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Gun Shy (2000) <With Spoilers>

Rating 15
Length 1h 41
Release 6.10.2000
Director Eric Blakeney
About A seemingly calm and collected DEA agent is a nervous wreck on the inside. As he struggles to demolish a cartel, an incident lands him in the psychiatrist’s chair and, consequently, in group therapy.


The Good

  • The thing that really makes this film work, is the relationships Liam Neeson’s Charlie makes during his undercover work. I say that loosely given that I’m not sure Charlie is ever playing anything other than himself.
    He has obvious chemistry with Sandra Bullock, but the best relationship by far is the one between Neeson and Oliver Platt. Oh my god, the final act, you will feel for both of them. You’ll understand the decisions they each make.
  • Speaking of Oliver Platt, he’s incredible in this. I’m not so sure I’ve seen him in a “bad guy” role before and it really worked. To then have the film unpick the character and discover the root of his unhappiness. If you gave me a film just about Fulvio and Charlie, I’d have been very happy.
  • I was happily surprised to discover Mitch Pileggi had a much larger role in this than I anticipated. While the start of the film may have you thinking he’s in a type-cast role, but no one in this film is who they really seem.
    I must admit though, I had my suspicions, Pileggi himself speaks of his Italian heritage in interviews, so he feels like a bit of a red herring given the involvement of the Mafia. I reveal this, not to be a spoilsport, but because I can’t let this review sit without taking about the reveal. Not the one to the audience, but the reveal to Charlie. There’s a way that Pileggi can set his face whenever he’s in the position of a bad guy (Son’s of Anarchy, Shocker and Supernatural spring to mind) and it works well here.

The Bad

  • It’s a bit wacky. Like, you really do have to roll with it and remember that it was a product of the 2000s; the same era that brought us Mulholland Drive, Get Shorty and Analyze This. If you can stick with it until it really gets going, there’s a payoff.
  • For an Irishman, Liam Neeson’s accent in this is appalling. It’s so unbelievably inconsistent that I’m certain the line about him being Irish was put in during reshoots.

The Ugly

  • The plot threads are just not quite all there. It’s almost two or three very different movies in one. There’s attempts to connect the elements but they don’t all quite marry up the way that would lift this film up a little more.
    The biggest problem for me, is how little Sandra Bullock’s character is integrated into the rest of the narrative. There’s even a clear set up that goes nowhere.

Final Thoughts

You know, it wasn’t the best film in the world. I wanted three different movies out of it. I wanted a Neeson/Platt movie, a Neeson/ Bullock movie and I wanted a movie just with the group therapy guys. Instead, I got this bag of Revels when I really just wanted the Maltesers out of it.

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The Bank Job (2008)

Rating 15
Length 1h 51
Release 28.2.2008
Director Roger Donaldson
About Martine approaches Terry, a car salesman who faces serious financial issues, to form a gang and rob a bank. However, things are not as easy as they seem.


The Good

  • It’s a heist movie and checks all the boxes. There’s double crosses, bumbling coppers and scandals a plenty.
  • It’s based on true events. There’s something rather exciting about the web of scandal and corruption in the UK. Okay, names aren’t mentioned in all cases, but you can work it out.
  • There’s a pretty decent cast involved. Jason Statham, Daniel Mays and Stephen Campbell Moore all bring there A game and Saffron Burrows isn’t as annoying as she usually is.
  • The Music is a pretty decent selection of 1970s tracks.

The Bad

  • There’s so much nudity. Like from the second it starts. I’m not a prude, but I do hate gratuitous nudity. I will say, though, gratuity in this film is subjective I guess, given the content of the security boxes.
    I just felt it was ‘hey, we’ve got to have one set of tits out, so we might as well have twenty’, and I just wanted to get to the heist.

The Ugly

  • It’s a rather complex plot as there are so many people involved. Even breaking it down to the three key groups; authority, villains and Michael X is head scratching and over simplified. If you don’t engage from the first moment, you can quite easily get muddled.

Final Thoughts

It was an alright movie, but if you want a decent London bank heist where some of the people got away with the goods, check out King of Thieves.

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X Files – I Want to Believe (2008)

Rating 15
Length 1h 44
Release 1.8.2008
Director Chris Carter
About Though FBI special agent Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and his partner Dr. Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) once chased things that go bump in the night, his tireless search for the truth out there has led to his professional exile. However, a missing-persons case leads to the agents’ reunion, along with an encounter with a priest (Billy Connolly) who may or may not be experiencing psychic visions.


First Things First

Right now, I’m sat kicking myself for not seeing this in the cinema. I worked there, for Mulder’s sake. I actually have a vivid memory. An almost ‘Sliding Doors’ moment in which I was done for the evening and the last showing of the day was about to begin. I passed up on the opportunity.
Now, it’s at this point I should clarify, I was possibly one of the strangest ‘fans’. I was such a fan that I wore a Mulder and Scully watch for at least 4 years, even though I’d probably only seen a handful of episodes.
Yeah, I was 8 years old when Scully was sent to spy on Mulder, so I was only allowed to press record on the VCR and watch up until that distinctive theme song. It wasn’t until 1996 or so when it had moved to Saturday nights, that I saw my first full episode. Can you imagine it; being banned from watching the show, but being bought the merch by the same parent?! Then again, this was the same person who, without fail, would buy me a board game every Christmas and refuse to play it with me. Go figure.
Much like a lot of my teens fandoms; Buffy, Star Trek and Angel… I fell a little out of love with X Files. I’d not taken it upon myself to do a rewatch (or a first watch) and I just felt very disengaged in 2008.
However, it’s now 2021. I’ve spent the last few months watching all 9 seasons, and one movie, leading up to this one. I’d been dreading it, I won’t lie.

The Good

  • It’s X Files. Even with its flaws, I’m in. You’re giving me Mulder and Scully. You’re in theory giving me together Mulder and Scully. What’s not to love. It certainly has its moments that will have any fan happy. When they’re together on screen, its frigging awesome.
  • It’s a story that is that perfect middle ground. It’s the supernatural rather than the mythology that, at times, bogged the show down. I love the alien shit, but I think the fatal flaw of the franchise is that it wavered too much on that line of ‘are the aliens real?’. At least this keeps it conspiracy lite. Well, except for the priest with a taste for choir boys.
  • Speaking of the whole pedophilia subplot. It was a powerful thing to address considering this would have still been a rather raw subject, for American viewers in particular. The Boston sex abuse scandal was only exposed in 2002. I’m sure Carter was trying to say something profound about this dirty secret of the Catholic Church. I’m not sure it works completely, but damn I’m still impressed he tried.
  • The editing in the opening was excellent. It was unsettling and lacking context, but it worked. It was something very different to what we’ve come to expect of X Files and it really got my attention.
  • Billy Connolly, while giving me the creeps, was a delight to see on screen. Rather strange to see him without his beard, but given his character I was glad of that disassociation.

The Bad

  • I struggled with Scully’s B-Plot storyline. It felt a little too contrived and almost a plot device hiding in plain sight. The film needed a bit of a change in editing (Like, don’t give me shifty looks to the Father, when the other one was a convicted pedophile, and not give me a resolution to that either way). It’s a shame, because when Gillian Anderson’s scenes worked, it was powerful.
  • This is the ‘ship that coined the term ‘shipping’. So why the fuck does the film play them off against each other for most of the movie?! Why, after EVERYTHING Scully has seen, is she still a skeptic? Both the relationship, and Scully herself are completely devolved to fit the narrative. It does all fans a disservice.
  • Our new Mulder/Scully, Dogget/Reyes. I don’t get them and they’re booted out of the script halfway through. While I adore Amanda Peet and she does an amazing job, put Agent Monica Reyes in that role and it blows the whole thing open and adds investment.
    Then there’s Xzibit as Agent Drummy as the overly-aggressive skeptic. The biggest problem being that there’s no chemistry between him and Mulder…. so he just ends up shouting.

The Ugly

  • That fucking beard! What the fuck, man?! I get that the film was trying to show that Mulder was not the same, but did we really need him to wear such a bad joke-shop stick-on beard?! It was cheap, it was tacky and it lasted so much of the movie.

Final Thoughts

There are worse episodes that feel way longer than this outing. It is flawed and I did shout “Oh, fuck off Scully.” At the tv screen. Something I’ve not done since mid-series 3.
As much as this was made as a stand alone to bring in the uninitiated, I doubt the franchise would gain any fans from watching this first.

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Educating Rita (1983)

Rating 15
Length 1h 50
Release 16.6.1983
Director Lewis Gilbert
About Rita (Julie Walters), a married hair stylist in her 20s, wants to go back to school. She begins studying with Dr. Bryant (Michael Caine), a professor using alcohol to cope with his divorce. Despite his personal problems, Dr. Bryant helps Rita realise her academic potential. In turn, her passion for learning revitalises his love of teaching.


The Good

  • I loved it from the very start. I’m a Scouser, so of course I’m going to be drawn in to a Willy Russell story that flirts with the original source material of Pretty Women and My Fair Lady (Pygmalion). Without naming them outright, this film takes on the class divide and gender politics that I’d hope not many people would stand for today.
  • It’s pacing and time span are perfect and allow you to stay invested. The creative team have added players and places in order to expand the story from the two person play Russell wrote. There’s no point in the film where I thought “Ah, that’s where the interval would be.” Something that can be rather obvious if a play is not well adapted.
  • Michael Caine. Bloody hell, I loved and loathed the character in equal measure. There’s not many men who could bring the charm that he did to the role and it makes the difference. The alcoholism is a difficult thing to portray on film and its something that can suck the humanity out of even the best of people. So to see the character of Frank come alive at the prospect of educating Rita… or rather Rita educating him, it allows you to invest in the character. More so than My Fair Ladys Professor Higgins.
  • Now, I’ve always been a bit bias when it comes to Julie Walters; she reminds me of my mum. So to have her in a film playing a Scouser, making those ‘ays’ and ‘tarras’, was a bittersweet dream for me. Not only that, but for me, it played almost like I was watching what could have been my mother’s life.
    Julie Walter’s in this film is incredible. Anyone who has seen her in anything, will know that she is a chameleon. However, in this we see her evolve the character and bring Susan/Rita from a state of turmoil and wanting to discover herself, to being an independent and confident woman who at least knows who she is in the moment.

The Bad

  • For me, the suicide attempt of the friend came out of left field. While it was very well handled and approached, I found it difficult to watch for the reality of it and the candour in which Maureen Lipman’s Trish speaks about her sadness that she hadn’t succeeded. It was the final line in their interaction that struck home for me “When I listen to poetry and music, then I can live. You see, darling, the rest of the time it’s just me. And that’s not enough.”
    I’ll forgive you if you scoff at first. I certainly did when she opened with the music and poetry; she has been set up as rather pretentious. However, the reveal opens up and and its certainly something that transcends class; the opinion we have of ones self. It’s often rather shit and a battle to challenge.

The Ugly

  • The synthesiser music seems to clash with the story being told. It seems more like music heard in BBCs Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1981) or A Clockwork Orange (1971). It’s a shame really because it doesn’t match the tone of the movie and even goes so far as to make it feel like a TV movie.
  • Where the fuck is it set? It ain’t Liverpool. It’s really frustrating to know that the source material places it there, but due to bloody politics (Tories again, the bastards), production was moved to Ireland. Can’t help but feel thrown off by not recognising any of the locations.

Final Thoughts

I’m only gutted I’ve never thought to seek this film out before today. Walters and Caine could have quite easily filmed this in the one room without any other participants and I would have been just as enchanted.
That said, give me a budget and Jodie Comer in Liverpool and I would relish a remake. Yes, we’re seeing a lot of 80s vintage in movies, but I feel like this bit of Russell grit will give people something away from the neon and pop.

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I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997

Rating: 18
Length 1h 41
Release 12.12.1997
Director Jim Gillespie
About Four high school teenagers try to cover up a hit-and-run case. A year later, they start receiving anonymous letters and each one is attacked by a mysterious man who knows their deep, dark secret.


The Good

  • The four leads are what make this film; then and now. I like that the film doesn’t have them walking the halls of a high school and instead have them on their own paths.
  • Johnny Galecki was a cool spot back in my teens, having grown up in the Rosanne household. Even now, though, he’s still that guy you know from Big Bang Theory. Man can he do creep well, too.
  • I love the setting that’s Amity but not quite. Its not new, but it does feel refreshing. For me, it also adds to the lack of community I felt watching it. That this isn’t a town that talks to each other.
  • The music! At the time it was perhaps “eh, its cool”, but now it has that hit of nostalgia. This is up there with Scream 2 for awesome credit song choice.
  • The hunting of Sarah Michelle Gellar’s Helen is movie perfection. This is the actress I knew as Buffy, so seeing her vulnerable and afraid was beyond disturbing. Then the editing of the whole scene; from the diversion of the cop car that’s taking her home to her almost making it to the crowded streets is phenomenal.

The Bad

  • Johnny Galecki’s Max was killed off too soon. In fact, the most frustrating part is that they spend so long building up suspicion of him, to resolve it so suddenly, its almost anti-climactic.
    There’s also the massive plot blunder of him in the car boot. Yes, I totally get its attempt to build on julie’s unravelling and I guess our sense of smell does not transcend celluloid, but it is improbbable the killer could have cleaned that boot as impeccably as the film wants us to believe.
  • The final showdown reveals the killer’s mood board of the friends. Well, what do you know, the killer has not only managed to do all the damage he has; he’s been able to get candid photographs of the day developed too. Not something I caught the first time around, but it stuck out like a sore thumb this time.
  • I so feel like there’s a lake of interaction between our four targets and the rest of the town. I mean, Barry is the jock but there’s no posse?! Ray is given that loner persona, but there’s no one else for the other’s to hang out with. So, aren’t they loners too? It just makes the whole thing feel superficial and that no one is really going to miss these kids when they meet their maker.

The Ugly

  • I’m not sure I buy the killer’s motivation. In fact, I find the whole thing a little convoluted watching it as an adult. Perhaps I wasn’t distracted by the next “death” as I once was; it certainly wasn’t that I remembered the story.
  • That ending in the showers. Yawn. Made even worse if you’ve seen the sequel.

Final Thoughts

It’s a film that fairs better the less you think about it. Just watch the pretty people make dumb life choices and Gibb’s mentor weild a hook, give Edward Scissorhands a run for him money in the hair department and be an absolute motherfucking hypocrite.

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Flora & Ulysses (2021)

Rating PG
Length 1h 35
Release 19.2.2021
Director Lena Khan
About Flora, a 10-year-old girl with an imaginative mind, rescues a squirrel and names him Ulysses. She soon discovers that Ulysses is blessed with superpowers which help them embark on various adventures.


The Good

  • This is a heart-warming story about family and superheroes. It takes on an origin story, of sorts, but provides the viewer with enough charm that even those fighting the superhero fatigue will be won over.
  • Danny Purdi is excellent as the “villainous” squirrel catcher. Community fans will love that he gets to provide some excellent physical movies references throughout the film.
  • The film made the absolutely right choice when not giving Ulysses a voice. It kept him cute and Grogu-like.
  • It has a belter soundtrack. Almost GotG-lite.
  • Allyson Hannigan and Ben. Schwartz were adorable together and apart. The fact that they both reduced me to tears is a testament to them, their ability to demonstrate the hardships of a relationship, individuality and creative blocks.
  • Matilda Lawler is one to watch. She 10 year old Flora a delight to watch and her narration was perfect. She’ll bring any kid watching onboard straight away.

The Bad

  • The CGI of both Ulysses and Mr Klaus is a little disappointing. While all the actors work well with the furballs, I just found them reminiscent of the early 2000 CGI; almost too glossy and separate from the rest of the visuals.

The Ugly

  • I did not like the development of the character William. The actor did a fine job with what he had to work with, but I just really didn’t like the gimmick of him being blind. I most certainly didn’t like the usage of the outdated term “hysterical blindness”. With a film that has the charm that this does, the jokes feel forced and painfully gross.

Final Thoughts

Its definitely a film for families and one those young at heart will enjoy too. There’s some nice Easter Eggs for comic book and film fans alike. Its certainly on my list to watch again.

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Airplane! (1980)

Rating PG
Length 1h 28
Release 29.8.1980
Director Jim Abrahams, David & Jerry Zucker
About Ted Striker, a former pilot who has a fear of flying, finds himself burdened with the responsibility of landing a plane safely when most of the crew and passengers fall sick due to food poisoning.


