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The Mash Report (2017–2019)
More anti-funny, PC rubbish. Courtsey of the BBC.
18 October 2019
Is there any point discussing how woefully unfunny left-wing humour has become in the post-2016 world? Given the constant declining in audience viewership, there shouldn't be, but unfortunately because the maniac left are in overdrive to reverse two democratic decisions they disagree with, they shall use any weapon they can to do it. Hence why we have shows like The Mash Report.

The main problem with this show is this; it's not funny. Even then however, I feel that's too polite. Really, this show is anti-funny as its barrage of safe, politically correct humour is so stale and boring, it evokes more eye-rolling than laughs. Not to mention, but the 'comedians' here are rarely funny. The Beeb have admitted they had an issue in finding right-wing comedians, but surely they could do better in finding somewhat talented left-wing ones. The likes of Frankie Boyle and Russell Howard were openly left-wing, but were at least funny. The likes of Nish Kumar and co. here aren't, and seem to often reach for lazy, flat gags that would get them booted off an open mic.

To make matters worse, it's so overtly one-sided to the left. Attacks on Brexit, men (especially those pesky white ones), Trump, and the 'right-wing press' are common, all the while snowflakely millennials, the climate change alarmists, feminism and whatever positively puerile cause is supported to the high heavens. Meanwhile, the show constantly cites the likes of the New Statesman and The Guardian in its reporting (confirmation bias much?) for its sources (didn't Peter Sissions complain about the BBC doing that more generally once? Oh never mind...). Now, I can admit if that sort of comedy appeals to you, that's good (and by judging the positive reviews here from smug leftist, Remoaner types, seems to be sole people who enjoy this) but if you live outside of the London bubble, this shan't, and it doesn't help that no effort seems to be made in the humour here. Nor am I against that viewpoint being expressed, as it is a legitimate one. Despite this, if part of the reason of show is to win over people to its side, shouldn't appealing to a broader audience in humour and ideology be a way to that instead of kick a dead horse?

After all, for all their faults, the likes of Jon Stewart and John Oliver in the US were able to become very popular that way by being accessible to all, as did the likes of TW3 in this country. It's similar to how Siskel and Ebert criticised movie director Ronald Emmerich for not killing them in the 1998 version of Godzilla, despite his open hatred of them by satirising them in the movie. If the makers of this were so concerned in getting people on side, surely trying to get more on board as opposed to preaching to the choir might be the best way forward? Instead, it feels safe in that way.

At parts, it looks cheap to, like a YouTube skit gone wrong. Some of the news skits look so crudely made and cheap, you'd be forgiven in assuming a third rate YouTuber with little cash were behind the sets and décor, not a comedy with government money being thrown at it. Even some of the worst effects in the numerous Marvel/DC TV shows don't look this cheap and poorly made. One assumes all effort was dropped ages ago.

Is there any redeeming factors? There is. Geoff Norcott (whose politics I'm sympathetic to, to put that to one side), is genuinely funny, but even then, his talents seem to go to waste on this show. He is a genuinely talented comedian, and I wish him well, unlike everyone else on this show.

Overall, this show is awful, and if the Beeb had any sense, they would scrap garbage like this for stuff worth your viewing habits. Auntie hasn't aired a great political comedy for over a decade now, and it's last genuinely funny sitcom that wasn't terribly passé was 2010's Come Fly With Me (something they wouldn't air for quite obvious reasons today). It shows how in a post-Brexit and post-Trump world, the political left are so in overdrive in trying to be correct in the culture wars that they can't be bothered to air quality entertainment any more.
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Pandorum (2009)
Unremarkable, with a decent twist.
8 July 2018
Warning: Spoilers
How often is that that a bad, usually awful film can actually redeem itself with a half decent twist at the end? It's a trick as rare finding a lost artefact, but it can happen. While there are various examples one can point to for this to happen (like The Hunger Games: Catching Fire or Cloverfield), the specific example being discussed here is Pandorum. Let's take a look at this case study.

Now there are various bad aspects of the film which have earned its rightly deserved negative press. The acting ranges from average to underwhelming, most notably with main players Ben Foster and Dennis Quaid. The former is bland to the point of monotony, and the latter while usually reliable overplays it to the point of hammy.

Not to mention how utterly redundant the movie is as well. The movie rips off various other sci-fi, fantasy and horror movies in a way that seems like it was trying to create a blend to build something new, but instead is about as unoriginal as it gets. The ship that occupies most of the film heavily resembles the Nostromo from Alien. The bad guys, despite being designed by the Stan Winston Company, heavily resemble the Orcs from Lord Of The Rings if they were more pasty white. In other words The Hobbit type. The idea of paranoia in a confined space not to mention outer space has been explored before, with the likes of The Shining and Solaris.

However it isn't just good movies Pandorum steals from. Oh no, the film is so derivative that it snatches elements from bad films too, making it feel furtherly lame. The main badass lady character in the film is a direct rip off of Alice from the awful Resident Evil movies, while the compartments among other aspects of the ship resemble those of prior laughably bad sci-fi horror Event Horizon. The fact that the film has Paul W. S. Anderson as producer who worked on both films isn't a surprise. On top of this, the various lame jump scares used throughout the film are not too dissimilar from the various teen slashers over the last few decades. Given that this film belongs to such a compelling genre like sci-fi horror, one would expect more originality in the initial plot threads.

Not to mention how unexciting it all is. There is no tension simply because the characters are far too two dimensional and stock to be compelling, all the while the lame jump scares and occasional bad lighting are clear attempts to frighten the audience in cheap ways, attributing to how bad the director is at building it through any other means. It leaves the film overall an uninspired mess of which fails to frighten, unnerve and mostly entertain the viewer.

So why the high rating? Well, it is because the movie actually has the balls to take an unexpected turn at the end and actually give us a nice addition to the presumably overdone genre of sci-fi horror. That being that the end twist is that one of the characters suffers with split personality disorder, of which is partially linked to a disease nicknamed Pandorum, hence the title of the film.

While it makes the film arguably furtherly derivative of the various films that have already played this card in their storylines (from Psycho to Fight Club), this element of it being done in sci-fi horror is new and adds a decent twist in an otherwise pretty crappy movie.

So I can recommend Pandorum? Not really. the derivative nature of the film, coupled with the lack of a compelling plot or characters for the most part fails to gain the attention of the viewer and therefore make it mostly not worth your while. However, the creative direction it takes towards the end is worth waiting for, and makes the experience all worth it. It is better than its cousin for Event Horizon that's for sure, of which is the opposite to this film: mostly fine but ruined by its last segment. Not bad, but not remarkable either. Certainly not worth a sequel though, despite what some Facebook groups would have you believe.
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Roadside (2013)
Here's how NOT to make a thriller.
7 July 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Here are a list of ingredients of which mixed together makes for an altogether disgusting stew of a bad thriller movie.

Here goes:

1. Have unremarkable performances from your leads to disengage you from the narrative and therefore not create tension.

2. Have those same characters occupy boring archetypes (like a struggling couple as in this film) of which leads to recycled plotlines, making the film feel redundant.

3. Have these characters occupy a unique story, sucking all the life and fun out of it, making it feel all the more unoriginal.

4. Have said characters make stupid decisions (like about using their phones) to elongate the plot as opposed to creating an exciting story or characters.

5. Create false tension through numerous regurgitated storylines and plot threads instead of writing strong enough characters or a strong enough story to carry it and create actual tension alone.

6. Have contrived scenes (including some related to the wife character being pregnant) to again create false tension and make us feel empathy of which the film has not earned towards these characters, given how uninteresting and unlikable they have been up to this point.

7. Have the bad guy act moronically, including a scene whereby he flees the area, even though he has a couple HELD HOSTAGE of who could flee once he did that. Have the main characters not jump at this opportunity either.

8. Have an out of nowhere scene to trick you into thinking that the person on screen is the bad guy when it isn't, to develop a mystery that has previously been woefully underdone.

9. Have the end scene have a twist so out of place all the while so predictable, as the mystery of the villain hasn't been developed at all up until this point.

10. Don't end your film. Leave it on a cliffhanger of which will be mistaken for ambiguity and intrigue by imbeciles, but is clearly the writer giving up because he has run out of money or doesn't know how to end his film.

In other words, that is this movie in a nutshell. Avoid it at all costs.
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Trainspotting (1996)
20 years on, choose something else.
9 November 2017
This is it. One of the big ones. One of the biggest films in both British cinema and culture, as well as general cinema. It took a glimpse at and captured late 90s British culture, has garnered endless praise by critics and audiences alike, has influenced many films and filmmakers since, got nominated for numerous awards and even has a cult following to boot. But after 20 years, does it still hold up?

The plot is Renton among his various heroin junkie friends wander around life in late 1990s Scotland and England, experiencing addiction, drug withdrawal, employment, theft and the changing culture of the time. If I'm sounding like I'm making the film look weak in terms of plot, that is how the film presents itself, and is rather the fault of the film than of my own. One of my biggest problems with the film is its utter lack of a coherent plot and/or structure. There is no overreaching story arc whatsoever throughout the entire film, sans the occasional subplot, and as such, it makes the film hard to connect with due to a lack of a strong narrative to pull the viewer in. This sort of style can work; Five Easy Pieces for example is a wonderful demonstration of how to do a wandering movie correctly.

However, the big difference between Five Easy Pieces and Trainspotting is that while both have major douchebags in the leads, the former's was at least sympathetic, the latter isn't. And that is my main problem with the film; the characters are too unlikable to engage with. Far too nasty, narcissistic and selfish to really attach onto. Only Spud seems like a legitimately good guy, and even he is too pathetic and easily manipulated to support. The rest of them are just horrible and self-indulgent narcissists perfectly happy to stab each other in the back when the plot serves that need, most notably Renton's betrayal of both Spud in the courtroom early on and then his ultimate back stab at the end. It doesn't make a for a bunch of likable protagonists, of which makes the viewer wonder why are they bothering to watch?

In comparison, someone like Five Easy Pieces' Bobby Dupea may be for many an unlikable guy (being moody, spoilt and generally selfish), but at least he is charming, and cares enough for people for people around him to make him a likable enough guy with some sense of a moral compass. Trainspotting has none of this. The characters seem to care little for one another beyond anything superficial, they have no likable character traits, and given the fact that they range from stupid losers to borderline psychopaths (hi, Begbie), they aren't pleasant people to be around either. Of which makes watching an hour and a half movie with these fools as the lead somewhat problematic, given that I don't enjoy their company at all. Meanwhile, they don't have the excuse films like Sweet Smell Of Success, Fight Club and even Boyle's own Shallow Grave do in that the characters in those movies are similarly rotten to the core, but they were also charming, had some moral compass and got their comeuppance in the end, even if it is somewhat minimal for say Fight Club, none of which happens in Trainspotting, especially given that the 'comeuppance' that happens at the end of the film is benefitting another unlikable character and making another more likable character in Spud worse off so it means nothing. And at least in those movies, when they were backstabbing one another, those affected were at least ready to take the heat and fight back as opposed to Trainspotting where innocent or unlucky victims are often in the firing line for the main characters' antics (like getting an innocent dog owner attacked by his own dog, one guy unknowingly sleeping with a minor of whom then blackmails him to keep up the relationship and pretty much everything that happens to Spud from having his job interviews messed up by friends to being sent down while friends who helped him in crime walk free).

