Posted in Film Review

One Mann’s Movies Film Review: Nerve (2016)

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With great internet power comes great irresponsibility. This is the premise behind “Nerve”, a film whose producers must have wet themselves with excitement that the Pokemon Go craze aligned so nicely with the release of their film. I was delighted that at last this summer there is a film with a modicum of originality I can enthuse about. 

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Don’t you just love this dream?

‘Vee’, short for Venus (Emma Roberts, niece of Julia Roberts) is an NYC teen living in the shadow of a family tragedy and the claustrophobic presence of her over-protective mother (Juliette Lewis, “Cape Fear”). Always timidly in the shadow of her best friend – the extrovert Sydney (Emily Meade) – Vee pooh-poohs Sydney’s compulsion with the new viral internet game ‘Nerve’: a social media ‘Truth or Dare’ (“but without the truth”) challenge game where you can either be a “Player” or a “Watcher”. In real time, Watchers set Players with challenges they have to complete for ever-escalating financial rewards… but “Bail” or “Fail” and you lose all. And “snitches get stitches”.

With their friendship at breaking point, Vee is provoked into playing the game by Sydney and teams with fellow gamer Ian (Dave Franco, younger brother of James Franco) – someone with a history that could bring Vee into great danger. However, Vee’s geeky wannabe boyfriend Tommy (Miles Heizer) is on the case….

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How the tables have turned. Sydney becomes a watcher.

What is so impressive about this film is that the screenplay by Jessica Sharzer (based on a novel by Jeanne Ryan) is genuinely original and is delivered with style and good humour.  Sure, you can draw parallels for any film with many other sources: in here there are traces of Hunger Games/Allegiance;  the “Simon Says” portion of Die Hard 3;  perhaps a soupçon of “Gladiator” and Schwartznegger’s “Running Man” in the mix. But this is a novel approach to a teen flick, bang on the topical money in bringing in the frenetically viral nature of social media and aspects of the ‘dark web’, cyber security and open source programming.

The film manages to generate significant credibility about the impact that a game like this would have among a teen audience. And there is a telling message in the finale: that it is easy to be a troll without responsibility hiding behind an internet ident, but when the masks come off and the message back becomes personal then your responsibilities as an individual human can come home to roost. 

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Didn’t your mother tell you NEVER to play on the railroad tracks? The gloriously named Machine Gun Kelly as Ty.

The film is delivered with style and verve as well, with innovative graphics (a great title and end title design) and an ‘augmented reality’ overlay of the action showing Players and Watchers across the city. Many of the challenges are executed really well, with a few seat clenchingly tense moments, particularly if you have a poor head for heights.

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Vee gets sucked in.

But with all this potential it unfortunately fails to be a 5-Fad classic, smelling at times of ‘B’ movie. Which is a great shame. Emma Roberts is fine at what she does, but at times I longed for the dramatic depth of a Shailene Woodley or Chloe Grace Moretz, with the scenes with the under-used but excellent Juliette Lewis rather highlighting this differential.

The otherwise excellent script is – for me – let down by a scene of male-on-female violence which I found both distasteful and unnecessary. And a coding ‘geeks shall inherit the earth’ moment towards the end is a little too glib for my liking. 

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Nice wheels mister. Vee and Ian show Nerve in getting to 60 in a built up area.

But overall the directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman (“Paranormal Activity 3” and “4”) have done a fine job with a $20M budget.  Regular readers of this forum may recall my use of the “BvS quotient” – the number of films that could be made from the budget of “Batman vs Superman”:  this one has a BvS quotient of 8% meaning you could make over 12 of these instead of the superhero dud. Yes please! Although if they had doubled the budget and rounded off some of the sharp corners, this could have been a true classic. It’s still recommended for a memorable movie experience though, and probably makes it into my draft movies of the year list so far. 

Fad Rating: FFFF.

Agree? Disagree?  Have your say in the comments section below!

(online web version).

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Posted in Film Review

One Mann’s Movies Film Review: Allegiant (2016)

Allegiant poster

Shailene Woodley is one of my favourite young actresses.  Ever since she did that dramatic ‘crying-underwater’ scene in “The Descendents” she’s been someone to watch.  And, while it was another “Hunger Games” wannabe – “Divergent” was a good story, well acted and with good visual effects. 

Unfortunately the series has progressively gone downhill: “Insurgent” was poor but coherent; and now “Allegiant” is both poor and mind-numbing.

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Superman and Batman had done the usual with the city’s skyscrapers, but glazing contractor Four has time for one last snog before getting back to work.

After the revelations at the end of “Insurgent” Tris (Shailene Woodley), Four (Theo James), Christina (Zoë Kravitz), Peter (Miles Teller), Caleb (Ansel Elgort) and Tori (Maggie Q) defy Chicago leader Evelyn (Naomi Watts) and make a dash for escape beyond the Chicago walls to find those living beyond in the alleged wilderness. There they meet ‘Pure’ leader David (the ever-busy Jeff Daniels) and his acolytes. According to David, Tris is key to the world’s recovery.  But can he be trusted?  

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Tris and Four were keen on practising safe sex, but it was difficult to see how the extra safe condoms were ever going to work.

It is telling that every screenwriter in this series has been different, and this time Noah Oppenheim (from the similar “Maze Runner”) with Adam Cooper and Bill Collage (from “Exodus: God and Kings”) have the pen, but do little positive with it. Much of the dialog clunks onto the ground much like the leaden transports featured in the film. And some of the plot points are obvious beyond belief. No real spoilers here, but when one of the lead characters gets shot it was so blindingly obvious that it was about to happen that I audibly groaned with disbelief that the writers had so little respect for the audience.

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The dynamic team O’Haring it out of Chicago (geddit?).

As another example of bone-headed writing a nerve gas used in the film is so much heavier than air that it sits on the floor for minutes at a time. How will they ever escape in Chicago?  (Erm – climb up to a second floor perhaps?). Presumably everyone was OK since they only got a small dose… so were just ‘a bit’ brain damaged?  

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Miles Teller as the ever-reliable Peter.

The special effects are pretty ropey in places. Some of the green screen work (an early shot with Miles Teller in particular) is really poor. Just about nothing looks real.

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They’d been walking down Weston-Super-Mare beach for three days now but had still not reached the sea.

The director is Robert Schwentke (“Insurgent”; “Flightplan”; “The Time Traveller’s Wife”) but this doesn’t extend his reputation (apart from presumably with the studios, since poor as it is it’ll no doubt still attract an audience).

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Eyes down gents for a gratuitous cleavage shot. Fans of the shapely Woodley will be pleased to hear she has her own Ursula Andress/Dr No detox scene to enjoy.

Shailene Woodley does herself credit with the material she has and has chemistry with the hunk of the piece, Oxford-born Theo James. But she is far better than this stuff. Unfortunately, this series doesn’t end as a trilogy: she will be back again as Tris is “Ascendent” in 2017. But before then she has a starring role in Oliver Stone’s Edward Snowden biopic, so hopefully can prove herself there.

Fad Rating: FF.