The Good

  • Unlike the spoofs of film genres in the post- Scary Movie era, this relies on good faith prods at other films. By the time Scary Movie had long past its sell by date, it became tasteless and almost painfull. This, on the other hand, has aged well and runs like a fully formed plot with nods to disaster movies like Towering Inferno and Poseidon Adventure. The point being, you do not have to watch all the disaster movies to enjoy this film.
  • Leslie Nielson is the perfect for the role of Dr Rumack. I must admit, I know him from the Naked Gun movies so I assumed this was his wheelhouse. I’d known of his “playing it straight” in 1956’s Forbidden Planet, however I thought that was the exception and not this comedy role. I was surprised how late into the proceedings he actually arrived (I I had totally misremembered him being the stare) and it was only upon reading up on the casting and production that I discovered there had been reservations about casting him. Well, that just made it all the more impressive for me.
  • I loved Otto; the Auto Pilot. It was a little nonsensicle but it made for one most excellent sight gag. Oh, and he even got his own credit on IMDB. Genius.

The Bad

  • Much like with many films of the age, there are some jokes that do not sit as well as they once did. Nothing that would make me disuade people from watching it, but it certainly made me cringe.
  • I did not like the charcter of Ted Hays. I cannot put my finger on what it is, but he irked me. I did, however, find comfort in knowing I wasn’t alone in my feelings.

The Ugly

  • As much as I chuckled and I found it likable. I am rather disappointed that I didn’t laugh more than I did. However, in the film’s defence, I do struggle with a comedy when watching alone.

Final Thoughts

I’m not rushing to watch this again, but I’d certain see it at somewhere like the Prince Charles on a Friday Night; I think it is a film you need to see under the right conditions. Seriously.

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Sneakers (1992)

Rating 12
Length 2h 06
Release 13.11.1992
Director Phil Alden Robinson
About Martin Bishop heads a group of experts who specialise in testing security systems. When government agents blackmail him into stealing a top secret black box, his team is embroiled in a dangerous game.


The Good

  • The cast is incredible. Like, I can’t imagine a director getting a better cast assembled. Certainly not one that includes three generations of Oscar talent.
  • In particular, Sidney Poitier was incredible. He really had that paternal vibe down. Then he went and gave Samuel L Jackson a run for his money with the use of “motherfucker.”
  • This is perfect for those who like conspiracy thrillers and heist movies, like Enemy of the State, Lucky Number Slevin and Inside Man. It’s clever and well paced with characters I really rooted for.
  • The final scene is worth everything. Think Armageddon contract negotiation but a thousand times better.
  • Even though technology has advanced, and rendered some of what is mentioned in the plot obsolete, I doubt it impacts on the enjoyment that could be had. Unlike, The Net and perhaps Hackers that don’t fare as well.

The Bad

  • It was a slow burn, which is okay, but with ‘lockdown brain’ I have tended to stick to films under the 1h 40 mark and I did find myself drifting in those first twenty minutes or so. A little tighter editing would smooth out that introduction somewhat.
  • There was a dodgy accent or two that really sounded off. In particular director favourite Lee Garlington would have been better without the European accent.

The Ugly

  • Can someone tell me what Robert Redford used to be able to get through that hot room?! Like, seriously? 99 degrees Fahrenheit and that bastard is as dry as a bone. In a high pressure situation? Bullshit, he would be as wet as Lee Evans after the first half of a gig. Yes, I know this is a weird hang-up, but in a near perfect movie, this stands out so badly.
  • I’m not sure how I feel about David Strathairn’s presentation of a visually impaired person. Why some things that were played for laughs, like talking to someone facing the wrong way, work quite well there are others that don’t sit as well with me. I’m not going to detail it here as it’s not fair for me to say its offensive and I wouldn’t want to prejudice anyone. However, if you’re as like-minded as me; you’ll know when you get to the scene I had the problem with.

Final Thoughts

This is a good movie. Not a movie you’ll watch all the time, but it’s a movie you’ll watch and think, damn I enjoyed that. I also have a sneaking suspicion that a viewer much more familiar with Redford’s back catalogue

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Stop or my Mom Will Shoot (1992)

Rating PG
Length 1h 22
Release 17.4.1992
Director Roger Spottiswoode
About When cop Joe calls-off his relationship with his girlfriend, his mom pays him a visit. She starts to interfere in everything that he does and soon gets involved in one of his important projects.


The Good

  • Estelle Getty is what makes this film as enjoyable as it is. Firstly, she’s the best Golden Girl (which I would imagine says a lot about me) and she has that dry Yankee humour. There’s no one else you could put in that role.
    Secondly, some of the characteristics of Tutti remind me so much of my own mum. For example, Tutti finding the gun and ‘cleaning’ it to actually break it. Yeah, that was my mum. Clothes, PCs, food… you name it, she’d mean well but it would always go wrong. It’s a little bittersweet, but so god damn funny.
  • The plot is rather poor, but its not the plot you’re watching this for. It’s the dynamic between Getty and Stallone. It bloody works. On some level a lot of us recognise the relationship these two people have (see above) so we not only relate, but we can laugh as it happens to someone else.

The Bad

  • I love JoBeth Williams, but the character of Lt Gwen Harper is so shit. It’s like the film gave with one hand by making her the boss, but took it away with the other by making her relationship with Joe so public and unprofessional. What’s so bad about it, is that it makes me question how she got her position in the first place.
  • Stallone does not want to be in this movie. You can feel that from his performance. Some of it can be explained away as the character’s relationship with the mother, but it’s more than that. It’s a shame, because it looks like it could have been a real laugh being on that set.

The Ugly

  • Some of the dialogue is very dated and cringe. In fact it plays like a mid 80s film, rather than one from 1992. From the stewardess purring “You looked real sexy in those diapers” to “I like wearing my underwear more than once before changing them.” Just makes me very, very grateful the 80s and 90s are far behind me.
  • The film’s score is painfully repetitive. Maybe its that I’ve been spoiled by incredible soundtracks of recent years, but this was cheap and distracting.

Final Thoughts

It’s dated, the plot is a little hit and miss, but I laughed at good few times and at 1h 23 I certainly don’t think I’ve wasted my night.

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The Girl in the Photographs

Rating 18
Length 1hr 35
Release 19.10.2015 (no UK cinematic release)
Director Nick Simon
About Two psychopaths target a young woman (Claudia Lee), a photographer (Kal Penn) and a group of models at a secluded house.


The Good

  • This film takes a risk with its ending. It *almost* works. The idea of an open ending to a stand alone horror film in a way that’s not a rug pull (see I Know What You Did Last Summer, House of Wax and Saw) is rare. There’s no showdown, there’s no final girl. Now, considering the rest is formulaic as fuck, that ending really impressed me.
  • Yeah, that’s all I got folks. This film was garbage and I actually almost turned it off.

The Bad

  • By calling your ‘slashers’ psychopaths, does not free you of having a motive. Towards the back end of the film we get the idea that he has some sort of feelings for our lead, Colleen. However, where does the second guy factor in to this infatuation? There’s also the fact that we come into the film at victim 7. The film made loose connections to the photographer, Kal Penn, but just didn’t follow through. If only the film unpacked the fact that the two men were in the same year as Penn’s character, it would have made for a much more satisfying movie.
  • As much as I love Mitch Pileggi, the incorporation of the police force within the town was frustrating and of no use to the plot with how they were used. Just throwing around “No body, no crime.’ And repeatedly telling Colleen there’s nothing they can do is utter bullshit ;and the stereotype we moved away from almost two decades ago. When these photographs are popping up and they resemble the missing persons report… they would have to do something. While I do like the fact that the psychopaths are left to kill another day, if you’re also going to make the police incompetent and the reason these girls have died, at least have them as part of the body count.
  • How is the disappearance of seven people not caused commotion in this town? How is it not a much bigger thing, that’s going to make the local news at the very least? I just find so many of the things in this so illogical.
  • Did we really need the commentary of “the photographer” on consent. He actually says “permission isn’t sexy”. Which is made all the more galling by the fact that the guy is using a big ass camera with a massive flash to photograph Colleen.
    Oh, and while we’re on the topic of consent. Having a guy secretly film his casual sex is one thing. Having the girl discover it and then masterbate to the footage is very much another and absolutely not okay. Remembering, the issue is not the sex, but the violation and lack of consent. My biggest issue being who this film’s demographic is and what it might say to them.

The Ugly

  • The over-use of Wes Craven’s name in all of the publicity. He was a producer, nothing more. There is nothing in this film that can be said to be inspired by his body of work and its only made worse by the over zealous use of “This was the last film he worked on.”
  • Few things I didn’t understand: who the fuck wrote the blog? Who made the connection to the photographer, and was it every single photograph? If so, why?
  • Oh, why is the boyfriend such a dick? Like, really? Can someone explain to me? He seemed lovely and really trying to make things work, but Colleen was clearly not on the same page. When Psycho Tom tells boyfriend “you should have treated her better” all I could think was that he really should have been saying that to Colleen.
  • The blood, the gore! Jesus, I know it was an 18 and everything, but come on! Its been proven time and time again that not showing a death is much more effective. Why do we need to see all the blood?!

Final Thoughts

This film has potential behind the gore, but the editing and unresolved questions leave it being little more than garbage. Its not even clever enough to be considered an exploitation film.

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Film Review: Evolution (2001)

Rating PG
Length 1h 41
Release 22.6.2001
Director Ivan Reitman
About Professor Ira and Professor Harry are called in to analyse a meteor that crashes at Arizona. Soon, they learn that the organisms found on the meteor are evolving and reproducing rapidly.


The Good

  • From the get go, it plays much like a Ghostbuster outing. The undervalued underdogs in the professional field saving the day. For me, I can never get enough of the Ghostbusters and, at the time, this was as close as I was going to get.
  • The cast is pretty perfect. David Duchovny plays on his Mulder persona, but gives him much more charm and less morbid back story. Duchovny carries the lead duties really well and I always wonder why he didn’t get more oportunities.
  • Orlando Jones gives us black-meta commentary and sleaze I never quiet caught before and Julianne Moore is trying to give us the anti-Scully. It never quite works, and it has me wishing Anderson was there playing the role, but I can’t deny that Moore does try.
  • The graphics still stand up. as good as early noughties graphics can of course.

The Bad

  • It takes a long while to really get going. Partly because of establishing Scott’s character in the opening. While this does have pay off, it does stall the proceedings somewhat.
  • I’m not sure I like the clumsiness of Moore’s character. It feels like acting clumsy and is too forced.

The Ugly

  • That sleeze of Orlando Jones. Barf! I know its college, but him trying to get it on with students and discussing showering with his all-female basketball team is just gross. I probably thought nothing of it at the time, but watching it in light of so many accusations within the industry, it makes you question the mind-set of the writer. Yeah, call me snowflake all you want, but its the normalisation of off-the-cuff remarks like this that have allowed this behaviour to go on, unchecked, for so long.

Final Thoughts

Had this been an X-Files or Ghostbusters sequel, in which we could do away with the introductions, this would be an amazing film. Tonally different I’m sure, but amazing non the less.
That said, this is a film I will watch again because it’s fun, the good guys win and we have Sean William Scott singing to a pterodactyl-type creature.

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Film Review: Willy’s Wonderland (2021)

Rating 25
Length 1h 28
Release 12.2.2021
Dir Kevin Lewis
About When his car breaks down, a quiet loner agrees to clean an abandoned family fun center in exchange for repairs. He soon finds himself waging war against possessed animatronic mascots while trapped inside Willy’s Wonderland.


The Good

It’s chaotic and bonkers. It is Cabin in the Woods meets Jennifer’s Body by way of The Dead Don’t Die. It’s not going to everyone’s cup of tea but it is entertaining.

  • This film is chaotic, bonkers and the perfect vehicle for Nicolas Cage. This is gory, volatile type of horror that is more likely to make to chuckle or squirm than scream.
  • It’s not for everyone, but it feels like Cabin in the Woods (2011) meets Jennifer’s Body (2009) by way of The Dead Don’t Die (2019). So while its not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, if you like those movies this will be, at the very least, entertaining for you.
  • The lighting in this film (aside from the migraine inducing strobe) is incredible. I can’t put my finger on how it was done, but it adds light to the screen so you can see the action, without dulling the atmosphere.

The Bad

  • Nicolas Cage doesn’t speak. Now, he does a perfectly excellent job at presenting the character without words. That, I have no issue with. I just really missed Cage’s manic dialogue.
  • There are few really weird plot choices that are left unexplained. They just seem like plot devices and that’s a little disappointing.

The Ugly

  • The flashing/ strobe lighting that’s used at the beginning and partway through is nauseating. I totally understanding the artistic decision for it, however it detracts more than it adds.
  • With Nicolas Cage’s character mute, he’s not well rounded. It means we’re in the same position as the rest of the cast, but it has come at the expense of not investing in any of the characters.

Final Thoughts

It’s flawed (What Nic Cage project in the last decade isn’t), but well worth your time.

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Film Review: Shocker (1989)

Rating: 18
Length: 1h 49
Release: 27.10.1989
Dir : Wes Craven
About: A serial killer uses the electricity from the electric chair in which he was executed to return from the dead. Later, he sets out to exact revenge on a football player who turned him in.

The Good


  • The music is my absolute favourite part of this late 80s gorefest. It’s rock and ‘heavy metal’, and feels really ironic. I’m pretty certain that wasn’t the intent, but it certainly works much better here than in Christine (1983).
  • The final act is amazing, rather meta and absolutely bonkers. If anything, I wish everything that came before was more like this. The final act plays out like the love child of Ghost in the Machine and Last Action Hero. It’s this section that really does open the story up to Craven’s original intent: a tv series.
  • Johnathan Parker is our ‘final girl’ in Shocker. It’s a refreshing change of pace to have a male lead in this sort of genre movie and in the role of the ‘final girl’ no less. While some of the choices for this character aren’t perfect, and I’ll look at those below, he still offers something other than what viewers might be used to.
  • Mitch Pileggi playing the mass killer is mind boggling brilliance. Anyone who has seen him in X Files would be forgiven for not recognising the actor, however those familiar with his time on Supernatural will understand upon watching this, why he got the role.

The Bad

  • It’s not a smooth plot and each of the three acts feel like they are directed by three different directors. Between the dodgy audio, lack of subtitles on Amazon Prime and what I would say are questionable editing choices, I really did struggle when it came to following at some points.
    The biggest issue of course being the connection between Pinker and Johnathan. It was something I suspected, and something revealed in the movie. However, it was only upon reading up on the plot after the fact that I’d had it confirmed.
  • The conflict between Johnathan the ‘football star’ and Johnathan the goofball who knocked himself out at practice. I don’t get why he’s so goofy. This guy is meant to be so amazing, that his ‘football status’ is in many news reports throughout the film. That doesn’t mesh with this guy who walks into things and trips up on his own feet.
  • There’s a little too much overlap with Craven’s Nightmare on Elm Street in terms of Johnathan having premonition type dreams about the killer. I’d have loved if instead these dreams revealed his past and his connection to Pinker, just to remove itself from deja vu.

The Ugly

  • The comedy element is a little in limbo for me. It’s too much and not enough at the same time. The film holds back, leaving the comedy a little lukewarm and slightly off kilter. While I welcome the comedy, I did want more.
  • Read any blurb on this movie and it boils it down to Pinker being dead and wreaking havoc. That, I must say, is the most enjoyable parts of this movie, however it ignores the fact that it takes almost half the film to get to that point. There’s so much build up and establishment of the character of Jonathan. For me, I’d have opened up at the point of execution and had more of a reveal to Johnathan.

Final Thoughts

It’s flawed, its a bit of a mess, but damn I love it. There are little bits I missed due to the quality, but that’s what a rewatch is for, right?!

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Open Letter to the Government Regarding Supply Teachers

Dear Dan Carden

Urgent financial help via Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) for supply teachers

I am writing to you regarding the financial oversight of supply teachers during this third national lockdown, which has seen teaching moved online as part of the government’s plan to curb the spread of COVID-19, including the new variants that are present in the country.

I understand the purpose of this action and welcome school closures as my time on supply between October and December 2020 did see a great inconsistency in individual school approaches to maintaining a COVID secure environment for students and staff. I personally have had to isolate three times owing to contact tracing in schools. In two of those instances, I suffered a financial loss due to having to isolate during term time.
While the Prime Minister is insisting that schools are safe, I must disagree and insist that it is a very subjective matter that does need urgent attention and scrutiny. I have experienced schools with robust cleaning routines that still have high numbers of isolations and I have experienced a school in which I refused to return owing to no precautions taking place outside of having windows open.

