Archive for the ‘FILM REVIEWS/COMMENTS’ Category

*** Warning this review contains major skin job spoilers ***

2049, a blade runner for the Los Angeles Police Department, unearths a secret that has the potential to plunge a company and department into chaos.

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

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

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

A must see, but expect a futuristic breadcrumb detective story with slight of hand memory tricks and a few twists rather the Gosling’s Joe hunting down and simply disposing/retiring Replicants.

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*** This review may contain Spidey spoilers ***

Peter Parker tries to balance his life as an ordinary high school student in Queens but is put under threat when he tries to stop a criminal on his own.

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

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

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

Without drawing too many comparisons, yes, it’s another actor, another Spiderman, while Tobey Maguire was a good actor, arguably Sam Raimi’s offerings struggled to capture the comic or cartoon feel. Although Andrew Garfield was perfectly cast and Marc Webb’s films were closer to the Parker we love, it wasn’t fresh enough coming in the shadow of the previous three. All suffered from a reliance on a CGI Spiderman and overlong paint by numbers story.

What Watts and writers do get right is the bad guy, Michael Keaton does a great job as grounded villain Vulture that offers a curve ball revelation in the last quarter. His character isn’t black and white, with bags of motivation and purpose.

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

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

Overall, as a superhero film it’s good, as a Spiderman film it’s probably the best to date but not without it’s faults.

A survivor of a virus outbreak goes about finding more uninfected people to come to his sanctuary.

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

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

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

Overall, looks good for the budget, don’t expect a classic and you may enjoy.

*** This review contains major doll spoilers ***

Nica Pierce has spent the past four years in a mental institution after being framed by Chucky for the murder of her family but Chucky isn’t finished with her yet or Andy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

All in all leaves you wanting more and too much Good Guy Doll is never a bad thing.

When music-hall star Elizabeth Cree is accused of poisoning her husband on the same night as the last of a series of ‘Golem murders’ Inspector Kildare discovers both cases maybe linked and sets about solving both crimes.

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

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

Overall, it has some gruesome elements and while it may not work as a whodunit reaching heights of In the Name of the Rose, Agatha Christie or a Sherlock Holmes mystery it satisfies as an unconventional immersive period piece in the vain of countless Ripper-like outings. Worth checking out even if for Booth’s memorable performance.

It Comes at Night Movie Poster

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Two families are forced to share a home in an uneasy alliance to keep the outside evil at bay only to discover that the true horror comes from within.

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

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

Shults never plays his cards and as a viewer you’re fed little bits of information, not really knowing the scale of what’s going on. With characters with welts, checking teeth, nails and burning bodies, the interesting thing is that you also don’t know if what they’re afraid of changes you into a monster or rabid zombie or something else. Refreshingly the viewer doesn’t see what they fear, and you shouldn’t need to either. There are a few shoot outs and stand offs but it works more on a psychological level, less is more here and with rife paranoia this offering excels. Recommended.

IT (2017) Review

Posted: September 9, 2017 in FILM REVIEWS/COMMENTS
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IMG_7758.JPGSeven young outcasts face their worst nightmare when an ancient, shape-shifting evil emerges from the sewer to prey on the town’s children.

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

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

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

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

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

Packed with terrifying, hallucinatory and nightmare imagery coupled with a near on perfect cast IT is highly recommend.

Annabelle: Creation Movie PosterAfter the tragic death of their little daughter, a doll-maker and his wife welcome a nun and several girls from a orphanage into their home, but shortly after a demon begins to terrorize the girls.

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

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

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

Overall, a well shot, filmatic, rounded chiller with credit to child actors for their good performances.

With the FBI hot on his heels international thief Simon Templar goes about helping a man get his kidnapped daughter back.

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

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

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

It’s a pity that makers didn’t make it stand out by placing it in the 1960s original or 70s Return of the Saint time period akin to a Life on Mars or the aforementioned Man from U.N.C.L.E film.

In 1968, George A. Romero and co-writer John Russo made a black and white film on a small budget, it became one of the most successful independent films of all-time. It was Night of the Living Dead.

I won’t dig up old stories about copyright woes, remakes or go through his career and the like, there are plenty of documentaries, books and websites about his zombie films before zombie films (became let’s just say) mainstream, he revolutionised horror creating a whole sub genre of horror. Yes, Romero did make other films and TV shows, but Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead had a personal and lasting impact on me. Also without Romero there would be no 28 Days Later, Return of the Living Dead, Zombie Flesh Eaters, Zombie Land, Shaun of the Dead, World War Z and certainly no Walking Dead to name a few, heck there’d be no zombie genre. His influence is so wide, it’s amazing how much money, flashy big-budget films and shows have been made off his back.

I digress, so big George – filmmaker, writer and editor, his touch stretched over to the UK in form of a tubed TV and touched a young Esmonde sometime during the 1980s. I don’t recall the specific years, a late night showing of Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, then at some point Day of the Dead on a VHS. I was hooked to his gore-filled and satirical horrors. He inspired an epidemic of imitators (myself included). In 2010 my own novel Dead Pulse was published (based my 2007 erroneously published short) and without Romero, this tribute pulp would never have existed. While George was busy with his adoring fans I remember talking to his wife Suzanne, she kindly took a copy to give to George, I didn’t want to give it to him directly, because I didn’t want him to get the impression that I wished him read it (I’d be embarrassed if he ever did, maybe he used it as tinder on a cold Canadian night) but I gave it to her to give to him at a later time out of respect because I wanted him to know what an influence he’d had on my writing and film-making work. “It’s debatably not my best one,” I’d said. We shared a laugh and had a conversation, Suzanne was every bit as pleasant as George himself saying that he’d be touched and she was every bit sincerer.

People say something like – ‘avoid meeting your heroes, you may be disappointed’, I’ve met two of mine and on both occasions they have been everything I hoped, both are now sadly no longer with us. George is one of them. Two years ago I got to spend sometime with George and basically thank him, I can truly say that and I was not disappointed, as well as a great talent he was a kind and gentle giant, full of humour, modest to the core and a down to earth gentleman. My thoughts are with his wife and family.

He a left behind a terrific legacy to be enjoyed. He will be missed.