READ THE WORLD – Denmark: The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen

Copenhagen Detective Inspector Carl Mørck has been taken off Homicide to run a new department for unsolved crimes and he’s not happy about it. Soon things get busy when his first case concerns Merete Lynggaard, a politician who vanished five years ago. Everyone says she’s dead, he thinks they’re right. But that might not be the case, and Merete’s time is running out.

It’s been a long time since I’ve read a detective thriller and The Keeper of Lost Causes did not disappoint. Carl is one of those typical cranky detectives who doesn’t work well with others, his colleagues don’t really like him but they still ask his advice on difficult cases, but he’s still a decent person who’s good at his job. It’s great to see bits of the case come together because as the reader you sometimes know more than Carl but you never get the whole story till the final chapters.

Carl Mørck’s department is in the basement of police headquarters and it’s just him and his assistant Hafez el-Assad. They’re an odd combination and provide some moments of humour. Assad is Syrian so he doesn’t always get how things work in Denmark but he’s never portrayed as stupid, in fact he’s a great help to the case, seeing things others don’t. It was really nice to see how Carl respected Assad’s religion, getting a floorplan of the station so Assad knew which direction to pray – the religious aspect of Assad’s life was so natural and just a part of him and no one made a big deal of it.

Assad is a very likeable character with some hidden talents, I enjoyed seeing him and Carl slowly start getting to know each other, each dealing with each other’s unusual habits and personal traits. Carl is definitely a character I didn’t like to start with but he grew on me, especially because he has a very dry sense of humour and is often brutally honest.

The Keeper of Lost Causes is a proper-page turner, there were revelations at the end of most chapters and a sense of desperation as the novel progressed as you learnt more about Merete and the horrible situation she’s in. 5/5.

REVIEW: The Purge: Election Year (2016)

purge election yearYears after almost taking part in Purge night himself, Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo) has become the head of security for Senator Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell) a Presidential candidate whose vow to end Purge night makes her a huge target.

The Purge: Election Year is grounded by solid performances from its central leads. Grillo and Mitchell have good chemistry and you can feel that their characters have had a solid relationship. The secondary characters who each try to survive Purge night but also end up helping Leo and Charlie along the way are pretty one-note but likeable enough. Laney Rucker (Betty Gabriel) is one of the more interesting characters as she’s a volunteer paramedic who offers her services while the regular paramedics don’t venture out on Purge night.

When it comes to the fight scenes they are often chaotic and hard to follow, you could say this is a stylistic choice or it could just be bad filmmaking. The film tends to get away with it whenever there’s a gun battle or a chase scene but when it’s a one-on-one fight that’s when things become confusing.

The Purge: Election Year tries to say a lot about socio-political themes that are very relevant to today while still having a lot of gore and violence. It doesn’t always work and it’s pretty heavy-handed at times but it is interesting.

The Purge: Election Year keeps the tension and surprises but it does feel very similar to but not as good as its predecessor, The Purge: Anarchy. 3/5.

REVIEW: The Invitation (2015)

the invitation movie posterWill (Logan Marshall-Green) and his girlfriend Kira (Emayatzy Corineadli) are invited to his former home by his ex-wife Eden (Tammy Blanchard) and her new husband David (Michiel Huisman) for a lavish dinner party. But as the night progresses, Will can’t help but feel that something sinister is in the air.

The Invitation is a gripping and eerie film. You see everything from Will’s point of view so like him, you start to get the feeling that something is not quite right. The people gathered at the dinner party are mostly old friends who haven’t really seen each other for two years meaning there’s a lot of information about them that Will doesn’t know.

Throughout the film, there’s flashbacks and characters take moments to have private conversations which gives you all you need to know to piece together how all these people know each other and why they might not have talked for two years. The Invitation definitely doesn’t talk down to its audience which is much appreciated.

The Invitation is a film that slowly builds the tension. This is great as through the evening Will tries to fight his fight-or-flight instinct as he wants to be a polite guest even though he can’t help but feel something is very wrong. However, the film struggles to find that line between being a slow-building, interesting film and just being slow. You have an uneasy feeling and are just waiting for the other shoe to drop. It’s a long wait but when that shoe does finally drop, it’s a great payoff.

The Invitation is suspenseful thriller, set primarily in one location. It gives you a creepy feeling and will definitely make you reconsider when you next receive a posh invite to a dinner party. 4/5.

REVIEW: Money Monster (2016)

COL_BILL_TEMPLATE_21Financial TV host Lee Gates (George Clooney), his producer Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts) and the entire TV crew are put in an extreme and volatile situation when irate investor Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell) takes over the studio with a gun and a bomb.

Money Monster looks into the human cost betting on Wall Street has and how those who play with the figures don’t care while normal people don’t understand what it all means. Kyle has lost everything and he’s now a desperate man who just wants answers. Every scene where he is on screen is intense as you’re not sure what he’s going to do next.

George Clooney does a brilliant job as the smarmy TV presenter who has stopped asking Wall Street the hard-hitting questions. He is rarely off screen and he goes from a nervous wreck to someone who will keep talking because that’s what he’s good at. While they rarely physically share the screen, Clooney and Roberts have an interesting relationship and a lot of chemistry as she sticks by him throughout the ordeal via his earpiece.

