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Some redeeming features.
6 January 2018
Warning: Spoilers
A small group of military personnel and survivalists dwell in an underground bunker.

The second day of the Dead remake 'Day of the Dead: Bloodline' thankfully sticks slightly closer to Romero's 1985 classic in terms of look and setting.

The low budget feel coupled with overzealous sound effects, clunky dialogue, voice overs and heavy handed gore stops this being in the same league as Zac Snyder's Dawn reimagining as a Med student realises she maybe able to create a vaccine to stop others becoming 'Rotters'.

To director Hèctor Hernández Vicens credit, what keeps this offerings head above water is the makeup and an eerie performance by Johnathon Schaech as zombie Max. This creepy zombie is a free thinking Rotter who previously was infatuated with and lust after former med school student Sophie Skelton's Zoe before and after death. Actor Marcus Vanco as Zoe boyfriend. Skelton looks uncomfortable in the opening scenes but gives a great performance throughout the rest of the zombie fest. Baca Salazar deserves a mention and Mark Rhino Smith is notably likeable as Alphonse.

Naturally after a recon mission the compound is later overrun and all hell breaks loose. For all its production short comings Hernández Bloodline cinematography seems to improve as its goes on, writers Mark Tonderai and Lara Jacobson injects some interesting premise with a stalker zombie. However with countless other zombie films, the late great George A. Romero's originals and endless episodes of The Walking Dead it's not enough for Bloodline to standout.

The best remake/reimagining of Day but given its contenders, we'll, just view for yourself.
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Bright (I) (2017)
Entertaining alternative history relentless nightset actioner
1 January 2018
Warning: Spoilers
In an alternate present day, humans, orcs, elves and fairies have been coexisting. Two police officers, one a human, the other an orc, embark on a routine night patrol that will alter the future of their world as they know it.

Director and producer David Ayer offers a part buddy film, reminiscent of the likes of Training Day, Alien Nation with a bit of Tolkien thrown in and you get what adds up to an enjoyable entertaining well paced movie. With wall to wall shoot outs, slick fights and magic wand sorcery Ayer handles the diverse mix of genre themes effortlessly as the unlikely paired partners battle rentlessly throughout an evening in L.A.

Actors Will Smith is on nonchalant form as Serpico-like Daryl Ward, unrecognisable Joel Edgerton with Orc makeup sporting a Nic Nolte-like raspy voice gives a standout performance as Nick Jakoby. Noomi Rapace is notable as a power hunger Elf and gives a physical intense turn as she goes about retrieving her wand to unleash a dark Lord. However, Lucy Fry steals the show as Tikka, a Rogue Elf who assists the unlike Orc and human police channeling Milla Jovovich's Fifth Element Leeloo.

Writer Max Landis (son of John Landis) and Ayer throw in hints of comedy, a clever alternative Earth premise and interestingly set it during a night and day in L.A. Bright has plenty of 'street' atmosphere, as well as strong production values offering well executed special effects. To Ayers credit the mix of both reality and fantasy hold together seamlessly and you buy into the world and the Midnight Run, Judgement Night, Collateral, After Hours feel to name a few night set films from the get go.

Overall, a well balanced mix of genres in an alternative present day, with both underlying and on the nose social commentary that is almost too good for an action fantasy cop film. Recommend.
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Good but not great, loses the Star Wars magic along the way
17 December 2017
Warning: Spoilers
The Resistance prepares to do battle with the First Order. Meanwhile, Luke Skywalker is unsettled by the strength of Rey's powers and connection to Kylo Ren.

Filmmaker Rian Johnson plays against expectations and bravely tries not rehash what's has been done before. Star Wars: Episode VIII Last Jedi has heaps of dramatic moments, heightened by John Williams' score, the emotional impact most of which oozes from the late Carrie Fisher as Leia is poignant. Oscar Isaac's Poe and Mark Hamill's Luke steal the show but both Adam Driver (Kylo) and the perfectly cast Daisy Ridley (Rey) give the original trilogy actors a good run for their money. Less of a comedy side kick here John Boyega's Finn is more focused and has a new love interest in Kelly Marie Tran's Rose Tico.

Although Rey is present throughout she not as centre piece as she was previously, getting lost in amongst all the other story threads and characters. Both Driver and Daisy, when they are connected during new force power moments and later when they take on Snoke's guards in an interestingly choreographed fight scenes do get a chance to excel.

Director, writer Johnson offers a good, but not brilliant Star Wars episode, unfortunately there's a lot of jokes thrown in which feel off with the usual galactic humour of its predecessors. Jarringly there's misplaced dialogue about God and souls. Moreover, many of the effects are arguably not as good as Episode VII or Rogue One, surprising for a Star Wars film, many CGI shots (feel less model lifelike), rendering and movements stick out for example, a herd of fathiers (space horses) are freed and ridden across Canto Blight, or when BB-8 steals an AT-ST (Scout Walker) with Finn and Rose, moreover the back drop of AT-M6s, (the next generatiom of Walkers) frame Luke and Kylo.

