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.

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.

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.

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?!

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