While I intend to outline my personal difficulties that have led to me contacting you today, I would ask you to understand that I am one of many people currently in this situation due to the revised stipulations of the CJRS when the scheme was extended until April 2020.

I became a teacher of Religious Education in 2009 and spent the better part of ten years dedicated to my career. However, in October 2018 it became apparent that my father, suffering from end-stage COPD and heart failure, was no longer able to care for himself. Being a proud man, he was reluctant to ask for any help and support from the State, therefore I made the difficult decision to become his carer and return to the family home. He died in November 2019 and while this was a blessing due to his diminished condition rendering him bedbound, the timing has led to great personal difficulties.

There are many issues regarding education that I am sure you are already aware of, and are not the focus of today’s correspondence, but they do explain my reluctance to return to teaching prior to the outbreak of COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdown in March 2020. However, by July 2020 it was clear what impact the virus had on the country in terms of employment opportunities and I began registering with CER, a teaching supply agency. I worked consistently from my time of employment in October 2020 until the announcement of this third lockdown and the closure of school buildings to all but specific students.

During the first lockdown, I was faced with an income of £409 a month, while my outgoings were nearing £700. My issues regarding Universal Credit, while something I would like challenged, is not my specific concern today but a mere piece of the problem. When the regular income of supply teaching replaced the monthly UC allowance, I was grateful to be able to, once again, support myself. However, and I hope you can appreciate this, the money I earned was all used to play ‘catch up’ as it were. At no point was I able to even consider saving for what now appears to have been inevitable, school closures. This is not to say that I have not been looking for permanent positions within schools for further financial security. Being trained in Religious Education and not practising any faith, and the historic emphasis on the International Baccalaureate in which RE plays no part, does make roles difficult to obtain irrespective of the current situation.

I now find myself working one day a week at a high school. This placement was arranged in December and I am lucky to have had the contract honoured.However, this is not enough financially, and I have been waiting to hear from CER about flexi furlough which was mentioned as an option when school closures were first announced. This has not transpired as there has been no changes made to furlough despite the imposed lockdown meaning my working opportunities have been drastically reduced. This is beginning to put me in a position where I will eventually have to make decisions regarding paying bills or purchasing food. This is not something a qualified teacher of any status should have to make.

I trust that you recognise and appreciate that myself, and other supply teachers, have provided a vital service that without, some schools would have had to have closed during the first term of the 2020/2021 academic year. Supply teachers have taken on a front-line role, with the understanding that if they were to come into contact during their daily work, they would have to isolate without pay and it is a gross injustice that we should accept the same while we do not have access to paid work. While some supply teachers make a choice due to financial stability, it is ignorant and wrong to assume we are all supply for this same reason.

Supply teaching has often been considered a thankless role and one that has a stigma attached regarding the individual and the quality of his or her teaching rather than a situation brought about by personal circumstance. I hope you can see from my situation; this is not the case. I would also urge you to understand that this oversight of financial support only compounds the issue and is conveying an opinion of our worth.

I would welcome specific consideration to how the Government is able to support myself and other teachers who are currently registered with a supply agency and would welcome an assurance from you that this will be looked into as a matter of urgency and raised with colleagues in the DfE, the Treasury and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC)with a view for immediate and retroactive implementation.

I look forward to your positive response on these very important matters.

Yours sincerely,

Hannah-Lynette Hunter
Teacher of Religious Education

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Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)

Rating: PG (aka BBC’s butchered version)
Length: 2h 23
Release: 19.7.1991
Dir: Kevin Reynolds
About: Robin decides to avenge his father who was murdered by Sheriff Nottingham. He joins forces with Little John’s band of thieves to overcome the evils of the sheriff.

First Thoughts

This film is everything about my childhood. Okay, so it’s not the film you went into school shouting about like Goonies was, but I certainly felt its presence in a similar way. From what I saw on twitter today, I wasn’t alone.
For me, this film seemed to be a staple on BBC around Easter. Now, given that I thought Back to the Future was on ITV every Christmas Day for about 5 years, I’m willing to accept that my Easter theory for the archery master isn’t correct either.
I also remember a distinct memory of watching this film in English. The TV trolly was in the hall and there were at least three classes huddled around this tiny tv. At this point (it was at least 1998) I had the whole thing memorised.
There’s problems with that sort of devotion to a film though; you notice when things no longer make the cut.

The Good

  • Alan Rickman is the scene stealing, panto villain of all of our dreams. Some may call it over-acting. I’d say it was Rickman having the best time of his life. He has all of the best lines, he has the best style and the best death. It’s not often we love the villain, but here he is, in his Slytherin finest.
  • The strength of this film does lie in its characters. The story and how its presented is a little bit garbage, but with the element of nostalgia and the characters you root for, it ensures it is less of a chore. Some of my favourites are Duncan, the servant of Robin’s father. He’s a little bit more trouble than he’s worth, but you love him none the less.
    Little John and his wife Fanny are the relationship goals of this movie, not Marian and Robin. The film is clever in how we’re introduced to the family one by one, to finally see them together in the final act. It’s perfect.
  • Morgan Freeman as the Moor, Azeem, is pure joy for me. It’s a performance and character I’ve only come to truly appreciate as I’ve gotten older. There are plenty of small things that he says and does that give people a true idea of what Islam is, but my favourite part of this movie is the interaction with the young girl who asks “Did God paint you?” The answer is as beautiful and as relevant today as it ever was. It also feels important that its Morgan Freeman, of all people, that gets to say it.

The Bad

  • It is, for me, rather on the long side. I don’t need it needs massive editing, but more a trimming of the fat. It is made very differently to films today; cramming what would, by today’s standard, be a trilogy’s worth of story.
  • The accents. Yeah, I went there. Now, I don’t mind Costner’s. I’m not so patriotic in that sense. However Slater and Mastrantonio on the other hand, they drive me mad. Both are half arsed attempts. Certain words are well pronounced, but most of it remains this weird mash up of their native accent and whatever it is they’re trying to achieve.
  • I can’t quiet put my finger on what is is about this production, but it has a Monty Python quality to it. Some of it is to do with the voices used, but it could also be the dialogue.

The Ugly

  • Marian. She bugs the fuck out of me. When we first meet her, not only is she this strong independent woman, she is able to fight in such a way that Robin believes her to be a man. It is only her scream that gives her away. So what pisses me off, is that in the final act, she becomes the stereotypical maiden. Aside from an opportune candle, she stands to the side and shrieks. Have her knocked out by the witch before she goes off on her side mission or something.
  • They cut out Pat Roach. I actually didn’t know until today that Auf Weidersien Pet alumni and part-time Harrison Ford fighting partner was in this film. That’s because his role as Celtic Chief gets a blink and you’ll miss it appearance. However, there is footage out there. I’d imagine it’s on the extended cut that also has much of Rickman’s performance restored.

Final Thoughts

This for me is an awesome, but flawed, film. I think it’s aged better than Robin Hood Men in Tights and the Prince of Thieves will be a film I watch again. However, I do accept a lot of what makes this a good film is nostalgia and that had I watched it for the first time today, my review would be much different.

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Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)

Rating: 12A
Length: 2h 31
Release: 16.12.2020
Dir: Patty Jenkins
About: Wonder Woman navigates the 1980s, meets old friends and faces off against new enemies.

The Good

  • The film gets the 80s aesthetics right. The mall sequence was rather brilliant and not only something that is iconic of the 1980s, but iconic of 80s movies. This part of the film, out of everything, felt most like a homage to the original tv series.
  • Kristen Wiig really impressed me. While meek and goofy Barbra was well within Wiig’s wheelhouse, and reminiscent of her past roles in things like Paul and Ghostbusters, it was the evolution into Cheetah that shows much more depth and range. While she may be known more for her comedy, I definitely want to see her in more serious roles.

The Bad

  • Well, Hans Zimmer most definitely phoned this one in. His soundtrack feels so recycled that if I were to close my eyes at points in this movie, I’d have sworn I’d put on Inception.
  • While we’re on music, you place a film in the 1980s and don’t utilise the amazing catalogue the decade has to offer? Believe me, in a film that gives us Jafar after his final wish and Quantum Leap’s Sam, we need some cheesy 80s electric tunes.
  • The prologue in which we see young Diana back at home and facing off against other Amazonian warriors, is utterly pointless and has no payoff. It, for me, is at odds with the rest of the story. Plus its totally wrong. Diana didn’t cheat. It was a bullshit lesson that had microscopic links to the main plot.

The Ugly

  • You know the Sentence Game? It’s similar to Mad Libs, but there’s no crib sheet. First person writes a sentence based upon a prompt, folds the paper over so you can’t see what’s written and passes it on. This keeps happening until all the prompts are used and then someone reads the mess of a story out. That was this film. Only, I didn’t find it nearly as funny.
  • Steve! What the fuck man. Okay, great we get Chris Pine gracing our screens again. Whoop! At what cost? The sacrifice and loss from the first movie is compromised and, I’ll be honest, how he’s there in the first place feels really cheap. I was also very disappointed “Oh boy” wasn’t uttered. It also pisses me off that the guy whose body gets taken over gets more closure than Wiig’s Barbra. Seriously, what the fuck is it about the 1980s doing Barb dirty. People, What about Barb?
  • Second gripe about Steve. Once Steve is in play, it feels like such a retread of the first film. His reintroduction creates a limitation. It’s boring, its done. It also means that if he ‘dies’ again, I’m not caring. To be fair, this is where Marvel gets it wrong too. When you make your character deaths meaningless (looking at you Loki), I refuse to invest. Also, what the fuck is it with these Wonder Woman films getting the strong female wrong? In the first movie she emasculates. This one she becomes physically dependent on Steve. Blurk!
  • Why was it set in the 1980s if it was going to be sanitised of all the joy the 80s had to offer. Other than Pine’s fish out of water Schtick, it had no value. To me anyway. Yes, I get that there’s the whole plot in which Pascal’s Max is trying to gain ownership of oil, but this is not a commodity that’s exclusive to that decade. For me, the Suez Crisis of the 1950s is what I immediately think of when it comes to ‘historical oil’.

Final Thoughts

There are enough people out there loving this movie for you to make up your own mind, but for me it’s too long, too pointless and left me feeling grumpy. I wish I’d rewatched Chopping Mall(1986) instead.

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Cujo (1983)

Rating: 18
Length: 1hr 33
Release: 18.11.1963
Director: Lewis Teague
About: Donna, a suburban housewife along with her young son Tad, drives out to the home where a perturbed St Bernard is driven insane by rabies. She must now save herself and her son from a brutal attack.


The Good

  • The second half of this movie is incredible; it taps into basic fears and keeps the body count coming. While Cujo started off as a sweet Saint Bernard he quickly becomes a volatile, foaming-at-the-mouth fuzzy monster. There are two massive dog-related scares that left me petrified; the initial attack on the car and the attack on Donna.
  • There’s an incredible shot in which the camera does a number of 360 degree spins, the revolution getting faster than a teacup ride. It has a emotive and physical effect that is perfect for a horror.
  • The bats that bite Cujo are proper scary. Like the teeth and the hissing. If there was anyone I was invested in from the start, it was poor Cujo. He was having a nice time, chasing a rabbit. He gets bitten and no one cares. No one gets him to a vet. Poor Cujo. Poor, poor, Cujo.

The Bad

  • The music is rather tv-movie and a good chunk of it, doesn’t match the tone of the movie.
  • I feel as if something was missed out in regards to Donna and her views about dogs. Her reaction to Cujo when she meets him for the first time almost hints at a long standing fear or dislike. However, it’s never confirmed. Given that so much time is spent on exposition that had no value, I’m certain they could have dedicated a bit to this.
  • Donna makes some dumb-ass decisions, much like many people in horror movies.

The Ugly

  • The first half of the movie is total dog shit (excuse the pun). The film takes up over 40 minutes developing characters and I really don’t understand why. With the Camber family, the mother and son are built up to just disappear for the second act which feels a little pointless.
  • Then there’s the matter of the lead. What we learn about Donna in the first 45 minutes is that there are problems in her marriage, perhaps because of his stressful and totally BORING job. She’s ‘screwing around’ with her ex boyfriend. Yes, it gives us a final act misdirection when the husband is searching for her, but it also makes her an unlikable character who I am not invested in.
  • Tad, Tadpole, Tadders. The kid takes up a lot of the film and while research has suggested the opening scene has more significance within the book, it feels pointless. Although, I must admit I did like the way in which he prepared to launch himself into the bed once the light was turned out.

Final Thoughts

All in all, there’s way too much build up and not enough pay off. I’d have liked to have seen Donna and Tad get into their peril much earlier and perhaps one of the other deaths happening a little earlier.

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The Hangover (2009)

Rating: 18
Length: 1hr 4o
Release: 12.6.2009
Director: Todd Phillips
About: For a bachelor party, three best men and the groom take a road trip to Las Vegas. They wake up the next morning to realise that not only have they lost the groom but also have no recollection.


First Thoughts

I was working in a cinema when this was released. I’d finished my shift and was in the bowling alley with a few friends when we decided to go check the film out. There’s nothing better than seeing a comedy film on its opening night with a full house. Even a modest comedy can give an audience a false sense of how funny it is. After all, laughter is infectious.
I had, over the years, over played this beauty of a film as I must not have watched it in its entirety since I went to London in 2014. So, when I saw it gracing Netflix’s suggested bar this afternoon, I offered it up as the weekly lockdown watch.
The big question is: has it aged well?


The Good

  • I don’t think you could have a better cast. From your three leads, to all the support. While at the time, Cooper was considered playing to a type. Phil isn’t much different to his role in Wedding Crashers. However, for me, I’d only really seen him play the boy-next-door in Alias. He held his own in this and was that wonderful caring jerk.
  • Ed Helms not only has the physical comedy, but he’s able to make Stu likeable whereas someone else could have made him very weak and annoying. Zach Galifianakis plays the character of Alan in a way that I don’t think I appreciated at the time. There’s a real child-like innocence to him and he’s not actually as creepy as I thought ten years ago. He’s also incredibly stupid, which leads to a lot of the film’s humour.
  • The opening is just brilliant. In a tv show, this sort of opening is commonplace, but on the big screen its a refreshing way to open the story and gives us an idea of whats at stake. Its the perfect point to have as an anchor.
  • It is one funny movie. Even those that I know haven’t aged well work because of who is saying them. I haven’t laughed so much at a film in a long time and really has lifted my spirits in this lockdown era. Its a quotable monster of one liners and witty dialogue.
  • The homage to Rain Man is brilliant. Haven’t seen the film, but I know the reference because of how iconic it is. I love that its also tied in with Alan’s mimicry of Phil. Just perfect.

The Bad

  • There is an overuse of homosexual slurs in this movie. The very fact that one was dubbed over for the trailer is very telling. Its not isolated to one character either, which could be reflective of the character. Yes, its a film made a decade ago and things have changed. Doesn’t mean I have to be comfortable with it.
  • In terms of the character Stu, I do wish he’d not asked out Jade. Him leaving the really vile girlfriend is a big win for me and I just want it to be because he wants out and not because he’s too scared to be alone, but now has a fix. I guess on the other hand, it shows how invested I am in the character.

The Ugly

  • I don’t like the police brutality scene. Now, I am also aware i’m watching within a contextual bubble and that right now there are many riots occurring due to police brutality upon black people. As it stands, I didn’t like the performance of the male officer and I most definitely didn’t feel comfortable about how this man was teaching children how to use stun guns and then get them to use them on the leads. I laughed back then and even now, I did have a little chuckle when it comes to bringing down ‘Fat Jesus’. However, the laughter doesn’t last long.

Final Thoughts

Even with its flaws, The Hangover remains one of the best comedy movies I’ve ever seen. Today, it was the antidote I needed for the last 10 weeks of isolation. Not only for the comedy of the film itself, but for the nostalgia of a time I really miss.

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John Wick (2014)

Rating: 15
Length: 1hr 41
Release: 10.4.2015
Director: Chad Stahelshi (David Leitch-uncredited)
About: John Wick, a retired hitman, is forced to return to his old ways after a group of Russian gangsters steal his car and kill a puppy gifted to him by his late wife.


