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Nightflyers (2018– )
Fly by night leaves viewers in the dark.....
17 January 2019
Its okay to sustain a sense of suspense in a murderous, mystery sci fi. Inevitably though the point comes when the viewer wants the "payoff".

Nightflyers fails to deliver. Instead it leaves the viewer groping around trying to make sense of the wet mess this series represents. Its confused ideas, wishy washy tropes and general lack of direction add up to nothing once the end of the first and hopefully last season, was reached.

In short, in spite of a decent cast the bland, inconsequential backstory and scripting make this one to avoid. 4/10 from me.
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Das Boot (2018– )
An inferior TV reinterpretation.......
8 January 2019
I mostly enjoyed Das Boot the film and was therefore intrigued to see a contemporary TV reinterpretation of the book by Lothar-Günther Buchheim.

The TV series moves a long way from the book. This is as much a story of intrigue and espionage as it is a tale of WWII submariners. Its not an especially well conceived conceptualization, as it tends to water down (no pun intended) and distract from, the focus of the story.

Worse still, is the implausibility of what transpires both on the submarine and off of it. Acts of blatant treason and insubordination really don't ring true and detract from the sense of realism that's better (but not perfectly) captured by the original film.

All in all a moderately watchable but shallow interpretation of the book. 5/10 from me.
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Peppermint (2018)
Move over Charles Bronson.......
24 November 2018
Death Wish with a female lead is what you get with Peppermint.

Garner fits snugly into the role of revenge seeking mother in this fast paced action flick. The feel of this film is reminiscent of 80's and 90's action flicks and took me back to the days of Charles Bronson, the stone faced, avenging angel, of Death Wish fame.

The pacing is good and the action plentiful, the only proviso being you can suspend disbelief and accept a women could take on and defeat multiple male opponents some twice her size, in hand to hand combat.

If you can look past the implausible story this is an entertaining flick that's well done, if predictable fare.

7/10 from me.
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Mile 22 (2018)
Sometimes less is more.......
23 November 2018
Just imagine if the now famous frenetic shootout scene from Heat constituted 95% of the movie? If that's not too much of a mental stretch and you can move on form cops and bank robber's to international special ops then you have a pretty decent overview of Mile 22.

This film is endless run and gun, with bodies dropping left and right, on both sides. Its a film that brings initial intense excitement but ultimately, leaves the viewer feeling mentally exhausted.

The problem is the action overdose in Mile 22 fails to break up the gun toting mayhem with enough breathers or alternately variety, to let the audience really appreciate the gun play that's on offer.

Its a shame too as I did like aspects of this film. Its story narrowly misses being yet more anti Russian propaganda. That said, its an interesting tale with an end that some may not like but its refreshing to see things play out in a way that's not predictable.

Suffice to say sometimes less is more...... I rate Mile 22 6/10.
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Origin (2018– )
If only I had not seen this all before........
22 November 2018
I watched the first two free episodes of Origin on Youtube and much as I wanted to like this series, I simply could not get into it. Certainly, I'd have no desire to pay to watch.

The biggest shortfall in this series, is its core concept been done before. Without going into detail, there is a raft of films and series out there in a similar vain. Of course, you could argue that most things in cinema and television have been done before. Reality is however, Origin this does not sufficiently add to those conceptualizations, in a way that's fresh and new.

On the upside I do do like the Blade Runner-esque presentation of a future overcrowded world where colonization is a necessity not a want. Yet as I have said, its just not enough to overcome the sense of "deja vu" that pervades the whole experience.

The choice of cast is handled with care and the acting is either decent or excellent, on that front this series can not be faulted.

In short, how you feel about Origin may well depend on who you are. If you are young enough or new enough to the sci fi genre, you may well enjoy this series. If, by contrast, you are an old veteran like myself, you may well feel there is simply not enough on offer to push this series over the finish line.

6/10 from me.
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Hunter Killer (2018)
The US rules the world but only for 122 minutes....
3 November 2018
Yes its that time again when jingoism hits the silver screen, this time US style. There's been a lot of these kind of films on offer lately from a variety of nations and as always they are a mixed bag.

Hunter Killer is a "hail" to US exceptionalism. The US is cast as the savior of the world, helping out those troublesome Russians, whilst heading off WWIII. Interesting too, to see a female US President on offer, who looks a lot like a certain someone who needs no introduction.

The action scenes are well done and the acting is decent. On this front this film is reasonably entertaining with well planned pacing, that keeps things going. Cleverly, it manages to avoid being "just another boring sub flick" by breaking up the action between land and sea. A sensible move that keeps the viewers interest.

