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I'm sure any fan of military action series remembers "Strike Back". Not too serious but well played, with lots of action and a modest degree of charm.
Well, the "Professionals" is its poor cousin. It strikes out on most points. Its action has a limp lettuce quality. Everyone is simply going through the motions. There's no energy or sense of urgency.
Acting fares little better, with by the numbers narrative, that convinces no one. To make matters worse there's a clumsy pitch for Western exceptionalism. Its the usual stick about US/Europe and its corporate overlords role as world police and global benefactors. Does anyone still buy this pitch, assuming they ever did to start with?
The only real upside is decent sets, some imagination in locations and an occasional dash of inspiration, in story telling.
In summary, for me, this series is formulaic fare, that's very much a marginal watch. So if watering the garden and painting the fence has gotten old, this might just fill in the gap. That said, I'd prefer an ice cold beer and a re-run of "Strike Back" myself.
An uninspired 5/10.
A rather dull take on the Predator premise....
"Musudan" borrows aspects from the film "Predator" to craft a tale that's not terribly exciting or even interesting.
The pacing is wrong, the action flat and unenthusiastic and the key villain, mostly absent.
I could say more but aside from decent acting and sets, there's not a lot more on offer here.
Shame they can't "invert" the script.....
I'm not going to mix my words when it comes to "Tenet", its horrible.
The script is, in my opinion, an incoherent mess, with a story line that defies reason and logic. Of course there's no fixing this core failing, so the train wreck just grows bigger and uglier, as this rather tedious tale unfolds. Or is that "infolds".
Acting is mostly reasonable but the bad Russian character, in particular, is a Western mainstream media cliche. A misogynistic boogeyman, who might just destroy the world. If you can't read between the lines there, then you might not have been watching the MSM's current take on Russia. Not that I would blame you.
Sets are expensive and special effects are above average. That said, there's not a lot going on under the hood, so to speak, so that really doesn't fix this film in a meaningful way.
In short, if this one leaves you feeling confused its not you, its the story or perhaps the overall absence of one.
3/10 from me.
La belva (2020)
Doesn't really ring true.....
"The Beast" as the title translates, doesn't really ring true.
Akin to films like "Taken" (which is also implausible) the primary issue with this film is one of realism. The key protagonist is apparently a highly skilled, special forces operative. Yet his situational awareness is poor, as is his judgement. Of course, we are told he has PTSD. Even so, that level of experience becomes instinctive, so this is a thin excuse.
He blunders into multiple hostile situations. His combat skills look more like those of a simplistic street fighter. They lack polish and precision. No one with that kind of background would go in unarmed, either. A hammer, a box cutter, kitchen knife, or even a crow bar, can make a huge difference.
Just as improbable, his adversaries leave him for dead at one point, rather than finishing him off. All this after he proves he is at the least a tangible, if disorganised, threat.
Acting by contrast, is excellent. The main character is believable but he's let down by a script that fails to seriously ask how a soldier with this degree of training and experience, would really perform in this kind of scenario.
The outcome is a film that's more or less watchable but for anyone with any real training, it offer's up far too many "yeah right' moments to be convincing.
5/10 from me.
Halifax: Retribution (2020)
Mostly good but could have done without the pro establishment pitch...
I'll start by saying I like Rebecca Gibney. She's a capable actress I've seen in more than a few Australian drama's.
"Halifax: Retribution" offers her the opportunity to hand in yet another strong performance. Its a by the numbers crime drama that works well enough. It offer's up decent doses of excitement, intrigue and a somewhat predictable twist, that should keep the viewer coming back for more.
What I was not so impressed by, was the pro establishment boot polishing. Painting those who opposed the Five Eyes and surveillance state, as unstable and murderous. Most activists are peaceful and the Five Eyes alliance is, not unreasonably, the subject of very legitimate criticism. As is any surveillance state, in general.
For me, this rather obvious pitch for "keep you safe, sticky beaking" detracted from this series and I'm voting it down because of it.
In summary, competently done with a strong cast. That said as I seem to find myself saying a lot these days I come to entertainment to be entertained. I don't need or want possible political messages or social engineering in the mix.
Sky Sharks (2020)
I wanted to like it.......
I wanted to like "Sky Sharks" in the same way I wanted to like "Iron Sky 2".
