a true story action in the form of this murder mystery starring a man I want to cuddle and a man I want to slap the shit out of.

Let’s see if you can tell which is which from my words.

“I just called…”

True Story (2015)

When disgraced New York Times reporter Michael Finkel meets accused killer Christian Longo – who has taken on Finkel’s identity – his investigation morphs into a game of cat-and-mouse.

Starring: James Franco • Jonah Hill • Felicity Jones

Michael Finkel (my boo Jonah Hill) is a promising NY Times journalist with ten cover stories to his name. He’s riding high and expecting a Politzer nom when he’s called into his boss’ office to discuss his last story – an expose on modern slavery.

Unfortunately, rather than picking up a prize, he’s soon clearing his desk when it becomes obvious he may have embellished quite a lot of the story. Claiming he must have got mixed up, his bosses believe he’s used a composite character as the focus of the article. Breaking the rules of Journalism 101, you naughty boy.

Returned from NYC back to his wife (Felicity Jones) and home in Montana, Finkel is finding it predictably difficult to find work, given the accusations leveled at him. But things pick up when he receives a call from the editor of The Oregonian, asking for a quote on the Christian Longo story. Longo (eternal douche pony James Franco) stands accused of murdering his wife and three children – and is in clink awaiting trial.

Franco was not a fan of Christa Bass’ NY Times article, “Ten Things I Hate About James Franco”.

Well, Finkel apparently doesn’t keep up with news these days as he has no idea about the case. When he asks the caller why he should have a view on the story, he is told that when arrested, Longo was pretending to be Michael Finkel. Of the New York Times.

Oooooh!

What follows is a bizarre friendship blossoming between the two men, who figure they have more in common that they could ever have imagined. And Finkel’s career looks set to take an upturn when he decides to make Longo’s story into a book – one that the pair will write together.

The main question throughout True Story is – did Longo do it though?

Well, I won’t reveal the ending but I will say that the relationship between the men is complex and it puts a strain on Finkel’s marriage to Jill. Jill obviously can’t get her head around the need to understand the inner workings of a(n alleged) killer’s mind.

“No way is Franco coming over for tea…”

Finkel wants to believe in his new friend but Longo isn’t always frank and there are some curve balls thrown on the way to uncovering the ultimate truth…

Well. This is kind of dull really, though the story itself if quite explosive. What a shame. Jonah can’t be blamed for this one as he puts in a solid turn as disgraced journo Finkel who looks super cute in his glasses.

I am biased towards Franco, I can’t deny it but he really phones in this performance. I get as a character he’s quite closed off to the truth but he just looks smug the whole way through. I guess in some ways this does work for the character, who shows little remorse or feeling throughout, but a little bit of nuance would have been nice.

The women in this film are just side pieces – supporters and victims – and that’s quite annoying. The result, without proper padding of the relationships of the men, is rather flat.

There are flashbacks to happier times for Longo and his wife MJ (Maria Dizzia), with devoted father montages threaded throughout but these are just aftershocks and don’t fully paint a picture or a motive. Therefore you never really give a damn about either of the men but Longo even less.

It’s not bad, it just doesn’t have the oomph I would have liked.

⭐⭐⭐ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What does my girl Jill think of True Story? Would she lie to it or write a book about its innocence? Find out here.

The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer

The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer is a book I read a lot when I was a teen. I was thrilled to find a copy in HMV the other day when I also bought Rosemary’s Baby in a delicious 2 for £5 offer. I re-read it over last weekend and found it just as sinister and creepy as ever. I think I had forgotten just how sexually active our Laura was and now I’m older I must say it makes me feel uncomfortable to be privy to the way she’s exploited.

Female sexuality aside and her right to autonomy over her own actions and body, she’s such a vulnerable character let down by so many people around her.

The diary is a companion piece to the series’ and film, and fills in some of the blanks around the mystery of Laura’s murder. Sort of.

I never really picked up on any clues back in the day but they are there. The diary itself doesn’t appear until episode 4 in Season 2 of the show. I read it with sadness and despair, the latter of which is an emotion that escalates in Laura from an incredibly young age.

From 12 to 17 she’s tormented by visits from BOB, a presence that takes great pleasure in humiliating and torturing her. At night he takes her to woods and does unspeakable things to her, leaving her frightened to sleep at night.

As she reaches puberty and discovers sex and drugs, she is able to numb herself against some of the trauma but at a price. Her antics further alienate her from her best friend Donna, her parents, her peers – and as she gets in with some deeply unsavoury characters – namely Leo Johnson and Jacques Renault – and gains employment at One-Eyed Jack’s – she begins to spiral out of control.

