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We Hunt Together (2020)
The curtain has gone down but the performers are still on stage....
The curtain has gone down but the performers are still on stage. That's my reaction to "We Hunt Alone". It's one formulaic Brit crime drama, too many.
Its going through the motions, having failed to appreciate that over exposed, exhausted viewers like myself, have moved on. It telegraphs its premise from the get go, too, ripping away the last modest vestige of surprise and uncertainty.
What remains is predictable, pedestrian and unimaginative. Its a shame too as the cast hand in solid performances but the unremarkable script betrays even their best efforts.
This is one to watch if you have little else to do or perhaps you are newly acquainted with British crime drama. That said this has been done before and its been done better.
A Sniper's War (2018)
Unsurprisingly this film has attracted a lot of negative attention. The incessant social engineering on the part of the Western media has created a "Russian" boogeyman that the often ignorant and gullible are, predictably, all too ready to believe in.
The reality of the conflict in Ukraine is more complex. Like Yugoslavia the country has been divided along ethic lines, since a coup d'etat was launched with backing from the West.
What this fim shows in detail, is the horrors of war from a very personal perspective of a sniper. A man driven by a sense of moral obligation who sees the same things happening in the Eastern Ukraine, that happened in his homeland of Serbia.
Its a sobering watch that looks not only at his miliatary actions but also at the very human cost of war for him personally and ordinary people trying to live ordinary lives under extraordinary circumstances. Constantly at risk of injury and death, as the two sides clash along the front lines, which are for the most part, residential neighbourhoods.
This is a compelling watch that's emotional, deeply sad, occasionally uplifting but always a sobering reminder of the awful cost of war.
Never dives deep enough.....
Devs tries a to pack too much into its repitore. Its Messianic, its revelatory, its surreal, its spiritual but sadly what it also is, is shallow. It never dives deep enough into a well constructed idea or genre, to really amount to anything significant, let alone the lofty pretensions is aspires to.
This weakness starts to show quite openly in latter episodes, when the story starts to unravelled. The end result is a throughly unsatisfying conclusion, with plot holes so big, you could park a tank in them.
Its not helped either by what I can only decribe as an androgenous lead character. She so neutral in every sense, its dehumanising. I found empathising with her almost impossible. Her flat, monotonal delivery did not help either, largely bereft of any genuine emotional range.
Whats left is a somewhat shallow proposition vaguely reminiscent of Swedish Arthouse, there's some Bergman influence certainly but there's also a dash of Arthur C Clarkes "2001 A Space Oddessy" on offer too.
On the upside the cinamatics are exceptional and the use of music inventive and lively.
Sadly, for me, what feels like a lack of a coherent story leaves you with a rather uninspiring tale, that's tries to be clever but ends up being very average instead.
Can it survive the journey?
Lets address a few obvious points before takng this revew further. The idea of a train at the end of a severely frozen world is illogical to start with. It assumes a working track that would not be subject to failure from any number of harsh environmental causes and other phenomenia (earthquakes, subsidance). Not to mention issues with track maintenance, the mechanics of the train and resources issues.
In short, its a pure science "fiction" scenario. So moving on from that, what about the series itself? Its based on the moderately wathable film from 2013, which worked within its 126 minute time frame. The real issue for a series is one of sustainability. There is not lot to work with here. That appears to have been addressed by moving this tale to slow burn, applying a detective back story.
How well this will work is yet to be determined. So far it looks alright. Yes there's a dash of the usual woke nonsense but it does have a decent cast and reasonable, if unremarkable, story and excellent special effects. Certainly it wont be easy to keep discriminating viewers happy and I do think this is an odd one to convert to a series.
As it stand a cautious 6/10 from me.
Body Cam (2020)
Watchable but predictable...
You know pretty early on where some films are going, "Body Cam", being a case in question.
On the upside cinamatic atmospherics are done well, its suitably creepy and errie, with lighting effects to match the mood. Actng is solid too, with decent performances from the cast.
Where's its only passable is the story. It taps into outrage over police shootings in the US, specifically black people. Stepping beyond the possible poltical take on this film, its story is very very, predictable. I did not take long to work out what was happening and why.
In short, its an OK supernatural horror watch. Nothing stand out but not dreadful either.
Killers Anonymous (2019)
They lost me when they started going on about Alba's character being not just an assassin but a bouncer. Yes that's right, a "bouncer". For what, teddy bears?
This is the usual enpowered, unrealsitc cods wallop that gets passed around as cinema, these days. The remainder is a group meeting for so called killers, who look like the only thing they could kill is few pints at the local.