Regrettably, in my view both have one flaw in common. A disjointed story, that tries to squeeze in far too many creative ideas. The end result is a tale that "hot foots it" from one idea to another. There's little in the way of lead in with plot holes so large, you could park a Panzer tank in them.
The result for the poor viewer, is hefty doses, of cognitive dissonance. Or put another way the story's a hot mess.
Other shortcomings include gratuitous, sensationalist violence and sex, that detracted even more from this flick.
On the upside the idea is a novel one, that mixes similar concepts from cheesy films like "Surf Nazi's Must Die (1987)" and the "Sharknado" film franchise. Its a fun, clever, mash up, that could have worked really well with more modest, measured handling.
Equally, some of the visuals are pretty decent too and once again, hint at the potential that lies within this way out and wacky concept.
In summary, this is marginally watchable. That said, if splatter films with lots of clumsy sex scenes, is not really your thing and you like a coherent story, in my opinion this might not be for you.
The choice of tone is important when making a film. Hit the wrong chord and the whole thing is "off key".
Such is the case with "Fatman". Its styling and overall treatment is far too dark and serious. It calls itself a comedy but has more in common with "Dirty Harry." Heck, even the "Die Hard" films managed to include a few comedic moments, that are funnier than this tale.
Really, it should have looked for inspiration to lighter, comedic films, by by the Cohen brothers with a dash of Monty Python, to round things out.
As its stands "Fatman" simply has too many sharp edges, in a bloodily bizarre, 'what the hell happened to Xmas and Santa?' kind of way.
Thankfully its still watchable. This is due in part to decent pacing and action but mostly, to strong performances by the cast, led by the innately talented Mel Gibson.
In summary, this one's plain weird. Moderately watchable, yes but weird. Not to mention a little disturbing.
Extraordinarily corny but loaded with very watchable action nonetheless......
"Vanguard" is probably one of the corniest action flicks I've seen this year but it has enough non stop action, to pull it off.
From start to end there's lot of martial arts and weapons play to keep the viewer happy. Jackie Chan's trade mark is everywhere to be seen with a large doses of the kind of semi comical, choreographed fight scenes, that made him famous.
On top of this is are large dollops of sugary, overly sentimental family and very tame romance scenes. I know from my time in China audiences there love this stuff. That said, it doesn't travel well and many Western viewers, like myself, will see it as downright corny.
If you can look past this and I think you should, there's enough excitement, fun and pure entertainment on offer here, to keep the majority of action fans more than satisfied.
6/10 from me.
"Greenland" is based on a disaster cliche so old its offspring put it in a retirement home.
So what's on offer? Formulaic working Joe who's doing better than average Joe's has a nice formulaic wife and family. Of course he loves them so much he has a Hallmark style photo is on his phone. He lives a formulaic life in the burbs but has had a few predictable personal problems with his better half. That's all disrupted by a nasty, inconvenient, formulaic extinction level disaster event.
Yet, in spite of the fact he's presented as a working stiff, he and his family are "special". Their special bacon is, in fact, so postcard perfect, its to be plucked from the terrified "expendable" mob, that is humanity. If only they can get their entitled selves to Greenland.
Thus starts a well choreographed, competently directed, special effects laden disaster romp that looks like every other disaster romp we have seen. It might not be boring if you are new to disaster flicks. If however, you have been around a few decades, its tired fare, that offers nothing terribly new or fresh. It also pushes the notion that we are all equal, whilst showing, quite clearly, we are not.
5/10 from me.
W lesie dzis nie zasnie nikt (2020)
A middling Polish retread of horror cult classics......
"Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight" draws inspiration from horror cult classics but fails to offer up anything even a little new or terribly creative.
That's not to say this is a bad little Polish horror film. No. Its a just an "unoriginal" one. Echoes of "Friday 13th", "Halloween", "Deliverance", "Wrong Turn", and other's in a similar vein, are everywhere to be seen. Indeed, it even admits as much, so its not taking itself too seriously.
Acting and pacing are on target. The setting works too. Where more attention was needed, was in the creative fright department. The build up of existential threat and menace, is pretty nominal and the inevitable deaths, when they occur, feel pedestrian. This film is more gory than anything else. A fact which, on its own, soon gets a little predictable and at times, tiresome.
So yes, this film does have just enough to be passable as a functioning horror. That said, I felt it could have done better, has it taken a little more time to research, what made some of its counterparts, cult classics.
Books of Blood (2020)
Offers up enough horror fundamentals to work......