On the downside the saber rattling is well past its due date. In my view this film and others like it, from any nation, are better off leaving the political messages on the shelf. That said, everyone does it ,so its not surprising to see the US taking the same approach.

Watchable if you can see past the trite political message. 6/10 from me.
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Cherry picks the facts to fit a political agenda.....
30 October 2018
I'll start by saying the actual film itself is very watchable and enjoyable. The acting is excellent, the story line clever and original. Its also deeply sad and at times, extremely funny, in equal measure. Its nice to see people deriving a kind of wry humour from what is a legacy of, at times, downright nasty, discrimination.

Now comes the "but". Its unfortunate that this film doesn't let the story it tells speak for itself. Instead, it elects to stifle its powerful message by overlaying a pretty obvious political one. One that seems intent, in my opinion, on blaming one side of the political spectrum for the woes of establishment discrimination.

Here's a few facts that don't fit that picture. David Duke first ran for the Democrats before switching to the Republicans (its all up on Wikipedia if you wish to fact check). It was the Republicans who voted to end slavery and both the Confederacy and the Union supported segregation and the North tacitly supported slavery. To say racial discrimination is somehow a Southern mindset, is misleading.

The truth is the US has a long history of establishment support for all manner of discrimination. Social, racial, economic and philosophical (just look at 50's style McCarthyism which seems to be making a come back). To try to imply things are suddenly "different" ignores the fact that "nothing ever really changed" no matter which party or President was or is in office.

Its such a shame too, because this film was almost, almost there, with a powerful message of hope for tolerance and understanding. What a genuine shame. 7/10 from me.
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Black Earth Rising (2018– )
Not what it seems to be......
25 October 2018
Black Earth Rising is an interesting idea for a drama yet as is often the case with the mainstream media, the tale doesn't fit well with the truth. The sense that the US/UK and other Western powers are, fundamentally, a benevolent force, that has a parental role in Africa, belies the imperialist/colonial truth that lies at the heart of their involvement in this part of the world.

Now, as in the past, a lot of what takes place as far as the West is concerned in Africa is about money. This includes both buying and selling. Much of the political, economic and social instability and resulting conflicts we see in Africa, including atrocities, are exacerbated by Western interference and influence.

Knowing this, I could not warm to this drama. The back story itself was moderately interesting and the acting, I felt was fine. The UK does typically manage these kinds of drama's well in terms of choice of cast.

In short if a more frank approach had been taken I would have rated this series more highly. As it stands a 6/10 will have to suffice.
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A tale over told?
10 October 2018
I'm not sure we needed another reinterpretation of the capture of Adolph Eichmann by Israel? For me "Eichmann" the film is by far the most engrossing. It offers a reasonably accurate account of the events that led to his capture, trial and execution, for crimes against humanity during WWII.

Operation Finale adds nothing to what has already been told in books and other films. Indeed, I find its representation of the facts pretty thin and the tone awkwardly lecturing and oddly sentimental. A predicament not helped by rather flat, mono-tonal storytelling, that even an excellent cast can not overcome.

All in all I'm left asking why we needed another film on this subject? Especially one as mediocre as this. 5/10 from me.
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In a galaxy we wish was far far away......
1 October 2018
Solo is the latest addition to what I'm increasingly calling the "Star Bores" stable of film flops. Like many of the other recent additions Solo simply lacks the ingredients that made some but not all, of the original films so endearing.

The characterisation of Han Solo is missing much of the swagger and devil may care charm and wit of the original. This problem is aggravated by a weak back story that has Han growing up in a sci fi version of a Dickensian dock land.Poor Han is raised, if that's the right word, by a weird criminal underworld Fagin-esque muppet like creature, that lives in a pond and has a vampire's aversion to sunlight. If that sounds stupid and illogical, you are in good company.

Things don't improve as the story progresses either. There's a series of peculiar and inexplicable events that eventually brings Han into contact with his walking rug side-kick Chewbacca. This in turn sets the stage, in unconvincing style, for his transformation into rogue smuggler with a heart.

On the upside the special effects are mostly decent and the action scenes well done, if predictable.

That said, none of this is enough to save Solo, for me at least, from applying the label of "mediocre". 5/10 from me.
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Nice action scenes...shame about the story
24 September 2018
For anyone who remembers Not the Nine O'Clock News skit "Nice Video Shame About the Song" much the same could be said about the new Mission Impossible.

Nice action scenes and plenty of them, shame about the story . The story in this case is more or less absent. There's some vague half formed ideas around a nebulous group opposed to the New World Order but that's really about it.