The Good

  • It’s a pretty decent movie that plays on a number of genres in order to make its story work. The action and dialogue keep a decent pace and plays on all the actor’s strengths. It feels like a comic or game come to life. 
  • Reeves, to many, is perfect in the role; bringing his stoic Neo chops to this hit-man revenge chaos. I can see why he, and the franchise, is so successful. I feel a little apathetic to his presence, preferring to see him in Bill & Ted or Speed type roles. But I cannot fault his performance.
  • It’s always a pleasure to have Ian McShane in a film. There’s never much diversity in his delivery, but he’s certainly fun to watch and almost the middle ground to Tim Curry’s ham and Ian Hart’s classically trained performances.

The Bad

  • I found the opening act a little clunky. It felt a bit like the obligatory ‘death of Bruce Wayne’s parents’ scene at the start of EVERY. BATMAN. MOVIE. MADE. However, I feel very detached from the protagonist and I don’t like that I ever get a sense of who he was. Wick feels very flat as a character. 

The Ugly

  • “Just a dog” fuck me, I’ve never ugly cried so much at an action movie in my life, nor have I known a death was as much of a sure thing since Coach died in Rocky. I’m amazed how invested I was in little Daisy considering her screen time. In fact I was more invested in the revenge for her than in the character of John Wick.
  • The score and soundtrack was a little too trance and techno for my liking. It was a little too loud and relied too much on the bass for me to enjoy the film fully.

Final Thoughts

I think it is very telling that I had originally planned to watch the films in a movie night, back to back. I couldn’t bring myself to even put on Chapter 2, let alone watch all three. That said, I am aware that they will be enjoyed by others.

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The River Wild (1994)

Rating  12
Length 1hr 51
Release 24.2.1995
Director Curtis Hanson
About A couple embarks on a rafting holiday with their son. The trip, however, turns into a nightmare when they find themselves battling two violent criminals.


The Good

  • All the actors are perfectly cast in their roles and bring a decent energy to the proceedings. Kevin Bacon does his bad guy thing, Meryl Streep does her leading lady thing and Joe Mazzello does his thing of being the kid in danger with emotional baggage. 
  • The filming is able to present this somewhat difficult story is a decent way. You’re able to follow the plot, feel the tension and the danger without being too lost in the elements. I can’t imagine it was easy to create the variety of shots over river rapids but it certain has a good attempt.

The Bad

  • I hate the addition of the dog. While Maggie contributes some way in terms of the plot, I don’t think it’s enough to justify having her on a dangerous journey. Leave the poor thing with the grandparents.
  • Streep and Bacon’s flirting in front of uptight husband, played by David Stathairn is cringe-worthy and damaging to Streep’s character. That’s not to say I don’t think she wouldn’t flirt, I just felt uncomfortable watching her do it in front of her son and husband. It may have worked a little better had Strathairn’s character not have made it on time to catch the raft and is brought to them later in the day by Benjamin Bratt’s character.

The Ugly

  • The pacing is really off for me. While I did enjoy the opening scenes and it showed the dynamic of the Hartman family, I found the payoff wasn’t worth the effort it took. Did we need to have so many scenes prior to the family setting off?  
  • I found the ‘bad guys’ a little confusing in the sense that it felt so obvious, yet it felt like it was also meant to be a reveal. I’d have perhaps liked to have seen either the conversation between Gail and her Father about his predictions for the robbery or even see the robbery itself. It was rather sloppy and I wouldn’t be surprised if there are a few cut scenes out there that develop that arc a little further.

Final Thoughts

It’s a decent film, but very much of its time. No fault to the performances, but the screenplay feels a little lacking. Still, I’d take this over Hard Rain any day. Plus, Baby Mozzello fresh out of Jurassic Park. You can’t say no to that.

Have you seen The River Wild? What did you think?

Love Han x

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Book Review: Good Girl, Bad Blood by Holly Jackson

Publishers: Electric Monkey
Pages: 432
Book Birthday: 30.4.2020
How I Got It: Bought at 1am, for my Kindle as I couldn’t wait any longer
About: Pip Fitz-Amobi is not a detective anymore.
With the help of Ravi Singh, she released a true-crime podcast about the murder case they solved together last year. The podcast has gone viral, yet Pip insists her investigating days are behind her.
But she will have to break that promise when someone she knows goes missing. Jamie Reynolds has disappeared but the police won’t do anything about it. And if they won’t look for Jamie then Pip will, uncovering more of her town’s dark secrets along the way… and this time EVERYONE is listening.
But will she find him before it’s too late? Perfect for fans of One of Us Is LyingEva Dolan, C L Taylor, We Were Liars and Riverdale


Characters

  • Being a sequel, the characters we met in the first instalment are built upon. Pip, our returning protagonist, not only grows further in this book, she demonstrates elements of PTSD. Her relationship with Ravi blooms, while not overwhelming the story.
  • I love that we get to discover move about Connor and others from the previous book. It actually showed what a wealth of characters Jackson built within her literary world.
  • I did feel that there were behaviours left unexplored and unresolved (I’m not going to say who, as that then may eliminate people from your suspect list). It didn’t leave me unsatisfied, but hoping for another sequel.

Plot

  • The narrative takes on a new case that has few links to Pip’s previous. It perhaps has more callbacks than another crime book may have, however it’s very clear that for Pip, these are personal as much as professional.
  • In fact this book had, for me, all the feels of the beloved Veronica Mars. That was an amazing show that build itself up like a braid; new story, new cases but keeping hold of strands from the past.
  • I loved all the elements within the plot; the court case being resolved alongside this new, missing persons, case. I enjoyed how the adults responded to the ongoings and Pip’s involvement.

Writing

  • Told in the third person, Good Girl, Bad Blood is still a highly emotive story. I connected with Pip and really felt her anger, pain and helplessness. When my reading seems primarily made up of first person, this makes for a refreshing change.
  • I was worried that having a kindle edition would botch up some of the formatting, but it was perfect. It made good use of differing fonts and layouts to differentiate between narrative, audio and journal logs. Its a clever way of presenting the evidence as Pip discovers it and adds, rather than detracts, from the pace.

Final Thoughts

I loved every moment of this book. Had it not been for quarantine and the restlessness that has come with it, I’d have read this in one sitting as I had the first.

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Blog Tour: Pieces of Ourselves by Maggie Harcourt

Author: Maggie Harcourt
Publisher: Usborne
Pages: 448
Book Birthday: 2.4.2020
About: Flora “doesn’t do people”, not since the Incident that led to her leaving school midway through her GCSEs. The Incident that led to her being diagnosed with bipolar II. The Incident that left her in pieces.
Until Hal arrives. He’s researching a story about a missing World War I soldier, and he wants Flora’s help. Flora used to love history before the Incident, but spending so much time with Hal is her worst nightmare.
Yet as they begin to piece together the life of the missing soldier, a life of lost love, secrets and lies, Flora finds a piece of herself falling for Hal.


Review

Characters

Flora is a beautiful and flawed character who took my heart when I first read the sampler last summer. There’s a familiar quality and personality that I identify with as I progressed through the story. She is supported by an incredible team of characters that build up such a charming countryside community and family.
Hal is everything you want in a leading man. He took my breath away in much the same way Mr Darcy does for others. It’s fair to say he is the character that brings us part of the plot, but it is his chemistry with Flora that makes their journey so compelling.

Plot

The story reminds me of one of my favourite mystery tv shows by Hallmark: Signed, Sealed, Delivered. A show that never fails to leave me uplifted and that’s without the added charm of Britishness. In Pieces of Me, Flora is tasked with helping Hal locate and identify the people involved in a story he was told by his Grandfather.
As the two unpack boxes and take time for further research, a clandestine romance unfolds in the letters they find. The progression within the letters means very different things to the people invested and Flora and Hal find themselves drawn to each other in the process.

writing

Harcourt’s writing has and ease and a charm that soothes in a way that a good cup of tea does. It gives you that pause from your life, warms your soul and gives you that does of sweetness you often need.

Final Thoughts

This was everything I needed in a book and at time that I needed it. While we spend so much time inside, there’s nothing better than a book set in the countryside.


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Review: Pretending by Holly Bourne

Description:

He said he was looking for a ‘partner in crime’ which everyone knows is shorthand for ‘a woman who isn’t real’.

April is kind, pretty, and relatively normal – yet she can’t seem to get past date five. Every time she thinks she’s found someone to trust, they reveal themselves to be awful, leaving her heartbroken. And angry.

If only April could be more like Gretel.

Gretel is exactly what men want – she’s a Regular Everyday Manic Pixie Dream Girl Next Door With No Problems.

The problem is, Gretel isn’t real. And April is now claiming to be her.

As soon as April starts ‘being’ Gretel, dating becomes much more fun – especially once she reels in the unsuspecting Joshua.

Finally, April is the one in control, but can she control her own feelings? And as she and Joshua grow closer, how long will she be able to keep pretending?

Review

This was the book I needed to read. Holly Bourne is my Yoda. She always has been, always will be. Bourne’s writing doesn’t sugar coat the realities of life, love and mental health. She doesn’t bog it down and ask you to wallow either. Instead, she makes it the new normal. She makes me the new normal: stronger and more accepting of myself and prepared to fight the things I can.
While the character of April could, in another writer’s hands, feel cringeworthy and ‘unlikable’ Bourne gives the reader the extra character balance and insight to remove the stereotype checklist and make her relatable and someone the reader understands.
Bourne is the Queen of first person narratives. It allows the reader to feasibly relate or, at the very least, empathise. Pretending is no exception and Bourne is able to give a unique voice to the protagonist.
This book charms, educates and opens the reader up to question how relationships impact our identity. It’s not just thrown together either, this is a well researched, sensitively provoking rather than a fashionable theme shoehorned in.
Thank you, Holly Bourne, for constantly breaking ground and being the trailblazer we all need.

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Dispatches From Elsewhere Episode One Review @jasonsegel

Dispatches From Elsewhere

Episode One

This show is special. It’s a show that feels so different, new and bold. Yet I’m not at odds with its high concept. I feel at home and comfortable with all that was thrown at me in the 50 minutes of delightfully weird narrative.

This is a Douglas Adams creation for today. It’s self aware, while keeping the main characters in the dark about how this 10-episode story will unfold.

I’m not going to tell you much about the plot or premise, other than to say it is perfect for those who enjoyed Hitchhikers, Dirk Gently and Pushing Daisies. The episode ends far too soon and will ensure you have an hour a week set aside for this show and in which you won’t even think of checking your phone.

Jason Segel is a welcome sight on the screen, and brings a vulnerability and an ‘everyman’ appeal to the role of Peter. My heart melted with one of the last scenes he was in and the newly acquainted characters said goodbye-for-now.

However, the most important and beautiful aspect of Dispatches is the casting of Eve Lindley as Simone. We have a trans actress, playing a trans character with little to no fanfare. It’s not a gimmick, it’s not a Box-checking ‘aren’t we inclusive’ character. Nicole is … Nicole. She is beautiful, open and there’s a connection between her and Peter that is palpable. Their chemistry is instant. Segel has given us a a character and a relationship that should have been on screen decades ago: one that just ‘is’.

Finally, Richard E Grant. Every single syllable from his mouth are glorious. He grabs your attention from the start and he’ll haunt you between episodes, I promise you that. I don’t trust him, yet I am soothed by him.

Damn, I’m hooked.

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Jurassic Park. Halloween Edition (1993)

Rating: PG

Length: 2hr 8

Release: 15.7.1993

About: In Steven Spielberg’s massive blockbuster, paleontologists Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) and mathematician Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) are among a select group chosen to tour an island theme park populated by dinosaurs created from prehistoric DNA. While the park’s mastermind, billionaire John Hammond (Richard Attenborough), assures everyone that the facility is safe, they find out otherwise when various ferocious predators break free and go on the hunt.


This is no normal review. In fact, it’s possibly not a review at all. Everyone knows this is my all time favourite movie and has been since July 1993 when it set me on my path to geekdom.

It’s a film I’ve watched so often, but I don’t think I’ve ever considered it as a horror, or a film to watch as a lead up to Halloween so the fear factor is never going to be there. I’m too amazed and in all honesty, I want to be there too.

So instead, I’m considering how many tropes and themes that come up in horror movies apply to Jurassic Park. I thought I was on a dud mission, but I was very quickly proven wrong.

Creature Feature

The creature feature is perhaps the most obvious genre this dinosaur disaster fits into. There’s narrative similarities within Jurassic Park and the Creature From the Black Lagoon, a tonal structure that Spielberg brings organically from Jaws and there’s even an audio/visual reference to one of the greatest creature feature: King Kong, just invade you were wondering what they might be keeping on the island. In the same way Black Lagoon has that embedded wonder, Jurassic Park is all smiles until things go very, very wrong.

One key trope from the creature feature (and arguably other horrors) that is seen multiple times is the Scream Queen. Both of our females give their lungs a good airing when found face to face with the prehistoric reptiles and join Faye Wray, Julie Adams and Susan Blackline as Hollywood Hollering Royalty.

Science, Bitches!

Science and playing God is a staple theme in many a horror movie. Frankenstein, The Fly and Jekyll & Hyde all have scientists take on the god-like role of creator. In much the same fashion as the previously mentioned films, the scientists of Ingen fails to understand the true nature of the monster in their captivity and they rebel against the creator.

Of course, this is on a much grander scale so the stakes are higher and the town at risk is bigger. While the revulsion for the monster isn’t present, it’s clear not everyone is happy with the creators.

The Slasher

Hear me out because yes, there’s no Freddy or Michael but some of the rules still apply. I am, of course, talking about the raptors and their story arc.

The fact that we don’t get a sighting of the raptors until the last 20 minutes or so is frightening in itself. All we’ve seen, is their destruction and lethal potential, much in the same way we don’t see the shark in Jaws or the knife break flesh in the infamous ‘shower scene’, our imagination makes quick work of filling in the blanks with scares and blood. The raptors are isolated, imprisoned separately, from the rest of the park. Too dangerous: they indeed claim the film’s largest body count.

Of course, like Michael Myers, when they find freedom the raptors set their sights on human victims which brings us to the glorious stalking kitchen scene. Replace the predatory reptiles with Ghostface and this scene could fit seamlessly into a Scream movie.

I’ll agree that there’s more than one, and there’s no motivation forthcoming but you have to admit, sometimes the explanation sucks and ruins the movie.

The Harbinger of Doom

A trope I only really became familiar with thanks to Cabin in the Woods. A meta horror that calls out all the tropes is perfect education for film.

So, there are two characters that fit the bill of a harbinger within Jurassic Park. The first is Robert Muldoon, who is vocal about the raptors and their dangers. However, the key role goes to Goldblum’s Ian Malcolm. Not only is his entire persona as a theorist of chaos an ideal fit, he has a passionate speech warning Hammond of his companies’ naivety in playing with Science, even going so far as call it ‘rape of the natural world’.

Both Malcolm and Muldoon give us some foresight into the horrors that are to be faced even if, as Malcolm puts it, he ‘hates being right all the time.’

Haunted House

So it’s an island, doesn’t mean the haunted house rules don’t apply. The clear trope that can be seen is the fracturing of the group, repeatedly. Those that do end up on their own; Muldoon, the lawyer and Arnold, die in rather painful and bloody ways.


Now you’ve read this, you may see Jurassic Park in a different way, or maybe you’re like Ian Malcolm and consider it …

Either way, go check it out on Netflix. There it isn’t butchered like a Michael Myer’s victim on Halloween (yup ITV! I’m looking at you)

Han x

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The Fly (1986)

Rating 18

Length 1Hr 36

Release 13.2.1987

About When scientist Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) completes his teleportation device, he decides to test its abilities on himself. Unbeknownst to him, a housefly slips in during the process, leading to a merger of man and insect. Initially, Brundle appears to have undergone a successful teleportation, but the fly’s cells begin to take over his body. As he becomes increasingly fly-like, Brundle’s girlfriend (Geena Davis) is horrified as the person she once loved deteriorates into a monster.


The Good

  • The makeup and visual effects are incredible. Repulsive in some respects, but they certainly stand up to a modern viewing. From Seth’s mottled and sickly looking skin to his complete metamorphosis, it’s compelling and scary to see.
  • Jeff Goldblum and his ticks and twitches in particular. I do wonder if it’s his role here that put him up for consideration in Jurassic Park. There are similarities within the characters and the only difference being; Ian Malcolm would have predicted all this chaos. Goldblum has been long established as a loveable kook for me, that seeing him in this very different role helps bring the horror alive.
  • I love that Seth has a better outline plan of action than a Tory government. Something I thought right before he tells Veronica he wants to be the first insect politician. I giggled way too much at myself for that.
  • John Getz wins me over by the end of the film. I can’t remember what else I’ve seen him in, but the word ‘sleaze’ comes to mind and that’s before you consider the ‘Han’s buddy’ beard he has going on. Sleaze is actually right. He’s a knob to Veronica and I hate him for about two thirds of the movie. However, he really turns it around.

