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Monster Trash
26 August 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Dracula arrives on Earth and after 100 years of absence calls upon several other monsters in the hunt for an amulet which they intend to use to take over the world. However, a group of kids whom happen to be big monster fans must band together in order to thwart Dracula's evil plans. They receive some unexpected assistance when one of the kids manages to befriend one of the monsters. How will our group of monster fanatics fare when faced with the real things?

I had many issues with this film; for a start the kids are annoying and generally lacking in any kind of likeability. The story is pretty bland, the monsters themselves aren't scary and them being monsters they naturally have their own limitations (little dialogue or development is afforded making it practically impossible to care for their quest). One particularly monster fanatic Rudy (who comes across as a poor man's Corey Feldman) is a bit of an oddity and doesn't sit well within the group. He's a cool kid who chooses to be friends with a bunch of dweebs with no logical explanation as to why he doesn't hang out with cool kids closer to his own age? He struggles with a lot of the monster trivia so can't even really claim that he's a monster fanatic. Like I say he's an odd fit kind of like a square peg in a round hole. Despite its minimal running time there is so little content and so little that happens that it actually feels twice as long as it actually is. Add ropey special effects and several poor performances and you're left with something that's more of a 'monstrosity' than a monster film.

Although I've pointed out several negatives above I think what really takes the cake with this film was the scene where they offer the 5 year old girl as a virgin sacrifice to Dracula? One of the kids says to the German guy (to his 5 year old sister) 'Is she a virgin?' and the German guy says 'Oh yes of course' and then offers her to Dracula? Perhaps it was intended to be humourous, but I just found it a bit queasy and sick and given what has happened with the likes of Jimmy Saville that have been exposed over the years I just didn't like the idea of a very young child being offered as a virgin sacrifice (whether it be as a plot twist or for laughs). It's this kind of outdated humour that really sinks this film and it would be interesting to see how modern reviews compare to those reviews on here from say 15-20 years ago - I'd be shocked if I'm the only person in the modern era who was mildly horrified by this scene.

Aside from a reasonably good performance from Duncan Regehr the film has little else to recommend and is basically just Monster Trash.
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Overlong and far too busy
25 August 2019
Warning: Spoilers
With a government agency putting restrictions on their actions The Avengers find themselves dividing into two teams. Team Captain America who go against what the agency say and continue as vigilantes and Team Iron Man whom work with the agency to uphold the law. However, a major political incident involving their old nemesis The Winter Soldier causes further strain amongst The Avengers. However, things aren't quite what they seem and a larger conspiracy soon begins to unravel...

As a franchise, Captain America has been far from perfect and not one of the three films has blown me away, but in my humble opinion I found this third film the weakest of the three...

The first thing that I need to address with this film is the length of it; it's simply TOO long and for what reason?? So that Marvel can introduce every single character in its entire existence. It actually got to the point where it started to become tedious when yet another character was introduced. What made it worse is that some characters appeared out of nowhere with no explanation as to who contacted them? Ant-Man just arrived in a van with no build-up and I'm pretty sure that Clint seemed to turn up out of nowhere as well. Iron Man at one point is unnerved by these 5 hydra agents hiding out in Russia and says he knows just the person who can help them and then gets Spider-man?? Don't get me wrong I like Spider-man as a super-hero, but how is he any more of a credible adversary than any of the other Avengers? At least in Justice League it made sense that they wanted Superman on-board as he's clearly much stronger than the other DC characters. It wouldn't have been so bad if the many introductions, political differences, squabbling and showdowns would have had much point, but the 5 Hydra Agents that are threatening the world don't even show up which in the end made the film something of a frustrating viewing experience.

The film does have some good points; for a start I did like the idea of The Avengers dividing into 2 teams; sort of bureaucrats vs vigilantes which kind of gives it a conflict within a conflict scenario. There are enough fight sequences scattered throughout the film to not make the unbearably long running time not be as much of a problem as it could have been.

Still despite this I couldn't warm to this third instalment in the franchise as much as I would have liked to; it just felt cluttered, unfocused and a little too busy for my liking. Perhaps being the third film in the franchise influenced the producers/writers decision to introduce the endless number of characters, but for me I found that this merely engulfed the film and didn't really allow the story to breathe. As it stands it's a passable effort, but for me its the weakest film in the trilogy.
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Like a slow death...
11 August 2019
New York pastor Ernst Toller (Ethan Hawke) is asked to counsel a depressed environmental activist by his concerned wife Mary (Amanda Seyfried). Having counselled Mary's husband, he sends a text to Ernst asking him to meet him at a specified location, but when Ernst arrives Mary's husband is dead. Mary's husband's death causes Ernst's life to gradually begin to spiral out of control as well as unearthing some demons from his past...

Whilst Schrader's intention here was clearly to be heartfelt, deep, and meaningful what this film actually comes across as is dull, wearying, cumbersome and ever so slightly pretentious. It's actually incredible to think that a film so boring could have come from the same man that was responsible for the screenplays for Raging Bull and Taxi Driver. Having said that I can see some parallels; there's a character study here, but whereas the aforementioned films simmered, bubbled and boiled First Reformed kind of just simmers for a long time and then just goes Pop. Taxi Driver was a superb film and despite having mixed feelings about Raging Bull I could still recognise it as a good character study, but with First Reformed I just wasn't feeling it.

Credit where credit's due and I have to say that Ethan Hawke was fantastic in his role and was credible through every stage of the journey. Although I've never personally been a big fan of Seyfried I thought she handled the emotional scenes extremely well and found her to be a good fit with Hawke.

But yeah that's about the only positive I can take from this film. Other than that the film bored me to tears and if I missed anything then it was probably because I was in a concussed state that saw me both drifting in and out of consciousness and watching paint dry (both of which were far more interesting than this film). Some may say that the film spoke to them well if that's the case then if it was speaking to me then at best it was talking in another language and at worst it was lisping.
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Entertaining in spots, but not particularly memorable
11 August 2019
After the death of Superman, Batman and his new ally Wonder Woman find themselves having to recruit a crack team of superheroes including Aqua Man, The Flash and Cyborg. Having recruited the best in the business, the team must band together to battle against the evil Steppenwolf and his army whom are trying to find 3 mother boxes which are securely hidden in various locations. However, given the sheer power of their enemy have our band of superheroes perhaps bitten off more than they can chew?

I haven't seen Batman vs Superman prior to watching this film and therefore was unaware that Justice League linked back to BVS so you may have to bear with me here, but here are my thoughts on this film...

As I've said in my summary, this film is quite entertaining; it has plenty of action in order to try to keep things moving. The character introductions were done in a steady fashion again without being overdone (no unnecessarily elongated back stories). At times there is some good camaraderie between the characters; unfortunately this isn't a consistent aspect of the film and there are many occasions when the film is a little dry and serious - The Flash is clearly there to offset some of this and is one of the best things about this film.

I think the main problem with this film is just how unmemorable it all is whether it be the acting or the story; I haven't seen Batman vs Superman, but for me Affleck just is not a very good Batman; I think Affleck is partly to blame as his performance is not great, but I think what makes things worse is how little is done with his character. Gadot is not the best of actresses, but as Wonder Woman she does at least have some fire about her (plus a pair of legs that go on forever and a few shots of her rather nice derriere). Cyborg is just a miserable git (understandable to an extent given what has happened to him), but his character is pretty bland and fails to make any memorable contribution to the film. As The Flash, Miller is at least fun and as I mentioned earlier, I think Snyder used him here to counter-balance the serious tone, but Miller can't really do this on his own (although he does his best). Momoa is OK, but again his is not a particularly memorable contribution.