Money Monster is great because while it is often incredibly tense and thrilling it also manages to add dark humour to the precedings to give you brief moments to breathe. All the characters’ reactions to the situation are believable and they are all incredibly well-written. People will swear and shout and not hold back in a situation like this and it’s all there to see on screen.

Got to mention the women in this film. Patty is incredible. She’s the director of a popular TV show thrust in an incredibly unusual situation and manages to handle her entire crew and the police while chaos is all around her. Diane Lester (Caitriona Balfe) the woman who is forced to be the spokesperson of an investment company that’s under fire, is also competent and quietly badass. While them two are the main female characters, Bree (Condola Rashad) Patty’s assistant and Molly (Emily Meade) Kyle’s girlfriend also have moments to shine.

Money Monster does a brilliant job of combining thriller with satire and it’s always entertaining. 5/5.

REVIEW: We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)

we-need-to-talk-about-kevin-posterEva (Tilda Swinton) struggles to love her strange son Kevin (Rock Duer, Jasper Newell and Ezra Miller depending on age) due to the increasingly vicious things he says and does as he grows up. But Kevin is just getting started and is final act will be beyond anything anyone could imagine, and Eva struggles to deal with the consequences.

We Need to Talk About Kevin jumps in time between the present where Eva is trying to deal with the consequences of her sons actions and various points in the past as Kevin grows up. As the film progresses you slowly realise what it is that Kevin has done and why the community has turned against Eva.

The film is unsettling because you know something bad is going to happen and you’re just waiting for that moment. You’re also waiting for someone to take Eva’s concerns about her son seriously. Her husband Franklin (John C. Reilly) seems to miss all the times Kevin is acting up, instead he is the fun dad who plays video games with his son and gives him the benefit of the doubt.

The cinematography is stunning and with the eerie soundtrack, adds to the tension that slowly builds throughout the film between Eva and Kevin. Swinton and Miller have weird chemistry between them and both their performances are incredible. Really it is Swinton’s film and her performance is mesmerising, while Kevin is almost like this negative presence you feel at the back of your neck.

We Need to Talk About Kevin poses the nature vs nurture debate to the extreme. Should Eva have tried to understand and love her son more? If she did, would she have been able to stop him? Or was there something not right with him from the beginning and there was nothing she could’ve done? But if that’s the case, surely it’s still Eva’s fault for she is his mother and he came from her?

We Need to Talk About Kevin is a brilliant mix of family drama, thriller and horror, it’s an unsettling film to watch but it’s also compelling and you can’t look away. 5/5.

REVIEW: Bastille Day (2016)

bastille day film posterIn Paris, pickpocket Michael Mason (Richard Madden) becomes involved with a terrorist plot when he steals a bag, unaware that it contains a bomb. Tough CIA agent Sean Briar (Idris Elba) must find Mason and figure out the truth before the bad guys and the French authorities close in.

Bastille Day is quite a bit of fun. It’s fast-paced and having characters like Mason and Briar who are complete opposites forced to work together gives you some great odd-couple moments. The way their scenes are shot makes the most out of their height difference and body differences which adds to the awkwardness to their interactions.

Bastille Day is a fast-paced, action-packed film. It’s not got the most solid or original plot but you get pulled along for the ride so you don’t really notice. The action sequences in Bastille Day are definitely a highlight of the film. There’s a rooftop chase early on into the film that’s exciting and a close-confined and brutal fight in the back of a van you can actually follow what is happening. When the action pauses to pull the plot along, that’s where it struggles a bit.

One thing I did appreciate about Bastille Day (and any film that does this), is that whenever there are characters whose first language isn’t English, and since the films set in Paris there’s a lot of French characters, they actually speak in their own language when not surrounded by English-speaking characters and the audience has subtitles to read. It makes sense that one French person, talking to another French person would speak in French, not in English with a dodgy French accent.

It’s kind of a cheesy movie but Elba’s presence and charisma is what helps hold the whole thing together and makes it enjoyable. 4/5.

REVIEW: Midnight Special (2016)

midnight special posterRoy (Michael Shannon) goes on the run with his son Alton (Jaeden Lieberher) to protect him from the government and a cult that are drawn to the child’s special abilities.

Midnight Special is a great combination of science-fiction, family drama and a road-chase plot. At its heart is the relationship between and father and son, they have a believable bond for instance when Alton tries to reassure his father that he’ll be OK and Roy says he likes worrying about him, it is one of the most relatable sentiments for a parent or child.

The other key characters include NSA analyst Paul Sevier (Adam Driver) who believes Alton is not what the government nor the cult believe him to be, Lucas (Joel Edgerton) Roy’s loyal friend who will do anything to protect Alton and Sarah (Kirsten Dunst) Alton’s mother. Nearly all the characters have their time to shine though unfortunately Sarah seemed to be underwritten compared to her male counterparts.

The plot of Midnight Special is intriguing and full of suspense as Roy and Alton struggle to stay one step ahead of their pursuers and you’re never sure which would be the lesser of two evils between the government and the cult. The special effects are brilliant and always feel natural and grounded even when things are happening around Alton that are really abnormal.

Midnight Special is one of those films that you really should go into knowing as little as possible. It might not answer all of the viewers’ questions but that’s OK because the ride is wonderful and full of terrific and understated performances. 4/5.