So here's my underlying problem; there is no substantial enough plot to get the viewer engaged and the characters are too unlikable to make you care enough for the situation. As such, why am I watching in the first place?

After all this, you probably think I hate this movie, but I don't, as I think it's OK. The acting is terrific, it's very stylish and it is entertaining at the least. The film can be funny at points (especially some of movie references thrown about and narration parts) and it does have a wonderful soundtrack. The film's production values are very good for the most part (sans some embarrassingly fake effects like the crawling baby during one of Renton's hallucinations) in terms of cinematography, location shooting and editing (even on a low budget), of which helps to create Trainspotting's unique tone of both bleakness and weird sense of hope, especially towards the end and in certain scenes (like the Worst Toilet In Scotland scene). And even if it potentially dates it somewhat, I do like how it is a great reflection of late 1990s Britain, celebrating both the highs and lows of said culture, making a great historical document in that sense.

But despite this, I'm not a huge fan. Between the lack of a strong plot and any likable characters, Trainspotting may be an easy film to admire, but a very, very hard one to like. It may look very nice and is very well made, but unfortunately has nothing to grab the viewer in terms of anything emotionally driven, a big failing for a drama like this one. So overall, it is OK, but it doesn't hold up as well as it does over 20 years ago. Choose your future, choose life and just choose a better film to watch.
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Too much to handle? Not quite...
8 November 2017
Undoubtedly one of the most controversial films in cinema recently, A Serbian Film has garnered a very polarised reaction over the years. Me personally, I feel that it is nothing particularly great or particularly bad, just OK. Let's explore why, shall we?

Now one of my immediate positives concerning this film is its plot and pacing. Unlike most movies these days, it is happy to take its time to set up characters and story in order to provide context and develop the leads to the point where we care enough about their situations to get the audience involved. I like good old fashioned slow burners, and it's nice to see one like this, especially one done quite well. Now, there are some structural issues however. This mainly concerns the last third, whereby it becomes weirdly non-linear all of a sudden, of which doesn't serve the story or the film in any meaningful way. It feels done to make the film more stylish, but instead comes across as a major amateur writing mistake, as is expected of a debut.

There are also other positives as well. The acting is very good from all of the cast, it develops a mood and atmosphere quite nicely, and it is quite well made for the low budget film that it is. Meanwhile, its themes on filmmaking, sexuality and exploitation can be quite interesting, even if it is a little on the nose. Mainly I just like how it is pretty much the anti-torture porn movie. Whereas most films in this genre sensationalise hardcore violence and sex for the sake of cheap thrills, A Serbian Film goes even further than movies like Saw and Hostel dared, all the while taking the fun out of it via the score which combines parts of a synth piece which sounds like its from a porn film with bleak and bombastic orchestral pieces, the general disgust most characters feel when encountering such violence as well as the general negative tone and vibes associated with such content. All of this combines to represent how generally disgusting, vile and depraved such violence is in the first place. It does become an interesting look at voyeurism, and even if other films have done it better before, the contributions of this film are fine.

That leads me to the film's biggest strength and ultimate flaw: the controversial content. The film's outlandish and degenerate content has pretty much clashed badly with everyone: film critics, general audiences and film censors who have been perfectly happy to hack it to pieces all over the world. Now make no mistake, the film is extremely messed up in many ways, and is definitely not everyone's cup of tea in that regard. However, I do find it interesting how these same people are bothered by the violence and depravity in this film, but have no problem with the general sadism and lowest common denominator style guff in various Western and Hollywood movies, whether that be the endless sadism of say Tarantino's garbage, Natural Born Killers, Sin City, the list goes on. The difference is that this film is at least trying to make you think and doesn't glorify the violence whereas those movies are seeking to wallow in sadism for the sake of entertainment. I know which one is more concerning here.

As such, I do like how the film is able to address many controversial topics including Serbian politics (with the newborn porn scene being a weird way of conveying how many feel that Serbia is a failed state for instance), the torture porn genre in general (in how bizarre it is that people enjoy such violence) and voyeurism in general. As stated previously, I also like how it is the anti-torture porn movie; by taking the genre to further extremes all the while demonstrating how awful such violence actually is. Given these circumstances, it's not a surprise that very few torture porn films would be released in this film's wake, given how high a bar this film set in terms of cinematic violence all the while undermining the pleasures of such violence to make further films in this genre seem rather redundant and nasty by comparison.

However, its also the film's biggest problem. Why? Its way too obvious in what it is trying to say. The Vukmir character is clearly a grossly exaggerated caricature and commentary of pretentious European art-house directors, the violence in of itself is a not so subtle attack on torture porn and the final tirades of life imitating art and depravity being true cinema by Vukmir at the end come across as slap in the face obvious, and not subtly done at all. And while it does make the film mean it has something to say, it displays it all to the point where it becomes insultingly easy to figure out, potentially leaving further analysis off the table altogether, something probably the filmmakers would want to be done with their film. Also, some of the violence does come across as a little bit lowest common denominator, and ironically pandering to the audience the film is so keen to criticise. And some of the more cruder scenes are so immaturely done that it wouldn't shock me if Jay from The Inbetweeners wrote those parts of the script.

A Serbian Film is nowhere near as bad as most of the biased press and film censors would say (of whom clearly have agendas of their own), nor is it as good as some of its ardent defenders would have you believe. It is an OK film, worthwhile of discussion due to its ideas and unique take on certain genres, especially torture porn. However, it is very flawed and there are far better horror films with social commentaries out there. So its worth a watch (provided you have the stomach for it), even if it is rough around the edges. A Serbian Film is an overall entertaining film that is worth watching.
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Good, but gets repetitive after a while.
15 September 2016
While there are many reasons for comedy series to become stale, but a primary one is that when they rely on a single idea or joke for too long with no variation, the series in question becomes repetitive and boring after a while. For me that is exactly what has happened to Cinema Sins.

Before I complain, let me just say that at its inception, this was a great series. The unique idea served itself well in its early days, with interesting critiques of films with the crew finding no stone unturned when it came what is wrong with major films, both the huge (plot holes, bad writing) and the minimal (extras messing up, miscalculations involving time or science). It also helped that the series was quite funny. Now while the writers aren't the best comedians in the world, nor were they as funny as similar series around this time (Honest Trailers, How It Should Have Ended). However, the humour they managed to get from the mistakes in these movies could be at points extremely funny, mainly the ones where they delivered it via sarcasm. In short, it was a very enjoyable series initially.

But I will admit I don't watch the series much anymore. Why you may ask? This is because for me, the show has remained largely the same throughout with very little change or variation. Now I understand this can benefit sometimes, since if an idea ain't broke, don't fix it right? But for me, while the concept behind Cinemasins is still an original one, its lack of range is more of a hindrance than anything because it becomes rather boring and repetitive after a while. The occasional spanner in the works while very entertaining and enjoyable (mainly the ones with guests and the one where they mock themselves) aren't frequent enough to break this cycle up.

It doesn't help that the humour of the series is inconsistent at times, and on the whole very safe with no edge. Now, I have to say that I have found some older episodes quite funny and I don't expect every comedy series to be Frankie Boyle levels of edgy. However, the humour derived from the nitpicks can be quite poor at points, not helped by how as I said earlier, the writers aren't the best at comedy. This lack of edge doesn't help because it means the humour is very safe as a whole, something which would be fine if it funnier than it was. This can lead to episodes that while entertaining and offer insightful criticism of certain films can be very hit or miss in the laughs department & a bit of a drag as a result (their recent Alien episode is a good example of this).

So as a whole, Cinemasins for me is one gimmick stretched for longer than necessary. It's repetitive formula can get boring after a while and there are laughs, they're not as often as one would expect. So they're entertaining critiques of big films, but whose premise has had so little variation over the course of nearly 5 years of existence that there's not much to reward regular watching. Nostalgia Critic creator Doug Walker once said that one of the reasons that he initially stopped the NC was because he had felt he had run out of ways to say a film was bad. Unfortunately, while Doug's show was at least versatile enough to keep the viewer engaged and wanting more, Cinemasins has had so little change that it has led the viewer to become disengaged and turn off. The occasional episode is still entertaining and can be quite funny, but the show has now become like fast food. Fine in infrequent doses, but not rewarding in frequent ones.
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Honest Trailers (2012– )
Not as funny as it once was.
7 September 2016
When it originally started, I loved Honest Trailers. The idea was extremely fresh in that what would happen if movie trailers were truthful about the film being advertised? Thankfully, the series in its early days served that premise well, making fun of the shortcomings in many films in a smart and analytical manner. All of this the while having a narrator whose exaggerated deep voice (meaning to spoof similar narrators in actual trailers) delivered the scripts with such an over the top nature that it becomes hard not to laugh at some points (their Twilight episodes are good examples of this - the inability to pour ketchup still cracks me up every time). Because of this, the show in its early days was fantastic and along with other great web shows that mocked films (like How It Should Have Ended & Cinema Sins) showed how movie spoof and satire is alive and well on the internet, especially when film & TV have come up short recently (Seltzerberg anyone?).

However, like many other comedy series, it's fair to say that Honest Trailers is starting to lose its mojo. My main problem with the show is that instead of being a well mixed combination of criticism and comedy like it previously was, one element now dominates. They feel more like straightforward critiques of the films instead of more tongue-in-cheek ones. While this fine if you want that sort of thing, if you were expecting laughs, they are sadly far more sporadic than before, despite some exceptions (like the Frozen or Inside Out HTs). Also, whenever politics gets involved, it's rather cringey rather than funny. When they whinge about how bad the attitudes of old Disney movies were for instance, they come across as nagging Anita Sarkessian SJW types rather than witty comedians. When they mock Donald Trump, not only do they feel like they're going for the low hanging fruit for humour, but also don't offer anything new in that field. Not to mention how they won't be balanced and mock other politicians like Hillary Clinton. That leads me to another point, in that they aren't as brutally honest as before, which not only makes it less funny, but also less different especially when they go for the obvious points about certain films, like their Spider-Man trilogy trailer.

Another issue for me is that the current narrator (John Bailey) isn't as exaggerated as the other ones. I understand that their narrator differed in sometimes in their earlier trailers, but they still kept the tone right, whether they be similarly over the top (like in their original Phantom Menace 3D trailer) or be monotone in an exaggerate way (like their Avatar trailer). However, Bailey doesn't get it quite right, as he isn't very exaggerate and (like many other things in the series) a lot more straight faced than the other narrators. This means that some of the jokes come off as flat and he isn't as entertaining a narrator as his predecessors.

However, the new Honest Trailers aren't completely awful. As I said, as plain reviews they're entertaining and offer some interesting points about certain films, like how in their Hunger Games: Catching Fire supposed feminist icon Katniss Everdeen is helped more by men than that title would imply. Also, there are still some good laughs here and there and some episodes are consistently funny too. And at the very least, they're at least very entertaining videos to watch and their USP is still a breath of fresh air on a platform (YouTube) whose content can become very redundant at points.