Even if you look at the action scenes which are entertaining to a degree they don't have much imagination (with the exception of Wonder Woman everyone seems to fight by throwing each other into things which becomes repetitive). The story is serviceable, but again isn't all that interesting and at times I found myself waiting for the next action scene (which clearly means there's a problem).

So yes it's entertaining & humourous in spots with occasional moments of good camaraderie between the superheroes, but with a number of forgettable performances and a pretty unmemorable story it doesn't really cut the mustard. Give me The Avengers any time.
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Hud (1963)
A bit of a strain on one's patience, but it does improve in the second half
9 August 2019
Like his role in the Hustler 5 years earlier, Hud is presumably intended as another character study for Newman (in both films Newman's characters walk somewhat destructive paths). The difference for me was that whilst I found The Hustler to be a rewarding, rich and absorbing character study from start to finish Hud didn't quite have the same impression on me...

The major problems in Hud are two-fold; 1) The pacing; the first hour is unbearably slow with very little of interest going on - it has a quiet simmer about it when really it should have gradually started bubbling. 2) The plot itself - if you take away the character studying element of the story then what you're left with is a narrative involving a rancher whose livelihood is threatened by a potential outbreak of foot and mouth disease amongst his livestock. Don't get me wrong I'm well aware of this real world problem and understand the devastation that this disease can cause to livestock, but the honest truth is that it just isn't a particularly involving narrative. Had the character studying had more focus in the first half then perhaps the weak story wouldn't have mattered, but for some reason it doesn't which results in the first hour being a dull affair.

Mercifully, the second half of the film is much more focused and we start to learn a few home truths and get to the heart of the picture. Newman's destructiveness becomes more prominent and the cracks start to appear in his persona - his father knows what he is like, but Hud's impressionable nephew and the live-in housekeeper are initialised blindsided by Hud's superficial charm and swagger until they too start to see the cracks in his personality.

One other thing running in the film's favour is the acting; Newman is always fantastic and once again puts in a scene stealing performance. He was a fine actor who always managed to immerse himself into his roles. Personally I still think he was slightly better in The Hustler (like this film he was nominated for Best Actor, but didn't win). Newman was great, but so were the supporting cast. Perhaps most surprising was Patricia Neal who as well as giving a good performance was also written as a strong female character (something of a rarity in the 1960's). Solid support from the likes of Melvyn Douglas and Brandon De Wilde also complement the film making it a really good actor's piece (even if the narrative was a little wobbly at times).

I'd be lying if I said that this was a brilliant film, but at the same time I can see why lots of people liked Hud - it does turn out to be a pretty good character study and the acting amongst the principal 4 characters is beyond question. But as I've said the unbearably slow-paced first hour coupled with a narrative revolving round a potential foot and mouth epidemic didn't exactly set my heart racing or cause me to really take much notice. It has its moments, but most of these moments don't arrive until the second half of the picture which may prove to be too little too late for some folks.
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Having the right director prevents the film from being a total washout
3 August 2019
The year is 1991 and a group of fisherman set sail on their boat the Andrea Gail to catch some fish in the Atlantic Ocean. However, they soon find themselves in grave danger when 3 separate storms come bearing down on them on their return home.

When I saw that this film had been based on a book I initially assumed that it was a fictional book and it's only after I've looked into this further that I've realised that it's based on real-life events. Anyway putting that to one side for a moment, I will let you have my thoughts on this film...

It starts off OK (despite the fact that I felt like it lacked any kind of urgency) in its opening 30 minutes or so. I suppose this is meant to exist to set the characters up, but given how flat many of them are throughout the film then perhaps the film could have just started at sea which arguably would have made the film a much better 90 minute film rather than a slightly drawn out 120 minute feature which is sadly what we get served up here.

There's no doubt in my mind that Wolfgang Peterson was definitely the right man for the job here; I've seen a great number of his films and one thing he does understand is action and spectacle and this is where the film is at its best; the second half of the film really showcases his talents and he does manage to create several breath-taking sequences and does his absolute best to try to bring about the terror and peril that our group of fisherman find themselves in. It's a shame then that the screenplay doesn't seem to be along for the ride in the same manner; as a character-driven film character development should have been front and centre in the picture, but sadly it simply isn't the case here. The likes of Fitchner and Reilly are good in the first half of the film and their dislike for each other acts as a good driver at the start of the film, but an incident in the first half of the film puts an end to their quarrelling (in a way it was nice to see, but having them at each other's throats throughout the film may have made the narrative more interesting in the sections of the film before the storm arrives). With only Reilly and Fitchner having any kind of camaraderie and with this only confined to the first half of the picture then it does leave many of the characters feeling dull, underwritten and uninteresting; Clooney is OK as the captain of the ship, but is given no dimension whatsoever, Wahlberg is annoying at times and isn't a particularly strong character, Fichtner and Reilly are only of interest in the first half and the other 2 characters barely contribute anything (the black guy is basically reduced to a clichéd stereotype) and Hawkes seems to be an interesting Jack the lad type character before entering the boat and all of this bravado seems to get lost when he enters the boat and he then seems to just be hanging around in the background which seems like a waste of a potentially interesting character.

The Perfect Storm is at its best when the focus is on the action as the characters almost seem superfluous; the female characters are also poorly written and the film also seems to include a sub-plot involving another boat that finds itself in difficulty (it's inclusion in the story is puzzling, but perhaps was included to give some uplift given the film's rather downbeat ending).

It's fortunate that the film had Wolfgang Peterson as its director as I suspect in less experienced/competent hands the film would have been a lot worse. The film is worth seeing more for the second half when our crew are ultimately in peril, but given the poor way that the characters are developed/used then I can't help but feel that this film has missed an awful lot of potential. Worth watching, but a little disappointing overall.
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Alien Code (2017)
Like sitting down to eat your favourite extra large pizza; tasty, but a lot to digest in one sitting
29 July 2019
Cryptographer Alex Jacobs (Kyle Gallner) is recruited by a secret government agency to decode a message that they've managed to intercept from a satellite that has been sent from the future. After Alex has served his purpose, he is swiftly taken back to his former existence but soon starts to have hallucinations and starts questioning what he has decoded and who the company are whom have paid him to carry out the decryption. Alex soon finds himself being stalked by both the government agency and otherworldly beings in his desperate search for answers...

I actually quite liked the idea behind this story (the concept of a government agency getting their hands on something they neither understand or can control is actually quite amusing and for me I wondered if the film was acting as a worrying metaphor on the aforementioned elements). This is quite a good driver for the story and at the start of the film we witness a 'one man in peril' scenario that gradually unfolds into 'several people in peril' as the larger conspiracy begins to unravel. Narratively, it does unfold fairly well and moves along at a reasonable pace so it never quite gets to the point where it becomes boring, but it does come close at times which forms part of the problem.

Given the concept and all of its themes and ideology I did reasonably expect some exposition and analysis, but boy did they go to town here - and I don't mean that in a good way. A lot of the hypothesising was mind-boggling and the exchange towards the end was a little overwhelming - running with the food analogy it's a bit like someone offering you a tub of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream - you consume the first tub happily enough, but then you're offered another tub of ice cream and halfway through the second tub you decide that you've had enough and that you don't want any more. That's exactly what this film is like at times; it's almost like the writers forgot that it was a film that was meant to entertain and decided to turn it into some overly-complicated time-continuum seminar. Don't get me wrong I like to learn things and like to learn things from films, but I'd rather learn in small bite-size amounts rather than in great white shark style chunks. Unfortunately some of the narrative and directorial choices did spoil the film for me somewhat and rendered it far less enjoyable than I'd expected.