To Johnson's credit, there's a stand out scene with Luke and R2-D2 where they view 1977's Star Wars Leia hologram message, moreover is a huge spoiler moment that includes Luke's impressive moving story closure (with a Obi-Wan, Yoda cloak twist) this is a high point not only of this episode but of all the episodes. Yoda returns (thankfully a puppet mastered by Frank OZ) appearing as a force ghost. However, some of the characters feel a little fleeting and wasted including Andy Serkis Snoke's brief and anticlimactic demise and Benicio del Toro's DJ is excellent but also has limited screen time. With relief Maz shows up as a hologram in the midst of a firefight.

With already an abundance of species for Johnson's to chose from there's many new monsters/alien/animals crammed in and new space ships unnecessary added to the saga. Specifically during the messy Casio messy segment. That said, the cute puffin-like Porgs are surprisingly a good addition. Also favourites return including Chewie, R2-D2, C3-PO and there's plenty newcomer BB-8 moments as the action moves from one planet, hopping from spaceship to another. With Kenny Baker's passing RD-D2 is performed now by Jimmy Vee. Joonas Suotamo reprises the Chewbacca role in which he doubled for Peter Mayhew respectively in Force Awakens but here takes over completely. Actress Billie Lourd (Fisher's realife daughter) welcomingly gets more lines and to do as Lieutenant Connix. But even with more Phasma to enjoy her moments feel rushed like some of the special effects. In addition, the reveal of Rey's parents leaves sour taste and Snoke's origins is left bitter sweet in an abrupt end not seen since Dooku was disposed of in Revenge of the Sith. Also we're still left with the unanswered question of how did Kylo get the blue lightsaber, and how did it get to Maz's castle in Force Awakens, even if it is one and the same, and where are the Knights of Ren and the handful of Jedi in training that were not killed who left with Kylo?

It has its fair share of story beats and character high points notably, Fisher and Johnson's handling of Leia as she evades the First Order in a number of set pieces which offers genuine story surprises. Memorable is Leia's resurrection 'Force' moment, Laura Dern's character sacrifice and Yoda's return to name a few. But there are niggling wasted opportunities and shoehorned on the nose social commentary.

Overall, debatably Johnson's offering doesn't feel as Star Warzy as it should, nevertheless, it's Star Wars nonetheless, but don't expect Empire Strikes Back or the Star Wars je ne sais quoi magic.
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Thesp Branagh pulls out all the train stops
20 November 2017
Director, thespian Kenneth Branagh with this offering hands down deserves best director awards for this whodunnit. Impressively Branagh, with a screenplay by Michael Green, based on Agatha Christie's 1934 novel juggles both lead actor and director duties with intricate well planned ease.

Produced by Ridley Scott's Scott Free productions, every frame is a picture, the period with sets and costumes are finely recreated. The star studded stellar cast including the likes of Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, the excellent Johnny Depp, Derek Jacobi, Michelle Pfeiffer and Star Wars actor Daisy Ridley deliver first rate performances, in an adaptation with enough nods and tweaks from previous incarnations to remain fresh as Hercule Poirot's famous Belgian Moustache.

A simple must see for film sleuths.
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Atomic Blonde (2017)
Style over substance
20 November 2017
Agent goes to Berlin to retrieve the body of a fallen partner only to get more than she bargained for.

Packed with double cross and John Wick-style action, David Leitch Atomic Blonde is weak in comparison, it was a promising 80s set Cold War espionage female driven film in the vein of Salt but it's a case of style over substance, a waste of good actors including Charlize Theron channelling Blondie (Debora Harry) as undercover MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton with a shoe horned soundtrack of the period.

It was sold to be a gender-less lead, you could have put Arnold Schwarzenegger in the role in press interviews but nothing was further from the truth, with it focusing female exploitation from the start. Wasted of all round talent including Leitch in a forgettable messy film.
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Knock Knock (I) (2015)
Effective intense and unnerving without full exploitation
31 October 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Two stranded women reveal a sinister agenda after they spend the night with a married architect and turn his life upside down.

Refreshingly it's not an on the nose torture horror or full on home invasion film, but it's a punchy enough moral yarn with a wicked ominous tone. Director/writer Eli Roth uses the remote suburban single location to full effect and Knock Knock never feels repetitive. It also has a warning about fidelity, sheltering strangers and social media usage.

Ana de Armas, and Lorenza Izzo on fine form switching between sexy, innocent and menacing effortlessly as they torment Keanu Reeves's Evan. While Reeve may not give his best performance throughout he more than makes up for it in the closing act. Roth manages to keep the stakes high without full on exploitation using some slick direction and both Izzo's Genesis and Armas' Bel reveal snippets of their character motivations while leaving plenty to the viewers imagination.

Intense and unnerving with a Roth staple downbeat ending. Based on Death Game (1977) if you enjoy the likes of Bad Influence, Fatal Attraction, Pacific Heights, Unlawful Entry to name a few with the modern edge of Hostel this is a must see.
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The Babysitter (I) (2017)
Horror slasher nostalgia mixed with Home Alone style kills
27 October 2017
Warning: Spoilers
A funny, popular babysitter is actually a cold-blooded killer who's in league with the Devil and a teenage boy who finds out the truth must stop her and her friends or end up dead himself.