As such, while I do think Honest Trailers is no longer as funny as it once was, it's not bad. Far from it, as they're still entertaining critiques of popular movies with occasional laughs. Even so, I do feel that the show's best work is behind them, and now we have a subpar version of what came before. It's like eating at the Ritz and then afterwards eating very nice food at your local pub. Still good, but quite anaemic in comparison as to what came before. And hey, at least you're not eating at some crappy KFC, which is what the rest of YouTube can feel like sometimes.
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An important documentary.
3 July 2016
Over time, we as a society have become more liberal and supportive of one another. Our differences have mattered less over time and we are at a point where everybody has an equal playing field. However, there are still issues to deal with, mainly that of radical Islam. Not just terrorism, but the way many Muslims are willing to detach themselves from their communities, which create tension & division, as areas like Luton & Rotherham demonstrate. But how do we deal with such an issue?

In this documentary, all these issues are tackled and highlight some solutions to the issue. For the most part, this show consists of Trevor Phillips (behind the equally brilliant & uncompromising Things We Won't Say About Race That Are True doc) discussing the results of a survey whose participants consisted of half of British Muslims. The results found demonstrate how part of the problem is how a large amount of British Muslims refuse to accept many aspects of our culture. This includes freedom of speech (especially when it concerns their Prophet), homosexuality, how to treat women and worst of all wanting to imply sharia law in our country. That part about women is especially concerning when they interview some Muslim women who are happy to be slaves to their husbands on the grounds that it is the duty of their God to do so.

That is one of the recurring themes of the show: many Muslims are not extreme or evil, but are rather brainwashed by a backwards ideology. This is mainly applied to the aforementioned women & the ones who operate the stalls advocating sharia law that we see. The film shows how these people are simply that: people who have been vulnerable and impressionable to such views. Meanwhile, it shows how many Muslims feel that their religious lifestyle is stopping them from being who they are, including many gay Muslims. This is one of the strong points of the show, as despite what the hundreds of complaints of Islamophobia would tell you (presumably from people who either hadn't seen it or can't accept the truth), it is anything but. While it heavily criticises the religion of Islam, it demonstrates how many Muslims are either perfectly integrated and ready to accept our values (like the Great British Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain and comedian Aatif Nawaz) or actively trying to help other Muslims to do so (like Dialogue Development Officer Anjum Anwar or Zurich scholar Elham Manea). This gives a balanced approach, showing that while there is a problem with Islam, many of those who practice it are peaceful.

Meanwhile, it goes into the explanations as to where such beliefs spring up from. This includes the obvious (many of the Muslims who come here come from countries where such beliefs are justified and as such don't change it when in Britain) to the less discussed ideas (including the suggestion that much of the Anti-Semitism in Muslims comes from the issues surrounding the Israel-Palestine conflict). It also shows how part of the blame includes the sharia councils that are set up, due to how they reinforce many of Islam's fundamentalist beliefs, mainly the sexism towards women. This is mainly highlighted with how they will have less chance of winning custody of their children & are worse off from trying to settle divorce at these courts. It is all very interesting and goes into much depth on the issue.

It also shows why this division is bad. It leads to many Muslims to be hostile to non-Muslims, due to their lack of exposure towards those outside their culture. This is mainly seen when the headmistress of a school in Birmingham was discussing how the Muslim boys were attacking girls and calling them sluts for not wearing hijabs, which is one of the more upsetting parts of the film. Meanwhile it shows how such isolation and vulnerability can lead to these children to grow up and become a part of Islamic terror groups.

The only problem I have with the show is the solutions it offers and the approval of other problematic ways to solve the issue. For the former, it suggests having race quotas for schools so that children can mix and therefore discourage the segregation that is going on in our society. While I understand the rationale behind it, to me it feels that it is restricting the freedoms of parents who want to send their children to certain schools because of this race quota. Meanwhile, if they don't want any school to be one ethnicity only, how would that work considering how the indigenous population is white, and how certain areas (like Allerdale & Eden) which are almost exclusively so? How can we justify penalising them? Meanwhile for the latter, it approves David Cameron's plans to fund English lessons for Muslim women. As they aren't compulsory, what good will they do, especially if those women don't choose to attend? Meanwhile, it also doesn't discuss the other solutions that are being used to change this, including the Quillim Foundation, or other potential solutions, like shutting down the many sharia courts in the country that cause such division that the doc brings up.

Despite that, this is a great documentary. It may not be able to find a conclusive solution, but it does address one thing spot on: this is an issue that needs to be tackle now. It is clear that the continual sweeping under the carpet that the politicians, the media & many on the left are doing is only going to make things worse. It is a huge problem that needs to be dealt with, otherwise we're going to go down this spiral further until it's too late. Hopefully this doc will help many to understand that and could hopefully lead us to change. It may not have the best solution, but it shows how certain issues are no longer worth ignoring.
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See this film before you cast your vote!
22 June 2016
Before I start this review, I'll confess that I am a Vote Leave supporter, so already I agree with this film politically. However, that doesn't mean I let the filmmaking aspect slip by the wayside, as I have enjoyed good films with (in my opinion) bad politics and vice versa. Thankfully however, this film doesn't fall into that trap. While I would argue it is an important film for British politics, it is also a very good documentary. Well researched, detailed, very accessible & surprisingly very funny, this is not only a great film politically but also one technically.

The structure of the film is very straightforward. The film explains why the poor economy of a post war Britain led them to join the EU, the initial benefits of it & (for most of the film) argues why the EU is no longer good for us, both democratically and financially. While the film does give the viewer a lot of information to digest and is slow at points because of it, it never once bores the audience. This is because of how well paced the film is which never drags on the same point for too long, and how it uses humour to deliver the facts. This is mainly encapsulated by how they discuss how over regulatory the EU is, where they make sarcastic jibes at why there are hundreds of laws for towels & toasters. All of this helps to balance the dark nature of the film about the UK's future and it's light tone, so it never becomes a heavy headed seminar but never too light to undermine the seriousness of the piece.

And boy, are things seriously wrong with the EU indeed. I will find it hard for anybody not to be shocked at how corrupt it all is, regardless of where you stand. The fact that they are in bed with corporations who constantly lobby them to give them more power and kill competition or the staggering wealth it's MEPs get (even so much as to have an exclusive shopping mall for them) it's fantastically corrupt. Meanwhile, the film does a good job of demonstrating the lack of democracy and unaccountability the EU has, explaining how the people don't vote for (and a lot of the time don't even know) those who run it. The film also highlights how it negatively affects small businesses (as shown by the shocking interview at the once rife fishing market) & helps bigger ones. From this film, it is clear that the EU is a terrible prospect to be in these days, and it will only get worse if we stay in. One thing you can't accuse the film of it's arguing it's case passionately, that's for sure.

And while the film is lacking in balance, it does at least do a decent job of presenting why the EU was good for Britain at first. After WW2, countries like Germany thrived due to an economic revolution whereas those who had won the war like the UK were floundering due to an overly regulated market, which had killed Britain's workshop of the world status. When we entered in the 70's, it was the best choice for Britain, especially considering how weaker the economy had become and how inflation had rapidly increased at that point. It was good for stabilising us back then. However, the film presents how the EU became the antithesis of what it stood for. This included when it screwed over it's own citizens by eventually allowing foreign competition in the EU which severely crippled economies of countries who had benefited from such monopolies before, leading to the rise of unrest and the far right.

It also discusses what alternative system we could adopt post-Brexit, and offers Switzerland as it's main example. It's quite faniscating to see how strong it is in comparison to the EU economically, with more trade deals and a higher economic growth rate. While some could argue that Switzerland's portrayal in the film is slightly rose tinted, it still seems like an interesting example of what a post-Brexit Britain could look like.

All of this information is presented well, particularly with interesting facts and statistics and the compelling interviews from people like UKIP leader Nigel Farage, Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan, former Chancellor Nigel Lawson & many others. Add to that the humour and animated parts, and you have a case where all the parts make a satisfying & cohesive whole. While I will admit that it is very one-sided and slow at points, I would highly recommend it to all British voters, especially those who are undecided. It may preach to the converted, but I think it is definitely the most important film of the year and something you have to watch before casting your vote. Remember this: you future is at stake, and hopefully this film will help you determine which road you want Britain to go down. Choose wisely.
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A mixed bag of a crossover show.
26 March 2016
Crossover shows are an interesting beast as popular programmes are combined and it is compelling to see how their individual styles play off one another to create something truly unique on its own. While there have been successful examples of such shows because of this, there have also been failures as the styles of the individual shows don't mix well together, creating something that can be tedious and awkward to watch. Therein lies the problem with this show: while Countdown is always enjoyable, the 8 Out Of 10 Cats element slightly suffers due to humour that is mildly amusing at best and completely unfunny at worst.

That is the main part of the show that works, as with all good game shows, it is always engaging to try and play along by finding the words, working out the sums with the numbers and working out the conundrum. Meanwhile working out the Teatime Teasers (where you work out a conundrum set by the show during the break) is interesting, despite the quite juvenile clues which often sounds like something written by an immature teenager looking for cheap laughs. It is a great format that works well in its original form, and works mostly fine here too.

However its the 8 Out Of 10 Cats element that lets the side down, as doesn't work as well. While Jimmy Carr and the gang can be funny at times, they clearly aren't on top form here. This is due to how the humour either ranges from annoyingly quirky (highlighted with the random antics that Jimmy does during the Countdown games that can sometimes distract from playing along with the game itself) to generically safe and bland. Guest comedians they bring in, like Joe Wilkinson and Lee Mack, don't help matters as they usually don't tickle the funnybone either. And the previously mentioned juvenile Teaser gags don't work either as they are more concerned with appealing to the lowest common denominator by being stupidly crass and opposed to relying on clever humour. That is my biggest problem with the show as a whole: while the original Countdown format is always engaging and it can be humorous here and there, the lack of strong comedy (or any edge for that matter) spoils it.

It doesn't help that the pacing is slightly off as since the laughs are few and far between a lot of the time, the pacing can feel quite slow at points while you wait for the actual game to start. The fact that there are cases where it takes over ten minutes for the games to get going doesn't help this fact. It just feels quite slow and you would wish they would get started already.

However, it isn't all bad. As I've said, there can be very funny parts on the show (Joe Lycett's story about receiving an e-mail from a drunk fan in a recent episode is priceless) and the Countdown format, regardless of this variant, is always watchable. Adding in some familiar faces from the original show (like the Dictionary Corner's Susie Dent and the ever so beautiful Rachel Riley) is a nice touch and gives it some familiarity for Countdown fans who may be initially alienated by this variation of it, and even if irritating at points, it can be quite entertaining to see how badly some celebrities are at the game.

As such, I feel that while this show is a decent attempt at a crossover, it is seriously lacking in some areas but mainly in humour and edge. For a supposed comedic panel show, the humour is too sporadic to be consistently funny and the lack of edge to the humour makes it slightly bland at points especially considering how risqué the comedians have been previously (mainly Jimmy Carr). However, the good jokes and the game itself are always engaging and worth watching on that basis alone. Because of this, 8 Out Of 10 Cats Does Countdown isn't a complete failure, but it perhaps didn't need anything more than its initial one off status, and there isn't much worthwhile here to convince you of otherwise. Just stick with the original shows instead.
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Citizenfour (2014)
Overrated propaganda.
28 December 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Ever since films first starting being produced, many of them have had a political agenda, whether it be subtle or Leni Riefenstahl levels of obvious. However, that aspect alone shouldn't affect your judgment of the film overall, as you are reviewing the film, not the viewpoint it represents. Take Citizenfour for example, the documentary about Edward Snowden. Despite the prejudice I personally have for Snowden, I still had an open mind to the film. However, it is a badly made and boring film which lacks any structure, making it one of the most overrated films in quite some time.