"Books of Blood" is based on the works of UK writer Clive Barker.
There' s a certain symmetry and maturity to the characters, that suggest's this film's screenplay is based on the work of a capable author. That said, as is often the case, a lot can get lost in translation, from book to screen.
Having read two of Barkers books but not the works this film is based upon, I know his writing is often complex and intricate. You get the sense of the underlying work in this film but unsurprisingly, it feels incomplete.
That's not to say this is a bad horror film. The characters are, for the most part, developed enough to offer moderate insight into their motivations. In addition, its intersecting tales have a tidy symmetry once the conclusion has been reached
Pacing is decent, scares are more of the gruesome variety than the jump scare's you find in films like "Friday 13th". There's also a lot of creativity on offer, that taps into and blends, familiar horror tropes.
In summary, I'd say this is a reasonable watch. Yes it does feel like something is missing. That said, enough horror fundamentals are on offer, I feel, to satisfy most fans of the genre, like myself.
La Révolution (2020)
Sometimes a picture is not worth a thousand words......
"La Revoution" sacrifices solid story telling in favour of cinematic eye candy and revisionist social commentary.
Visually this is an outstanding production. Sets, costumes, environment's and atmospherics, are beyond fault. That said, those pretty images come at the expense of far more than a thousand words. The visuals fail to tell the story, which, when it eventually emerges, from a diffuse, fractured script, is bland and utterly predictable.
Regrettably, the contemporary need to use entertainment to lecture has elbowed its way into this tale too. Social commentary about inequality and racism, is front and centre. All at a time when this really mean't little to most people. Even the French revolution was a middle class affair, not a popular uprising of the down trodden, as this production, tries in vain, to suggest.
Acting is decent with a capable cast. That said, this fact on its own is nowhere near enough to save this series from being slapped with a "mediocre" label.
In short, very disappointing, from a series that clearly comes with a healthy budget. Its just a shame they did not spend more time and effort crafting a decent, politics free, story along the way.
An uninspired 5/10 from me.
Sei yan mou ho yi (2019)
A walk on the dark side.....
Set in Hong Kong "Legally Declared Dead" is a glimpse into how the lure of money can attract the darkest and most desperate aspects of humanity.
I believe this its actually based on the work of a Japanese writer. Irrespective, its tale of how how money can realise the absolute worst aspects of human nature is universal.
Themes of psychosis, nihilism, inequality, entrenched criminality, addiction, betrayal, inhumanity and its converse, are all explored. A warning up front too. This is a deeply dark film. It pulls no punches and it is, by any standards, disturbing.
Its well paced, with a creepy menace that slowly intensifies as the film scuttles, slinks and slithers towards its troubling conclusion.
Acting is outstanding too, with believable characters that are sympathetic and at the other extreme, utterly abhorrent.
Perhaps its only downside is a lack of any real sense of hope. That said, sometimes what you see is what you get and what you get, may or may not be what you and others, might feel you deserve.
Quality horror thriller from Sweden
"Cryptid" get's the horror thriller formula right in a very accessible and watchable series, from Sweden.
This ten part series is well paced. It gets your attention with some pretty gruesome and spectacular horror from the outset and then tones things down, gradually revealing layers of horror and mystery, as it moves towards its watery climax.
Perhaps the only criticism I can find, is I did feel the climax could have offered a little more. That said, its made clear, that this is supposed to be a first season, with more to follow.
Beyond this smallish point this is a quality series. Acting is convincing, with excellent chemistry between the key protagonists, the mythology based premise is sound and horror/thriller elements come together satisfyingly.
Here's hoping for a second season.
Truth Seekers (2020)
Its frustrating when a show has the right credentials but still fails to impress.
"Truth Seekers" has a rock solid cast, great premise, decent dialogue but its pacing is off. Its simply far too slow, lacking the excitement you would expect from a supposedly comedic, Supernatural style show, from the UK.
Which brings up the second point. Its simply not funny. I did not laugh once in the first two episodes I managed, with some difficulty, to wade through. I kept hoping it would get better but so far, it hasn't.
So what's my conclusion? Hate to say it but for me, this one's a flop. Yes it has promise but in the end, it fails to deliver and delivery is everything.
Uncompromising crime drama
The French tend to do crime drama a lot better than most. The approach is unpretentious and often uncompromisingly brutal.