To try and an end on a positive note I did quite liked the story and could even see a bit of social commentary buried underneath the rather 'heavy dialogue' and in fairness I did think that Kyle Gallner was really good in the lead role (even though he isn't first billed on IMDB's credit order - huh??). Sadly though The Men/Alien Code is a bit overwritten and a tad over ambitious, but I've given it a pass as I did quite like the story. As I said in my summary, it's a lot to digest in one viewing so I may check it out again in the future and may understand it more on a second viewing. As it stands at the moment though it's a 6 out of 10 for me; watchable but not brilliant.
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A reasonable thriller let down slightly by a baggy middle section
28 July 2019
Celebrity paparazzo and photographer Gage Sullivan (Shannen Doherty) becomes a victim of what she practices when she finds herself being stalked by a man who likes to take photographs of her and leaves bubble gum as his calling card. In order to try and protect herself Gage employs the services of security consultant Nick Angel (Joseph Griffin) who helps Gage improve security around her home. However, when Gage's assistant Casey is kidnapped by her stalker Gage soon learns that all is not what it seems and a deeper conspiracy slowly begins to unravel...

Striking Poses opens wonderfully and the intrigue and mystery surrounding Gage's stalker provide a good foundation to build the story on. However, after about the first 15 minutes or so I found my interest waning somewhat as the momentum gradually started to become more and more depleted until eventually the wheels more or less completely fell off. Not a great deal happens in the middle section of the film; security consultants visit Gage's house, the stalker takes some pictures, a suggested romance looks as though it maybe developing between Gage and Nick - it was just so boring and it pretty much carries on in this fashion for about 45 minutes.

However, it does sort of spring back into life in the last 30 minutes when Gage starts to learn that all is not quite as it seems and the film then suddenly starts to find another gear. Gage's plans to turn the tables on her stalker have a certain degree of ingenuity and there are also plenty of clever twists and turns that are revealed in the final act. Whilst it never provides edge of your seat thrills at any point it is a reasonable film that is let down by its dull middle section (the film seems to be in idle at this point).

The acting isn't the best either (the worst offender by far is Joseph Griffin who showed no range whatsoever). Also when watching this film it does have a very TVM feel about it - it looks and feels as though it was made on the cheap (which it probably was to be fair).

So overall it's not bad - good start, decent finale but boring middle section. If it's on and you're at a loose end then you could do worse, but I can't help but feel that One Hour Photo explored similar themes to a far greater effect and if you haven't seen that film then I would definitely check it out as it is a much better offering than Striking Poses.
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Lifechanger (2018)
Somewhat original concept, but it's surprisingly uninvolving
27 July 2019
I'll admit I was intrigued by this film from the write-up and it did look as though it would offer a variant on the usual slant in the horror film world; rather than having someone going round killing people senselessly we have someone killing people and then becoming that person in order to survive. This works to an extent due to the intriguing concept, but sadly different does not always mean good...

The shape-shifting element to the story is of some interest and in its early stages and at the start I was invested in what was happening; who would be targeted next and how each target would slot into the story and while it works at the start after about the first 30 minutes it starts to become repetitive - particularly when precious little is learnt about our 'shape-shifter.' An example of this is where we're told early in the film that the 'shape-shifter' used to last longer in a body, but now they could only exist for short periods of time in someone else's body - this becomes a recurring theme throughout the film. The problem is that this is never really elaborated on and the 'shape-shifter' also doesn't have much of a backstory which is what gives the film its uninvolving feel. In fact its only the idea that the 'shape-shifter' must find a new body quickly that gets the film any kind of urgency at all.

Lifechanger does make some relevations towards the end which may go towards alleviating some viewer's frustration, but on the other hand the finale felt a little forced and rushed and the ending to me never comes across as being quite as profound as it thinks it is. I also found the voiceover a little irritating and never really felt that it added much to the film - this was made worse by the fact that I thought the guy narrating the film sounded like Nicolas Cage which just acted as a further distraction.

The acting is about what you'd expect given the budget etc and whilst no-one stands out as being particularly bad it is only Lora Burke and Jack Foley who really make much of an impression.

On the whole then this isn't terrible, but I sometimes think that whoever does the ratings for the films on SKY needs their head examining; Lifechanger was given 4.5 stars out of 5 which I think is ridiculous. IMDB rates the film as 5.5 out of 10 which I think is a much more accurate reflection of the overall quality of this film.

SIDE NOTE; that opening scene though with Elitsa Bako - just wow!!!
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Knuckleball (II) (2018)
Even if you can overlook the wishy-washy story it still isn't much of a thriller
24 July 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Mother Mary (Kathleen Munroe) and Paul (Chenier Hundal) leave their 12 year old son Henry (Luca Villacis) with Mary's father Jacob (Michael Ironside) so that they can fly out to attend a cousin's funeral. Initially all is well (albeit Henry isn't quite at home with his granddad's quirky ways). However, Jacob's sudden death overnight sets off a chain reaction consisting of Henry being pursued and terrorised and finds himself in a battle of wits to try to thwart his pursuer...

As I've stated in my review summary Knuckleball is poor as a thriller, but worse than that are the numerous things with the characters/narrative that just didn't make sense; for a start, Mary mentions that she doesn't like her father's home and that she didn't like going there because she believes that her mother killed herself because her father had an affair. If that's the case then why on earth would you be happy for your child to stay somewhere that you wouldn't want to stay particularly given what had happened to Mary's mother? It seemed very odd to me and it felt like the parent's couldn't wait to leave their son with Jacob and get as far away as possible (which is what they did). The father's general disinterest with his own son's well-being was another puzzling element to the story - I thought at first I missed something and that he was perhaps Henry's stepfather (which would make his passiveness a little easier to believe, but I checked back at the start of the film and he is indeed Henry's dad so why the lackadaisical attitude?). To me this formed part of the problem as the parent's behaviour drew me slightly away from proceedings - the son leaves a voicemail message that they don't listen till until 2 days later? It meant to me that the film lacked any real sense of urgency.

Where the film is at its overall weakest however is definitely in the first half of the picture; you can actually fast-forward through the first 30 minutes and you would barely miss a thing. Michael Ironside grunts and mumbles his way through the film (with its poor storyline and low production values it did make me wonder what made him sign up to this project?). His grandson is subjected to labour intensive tasks and throws a baseball at a wall a few times and then Jacob pops his clogs which then just becomes a catalyst for the final sequence of events.

The finale sees Henry fighting to survive against his step uncle/uncle Dixon (Munro Chambers) who has murderous intentions on his mind - is he just naturally crazy or is he hacked off that Jacob insisted that Dixon remained his dirty secret? Perhaps it was a bit of both because if he was just hacked off with Jacob then why try and kill Henry? Playing out like a cross between Home Alone and The Shining the battle of wits between Henry and Jacob in the latter stages of the film do give the picture a slight lift, but only on odd occasions. Oh yeah and one other thing that I thought was pretty stupid was when Henry's parents return at the end and they're able to enter a murder scene unchallenged by any police officers? Surely the area would have been cordoned off in the real world??

