There’s really no way of truly capturing what Valhalla Rising is in words as it’s something in itself. It feels unlike anything else, yet still feels slightly familiar.

The story concerns the journey of One Eye a mute prisoner held captive by a Norse chieftain who uses him as a fighter. All we know about One Eye is that he is a brutal killer who brings fear to those who have heard about him. At one point when we meet some crusaders one mentions that One Eye was born of hell and would take all those around him back there.

The story is split into acts like a play with each having their own feel and their own theme. They all slowly build to a brilliantly beautiful finale. The film never rushes itself and unfurled expertly. It’s reminiscent of foreign sci fi film Stalker in the way the world plays as much of a role as the characters.

We begin with some brutal fight sequences which are juxtaposed with slow scenic shots ofthe harsh mountains. It works perfectly and really sets tge tone. There is a segment around the halfway Mark that does drag a little but other then that the pacing is pretty much spot on. We see a nie evolution of One Eyes character as his journey progresses, yet we find out little about him.

The acting is phenomenal with Mads Mikkelson giving a ferocious and powerful performance that is so deep even though he doesn’t say a word. The supporting cast hold their own as well, with Maarten Stevenson giving a great performance as the young boy who travels with One Eye.

I will admit it took me a few viewings before I truly appreciated the complexity of one eye’s journey across the world but when I sat down and watched it with a fresh mind I was blown away. Those expecting a Norse action film as quite a lot if the promotional material gave the impression of will be sorely disappointed. If you want a movie that holds your hand and gives you all the answers, again tho film isn’t for you.

If however you want a film that takes you on a journey through darkness and light I’d highly recommend giving the film a go. It won’t be for everyone but I do believe it’s a film that needs to be experienced.

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12 years went by since The Ring 2 and some studio exec decided what we need is another film in the series. Did we really need another film? The original Ringu series did have 3 films (4 if you include the original 2nd film that was renamed Spiral) and a couple of spin offs but all of those kind of worked and built on the haunted videotape mythos. This film both attempts to continue the story of the American series while also giving a reboot feeling.

If the opening of a film is meant to grab the viewers attention and semi dictate the quality you are to expect, Rings fails laughably. We have what can only be described as a terrible combination of final destination and a horror spoof. It’s actually an interesting idea setting the beginning on a plane, it’s just that it’s so badly handled it’s silly.

On the plus with such a terrible opening it can only get better, which it does do but not by much. We have a series of dull moments meant to shock but most fall flat. There are some interesting ideas going on but they don’t quite work. The ending was actually pretty good though. It’s pretty stupid but it’s done interestingly and I guess sets up another film if they decided to do one.

They do change a fair chunk of the ring myths and introduce new things such as another video. It all feels unnecessary, but I guess they had to try something new. Even the old video seems different from the one in the other films. This helps gives the feeling that this film is a reboot, yet it still expects you to know some of the backstory.

One of the things that raises the quality of the film is the inclusion of actor Johnny Galecki who many would know from Big Bang Theory. It’s nice seeing him in something completely different, as the last horror film I remember seeing him in was I Know What You Did Last Summer. He’s great in the film and makes it watchable, it’s just a shame he doesn’t have a better script to work from.

The special effects are passable with even the classic image of Samara climbing out of a television coming across as cheap. The scares are near non existent and there is very little tension and atmosphere. I think the only teen moment I remember is towards the start where Johnny Galecki is sitting in his apartment, illuminated by sree lights as it pours down with rain outside. A pivotal scene later on that is meant to be full of tense drama just feels very meh.

For a sequel that never needed making, I applaud them for trying to introduce some interesting new ideas. It’s just a shame that most fall flat. I wouldn’t call it a terrible film, it’s just not very good. You’re better off sticking with the original Ringu series or just pretending like this one never happened.

Blind army veteran VS 3 burglars = one hell of a tense film.

The home invasion film has been done to death over the years, from kids films like Home Alone, to more adult films like Strangers and Panic Room. It’s a genre which for the most part works due to the semi relateability of the fear of intruders in your home. The problem is there is only so many times you can see the same thing happen time and time again with just a new family to differentiate the films. 2011’s film You’re Next tried to turn things around with its fun twists and clever pacing and for the most part worked.