"Rogue City" is no exception. Its a hard nosed crime drama that shows there's a fine line that's often crossed, between the supposed good guys and the bad one's.
In terms of story this is a complex film. A little too complex at times. Its also far fetched in certain respects but not too much so, when you see the levels of police corruption globally.
Well acted, directed and paced, this is a riveting watch that's well worth your time if you like crime drama's with a sharp edge.
"Relic" takes notions of dementia and does disturbing things with it.
I could not warm to this film. The characters are far too bleak and the presentation of the elderly, I found troubling.
The ageing granny comes across as Norman Bates grandma. She's genuinely frightening, in a way I have not seen in people with symptoms of dementia.
Most I have encountered are confused and understandably a little afraid. I'm not sure this film does them any favours, in a world, where the elderly are not treated with the respect they deserve.
Its subtly suggested that granny's condition is inherited, in the closing scenes of the film, using black mould as a metaphor. At least that's my interpretation.
All in all, I can't say I liked this film. I generally have a very high opinion of Australian cinema but this ones too dark and I simply don't like the way it portrays the elderly.
Star Trek: Discovery (2017)
The stupidest sci fi I have encountered by a country mile
By far and away the stupidest sci fi show I have ever encountered is Star Tripe Discovery.
Its low IQ codswallop with dim witted plot turns with idiotic nonsense about parasitic ice, cats with what appears to be hypothyroidism and inexplicable exploding di-lithium called 'the burn". Backed up by a cast of characters so uninteresting, shallow and generally boring, they make tax returns exciting.
Really it seems no ones trying here so why should anyone bother watching? Looking forward to the next season of The Orville. In my opinion the truest successor to the spirit of the 60's and 90's Star Trek series.
2/10 for decent production values but not a lot else.
The Outpost (2019)
How you feel about this film is will depend on how you feel about the US's role in Afghanistan
How you feel about this film is will depend on how you feel about the US's role in Afghanistan.
Many nations down through history have tried to invade and hold this country but none no matter how militarily powerful, have succeeded. The US's role is, to date, following the same trajectory as everyone else. Swelling, at one point, to over 100,000 men plus more from NATO, its now down to a few thousand.
Unlike the Soviets, the US were not invited, they invaded after the Sept 11 2001 attacks in the US. This is shown clearly in this film. The locals view the US presence unsurprisingly, as unwelcome. What's also obvious and this may or may not be this the intention of this action drama is the callousness of the US towards the locals.
Aside from military menace from the occupying forces, pay offs are there for the taking for those who co-operate. Its cynical stuff aimed at pacifying and buying out the local population who, again unsurprisingly, milk this for all its worth. They have not intention of selling out and who can blame them.
Some of the characters in this film as really unlikable. The cold hearted officer, who shoots a dog out of what amounts to expediency, is one example. That said, he's hardly alone. Its quite alright when locals get killed (100,000 have been to date). When one of the US soldiers get taken down,by contrast, its a tragedy, with mournful music as an accompaniment and lots of soul searching.
Acting wise this is solid if cliched fare. The soldiers are your classic US gun ho types, with lots of juvenile or cynical one liners to boot. Their counterparts are never really rounded out as people and are more an alien other.
Action wise its on the money and gruesomely convincing.
All in all, not a bad film but not one that makes the US's role in Afghanistan appear any less unsavoury.
Lacks the hardcore scares you might expect....
"Gosti" is a Russian horror flick that's not awful but does have a very conspicuous, shortcoming.
The most obvious weakness in this film, is its really not that scary. That's no small flaw in a film built firmly on the notion of frightening the audience. It lacks that sense of creeping, mounting horror and fails to balance that deficit, with jump scares. Indeed, I only jumped once in the whole film.
So what you are left with is more an interesting tale of lost love and haunting, with a mildly devilish twist. Its well acted and the special effects are reasonable, if unremarkable.
In summary, this is a an OK watch. Its not dull but I do suspect it will disappoint those looking for hardcore scares.
Its rare to find a series as perfect as "Barbarians".
Its based on historical fact, with not surprisingly, its own capably rendered back story. It breaths life into Germanic military hero Arminius and his defining victory, the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest. A battle which is perceived by many historians, to be the Roman Empires greatest defeat. A defeat that contributed to the eventual fall of the Western Roman empire, several hundred years later.
Its so very well done. From imbuing the Roman's with Latin, as a spoken language, through to detailed sets, weapons and costumes. The story flows well too. its not entirely in keeping with the history but its close enough.