The Bad

  • There’s less Science and more about the relationship between Seth and Veronica. While it certainly makes for a better horror, I personally didn’t care for it.
  • The timeframe seems off, making the relationship seem overly toxic, without the whole spontaneously mutating into a psychotic insect. I know there’s a comment close to the end of the film about how a month has passed, but early on it seems like a day goes past and they’ve gone from bed buddies to an old married couple holidaying to Florida.
  • Not sure how I feel about the narrative commentary of Veronica having to tell Seth about her intended abortion. I know it’s necessary for the cause and effect to lead to the final act, but I’m very uncomfortable with it when he’s shown violent predator behaviour. Without getting bogged down in gender politics, I think it’s fair to say that if you’re beau has become a mutation that vomits over his own food and scared the bejesus out of you, you can wave the ‘conversation’.

  • I can see how the film is interpreted as a commentary of the AIDS crisis, however it is self evident that the commentary is much too broad for this to be the case. It’s a shame, as if they went in with intention, it could have made an excellent theme. That said, we have werewolves for that.

The Ugly

  • The gore was too much for me. Made me physically sick and it’s the first time during this advent I’ve had to look away from the screen.
  • The maggot baby birth! Holy fuck, that was horrific. Perhaps it has more impact on a woman but that was a visual I could have done without.

Final Thoughts

It’s a well made film that had proven my theory that I am indeed a pussy when it comes to gory horrors. It’s like Captain America gone wrong, way way wrong.

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The Fly(1958)

Rating: X

Length:1Hr 34

Release: 31.7.1958

About: When scientist Andre Delambre (Al Hedison) tests his matter transporter on himself, an errant housefly makes its way into the transportation chamber, and things go horribly wrong. As a result, Delambre’s head and arm are now that of the insect. Slowly losing himself to the fly, Delambre turns to his wife, Helene (Patricia Owens), for help. But when tragedy strikes, Delambre’s brother (Vincent Price) and Inspector Charas (Herbert Marshall) are forced to pick up the investigation.


The Good

  • I love the narrative framing that’s used. The anticipation of discovering what happened to her husband then, as time goes on, the wish that you can stop it all from happening.
  • Vincent Price has a presence on the screen. Not one that shines while suppressing others, but a charm and persona that simple commands attention. I look forward to exploring his filmography beyond the few films I’ve seen him in.
  • The effects are brilliant, even for a film made today I’d been happy with what they presented. From the close up flies to the presentation of Andre’s mutation, they all allow you to buy into the situation. The ending, in which we see the mutated fly is an incredible visual.
  • In much the same way The Creature From the Black Lagoon had the historical Science lesson, The Fly contains a commentary about technological progression, playing God and the fear that brings. Science is at the heart of many horrors and it’s the beauty of them. Lack of explanation makes us feel uneasy, so bending or breaking Science to our will is a goal for many. The biggest fear being that it’ll fail. It’s a subconscious fear, but that’s where a horror is better at getting under your skin.

The Bad

  • There’s a scene or two within the flash-back framing that are impossible for the wife to tell, as it contains only Andre or the camera angle presents his view (however amazing that it). Yes, it’s a weak point and not something a viewer would perhaps notice, but I need a bad and I hope this shows the quality of the film if I’m being petty.

The Ugly

  • That poor fucking child! No one tells him his dad is dead, even though the Police are deciding if his mother should be hanged for murder or locked up in the looney bin for her explanation. Actually, he constantly asks when his dad is coming home… maybe he didn’t inherit his father’s genius.

Final Thoughts

An excellent film, but no fear factor due to perhaps knowing the outcome from the start.

Featured

All the Film Reviews in One Place

A

Absolutely Everything (2015)

Aladdin (1992)

Aladdin (2019)

American Made (2017)

American Sniper (2016)

An American Werewolf in London (1981)

Annie (2015)

Arthur Christmas (2011)

Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Avengers: Endgame Spoiler Free (2019)

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

B

Big Hero 6 (2015)

Bird Box (2018)

Birdman (2015)

Blackhat (2015)

Black Panther (2018)

Blade Runner 2049 (2018)

Blade Runner: the Final Cut (1982)

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)

Book Smart (2019)

Bringing Up Baby (1938)

C

Cake (2015)

Capricorn One (1979)

Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Captain Marvel (2019)

Changeland (2019)

Christmas Carol (1951)

Christmas Story, A (1983)

Craft, The (1996)

Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954)

Cure, The (1996)

Curse of Frankenstein, The (1957)

D

Darkest Hour (2017)

Dead Don’t Die, The (2019)

Detective Pikachu (2019)

Dumplin (2018)

Dunkirk (2017)

E

Elf (2003)

Enemy of the State (1998)

Entourage (2015)

Ex Machina (2015)

F

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018)

Fantastic Four (2015)

Fifty Shades of Grey (2015)

Final Portrait (2017)

Fly, The (1958)

Fly, The (1986)

Foxcatcher (2015)

Fred Clause (2007)

Frighteners, The (1996)

Fun Size (2012)

G

Galaxy Quest (1999)

Ghostbusters (1984)

Goodbye Christopher Robin (2017)

Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween (2018)

Greatest Showman, The (2017)

Gremlins (1984) 50

H

Halloween (1978)

Halloween (2007)

Halloween (2018)

Hellboy (2019)

High Lonesome: A Father For Charlie (1995)

Hitman’s Bodyguard (2017)

Hobson’s Choice (1954)

Hocus Pocus (1993)

Holiday Affair (1949)

Hollow, The (2004)

Home (2015)

Home Alone (1990)

Hotel Artemis (2018)

Hotel Transylvania 3 (2018)

Howling III (1987)

I

Incredibles 2, The (2018)

Incredible Hulk, The (2008)

Indian in the Cupboard, The (1995)

Interview, The (2015)

Into the Night (1985)

Into the Woods (2015)

Iron Man (2008)

Iron Man 2 (2010)

I, Tonya (2018)

IT (1990)

IT: Chapter One (2017)

IT: Chapter Two (2019)

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

J

Jaws (1975)

Jungle Book, The (2016)

Jupiter Ascending (2015)

Jurassic Park (1993)

Jurassic Park Halloween Edition (1993)

Jurassic World (2015)

Just Friends (2005)

K

King of Thieves (2018)

XKingsman: The Golden Circle (2017)

Kingsman: Secret Service (2015)

Kitchen, The (2019)

Krampus (2015)

L

Lion King, The (2019)

Little Shop of Horrors, The (1986)

Long Shot (2019)

Love, Actually (2003)

Love, Simon (2018)

M

Magic Mike XXL (2015)

Mama Mia! Here I Go Again (2018)

Mary Poppins Returns (2018)

Meg, The (2018)

Minions (2015)

Mom and Dad (2018)

Mother! (2017)

Mr Smith Goes to Washington (1939)

Mummy, The (2017)

N

National Lamoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

Nativity! (2009)

Nerve (2017) 100

Nightmare Before Christmas, The (1993)

Nightmare on Elm Street, A (1984)

Nightmare on Elm Street, A (2010)

O

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

Overboard (2018)

P

Paddington 2 (2017)

Paper Towns (2015)

Paranorman (2012)

Patti Cakes (2017)

Perfect Date, The (2019)

Pet Sematary (2019)

Please Stand By (2017)

Polar Express, The (2004)

Predator (1987)

Predator, The (2018)

Pretty in Pink (1986)

Q

Queen, The (2006)

Quiet Place, The (2018)

R

Raging Moon, The (1971)

Raising Helen (2004)

Rampage (2018)

Rare Exports (2010)

Ready Player One (2018)

Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993)

Rocket Man (2019)

Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion (1997)

S

Santa Claws (2018)

Scream (1996)

Scrooge (1970)

Scrooged (1988)

Selma (2015)

Shape of Water (2018)

Shazam! (2019)

Sherlock Gnomes (2018)

Silence of the Lambs, The (1991)

Simon Birch (1998)

Skyscraper (2018)

Sleepy Hollow (1999)

Slow West (2015)

Small Soldiers (1998)

Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)

Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)

Spy Who Dumped Me, The (2018)

Stan & Ollie (2018)

Star Trek (2009)

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

Surviving Christmas (2004)

T

Terminator, The (1984)

Terminator: Dark Fate (2019)

Terminator Genisys (2015)

Three Wishes (1995)

Theory of Everything (2015)

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Tomb Raider (2018)

Toy Story (1995)

Toy Story 4 (2019)

Trading Places (1983)

Trapped in Paradise (1994)

Truth or Dare (2018)

U

Undrafted (2016)

V

W

Wedding Ringer, The (2015)

Weekend at Bernie’s (1989)

We’re No Angels (1955)

When We First Met (2018)

Whiplash (2015)

Wild (2015)

Wind River (2017)

Wonder Park (2019)

Wonder Woman (2017)

Wooly Boys, The (2001)

X

X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019)

Y

Yesterday (2019)

Z

Zathura: A Space Adventure (2005)

Featured

Dracula (1958)

Rating: X

Length: 1Hr 22

Release: 22.5.1958

About: On a search for his missing friend Jonathan Harker (John Van Eyssen), vampire hunter Dr. Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) is led to Count Dracula’s (Christopher Lee) castle. Upon arriving, Van Helsing finds an undead Harker in Dracula’s crypt and discovers that the count’s next target is Harker’s ailing fiancée, Lucy Holmwood (Carol Marsh). With the help of her brother, Arthur (Michael Gough), Van Helsing struggles to protect Lucy and put an end to Count Dracula’s parasitic reign of terror.


The good

  • The acting is much better than my past experiences of watching Dracula. Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee provide that familiarity that you’d come to expect of Hammer Horrors. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone else take on Van Helsing in a better way.
  • It took me a while to spot him, but Wayne Manner’s resident butler Michael Gough is an absolute joy to watch as the father of Lucy. It’s at his introduction that the film is a smoother watch and he works very well with Cushing.
  • The defeat of Dracula is quite brilliant, even now. Yes, there was a slight difference in the colouration to the rest of the film, but the physical effects themselves really do stand up. Much better than so CGI counterparts ever could.

The bad

  • I’m unsure as to why Dracula speaks at the start but is reduced to growls and hisses. It does nothing for the narrative and having him speak. It’s not enough to make him disarming and it’s too much to allow him to be fearful.

The ugly

  • I think it might be the Dracula story itself, but I found this rather clunky and slow to gain traction in its lack of protagonist. Or rather, a protagonist who isn’t present from the start. Perhaps framing the film and beginning with Van Helsing receiving Jonathan’s diary. That way we’re with Cushing from the start.

Final Thoughts

A clunky but well acted version of the legendary Dracula that plays a little more like a thriller than a horror.

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A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

Rating: 18

Length: 1Hr 35

Release: 7.5.2010

About: Teenagers Nancy, Quentin, Kris, Jesse and Dean are all neighborhood friends who begin having the same dream of a horribly disfigured man who wears a tattered sweater and a glove made of knives. The man, Freddy Krueger (Jackie Earle Haley), terrorizes them in their dreams, and the only escape is to wake up. But when one of their number dies violently, the friends realize that what happens in the dream world is real, and the only way to stay alive is to stay awake.


The Good

The 2010 offering takes what is an interesting concept, offers a polished script and gives a better explanation to the fate of Freddy and his supernatural motivations.

It’s most definitely a horror. There’s jumps and scares (even those beyond my cat jumping onto me as someone gets the Freddy knives to the chest). The music has some part to play in that, but the biggest sell for the fear factor is how possible some of it seems. Not the whole ‘slasher killing you in your dreams’, but the repression after trauma, sexual predators being brought to vigilante justice by an angry mob.

Krueger is visually better. He looks like a burn victim rather than a jazz hand muppet or Christopher Llyod in Who Framed Rogger Rabbit? While Englund is iconic, time has been unkind to his camp Freddy. Now we have a Krueger that you believe may have been wrongly punished. Not only do his motivations bring fear, every movement is slow, calculated and necessary. It’s the opposite of what the 80s provided and, even ten years on, it scares the crap out of me.

The Bad

Some CGI scenes are bad. I actually reported a ‘trivia’ note on IMDb that stated that GCI was only used when ‘absolutely necessary’ as I believe that to be utter bullshit. The two scenes in which Freddy enters the ‘real world’ through the bedroom walls did not need to be done through CGI. It looks flawless (and creepy) in the 1984 version while the CGI one detracts from the horror.

The Ugly

The final scene that suggests it’s not really all over. It’s not the only film guilty of it, but I am disappointed that in 2010 it’s the only way Hollywood can end a horror movie.

Final thoughts

It’s the best horror remake/reboot I know of and it certainly has the scares you want from a horror. I just wish it would have relied on practical effects over CGI.

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Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954)

Rating: A (hasn’t been reclassified)

Length: 1Hr 19

Release: 9.12.1954

About: Remnants of a mysterious animal have come to light in a remote jungle, and a group of scientists intends to determine if the find is an anomaly or evidence of an undiscovered beast. To accomplish their goal, the scientists (Antonio Moreno, Richard Carlson, Richard Denning, Whit Bissell) must brave the most perilous pieces of land South America has to offer. But the terrain is nothing compared to the danger posed by an otherworldly being that endangers their work and their lives.


The Good

  • How can you not be charmed by this Universal classic? Get past the rather jarring Biblical opening and you’re met with a this incredible set up: a scientific and geological finding that brings together a team. It’s fascinating and almost educational(in a geeky fun way. Like Mr DNA). You feel safe, you’re smiling and maybe you even begin to wonder why this is on a list for Halloween. Plot wise the first half reminds me of Jurassic Park while the second half is King Kong and Jaws.
  • The creature is incredible, on the most part. The person they have in the suit truly brings Gill-Man to life and is able to make moving about in water organic and distinguishable from both David and Mark. I would say in terms of the long shots within the water Gill-Man is as good as modern creature feature man and Starfleet officer, Doug Jones.
  • The musical score provided many of the films cues and impeding ‘scares’. It adds tension and atmosphere to the more chilling parts of the film. It certainly seems to be something that inspired Jaws’ main theme.

The Bad

  • Inconsistency with the character of Mark is a sticking point for me. He’s hell bent on killing, stuffing and mounting the poor creature who’d had his home invaded. Yet within seconds of bludgeoning the bastard, he’s entrusted with taking him to safety. It happens a few too many times, which suggests the characterisations were not the priority. While story is important, I do like a focus on characters.
  • I’m certain it wasn’t the intention, but the one creature hands reaching out for land was repeated a little too often in a short amount of time that it became comical. No… I tell a lie, it was even funny the first time.

The Ugly

  • Now, this is almost unfair. However, I’m finding it hard to put something here that I feel I have to. The creature’s suit was brilliant, almost faultless considering the time and some of the CGI renderings today. However, the only issue I had with it was the eyes. They were so lifeless and fake that they really brought attention to them. Perhaps it might not have been so noticeable had there not been the focus on the movement of the gills which was incredible. Perhaps had they have been painted over with a matt paint they would have worked better.

Final thoughts

A charming film from the vaults that should be spoken about and aired on tv more often. It has clearly inspired a host of modern film makers and I certainly find that fascinating.

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Halloween (1978)

Rating: 18

Length: 1Hr 31

Release: 25.1.1979

About: On a cold Halloween night in 1963, six year old Michael Myers brutally murdered his 17-year-old sister, Judith. He was sentenced and locked away for 15 years. But on October 30, 1978, while being transferred for a court date, a 21-year-old Michael Myers steals a car and escapes Smith’s Grove. He returns to his quiet hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois, where he looks for his next victims.


The Good

  • The filming is atmospheric: from the voyeuristic Michael Myers’ POV shots to the ones that track Michael, have him placed in shot without showing him fully.
  • The music adds to this with that creepy and chilling score.
  • I love that there’s no running really. It’s all sneak attack, up close and often without them expecting it. Largely that seems to do with the fact that it’s all set around the one day.
  • Donald Pleasance having his own storyline away from the survivor is a refreshing change. Having no one believe him is terrifying.

