Tag Archives: Emile Hirsch

Freaks (2018) Movie Review By D.M. Anderson

Freaks Review

Directors: Zach Lipovsky, Adam B. Stein
Writers: Zach Lipovsky, Adam B. Stein
Stars: Emile Hirsch, Bruce Dern, Grace Park

7-year-old Chloe (Lexy Kolker) has been a shut-in her entire life, kept in a run-down old house by her obsessively protective father (Emile Hirsch). He says it’s for her own safety because she’s one of the dreaded “Abnormals” (a.k.a. Freaks), who are hunted and killed because of their unique abilities…just like her mother was. As we soon learn, Chloe’s special talent is getting inside the minds of others and making them bend to her will.

But Chloe grows skeptical and resentful of Dad’s over-protectiveness, eventually venturing out on her own at the urging of “Mr. Snowcone” (Bruce Dern), who’s parked in an ice cream truck outside the house. He also claims Chloe’s mother is actually still alive, held prisoner at a facility called The Mountain. Snowcone turns out to be Chloe’s grandfather – and also an Abnormal – and wants to go on the offensive, using her to infiltrate The Mountain and rescue her mother. Dad totally opposes this, wanting to remain in hiding, especially once government agents led by Cecelia Ray (Grace Park) become aware of their presence.

If the synopsis evokes a bit of deja vu, it’s because the basic concept of Freaks is remarkably similar to X-Men (back when that franchise was still interesting). But while it lacks the same budget and visual fireworks, Freaks compensates with a trio of terrific main characters dropped into a story that reveals its secrets with admirable creativity and patience. Similar patience might be required from some viewers, especially with a first act that plays more like a surreal, deliberately-paced horror film. However, once the film puts all its narrative cards on the table, the momentum picks up considerably, as do the stakes and overall level of bloody violence.

Though Freaks is darker and more visceral than a typical X-Men film, one can’t help but think this is the type of origin story that franchise should have gotten. Great performances help, of course. Once we get over his uncanny resemblance to Jack Black, Hirsch convincingly displays a father’s desperation to protect his child at any cost, even if he’s sometimes wrong. Dern plays yet-another cantankerous old man, but hey, he’s got it down cold and has more than his share of amusing moments. But the success of the film lies squarely on young Kolker’s shoulders, who’s more than up to the task. Appearing in nearly every scene, she’s remarkable.

Being that it’s sort of the antithesis of X-Men, I suppose some tenuous comparisons could be made to Brightburn. But where that film was mostly just a gore-soaked freak show, Freaks offers an intriguing spin on a familiar concept. The result is a neat little sci-fi thriller with a smart script and engaging characters.

Never Grow Old (2019) Movie Review By Justin Aylward


Never Grow Old Review

Director: Ivan Kavanagh
Writer: Ivan Kavanagh
Stars: Emile Hirsch, John Cusack, Déborah François

The Western has become the forgotten genre of recent years in the world of movies. Relegated to small theatres or released amid a flurry of higher profile pictures on streaming sites, one would think that cowboys and Indians have gone extinct. But despite the lack of major studio interest, there are still directors out there who are willing and able to mount that old horse and ride out to the horizon with a tale of their own.

Ireland’s Ivan Kavanagh (Tin Can Man, The Canal) has written and directed a new picture, Never Grow Old, starring John Cusack, Emile Hirsch, and Deborah Francois. The film takes place in the pre-war nascent town of Farlow, on the California Trail. In Farlow there is enough fog for Jack The Ripper to disappear in and sufficient mud for a weeklong music festival.

Amid the elements, is a town of fervid religiosity and pious sermonising where the locals gather in the Presbyterian church. The preacher (Danny Webb) reminds his congregation that Farlow can be a shining example of American exceptionalism. They have rid themselves of Indians and now a new diktat will see the town free of drinking, gambling and prostitution. This is the real American Dream.

Patrick Tate (Emile Hirsch) is an immigrant undertaker from Ireland. He lives with his wife, Audrey (Deborah Francois) and their two children. Times are easy for no one in the west and things are no different for Patrick and his family. Audrey wants the family to continue travelling the coast to ensure a more prosperous life for the family.