Had it actually worked as a thriller I could have overlooked many of the puzzling elements involving the story/characters then it would probably would have been something I would recommend in the mould of a 'leave your brain at the door type film.' But the fact that it lacks any significant moments of terror or suspense results in it being a tedious waste of 80 odd minutes.

Ending on a positive I did think that Chambers & Villacis were pretty good in their respective roles.
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Rampage (2018)
Generic, but enjoyable
13 July 2019
Primatologist Davis Okoye (Dwayne Johnson) is horrified when he learns that one of his beloved gorillas George starts to exhibit aggressive behaviour as well as growing at an alarmingly fast rate. When geneticist Dr Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris) sees what has happened on the news she pays a visit to Davis and explains to Davis that George has been exposed to a pathogen which has caused dangerous alterations to George's DNA. Davis and Kate find themselves racing against time to find the antidote to return George back to his normal self, but haven't banked on 2 other dangerous creatures who have also been exposed to the pathogen...

In Rampage, Johnson is clearly in comfortably territory here playing the same type of likeable hero we've come to know and love. Anyone who is familiar with his work will not be blown away by what they see here, but Johnson is a good screen presence and is generally good value in these type of films. That being said the story is pretty basic and predictable, but it does at least have a sense of urgency about it which means that it moves almost as fast as the creatures. It also helps that Okoye's bond with George is shown at the beginning as this acts as the heart of the film when George is infected with the pathogen and managed to provide me with some emotional investment (which is something that tends to be missing from a lot of action films).

Some of the supporting characters do let the film down slightly though; the villains of the piece brother and sister Brett and Claire Wyden are not particularly interesting villains lacking in both menace and development. It doesn't help that both Lacy and Akerman put in less than impressive and convincing turns in their respective roles.

Despite this though Rampage does provide a lot of the staple requirements that one comes to expect from an action film; it's big, it's loud, it has some heart and there's plenty of destruction making it a fairly satisfying viewing experience.
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It covers familiar ground and is a bit gimmicky, but it still very much succeeds on its own merits
12 July 2019
Soldier Cage (Tom Cruise) is forced to fight on the frontline (very much against his will) in a war against an alien race. Cage gets killed during the battle, but also discovers that he is able to reset the day every time he dies. Cage struggles to convince his fellow soldiers of what has happened to him and what he knows, but manages to find an ally in another soldier Rita (Emily Blunt). With their different skill sets they set to work in trying to defeat the alien race once and for all...

Edge Of Tomorrow has clearly lifted its central concept from Groundhog Day and set it in a post apocalyptic era where humans are fighting aliens (which again is nothing new). Aside from the gimmicky nature of the plot, I think what makes the film work is mainly down to the way the story is constructed and how it all unfolds; at first we're in the same boat as Cage - confused about what is happening and searching for answers. It soon starts to become like a puzzle and each time Cage dies and resets the day we are gradually able to start piecing things together and more and more of the story starts to unravel and step by step Rita and Cage get closer to achieving their goal.

One thing I did find interesting about this film was the way Cruise's character is written; usually when watching Cruise's films he usually has leading man status and generally plays characters with a degree of heroism. At the start of the film, he is something of a pacifist and is very much against violence (which is not something we're used to seeing from Cruise in a lot of his action films). Of course, he becomes skilled later in the film, but it was interesting to see Cruise play a character that had been written in such a manner. On the other hand, Emily Blunt's character is the opposite; tough as nails and rather no nonsense in approach - she remains this way throughout which was something of a blessing as I was worried that we might have had another 'sappy romance' on our hands.

Edge Of Tomorrow is a good looking film with some neat special effects and director Doug Liman keeps everything tight and focused; naturally it's a rinse and repeat approach, but new developments to the story are realised on each repeated day so it never becomes dull (this was part of the reason that Groundhog Day worked as well). Out of the supporting cast then it's only Bill Paxton who's really given anything to do and he once again puts in a very strong performance.

Despite the fact that this is Groundhog Day set against the backdrop of war with an alien race, Edge Of Tomorrow still manages to hold its own and is an entertaining film with a decent story and enough elements for it to be able to stand up to scrutiny on its own merits. Not a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but an enjoyable film nonetheless.
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Speed (1994)
Like the bus itself Speed isn't always a smooth ride and is constantly on and off the gas, but it also has plenty of momentum and just keeps on going
10 July 2019
Warning: Spoilers
LAPD officer Jack Traven (Keanu Reeves) along with his partner Harry (Jeff Daniels) manage to foil an attempt by explosives expert Howard Payne (Dennis Hopper) to extort a multi-million dollar pay-out when he uses a bunch of innocent hostages trapped in a lift in a high-rise building. After assuming Payne to be dead (after detonating a bomb strapped to him) Jack and Harry celebrate their success. However, it turns out that this was merely a ploy by Payne and his next play involves strapping a bomb to a bus which will detonate if the bus drops below 50mph once it has accelerated to this speed.

As you can imagine with what is basically 'Die Hard on a bus' Speed is not short on entertainment and as a result of this it is never boring, but it does suffer slightly in the same vein that some other action films do...

The problem with Speed is that it is a one-note and one concept idea; aside from the 'filler' at the start it is basically a bus travelling at over 50mph for well over an hour. As I've mentioned it is entertaining to an extent, but there's only so much you do with this type of concept before it runs out of steam (or fuel as is the case here). It doesn't really help that they are on a bus which can smash through roadblocks, cars and so on and they're also all on a bus that defies the laws of physics by cornering better than an F1 car. To be fair, I can roll with these sort of things when done in the name of entertainment, but I still need a reason to care about what I'm seeing and I have to be honest I wasn't fully invested in what was on show here.

Dennis Hopper is the villain of the piece who is hacked off with the police and feels that they owe him a vast sum of money for an injury he sustained whilst working as part of their bomb disposal team. In this film he uses his expertise against his former colleagues which does present an interesting cat and mouse scenario, but with flimsy character development there's only so much that Hopper can do here (I give him full marks as he does an excellent job with what he had to work with). Keanu Reeves is actually pretty good as the heroic LAPD officer; there's a certain warmth to his character that makes him likeable and easy to root for. Sandra Bullock brings her usual affable dizzy charm and does OK even if she doesn't have much of a character to play here.

The ending is over-the-top and silly and in some ways this forms part of the problem; the film is so ridiculous that at times it feels like a cartoon; check out the infamous scene with the 'bus jump' if you want to see what I'm talking about. In fact sometimes the only thing that reminded me that it wasn't a cartoon was that nobody dropped an anvil on Keanu Reeves head and that Porky Pig didn't show up at the end saying 'TTTTTThhhhattt's all folks!!!'

Joking aside, this is a pretty entertaining film and at the very least it is fun unpretentious and never boring, but the cartoonish nature of the film meant that I found it to be distracting fun rather than a pulse-pounding thrill ride which is the main reason that I haven't given Speed a higher score.
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Beetlejuice (1988)
Has Burton's style all over it - it's a shame that the script is poor and there are few laughs to be found
8 July 2019
Adam and Barbara Maitland (Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis) are both killed in a car crash, but return as ghosts in their family home. After their deaths, their house gets sold and a new family move in; mum Delia (Catherine O'Hara) dad Charles (Jeffrey Jones) and daughter Lydia (Winona Ryder). The Maitlands do not like this family and object to some of their plans for the home and try to drive the family out of the home by employing scare tactics. When this fails, they decide to enlist the help of bio-exorcist Betelguese (Michael Keaton), but Betelgeuse proves to be out of control and the Maitlands soon begin to regret asking him for help...