With a surprise twist reveal (if you've not seen the trailer) when a spin the bottle game turns into murder McG's fast paced offering, works as fun horror comedy in the vein of Tucker and Versus Evil. Judah Lewis' is excellent as Cole, the 12 year old madly in love with his babysitter Bee played feistily alluring by Samara Weaving. As Cole picks off in a MacGyver, A-Team, Kevin Macalister fashion Bee's murderous 80s-like stereotype friends, a cheerleader, a jock and so on.

McG's slick direction is chockfull with comic book gore. The action setups in the everyday American suburban neighbourhood setting reminiscent of the Burbs, E.T, Poltergeist and the like gives this a nostalgic atmosphere. Brian Duffield's script is packed full of horror homages and Scream self-aware dialogue, that said Duffield refreshingly doesn't explain every detail about Bee's motivations, how's and whys about her magic text and sacrifice secrets saving it for a possible sequel.

Great for teenage boys and girls who love gore and Home Alone style kills and old school film goers who enjoy slasher horrors.
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Revolt (2017)
Surprisingly good alien invasion film
15 October 2017
Two survivors of an alien onslaught join together to survive.

If you enjoyed The Dead (2010) for its setting and location and Skyline (2010) for its aliens, Revolt director Joe Miale presents a similar feel but a on a bigger budget and with slicker camera work as the foreigner aid worker Nadia and American solider Bo journey though alien invaded Africa.

As Bo and Nadia become allies they encounter ruthless military, poachers and robot aliens. With plenty of shootouts and action sequences, notably a segment in a classic car where are chased down by alien hordes. Moon Bloodgood-alike Bérénice Marlohe is impressive as Nadia and grounds the film. Lee Pace does a good job as amnesia suffering soldier Bo. Excellent Jason Flemyng shows up in a brief but plot pivotal role. Played straight the acting is good along with the music on the gritty location settings. The effects are impressive and the robot alien design is quite good.

While there's very few original elements it's the way it's put together is impressive,this is no Syfy channel looking TV offering. While not as hard hitting as Monsters 2, Miale gives us a war-torn road trip story about the human spirit, internal change, sacrifice in the vein of War of the World and District 9.

Overall, worth checking out if you enjoyed the previous mentioned films and serious toned invasion films.
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Connecting and visually arousing sequel. Warning skin job spoilers
5 October 2017
Warning: Spoilers
2049, a blade runner for the Los Angeles Police Department, unearths a secret that has the potential to plunge a company and department into chaos.

Without drawing too many comparisons to Ridley Scott's 1982 classic, director Denis Villeneuve's neo-noir science fiction film is powerful, atmospheric and like its predecessor mostly likely not an instant classic but a slow burning grower. All the lights are out at the Tyrell building and the weather is more unpredictable than ever before with snow, dust storms on top of the usual expected rain. Even though Hampton Fancher and Michael Green screenplay follows the excellent Ryan Gosling's character officer K later Joe it's very much a film about Harrison Ford's Rick Deckard and Nexus 6 Rachael. Both the advancement in A.I. relationship element is focused upon here as well the expected replicants memories, relationships, life spans and more importantly reproductive system.

Packed with excellent performances, notably limited screen-time from Jared Leto, Robin Wright and Dave Bautista in brief but impressive subtle and violent appearance. Edward James Olmos also reprises his role as Gaff and with ease gives Gosling a run for his his money in the few minutes he appears on screen. Sean Young's Rachel is also prevalent throughout, whether it be in dialogue, photos, voice recordings, skull and bones or a better than Rogue One's Tarkin appearance with some jaw dropping, impressive computer generated wizardry film magic.

While Harrison's screen presence sizzles Golsing carries the film well in amongst the mesmerising effects and earthly sets that are captured by veteran Roger Deakins' cinematography. Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch's music is fitting and has all the Vangelis staples and expected moving horns and beats. To Villeneuve's credit he achieves the almost impossible and that is to conjure up a sequel that doesn't simply rehash, but builds on the first film as Golsing's Joe goes about finding out what or who he really is and his purpose. As well as subtly answering questions about its predecessor, namely the fate of various characters, life spans and so forth it also leaves many fittingly unanswered. Up for speculation, interestingly not a plot point, without specifically saying so it hints that rule-abiding "Skinner", "Skinjob" K, KD3:6-7, is possibly a younger version of retired Deckard B-263-54.

A must see, but expect a futuristic breadcrumb detective story with slight of hand memory tricks and a few twists rather the Gosling's Joe hunting down and simply disposing/retiring Replicants.
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Zombies (2017)
Not bad in a sea of VOD zombie/virus films.
30 September 2017
A survivor of a virus outbreak goes about finding more uninfected people to come to his sanctuary.

Director/writer Hamid Torabpour offers a competent low budget offering, with plenty of kills, CGI blood, hacking and shooting as survivors take down the zombie-like virus infected hordes. It's played straight, the music, lighting, make up and locations add up to a solid enough production. While it bogs itself down and runs out of steam in the latter half Torabpour still puts in a nice little nihilistic twist in the closing.

It's not a found footage type film like Zombie Diaries or Diary of the Dead. Zombies is an average low budget flick but sadly lost in the sea of substandard DTV zombie film hell. Produced by Cameron Romero (son of the late George A. Romero) it doesn't reach the heights of his father's work or the likes of The Dead or The Battery but thankfully this digital presentation has an almost film like feel appose to the abundance of bland camera work on VOD and SyFy that lack atmosphere.