In short genuinely purile, absurd and unfunny.
Code 404 (2020)
Comedy in the 21st century.....
The problem with catering to people who take offence at everything, is it leaves you with little to say.
Mot decent comedy pokes fun at, amongst other things, people's flaws, their odd ball opinions and biases. The result of sanitising comedy is series like "Code 404".
Its inability to say anything genuinely amusing, leaves you with truly awful jokes that are dead on arrival.
It's a shame we cater so much to the thin skinned.
A film with very little to say...
When a film has very little to say, the question becomes why was it made?
I suspect "Capone" started out with a superficially interesting idea. Where it failed was not appreciating the ordinariness of the final days of any dying man.
Ultimately all that's revealed is that death, no matter who it comes for, is un-glamorous and often ugly.
Well that and the US government were and remain, a bunch of vile ravening vultures, little better than the ailing man they harass for money. Even going so far as to threaten his family.
In simple terms then, "Capone" this is neither easy to watch nor does it have a compelling message. Tom Hardy is predictably amazing as an ailing Capone, utterly convincing but its not enough, on its own.
5/10 from me.
It doesn't really work.....
Generally I'm a big fan of Australian film but "Miss Fischer and the Crypt of Tears" doesn't really work. Why? Because it tries too hard to be something its not.
Its a cliched simulacrum of a genre made famous by Agatha Christie. So much so, that it fails to acquire any distinct personality of its own. Its Australians trying to be British, rather than, well, being Australian.
Its cause is not helped either by silly, over the top, antics, by the lead character. The bi-plane and fencing scenes, should have been left on the cutting room floor.
The result of all of this clumsy handling, is a bland, plodding affair, that would have worked so much better if the film had more of a down to earth, local flavour, with a story to suit.
On the upside, the acting is decent, sets mostly work and the atmosphere of the 20's is nicely captured with solid cinematography.
In short, not dreadful but I do feel this film could have achieved more had it looked closer to home for inspiration.
Kill Ben Lyk (2018)
The British used to be funny.....
I'm not sure what happened to British comedy ("cough....woke") but humour is no longer their strong suit.
"Kill Ben Lyk" isn't funny. Its premise and characters follow a predictable tired trajectory, accompanied by hackneyed humour, that's simply put, unintelligent and boring.
I managed about thirty minutes before giving up. The acting is fine but so much else is uninspired, there is little left to say.
May suit the easy pleased but, I suspect, it will irritate the discerning.
Fails to follow the rules of the crime thriller.....
In my opinion complex crime thrillers need three things; a well crafted story the viewer can follow, a sense of mystery and thrill and lastly, characters whose motivations can be understood.
Twin Murders: Silence of the White City fails to provide a cohesive story. Instead offering up a disjointed and vague proposition, that never amounts to anything meaningful.
It revealing the killer, not even half way through the film, dissipating a lot of the mystery and thrill.
All of which is topped off by characters whose motivations are difficult to appreciate, as they are never well explained.
In short, this film is a bland, obscure, oddly scripted affair, that could have worked, if the essential rules of the crime thriller had been adhered to.
El silencio del pantano (2019)
Enjoyable if disconcerting...
I'm not surprised by some of the negative reviews. This film starts off with a clever premise, that mixes in a Spanish social justice psychopath, reminiscent of "Dexter", with a literary bent and the world of high stakes corruption.
What follows tracks well, up to a point, where the lines between fact and fiction blur. What you are left with is open ended and up to you to interpret, with no solid conclusion.
Its a "tree falls in the woods" deal that is somewhat disconcerting. I can fully see why people who like a linear plot, with a tidy outcome might find it annoying.
I certainly felt a little disorientated but ultimately I was left feeling more positive about this film, than not. Sure its plot is light on detail but it makes its points with an enigmatic cleverness. The cast is well chosen, the characters interesting and the acting excellent.
It also makes some very pertinent points about the distance power places between people from distinct social strata, notions of corruption and the inequity of establishment justice.
7/10 from me.
Van der Valk (2020)
A mockery of the original....
As a kid I adored sitting with my mother watching Van Der Valk. We both spent our time trying to work out the complex plots and who did what. It was first class entertainment and has a permanent soft spot in my heart.
Which brings me to this abomination. It share's the same name but has nothing in common with the original series. Its too busy being woke to even think twice about being entertaining, let alone clever.
Its horrible stuff, that spends it's time slyly bleating about diversity, sexuality, politics (it seems to dislike anyone on the right) homosexuality, white men, tradition and more. Shame it did not take the time to craft an engaging, sophisticated, crime story along the way.