Beetlejuice actually starts out as an OK film; the Maitlands are both likeable enough (if a tad icky) and the idea of them trying to scare the living away from their home in a farcical way certainly sounds funny; sort of like an amusing take on The Poltergeist or Amityville Horror. Regrettably though, for me this just didn't work. Like I say, Baldwin and Davis are likeable enough and do OK in their respective roles, but the script is poor and gives them no amusing lines and not a great deal to work with. This also extends to most of the family who move into the house; the likes of O'Hara and Jones are capable actors, but in Beetlejuice their contributions are barely memorable and add nothing to the film. Shaddix seems to just be playing Associate Bob from Demolition Man again. Winona Ryder's character is explored better than the other characters, but her quirky macabre weirdness should have been used better and I was disappointed that she wasn't given any good lines either.

So we've established that the script is rubbish and the story (such as it is) is rather thin, but Burton still has 2 things up his sleeve; the first is Michael Keaton and the second is the visuals. In this context, the former is certainly energetic and occasionally amusing, but he's only in the picture for about a fifth of the running time which would mean he would need to be a strong presence and side-splittingly funny to make up for the shortfall elsewhere in the film; the truth is that he isn't and I think the only scene involving Betelgeuse that I actually found slightly amusing was the scene where they were all inside the model. The visuals are indeed bright and colourful, but once again it feels like Burton's outlandish visuals are merely there to detract from all of the other lesser qualities of the film creating a style over substance feel (that being said the visuals now look somewhat tacky, but hey this film was made 30 years ago so again this perhaps should be taken in context as well).

It's sad really because I think Tim Burton was definitely the right man to direct this film and perhaps that's the reason this film has a cult following, but unless you purely watch films to look at the scenery then there is little point in wasting your time here.
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Oblivion (I) (2013)
Improves slightly after a slow start, but it's a little too dry and heavy-going for my liking (mild spoliers)
7 July 2019
Warning: Spoilers
The year is 2077 and Earth as we know has been all but wiped out with large areas being uninhabitable due to high levels of radiation being present as a result of several years of war with the scavengers. The slight upshot is that humans won the war and a pair of technicians Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) and Jack (Tom Cruise) are tasked with general security of the earth & maintaining the drones that are used to sweep the area. However, when drones begin to disappear in mysterious circumstances and when Jack discovers a group of survivors who have crash-landed on Earth he begins to question who he once was and what he has now become....

Slow-burning and occasionally tedious, Oblivion,, nevertheless does have a moderately interesting story; I did want to find out more about who was down there and how they were surviving etc. It's a good job really that the film has this 'hook' in the first half as a lot of what else we see going on away from Earth isn't all that interesting; Cruise and Riseborough are not a good fit together and their on-screen chemistry is simply awful. Riseborough fares worst overall though as we learn practically nothing about her character (although this is no great loss in the grand scheme of things in that she isn't a particularly compelling character in the first place). I could also have done without some of Jack's silly speeches (he spends considerable time rambling on about a ball game that once took place before the war and seems to remember it quite vividly - remarkable for a man who had his memory wiped out 5 years ago. While we're on the subject, how was Jack able to remember where he lived when his memory had been wiped?

Things improve slightly in the second half when Jack begins to learn more about himself and what happened to him 'pre-war' (I won't say anymore than that). However, why it takes around an hour to get to this point is anyone's guess? The second half is better if only due to the pacing and the fact that Cruise shares more screen time with Kurylenko in the second half of the picture and it has to be said that Cruise's chemistry with Kurylenko is arguably better than it is with Riseborough.

Although some parts work and some characters have better chemistry than others (as highlighted above) I was a little disappointed with some of the acting; quite a large number of the actors look as though they're reading lines from an autocue and for me a lot of the cast looked a little bored. I appreciate that Cruise tries to play this straight (he's brought a lot of cocky smugness to his films in the past which has always provided mixed results) but I have to admit that seeing him in Oblivion I would have liked to have seen a bit more dynamism and swagger; the truth is that he isn't great here and despite the backstory I didn't find him all that compelling as a character. Riseborough is dull and does nothing of real interest. Kurylenko is of more interest (particularly when we learn who she is), but again there's little development or depth to her character which then falls back on her chemistry with Cruise which as I've mentioned isn't too bad all things being considered. Freeman is OK here, but he's clearly slumming it and Game Of Thrones Nikolaj Coster-Waldau isn't given enough to do to really make an impression.

For me, Oblivion was far too serious and dry and with a whole host of poorly developed characters it's quite a tough film to endure. This is capped off by a predictable ending which should have been powerful, but due to the fact that I never really grew to know or feel a great deal for the characters I left the film feeling indifferent and unimpressed.
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Skyscraper (2018)
Seriously? Only a 5.8 IMDB score? You're pulling my leg...
29 June 2019
Will Sawyer (Dwayne Johnson) is a former FBI Agent who retired 10 years ago and has now taken up a job as a security consultant and has relocated to Hong Kong with his wife and 2 children - presumably his decision was partly influenced by life-changing injuries that he suffered just before he quit his job as an FBI Agent. Sawyer has relocated to Hong Kong with his family and is now employed as a security consultant and is thrilled when he learns that he gets the job as chief security advisor at the newly built tallest skyscraper in the world on his doorstep in Hong Kong. However, this dream soon turns into a nightmare when terrorists set fire to the 96th floor whilst Sawyer's family are trapped in the floors above..

Skyscraper is one of those films that pretty much wears its heart on its sleeve; narratively it is pretty poor complete with poorly developed villains and a vague storyline. Outside of this though I have to admit that as a spectacle it is fantastic. Rawson Marshall Thurber does a superb job in the director's chair as the film is chocked full of many heart-stopping, pulse-pounding tension filled scenes - I'll admit that my review may be slightly biased as I'm terrified of heights so the scenes showing Johnson clinging for dear life off the edge of the skyscraper on numerous occasions had me grimacing on several occasions.

Although Rawson Thurber does a good job as a director he sadly doesn't do quite as good a job with the screenplay (which sadly seems to be a case with a lot of filmmakers who choose to both write and direct their own projects). You feel when watching this film that he knew the narrative was poor and just concentrated on making the film an exciting affair (it's rare that any time goes by when someone isn't in peril, hanging on for dear life or something doesn't explode). To be fair to Thurber this is what the majority of cinema goers look for in a film (excluding the majority of film critics or cinema elitists who seem to demand depth from everything they see). Take my word for it though if you're a normal mortal who likes an exciting cinematic experience and like to be kept on the edge of your seat then I'm pretty confident you'll enjoy this film.

The acting is OK given the premise and the spotty plotting; Johnson has now become comfortable in this territory playing the likeable action hero and does a good job. Neve Campbell is also fairly solid as his wife and it was nice to see that she had some skills of her own (rather than being the clichéd and somewhat pathetic damsel in distress character).

The final sequence is an OK and fairly good way to wrap the film up; although the hall of mirrors stuff has clearly been ripped off from Enter The Dragon and it has to be said it isn't executed here with nearly as much tension, skill or panache as the aforementioned film.