The documentary focuses on Edward Snowden, the whistle-blower who leaked NSA's surveillance activities to the world. Here, we see his leaking of the story to The Guardian and him hiding out around the world in order not to be caught by the US government. On top of this, there is also footage of NSA building surveillance sites and worldwide governments trying to stop the NSA's spying. While it sounds compelling, the film is anything but. One main reason for this is that a lot of the film takes place inside Snowden's Hong Kong hotel room, without much happening, outside of Snowden watching TV and getting dressed. Whoopee.

It also doesn't help that the film is poorly structured. Besides the initial boredom you'll experience from watching Edward Snowden in his hotel room, the film also randomly puts in the aforementioned footage of the NSA building these sites and of the foreign governments without much context besides the film's obvious message (government surveillance is bad). It's put together in a very sloppy manner, and while I understand the circumstances behind this (director Laura Poitras had the pressure of the authorities finding her), it demonstrates the lack of experience Poitras has. It just makes you wish she would have handed the footage to someone with more skill, as it would have made the film more coherent.

Another problem is how overly one-sided this film is. I understand that many documentaries are biased towards a certain view, but at least they often consider the other side of the debate. For example, a good documentary like The Times Of Harvey Milk may portray people like Milk's assassin Dan White and John Briggs (of the controversial Briggs Initiative) as morally bankrupt, but also tries to explain their actions and humanise them to an extent. Not here though. Not only does the film ignore the other viewpoint, but portrays it as completely dangerous and volatile. So as you can imagine, there's no mention as to why the system was set up (in order to prevent disasters like 9/11 from repeating themselves), why the authorities are after Snowden (as he threatened national security) or the negative consequences of Snowden's actions (potentially giving terrorists a loophole to go through in order to harm innocent lives - the fact that the Boston marathon bombers are mentioned at one point makes this factor more important).

It also portrays Snowden in an overtly perfect manner, almost saintly, for his exposure, as if he was a kind young man wanting to protect the American people. So factors like how he didn't even read all of the documents he leaked or how thanks to him, Al-Qaeda are now changing their communication methods in order not to get caught by the NSA don't enter the conversation. Even some things that are mentioned in the film unintentionally work against him, mainly how he has put his own family at risk, and doesn't even try to protect them. On top of this, you can't help but feel that some of the criticisms of the NSA's actions in the film are filled with hypocrisy, mainly that of the Brazilian government, a country with higher internet censorship than the United States. I wouldn't mind the politics as much if the film was good, as I have enjoyed films in the past but don't necessarily agree with their ideology. Citizenfour however is extremely dull and boring, making the questionable politics even more problematic.

In conclusion, Citizenfour is a very bad documentary which is poorly structured, tedious and sloppily handled, and is a blatant Leni Riefenstahl-esque propaganda piece for Snowden, that not only glorifies one side and ignores the other, but demonizes that same side as well. It is also notable for something that is becoming a major problem in our culture as a whole: the glorification of criminals in the media. There's no problem if you think Snowden was in the right, but all too often, people are praised and martyred in the media through their behaviour, despite being dangers to society, leading to the silencing of those who criticise them, regardless of their legitimate points. Usually this applies to traitors like Snowden who are treated as heroes as well as terrorists like the IRA and many Jihadists being excused as martyrs, both of which undermine the serious consequences of their actions. On top of this, we see gangsters like the Kray Twins being made out as folk heroes and common thugs like Mark Duggan & Michael Brown being seen as innocent victims. All of this shows how criminals are portrayed as heroes, which encourages both the infliction and support of illegal behaviour through their media endorsement, meanwhile we see the constant lynching of groups like the police and the NSA for protecting a free society. This not only divides people to antagonize one another but also makes people forget who the real bad guys are, leading to a society based on lies and deceit, rather than truth and honesty. This film (along with its undeserved media acclaim and Oscar win) are a testament to this, showing that society is confused as to where our priorities lie and who are the bad guys truly are. Because of this, I suggest that you skip Citizenfour, as not only is it cruddy agitprop, but as it glorifies a potential traitor, makes it rotten to the core.
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Four Rooms (1995)
A failed experiment.
16 August 2015
Warning: Spoilers
An anthology film is often an interesting watch. Seeing as how multiple directors come together to create a project, if often gets people curious as to how each director's individual style meshes with the others, and what the finished film is like because of that. Sadly, most of the time, anthology films fail miserably, as the styles of each director are too different from one another to truly gel, meaning that while there may be standout parts here and there, they often don't work as complete films. Four Rooms unfortunately is one of the prime examples of this. While nowhere near as bad its initial hostile critical reaction would have you believe, the film is still very problematic.

The story is that Ted the Bellhop is asked to look after a hotel during New Year's Eve and while there has to deal with multiple situations including a convent of witches, a hostage situation involving an angry husband, babysitting for a gangster's children & a bunch of drunken Hollywood stars and directors having a very dangerous bet. That is the basic story of the film, with four segments in the film directed by a different person for each. Connecting these stories is Ted the Bellhop, who is one of the film's major problems. Tim Roth delivers one of his worst performances to date as Ted, hamming it up every chance he gets, and gets annoying rather quickly. While the film is a comedy, it isn't as wacky or as farcical as Roth plays it, lacking the restraint and subtly that all the other actors have, which clearly shows that he wasn't well directed, acting like something out of Fawlty Towers, and considering the seriousness of some scenes, feels widely out of place. All of this makes Ted not only not funny, but very annoying and hard to care for, and you'll wish for him to go away as soon as possible.

Each story varies in quality, although none of them are better than decent. The first one is The Missing Ingredient (directed by Allison Anders), whereby Ted has to have sex with a witch in order to create the ingredient needed in order to reverse the spell put on the coven's goddess Diana 40 years prior. It's about as ridiculous as it sounds. While it may appeal to some art-house fans, it is very corny, silly and cheesy. It is watchable though, acted well enough (Roth being the exception) and has a quirky charm to it that keeps you entertained throughout.

The second segment is The Wrong Man (directed by Alexandre Rockwell), and is honestly the worst segment of this film by a country mile. I'll go as far as to say it is one of the worst things ever put on a cinema screen. It consists of Roth going into the wrong room for delivery service and encounters an angry husband with a gun, and believes Ted to be the one who slept with his wife. Everyone acts way over-the-top in a non-comedic scenario (making the piece tonally confused), has multiple plot holes (Why does the angry husband go into the bathroom during a hostage situation, giving Ted the perfect opportunity to free his wife or call the police? Why doesn't Ted take advantage of this either, or after he leaves for that matter? Why does the wife mock and taunt her angry gun-wielding husband?) and has some forced ambiguity about the husband's homosexuality that is never explored. It is frankly unwatchable, and considering that Rockwell was the one who had the idea for the film in the first place, leads me to believe that he made a terrible film, knew it and dragged in the other directors to make other segments to hope no-one would notice it. Sadly, they did and it is no wonder that Rockwell hasn't worked much since the film came out.

The other two are the closet thing this film gets to decent. The Misbehavers (directed by Robert Rodriguez) is about Ted looking after some gangster's kids, with the instruction of not letting them misbehave. They do, and what follows maybe a one-joke skit, but it is quite funny, and the child actors are very good (Roth is thankfully restrained). It's unpleasantness towards the end (a dead hooker being found for example) may stop it from becoming great, but this is the best segment and it's punchline is priceless.

The final segment is The Man from Hollywood (directed by Quentin Tarantino), whereby Ted goes to a room of famous Hollywood actors and directors playing a drunken bet to chop off someone's finger for a $1,000 and Ted gets involved in the process. While funny and well acted, this is the most pointless segment in the film as it builds up to the bet and then just ends very aburptly, as if nothing happened. Yeah, no negative psychological side effects can come from chopping off from someone's finger. Makes sense to me.

Overall, this is just a failed experiment whose segments are widely uneven in terms of quality, the film is really smug at points and the thing connecting them together is really irritating and hard to care for. All of this combined makes this film something which while OK and not as bad as the critics at time would have you believe, isn't very good and it's no wonder why everyone involved has been actively trying to forget it ever happened. Sadly, it does and stands as a strong example as to why anthology film often don't work, as despite the talent behind camera, you often get overcooked messes like this. For curiosity's sake only.
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Arguably the worst British film ever made.
29 April 2015
Throughout film history, the British film industry has contributed many films of varying quality to the world, some of which are arguably among the best films ever made as well as others which represent the true nadir of cinema. One such sad example of the latter would be the 2000 comedy Kevin and Perry Go Large (based on the popular UK comedy sketch Kevin the teenager from the show Harry Enfield and Chums), which due to its hateful characters, poor structuring and overall lack of anything funny, ranks not only as one of British cinema's worst, but arguably one of the worst films in movie history.

The story is that friends Kevin and Perry go on a holiday to Ibiza in order to become DJ's so that they can find their significant others. Along the way they'll come across sun, sex & clubbing as well as an evil DJ by the name of Eye Ball Paul who will test their friendship in the process. The plot is very lazy here, as it follows the typical plot of a British sitcom adaptation: take take the main characters out of their comfort zone and into a different place that they aren't familiar with. While not as undercooked as other sitcom adaptations (i.e. MacGruber, Keith Lemon: The Film), the story is still very generic, and becomes utterly redundant in the process. On top of this, the story is very poorly structured as well, as the film moves on without much narrative thread connecting it all together, eventually feeling closer to its sketch show roots than necessary. It honestly felt like one was watching a string of sketches they scrapped from the TV show, due to their lack of humour.

That's another major problem, as the film isn't funny in the slightest, due to its constant reliance on lowest common denominator humour. There's boner gags (Kevin manages to stop a bank robbery with a boner), gross-out gags (a spot popping scene that is so awful and crass that it feels like it should be in an American Pie straight to DVD sequel) and lots of terrible toilet humor. Another problem is the one-joke nature of the film, that being that Kevin and Perry are deliberately irritating, acting as a satire of teenagers and their culture, but due to how unlikable Kevin and Perry are, it gets very old and annoying very fast.

And they are indeed unlikable characters. They are so hateful in fact that they are some of the worst characters ever seen in a comedy film. They are very inappropriate towards the female characters in the film (including stalking them and sleeping with them against their will) and treat their parents like dirt, with constant verbal abuse and rudeness towards them, despite how kind and caring the parents are. On top of this, they don't seem to have much of a strong friendship, as at the first threat to their friendship in the film (Eye Ball Paul manipulating them for his own gain), they immediately refuse to speak to one another. Why are we meant to like these characters again?

And yes, I do understand that they are meant to be a satire of both teenagers and their culture, but it doesn't excuse how truly detestable the main characters are, and the fact that it isn't at all funny (or even good satire, considering how the humour is aimed at, ironically, at the same lowest common denominator audience the film is meant to be making fun of) only serves to make matters worse. In short, it would probably be fine in a 20 minute show, but in a full length film, these characters become utterly unbearable, and considering that they take up the most screen time, it makes the film legitimately painful to sit through.