The Bad

  • Laurie is a little bit dumb. Not once, but twice she discards the knife right next to Michael Myers’ body. Okay, first time I’ll let you off. But you know the bastard is good at playing dead, why the fuck would you hand back the knife?!?!

The Ugly

  • What sort of basketball player worthy cameraman did they use for that opening sequence in which Michael, a six year old Michael at that, is given a camera POV shot? Way too tall and it really pulled me out of the scene.
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Halloween (2018)

Rating 18

Length 1Hr 46

Release 19.10.2018

About It’s been 40 years since Laurie Strode survived a vicious attack from crazed killer Michael Myers on Halloween night. Locked up in an institution, Myers manages to escape when his bus transfer goes horribly wrong. Laurie now faces a terrifying showdown when the masked madman returns to Haddonfield, Ill. — but this time, she’s ready for him.


The Good

  • This is a clever continuation of the 1978 film. It nods to the things that made the original the classic that it is, while reworking some tired tropes for not only a modern day audience, but for a Horror fan wishing to see something different.
  • Woohoo! An 18 that doesn’t require the women to die with their breasts out. The theme of chastity being a saving grace has been removed, instead giving us a much more complex and rewarding theme of survivor complex and generational family dynamics.
  • It’s a proper decent script and a great cast. There are two awesome lines within the film and they are supported by two brilliant actors delivering them. There’s a ‘oh Shit’ that feels like one of the most authentic responses I’ve ever seen in a horror movie and there’s a ‘gotcha’ that rings with power that I ended up shouting at the tv.
  • The music and title credits are … well, they’re beautiful. The film opens with the traditional score and a new approach to the visuals. It closes with a modern remix.

The Bad

  • The showdown at the house feels flawed. While it may be seen differently on a repeated viewing, it will spark irritation in some viewers who have been charmed by its smart choices for everything that comes before.

The Ugly

  • While it cuts down, or rather out, the nudity it does not hold back the gore. As a filmic genre Hollywood has moved away from the implied and all but splatters the audience with blood. While it was not something that turns my stomach, I will always find the misdirection of the famous Psycho shower scene much more effective.

Final Thoughts

Fuck me, this is the best of the franchise. However, it won’t truly work in isolation. To really appreciate it as a story, and as a film, you do need to watch the original and, as much as I hate to admit this, watching the 2007 version will also help.

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Halloween (2007)

Rating: 18

Length: 1Hr 49

Release: 28.9.2007

About: Nearly two decades after being committed to a mental institution for killing his stepfather and older sister, Michael Myers (Tyler Mane) breaks out, intent on returning to the town of Haddonfield, Ill. He arrives in his hometown on Halloween with the indomitable purpose of hunting down his younger sister, Laurie (Scout Taylor-Compton). The only thing standing between Michael and a Halloween night of bloody carnage is psychologist Dr. Samuel Loomis (Malcolm McDowell).


The Good

  • Certainly the first half has a great attempt at… being its own film. The filming style and story contains a nod to the original, but it’s definitely meant for a different audience.
  • I guess good on ‘em for not being a Hollywood shithouse and providing the cinema goers with a rated 18 movie. I’d say well done for not being a pussy, but as the rating was probably given for that gratuitous full body shot…. yeah…
  • There’s a solid cast and having Malcolm McDowell as Loomis was a good call. While I can’t say he brings all of his menace and authority from De Large days, he doesn’t bring the ham either.

The Bad

  • While I definitely commend the attempt to add a background to Michael Myers and his violent tendencies, it actually detracts from the horror. Going down the psychological exploration for his pathological behaviour makes sense; he had a shit life and exposed to violence from a young age, of course it manifests. However, one of the scariest parts of the original is that there’s no explanation. We always fear the unknown, so explaining it removes the fear.
  • Laurie is no longer the protagonist. She doesn’t appear until halfway. Spending so much time with Michael stops you from engaging with Laurie and her friends. I care very little for her survival. There’s very few changes at this point other than as babysitter’s, both Laurie and Annie suck.
  • Having Laurie be Michael’s sister was something the original franchise attempted, and failed to bring to fruition so I’m unsure why they would expect it to work here. The biggest sticking point being I don’t get how the bastard knows Laurie is his sister?! If you are going to do it, do it well.

The Ugly

  • The running, the screaming, the deaths. It was all just noise. Loud, obnoxious and game play noise. The two kids being looked after are so annoying and whiney, the viewer will be rooting for Myers and hoping he kills them. Slowly. With a rusty spoon.
  • That multiple, fake-out ending is just overkill. I felt as if nothing short of a nuke was going to stop him and I need some realism to my serial killers.
  • There’s an absolutely unnecessary and violent rape scene which I really could have done without as it verged on the torture porn gore that has become rampant in modern day horror.

Final Thoughts

It’s a film for the over stimulated generation and I checked out way before Laurie Strode made her stage left debut. Myer’s gets a back story no one asked for and runs the risk of the audience connecting with him.

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Halloween Advent Reviews: Fun Size (2012)

Rating: 12a

Length: 1Hr 23

Release: 29.10.2012

About: Wren (Victoria Justice) is a high-school senior who can’t wait to get away from her dysfunctional family. On Halloween, Wren’s mother decides to go out with her much-younger boyfriend, leaving Wren to look after little brother Albert. When Wren is distracted by an invitation to the party of the year, Albert disappears into a sea of trick-or-treaters. Enlisting the aid of her sassy friend, April (Jane Levy), and two other classmates, Wren sets out on a frantic search for her sibling.


The Good

  • Johnny Knoxville does what Johnny Knoxville does best and it works well in this film even if he does seemingly come out of nowhere. He provides some laughs and gives the film a semblance of a plot for the second half.
  • There’s a wonderful scene between the brother and sister towards the end of the film that I actually wish the film had played on a little more. It provides the film with a nice nod to problems kids their age may face.
  • The little kid, Albert, is a wonderful little shit. Being a selective mute is an interesting choice and while it’s not a fully form plot point, it gives him that ‘baby on the run’ persona seen in Baby’s Day Out. His costume is ace and I love the situations he finds himself in.

The Bad

  • It’s not very festive. Which is strange, because every scene is plastered with pumpkins. It lacks a certain tone that seems to be present in a movie about autumn’s favourite holiday.
  • Thomas Middleditch is his Sillicon Valley ‘Richard’ self in this. So much so his character and story is nauseating. That gut feeling of wanting to reach into the film and punch the fuck out of him feels like a regular thing when I see him on screen, but it doesn’t half distract from the film. I’ll leave that to you to decide if it’s a good or bad thing.

The Ugly

  • Can you really call yourself a ‘family fun’ movie when you have more than four pedophile jokes? Imagine if they made another Paddington movie that employs Jimmy Saville jokes and has a Gary Glitter soundtrack and you’ve got this movie. The pedophile jokes range from the tongue in cheek to the out right wrong “hey, what I’m doing is 100% legal” says the Spider-man clad grandpa trick or treating with the kids.
  • Seriously, the film doesn’t really know who it’s audience is. It could have quite easily been a American Pie or Superbad, but instead it’s Ferris Buller by way of Adventures in Babysitting and Baby’s Day Out with weird sex references.
  • The mature humour clashes with the ‘family’ nature the film claims to be going for. From middle aged widow stopping her daughter from going to a party to bone her 26 year old boyfriend, to Wren’s best friend almost killing a cat because she ‘Naired her ass’ and the fumes put the kitty into a coma. Not to mention an oversized robot chicken that humps the back of the car. It’s all just a little much.

Final Thoughts (trick or treat?)

It says it all that Nickelodeon made the film to go on to ban it from being aired on their own channel. The biggest issue is that in terms of it being a film watched in the build up to Halloween, it does not do its job.

It’s a nasty trick and not something I’ll rush to rewatch.

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The Predator (2018) spoilers within

Length: 1Hr 47

Rating: 15

Release: 12.9.2018

About: From the outer reaches of space to the small-town streets of suburbia, the hunt comes home. The universe’s most lethal hunters are stronger, smarter and deadlier than ever before, having genetically upgraded themselves with DNA from other species. When a boy accidentally triggers their return to Earth, only a ragtag crew of ex-soldiers and an evolutionary biologist can prevent the end of the human race.

The Good

  • The gore and horror is on point and I was quite surprised to discover it was rated 15. Even by today’s standards (which have relaxed somewhat) I would have expecting this to gain an 18. It doesn’t hide away from the violence or a body count.
  • The rag tag bunch of misfits really worked for me and I just wish there had been a smoother way to introduce them. I personally would have started the film with Quinn boarding the bus and allow the narrative to play on the ‘crazy’ a little more and also keeping the Predator off the screen a little longer.
  • The humour is low key and actually had me chuckling away at some parts.

The Bad

  • As a movie in of itself, it’s a typical loud and fast alien invasion movie. It, in isolation, is a fair film. However, this is part of a well known franchise. Part of what I loved about that first one was everything you didn’t see.
  • In the same sense, I felt that having subtitles and dialogue from the Predator it detracts from the species being the petrifying badass that I saw as a kid.
  • The CGI in places is really ropey and, again, it removed all of the fear I had when I was watching these creatures fuck shit up. It’s very clear when a person is used and when it’s a CGI monster and it’s all to do with plot which is a shame as the man in the suit is quite impressive.
  • How do you cast Yvonne Strahovski in an action movie and have her play housewife and make her a butt of a gun joke?! Yawn.

The Ugly

  • Did Olivia Munn really have to be starkers, at all, during this movie?! Munn is an awesome actress who I first saw in Aron Sorkin’s the Newsroom, so its rather sad to see her reduced to gratuitous implied nudity and a Mary Sue (soldier/ genome expert/ zoologist/ Tomb Raider fantasy wank material. Delete to make her suit the scene)
  • My biggest gripe of all is the god damn fucking kid. Firstly, why the fuck are you putting him on the spectrum, bring it up multiple times to do absolutely nothing with it?! We’re currently in a time of representation and, when it’s done right, I’m all for it. However, this ham fisted ‘we’re doing it for doing its sake’ shockingly misrepresents people on the spectrum as a ‘Rain Man fits all’. You know how your able to tell it’s an add on? The kid stops his sound sensitivity about 20 minutes in and never does it again. It’s not even like he’s got ‘mad skills’ with the tech. Everything he achieves is the result of what any kid would do: he fucks about with buttons.
  • Secondly, he’s a shit and possibly a sociopath, but let’s just stick with the being a shit. I have never wanted a kid in media to die as much as this one. Like, even Carl in Walking Dead and Dawn from Buffy didn’t step on my last nerve this much. He’s a pussy who cowers at micro-dicks from school but will tell an officer with a gun to go fuck themselves?! Don’t get me started on the fact that he opened someone else’s post! Fucker!

Final Thoughts

I prefer my scares to computer game play style filming. I could see the attempt reclaiming some of what the original had going for it and I loved the gore, but ultimately I prefer my 80s version that scares the crap out of me.

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IT: Chapter Two

Review of Chapter One can be found here.

Rating: 15

Release: 6.9.2019

Length: 2hr 49

About: Defeated by members of the Losers’ Club, the evil clown Pennywise returns 27 years later to terrorize the town of Derry, Maine, once again. Now adults, the childhood friends have long since gone their separate ways. But when people start disappearing, Mike Hanlon calls the others home for one final stand. Damaged by scars from the past, the united Losers must conquer their deepest fears to destroy the shape-shifting Pennywise — now more powerful than ever.

The Good

  • As with Chapter One, the casting is faultless. Not only are the adults perfect in and of themselves, they’re scarily perfect for the grown up versions of the youngsters.
  • Special mention has to go to Bill Hader as Richie. I was so very excited to see him cast and he really did a wonderful job stealing every single scene he’s in. What I love about comedians like Hader is that while people see him as the joker, he’s actually very well equipped to bring the drama. For me, IT has done for Hader what the likes of Awakenings, Insomnia and 24 Hour Photo did for Robin Williams.
  • Jessica Chastain was, certainly in my mind, a risky casting choice. Well, it was certainly one that paid off. She is able to bring us the duality that Sophia Lillis initially presented us with and show a growth of character within Chapter Two.
  • The change in time setting is almost mute when we get the adults. Yes, we’ve lost the nostalgic references but it does make that opening scene a little more haunting. I’m so very glad this scene was kept.
  • I love the ongoing commentary about Bill’s stories not having great endings as perhaps an ironic note to the ending of IT itself. Which also lends itself to the film’s best Easter egg that is one par with a Stan Lee appearance.

The Bad

  • Max Headroom visuals are back and some of the scares intended from Pennywise are lost on me because of this. Again, it’s more the music than the visuals that give me the scares which is a shame as visually, Pennywise is incredible.
  • You have Bill Skarsgård who is exceptional in the role, there’s no doubt about that. There’s a manipulative charm there that festers and creeps under the skin, but everything the actor can build up is scuppered by the CGI and wobbly background that draws your eyes away.

The Ugly

  • The presentation of the interweaving timelines is rather too clunky for me. Unfortunately, due to memory loss being a major plot device I’m not certain there’s another way of making Part Two without the help of the younger counterparts.
  • The film certainly transitioned well between timelines, however I find it treads too much on top familiar ground from Part One. Perhaps if there was overlap of the actors in the previous outing, it wouldn’t stand out so much but I guess we’ll never know.

Final Thoughts

The filmmakers did an incredible job with a difficult source material. It has its faults and probably won’t be something I return to any time soon. However, it is a much-watch for Hader’s performance alone.

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Yesterday (2019) (Spoilers within)

Rating: 12a

Length: 1Hr 52

Release: 28.6.2019

About: Jack Malik is a struggling singer-songwriter in an English seaside town whose dreams of fame are rapidly fading, despite the fierce devotion and support of his childhood best friend, Ellie. After a freak bus accident during a mysterious global blackout, Jack wakes up to discover that The Beatles have never existed. Performing songs by the greatest band in history to a world that has never heard them, Jack becomes on overnight sensation with a little help from his agent.

The Good

  • You couldn’t pick a better band to hang this premise on; the influential foursome have a wonderful back catalogue to interweave throughout the film.
  • Game of Thrones and Plebs alumni Joel Fry is a wonderful addition to the plot. He provides a big chunk of the humour and he played off everyone really well.
  • There is one scene that truly was incredible and I won’t lie, I watched it with a tear in my eye. Towards the end of the film, we come face to face with the one bitter sweet reality of The Beatles never forming: John Lennon has survived. We should have spent way more time here than we did. In fact, I’d have taken a whole film in which Jack Malik sits and has cups of tea with an 70-odd year old John Lennon. He’s portrayed flawlessly by the amazing Robert Carlyle.

The Bad

  • It’s not often I have a bad word to say about Kate McKinnon. Actually, scrap that, I’ve never said a bad word against the SNL comedian. However, she was grossly miscast in Yesterday. McKinnon’s Debra Hammer seems more like a SNL lampoon than an actual character. She’s a walking stereotype and she could have done so much better.
  • Did you REALLY have to make the first recorded song of a TEACHER be ‘I Saw Her Standing There’, in which the first line is ‘well, she was just seventeen’?!?! Let’s just put him on the sex offenders list shall we?
  • The trip to Liverpool was so unbelievably lip service that it was almost offensive. It was the bit I was looking forward to most, but it didn’t deliver.

The Ugly

  • It’s devoid of almost all the charm of a Richard Curtis film. There’s no chemistry between the two leads and the resolution falls very flat. There’s no method to the items, bands and popular culture that’s erased from history by the Beatles not existing. There’s a tangible link for the popularity of Coca Cola in the UK, but the others seem like weird choices.
  • Some would say it’s brave to have the film not return back to the status quo at the end. It’s a cute ending that is provided, but it’s far from fulfilling or satisfying. It also makes the protagonist a bit of dick for not even trying.

Final Thoughts

There’s not enough sweet to offset the bitter and it doesn’t really ever get to the heart of what makes the Beatles great.

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Book Review: The Deathless Girls by Kiran Milwood Hargrave

Publisher: Orion

Release date: 19.9.19

About: Gothic, intoxicating, feminist and romantic – this is the breathtakingly imagined untold story of the brides of Dracula, by bestselling author Kiran Millwood Hargrave in her much-anticipated YA debut.

They say the thirst of blood is like a madness – they must sate it. Even with their own kin.

On the eve of her divining, the day she’ll discover her fate, seventeen-year-old Lil and her twin sister Kizzy are captured and enslaved by the cruel Boyar Valcar, taken far away from their beloved traveller community. 