Still on the whole I did like this film and found it to be tense and quite nerve-wracking (although like I say I'm terrified of heights so the sight of anyone looking down from a great height automatically puts me on edge). Despite its narrative weaknesses, Skyscraper is fast-paced and action-packed enough to work on the whole and as a mindless piece of escapism it is practically perfect.
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Unsane (2018)
A lot of wasted potential here; this could have been great
28 June 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Sawyer Valentini (Claire Foy) is suffering from mental health issues due to something that had happened in her past in a different city. She decides to seek help and speaks to a counsellor at a behavioural clinic. However, Sawyer inadvertently signs a form and voluntarily inducts herself as a patient at the behavioural centre. Matters take a turn for the worst when Sawyer believes that her former stalker David Strine (Joshua Leonard) is working at the centre as a doctor. When Sawyer voices her concerns about Strine she is dismissed as being crazy, but is she telling the truth or is it all a figment of her imagination?

I was intrigued by this film in its early stages (including when Sawyer first enters the behavioural unit), but sadly it didn't take long for my interest to wain...

Unsane is another example of a film that suffers from sloppy writing at key moments which ultimately undermines any tension or intrigue that is trying to be put forward. An example of this is the decision at around the 30 minute mark to reveal who the stalker was and tell us everything about him? I mean for me not knowing who this was and whether they truly existed or not would have been the main compelling component about this film, but knowing all of this very early on it loses much of its appeal.

That being said providing a lot of the spoils early on doesn't necessarily mean that the film will be ruined for an audience, but if you are going to present a film in this manner then you really need to make sure that you offer your audience some other elements of interest as a 'wraparound' to the narrative and once again the film fails in this respect. There is a sub-plot running in the background that the behavioural centre are exploiting patients for their own financial gain; perhaps this sort of thing does happen (it's not something I'm an expert on I hasten to add) but it isn't really all that interesting - although perhaps it was included to throw some social commentary into the mix.

Furthermore, the film also lacks any real compelling or interesting characters; the worst offender is Violet (who basically is the same type of nasty character that Angelina Jolie played in Girl, Interrupted). Juno Temple does her best with what she has to work with, but hers is a rather thankless role that adds little to the film. Joshua Leonard is a solid presence overall - although he is much better when he is in crazy and psychotic mode (the scene in the padded cell with Foy where he gets all teary eyed wasn't all that convincing). Jay Pharoah is the token 'nice guy' patient who sadly only becomes of real interest when we learn who he really was after he had been killed by Strine. Having said all that, Foy is very good and her excellent turn has prevented the film from getting a lower score.

I think what really ruins the film is the rather silly way that it ends; after Sawyer kills Strine the film jumps forward 6 months and Sawyer is seemingly back in her previous role with no explanation as to what went on in between? How did she explain her absence from work? Also Sawyer goes to attack a bloke at the end because she thinks it might be Strine despite the fact that 1) She killed Strine and 2) She can only see his beard and not his face meaning that anyone with a beard is a target. Perhaps the point here is to try and get the audience thinking about who was the real crazy person? Was it Sawyer or was it Strine? Or option 3 was it the screenwriters? Well if you've sat through this garbage then you can be the judge.

So like I say this could have been great, but the fact that it reveals too much too soon coupled with its absurd ending results in it being a poor film that lacks any intrigue, suspense, tension or decent/interesting characters. I read in the trivia section that Soderbergh filmed this on an IPhone 7 using the app Filmic Pro which for me was probably the most interesting thing about the whole film.
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Lethargic thriller that lacks both momentum and excitement
25 June 2019
Retired CIA Agent Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) is back as a part time cabbie and part time ass-kicking vigilante. However, things become more personal when McCall finds himself avenging the death of his long-time friend Susan Plummer (Melissa Leo). Calling upon all of his old skills, he sets to work on finding who was responsible for her death whilst dispensing his own form of justice...

I have to admit that I quite liked the first Equalizer film; it was by no means a brilliant film and it sure had its share of flaws, but it was at least reasonably entertaining. Unfortunately, this sequel isn't quite there I'm afraid...

After an impressive opener, the film then becomes slow and somewhat dull for the first hour; sure McCall is a vigilante who goes round kicking loads of ass and does target people that deserve it, but oddly enough I just didn't care all that much for any of it and I almost found myself slightly detached and distanced from proceedings. OK I'd be lying if I said that there isn't a modicum of enjoyment to be had from seeing Denzel kick some ass, but it's tainted by the lack of a real reason to care. Writer Richard Wenk does address this by introducing the death of one of McCall's friends which acts as a driver for the plot and whilst this does give the film a sense of purpose it still doesn't really improve on its earlier weaknesses.

What really lets the film down is its very weak sub-plot involving McCall trying to look after his neighbour and put him on the 'right track' so to speak. It's so clumsily and half-heartedly chucked into the story that it practically becomes laughable - it felt like it was only included to try and give weight to the thin story and becomes worse when you learn that this kid was only really there as a plot device!!

Washington does the best he can with the role; the fight sequences are good, but there's just not much to care about here, but this isn't Washington's fault. The supporting cast are all OK, but you just feel when watching this film that no-one's heart was really in it and naturally it suffers as a result.

My head's telling me this film really deserves a 4 out of 10, but I have to admit that despite all its weaknesses it's still pretty badass so I've upped its score to a still rather mediocre 5 out of 10.
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Searching (III) (2018)
An excellent albeit terrifying social commentary (possible minor spoilers)
15 June 2019
Warning: Spoilers
David Kim (John Cho) is father to 16 year old daughter Margot Kim (Michelle La). When Margot fails to respond to his phone calls and messages, David becomes concerned and files a missing persons report. However, when the police struggle to find any leads David turns detective himself and with a mixture of belief and hope he decides to use his daughter's laptop in the hope that it may provide some explanation for her disappearance...

Director Aneesh Chagantry has certainly done his homework here and seems to pretty much use every modern day internet site to frame the story; Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Face Time (so Iphone and Apple)Tumblr, You Cast (is that made up as I've never heard of it?). On the one hand this could be seen as cynical commercialism - I'm sure the founders of a lot of these sites will appreciate the free advertising, but is Chagnatry over-egging the pudding here?. However, it could also be viewed as a terrifying social commentary on the potential dangers of social media. Despite the heavy product placement after watching this film I still see it falling more into the latter camp.

This is director and writer Aneesh Chaganty's first project and despite the fact that I felt that he may have over-researched things slightly - I'm not really sure that all of the various websites and social media platforms were really necessary in order to tell a compelling story. That being said, he does direct with a sense of urgency and does get a really strong performance from John Cho (when watching this film I almost forgot that this was the same guy that played goofball characters like the milf guy in American Pie and Harold in the Harold and Kumar films). Cho totally absorbs himself in the character of a frightened parent doing everything he can to find his daughter. Cho's performance is anchored by a good script which sees him behaving and acting in exactly the way any normal parent would react when trying to find their child (at no point did I ever find anything forced or contrived about the way David acted which only enhanced the viewing experience).

One thing the film does touch upon is David's own belief that he has failed as a parent and has let his daughter down; he doesn't seem to know the names of any of Margot's friends and also forgets her birthday at one point in the film. Despite this I didn't see him as a bad father (and the way he doggedly tries to find his daughter proves otherwise). I viewed it that his wife was perhaps more involved with his daughter's social circle and birthday's and other occasions and therefore David took a back seat in proceedings (which he clearly regrets and only really sees after his daughter goes missing).

Just when you're starting to piece things together the film throws in several twists and turns at the end and I have to admit that I was thoroughly involved in proceedings and didn't take my eyes off the screen once throughout its 100 minute running time.