Cinematic's and direction are top shelf. Atmosphere, dynamics of weather, lighting and choreographed fight scenes and battles, are fantastic.
It appears too, that they might be looking to make a series of this tale. The writers have set up a dynamic of growth and future conflict in the story, that extends beyond the final battle. I for one hope they do.
10/10 from me.
A fascinating insight into the world of weapons design....
I'm going to start by addressing some of the comments from reviewers who claim Hugo Schmeiser, a German weapons expert, designed the AK47. A few facts. Schmeiser was not overly co-operative with the Soviets. Moreover, they did not appear to think a great deal of his work. He received a pay cut and was effectively demoted to lesser roles. Functionally, the weapons he designed and the AK-47 designed by Kalashnikov are vastly different, too.
Comments also seem to suggest Kalashnikov had no talent. If so how did he rise through the ranks from obscurity with little education, in an empire as vast as the Soviet Union? Why are not one but many of his weapons designs so famous? If he had no inherent talent how is it his son Victor also designed well known military weapons, most notably the PP-19 Bizon, also still in use today? Hardly likely, if there was no talent to be inherited. Surely?
So lets move on to the film. Its a fascinating insight into the world of weapons design through the life of Soviet weapons designer Mikhail Kalashnikov. Its well acted, directed and has a certain passion I had not expected to find in a film about arms manufacture.
Its clear the reasons Kalashnikov strove to develop weapons were driven by a need to protect his country, not profit from death. A point much emphasised in this film. Indeed, Kalashnikov himself wrote of his "spiritual pain" in latter life when he saw how his famous creation, the AK-47, was used around the world.
What's particularly remarkable about Kalashnikov is the fact this inventor, in his early years, started off with a very basic education. He rose to prominence through hard work and the merit of his designs. A fact that is made clear in the film as he competed, with often better educated, weapons designers.
In terms of the story, some creative license has been taken. Especially in terms of his private life. He married in 1921 but this film suggests he was married a lot later.
Putting this aside, this film is well crafted, engrossing and utterly fascinating. This coming from a reviewer who is, by nature, a pacifist and opposed to war.
8/10 from me.
The Witches (2020)
No turning this frog into a prince.....
No amount of Hollywood's jaded magic can turn this frog of a film into a prince.
The charm of the original film from 30 or so years ago is largely absent. What takes its place is contrived, preachy and generally horrible.
I loved the original film. Its one of the few pitched at kids I could happily watch again. This eyesore, by contrast, is best thrown into the witches cauldron and forgotten.
Only upside is decent acting, especially from the lead but really that's about it.
My advice keep an eye out for the original.
The smartest post apocalyptic drama I have ever seen....
"To the Lake" is probably the smartest post apocalyptic drama I have encountered.
It's intricate plot twists and turns, are slickly woven into the fabric of ordinary peoples lives. People faced with extraordinary circumstances. This is balanced by detailed character development and decent amounts of cleverly contrived, well paced, exposition.
The fact there are subtitles, hardly seems to matter. I had planned to go out but this series captured my attention so completely I watched it in one sitting.
Utterly engrossing, refreshingly original and simply put, "smart". Can't wait for season two.
Lets start by looking at the historical context of this film. There's lot of reviewers disagreeing with the facts of this story. Herodotus's histories are the basis for what transpires in this film and in this context, the film "is mostly loyal to this history". Its worth noting Herodotus was born into the Persian empire. So what are the chances he would get away with misrepresenting the facts about a famous Persian King?
Two of three, known chroniclers I could find, say Cryrus the Great met an unnatural end in conflict but in different engagements. That said, given how long ago this happened, no one really knows for certain. I would say given Herodotus lived under Persian rule and was writing closer to the period in question than some other historians, choosing his history, is not unreasonable.
So, to the film itself. Its excellent. The scene is set convincingly, bringing Tomiris and other key characters to life. Almira Tursyn who plays Tomaris is one to watch. Her performance is heartfelt and appropriately imposing, as she overcomes adversity to lead her people. The performances of other cast members are equally polished.
Battle scenes are amazing too, with remarkable cinematography that reflect the stratagems and harsh realities of ancient combat. Its bloody stuff, where you get to see people cut down up close and personal.
In short, a really strong film about a historical period and people, I knew little about till now.
Comes highly recommended.