Sadly we know what happens to Laura (her fate is revealed in the first episode of Twin Peaks) and it’s heartbreaking to witness the demise of such a young woman with so much to offer the world. She is such a greatly complex character and as mesmerising to read as she is watch onscreen.

This is a book that could be triggering to some. At times it is extremely explicit and does allude heavily to the abuse Laura is routinely subjected to. When I read it as a teen I thought I was so edgy reading about sex but as an adult, I am far more aware of the darkness inside this character and of the injustice of it all. It’s really upsetting.

I’m on a massive Twin Peak revival tip at the moment and I’m currently plowing through the TV show at a rapid pace. I’ll be revisiting it on this very blog in the coming weeks. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time with Laura, once of my favourite fictional characters of all time.

Book details:

The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK (8 Dec. 2011)
ISBN-10: 9781849838627
ISBN-13: 978-1849838627
Bought paperback (new)

What are you currently reading?

Suspiria

Suspiria (2018)

While I half fucking loved this and half hated it, I do believe this is one of the most interesting films of the year and therefore a success in my eyes. The remake of Dario Argento‘s 1977 original is completely different to its counterpart, in style and in conclusion but it’s still beautiful and grating.

I can safely say that Suspiria (1977) is one of the most unpleasant viewing experiences I’ve ever had and yet it will stick in my mind forever. Much like a lot of Argento’s imagery – but this version is not by Argento so let’s park him here.

Directed by Luca Guadagnino (most recently of Call Me by Your Name), Suspiria Reloaded is also an acquired taste. The film follows ambitious dancer Susie (Dakota Johnson) to a world-renowned (and freaky deaky) dance company and as she settles into the flow of the place, under the stern eye of Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton), shit starts to get weird. Like seriously weird and at times incoherent and psychedelic. It’s really better if you just watch it and draw your own conclusions.

There are moments of sheer horror that have stuck with me (looking at you bendy woman in the mirrored dance studio) but there are also parts that feel really flabby. I’m referring to the story arc belonging to Dr. Josef Klemperer (also played by Swinton), a grieving psychotherapist with a missing wife.

I guess the novelty of Swinton playing multiple characters (she also appears as Helena Markos) is interesting but it also jars on me. I wondered why I couldn’t connect to Klemperer before I knew it was Tilda in prosthetics and now I understand it. Dakota Johnson does a decent job as Susie Bannion but there are a couple of scenes I think don’t work for her. Mia Goth meanwhile is lovely, commanding attention whenever she’s onscreen.

Again, it’s definitely worth a watch if you’re a fan of horror, even if you’re not because there’s a lot to love here. It’s odd and abstract and compelling for the most part – and I most definitely need another viewing.

⭐⭐⭐½ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Have you seen Guadagnino’s Suspiria? What are your thoughts?

Hold The Dark (Film) Review

Jill and I have settled on a Free for All month for November because December will most likely be Shit Christmas TV Movies month. Look, we’re not machines and thinking of themes every month is hella difficult. So movies from our wish lists it is.

My pick this week is by one of my favourite directors and the screenplay is by Macon Blair so colour me pretty excited. Continue reading

The Most Assassinated Woman in the World (Film) Review

Or La femme la plus assassinée du monde (original title)

Not much preamble today but I will say this. This film is very French and very confusing. Beautiful though.

*Minor spoilers*

The Most Assassinated Woman in the World (2018)

IMDB Synopsis

Paula Maxa is the Parisian Grand Guignol Theatre’s leading lady, famous for being murdered on stage every day. But is there a link between the theatre and a series of gruesome real-life murders?

My Review

Um. Let’s not rely on anything I say here in this review, I may well have the wrong end of the stick. Paula Maxa (Anna Mouglalis) is a beloved by some, hated by a lot actress at the Grand Guignol Theatre in good old gay Paree. She’s been slaughtered on stage more times that she’s had hot dinners and relies on stage-hand Paul (Jean-Michel Balthazar) to make it look as real as possible.

The theatre itself is run by some right oddballs who seem to have a very bizarre arrangement in place. Although the shows they put on nightly seem to do alright there is a very real threat on the horizon: the birth of cinema.