Just when it looks like there isn’t enough graves to dig, Dutch Albert (John Cusack) rides into town in search of an old friend and bank robber. Soon enough, Tate is recruited as a friend by Dutch. ‘You kill two friends, you can make another one.’ Albert says. Cusack, with his greasy black hair and persistently soggy features brings enough quiet danger to the role. He could easily be a sort of dark avenger from the great beyond. He can see fear in people’s eyes, no less his new friend, Tate. With his two dingbat buddies, Dumb-Dumb (Sam Louwyck) a full-on cowboy minus a tongue, and Sicily (Camille Pistone) a Mediterranean menace, Dutch takes over the town. He reopens the saloon, and the drinks begin flowing again.

A battle between right and wrong quickly ensues between Dutch and the town, the problem being neither one is exactly right. Dutch brings about havoc with a loose trigger finger and a sharp aim, while the sheriff and the preacher are less militaristic in their posturing, but insidiousness lies not far beneath their rhetoric.

At the heart of the film is a quagmire of competing forces. Cowardice and Strength. Morality and greed. Peace and chaos. Wealth and poverty. Patrick Tate is a weak, cowardly man. He gives up on his religion in order to fit in, wilfully facilitates Dutch in his unlawful pursuits, and refuses to speak up in the face of injustice and murder. Is this the true foundational history of America? What does it take for a man to overcome his shadow and speak the truth?

Director, Kavanagh, lays out these questions and allows the viewer to decide on the fact of the matter. The film, however, is quite slight, except for scenes of barbarity which are cruel in their slowness. There is nothing particularly surprising and the pace is dulled in the second act. You can almost feel the cracks that split the movie apart toward the finale. Kavanagh compensates for this by going back to the common stylistic tropes of the genre which barely conceal the cracks.
What works about the film is the commitment to the material.

Never Grow Old is nothing new but it is a solid entry into the genre, reminiscent of such Westerns as The Hunting Party and The Unforgiven. John Cusack, who doesn’t normally bring the sinister to the screen, gives a performance of deep subtlety, bringing Dutch Albert to life with slow and ominous speech patterns and delivery. Also, the film was shot entirely in the west of Ireland, which makes a somewhat murkier depiction of the American midlands than you might expect. But the hazardous elements and desolate landscape help to create that atmosphere of dread and isolation.

Never Grow Old is a Western that uses the typical tropes of the genre well enough and with unflinching devotion for a worthy viewing experience.

All Nighter (2017) Movie Review By Darrin Gauthier

All Nighter

Director: Gavin Wiesen
Writer: Seth W. Owen (as Seth Owen)
Stars: Analeigh Tipton, Emile Hirsch, J.K. Simmons 

Plot:  A workaholic father who attempts to visit his daughter during a layover in LA, only to discover that she’s disappeared, is forced to team up with her awkward ex-boyfriend to find her over the course of one transformative night.

Running Time: 86 Minutes

IMDB Score:  5.7

Why I Watched It: Every 20 movies or so I like throwing in a comedy as a change of pace, just to give the genre films a rest, it’s good to watch something out of your wheelhouse from time to time and JK Simmons.

Random Thoughts: J.K Simmons is a very good character actor, in fact he’s just a really good actor but let’s be honest he’s not a leading man in Hollywood but he won an Oscar for Supporting Actor and he got to trade on that to get different roles and All Nighter is not only a lead role but a comedy as well.  It’s a complete against type casting but good for him.

What I Liked: J.K Simmons not surprisingly is the best part of this movie, he’s a presence and he also as that rare talent to be likeable but also a little scary, not really sure what’s going on behind his eyes, heck he could hug you or kill you and neither would be a surprise.  He gets to be a bad ass here, he gets to be the lead and he does well on both counts.  Oddly Emile Hirsch is a pretty good partner for him they play off each other very well and you kind of believe the relationship they form.

I will say the trailer and the plot description is a bit of a shaggy dog not really what it’s about,  also it’s more of a comedy drama than an action comedy, the trailers make it seem like that and it’s not.  Oddly most of the humour comes from secondary characters, Simmons and Hirsch aren’t funny and oddly they’re not trying to be. It’s a light and breezy film, it moves well it’s under 90 minutes and it’s mostly a sweet or at least likeable film.

What I Didn’t Like: All Nighter is an odd film, the tone and plot are just off a bit.  I really have no idea why they had the Hirsch and Tipton break up after the opening, him helping her dad find out about her just makes the film seem tonally off, cause she’s with someone else and then the film is more about Simmons and Hirsch becoming friends and that really seems like a reach.  For my money the film should have been about Simmons and him trying to reconnect with his daughter.  Simmons has a very good moment when he tells Hirsch why he was so frantic to see his daughter and that moment is good and it feels real but it doesn’t fit with the rest of the film.