Veteran horror actor Tony Todd bookends with a welcomed extended cameo as Detective Sommers. Lead Steven Luke's Luke plays the subtler scenes well rather than the action segments. Notable is Amanda Day as Tala but most memorable is Raina Hein's Bena. Despite sporting a zombie cliché killing weapon of choice bow Hein makes the most with what's she's given and offers much of the emotional clout.

Overall, looks good for the budget, don't expect a classic and you may enjoy.
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An improvement but still too much CGI.
29 September 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Peter Parker tries to balance his life as an ordinary high school student in Queens but is put under threat when he tries to stop a criminal on his own.

Under Jon Watts' direction Tom Holland capture's the Peter Parker/Spiderman character nicely, the handfuls of writers inject Homecoming with the humour of source material. Here Parker is not a reporter yet, he's still really a Spider-boy. Thankfully it's not another direct origin story but Spidey is coming used to his new powers.

In this Marvel film universe Parker has an intelligent computer Iron Man-like suit, Karen, voice by Jennifer Connelly. The computer and Parker's relationship makes for some genuine laughs. But it's never clearly defined what Spidey's powers actually are without Karen the A.I. suit, aside from strength and practical web-shooters. It's great that his mask has visors, providing more expressiveness to his appearance like in the comics/cartoons, but we need more Spidey sense.

Watts has a lot of practical and causal suited up Spiderman but there's still too much obvious CGI as appose to just wire replacement. The on location feel helps sell the environment and you buy into Parker's world. Holland has the 70's live action TV show likability of Nicholas Hammond and captures the spirit of Spiderman in the dialogue and action set ups but also the teen angst.

Without drawing too many comparisons, yes, it's another actor, another Spiderman, under Sony while Tobey Maguire was a good actor, arguably Sam Raimi's offerings struggled to capture the comic or cartoon feel. Although Andrew Garfield was perfectly cast and Marc Webb's films were closer to the Parker we love, it wasn't fresh enough coming in the shadow of the previous three. All suffered from a reliance on a CGI Spiderman and overlong paint by numbers story. What Watts and writers do get right is the bad guy, Michael Keaton does a great job as grounded villain Vulture that offers a curve ball revelation in the last quarter. His character isn't black and white, with bags of motivation and purpose.

As a nod to fans they also subtly introduce MJ and Flash is updated fittingly. There's some Avengers jokes and the comedy in general hits the mark. Especially with Holland's Michael .J .Fox toned quips and Parker's Teenwolf-like high school insecurities and Superman identity crisis work. His sidekick friend Jacob Batalon's Ned who offers some good comic relief. Uncle Ben is omitted. Stan Lee has an obligatory cameo.

Jon Favreau's Hogan and Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark/Iron Man do turn up a little too much and feel forced fan service in there extended cameos. Gwyneth Paltrow Pepper Potts briefly appears along with Tyne Daly. Bokeem Woodbine has notable screen presence as Tom Holland's Shockers replacement. Also stick around for Keaton's telling mid-end credits segment.

Overall, as a superhero film it's good, as a Spiderman film it's probably the best to date but not without it's faults.
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As part 7 in a series in this genre it's impressive, a blast for Chucky fans.
27 September 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Nica Pierce has spent the past four years in a mental institution after being framed by Chucky for the murder of her family but Chucky isn't finished with her yet or Andy.

Director/writer Don Mancini does the impossible and injects life into Part 7 of a series. Mancini and company simply out do themselves here with Cult of Chucky, where as Curse had a striped back Hitchcock feel this has Brian de Palma on a budget visuals with a Cronenberg icky edge and Mancini's trademark frank humour. I usually recommend films in my final paragraph, but this is must see from the outset, don't even read this, just rent or buy it.

Summer H. Howell cameos, Fiona Dourif returns and is excellent as the asylum trapped wheelchair bound Nica that no one believes oozing a Sigourney Weaver vibe and echoing Linda Hamilton's Terminator 2 locked up in danger craziness. In a surprising twist as the plot unfolds and the body count rises Fiona also channels her father's serial killing character Charles impressively. Actors Adam Hurtig as split personality suffer Malcolm, Zak Santiago's Carlos and particularly Ali Tataryn as nurse Ashley are notable. But Michael Therriault leaves an impression as Richard Gere-like warped Dr. Foley.

Alex Vincent Returns as Andy Barclay from the original Child's Play (1988, yes it's been that long) building on his previous brief cameo in its predecessor Curse of Chucky. There's an intriguing element of Andy keeping Chucky's dismembered head in a safe, only to bring it out to torment it for relief. It could only more get more wacky if someone made Child's Play Human Centipede style and put Chucky's talking head between a Garbage Pail Kid and Teddy Ruxpin! The icing on the cake is it's implied that Tiffany has possessed the real Jennifer Tilly, allowing her and her doll likeness to shows up which connects and brings into cannon the other outings namely Bride and Seed of Chucky not made by Mancini with some outlandish writing which makes perfect sense in the context of the series.