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Rattle dem bones

When journalist Jean (Niels Schneider) arrives to interview Paula, a friendship is formed and there’s possibly something more a-brewing, though our girl is rather closed off. Via Paula’s own mouth we learn about the terrible secret that haunts her – the very driving force that keeps her screaming night in, night out. Meanwhile, there seems to be a plot to turn Paula over for real to a mysterious gentleman who might have a connection to her past… What the devil is that all about?

TMAWITW is gorgeous looking. It seems to capture the time period perfectly. All the costuming is wonderful and Paula’s supporting actresses are a lot of fun. Mouglalis is soulful as Paula, a haunted woman with a sad story, one that revolves around the death of her sister at the hands of a very bad man – and her inability to do anything to save her.

Guilt is a powerful emotion and it eats at Paula, who stays at the theatre as some sort of penance. Here she can scream as much as she likes, something she failed to do to save her sister’s life. When Jean arrives to offer her a way out, she’s torn. Can she leave this place and make it in Hollywood?

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Oggly boggly

The ending is a little bit confusing, I won’t lie. But it doesn’t really matter. It didn’t spoil my enjoyment of this movie, which has some suspenseful moments and really is wonderfully OTT. The murders on stage are gloriously bat-shit and the audience laps it up. They come complete with bibs to capture the splashes of blood that coats everything around them.

Ooh la la!

My Rating

3/5.

What does my leading lady think of this one? Would she beg it for an encore or slit its throat? Find out here.

A Simple Favour

A Simple Favour (2018)

*Minor spoilers*

This film is by far my favourite lately, if not all year – and there have been a pile of really good films so far. It just appeals to my bitchy nature with its zingy dialogue, incredible appearance and genuinely tense thriller vibe. It will be hard to talk about this without dropping #spoilers so I’m going to remain as enigmatic as possible – just like Blake Lively‘s mysterious Emily Nelson.

Stephanie Smothers (Anna Kendrick) is a slightly irritating mommy blogger who one day meets and befriends the chic and charismatic Emily Nelson at her son’s school. The two quickly bond over martinis and secrets. One day, however, Emily calls Stephanie for a simple favour – to pick up her kid while she deals with an emergency.

The most glamourous staring contest of all time had just begun

Days later and no sign of Emily, Stephanie is forced to contact her husband Sean (Henry Golding again), who is in the UK tending to his ailing mother. The two of them become closer as they try to work out what happened to Emily – and let me tell you I’ll probably have to stop myself here just to be safe. Let’s just say that Stephanie’s secrets aren’t the only ones out there – what could Emily’s be?

The story unravels via a series of vlogs put together by Stephanie whose views increase tenfold the more she updates her audience on the Emily case. This is a play on the ‘screen life’ format most recently used in Searching and I think it’s really fresh, although it doesn’t all play out on screen, we also visit present time and flashbacks to build up the story.

I must say that I went into this knowing I’d be impressed but not really knowing what to expect – Paul Feig‘s filmography contains a lot of broad comedy which I love but didn’t expect in this movie. Which I was right about, the humour is pitch black and sharp AF but it’s more sophisticated than usual.

Same, Anna. I’d be the same

Blake and Anna have never been better than here. They look great but they bounce of each other so well and the dialogue they’re given to play with made me cackle throughout. There’s a scene in which Stephanie confronts Emily’s fashion designer boss that was priceless and an excellent showcase for Kendrick’s comic timing.

Helen and I left the cinema just saying “Wow” to each other dozens of times. It’s just done very well and hopefully, along with the aforementioned Searching, will pave the way for more smart arse thrillers, I feel like they might be having a moment.

As for the costuming, don’t think I’m going to sign this off without swooning over both women’s wardrobes. More so Blake who rocks sharp tailoring like nobody’s business. Is there anything sexier that a woman in a well cut suit? I think you’ll find not. Anyway, I’m quite prepared to spend more time in the theater re-watching this movie because it’s bloody great and exactly what I wanted.

There’s a crafter in my kitchen what amma gonna do?

Whatever you do, go see this.

My Rating

5/5.

Searching

Searching (2018)

This morning I learnt that there’s a name for films using this all-on-the-screen format and it’s “Screen life”. So not only is this an interesting film, it’s also been highly educational. Kinda.

Anywho, Searching is a very tense thriller in which David Kim (the gorgeous John Cho) fights tooth and nail to find his daughter Margot (Michelle La), who has mysteriously disappeared. As he picks at the threads of her life, he realises he barely knows her at all – which doesn’t help when he’s expected to unravel the truth about what happened to her.

With the help of determined Detective Vick (Debra Messing), David delves deeper into Margot’s social media account, messages and emails to paint a picture of where his daughter might be – and who she really is.