The film is very slight and what’s funny about that is that it’s not that funny, sure Taran Killam tries his best and he plays just a weird character for the sake of being weird he adds nothing to the plot and his stuff isn’t that funny.  Now with that being said it’s not bad unfunny I just think this film didn’t have the right tone to be funny, there’s no energy to the plot or the characters and it was a huge mistake having Simmons and Hirsch both be laid back guys, there’s nothing dynamic about them they are kind of like the film they’re just there.

Sadly the main plot about a man who wants to be closer to his daughter is lost here cause that man spends most of the movie with her ex-boyfriend and that’s odd and add that he’s old enough to be the guy’’s dad just just fit, look age doesn’t matter in friendship but the only thing they had in common is that they both like Bob Seager.  The also use the fact that Hirsch plays the banjo like that should be a joke but it goes nowhere.

Final Thoughts: Not a bad film, I kind of enjoyed watching it but it felt like empty calories, it’s a showcase for Simmons but a film you won’t remember in a month.

Rating: 5/10

The Autopsy Of Jane Doe (2016) Movie Review By Darrin Gauthier

The Autopsy Of Jane Doe Review

Director: André Øvredal
Writers: Ian Goldberg, Richard Naing
Stars: Brian Cox, Emile Hirsch, Ophelia Lovibond

Plot:  A father and son, both coroners, are pulled into a complex mystery while attempting to identify the body of a young woman, who was apparently harboring dark secrets.

Running Time: 86 Minutes

IMDB Score: 6.8

Why I Watched It: Strong genre buzz, the trailer looked good and of course Brian Cox.

Random Thoughts: This was one of those word of mouth genre films that gained buzz on the festival circuit then just kind of got dumped on VOD.  The great thing about the trailer is you’re not really sure what the film is about but you know it looks like a creepy horror.

What I Liked: This is a great example of a horror film starting slow and just keep building suspense and tension as the film goes along, the film as a nightmare logic feel to it and the great thing is except for one they don’t rely on jump scares but they rely on building tension as the plot gets moved forward.  The film has a great atmosphere and it’s creepy as all get out, I’ve watched way too many horror films to get really scared but every once in awhile a film will get under your skin, so I wasn’t scared but it creeped me out I got a very real sense of dread.

There’s a lot to like here but I’m going to point out direction cause this film is very well done, it doesn’t go for camp and it doesn’t rush it’s story, the pacing, the score the way the film is shot all works together everything builds.  The story is smart, I love a movie where you see people or a person who are good at their job, Brian Cox plays a guy who’s done this for a long time and has seen just about everything so this body not only is strange but it’s a puzzle he’s trying to solve.  Also the cool thing about this film is even half way through you’re not sure what horror sub-genre it is, I was guessing along with the characters and they were smart not to throw the supernatural right at the beginning the film earns it, it makes sense when we find out what is going on.

The acting is very good, no it comes down to Cox and Hirsch, they play off each other well but the father and son relationship is written very well, it’s not the standard bickering or fighting, and here’s something in a horror film they never stop and accuse each other of fight at all, so refreshing in a horror film where the main characters try to work together to survive. They even manage to work in a backstory, it helps flesh out the characters and gives the performances depth, it’s a very well written horror film.  This is not lazy writing or horror cliches 101.

What I Didn’t Like:  There’s not much here I will pick at but the ending, I mean the very ending felt tacked on and this film is better than this for that kind of cheap final shot.

The only other thing is the puzzle that is the body, while clever is fairly complicated and a lesser film it might not have worked but they saved it for being a bit silly, they could have sharpened some of the reasoning.  We get a lot of info thrown at us at the end and a couple of twists.

Final Thoughts: A creepy and very effective horror film, not perfect but it’s very good and if you’re a horror fan and have sat through a bunch of dumb stories with cliched characters well sit down for a very refreshing change of pace.  A smart and well directed and written horror film.

Rating: 8/10

The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016) Movie Review by John Walsh

The Autopsy Of Jane Doe Review

Director: André Øvredal
Writers: Ian B. Goldberg (as Ian Goldberg),  Richard Naing
Stars: Brian Cox,  Emile Hirsch,  Ophelia Lovibond

The Autopsy of Jane Doe is a film of two halves and two very different ones at that. Brisk in pace and relatively simple in the story department, Scandinavian director, André Øvredal (Troll Hunter) brings a suspenseful, low budget horror film, largely revolving around the corpse of a young lady and the secrets her body holds within.