Listen to me and listen well entertainment industry. I come to you to be entertained not lectured. If I want your opinion, I'll ask you for it. Keep this up and anything with "a made in the UK" label wont be getting a first look, let alone a second from me.
My advice, watch the original series and forget about this dismal mockery. 1/10.
Deadly Descent (2013)
Abominable special effects....
In spite of what some say I don't think the core premise behind this film is a bad one.
Acting wise its not awful either and the story whilst basic, holds up well enough, setting the scene for big foot scares and action.
Where is falls down badly and really undermines everything else it tries to achieve, is in the special effects department. CGI is just bad. From the cheesy, poorly rendered big foot, that looks like a giant, rabid, hamster, to the awful, shiny plastic, helicopter effects.
If some extra thought and cash had been invested into how the creature's look and act plus other special effects, this could have worked quite well as an entertaining B-grader.
Sadly that's not the case, with the only "Deadly Descent", being one of farce.
Blood Quantum (2019)
Too ugly, divisive and seedy for its own good....
I like the core premise behind Blood Quantum. Its a little different and unusual.
Sadly the writing spoils things by layering in some genuinely ugly characterisations, that we are somehow supposed to empathise with? Perhaps because society has not been kind to them? Its cause is not helped either, by overdoing the gore factor combined with a rather callous, cavalier attitude towards death and loss.
The them and us proposition, with racial overtones, only serves to create a strong sense of disunity and disharmony, too. By the time I was a little over half way into this film I could not have cared less what happens to the main characters given how thoroughly unpleasant and divided they are.
Acting is fine, if a little over stated at times, cinematography was for me a little too dark but again, I suspect this had been done on purpose.
What makes survivalist horror work is that glimmer of human hope and unity in the darkness. This film forgets that fact and is less because of it. 4/10.
A missed opportunity......
What the hell is this? That was my first reaction upon seeing the US version of "Penny Dreadful".
Aside from sharing the same name as the original it has little in common with it. Penny Dreadful was an encyclopedic trip into the world of monsters and the supernatural. A homage to a time of classic horror and Gothic writers like Stoker and Shelly.
What you get here, is yet another politicised drama with racial overtones, that I quickly found preachy, cliched and ultimately, tiresome.
The US has its own rich history of horror writing in the form of Poe and Lovecraft. These and other works could have been explored in an anthology but instead you get this tedious offering.
A missed opportunity, to say the least. 4/10.
Bollywood meets Hollywood in a bullet ridden, pyrotechnically elaborate, action flick......
Extraction is an interesting proposition. Maybe its not the first time but certainly its one of the more notable times, where Bollywood and Hollywood collaborate, on what is, a functional action flick.
"Extraction" has lots of points of comparison but probably the most obvious is military action series "Strike Back". A Sky series that's been a roaring success. Why? Because this film, like the series, adhere's to its military action formula.
This is a simple film, that's essentially a well rehearsed and choreographed, mercenary "run and gun" affair. Its exposition driven, frenetic and pyrotechnically elaborate.
Its back story is basic too yet still has enough heart felt moments to actually be touching. Better still, it makes no effort to over moralise. Really there are no perfect outcomes, as is typically the way, in the world we all live in.
Decent acting and solid cast choices from the East and West, round things out.
A simple but entertaining winner.
8/10 from me.
Makes disaster films exciting.......
Ashfall works where most other disaster film's do not because it mixes the basic premise is a way that's novel and exciting.
This might best be described as a disaster film that's also a military thriller, with a great human interest back story. In terms of pacing, it starts off slowly but quickly gains momentum, adding in layers of excitement and varied action, as it moves to its very emotional climax.
Acting is excellent with characters who have real depth and a story to tell. Its worth mentioning that some of the humour might seem a bit odd and a little slapstick, to European audiences. Its moderately reminiscent of the kind of humour that you find in Hong Kong action flicks, Its not to my taste but then this is a Korean film, pitched at Korean viewers.
My only real complaint with Ashfall is the story is a little too complex at times and deviates in different directions, a little too much. It can be hard to keep up with who's doing what to who and why.
That said, Ashfall is still a hell of a lot better than the basic disaster movies, that lazily reply on exposition and special effects, to carry them.
A well deserved 7/10 from me.
A beautifully rendered mix of love and swordplay....
Ichi is a beautifully rendered film, that mixes a tale of love and hope, with Samurai swordplay.