Its weak tea that leaves you wondering what it is you just watched and why you bothered. I was baffled and bored after 20 or so minutes of this nonsense. My advice revisit the older films from the franchise. 4/10 from me.
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The Monster (2016)
If you go down to the woods.....
23 September 2018
The Monster taps into the primal fear all people have. A dark fear that spawned devils, demons, ghosts and other varieties of monstrous things.

There's some merit to the simple story this film sets up. A not so serious car accident that leaves a down and out mother and her long suffering daughter, alone on an isolated woodlands road. A road that's a thin line of civilisation that cuts through a forest inhabited by something wholly uncivilised and savage.

Cinematic's really define this film, as might be expected. They are well done and carry the film forward nicely. The dark, rain swept setting and the subtle use of camerawork to tease out the inevitable confrontation is polished and well paced.

What for me, did not work so well, is the constant flash backs to the sad life the two key characters shared. Its established early on that the mother character is dysfunctional and little more than a child herself. Something emphasised by the role reversal that see's the daughter adopting the mothering role. I personally saw no merit in repeatedly underlining this point.

The other flaw in injecting flash backs is it tends to diffuse the tension which is nicely established as the story unfolds.

That said, there is still more to like here than not. The Monster is genuinely creepy and terrifying, helped in no small part by convincing performances by both female leads.

Certainly one of the better horror films made with a modest budget. 7/10 from me.
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Den of testosterone soaked blow hards.....
21 September 2018
I have to say I get really tired, really quickly of testosterone soaked blow hards. Really hard men don't need to show off, most are silent types who know who and what they are, which is considerably more frightening.

The characters inhabiting this film are of the former variety, not the latter. As such they are not very convincing. Their incessant macho blather is tiresome, resorting to a lot of swearing, smoking, tasteless jewellery and in one instance, intimidating a kid who looks about 16. How brave.

The films overall set up is one of these paper tiger tough guy villains vs paper tiger tough guy cops. The armed exchanges are about the only portion of this film that's remotely exciting. The rest is wall to wall bluster and BS that's mostly just tedious.

My advice, give this one a pass. 5/10 from me.
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Purge....need I say more
20 September 2018
I have never watched these films before as the overriding "suburban snuff" theme has never appealed to me.

In a misguided fit of boredom I took a look at The First Purge and I can assure you it will be the last. This is by far and away, one of the trashiest, pointlessly violent, films I have encountered.

Worse still, the characterisations are trite, superficial and mostly monosyllabic. Its a bad mix that adds to the overriding sense of brutish idiocy, that this proposition represents.

I believe this drivel has been made into a television series? Personally I can't think of one good reason why. 0/10 from me.
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Skyscraper (2018)
Modern update on a classic....
19 September 2018
If you have been around long enough you will probably remember 70's classic "The Towering Inferno". Skyscraper is an update on this classic film with a decidedly Asian flavour.

Its a good mix of East locale Hong Kong meets West in the form of US actor, Dwayne Johnson. Johnson has a real physicality that works beautifully in the context of a disaster movie. Watching his character navigate perilous situations at dizzying heights had my hands sweating (I really don't like heights).

Nerve racking and thrilling, Skyscraper film rolls along happily from one dare devil scene to the next. It really is wall to wall action, with some combat scenes to add variety in the form of terrorists, who created the inferno Johnson is forced to confront, to save his family. There's also a little "Enter the Dragon" style ploy used near the end of the film, for those paying attention.

Lightweight, well paced, implausible but still thoroughly enjoyable. Great on a large screen. 7/10 from me.
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Trench 11 (2017)
The Bunker meets The Strain with a WWI twist.......
17 September 2018
Trench 11 borrows from films like The Bunker and mixes in elements of the TV series The Strain, in a WWI setting.

The best thing you can say about this upper end of the budgetary spectrum B grade film its is competently done. The sets are good, the special effects good and the acting is, well, good.

Sadly there is nothing that makes this film "great" or even a little special. Don't be surprised therefore, if a month or so from now you can't remember the title or much more than the general outline of the story. A watchable but forgettable rating of 6/10 from me.
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Ozark (2017– )
Horrible people.....horrible lives.....
13 September 2018
Horrible people leading horrible lives, that's my lasting impression of Ozark.

This is not a series for everyone. Its not only dark in terms of its subject manager, its visually dark too. Sombre blues and shades of grey inhabit this series reminding me of the kind of visual metaphors set up in The Godfather. The comment "camouflage is a colour" works beautifully in this context. Nothing is what it seems and everyone is hiding something.