It begins somewhere in Virginia (it never does say where), opening with a cool, little camera spin that focuses on the lawn of a peaceful residential setting. It’s anything but internally however, as moving inside, the elderly occupants appear to have been brutally murdered in highly suspicious circumstances. There’s a sense of real bewilderment from the investigating police officers at the bloody remains and scene, manner of death and doors that appeared to have been locked from within. This is further compounded when they make the bizarre discovery of the partially buried corpse of a young woman in the basement below. Headed up by Sheriff Burke (Michael McElhatton), they’re looking for answers and quick.

Step forward Tommy (Brian Cox) and Austin (Emile Hirsch), the father and son duo that work as coroners at the local, family run mortuary. The buildings facade looks rickety and ancient, but the old saying ‘never judge a book by its cover’ was tailor made for this precise situation. Tommy is an experienced veteran at his craft and when the Jane Doe (she was discovered with no trace of ID and was given the titular name as a result) is wheeled in, he’s only too happy to oblige the puzzled, confounded Burke and he eagerly sets about trying to discover both her origin and the cause of death.

As I mentioned earlier, this film is a tale of two halves and the first half is infinitely more enjoyable as a spectacle than what comes afterwards. This is mainly because the whole feel of the first half is less of a supernatural horror. Instead, Øvredal opts to focus firmly on the mystery element and the steadily growing, seemingly coincidental, weird happenings taking place in the morgue as investigate the woman’s body. As Tommy and Austin cut open the human pandora’s box lying before them, they gradually discover a plethora of different clues within her corpse that at times leave them with more questions than answers. From severely broken wrists and ankles; bizarre scarring and occult markings on her internal organs; a strange rag message within her bowels to badly blackened lungs, all hidden below an angelic looking body externally that belies the internal trauma.

It’s really after the pair begin delving further into the hidden secrets the woman possesses that the film makes its tonal/genre shift away from the more realistic, mystery heavy setting in the first half to the more supernatural horror style in the second half. Don’t get me wrong, Øvredal’s direction was still decent after this point and the unsettling, eerie, claustrophobic, atmosphere was very well utilised, especially when the walking, bell wearing, corpses were scurrying around. Ultimately though, I just felt the payoff for the long buildup of tension wasn’t anywhere near rewarding enough for the viewer and the whole anti-misogynistic, reverse curse, Salem witch trial explanation came across just a little bit convoluted to me. I’ve seen other people mention that it was clever, perhaps I’m missing something? With all that said, I did like the little twist towards the end involving Austin and his ‘rescuers’.

There wasn’t exactly a massive cast in this film, with the overwhelming majority of the film involving three characters and one of them was a stiff. Brian Cox was excellent as Tommy, and for me, put in the the best performance in the film. His character almost narrated the film in some ways, as he systematically went through the autopsy, breaking down each stage and examining everything with a fine tooth comb. His performance in particular brought a level of believability to the films events, even as they took a more traditional horror turn. Emile Hirsch was also pretty good as Austin, the heir apparent and son of Tommy. He had very good chemistry with Cox and their on-screen relationship was one of the highlights for me. Massive respect to Olwen Catherine Kelly too for what must have been a mundane experience as the unmoving corpse. It couldn’t have been easy lying naked, doing nothing for the duration of the shoot and she made a very believable and unnerving corpse. Unfortunately, Mr. Radcliffe’s portrayal of a dead person is still the best I’ve seen however.

Roman Osin’s cinematography has to be given some recognition too. He nailed the almost clinical, distant filming style of the early morgue scenes, allowing the viewer to feel detached from the experience, whilst watching the autopsy take place before them. This had the effect (for me at least) of lessening the distaste at some of the fairly explicit gore of these scenes. I also liked the unsettlingly frequent pans to the face of the woman, which built the tension excellently just before the shit hit the metaphorical fan. The CG was pretty poor, but I’ll give them a pass for that as it was a low budget film.

I liked this film in parts and whilst I understand it had to have some sort explanation for the corpses undamaged appearance and connection with the murders seen earlier in the film. I just felt it could have been executed a little better and I found the abrupt change in tone in the middle a little jarring. I’m not easily scared, so the jump scares did nothing for me, but I’ll admit to feeling damn anxious as the corpse made its way to towards Tommy and Austin as they waited for the elevator to make it’s way down. The death that came immediately after left me a little perplexed, but again there was a fairly neat piece of symmetry involved there that I did appreciate.

Would I recommend it though? It’s certainly not the worst I’ve seen, but I’ve seen much better too. I’d probably give it a miss if being honest.