It's not perfect due to some blown out colour correction and unnecessary CGI skyline backdrops but given the budget using a variety of smoke and mirror movie magic Chucky is brought to life with perfect execution aided by modern technology and Brad Dourif's voice, complete with quips and inventive nasty murders.

There's a limited amount of locations, a cabin, an asylum reminiscent of TV's Hannibal and the snowy setting gives this some Kubrick Shining atmospherics. The stark white corridors hark back to the Exorcist III, One Flew Over Cuckoo's nest, Mancini throws in enough plot points and flashbacks to peak interest. Thankfully it's played straight for the most part and doesn't stray into all out comedy territory a-la Bride and Seed.

Fans are treated to multiple Chucky dolls, graphic killings and dark humour but not only that there's a surprise treat after the credits where another character returns - Andy's foster sister Kyle from 1990's Child's Play 2! Played by the same talented actor Christine Elise giving thrills that Andy's cameo did in Curse.

All in all leaves you wanting more and too much Good Guy Doll is never a bad thing.
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Familiar and sadly weighed down by its TV feel
23 September 2017
Warning: Spoilers
When music-hall star Elizabeth Cree is accused of poisoning her husband on the same night as the last of a series of 'Golem murders' Inspector Kildare discovers both cases maybe linked and sets about solving both crimes.

Based on an an adaptation of Peter Ackroyd's 1994 murder mystery novel Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem director Juan Carlos Medina offers an old-school Hammer-style horror anchored by performances by subtle Bill Nighy (who took up the reigns from the late Alan Rickman), Olivia Cooke (of Bates Motel), Eddie Marsan and Daniel Mays. But it's Douglas Booth as Leno who steels the show.

All the familiar Gothic Victorian elements and crime story beats are there reminiscent of A Study in Terror and countless other yarns and clichés set in the period which are more than likely inherited from Ackroyds source material. Set on the unforgiving, squalid streets of Victorian London in 1880, Jane Goldman's script captures the Lizzy Borden and Jack the Ripper talk of the time, but where 2015's comparable Frankenstein Chronicles series had a filmactic feel this is sorely lacking in Limehouse Golem given it's made for TV look despite a theatrical release. That said the costumes, makeup and music are spot on as Nighy's Kildare goes effortlessly about piecing the case together aided by some bloody flashbacks and spectres in his mind. There's a little nihilistic twist which peaks interest showing that the conscious of life isn't black and white especially when it comes to work politics, promotion and fame.

Overall, it has some gruesome elements and while it may not work as a whodunit reaching heights of In the Name of the Rose, Agatha Christie or a Sherlock Holmes mystery it satisfies as an unconventional immersive period piece in the vain of countless Ripper-like outings. Worth checking out even if for Booth's memorable performance.
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Impressive less is more horror drama
17 September 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Two families are forced to share a home in an uneasy alliance to keep the outside evil at bay only to discover that the true horror comes from within.

Director Trey Edward Shults' It Comes at Night is a taught effective horror drama, its strength lay in the audience using their imagination proving again that what's left unseen can be just as horrifying as anything on the screen. Reminiscent in tone of Into the Forest (2015), The Thing (1982) (echoing its paranoia) it's ambiguity, natural setting and Brian McOmber's subtle score all add up to something quite engaging.

The cast are effective, the child actor is natural, also Kelvin Harrison Jr. playing Travis, a 17 year old suffering from gory nightmares feels believable but it's edgy Joel Edgerton's Paul and convincing Christopher Abbott's Will that are the glue and shine here. Both roles have an intensity and both men ooze tension. Shults offers a well shot horror, drama that's brilliantly paced, with an eerie atmosphere aided by Drew Daniels immaculate cinematography.

Shults never plays his cards and as a viewer you're fed little bits of information, not really knowing the scale of what's going on. With characters with welts, checking teeth, nails and burning bodies, the interesting thing is that you also don't know if what they're afraid of changes you into a monster or rabid zombie or something else. Refreshingly the viewer doesn't see what they fear, and you shouldn't need to either. There are a few shoot outs and stand offs but it works more on a psychological level, less is more here and with rife paranoia this offering excels. Recommended.
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It (I) (2017)
Top notch casting, great scares, good adaptation.
8 September 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Seven young outcasts face their worst nightmare when an ancient, shape-shifting evil emerges from the sewer to prey on the town's children.

Director Andy Muschietti's story beats are perfect the casting is top notch. Bill Skarsgård is fitting as IT/Pennywise the Dancing Clown, a trans-dimensional evil that awakens every twenty-seven years. Skarsgård's and Tim Curry's IT is like Jack Nicholson to Cesar Romero's Joker, both equally great but a different take on the same character, so there's no need for comparisons. Incidentally there's a fitting nod to Curry's TV Pennywise in a room of clowns. For the main cast there's the one reminiscent of Kevin Bacon, the Rob Lowe looking one, the Molly Ringwald (amusingly self referenced within the film) the River Phenix one and so on. Echoing The Breakfast Club, Goonies and Stand By Me to name a few.

Muschietti and writers Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga and Gary Dauberman even cram in a creepy gnarled tree and a dilapidated haunted looking house. Starsguard moves eerily slow and contorted at times and uneasy fast at others. There's much more gore in this adaptation. As a horror it offers enough creepy moments but where it gives today's horrors a run for their money is the friendship, outcast and bully themes which come directly from Stephen King's source material.