The dynamic between people is predictably fraught, with a palpable a tension that never really goes away. Even the Ozarks scenery does little to dampen things down not helped by the endless, at times arbitrary harm inflicted on imperfect but in some cases fundamentally harmless, people.

The downside of the this series is in a sense its upside. It's heavy viewing which I could only manage in small doses. By no means one to binge watch. My other criticism is at times, its somewhat implausible. Actions taken by for example underworld figures, who want to stay out of the public eye, are, at times, inexplicably public and messy.

That said, I would suggest this is a decent if not exceptional series in most respects. but will by no means appeal to everyone. If you liked series akin to Banshee this may be for you if not it may be one to pass over. 7/10 from me.
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Bulhandang (2017)
This is what top shelf action crime drama looks like....
9 September 2018
If you want to see what top shelf action crime drama looks like ,The Merciless, as the title translates, is its very definition.

This is a polished, likeable, laughable but ultimately, very dark film. Its essence if you look closely, is a proxy dysfunctional father son styled relationship. The older and younger crime figures play ball, they have fun, they make jokes, hang out, rough house, conspire, collaborate, share the good and the bad.

Of course given the nature of what they are and what they do the outcome was and is, very bleak and could be noting else. In its closing scenes there's a certain sense of the events of this film coming full circle too. Of loss and a grim kind of anti hero, rebirth.

If you like quality crime drama, with healthy amounts of action, with an adjoiner that this film is violent and occasionally sadistic, then you really can't do better than this offering from Korea. A deeply impressive effort. 10/10 from me.
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Mamma's secret sauce.....
4 September 2018
They used a lot of mamma's secret pasta sauce on this little Italian zombie flick. A flick that combines a zombie apocalypse back story with another, by now, well known dramatic ploy, that is, being trapped in a lift.

So whilst I can say with candour that The End? does nothing new, its decent pacing, interesting, believable characterisations and basic but watchable zombie action, works quite well.

This film hummed along and kept me wondering what was going to happen to the key protagonist. I did like the nicely rounded end scene too, which injected a little light humour into the otherwise blood soak proposition, this film represents.

I suspect, depending on your sensibilities, you will either like this film, as I did, or hate it. I don't think there will be any "in betweeners" on this one.

7/10 from me.
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Jack Ryan (2018– )
Pedestrian and predictable
2 September 2018
Whilst the original Jack Ryan films were somewhat biased in a US rules the world kind of way, they were at least fresh and enjoyable. They sported a good cast, interesting story lines and narrative, plus well paced action.

The new series loosely based on the novels of Tom Clancy follow much the same pro US stance (which I guess is to be expected) but the overall feeling having reviewed episode one is both pedestrian and predictable. Its as if any pretence of making an effort has been given up in favour of "yet another" bland espionage tale, we have all seem a thousand times before.

This series cause is not helped by a hackneyed and uninteresting version of Jack who comes across as a baseball touting boy scout intent on doing the "right thing" even when it means taking on the establishment. On the subject of which is there a reason his boss is portrayed as such a mean spirited, discourteous oaf who behaves like a petty back room bureaucrat? Is it to make Jack "look good"? If so its tame ploy that's less than convincing.

The action such as it is, is the usual US vs the terrorists codswallop that's well past its use by date.Its executed (no pun intended) ably enough but beyond that its not realistic in so much as its always one sided with the predictable "good guys" coming out on top.

All in all, thus far, I find this series hard to watch. Its like wading through visual concrete in so much as you feel your synapses slowing turning to stone out of sheer boredom and inertia. Get the hint US production houses, in my opinion your message is old, its stale, not terribly intelligent or thought provoking, that is to say, its downright boring. 4/10 from me.
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Bodyguard (2018– )
The chest to waist ratio should be compatible......
28 August 2018
I'm not sure if an action drama is supposed to make you chortle and laugh but if so I would like to say "thank you" to the writers of the Bodyguard.

This is by far and away the unintentionally funniest Brit show I have seen in a t good while. From the hackneyed stereotypical terrorist stick in the opening scenes to classic comments like "chest to waist ratio" the whole show is so "buttoned up" it could have doubled as a raincoat.

The main character behaves as if he has either been released or more likely escaped from somewhere. His bug eyed, fixed stare and obsessive compulsive do my job "1000 and 10" percent attitude is truly comical. As is his absurdly formal toadying to the political poodles, he's tasked with minding.

All of which is at odds with predictable but nonetheless rather silly romance with the pollie he is tasked with minding. The bodyguard becomes the booty guard.