It doesn't help that the other characters are as underwritten as Kevin & Perry (but thankfully not as unlikable), and feel like their only purpose in the film is to make it even longer, mainly that of Kevin and Perry's girlfriends and the aforementioned parents. This also sadly applies to the villain, Rhys Ifans' DJ Eye Ball Paul, as despite the fact that he doesn't really have any effect on the story, is the most sympathetic character, mainly due to how he bullies and is horrible to Kevin and Perry, and you can't help but feel that some of his behaviour towards them is deserved, considering how utterly horrible they both are. It also helps that Rhys Ifans (as always) is very good, and in turn, becomes the only thing in this film anybody could stomach.

It is because of all these problems that I feel that Kevin and Perry Go Large is not only one of the worst British films ever made (a title it takes very easily), but is one of the worst films ever made. Everything is completely inept, whether it be the hateful main characters, the poorly developed supporting characters, the lack of any laughs, a plot that is lazily recycled, a very poor structure to the film and the utterly toothless satire. Bottom line: Kevin and Perry Go Large stinks, and it should be avoided like the plague.
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Don't listen to the critics.
28 April 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Over the years, there have been many films that have been seen as classics of their genre, due to their critical and commercial success as well as fan support. However, this doesn't represent everybody, as there will inevitably be backlash against the film, and those people would feel that the film in question is overrated. Casein point, The Hunger Games, as while there are some good elements here and there, it seems surprising that a film so derivative, lazily written and overall quite weak would be praised as much as it has, and is one of the most overrated films over the past few years because of it.

The plot is that after volunteering instead of her sister, Katniss Everdeen takes part in The Hunger Games, a show that consists of young people fighting each other to the death for the sake of entertainment. When at the games, Katniss will do anything in her power in order to survive. If you feel that that synopsis sounds familiar, that's because it has blatantly been recycled from films like Battle Royale and The Running Man. If the film wasn't derivative enough already by this point, it also rips off bits from other films (like the authoritarian city from 1984 or the chase scenes from Apocalypto) in order to tell its story.

The writing is also undermined by other factors as well, like the multiple plot holes within the story, like why do the Capitol let two people live despite being intent on killing everyone else, or why Rue's district starts rioting, despite having their tributes killed for the past seven and half decades. It also lacks any sort of fundamental character development, leading to characters who are two-dimensional at best and at worst, quite boring and unsympathetic.

The latter of that definitely applies to Katniss, partly due to her poor writing, and the other part due to Jennifer Lawrence's poor performance, as while her character is meant to a strong, independent young woman with a dark past, Lawrence acts like a bored, whiny teenager who's upset that her Ipod ran out of charge. It makes her completely disengaged from the audience, as since she doesn't seem to care about her predicament, it makes the viewer question why they should care either. Thankfully, the rest of the acting is perfectly fine, but their character writing is still quite weak. The most notable example of this is when a character called Rue is killed off, and despite the fact that she has only five minutes of screen time or so, the audience is supposed to be shocked and saddened by her death.

It doesn't help that the film is constantly switching tone, and it becomes distracting after a while. At the beginning, the tone is serious and downbeat, and the setting of the film reflects this perfectly, with its muted colours and overall depressing mood. However, later scenes in the Capitol (where the Hunger Games takes place) are completely the opposite, with bright colours and people being dressed up like they had escaped from a Dr. Suess book. I understand that this is meant to be a juxtaposition on the rich and the poor, and how greedy the former truly are, but due to the film's serious tone, this part of the film feels overly cartoony and it becomes harder to take seriously as a result, something made even worse by the hugely unconvincing fire and attack dog special effects during the film's major set-pieces.

Sure this film has positive attributes, as it is finely acted for the most part, has strong production values and has pretty good action scenes here and there, despite the overused shaky cam technique, but there's not much to recommend the film otherwise. From its unoriginal story, to its badly written script, to its unsympathetic lead, to its bizarre tonal shifts throughout, the Hunger Games is an overall bad film that is only recommended to die- hard fans of the books, but even then I feel that some fans might struggle(due to how superior the books are meant to be). Sure, the sequels are better, but that doesn't wash away the bad taste that the first film left in the mouth.
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Predators (2010)
Strong candidate for the worst thing to come out of the entire Predator canon.
22 April 2015
The Predator film series has had many hits and misses during its existence, as for every good entry, one or two bad ones show up quickly in its wake. The original Predator was quite good and AVP was decent (although admittedly more as a guilty pleasure than anything else), but Predator 2 was a complete letdown and AVP: Requiem stunk as badly as cow manure. So how does this one fare? Well with its bad characters, rubbish storytelling, dreadful dialogue and abysmal action, pretty poorly actually.

The story is that a group of deadly criminals on Earth (i.e. corrupt mercenaries, militia members, murderers) are abducted from Earth and placed onto the planet of the Predators during the species' hunting season. In order to survive, these various characters will have to unite and fight against the deadly threat that awaits them. The plot is one of the first problems you'll notice about the film, as it feels both utterly generic, tired and lazy, like this was some sort of crappy Predator fan-fiction rather than a new entry into the series. Sure it doesn't have the same pacing problems Predator 2 did (it doesn't take as long for the Predator to show up for instance), but it isn't very ambitious either, and is filled with plot holes (i.e. why did the Predators pick an serial killer for their hunt, considering that he is not as dangerous as the mercenary and assassin characters?). Needless to say, it is clear why this story and script had been left on a shelf for so long.

Another big problem is the characters, as they're all two- dimensional at best, and at worst, they're essentially pointless deadmeat, only being there to increase the film's bodycount. It is a clear sign of poor character writing when the main characters' names aren't revealed until the last five minutes or so. On top of this, whenever the film has any good characters, they are killed off very quickly, leading you to question why they are even there.(Spoiler) This is mainly notable in Laurence Fishburne's character, as he seems to be an interesting examination on the isolation and madness someone can experience when being alone in a hostile environment like this, but is killed off swiftly.

The acting is also very average, as while everyone is fine, that's all they are rather than great, and no-one stands out as a result. Adrian Brody is a big problem, as despite his efforts, he's not a competent action hero, and his attempts act tough come off as a weird mix of the ridiculous voice of Christian Bale's Batman and a little kid swearing trying to impress his older peers. I don't expect him to be Arnie (something Adrian even admitted to), but at the very least, they could have hired someone who least swear competently.

Another major problem are the Predators themselves, as like Predator 2, the eponymous villain of the piece has little threat and screen time. Sure, it doesn't take as long for the Predators to be introduced like Predator 2, but for a film called Predators, there is sadly very little Predator action, as most of the run-time consists of the boring characters talking to one another, making the film feel slower than it actually is at points. On top of this, the Predators themselves aren't much of a threat, as they are killed off very easily, despite being in groups, compared to the first film whereby it was hard to kill one of the things. It isn't as insultingly useless as it was in Predator 2 (as even a average built cop could beat it by that point), but considering that there are more Predators in the film, you would expect them to be much more of a force to be reckoned with. The film also adds very little to the Predator mythos either, and the things it does add are staggeringly awful, mainly the new Predator dogs, which look like something out of the next Ice Age sequel, and a new type of Predator, whose mask is Power Rangers levels of camp and is killed as quickly as the other Predators.

It doesn't help that the action is very poor, with hack Nimród Antal directing the action in a very lazy and generic manner, leading to many copy-and-paste action sequences that don't get the adrenaline going but rather put you to sleep. Casein point, the criminally wasted Predator vs. Samurai fight in the film, as it is slowly paced, tedious and ends a lot quicker than it should. The action scenes also lack any bite either, as due to their poor handling, lack of any true visceral violence (the fact that it was rated 15 in the UK as opposed to the earlier films' initial 18 rating is a testament to that) & the fact that you don't care about any of the characters make the action lack any sort of tension or threat whatsoever.

It is also notable for the amount of Robert Rodriguez-isms (who wrote the story and produced the film) in the film, clearly showing that, despite different writers and directors, he's had his grubby mitts all over the film. Casual misogyny, creaky dialogue & constant (not to mention annoying) homages to the earlier films are main examples of this, but Rodriguez forgets (like fellow filmmaker Quentin Tarantino) that homages alone don't make a movie.

And what a bad movie it is too, as due to the huge amount of problems in the film, it is an undercooked mess overall. Not only does it add another nail in the coffin for Rodriguez as a filmmaker, but it also does the same to a once-credible franchise that clearly needs new blood in order to survive. Hopefully the upcoming Shane Black-directed sequel will be better, but for now this is the massive waste of potential we're left with.
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Notorious (2009)
B.I.G for beginners.
14 April 2015
When a musician reaches a certain level of fame in their career, many companies will seize on the opportunity to cash in. One of these ways is through a film biopic of their life, which gives old and new fans a chance to explore the depths of their idols and see a more interesting side of them that they hadn't previously been aware of. Notorious (based on the life of rapper Notorious B.I.G) is one such example, and while it is an enjoyable and compelling piece, it is perhaps more suited to the rapper's new fans rather than his die- hard ones.

The story focuses on the life of Biggie Smalls (AKA the Notorious B.I.G) from his early beginnings as a New York drug dealer to his early success when he signs on to Bad Boy Records to his personal relationships later in life to his untimely death by an unknown assailant. The story is one of the film's major problems, as while it goes over his life's important events, it often just skims through them, without going into much depth. The most detail the film goes into about his life is his womanising. It's surprising that the film has been called hagiographic, as it does show the ugly side of this, as he is very passive about it, eventually cheating on his wife because of it, who (quite rightly) throws him out of their house, and it gives both the film and its title character the conflict that it otherwise lacks, and is the most engaging part of the film because of it.

The rest of the film is more standard, as it shows us many of his life's highlights in brief portions, which while interesting to those who may not be familiar with the rapper, isn't as exciting if you already know the story. It also doesn't help that the film clearly alters history for its own ends. Bad Boy Record head Puff Daddy (who also produces the film) is suspiciously portrayed more hagiographically than BIG himself, many of BIG's problems aren't perhaps as accurately as they should be (i.e. the drug dealing and firearms charges aren't as severe as they would be in reality) and you can't help that the film has a overtly negative view of the West Coast rap scene, mainly that of Suge Knight & Tupac Shukar, leading to many set-pieces (mainly one which describes why Tupac turned on Biggie) that even those who have reservations towards Suge and Tupac (I have my own) won't buy.

The film still manages to be quite an enjoyable ride though, as the pacing is good and a lot of the acting is great, particularly that of Jamal Woolard as the title character. Apparently he put a lot of preparation into the role (i.e. learning the songs word perfect, researching his character), and it clearly shows, and fits perfectly into the role because of it, and brings more appreciation and depth to the rapper than the film itself. All the other actors are pretty good too, with the exception of Anthony Mackie as Tupac Shukar, who while good, doesn't bother to attempt to look (only bearing the slightest resemblance) or sound like Tupac, something even more distracting considering Jamal's accuracy to his role or how one of Tupac's songs plays on the radio at one point, making the differences even more obvious.