Searching is a very good film that is thrilling, intriguing and in some ways terrifying - I've always said that the internet was a brilliant invention (thank you Tim Berners-Lee) and likewise the likes of Facebook and Twitter are a great way to meet new friends and keep in touch. However, Searching does explore the dark side of technology and highlights how easy it is for an individual to wear a metaphorical mask online and become whoever they want to become (and unfortunately Margot was on the wrong end of such deception).

Despite an overuse and somewhat unnecessary use of product-placement Searching is an excellent film which acts as a both a frightening cautionary tale and a terrifying social commentary and, judging on his debut effort, I'll be sure to check out anything else Aneesh Chagantry has in the pipeline in the future.
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Barbarella (1968)
A psychedelic bore
13 June 2019
Barberella (Jane Fonda) is one of planet Earth's top agents and is tasked by the President Of Earth with finding a fellow Earthling Durand-Durand (Milo O'Shea) whom it is believed is hiding out on an alternate planet. It seems that Durand-Durand has developed a Positronic Ray, which in the wrong hands, could prove devastating to the entire galaxy unless Barbarella is able to get to Durand-Durand before it's too late...

There really is no point in discussing anything to do with the plot or anything that happens within the film (it is practically impossible to take it seriously or make any kind of sense out of it). This doesn't always need to be viewed in a negative concept (sometimes if a film is fun or entertaining then a throwaway plot can become almost inconsequential), but when a film is as dull as Barbarella the weak plot becomes more noticeable rather than working as a distraction.

OK perhaps I'm not being entirely fair when I say that there isn't anything here to distract from the weak plot; yes there were times when I found this film 'tit'-illating (sorry), but that's really all that there is to this film. Perhaps that's the point and maybe back in the 60's director Roger Vadim was targeting the post-pub audience who were either wasted or stoned to high hell (which is presumably the only way you can appreciate a film as ridiculous as Barberella). Speaking of ridiculous then you only need to listen to some of the dialogue such as 'How can I recompense you?' 'Well you could make love to me' Really? That would be a cheesy line even in a porn film. What makes it worse is that Barbarella just goes along with it without question? Is she a special agent or a prostitute? Another example of cheesy dialogue was when the queen asks Pygar to make love to her and Pygar replies 'An Angel does not make love an Angel is love.' Seriously? I nearly died from laughter it was so horrendously cheesy. These are just 2 examples I could find of horrid dialogue, but I'm sure that there are several other examples throughout the film.

Barberella is one of Jane Fonda's iconic film roles, but in retrospect and in some ways I found her to be slightly miscast. She's supposed to be one of Earth's best agents, but seems to possess no physical abilities, no intellectual abilities and no negotiating skills seem to be evident either; it doesn't help that Fonda seems to be a bit too ditzy and nice to portray the character who I presume she was supposed to portray; a tough sassy character/actress perhaps would have been a better move (apparently Sophia Loren turned the role down and in all honesty I'm not sure what she could have done with the role, but I think someone like Honor Blackman may have been able to do something more to the film - particularly if she'd have infused a bit of Pussy Galore into the role). Fonda's sweet character is endearing at first, but her ineptness and ditziness soon outstays its welcome and starts to become irritating.

The acting is relatively poor with only Milo O'Shea injecting any kind of energy into the film (and even this only comes in fits and starts). A lot of the effects (I refuse to use the word special) are dreadful and again some of them are so bad that they're laughable which in some ways is good as it does help get past the many tedious stretches that you will encounter throughout the film.

In summary then this may work if you're watching this when you're stoned or drunk (which as I've mentioned surely must be whom Vadim intended as his target audience), but for anyone else there isn't really much here to recommend.
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Puts the 'ant' in F'ant'astic
8 June 2019
In the aftermath of a failed mission in Germany with Captain America whilst assisting the Avengers, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) finds himself under house arrest and tries his best to bond with his daughter without leaving the house. However, when Dr Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his daughter Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) learn that Pym's wife Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) can send messages to Lang as a result of his last visit to the quantum time vortex they recruit Lang to help locate Janet whom husband and daughter believe is still alive. But their rescue efforts are hampered slightly by a rogue group who want to steal their technology and a 'ghost' whom blames Pym for her life-changing characteristics...

Peyton Reed is back in the director's chair for this sequel and once again 'fun' and 'entertainment' are the primary objectives here and boy does this film do a great job on both fronts. Yes it takes a bit of time to get going, but once it does it literally is a blast and the time really does fly by fast when watching this film. Both Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly are note-perfect here and their chemistry and interplay is second to none.

One thing I thought was funny was the subversive way the film seemed to mock modern technology and society; the idea of Lang's suit being temperamental and the technology repeatedly failing him and the scene where giant Ant-Man is skidding along a road trying to stop a truck whilst passing a group of people inside some kind of establishment who are so absorbed by their laptops that they fail to notice (whether it be work or social media) really highlights the blissfully unaware and self-absorbed society that we have become - it's like all these idiots you see day in and day out who are pratting around on their phones and walk out in front of cars or bang into things etc. I presume that this mockery was intentional, but either way I thought it was both saddening and hilarious.

Reed is an excellent director and in many ways this is a brilliant film; the special effects are great and in many ways this film is bigger in scale than the first film and as with the first film Reed uses a lot of modern technology to enhance the viewing experience to his audience. Unfortunately where the film stumbles slightly (like with the first film) lies with narrative cohesion; the film is a little more busier than it needs to be and a lot of the characters are either superfluous, underdeveloped or just uninteresting; for example the group trying to steal the technology are not developed well and aside from Michael Pena Lang's other cohorts might as well have not been in the film at all (for all the purpose that they served). The girl who plays the 'Ghost' was a far more interesting villain whom at least had a decent backstory and it has to be said that she also gave a very strong performance.

Despite a slightly problematic narrative and poorly developed villains, this film is so much fun that it really doesn't matter. I was laughing my head off a lot (particularly the scene where Ant-Man's flying ants were repeatedly eaten by seagulls which made a rescue mission much trickier than it needed to be). Of course, a cameo by the late Stan Lee is always welcome and was very funny in this film.

In summary then, narratively it could have been a bit stronger and a bit more focussed, but in all honesty this really is nit-picking as you'll need to be missing a funny bone and have a general hatred of cinema to not find this immensely enjoyable.
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Time Trap (2017)
There are flaws within the narrative, but for the most part it's gripping and intense
7 June 2019
Warning: Spoilers
An archaeology professor (Andrew Wilson) enters a cave and subsequently goes missing. A couple of his students and their friends decide to go and look for him and soon begin to learn why he may have gone missing... Things become even worse for the group when they find themselves trapped in the cave and they begin to learn that time is passing by much faster in the 'real' world...

Considering it's been made on a shoestring budget with a relatively unknown cast Time Trap definitely has more positives than negatives. Director Mark Dennis keeps things tight and fairly suspenseful (at an early stage we know the group are not alone in the cave, but not knowing who or what is down there and what is going to happen to the group is part of what keeps things intriguing). The film is nicely-framed and it is quite well-structured in terms of the way the story unfolds - this is mostly achieved via recorded camera footage from one of the group who sadly met his maker whilst trying to find the rest of the group. Naturally, the hook here is how or if the group will get out, whether they'll find their professor and what else is down there and on the whole it is a fairly satisfying and involving experience.