I'm not really sure what more I can add. Watch if humour with a overdose of irony and the ludicrous is your thing. 5/10 from me.
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Summer of 84 (2018)
Hellish nostalgia trip.....
28 August 2018
I'm actually surprised reviews of this film are not more favourable. Summer of 84 takes a "Goonies vibe" adventure and injects cold, hard, horror elements.

The result is an uncomfortably jarring experience that abruptly strips away the friendly fuzzy 80's atmosphere that is so carefully crafted in the first two thirds of the film, replacing it with something inherently chilling and deeply disturbing.

If you look closely too you will see a subtle nod to serial killer Ted Bundy who was of course, of this period. Other 80's icons include the obvious synthesiser music and political trapping, that place this film squarely in the Reagan era.

Very definitely a good watch for throw back 80's horror fans that has been updated to reflect the more sophisticated tastes of contemporary viewers. 7/10 from me.
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I Am Vengeance (II) (2018)
This would have worked beautifully as a comedy.....
26 August 2018
In one sense Vengeance is a missed opportunity. As a satirical comedic take on the action revenge genre it could have been a real winner.

Regrettably any humour to be derived from this flick has more to do with its obvious "B grade" credentials combined with the fact it tries far too hard, to take itself seriously. The result is farcical affair with corny characterisations, deadpan, often monosyllabic dialogue, awkward action scenes and a starkly basic plot that's an unsophisticated "retread of a retread".

One to watch after a six pack or two. 4/10 from me.
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Castle Rock (2018– )
One for US audiences......?
23 August 2018
Whilst i don't mind Stephen Kings' work I have never understood the adulation it attracts. Perhaps you have to be from the US to truly appreciate his works cultural nuances, I don't know.

For me Castle Rock is a classic case in question. Whilst the series is interesting, it does have a tendency to get mired down in tiresome self analysis, rather than progressing the story. Perhaps I'm impatient but a whole episode mostly dedicated to one of the key characters Alzheimer's, is not only not exciting, its downright boring in a sad, depressing, kind of way. The weird air of mystical evangelical religiosity doesn't track well with this viewer either. Religion is not a big thing in my predominantly atheist nation, so again there's a dislocation that makes it hard to relate.

I do believe some of Kings work, such as "IT" plays well to audiences pretty much anywhere. There are however others and I believe this tale is a good example, that don't fare quite so well.

Castle Rock isn't bad as such, its comes with an intriguing story that taps into other tales King has written like Shawshank. Its cause is also helped in no small amount by a well chosen cast. Its been a while since I have seen Sissy Spacek on the screen. A welcome return of genuinely talented actress.

7/10 from me.
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Surprisingly visceral.....
21 August 2018
China is gradually gaining ground in the military action genre with Operation Red Sea the latest addition to its stable of war films with Nationalistic overtones.

Clearly a lot of money has been spent on this film not to mention, I suspect, the co-operation of the Chinese military. This war film has real scale, its epic in terms of the equipment utilised from ships to aircraft to military hardware. The battle scenes are equally big spread over a range of locations with varying scales and they are both incredibly frenetic and very, very visceral. Bodies of those impacted by weapons experience varying and evolving degrees of very bloody and often gory destruction. Its really not pretty at times but then war is an ugly business.

Indeed I'd suggest, as a promotional film, to get China's young enthusiastic about joining up, this film may be sending a mixed message. It suspect it may be intended to inform the public of China's determination to see off anyone challenging the nations interests, as much as it might be considered a tool for military recruitment.

As far as entertainment is concerned this film is impressive in many respects if you like military action flicks.The choreographing of the combat scenes shows real polish, co-coordinating often extensive and complex combat scenarios.Better still there's real variety in the breath and depth of conflict from mortar exchanges through to one on one sniper exchanges and more besides. CGI is used to good effect too, with slow motion "bullet and missile time".

On the downside a good number of the conflict scenes sometimes tend to devolve into spectacles more reminiscent of video games than real warfare. Weapons exchanges that would have ended a conflict quickly become unrealistically drawn out affairs. Alternately, large numbers of well armed opponents fall like wheat when faced with markedly smaller Chinese forces. Its understandable in a sense, establishing the veneer of the the heroic Chinese underdog but its does stretch credulity at times.

In summary a decent action packed war film. Yes there's Nationalistic stick but its the same kind you find in US and UK made war films and its no overdone just a little corny and amusing at times. Operation Red Sea does have subs too but this film is so heavily driven by pretty spectacular action its not really that big a deal. 8/10 from me.
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