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Posts Tagged ‘Ashleigh Walmsley’

Saw VI, 2009 – Movie Review

Posted by LiveFor on March 29, 2010

Director: Kevin Greutert
Starring: Tobin Bell, Costas Mandylor, William Easton, Samantha Lemole

This review by Ashleigh Walmsley

In 2004, writer and director Leigh Whannell and James Wan created Jigsaw, the inexplicable ‘saviour’ of all those who’ve taken their lives for granted. Little did they know, this creation would become one of films most memorable, and successful horror icons, spawning five sequels, a rollercoaster and merchandise to fulfil a horror fan’s wet dream. Five years down the line, and we have ‘Saw VI’ – helmed by editor-turned-director Kevin Greutert.

Picking up where the fifth left, ‘Saw VI’ follows Detective Hoffman (Mandylor), now rid of Special Agent Strahm and the only supposed successor to Jigsaw’s legacy, setting up – once again – a trap which will test the lives of certain hopefuls, all the while dealing with the FBI who, unbeknownst to him, have grown suspicious.

Being a fairly big fan of horror films – ranging from those raw classics released in the 70’s to the undeniably unoriginal dumbed-down remakes we’ve grown so accustomed to -, I’ve followed the ‘Saw’ franchise from the very beginning. I’ve watched it go from strength-to-strength-to-mediocre, and then hit the stumbling block, forcing the franchise to turn into a nonsensical array of brutal sequences, with almost no plot development – leaving the never-ending wrath of Jigsaw unexplained. The fifth was, undoubtedly, one of the most pointless horror films I’ve ever had a chance to come across. As far as I’m concerned, it’s not a typical ‘Saw’ film. So I, like many fans of the franchise, had lost all hope for the sixth entry, and to my surprise, it actually turned out rather good.

Despite it’s rather implausible premise, ‘Saw VI’ tackles Jigsaw’s latest ‘outing’ with a firm grip, opening the film with a memorable and sincerely sick sequence, and doesn’t let go until the final act where not all, but a partial piece of the plot from films one to four is explained. As Detective Hoffman deals with the FBI, we’re left with the poor souls stuck in the traps they’ve been left in, which – brilliantly – are some of the most creative and demented of the series (The Carousel Trap, especially, taking a more personal approach). Similar to the previous entries, the sequences involving Jigsaw’s cleverly thought traps are fantastically shot, building the intensity with every scream, all thanks to director Greutert. His clear enthusiasm, and understanding, of the franchise without a doubt helped ‘Saw VI’ – unlike David Hackl who, to me, had the potential to ruin it with the fifth entry.

I was also very surprised at the fairly unknown actors who starred. Costas Mandylor, William Easton, Samantha Lemole, and, of course, Tobin Bell (Despite his character, Jigsaw, having died three films ago). Despite suffering from a sometimes-undeveloped script, they each carried the film well. There’s even a surprise cameo by a ‘Saw’ favourite.

By no means am I saying the film is perfect, it’s not at all. But coming from how ‘Saw V’ left of, ‘Saw VI’ is a vast improvement. Returning to it’s original roots, Kevin Greutert has given us an entry into the series so promising that I’m surprisingly glad a seventh has been announced – and in eye-popping 3D! Lets hope Dr. Gordon makes an appearance in the, so-called, final chapter.

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Everybody’s Fine, 2010 – Movie Review

Posted by LiveFor on February 17, 2010

Director: Kirk Jones
Starring: Robert De Niro, Drew Barrymore, Kate Beckinsale, Sam Rockwell

This review by Ashleigh Walmsley

Based on the 90’s Italian drama ‘Stanno tutti bene’, writer-director Kirk Jones brings ‘Everybody’s Fine’ to the big screen, showing that De Niro is undeniably back – and in my opinion, on top form.

The story follows Robert De Niro’s character Frank, a recently widowed pensioner who, unbeknownst to him, has become distant with his four children – three of which are played by Hollywood hot-shots Drew Barrymore, Kate Beckinsale and Sam Rockwell. To connect these broken bonds, Frank decides to travel across America – disregarding his illness – to surprise each of his grown children and hopefully bring them back for a classic family Christmas. To his surprise, Frank’s children aren’t as ‘perfect’ as he always had hoped and expected.

The story of a disconnected parent(s) has been done many times before, and sometimes arguably better, but nobody can disagree that Jones’ writing is without wit or heart. Following De Niro’s character around America – something in which Frank has never done, thus giving him a somewhat child-like sense of adventure, is both entertaining and touching. Jones successfully emphasises this vulnerable character due to the situations we find him in and, overall, the truths we uncover about his children and their mysterious lives. And of course, De Niro himself helps bring this character to life. His performance is nothing short of terrific. He truly makes Frank incredibly easy to relate to and to feel sympathy for, which, therefore, makes it much easier to enjoy the chemistry he has between his on-screen children – Drew Barrymore, mainly.

Although their appearances are short, and have little script to work with, Barrymore, Beckinsale and Rockwell all bring something to their characters. A certain charisma which makes each one as likable as the next, which fits perfectly with De Niro. You could argue that Jones didn’t expand the relationship enough between Frank and his children, but the feeling of disconnection had to be felt even with the audience.
Although ‘Everybody’s Fine’ is written with care and passion, I can’t help but feel cheated with it’s predictably melodramatic finale. Too many films of it’s kind have ended leaving you feeling nostalgic and overly depressed. However, it did stay with me long after the credits began to roll.

In conclusion, ‘Everybody’s Fine’ left me pleasantly surprised. It’s definitely not perfect – the dream sequence towards to end of the feature became tedious instantly -, but Jones has written something so beautifully told and superbly acted that it’s hard not to like. Some may call it cliché and overly sensitive, I call it a touching and powerful dram-edy. Made completely worthwhile by the genuine performances and surprisingly stunning cinematography, ‘Everybody’s Fine’ is a film I can definitely recommend.

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