I really enjoyed this though I will admit to getting an inkling of the truth half way through. That said it makes you doubt every character you come into contact with, even David himself. And while it centers around Margot’s disappearance it also sets up their relationship really well. The beginning is genuinely touching and gave me the feels not ten minutes in.

I’m trying very hard not to hone in on any of the details for a reason but this was impressive and the screen life format kept my interest throughout, much as it does in Unfriended. I think it might get tired quicker than found footage but here it successfully builds up suspense – and makes you want to upgrade your five-year-old acer laptop for something quicker and shinier (just me?).

My Rating

4/5.

Skyscraper

Skyscraper (2018)

IMDB Synopsis

A father goes to great lengths to save his family from a burning skyscraper.

*Spoilers*

This film does exactly what it says on the tin. Dwayne Johnson is Will Sawyer, a security expert (with a past) who is currently consulting in Hong Kong for ambitious Zhao Long Ji (Chin Han) on the tallest skycraper in the world. It really is well tall.

His family are with him and staying in a luxury suite in the as yet not open Pearl tower. Sarah (super babe Neve Campbell) is a former military nurse and the couple have two adorable rugrats, Georgia and Henry (McKenna Roberts and Noah Cottrell).

All is looking good until über-villain Kores Botha (Roland Møller) decides to fuck shit up and Will is forced to rescue his loved ones from the burning skyscraper, while also being accused of the terrorist act in the first place. What’s a guy to do though but roll up his sleeves and scale the building?

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It’s ridiculous of course but in the hands of The Rock it would be impossible not to enjoy the ride. Some of the lines are laugh out loud terrible and there is literally no realism to be had anywhere but that’s so overrated anyway.

The scale is awe-inspiring and the scenery looks great – so grab the popcorn and enjoy this bad boy for exactly what it is: pure, unadulterated, unabashed escapism.

My Rating

3/5.

The First Purge

The First Purge (2018)

IMDB Synopsis

After the rise of a third political party, the New Founding Fathers of America, an experiment is conducted, no laws for 12 hours on Staten Island. No one must stay during the experiment yet there is $5,000 for anyone who does.

*Spoilers*

So this is where The Purge began, huh? As an experiment introduced by rich white folk into a low income mostly black and Latino neighbourhood where the majority of residents can’t really turn down $5k (if they agree to stay home on Purge night), even if it could cost them their lives. Brilliant.

Marisa Tomei is The Architect, a psychology professor who came up with the idea of The Purge and brought it to fruition with the help of the New Founding Fathers of America. She swans about with a smug expression and swears down that it’s a good thing for society actually. Nobody’s really convinced of that, are they?

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Nya (Lex Scott Davis) strongly disagrees and isn’t afraid to make her voice heard above the buzz on Staten Island but is it enough to change things? Is it even enough to keep her younger brother Isaiah (Joivan Wade) from wading in on Purge night? I think you can guess the answer to that.

While she holes up with half the community in the local church to ward off attackers, Isaiah vows to seek petty revenge on deranged nemesis Skeletor (Rotimi Paul) on the streets. Meanwhile, the neighbourhood Big Dog, Dmitri (Insecure‘s Y’lan Noel) struggles with Nya’s rejection of everything he stands for (drugs/violence) and also with in-gang betrayal. All this before he’s even considered what’s going on outside.

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We all know how Purge night goes so you don’t need me to explain that, let’s just say that it’s going to be a long night for all involved and if I were there, I wouldn’t be there at all, I’d have been on the first bus off the island, before the experiment had even been announced. Nope, nope, nope.

Anyway, I went into TFP with zero expectation except maybe that it would look cool and I was pleasantly surprised. One of my movie buddies saw it and really hated it, so I went in expecting the worse. Lucky for me I have a high threshold for trash and a fondness for the franchise, and that helped. Plus, I think it did look cool and had something to say about White Privilege, the manipulation of the poor and America as we know it right now.

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Although this isn’t set in modern day, it does address issues that seem incredibly relevant today and some of the imagery (the KKK/Nazis/US Po Po) is chilling AF. It’s also interesting to watch The Architect lose her cool as the Purge participants react in ways she hadn’t anticipated and also lose control of her position of power over the NFFoA – who are not to be trifled with.

Will Dmitri find a way back into Nya’s good books and do right by his community? Will Isaiah make it through the night? And this crazy arse experiment can’t possibly become a thing, can it? (Lol).

Only one way to find out.

My Rating

3.5/5.