Forced to work in the harsh and unwelcoming castle kitchens, Lil is comforted when she meets Mira, a fellow slave who she feels drawn to in a way she doesn’t understand. But she also learns about the Dragon, a mysterious and terrifying figure of myth and legend who takes girls as gifts. 

They may not have had their divining day, but the girls will still discover their fate…

The Deathless Girls is exquisitely written, as we have come to expect from Millwood Hargrave, but it is also riveting, intoxicating, and utterly unputdownable.” – Louise O’Neill

Copy: Netgalley

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This is the book that will inject new life into the vampire novel. It’s so beautifully written that I had to stop hi-lighting text on my ecopy. It’s style and voice gives you a rich experience as life as a servant/slave.

There is scope for a sequel, but ends in such a fulfilling and satisfying way that it isn’t needed. It’s perfect for anyone wanting to dip their toes into historical fantasy.

TW:

– there is a scene of attempted rape and allusions to an almost sex slave lifestyle.

– a descriptive scene of genitalia examination in relation to sex slavery and sex trafficking.

For me, I felt it was well handled without being gratuitous and historically accurate, however it may trigger other people.

This is a short review, but hopefully it has everything you need to make you want to read this stunning book.

Love Han x

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Why So Triggered? (aka why Karen Gregory’s I Hold Your Heart and Holly Bourne’s The Places I’ve Cried in Public are important novels)

This post has remained unpublished for a year. Last year it was about writing down my fears and thoughts that lead to panic attacks and never ending tears.

Now, I’m stronger. Now, thanks to Karen Gregory and Holly Bourne, I am able to quieten that voice that told me it was all my fault….

22nd July 2018

I’ve just finished work for 6 weeks, I should be so unbelievably happy right? Instead of feeling the chill, I’m more anxious than ever.

Upon returning home from an amazing hen do, I found myself amid one of my worst panic attacks in a long while. My route home was closed and it was suggested that I simply get the Piccadilly line.

Simply!

Only, there’s nothing simple when it comes to taking the Piccadilly line from central London. You see, Dick lives on the Piccadilly line. Not only that, but Dick’s ex lives on the Piccadilly line. Pray, how’d you know that?! Well Dick pointed out the very flat they shared on one of his ‘you’ll never be as good as her’ power trips. ‘I pay for it’ he informed me, like I’d care… right before I was made to pay for dinner ‘because you don’t deserve my money as much as her’.

The very thought of bumping into either of them not only has my breathing out of whack, it pulls out my soul and pushes me to the brink of what I’d imagine death would feel like. I’ve been painted the monster in her story and I’m not inclined to put her right. She wants someone to hate so she gets to keep Dick in her life. More fool her; he’s a narcissist who I met on a dating site. I didn’t steal him; according to his profile he was single and had been for a long time. This was a man who told me he wanted to pick a place close to me so moving in together would be easy; long before he told me that they’d still been together when we first met and there was overlap. Not only of me, but of a woman he cancelled our first date for (telling me he had to go see his dad) because he was garenteed sex with her and not with me. (That, was not the issue. The issue was him telling me he was out of town at his family home instead of being honest)

I have PTSD and the distance doesn’t help. It’s easier than ever to convince myself I was the one in the wrong. That I’d been ‘obsessed’ as he’d put it the last time I saw him; erasing the fact that he said he loved me first, that he’d never felt this way about anyone and that he’d covered up the fact that he was screwing 3 other women and had been since way before me and only told me because it was the only way to explain the fact that he couldn’t be my boyfriend. (Despite him asking, not me, and changing his mind without telling me three days later)

It’s a horrible thing to say, but I wish his abuse had been physical… this psychological torture he put me through, cutting me off from everyone I knew and manipulating me to the point of explosion, to then scream and shout at me for ‘over reacting’… I don’t know if those scars will ever heal.

I can’t face YALC on the off chance she’ll be there. I don’t go to signings any more because I feel she ‘deserves’ them more than me and i can’t go to Hammersmith without preparing myself for days in bed afterwards because I’m prettified I’ll bump into him.

It hurts but I feel like she has to come first. Clearly she got Richard, while I got Dick. I reached out thinking she’d understand. Oh how I needed someone to understand and tell me there was life beyond Dick. She’d met someone else and moved on; I experienced ‘depression Dick’ for a month to prove it. I just … well, I wanted to know her for her (having to hear about her everyday, you kind of get to know a person and, in all honesty?! She sounded fucking awesome and someone I’d get along with. Dick actually hated that. He hated that I respected her and actually took her side when he went on a rant about her having a boyfriend) but I think she thought it was to keep my ‘claws’ in Dick.

Sorry kiddos, but when a bloke has you in your FAVOURITE restaurant and tells you he’s considering making the girl you were told ‘wasn’t an issue’ his girlfriend, that in comparison you’re ordinary and recounts her sexual preferences (certain things he’d denied you when you asked) that he is happy to do this act because ‘he’s in love’ in a bid to make you react … you don’t want to keep in touch. You want your memory bleached of him. The ONLY thing you wanted was; the feeling of safety and belonging within a community and I was hoping I could avoid a Dick smear campaign (Dick had banned me from attending the 2017 YALC because she would be there so I feared …)

That’s where it ends. I considered finishing that sentence, but whatever I put now won’t be right.

I’m also aware, having had the woman my first boyfriend left me for 10 years ago lurk on my Insta Stories for almost two weeks, perhaps trying to befriend the exes ex was the brightest of moves. It was weird, stupid and not something I would normally do.

  • I Hold Your Heart by Karen Gregory is out now
  • The Places I’ve Cried in Public by Holly Bourne is out 3rd October 2019 but samplers and the chance to win a proof will be up for grabs at this year’s YALC.

YALC 2019

I will not be attending YALC this year. However, this is more about the fact that I’ve returned to Liverpool to care for my father than PTSD triggered anxiety. Plus, for all the books, photo ops and autographs I’d be wanting… I’d need a lotto win to accommodate. Nah… I’m going to spend next weekend curled up on the couch in the room next door to dad and reading my eyes out.

I will be missing some amazing people. Some wonderful women within the world of YA. I have found my people and I love them dearly.

Love Han x

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Wooly Boys (2001)

Length: 1Hr 39

Rating: PG

Release: 7.10.2001 (no UK release)

About: Two ranchers (Peter Fonda, Kris Kristofferson) from North Dakota find adventure in Minneapolis after one goes to visit his only daughter.

The Good

  • Kris Kristoffersen and Peter Fonda are names that I’ve always known, however I’m not certain I’ve seen either in anything. They are a brilliant double act from the get go. These are veteran actors doing what they do best and I’m certainly going to be checking out their back catalogues over the coming months. I’m guessing from Kristofferson’s staring role in A Star is Born, he was the Bradley Cooper of the day.
  • It’s hard to make a film in the West and not be a cowboy movie. I’m quite happy that it was able to move beyond the tropes and give a fresh look at modern ranch life.
  • The humour, music and plotting are all sound and give the audience a family film with heart, charm and hope.

The Bad

  • Joe Mazzello’s rare appearance as a teen only appears in the bad because his awesome performance only makes me wish that he’d taken on a few more roles at the time. He’s acting against Fonda and Kristofferson for Christ sake. Lesser actors would have been swallowed whole. Not Mazzello, he not only brings an excellent performance, but is able to create believable and heartfelt relationships with the two men.
  • I’m a bit gutted about the fact that these two Wooly Boys weren’t the original Brokeback. There was a love between them, there’s no denying that, but I’d have love it to have been developed and more overtly romantic rather than platonic. Perhaps even have this as the cause of the rift between father and daughter. Although I can see that perhaps adding a little bitterness to the proceedings. Something it didn’t really need.

The Ugly

  • This film hit me a little too hard in the feels. I know all too well about the man of little words and the rift it can cause. While it’s a sweet film, it weighed a little too heavy for me to be enjoyable.
  • Animal death. It’s the one thing I can’t really deal with in my films and if I was in a position the cry, there’s a scene that would have had me bawling.

Final Thoughts

It’s a well made, expertly acted family drama that feels a little more like a TV movie by today’s standards.

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Film Review: Please Stand By (2017)

Length: 1hr 33
Rating: 12
Release: 26.1.2018 (but is considered a 2017 film due to having its premire on 27.10.2018)
About: Wendy sees things differently: she’s fiercely independent, with a brilliant mind and a mischievous sense of hilarity. Wendy also has autism. To her, people are an indecipherable code and the world is a confusing place. Inspired by her no-nonsense caregiver, Wendy comes of age and escapes from her care home on the road trip of a lifetime to deliver her 500-page script to a screenwriting competition.

The Good

  • Dakota Fanning is wonderful in the part of Wendy, a woman on the spectrum trying to enter a script writing contest. Fanning will be able to demonstrate a detachment from her own emotions while filling you with all of the emotions.
  • Alice Eve and Toni Collette are amazing support. Eve’s role as the sister infuriated me at first, but over the course of the film I felt I had more of an understanding of the position she was in. It is through both characters that you really get an understanding of the specific challenges Wendy faces.
  • Patton Oswalt can do no wrong. He’s an absolute star in this film’s final act. His ability to connect with Wendy will give you the biggest smile and reduce you to tears of joy.

The Bad

While the film’s plot is centered around Star Trek, I’d had loved to have seen more Easter Eggs beyond casting Alive Eve as the sister. It’s a viewer expectation, but it was Trek that caught my attention and I kind of expected to see a few familiar faces along the road.


The Ugly

It felt a little like it was a film about autism rather than it being a film about a character that just so happens to be on the spectrum. It might seem like a petty thing, but its much the same way films with gay central characters have their ‘coming out’ be the focus of the plot.
It makes autism seem like something that needs to be taught, that its a new phenomenon that people need to be held by the hand when exploring. Yes, films like this have the power to inform and educate, but its more important mission is to ensure people on the spectrum have someone to look to. Its as much their film as any others.


Final Thoughts

It’s cute, geeky and will make you cry. Even though it was light on its Trek, I still enjoyed the journey. Not something I’ll rush to rewatch, but I’m glad I caught it before it left Now TV.

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Film Review: X-Men Dark Phoenix (2019)

Length: 1 hr 53

Rating: 12a

Release: 5.6.2019

About: This is the story of one of the X-Men’s most beloved characters, Jean Grey, as she evolves into the iconic DARK PHOENIX. During a life-threatening rescue mission in space, Jean is hit by a cosmic force that transforms her into one of the most powerful mutants of all. Wrestling with this increasingly unstable power as well as her own personal demons, Jean spirals out of control, tearing the X-Men family apart and threatening to destroy the very fabric of our planet. The film is the most intense and emotional X-Men movie ever made. It is the culmination of 20 years of X-Men movies, as the family of mutants that we’ve come to know and love must face their most devastating enemy yet — one of their own.

The Good

  • It was an interesting, low key change of pace from the all out action of Avengers Endgame. The drama really takes centre stage and while it wasn’t exactly well executed, it still packed a punch.
  • It was well paced and the Mutant elements are brilliant. The human impact is almost sidelined in order to break the relationship between the X-Men and POTUS. I would have liked that to have been further developed.

The Bad

  • There are a few sketchy sections of CGI in the final showdown. I think I’ve become a bit of a snob, but it does take me out of the moment.
  • Jessica Chastain bugged the hell out of me. I can’t put my finger on why, but for all the mouthing off about human’s being weak, I felt like I could take her out with a well aimed fart. There was no threat. There was no jeopardy.
  • Sophie Turner, while giving a solid effort, is not leading lady material in this sort of film. While she didn’t make me want to tear my own eyes out much like her portrayal of Sansa did, I didn’t feel won over by this performance.
  • If Evan Peters has gained the franchise some amazing reviews in the past, why relegate him to one liners?! I don’t get it. While I was very much over the musical CGI slow mo scenes, I needed more interaction with him.
  • J-Law can act, we know she can, she got the Oscar to prove it. So why couldn’t she act like she wanted to be there? She was not Raven in this film, she was J-Law being J-Law. It’s a shame as bringing her A-game would have really brought some emotion to the film.

The Ugly

  • The biggest flaw lies not necessarily at the feet of this film, but the franchise. As a viewer, I see this section, that began with First Class, and the Stewart/McKellan helmed trilogy one and the same universe. So, my problem is continuity. By the end of this film we should have been all set up and ready to meet Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine. Only this film introduces a timeline, without spoiling the fate of the characters, that makes the next set of films impossible.
  • Perhaps, then, the biggest problem is that it was essentially a reboot of the Last Stand. Of all the comic incarnations of X-Men, why Fox thought their final film was best being a rehash of a badly received film is beyond me.

Final Thoughts

After such a good film with Booksmart, this feels a little like a franchise killer. So much so that I swerved my third film of the day in fear that it also would be a redundant edition to its franchise (MiB).

It’s a better watch than Last Stand when you consider it in isolation. However, bring in all of the other films and this plays so fast and lose with the laws of franchise continuity, you’d swear Rhian Johnson was behind this outing.

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Booksmart (2019)

Length: 1 hr 42

Rating: 15

Release: 27.5.2019

About: Academic overachievers Amy and Molly thought keeping their noses to the grindstone gave them a leg up on their high school peers. But on the eve of graduation, the best friends suddenly realize that they may have missed out on the special moments of their teenage years. Determined to make up for lost time, the girls decide to cram four years of not-to-be missed fun into one night — a chaotic adventure that no amount of book smarts could prepare them for.

The Good

  • Last Man Standing’s Kaitlyn Denver is her awesome self in this coming of age drama. Her development throughout the film will charm you and have you wondering where she was when you were in high school. The emotion she brings to the film final act is something you have to see. I predict we’ll be seeing Dever in main stream films very soon.
  • The film on a whole is quite possibly one of the best teen films I’ve seen in a very long time. It’s done away with the fixed stereotypes as much as possible and it certainly has representation and inclusivity bang on the nose. What is most surprising, is that the malice of high school is removed. We have no ‘Carrie’ style humiliation for the outsider.
  • Skylar Gisondo is, as always, a delight to have in a film. He’s shed the loser geek status of ‘Vacation’ but retained the vulnerable quality. It makes for an interesting character you’ll really care for.
  • The scene stealer of the film has to go to Billie Lourd. She’s everything like her mother, and more. I’ll say nothing more; she has to be seen to be believed.
  • It was refreshing to have the American Pie type topics (read: porn, masterbation and performance fears) from a female perspective. It gives a positive and empowering message regarding sex to women. Something I’ve not really seen outside of Sex and the City.

The Bad and The Ugly

I am sick of the teacher trope. Fuck me, I’m so tired of it. In an age where we’re calling out the Weinstein’s of the world and demanding diversity and equality, I want Hollywood to kill the social acceptance of a teacher fucking a student in a movie and there being no consequence. As someone who left the profession recently, you are not doing us any favours Hollywood. You’re rose tinting the fuck out of statutory rape and a gross misuse of power, and its not cool. In fact, you’re making it easier for predators because you’re not only telling kids that it can happen but you’re telling them to embrace it, when in fact you should be telling them to run!

It’s pretty much the only thing I didn’t like, but it really sucks.

Final Thoughts

It’s an excellent indie film that pushes all the boundaries that have been set over the past decade or so and needs to be seen by everyone. Gone is the belter soundtrack you’ll be racing to buy, the tour of the cafeteria with all the cliques and its all for the better.

It’s not a family time watch, but its uplifting, inspiring and empowering.

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Blog Tour: My Secret Lies With You’s Faye Bird shares her favourite mysteries

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead.

A genuinely intriguing book with an entirely punchy style – we don’t feel a pervasive darkness here, as is often the case with mysteries. What hooks us in is the voice of main character Miranda and a desire to find out the truth of the strange happenings around her. And there are plenty of those. The book is full of surprise and oddity, but Rebecca Stead’s pithy, sharp, upbeat tone pulls us along with wonderfully short hooky chapters so that nothing about this book feels too contrived or drawn out. The plot feels complex enough to make the reader work, but the narrative style so compelling that you find yourself simply being happily taken along for the ride. You wait for everything to be laid out for you at the end, and you aren’t disappointed. There are some beautifully economic, well-judged descriptions – Miranda’s Mum’s boyfriend Richard is described as “…the way I picture guys on sailboats – tall, blond and very tucked in, even on weekends.” Brilliant. There’s a lovely description, which we return to, about seeing the world. Miranda’s mum says we all see it as if from under a veil. If we take off the veil and peek out we “…see all the beauty, and cruelty, and sadness, and love.” Miranda goes on to explain that her Mum uses this not to explain God or angels or magic but rather that “…most of the time people get distracted by little stuff and ignore the big stuff.” This is how we survive. The New York setting sits perfectly with the tone, and once you read the book you won’t be surprised to learn that Rebecca Stead has talked openly about her huge debt in writing this novel to Madeleine Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. When You Reach Me is a quirky upbeat novel that beautifully encapsulates the quote at the start: “The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious.” Albert Einstein, The World As I See It (1931). If you haven’t read it already, then certainly a recommendation from me.