However, despite its faults, Notorious isn't an overall bad film. It's just a very flawed biopic that is worth watching, but mainly for those who are unfamiliar with the subject, as it gives the viewer the basic facts about the star, to perhaps create new fans in the process who will look more in-depth afterwards. But for those who are die-hard fans, the film is still pretty good for what it is. Perhaps it doesn't go into as much depth as one likes, and certain details about the film have either been altered or fabricated, but it is still an entertaining, engaging and perfectly watchable film that is occasionally very detailed and you'll be treated to some fine acting, especially from Jamal Woolard who was clearly born to play the Notorious B.I.G, and it also has the very upbeat and positive message of following your dreams. It's quite good overall and is worth watching, but it may still take a while for the definitive story of the Notorious B.I.G to be made, even though this is a good first stab. Just don't confuse this for the Hitchcock one.
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A slight return to form for Tarantino, but there are still problems.
19 March 2015
Quentin Tarantino. While the majority of people would tell you that he is a genius filmmaker who hasn't one bad film to his name, there is a small, but vocal minority who will tell you that while he is talented, he hasn't made anything fantastic for a while. Sure, Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction are masterpieces and Jackie Brown is his most mature work, but his other work has been deeply disappointing to say the least. The Kill Bill movies were self- indulgent, badly written and overly sadistic, and Death Proof was just boring. So would Inglourious Basterds be a late return to form? Well, while good, it doesn't present Tarantino at his best, and the film is still problematic as a whole.

The story is that during their occupation of France, the Nazis premiere a propaganda film at a theater to celebrate their achievements. When this is found out, many use this as a plan to kill the Nazis once and for all, including the British army, the theater's owner Shoshanna who has a vendetta against the Nazis and a group known as the Basterds, a bunch of American Jews who have traveled to France in order to kill Nazis.

While the plot is non-linear like Tarantino's other films, it suffers from the fact that there is a lot of pointless material in the film. Many characters who have no effect on the story are killed off, some scenes go on for way too long & some of the protagonists are deeply unlikable. This mainly implies to the Basterds themselves, who despite their cause, are portrayed as sadistic psychopaths who kill and torture many Nazis, despite some of the Nazis having legitimate grievances (i.e. having a child, keeping quiet to protect their fellow men). I'm not expecting a film like this to portray Nazis with Downfall-esque sympathy, but considering that most of the Nazis in the film are shown to be more human than in other films, the constant sadism feels unnecessary, and you can't help but feel that the Basterds are no better than the Nazis themselves.

The film's sadism is a major problem. Tarantino has a weird love for extreme violence, which would be fine provided that this was a more tongue in cheek context, but considering that the movie has a mostly straight face, you can't help but feel that the movie goes too far in places. This includes cutting the scalps off Nazis, beating them to death with baseball bats, torturing an innocent witness by sticking their fingers into a bullet wound and seeing someone get strangled to death, made even more disturbing by how it is partially real (Tarantino actually strangled one of his actresses to make the film look more real). Lovely.

It's a shame that the film is bogged down by being overly long and overly sadistic, as there is some great stuff in there. As many others have pointed out, the opening scene is brilliant. Great acting, dialogue, cinematography and pacing. It's also a perfect example of how Tarantino should use his unique brand of dialogue, to be quirky and advance the story, instead of using it to ramble. It's definitely the best scene in the film, and continues 2009's tradition of having great opening scenes (i.e. Watchmen, Up) in films.

On top of this, some of the characters are very well done. Shoshanna is the best character in the film, being the most three-dimensional and interesting, and her story arc in the film is the most compelling because of it, essentially being the brilliant female revenge story that Kill Bill should have been. You just wish the whole movie was focused on her, but still, her scenes are where the film reaches its peak, and Melanie Laurent delivers one of the best (and sadly underrated) performances in recent memory. It's also a very well- made film. The cinematography is gorgeous, the sets and production design are well done, and the acting is very good from everybody, even though I feel that some are wasted, mainly that of Brad Pitt and Christoph Waltz, the latter of whom does the absolute best with a weak character. If you want to see him at his best, watch The Zero Theorem instead.

It's because of these things that I feel that while Inglourious Basterds is a slight return to form for Tarantino, it's still dragged down by many of Tarantino's usual faults. From the overly sadistic violence of the film, to the overlong running time, to the self-indulgent touches to the film (i.e. having a Mike Myers cameo, or Samuel L. Jackson as a narrator, clearly his easiest paycheck yet), the film's positive attributes, while present, are still balanced out by the film's many faults. It's definitely a step forward, but there's still some work to be done.
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Death Proof (2007)
When even Tarantino admits that this is his worst film, you know the film's got problems!
12 March 2015
Back in 2007, Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino collaborated on a project which would be an homage to the exploitation films of their youth: Grindhouse. The premise was simple, the film would consist of a double bill with fake trailers in between to create one long tribute to the heyday of the exploitation cinema. However, the film bombed in the States, leading the film to be split in two to make recover some of their losses. One of those films was Tarantino's effort, Death Proof, which was instantly despised on release by critics and audiences alike, and it also bombed at the box office on its own. Hell, even the usually full of himself Tarantino admitted that this was his worse film. So is the film really that bad? Well, let's take a look...

The plot is that Stuntman Mike drives around in his car, hunting down and killing groups of women. That's about all there is to it, and while the simple story technique may be quintessentially grindhouse, the story is very badly told, due to an achingly slow pace, and not happens in the film as a result. Hell, Stuntman Mike is reduced to a smaller role than one would like, to the point of essentially being in a cameo. Meanwhile, the film consistently focuses on unlikable characters talking about literally nothing, and being utterly bitchy to each other in the process.

It's no secret that Tarantino can't write original female characters to save his life. The Mia scenes in Pulp Fiction are boring and slow the story down, the female characters in Reservoir Dogs either killed off or cut from the final film and Kill Bill focuses on a sadistic sociopath who we have no sympathy for (Jackie Brown doesn't fully count as she was originally from a novel). However, these female characters are his worst yet. Clearly Tarantino doesn't know what women are like, as they talk about nothing, are obsessed with sex & have a cocky attitude towards each other that makes them annoying to watch. I understand that they might be satirising dumb teenage characters in modern horror movies, but considering that they take up most of the running time, we should be caring for them, otherwise we would be watching the film at all?

It also doesn't help that when we do get to the car chases, they're unbelievably dull, and when they're good, they often end abruptly, making the talking scenes feel all the more pointless. Sure, there is some tension when there is a car chase with stuntwoman Zoe Bell actually being on the hood of the car, but for the most part, the car chases are unbelievably routine, outside of occasionally very gory (and completely unnecessary) violence. Say what you will about the Fast & Furious movies, but at least the car chases in those movies are exciting and fun to watch.

Both of these things lead to the biggest problem with the film: it's utterly boring. As nothing exciting happens throughout, you get bored really fast, and you'd rather watch paint dry. At least the paint doesn't have so much pointless material in it. It would also probably look much better too. I understand that the bad look of the film maybe part of the point, keeping in tone with the grindhouse theme, but that doesn't excuse it fully, especially considering that ironically enough, many of the films from that era have better HD transfers. Here though, the film looks completely cheap and like a made-for-TV movie, thereby making the film look utterly dull in the process. The sound mixing is also quite poor in some scenes, with music and background sounds being so loud that sometimes you can't hear what the characters are saying (not that you'd want to anyway). Are they any redeeming values here?

Yes there is, in the form of Kurt Russell. In a very underrated performance, Russell delivers a lot of charm and charisma as Stuntman Mike, making him the best thing in the film by a country mile, and also has the most personality, and even makes some of the overwritten and awful dialogue sound cool and intriguing. Everyone else also delivers fantastic performances, much more than the film deserves. Even stuntwoman Zoe Bell is quite good playing herself, and is the most likable female character in this film, coming off as kind, but dangerous, whereas everyone else is an attitude filled annoyance. It also helps that her half of the film is better than the first, as the characters are slightly more likable than before (probably down to being more likable actors), and it moves along much quicker because of it.

But great acting can't polish a smelly turd, and sadly this is what you're left with. A badly-plotted, lazy, boring, and utterly pointless turd with characters you want to murder, a weak story with plot holes (e.g. why do the police never show up?), needless carnage and a lack of a true ending, rather an abrupt end. Truth be told, this isn't Tarantino's worst film (the Kill Bill films fit that mold nicely) but it still isn't very good and is further proof that Tarantino has lost his way, making junk like this when he could be doing so much better.
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I'm going slightly mad.
26 February 2015
When sequels are usually released, they are often rubbish, as they are merely cash-ins on the original's success and while they often suck, they usually aren't abysmally bad, ad they are more often lazy than anything else. Sadly, this is a case when the sequel to an already dreadful original is so bad, it makes the original look like a masterpiece by comparison.

The story is that The Bride is still on her bloody revenge, and is now after the head honcho, Bill. However, due to the many obstacles that get in her way, including Bill's bodyguards and the reunion with her daughter, will she be able to kill Bill? My problem with the story is that it is very badly written, from the constant plot holes (e.g. why does the Bride bring a sword with her everywhere she goes, despite facing potentially armed men), useless characters and even more pointless footage than last time. While it is nice to see her training montage or her wedding rehearsal before the massacre in theory, they serve to show things that either the audience already knows, or doesn't care to. Seriously, you could cut huge chunks out of both films, and lump them together as one, and it would be a better film because of it.

Another huge problem is the unsympathetic main character, as despite her understandable motivations for her revenge, she is a sadistic sociopath who kills because it gives her pleasure rather than for revenge, and who doesn't have any remorse for her victims, which (despite what some feminists might have believe) isn't a good role model for the young women potentially watching this movie. What makes this worse however is the fact that when she reunites with her daughter after so long, you don't feel any sympathy, as not only do you feel that she would be an awful mother to the child (something she even admits to by saying that she can never live a normal life), but considering that she killed a mother in front of her 4- year old daughter in the previous film, it is even harder to swallow. It doesn't help that her character is never fully developed either, which makes the film hard to watch as a result.

The main bad guy, Bill, is equally as dull, feeling constantly one- note throughout and gets rather boring because of it, despite David Carradine's great performance, and he often gets the movie's worst lines, including a theory that the Bride is a killer on the inside, and wears her more mature self as a disguise similar to Superman (because as we all know, people like soldiers are always destined to kill people, as they do it on the frontlines). One thing that is very annoying is that while some of the characters are completely pointless, they are the best ones in the film, in particular Michael Madsen's Bud, Gordon Liu's Samurai master or Deryl Hannah's Elle, who is easily the best thing about the film, as the character had the most personality, and Deryl's performance is both charismatic and sexy. You would wish the film was about them than some crazy sociopath, but that isn't the case, and sadly they are usually killed the quickest as well. The more personality you have in the film, the quicker you are killed.

The rest of the script is completely lacklustre as well, as outside of all the plot problems, the film's dialogue is overdone and often ridiculous. While Tarantino's unique style of dialogue may have worked in Pulp Fiction or Reservoir Dogs, here it is utterly inane, as unlike the aforementioned films, it isn't funny, quirky or essential to the story, leading to a lot of long winded pointless scenes that make the film feel a lot longer than it is. This story clearly didn't need two parts to tell it, and Tarantino should actually edit his films before he releases them.