That being said and as much as I enjoyed this film I did find some of the writing to be a bit sloppy and lazy; for example out of nowhere and with no explanation some kind of gigantic Robocop/alien/human drops a massive ladder down into the cave and starts kicking loads of Neanderthal ass - it transpires that 1000's of years have passed on Planet Earth where as only a short period of time has passed by in the cave due to the group passing through some kind of space time continuum as is explained to the group via a news reel that the giant shows them. I can buy that humanity may have been wiped out over a long period of time and that there may now just be a small master alien race, but what isn't explained is how this other race found them?? Or did I miss something there? It's possible that they may have seen Kara on top of the rock face (as is shown by what may have been the spaceship approaching, but this is just my supposition).

To me it seemed that this incident was created just to give the film an ending - if I'm honest I did find this a fairly lazy and cheap way to end the film. You knew as soon as the alien guy arrived that they were going to be OK and I had no doubt that he was a good guy as soon as I saw him (despite attempts that were made to wrong-foot the audience into thinking he was a baddie).

So yes for me it tailed off slightly towards the end and I have to admit that I did not like the convenient way that the film ended, but narrative weaknesses aside this is still a solid, gripping, intense, character-driven experience and I did like the idea that Neanderthals were living within the time continuum - I presume they are still at the dawn of civilisation because time moves very slowly where they are (at least that's my theory anyway). Warts and all then it's a very good film tarnished slightly by the group's escape being just a little too convenient and easy.
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Pyewacket (2017)
Taking everything into account this isn't too bad at all
3 June 2019
A teenage girl Leah Reyes (Nicole Munoz) is heavily interested in the occult, but after getting into an argument with her mother she does the unthinkable by performing an occult ritual and hopes to evoke a spirit to kill her mother. But the repercussions of Leah's actions are far more serious than she could have possibly anticipated...

Adam MacDonald both wrote and directed Pyewacket and its fair to say after watching this film that his strengths lie more in directing than writing. The tracking shots through the woods are creepy as are many of the shots within the house - lots of the shots are close-up presenting a sense of claustrophobia. He also gets the best out of some of his actors with the likes of Munoz and Holden both being excellent. The final sequence of events are also brutal and pretty intense. The only problems that occasionally occur from a 'directorial' perspective lie with some of the camera work; the shaky cam seemed to be evident from time to time which did spoil things at certain points in the film. One scene that was quite well-staged was the one where Janice disappeared off into the woods in the pitched black; I wasn't sure what was going to happen at that point so I did find that scene quite unnerving..

It's fortunate that the film is directed fairly well because the writing, at times, did leave a lot to be desired; mother and daughter seemingly don't get along very well; mother has 'issues' that are never really explored, daughter rebels against mother but again this animosity is never explained; we can see that the daughter was clearly fond of her father, but little is elaborated on which makes the film a bit tough to sit through (considering the relationship issues are essentially what is driving the plot forward). Leah's friends are also thinly drawn and contribute very little to the film.

Still, Pyewacket is not a bad film and I was never really bored whilst watching it, but I have to admit that when the film focused on the characters and their relationships rather than the psychological/horror aspects that the film did suffer slightly. Still it's worth a look, but you'll need to be patient as a lot of the good stuff comes in the second half.
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Reasonable story and acting, but as a character piece it is thin and superficial
1 June 2019
I'm not even going to bother to write the film's ridiculously long title in my review which in itself seems to over egg the pudding (Ted Bundy is bad OK we get it) , but the title notwithstanding this film (which I'll continually refer to it as this film) is a helter-skelter of hit and miss...

It sets it's stall out well and perfectly sets up Bundy's character - his early relationship with Liz gives this film a warm homely feel that we know is a façade. But somewhere along the line, this is lost and director Joe Berlinger does god knows what from this point on; we have the initial getting together of Ted Bundy and Elizabeth Kendall and their early relationship, but then this film skips by around 6 years and then hones in on Bundy's legal troubles; OK so what happened in these 6 years? Nothing of interest I presume?

Even if you can ignore the flaws in this aspect of this film then there are plenty to be found later on; this film quite often uses the words 'present' rather than 'show' when referring to Bundy's killing spree (meaning the killings are presented rather than shown). In fact when murders do occur they are often glossed over and either discussed off screen or by other characters in courtroom scenes. Now don't get me wrong I'm not a masochist who revels in bloodshed or others misfortune, but I just expected this biopic to scratch beneath the surface, which sadly it doesn't.

So what else can be said? Well Zac Efron was a revelation and applied himself to the role much better than I expected- although the cynic in me did question what drew him to the role? I was wondering the conversation between director and actor; Director; "Yes Zac Ted Bundy was a brutal man. but chicks loved him. Zac Efron "Oh cool so I can play against type whilst at the same time chicks love and adore me." Director "Yes Zac you've passed the audition." Yes that's a little harsh and to be fair he was much better in the role of Ted Bundy than I expected. Lily Collins was equally as good as his girlfriend and was every match for Efron. The supporting cast consisting of Malkovich and Osment were fine - although the latter hasn't developed into a particularly convincing adult actor and seems to play the same person he portrayed in Sex Ed and therefore. sadly, didn't add much to the film.

"This film" is certainly not bad and is watchable if you have some patience, but the sketchy way it explores Bundy and his crimes meant I could never get to grips with it as much as I should have been able to and at times (particularly in the first half) it felt a little boring. Like I've said it works in parts, but it is far too thin and superficial for it to be qualified as a particularly great film.
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Blue Iguana (2018)
The epitome of mediocrity
29 May 2019
Ex-cons Eddie (Sam Rockwell) and Paul (Ben Schwartz) are working in a New York diner and the terms of their parole dictate that they must not leave the country. However, when English lawyer Katherine Rookwood (Phoebe Fox) offers the two men a lucrative deal which involves a trip to London the two men decide to take her up on her offer (especially when she reveals she has dirt on their boss making it easier for Eddie and Sam to make the trip across the pond to England).

Blue Iguana is another in a long line of crime caper films (to all intents and purposes it's a British film but the casting of Rockwell and Schwartz makes me assume that Hajaig also had his eye on the American market as well). The film goes through the motions and isn't particularly bad, but at the same time it's not exactly slick, fast-paced or exciting which is what I would come to expect from a crime caper film. Worse still it isn't really very funny either; it's obvious that Hajaig has tried to deliver this film as a goofy caper, but it rarely gets in its stride and the only moderately funny moments come from Sam Rockwell trying to get to grips with the cockney dialogue and from him trying to imitate a cockney accent (which he does reasonably well to his credit).

Aside from this the film spends most of its time lost in endless chit-chat and repetition all of which results in Blue Iguana at times being boring and tedious - although Hajaig does try and make the film fun with several slow-motion scenes, but for me this all looked a bit lame. The cast are a mixed bag with some enhancing the viewing experience and some hindering it; Sam Rockwell and Phoebe Fox fare the best and they both at least give creditable performances as well as sharing fairly good onscreen chemistry. On the other hand, the likes of Peter Polycarpou and Peter Ferdinando were both a little too cartoonish for my liking and didn't make for particularly terrifying villains - the latter is worse though and at times he overacted to the point of embarrassment.

Blue Iguana is a very average film and Hajaig does just about enough right to make it watchable, but that's both a strength and a weakness. It's not quite dull or boring enough to make it bad, but nowhere near exciting or engaging enough to make it a particularly good film. It sits somewhere in the middle, but with so many great crime caper films already in existence Blue Iguana comes across more like an exercise in futility than anything else.
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