The back story is touching and heart felt, a tale of hope and love, that's wonderfully shot and subtly acted. The dialogue is a minimalist but what is and in some cases, not said, makes an indelible emotional impact.
You care about these characters and that carries over into the skilfully shot combat scenes. Many of which are frenetic and rather bloody but not overly so.
Indeed there's a certain oddly gentle restraint about this film that should be at odds with the viciousness of the combat scenes but somehow, is not.
A really unique film that I rate highly because its skilfully does more with less.
The Battle: Roar to Victory (2019)
What price freedom?
What price freedom? Its an individual as much as a collective question. That's the context "The Battle: Roar to Victory" resides within.
This is an unambiguously patriotic film but its clearly defined reason to be, put it head and shoulders, above films that talk about patriotism but fail to explain its purpose.
In this instance, its the Japanese Empires imperial ambitions. Invading Korea and as this film shows, brutally subjugating its people. An historically accurate representation of, at times, harsh policies, that continued into WWII where often forced Korean recruits, were used, essentially, as canon fodder.
This film is, unsurprisingly, not an easy watch. Its visceral at times and that bloodiness extends to civilians, as well as those who have taken up arms. What it does demonstrate emphatically, is why these people fight and what they are fighting for. Of course, what is asked, is how much are they as individuals and a group, willing to sacrifice?
Military action is non stop, frenetic, brutal, interspersed with moments of deeply felt emotion and courage. Cinematic's are remarkable, bringing the battle scenes, that define this film, to life. I found it at times a mesmerising watch that drew me in and held me till the closing credits.
Another film for South Korea to be proud of. 9/10 from me.
La Casa de Papel (2017)
Why season 3?
I gave season one and two of this show a much deserved 10/10 but I'm at a loss to understand why they made season 3?
Season 3 is the antithesis of the former seasons. It ruins the mostly light hearted vibe that had been established, replacing it with something much darker. Worse still, its simply, in many respects, a blatant re-hash of what went before.
Like Star Wars, this feels like making something for the sake of making it. I'm happy to have had the first two seasons and will be leaving it there.
5/10 for season 3.
Hammy sci fi martial arts mash up.....
Lets not beat around the bush. "Abduction" is a very basic martial arts film with a sci fi back story.
Much of it looks like it was shot in hotel rooms and basic office space, in Vietnam. Acting ranges from clumsy to reasonable and special effects are anything but special.
The only place where this thing shines is the martial arts action scenes, which also lack a certain polish.
In short a very very basic action flick that's a marginal watch at best.
Bad Boys UK style
Bulletproof is a UK take on Bad Boys. Its not a bad series either.
Bulletproof captures the vibe found in the Martin Lawrence, Will Smith team up from the mid 1990's. Its a gun toting, fast cars, hard crime, mash up.
The main characters, like Lawrence and Smith's, are "yin to the others yang". One an established family man, the other an on the make bachelor.This helps to establish the dynamic that exists between the two. The clever banter is there too. Much of it comedic and predictable but written well enough to actually offer some depth to the characterisations, as well.
Suffice to say, this is a quality formula that works just as well in a UK context. Indeed, its interesting to see British and I suspect, London cultural nuances, found in this series, as opposed to the US product.
7/10 from me.
L'Intervention is a simple but remarkable film. At its heart, is the early genesis of one of the challenging specialisms associated with modern elite fighting units. The other is a story of salvation, trying to save the lives of children under seemingly impossible conditions.
This story is engaging from beginning to end. From one point of view its fascinating to see the kind of precisely synchronised military action, depicted in this film. Its also harrowing, hoping that the children held by armed captors can be freed. This is as much a human story as it is a tale of war.. A consideration that's sensitively presented in this film.
Acting is excellent and the sense of cinematic tension and drama, that's developed is a credit to all involved including writers, directors and producers.
A rather unique film I consider a must watch. 10/10.
Fantasy Island (2020)
Not Fantasy Island......
Having grown up with, amongst other things, the original TV series of Fantasy Island, anything that bears its name and its core proposition, is going to come under scrutiny.
Suffice to say this film has little in common with the original series, aside from very superficial similarities. Ricardo Montalbán defined the original series with his mysterious larger than life personality. This film has its own Mr Rourke but there's none of Montalbán's magic on offer, literally and metaphorically.
In its place is a very basic, by the numbers horror, that's not bad as such, its shake and bake entertainment, that's here today and then quickly forgotten.
The cast includes a few actors I know from a few different tv series and to be fair, the quality of performances is acceptable if unremarkable.
In short, a horror film that borrows elements of the TV series but has little, to nothing, in common with it.