It is also casually sadistic as well, as eyes are pulled out and stepped on, a man gets bitten by a snake over and over and a blind woman runs around screaming in agony. It feels very crass as a result, and you would wish Tarantino would grow up already. It also doesn't help that many of the film's major set pieces don't pay off, as they are either too brief or are interrupted by the boring story. This is especially true of the film's climax.

While there are some good elements in the film (good acting and great cinematography for example), overall it is utter crud. Whether it would be the awful writing, unsympathetic characters, sadism, overlong and pointless bits or the utter anticlimax, Kill Bill Vol 2 is an abysmal movie-making experience, that everyone should avoid at all costs in order to stop letting Tarantino's Samurai fan-fics get millions of dollars and well known actors behind it, and to teach him to make proper, grown-up films next time. Complete and utter garbage.
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A lod of self indulgent waffle.
25 February 2015
Vanity projects are usually made by people who, after receiving a lot of praise and support for their work, want to make something that is personal to them and therefore don't really care what anyone thinks of it in the process (usually because they wrongly believe that people will still eat it up due to the artist behind the project rather than the art itself). Sadly, this often means that they are terrible in every sense of the word, due to a lack of quality control. Due to a poor storyline, no character development and a lot of sadistic violence, this film is no exception to this rule.

The story is that a woman only known as The Bride has been left in a coma after her old assassin posse knocked her unconscious and killed mostly everyone at her wedding day, including her husband to be and, potentially, her unborn daughter. After awakening from this coma, she seeks bloody revenge against them, killing them one by one. While the story is a simple revenge plot, it becomes overly convoluted as Tarintino adopts a non- linear structure to the film, but unlike his previous films that had a similar structure, some parts of the film lack context to the events on screen, and you feel very lost, as if there was a previous instalment to this that you missed.

The rest of the writing is equally inept. None of the characters are very developed, and it is hard to care about anyone because of it. There are also a lot of plot holes throughout the story as well, including how the police never bother showing up despite the violent murders that the Bride commits (I.e killing a doctor but never bothering to hide his body, killing a mother in front of her own daughter, the massacre in the Japanese restaurant at the end) or how Lucy Liu got to the head of the Yazuka (the Japanese mafia) despite having awful bodyguards and fighting skills that are adequate at best. The fact that there are many pointless scenes here as well don't help as they often slow down the story and bore you, mainly the animated scene.

Another major problem is how casually the film wallows in its sadistic violence. People are decapitated, eyes are pulled out, people see their families murdered and limps are often cut off. However the violence isn't displayed in an OTT manner, but rather in a more serious way with people screaming in agony and wriggling around like worms when their legs are chopped off. That isn't fun violence but rather deeply unpleasant and needless carnage. It strikes me as odd how the game Manhunt (released at a similar time) is yelled at for being too violent, but no-one bats an eye at this, despite it being perhaps worse, as unlike Manhunt it lacks any context and is just sadism for sadism's sake. Sadism also extends to other areas as well, like a doctor who rapes comatose patients and a guy getting his head slammed into a door for information. It's utterly grotesque and while not morally bankrupt like Natural Born Killers is per say, still makes you feel dirty after seeing it.

There are some good things here to though, mainly that of the production design. Sets are gorgeous and are beautifully shot, and the HD version I saw makes them feel more alive and colourful. The soundtrack by Wu-Tang Clan rapper RZA is great too, and compliments the Asain influences of the film very well. The acting is also quite good, with all actors giving much better performances than the film deserves.

Sadly however, those good things don't make a whole, as the film's flaws completely sink it, due to poor storytelling, characters and handling of violence, becoming sadistic for the sake of it. It is because of this that I would find it very hard to recommend Kill Bill to anyone, except die hard Tarantino fans and adolescents nitwits who don't know any better. Tarantino is a great filmmaker, and he can do so much better than this slock, but thanks to a complete lack of scrutiny and quality control, he wastes his talent on self indulgent vanity projects like this. Critics and audiences many continue to dump praise onto this based on the goodwill Tarantino earned through his early work, but the awfulness of work like this demonstrates that goodwill doesn't excuse dreadful dreck. Avoid at all costs.
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CryBaby Lane (2000 TV Movie)
Inept in every way you can imagine.
14 February 2015
When a film gains a certain reputation, it makes many curious to see it, to find out whether it lives up to the hype or not. This is especially true of previously banned or lost films, as being allowed to see them for the first time makes you interested whether the fuss surrounding it is truly worth it or rather a means to an end. The latter can definitely be applied to this film, as it's inept in every way possible, with its awful storytelling, characterization and a lack of truly anything scary.

Ironically, its supposed reputation of being too scary was what originally got it lost/banned by Nickelodeon in the first place. Initially, this TV movie was meant to be a children's horror movie, in similar vein to other 90's children's horror shows like Goosebumps or Nickelodeon's own Are You Afraid Of The Dark? However, the film became controversial when many parents complained that the film's content was too scary for children, and because of this, Nickelodeon never re-released it again. No re-airing, no VHS/DVD release, nothing. Because of this, many became curious to see the film again, and many sought after it, even leading to an awful creepypasta story being written about it. It took 11 years for the film to resurface, after Nickelodeon reaired it after it was leaked online.

But sadly, that backstory is far more interesting than the film itself. Firstly, the story (whereby two brothers resurrect an evil twin who possesses people and causes chaos in their town) is quite weak. Despite a strong and quite spooky opening, the story is very poorly written, with plot holes (e.g. why does no-one question a semi-naked child running through the streets? why does someone try to run over a possessed dog despite it being on top of someone?) and how it rips off many other films for its story, whether it be Evil Dead (the twin being resurrected by a tape recording), Village of the Damned (the possessed having bright blue eyes) or Invasion of the Body Snatchers (some of the possessed change personality into a duller version of themselves). It's a shame, as for every original idea the film has (i.e. the spirit being released through a root growing out of the grave), it steals 2 or 3 from somewhere else, with little subtly.

Another problem is that not many of the characters are likable. The main character is alright, if nothing special, but his arrogant, borderline abusive brother is absolutely hateful, and you'll want him to die as soon as possible. His parents are awful too, the mother being too overprotective, the father being too liberal and neither of them caring about their children much including never checking on them when they're in their room for a few hours at the least. The supporting cast aren't great either, and mainly consist of stereotypes that you'll bore of quickly. Whether this would be the attitude-filled girls that the main characters have a crush on, the young Lord of the Rings nerd or an elder character who is so prepared to prove himself to be tough but turns out to be even more frightened than his younger companion. The only character you'll gain any sympathy for is Frank Langella's undertaker. He gets the movie's best lines (his "run" joke is genuinely funny), is the warmest character & Langella plays it very well, becoming the best thing in this by a country mile.

It doesn't help that for something like this, the film isn't scary at all. I assume that those who complained were a fascist Mary Whitehouse/James Ferman type group, as despite the dark backstory of the evil twin (having been kept hidden away all his life for being a Siamese twin and being sawed off and buried after death), there is nothing scary in this film. This is mainly due to how lame the twin is. Firstly, much of his attack consists of knocking over letter boxes and throwing fizzy drink bottles at cars, which while a nuisance seem more suited to Dennis the Menace than a scary villain like this, and his attacks against the main characters (i.e. a bull attack and a combine harvester) while threatening, aren't particularly scary, or worse than anything seen in an Indiana Jones movie. It also doesn't help that when he is encountered at the film's end, it's an anticlimax, as his character's OTT acting seems more fitting if he was in the 1980 Flash Gordon film and his behavior is more odd than spine chilling, as he just eats worms all day, and possesses people through said worms. The content is no worse than the aforementioned 90's children's horror shows or the 80's children's horror films like Gremlins or The Goonies, for instance. Quite frankly, the worst this movie ever gets in terms of content is when a kid says that they would like to raise Princess Diana from the dead, which feels slightly tasteless (I'm a British viewer after all) and out of place with the rest of the film.

It's a shame, because this movie does have a lot going for it. The film is still very well-made for a TV movie, the opening is very spooky and gets you interested in the story, the music by Andrew Barrett (no relation to Syd, I can assure you) is quite good (despite occasional out of place metal music here and there), the acting from the cast is top-notch for the most part, some of the ideas are quite clever, and Frank Langella is the standout in this film, and his bits of the film are usually the best. However, despite these standout elements, they don't form to create a whole, and the movie is very problematic otherwise, and is mostly inept because of it. Despite its controversy, it isn't a good film, and the fact that Nickelodeon buried it for this long tells you all you need to know. Avoid.
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The best of the series so far.
10 February 2015
After watching a film, many people will have many different reactions to it, whether it be one of joy or one of hatred. Other times however, another reaction to a film could be one of disappointment. Whether it be the film not living up to its hype and potential or seeming like a film that was too big to fail, there are many films that while not overall bad, are considered major disappointments. Many would tell you that this film would be a continuation of this trend, due to being overlong, slow and not much payoff, as well as being a supposed weak follow-up to the previous films (which admittedly aren't great films to begin with). The film is a lot better than many give it credit for however, and is definitely the best of the series so far.

The story is that after the events of the previous film, Katniss has gone into hiding along with her family and the rest of the rebels who are planning to overthrow the capital. One way they'll try to do this is through propaganda videos, using Katniss' image as the Mockingjay in order to inspire rebellion in the other districts. However, with her allies at risk and the closing in on the rebels, will she give in?

The plot development is the best of the series yet, as despite not moving at the same quick pace as the previous films (mainly due to how the film is mostly set inside a bunker), in place of it, there is a lot more attention paid on character, story and themes that the other films lacked.

Firstly, all of the characters are well developed. Katniss finally forms into a three dimensional character at this point, and is a lot more interesting this time round. We see her interact with her family, her close friends and the rebels, and because of the amount of time spent on her, we become more sympathetic towards her cause, as she is no longer the whiny and annoying character as seen before, but as a caring, bold and rebellious young woman with a lot of internal conflict to deal with, due to her struggles with her image as the Mockingjay and how it affects everyone around her. Her character is much more rounded this time round, and Jennifer Lawrence gives it her all, clearly showing that after her previous below par performances in the other films, she is fully comfortable in her role. The supporting cast are all around great as well.

Another thing that is really well done is the themes, as they are delivered in a more subtle way this time round, in particular, the idea of the rebels being as bad as the Capitol, considering how they use propaganda and terrorist attacks to inspire rebellion, but arguably are no better than the Capitol, who use similar tactics against the rebels, and in the process, both sides take major losses. It's a very clever idea that's well handled that gives the series more depth than it did previously.

The action in the film is also well done, as there is none of the shaky cam nonsense of the previous films, but now scenes which are well shot and paced and have a strong sense of tension throughout. This is helped by the fact that the villains this time around feel a lot more threatening, with many scenes showing how ruthless they can be, with the highlight of these scenes being Katniss returning to District 12 and finding the place to be completely in ruins, eventually stumbling across skulls and other body parts in the rubble. It is due to this that the villains feel much more intimidating this time round, which makes you even more invested and caring towards the main characters.

However, despite many positive attributes, there are still some problems. Despite the increased threat that the villains have, Donald Sutherland still feels widely miscast as President Snow, delivers a goofy performance that would be more appropriate of the Adam West Batman show of the 60's, rather than a dark and gritty film like this. Luckily, he doesn't have much screen time, but kills the mood when on screen. There is also some really unfunny comic relief as well, particularly in the case of Katniss' cat and while humour is needed to calm the audience after so much action and dark moments, the comic relief sometimes goes too silly for its own good, and once again ruins the tone.