A major departure from King's 1986 novel and 1990 miniseries is the 80s setting for the child part, even with the Airwolf T-shirt, New Kids on the Block songs, Casio watch, Gremlins posters and Nightmare of Elm Street 5, Batman and Lethal Weapon 2 showing in Derry's cinema, some of the period feels a little off but the recreation for the most part works.

Again its strengthen comes from the casting which emotionally affects the story at its core. Frights, whether a cellar, sewer, bathroom or the alley or simple a dark office, the music, sound design thanks to Muschietti's staging amplifies the chills while wearing its heart on its sleeve with the young performers.

It's tight and pacey, with enough time for the characters to breath. Muschietti injects plenty of jump scares and creepy moments, and with a larger budget and omitting the adult segments (saving them for an IT sequel/chapter 2 and possibly flashbacks to 1989) it actually, surprisingly is better than its predecessor adaptation.

Packed with terrifying, hallucinatory and nightmare imagery coupled with a near on perfect cast IT is highly recommend.
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Good performances, solid jump scares
31 August 2017
After the tragic death of their little daughter, a doll-maker and his wife welcome a nun and several girls from a orphanage into their home, but shortly after a demon begins to terrorize the girls.

Annabelle Creation is a solid entry that offer plenty of scares and the period rural setting sets it apart. Director David F. Sandberg injects a smidgin of Texas Chainsaw atmosphere into the proceedings as a group of girls and nun are terrified by a demon. The acting from Stephanie Sigman's Sister Charlotte and the young girls is impressive. As too are Anthony LaPaglia and Miranda Otto in small but pivotal roles.

It's a demonic possession tale like the chronological follow up, not a killer doll film per-say if you've come in cold. Even though it's an origin story midway through you can't help but feel that thanks to some editing another prequel to an already existing prequel could be made with some misplaced flashbacks of Otto and LaPaglia thrown into what for the most part is a constant story from Gary Dauberman.

With dark creepy visuals, notably a lift, water well and scarecrow scene, eerie music and limited special effects but plenty of jumps scares Annabelle harks back to the simpler days of horror. Daunerman and Sandberg link the ending nicely to its 2014 predecessor Annabelle and there's mid and post credit scene which are intriguing enough to leave you possibly wanting another.

Overall, a well shot, filmatic, rounded chiller with credit to child actors for their good performances.
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Sterile, lacking atmosphere which wastes the cast.
30 August 2017
A notorious hit man and a relentless bodyguard on the opposite end of the bullet for years are thrown together and must survive for 24 hours.

With a sharp script Tom O'Connor's story is tad predictable, but what stops director Patrick Hughes offering being a half decent film is its sterile TV look from it's lighting, CGI, post production colouring to cold precision staging and clichés. The cinematography and execution steals any atmosphere sucking the life out of solid Samuel L. Jackson and Ryan Reynolds performances.

Some overused CGI aside, to Hughes credit the action scenes are handled with ease as a host of stuntmen are taken care of on a backdrop of explosions, fights and shoot outs as Reynolds' Bryce must get Jackson's Kincaid safely to testify at the International Court of Justice. Both Gary Oldman and Salma Hayek's extended cameo roles are a welcomed highlight but even with some entertaining flashbacks and a handful of laugh out loud moments the paint by numbers yarn is painfully frustrating.

The Hit-man's Bodyguard is no Lethal Weapon or From Paris with Love, Hughes' out of the box production is sadly as generic as Atli Örvarsson's score which is a shame given the talent involved.
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Frankenstein meets Wes Craven's Deadly Friend and an urban Romero and Juliet
6 August 2017
A top secret project reanimates dead and a grieving youth using his fathers work pass brings his girlfriend back to life after she's killed in a motorcycle accident.

Director/producer Brian Yuzna gives plenty of screen time for the female lead zombie Julie played by Melinda Clarke who is brought back from the dead by the 2-4-5 Trioxin from the previous instalments. J. Trevor Edmond as Curt Reynolds is sorely underrated, overshadowed by Clarke's skimpy punk fashions and make up design. Writer John Penney's story recycles many of the best plot elements from its predecessors. Kent McCord as Col. John Reynolds is on his usual good form but the serious tone of this 3rd offering lacks the much of the goofy entertainment that made part one and two so cult and memorable. That said, it's packed with some good brain-munching zombies practical effects and gross make up.

Although the handful of zombies are limited to the sewers and military base there's night on location scenes where Yuzna creates some atmosphere, notably the store segment and attack in the ally. Clarke tries to make the most of her after-death angst and Yuzna offers his staple twisted gore and fetishistic imagery but Return suffers from some of Yuzna's previous works short comings of clunky pacing and editing as oppose to the slicker execution of for example Society.

Overall, the modern day Frankenstein meets Wes Craven's Deadly Friend and an urban Romero and Juliet works as a standalone, but as a third film of the Return of the Living Dead series it falls shy of expectations.
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The Saint (2017 TV Movie)
Restrained by it budget and look.
21 July 2017
Warning: Spoilers
With the FBI hot on his heels international thief Simon Templar goes about helping a man get his kidnapped daughter back.