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High Lonesome: A Father for Charlie (1995)

Length: 1Hr 27

Release: 1.1.1995

Rating: 12

About: Based on a true story. A poor black sharecropper strikes up an unlikely friendship with a hostile young white boy – but their budding friendship is threatened by a brutal red-neck sheriff.

The Good

  • The story is able to be told in a realistic and gritty way without an overuse of offensive language. It was my biggest worry going into the film as it pains me to see and hear the mistreatment of people, especially in regards to something they have no control over.
  • The story is important. The only thing that upsets me, is how important the message still is today. The blind and learned hatred, not only from Charlie, but the entire town is something that is still in society today. Having Osgood’s actions and kindness change the views of a child is one thing, but there’s an unexpected ally to be found by the film’s closing scenes.
  • The gravitas in which Louis Gossett Jr holds himself throughout the film as the sole man of colour, Walter Osgood, is incredibly moving. There are many scenes in which Gossett Jnr is conversing with his wife’s grave stone. He holds the viewers attention effortlessly. I’d watch him in anything, and I’m quite surprised I’m unfamiliar with his name.
  • Joe Mazzello’s portrayal of Charlie is quite possibly one of his best. His accent is solid and he is able to present a head strong young boy who has been neglected by the one person he needed. How someone at 12 years old, with no academic training, can act the shit out of a complex character is beyond me. His scene with the Sheriff ( the ever brilliant William Fichtner), in which he bluffs about his relationship with Walter will have your heart in your mouth.
  • At the heart of this movie is the relationship between Charlie and Walter. It only works because of the two actors you have in the roles. The chemistry of the two is believable and charming; the frosty learned behaviour melts so easily with just a little bit of kindness. Not many actors of Mazzello’s age could bring the conceited innocence, vulnerability and ‘old soul’ charm to the role.

The Bad

I’ve never liked the presence of the KKK within films. It’s a personal thing that breaks my heart and keeps me agnostic; how can an organisation perform such horrific acts and claim to be religious?! Scenes that subtly and overtly express their actions and views make for this to be a rather difficult and uncomfortable watch.

The Ugly

The music is really the only big giveaway that this period film is in fact a TV movie. I want to rescore the whole film as I found the light and, at times, humorous tone a little jarring in contrast to the narratives subject content.

Final Thoughts

It is a well made, superbly acted film. It’s not going to be a film I watch often as there are scenes that upset me greatly, however it is certainly a good film to watch in order to put the treatment of people of colour into context.

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Small Soldiers (1998)

Length: 1Hr 48

Rating: PG

Release date: 23rd October 1998 (interestingly, I saw it 24th December 1998. I’m not certain a film like this would survive that long at the cinemas today)

About: When teenager Alan (Gregory Smith) buys a set of Commando Elite action figures, he’s unaware that they have been programmed with military technology. The toys, including leader Chip (Tommy Lee Jones), spring to life and start taking their directives seriously, beginning by “killing” their enemies, the toy Gorgonites. But Archer (Frank Langella) and the Gorgonites won’t go down without a fight. Alan gets caught in the middle of the war, as does his neighbor and crush, Christy (Kirsten Dunst).

First Thoughts

This was a film I saw with my brother Christmas Eve 1998. It sticks out in my memory as one of my favourite and best cinema experiences. Not to sat that the film is the best or my favourite, however over time it’s certainly been a go to movie.

The Good

  • It’s got a solid good versus evil plot with the Commando Elite and the Gorgonites. I especially love the casting of actors from The Dirty Dozen and Spinal Tap to play the warring groups.
  • The teens thrown into a world where they have to fend for themselves is a theme Joe Dante works well with. I don’t know if it’s because I was a teen myself when I first saw this, but I think I relate much more to this than Gremlins.
  • I will always love the line about Spice Girls being used as psychological warfare. In 1998, the Spice Girls had not only saturated the market and tormented parents all around the world, but they were close to saying ‘goodbye, my friend.’ I think I was offended at the time, but I have a chuckle.
  • I love the Geendy Doll revolt with Christina Ricci and Sarah Michelle Gellar torturing Kirsten Dunst. While in Toy Story, it’s disturbing here I just find it awesome.
  • On the most part, the CGI is okay. You can sometimes tell between the puppetry and the graphics, but it’s still better than some of the shoddy CGI that is in place in today’s movies.
  • Hi, I’m Phil Hartman. You may recognise me and my voice from films like Jingle All the Way and the tv show The Simpson’s. Yup, that’s right, Springfield’s own Troy McClure takes on the role of Christy’s self centred father. Sadly, Hartman was tragically killed shortly before the film’s release. While the character does seem like the ever present archetype from Dante’s back catalogue (Murray in Gremlins, Rumsfeld in The ‘Burbs) Hartman does make it so much his own that you will be forgiven for not making the connection the first time you watch.

The Bad

As much as I think Gregory Smith does a fine job as Alan, and he certainly works well alongside the CGI leader of the Gorgonites… why would I want him if I could have had my favourite actor at the time (and now). Learning that the studio’s/Joe Dante’s first choice for Alan-Now-Shut-Up was Joe Mazzello is a little bittersweet.

What Joe looked like the year Small Soldiers was filmed

The Ugly

Perhaps it’s the fact that it is a little too similar to Gremlins. It’s the Jurassic Park to Gremlins’ West World. It feels a little been there watched that. When you strip in down, all its parts are gained from previous work. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that but for it to work, it has to be better. For me, without Dante’s wild child Corey Feldman taking up some screen time, it will NEVER be better.

Final Thoughts

It’s a decent way to burn an hour or so. It’s not flawless, but it is fun and certain provides a case that Joe Dante is a main stream auteur or a one-trick pony. Something I’m hoping to explore in the upcoming weeks by having a Dante retrospective.

Do you know your Dante?

What’s your favourite creation of his?

Han x

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Movie Review: Dunkirk (2017)

Length: 1Hr 46

Rating: 12a

Release: 21st July 2017

About:In May 1940, Germany advanced into France, trapping Allied troops on the beaches of Dunkirk. Under air and ground cover from British and French forces, troops were slowly and methodically evacuated from the beach using every serviceable naval and civilian vessel that could be found. At the end of this heroic mission, 330,000 French, British, Belgian and Dutch soldiers were safely evacuated.

The Good

For me, this has the feel and style of Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan with an excellent stock of known and unknown British actors. For a War movie, I don’t think you can ask more than that.

Both Mark Rylance and Kenneth Branagh really are amazing in their roles. Neither is a stranger to stoic roles which is clear from their performances.

I actually found the lack of action in the form of on the ground battles quite refreshing and offered something completely different from films that have come before it.

Again, I feel as if this film wasn’t sugar coating war and laid some of the truths out there. While it’s very much a work of artistic licence, there are elements of truth to ensure this isn’t propaganda or censored sudo-history.

The Bad

I struggled with the time framing of the three elements: the land, sea and air. From about half way, there were people (Cillian Murphy being one) who doubled up in the narrative. While with Murphy, it acted almost like a flash back, other scenes didn’t quite work as well and it felt disjointed. I found it particularly difficult with Tom Hardy’s narrative as we’d cut from the grounded pilot and reaction shot to Tom Hardy and the same grounded pilot up in the air.

I didn’t invest in any of the characters other than the family on the Moonstone. They all seemed like a representation of ‘soldiers’ than individuals. For a character driven plot, I really need to be invested and certainly with our teen, Tommy, I needed conviction.

Not addressing Gibson’s mute nature sooner I found a bit distressing. I called it the moment we discover him burying an bootless foot. Perhaps I’m still too in the head of E B Sledge, but challenge him Tommy!! While it’s evident later that he’s not the enemy, the audience don’t know that.

The Ugly

For the first time, I’m not certain Hans Zimmer’s score complimented what was on the screen. Yes, it was tense. So tense in fact that three times I had to pause the film and take a break. However, there was either an instrument, chord or tone that was too reminiscent of Tron and Daft Punk’s electro pulses to gel with a period piece. (Clearly the two Oscar’s Dunkirk won for sound would imply I’m talking utter bollocks. However, I will stand by my opinion and state that I didn’t like it)

Love Han x

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Book Review : With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa by E B Sledge

The Pacific miniseries from HBO was a challenge for me to watch. I found it enlightening, distressing and heartbreaking. Out of the three men The Pacific followed, Eugene Sledge was the one I had the most questions about, particularly after his conversation with Robert Lecke about faith.

I contacted the one person I figured would have an answer to my question: did Sledge’s bitterness and experience of war have an impact on his faith?

I fully intended to buy Sledge’s memoir anyway, but I was quite surprised when I got a thoughtful response telling me that the war reinforced his faith and that there was something important that didn’t make it into the show. Cue me purchasing a copy for my Kindle there and then and devouring the first 20%.

Having spent so many years of my career developing lessons to explain why a religious person is a consciences objector and the reasons why religions disagree with war. So my main motivation for reading was to see Sledge’s religious commentary and thoughts throughout the war. I always considered them being at odds with each other; either being the cause of a conflict or the reason for someone to avoid the fight.

Sledge’s voice is the most prominent feature of this 300 paged memoir. From his enlistment to the island clean ups, Sledge gives a stark and honest retelling of his experiences. It’s written in such a way that I’m surprised it’s not a book already on high school recommended reading lists; it’s written with sincerity and as a reader you will instantly respect the veteran marine who could have had a much easier life.

It’s by no means an entertaining or an escape read, but it is rewarding as much as it is difficult and something I will come back to in the future. There’s so much to be learnt from Sledge; engrained hatred and prejudice, politics and spirituality. Never have I seen such an open commentary that doesn’t expect anything of you as a reader. Well, at least it didn’t feel like that. The only censoring he did was on the parts of other people.

The description of the horror, brutality and casualties will haunt you. No film or video game will prepare you for the sights, smells and sensations.

The commentary of Sledge’s faith is there enough to understand that it’s something of an intimate experience for him. There’s definitely a sense that there’s more than he says, but you certainly can tell he had a deep rooted bond with his religion. It’ll be something that readers won’t need to read too much into, should it not be an important theme to explore. However, there were two lines that said more to me than the rest of the book. Having a religious experience (not that he names it this in the book) and when he describes having it is very telling. It’s something I’d have loved to have sat down and spoken to him about if he was so inclined.

In terms of the print itself, I would advise against an ecopy given the number of references that are all complied at the end of each chapter. There is the benefit of changing the font size, but not having the notes closer to the passage in question does lose the flow and I found in this case, having a physical copy of the book benefitted me greatly.

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Film Review: Simon Birch (1998)

Length: 1hr 54

Rating: PG

Release: 25th June 1999

About: Simon Birch (Ian Michael Smith) and Joe Wenteworth (Joseph Mazzello) are boys who have a reputation for being oddballs. Joe never knew his father, and his mother, Rebecca (Ashley Judd), is keeping her lips sealed, no matter how much he protests. Simon, meanwhile, is an 11-year-old dwarf whose outsize personality belies his small stature. Indeed, he often assails the local reverend (David Strathairn) with thorny theological questions and joins Joe on his quest to find his biological father.

The Good

  • The plot- memoir meets mystery. Has the Stand by Me vibe that was popular in the 90s. Nothing says Sunday afternoon movie more than a 1950’s nostalgic flash back with a calming ‘Wonder Years’ narration.
  • Jim Carey as the older Joe/narrator really works. He has a beautiful voice that really carries the memoir tone. Something that really surprises me seeing as the last thing I saw him in was Earth Girls Are Easy.
  • Oliver Platt is somewhat of an underrated actor in my opinion. This film is a perfect example of what a rich performance he can bring to the table and how he is able to balance humour, charm and charisma. He could not have been in this move enough.
  • Joe Mazzello and Ian Michael Smith Have this amazing chemistry throughout the film that I want so many movies with the two of them. Joe always seems comfortable within the 50s and this film sees him give some of his most powerful scenes I’ve ever had the privilege to see. From standing up to Simon’s excuse for a father to his response to the ‘lefty’ reveal, Mazzello gives emotion by the bucket load. It’s hard not to see the parallels with Three Wishes, but watch them in close succession and you can see how much stronger a person in a similar circumstance can be so different with a true best friend to escape with. Less brat and more of a level head makes Joe of Birch a favourite character of mine.
  • Ian Michael Smith gives the most incredible performance. I hate the response of the adults, including those within the church. He is a beautiful and caring child, despite the discouragement he experiences. There’s a cheeky side to the character that makes this film such a joy to watch despite the bittersweet ending you know is coming.

The Bad

  • I’m sad we lost the relationship between Rebecca and Ben so soon. While it does have an impact on his relationship with Joe, and I love their bond, I’d have loved to have seen them as a family unit a little more.

The Ugly

  • It’s all ‘My Girl’ in places so prepare yourself with a tissue or, you know, a million. Although while My Girl gives you a really amazing happy ride until that blub-fest, this will have your eyes like Niagara Falls from the midway point onwards.

The Craft. Legacy (2020)

Rating: PG
Length: 1h 41
Release: 19.8.1994
Dir: Chuck Russell
About: An eclectic foursome of aspiring teenage witches get more than they bargained for as they lean into their newfound powers.


The Good

  • The cast was spot on, especially the four corners of the new Coven. While we perhaps didn’t get as much background on all of the individual players as I would have liked, its a testament to the actresses that I wanted to know more about each one.
  • David Duchovny was an excellent choice as the ‘spooky’ new man in Lily and her mum’s life. He’s again a character I would have loved to have seen a little more of.
  • The character of Timmy, while at the outset seems like a stereotype, becomes this relatable and refreshing look at the antidote to toxic masculinity.
  • In the same week that Lily Allen attempts to break the taboo on female self love, The Craft Legacy presents us with a casual masturbation scene. Something I would not expect from an American film and again is something that is powerful, empowering and handled so very well.

The Bad

  • The trio of brothers are not developed enough and lack any development. There’s something lacking that gives them purpose. In fact, I would go so far to say that the biggest flaw of this film is its character development. When it comes to the brother’s; they disappear by the time we get to the final act. Which is no bad thing because I couldn’t really tell them apart. They all had that moody Edward Cullen thing and I can’t even recall if any of the three spoke in full sentences.
  • It is not necessarily the casting I have an issue with, but I do feel like MM’s character should have been one of the original coven. I almost feel, by the time the credits roll, the character was originally written with one of the original actress’ in mind, but they chose to pass. I mean, just take a look at the actress playing Lily and tell me she doesn’t look like the offspring of Sarah’s Robin Tooney.
  • With David Duchovny, I do feel like they were going for a Lost Boys sort of approach, but there was a lack of commitment to really make it work or have it impact the plot in any way.

The Ugly

  • One of the defining, or iconic, aspects of the 1996 original was that epic soundtrack. At one point, I had thought the soundtrack that everyone listened to was a thing of the past, but then Guardians of the Galaxy came along and reminded us all of what we were missing. Maybe its a sign that this film is for a younger audience, but as the target demographic of the original; we’re watching it too and this music flatlined.
  • Sequel, soft reboot, cash-in reboot? Well, the creators have given their word that it’s a sequel and, if you’ve seen the trailer, that seems to be confirmed. My issue being the nods to the original are too heavy handed to be considered ‘Easter eggs’ and the diversions from the original story lack any sort of quality to elevate it from being a pale imitation.
  • It’s not long enough for what was trying to be achieved. It’s way too long, too bloated and lacks any connection to the characters. I feel as if this idea would have been executed in a better way in a mini series of 10 or more episodes. Basically the Locke & Key treatment. Make the brothers more involved and give the audience more of a reason for these girls to be the outcasts. Give me more Timmy and give his story a resolution.

Final Thoughts

It was a fair watch and relatively painless. Unfortunately, I do feel like this is suffering from a similar fate to Prometheus in the sense that the decision to make it a sequel came way to late in production and those like-minded will feel a little cheated out of that ‘legacy’ aspect.