But outside of that, this film was fantastic. After the below par efforts previously, this sequel finally gives the series the jab in the arm it needed in order to truly take off, with a great story, strong characters that you care about, subtle themes and humour and a lot of exciting action with a lot of tension throughout. While not succeeding in every area, this film is something everyone should see as it is truly great cinema. Ignore the naysayers and check this movie out.
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Mock the Week (2005– )
What happened to this show?
5 February 2015
Now, let me start by saying that during its first seven seasons, I absolutely loved this show. While never being a regular viewer of the show (I mainly watch its repeats on Dave, as outside of Top Gear, it's the only thing they show), whenever I saw those episodes, I found the show to be very enjoyable indeed. It was consistently funny, had enough various rounds to keep the show fresh and to stand out in the panel show genre and there was strong chemistry between the comedians on the show that kept it compelling. So, initially I loved the show like many others, and us fans couldn't get enough of it.

Sadly, however, it is a show that has seriously dropped in quality recently. Sure, most comedy shows eventually get tired for many reasons. Sitcoms for example can run out of steam if they stay on air for too long, as there's only so many ways to milk humour out of a certain situation, and because of this, they either become stale and repeat jokes (i.e. The Simpsons) or tries to become more daring and shocking, and backfires miserably (i.e. Family Guy). However, this is a completely different kettle of fish.

To me, this show stopped being funny when Frankie Boyle left during series 7, after the BBC told him to tone down his humour. Quite rightly, he didn't agree with them, and promptly walked out of the show, claiming the BBC were afraid of "frightening the horses". It may sound pathetic and whiny to say that a show went downhill just because your favourite comedian from said show left it, but I was still open to watching the show. The other panelists were at least quite funny (even though Hugh Dennis is quite disposable) and other comedy series can still work despite a vital member being absent.

However, in this case, it has seriously backfired. This is mainly due to how the panelists are no longer funny, due to how they play for the safe and easy jokes on a certain subject, as opposed to the more daring, edgier jokes they told previously. While I understand it opens up the show to a wider audience than it did before, to old fans like us, the lack of edge completely ruins the show as it seems we are watching a paler imitation of what came before, due to a lack of edge or (most importantly) humour. I assume that this lack of edge comes from one of two things: the BBC telling everyone to tone down their humour for a wider audience, or them doing it anyway out of fear of loss of support or firing after Frankie's exit.

It also doesn't help that other vital parts of the show have been completely stripped from it over the years. Firstly, due to multiple comedians leaving the show (Frankie Boyle and Russell Howard for example), the chemistry between the panelists is simply not there anymore, and the new panelists feel really out of place because of it. On top of this, many of the more recent panelists are not funny at all, with ones like Milton Jones & Chris Addison being some of the worst offenders in that category. Sure, occasional guests can be quite funny, like Jack Whitehall or Andi Osho, but those are in a minority. Most guests, even ones that have been quite funny in the past aren't funny and seem to have been sucked out of life when on Mock The Week.

Another more recent problem is the fact that the show doesn't cover enough major news stories. Sure, it perhaps didn't before, but at least they milked a lot of good jokes out of each subject that they mocked. However, now not only is the lack of humour making this problem more obvious, but the topics are boring as well. The constant celebrity & showbiz rounds aren't interesting or funny, & even when the show dips its toes into hot water with its topics, the show isn't funny then either. It also feels a lot longer than before because of it, with each 40-minute episode feeling like it could be on for 40 years. That is how boring and unfunny this once great show has become.

So due to all this, what are we left with? An unfunny panel show trying to reclaim past glories and failing miserably, with a lack of edge, a lack of major news stories being covered and a lack of humour, as previous panelists lose their balls and new unfunny hacks try to show off their stuff, but fail to even raise a smirk, and rather you'll moan, groan and feel depressed as to what this show has become. Sure, the original series are fantastic and I recommend that you watch those series instead (which is why my rating isn't lower). Don't watch any new series of Mock the Week, as they are unfunny, boring and quite frankly dead in the water. Please, BBC cancel the show before it possibly gets any worse.
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Hasn't aged well.
2 February 2015
Warning: Spoilers
There are certain films that, due to their strong reputation and historical significance, are supposedly beyond criticism. Citizen Kane, Seven Samurai, 2001, The Godfather and many more are examples of films that despite not being necessarily perfect, many say that they are beyond criticism, and that if you do criticism them, you must discuss what masterpieces they are first. One of those films is Grand Illusion. Considered to be one of the first prison escape movies ever made, the film is meant to be one of the best ever made, for not only being the grand-daddy of prison escape films, but for having great characters, an engaging story and a strong anti-war message laying underneath its skin. However, while it does have many positive attributes, Grand Illusion isn't the masterpiece everyone believes it to be, due to poor narrative and being very overlong.

The plot is that after being shot down during an aerial battle, a group of French soldiers are sent to a German prison. Here, they decide to escape, and use many cunning plans in order to do so. That's really all of the story there is here, and while its simple nature makes it seem impossible to screw up, the story is poorly told here. This is due to how there isn't much of a story throughout much of the film, and many scenes consist of characters talking about things not story related or utterly pointless scenes as well (i.e. a scene where the prisoners display a show to the Germans) that should have hit the cutting room floor. Because of this, the film feels very baggy and overlong as a result.

It also doesn't help that the character development is quite inconsistent. While I understand that the film is essentially an ensemble piece, there are too many characters for the film to juggle, leading to few characters we care about or are interested in, and many we couldn't care less about. It also doesn't help that there isn't much threat from the villain characters, as they act very friendly towards the heroes and in a later scene when a protagonist dies, the villain tends to his need. Sure, the scene that this leads to is a wonderful moment (something the film sadly has too little of) and it does represent director Jean Renoir's pacifist views but it fails to create any tension or conflict within the story, and if the audience doesn't care about the events on screen, then what's the point of watching?

The film isn't a complete disaster though. The film is clearly well made , some of the characters are at least interesting and the cast are excellent, with Jean Gabin, Marcel Dalio & Erich von Stroheim in particular giving standout performances. It is also at least an entertaining experience for the most part, and it is also an interesting watch, as it is compelling to see one of the first prison escape films and to see how it influenced later prison escape films as a whole.

It is because of this that while Grand Illusion isn't a complete failure, it is very flawed and it hasn't aged very well, due to its overlong length, barrage of pointless material and lacking any tension or suspense for the most part. However, there are some great moments here and there and the acting is fantastic overall. So in conclusion, what you have is a mediocre film that despite its iconic status is quite problematic. However, it is worth checking out to see one of the forerunners of the prison escape genre, and is occasionally brilliant here and there. If you must get it, get the Criterion version above all others, as it goes into great detail about the film, it's history, cast biographies and Nazi ban. To be honest, the edition gives the film a better treatment than it perhaps deserves.
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The worst film ever made.
29 January 2015
For some it's Battlefield Earth. For others, it's Showgirls. For others it's Plan 9 From Outer Space. Whatever the case, there are many candidates for the worst movie ever made, but there can never be a definite answer to this question, due to how despite whatever the collective consensus may say about the film, there is always an opposing view. Sure there maybe many titles up for this dubious honour,but never one that all can agree on, except for what our own personal opinions may determine about the film as a whole. It is also why I feel that Natural Born Killers, despite its strong cult following and acclaim is to me the worst film ever made, and one everyone should avoid at all costs.

The first major problem is the story. The plot is that a married couple, Mickey and Malorie Knox are on a murder spree, essentially killing everyone they meet. Meanwhile, the media reports on their actions, which potentially might be the bigger bad guys, glamorizing their rampage and giving them a lot of fans in the process. While it may sound very complex first, the plot is almost non-existent, as it consists of one murder to the next with little context to connect the scenes together and occasionally as clip about the media, just to trick you into thinking the film has more substance than it actually does. The only time any story comes into play is during the prison climax, but by then, it's too little too late. The non-linear storytelling also doesn't help, as it makes things needlessly complicated, and helps to make the film have less sense than it already did.

The film also has a very bizarre, MTV-esque style, that may be unique and is used brilliantly here and there (mainly in a pharmacy shootout shot in green), but often makes it feel like you're on a very bad acid trip, and it gets very annoying, very quickly. It doesn't help that while the film shows off many stylistic choices (black and white cinematography, comic book sections, a sitcom homage), most don't work and feel random, making the film feel even more messy and poorly put together than it did previously. The dialogue also suffers because of this, consisting mainly of Tarantino-esque dripple that would even make E. L. James or Frank Miller feel dirty due to its pretentiousness.

It doesn't help that the film has an absolutely woeful script, one that is so awful that you feel that the style is only there in order to mask many of the script's failings. The first problem is that NONE of the characters are likable. The main couple are a bunch of serial killers who despite their childhood abuse backstory aren't interesting, considering that they kill innocent people for pleasure. The supporting cast are equally as unsympathetic, whether it be Robert Downey Jr's reporter (who adopts an odd Austrilian accent to create an utterly irritating character) or the cop characters in the film, who either act in a sleazy or sadistic manner, and even the usually reliable Tommy Lee Jones acts like a Saturday morning cartoon villain in his role as police chief.

The worst thing about the film is that it is a morally bankrupt venture, that has many poisonous messages laying under its skin. Not only does the film expect you to sympathize with a bunch of serial killers, but also makes that lifestyle seem inviting to many, due to how the killing gives the characters pleasure, they gain a strong fanbase and that they will be minimal consequences for your actions, especially considering that they are eventually freed from death row during a prison riot. It also doesn't help that all of the cops in the film are morally corrupt, as they are either perverts, sadists or want to cover things up, and killing them is a good thing (something highlighted when Downey's character says that he feels alive after killing one). These are alarming messages to be sending out, and while I'm often against the idea that fiction inspires real-life crime, this is sadly a case where the naysayers may actually have a point. Sure some may argue that the film is a satire of media glamorizing violence, but the movie is quite hypocritical here as well, as it is itself glamorizes the violence in the film and expects us to care for and worship the main characters, in the same way their fans do. It also doesn't have any sort of counterpoint to this either something which other controversial art (i.e. Fight Club, Manhunt, a lot of rap music) has. Because of this, it isn't surprising that the film has been linked to many real life crimes and tragedies, providing even more evidence to the film's questionable ideology.

It is due to these attributes that I consider Natural Born Killers to be the worst movie ever made and one which has no redeeming value whatsoever. Whether it be the non-existent plot line, OTT style, unlikable characters, awful dialogue, hypocritical attempts at satire, dreadful acting and godawful politics that can corrupt many who see it, Natural Born Killers is a true stinker of a film that should be left to rot in the deepest, darkest hole you can find. I understand that back in the 90's, this may have seemed rebellious and exciting to the Generation X crowd, but considering that we aren't in the 90's anymore that we'd grow out of this and reevaluate this for being the absolute stinker that it is. Sadly, since it still has a strong fanbase, I can only assume that many believe that this is a brilliant movie that everyone should see. It isn't. Don't watch this evil movie, as not only is it a bad film, but the worst ever made and a truly reprehensible one at that. Truly shameful.
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