Sadly this incarnation of Leslie Charteris The Saint has all the trappings of feeling like a TV pilot made in the 90s despite being made in 2013 (with extra shots filmed in 2015) and left on the shelf until 2017. Even though directed by Hollywood director Simon West (Expendables 2, The Mechanic) it's a shame The Saint wasn't given the same film treatment that was given to The Man from U.N.C.L.E (2015) or the budget of the poorly received 1997 film.

For fans Ian Ogilvy returns in a main role but not as Templar and also former Templar Roger Moore cameos. We also have reworked snippets of Edwin Astley's theme pop up. The cast is full of talented movie actors including Eliza Dushku, James Remar and Thomas Kretschmann. With some action littered throughout there's also interestingly flashbacks (an origin-like story of sorts) of Simons youth. With some good one liners Adam Rayner has a good stab at the main role Simon Templar. Rayner has the voice, look and suaveness especially after he loses his beard in the first act but like the whole production feels constrained.

As a TV film or pilot, even with some good actors and talent on board with a budget that appears to be less than an episode of 1980's Miami Vice West just can't pull the rabbit out of the hat. In a TV sea with Lethal Weapon, West World, White Collar to name a few it's watchable but feels clunky when compared to the slickness of TV shows in recent years and lacks the nostalgic charm given its present day setting.

It's a pity that makers didn't make it stand out by placing it in the 1960s original or 70s Return of the Saint time period akin to a Life on Mars or the aforementioned Man from U.N.C.L.E film.
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Svarta Madam (2017)
A must see with the sound up and the lights off.
11 July 2017
Warning: Spoilers
The spirit of a witch reeks havoc on two siblings and their partners when she is summoned to their cottage.

As the genre is close to my heart I couldn't pass an opportunity to view Sweden's filmmaker Jarno Lee Vinsencius latest offering Svarta Madam. Opening with a creepy exposition card harking back to the good old days of horror we're treated to glimpse of a 1633 burning at the stake. Moving forward to 1995 oozing atmosphere as two children, Emma and Alex, go about summoning a spirit (unavoidably echoing Bernard Rose's Candy Man and the Bloody Mary legend) it then jumps to 22 years later at a birthday dinner where the siblings are reunited with their grandmother's mirror. Director, writer Vinsencius packs every frame of The Madame in Black with a flavour of eerie ambiance. With a few jump scares courteous of an injection of effective sound design and music he then amps up the horror suspense with creaky floor boards, disembodied whispers and shrieks in the dark.

As the body count increases even with severed fingers, dreams within dreams, the script rings true, adding some much needed credibility to the underdog genre. It contains all the creepy staples of a good horror, even floating camera work in a forest reminiscent of Evil Dead but like the recent Spanish horror revival this is also fittingly played straight with an on location backdrop enhanced with naturalist lighting. The cast are on fine form, as with Vinsencius' Darkness Falls this offering benefits from some strong performances courtesy of Ida Gyllenstan and the notable Demis Tzivis.

The moonlit night is seemingly CGI free and the makeup effects by Ellinor Rosander are used sparingly. When Madame in Black appears it encompasses all the best of practical horrors, a simple effective shrouded figure (also played by Rosander) channelling Exorcist III. But where Vinsencius excels is in his cinematography, creating a cinematic feel, even throwing in some aerial shots that put DTV horror and some bigger budget films with longer running times to shame. It's clear that Vinsencius gives 110% to his craft and there's no wonder why this Swedish chiller has won handfuls of awards.

This is a must see short horror film, watch with the sound up and the lights off.
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Watchable but desperately needs to go back to basics.
27 June 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Autobots and Decepticons are still at war and the key to saving our future lies buried in the hidden history of Transformers on Earth.

The expensive state-of-the-art special effects and Mark Wahlberg is mostly what keeps the fifth instalment of the franchise watchable, aside for the nods to the original series (ship crashed on a hill, Frank Welker's voice, the episode "A Decepticon Raider in King Arthur's Court" to name a few) very little remains what many of the 1984 viewers fell in love with.

Director Michael Bay's staple eye candy and stereotype battle of the sexes aside, although some human characters return including Josh Duhamel, Nicola Peltz (voice cameo), John Turturro and an unrecognisable Stanley Tucci as Merlin, not even Anthony Hopkins can raise this above mediocre.

The Last Knight is packed with pointless expletives, the usual flash editing, big fights, eye rolling comedy and a compulsory loud soundtrack to accompany the on screen shenanigans. The tone is inconsistent as it goes from one setup and continent to the next. It's crowded with new characters and set pieces including underwater submarine chases, medieval battles, D-Day WWII like battles to outlandish colliding planets with jets, three headed dragon Transformers, swords, a staff and a butler - everything is thrown in.

There's a niggling feeling that the Transformers franchise needs to go back to some design basics and charm of the original series even with harking back to the knights of King Arthur in the plot. Yes, sadly some classic G1 Transformers are missing or not resurrected and new robots are thrown in just to sell more toys. However, where there is an improvement, is that here we have more interaction and characterisation from Transformers robots themselves.

Entertaining at times, watchable, slick leave your brain at the door robot action film, but unnecessarily messy and desperately needs to go back to the source material.
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Drive (I) (2011)
A must see, simply brilliant.
25 June 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Driver is a Hollywood stuntman who moonlights as a getaway driver for criminals. Thing go awry when a new acquaintance is drawn into one last job.

Director Nicolas Winding Refn offers a stylish, moody film with substance based on James Sallis novel. Drive has subtlety and great acting performances to match, it's a simply must see crime drama. Hossein Amini dialogue carries weight, with a few twists and turns, the locations ooze atmosphere and the music and Cliff Martinez score add to the nighttime atmospherics.

Ryan Gosling's Driver with an icy exterior, who later warms up to his neighbour and her son shines throughout in amongst the likes of affable motormouth Shannon (Bryan Cranston), hard man Nino (excellent Ron Perlman), Oscar Isaac's Standard Gabriel and Albert Brooks' surprisingly dangerous character Bernie Rose.

It's not a fast and furious action film, it's more of a smouldering poignant gangster movie with moments of calm and graphic violence. It echoes films like Heat, Taxi Driver with some To Live and Die in L.A. Refn's direction is on point, performances by the ensemble cast, visuals and stunt sequences are excellent and grounded aided by some slick editing from Mat Newman.

Gosling is outstanding, Drive is an essential neo-noir crime film, highly recommend.
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Entertaining enough, a step to recovery for Willis
24 June 2017
An ex-Los Angeles detective turned PI seeks out the ruthless gang that stole his dog.

Director, writer Mark Cullen's entertaining beach bum action caper which sees Bruce Willis as Steve Ford return to centre stage instead of small cameos. Thankfully Willis isn't just there to just pick up a pay cheque, its very much his own film, and he's as cheeky and charming as ever.

The on location feel captures the heat of Venice Beach and Cullen offers plenty of colourful locale visuals. The characters are all quirky and larger than life including humorous Jason Momoa as mumbling gangster Spider and Steve's heartfelt troubled friend Dave (excellent John Goodman). Things get more and more outlandish as Steve tries to solve a number of weird cases. Sadly, Famke Janssen is wasted as Katey Ford.

With echoes of the recent The Nice Guys (2016) there's a few shoot outs and double crosses with hints of watered down Tarantino thrown in for good measure, Cullen like the moments of comedy set these up with perfect timing thanks to some effective staging and Matt Deizel fine editing.

Overall, while not Willis' best it's an almost return to likes of Last Boy Scout form rather than Die Hard, still it's good fun and worth a viewing.
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Welcomed return to shipshape form
14 June 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Captain Jack Sparrow with the help of some new companions tries to end all curses while being pursued by an undead Spanish sea captain who wants revenge.

Directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg offer an enjoyable Pirates adventure which almost briefly reunites the original cast including Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom. With impressive, locations sets and setups packed with effects and stunts, it's a more than satisfying instalment. Granted it loses some wind in its sails in the latter half but it holds enough water to remain charming and well staged throughout.

With quality props, makeup and costumes the cast are on sea worthy form. There's a wave of returning crew members of the series. The new cast additions are likable, Kaya Scodelario as strong female Smyth is refreshing and Brenton Thwaites captures Turner's spirit. David Wenham is his usual reliable self and Paul McCartney cameos humorously as Jack's uncle. Sadly, with a great backstory (where we see a de-age Johnny Depp), as good as Javier Bardem is as the menacing Captain Salazar he's not actually given much to do.

Depp thankfully holds screen presence as usual as Sparrow and it's nice to see Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann incorporated at arms length into the secondary plot. Geoffrey Rush deservedly steals the show as Captain Hector Barbossa offering some weight to the fantastical on screen antics that are accompanied by a swashbuckling score.

Writer Jeff Nathanson offers a few little twists and turns here and there and the comedy mostly hits the mark. If only Barbossa had popped up at the end and returned Jacks hat!

Overall, a shipshape return to form with a strong revival feeling that heightens this instalment and points to more promising things to come.
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The Captive (2014)
Never fulfils it's potential.
14 June 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Eight years after a child disappears without a trace, all eyes are on the father as a killer but clues indicate that the girl is still alive.

The kidnap thriller while covering topical hard hitting subjects - abuse, child pornography and the dark side of the internet to name a few, director Atom Egoyan's offering never goes down the exploitation route and benefits from an atmospheric snowy on location shoot.

It features a small ensemble cast including Ryan Reynolds, Scott Speedman and Rosario Dawson. Bruce Greenwood is sadly wasted. However, Dawson as the troubled strong investigator shines and is excellent throughout. But it's a made to look older Kevin Durand who steals the show as creepy Stockholm syndrome inducing Mika, honing an evil version hybrid of Max Von Sydow and Christopher Plummer.

It's not on the nose approach about serious issues stops it reaching the heights of say Silence of the Lambs (1991). This short coming coupled with some wild plots, cameras tormenting the mother, Reynolds (who is on form) following Christmas trees with conspiracies that wouldn't be out of place in a spy film, it's mainly let down by its choppy flashback plotting and editing.

Overall, it has some great performances but it's hard to overlook its short comings when compared to likes of Insomnia (2002), Jon Voight's Beyond (2012) and other similar films of the genre.
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