2016’s Don’t Breathe aims to get again create something fresh in a seemingly stale genre and it’s nice to say it really works.

The basic premise is 3 burglars break into a house of a blind military veteran but are quickly outwitted when he wakes up and isn’t happy having intruders.

The film is tense from the outset and only magnify as it progresses. Stephen Lang gives a phenomenally creepy performance as the blind man (who seemingly has no name). His whole house becomes an extension of him. Every creaking floorboard, every little noise it’s all part of him and it allows I’m to ignore his blindness and know exactly where the burglars are.

It’s interesting to look at the blind man as he is neither villian or hero. Ultimately his house has been broken into and he is depending himself, but as an audience we are pushed towards rooting for Rocky the sole female of the trio of burglars. For me I was rooting entirely for he blind man and saw him as the anti hero of the piece. It of course unfurls that the blind man might not be as nice and clean as he seems, but that didn’t stop me avidly watching to see if he could kill the three burglars.

I’m not sure if it was intended this way or if it just happens that Lang gives a stronger and more powerful performance then the others but I found it worked. If it wasn’t meant to be this way round then the film kind of fails as the burglars as all unlikable thrives who deserve everything they get.

The direction is great and the law if the film flows beautifully as it builds to the final confrontation (which is both turns good and bad) the film doesn’t freely on jump scares as it prefers to use a slow build up of tension. It’s a remarkably well crafted horror thriller.

If I have any negatives to say about the film they would have to be surrounding the unlikable burglars who I just want to die and the lackluster ending. They aren’t deal breakers as the rest of the film is so strong, but they do detract a little from the film as a whole.

I really enjoyed the film and feel it is a refreshing breath of fresh air in the horror genre. I give it a strong reccomendation.

What happens when you mix the director of ‘Clueless’ with 2 of the stars of ‘American Pie’? The answer is a film that is not quite as good as either but is far better then a lot of the teen rom-coms that were released around the late 90’s / early 00’s.

It all revolves around Paul (played by Jason Biggs) and Dora (played by Mena Suvari). Paul has just moved to college and is the odd one out. He’s shy and awkward. Dora is more outgoing but is struggling financially, so is doing everything she has to to keep going. Their paths meet when Paul sits next to Dora in a lecture. She is the first person who is nice to him since moving o college. This moment sets off a series of events which ultimately lead to the usual deatination.

Although formulaic, the film does enough to make itself stand out. The acting on the whole is great even if Biggs is playing a similar character to his one in American Pie. Mena Suvari is on top form in a role that is surprisingly multilayered. The onscreen chemistry between the 2 leads is fantastic with some truly heart-tugging moments. It s hard not to feel that both were hired on the back of American Pie, but that doesnt detract from their performances here. The only characters whom I really didn’t get on with were the 3 roommates. They both felt unnecessary and 2d.

It’s a shame that the film has slipped into the jumble of similar films as it is one of the best. Most may only know about the film through the ideoto the Weezer song ‘Teenage Dirtbag’ which features footage from the film and I believe was written for the film. When it came out th film was pretty big and was well received but I’m guessing the fact it had no sequels meant it just vanished.

I really like this film and have since it was released. It stands in the upper tier of teen rom-coms only falling narrowly behind the very best of the pack. I urge anyone who likes this sort or film to check it out.

I had no preconceptions about this film as I had never heard of it before seeing the cover. From the cover it looked like a drama/comedy focusing on war reporters. What it actually was, I’m not really sure.

The first hour plays out as a very average by the numbers vague comedy following a reporter as she is thrown into reporting the war in Afghanistan. Its neither good nor bad. The humour doesnt really work and it kind of offsets the bits of drama that have been put in. It just doesn’t gel. There’s the tiny bit of romance seemingly put in for the sake of covering more genres, which only helps muddle the film more.

The final 30 minutes were the only time where the film clicked and even then it never evoked any reaction other then the feeling of mediocrity. During the final half hour the film does try to hit on some interesting points about war and journalism, but these are lost through some bad writing and unfocused direction.

The acting on the whole was pretty good with Martin Freeman stealing every scene he was in. The big problem is the overall feel of adequacy that eminates from the entire production. It almost feels like they were happy to make something merely passible to get it released.

Visually the film is ok. It handles the small combat scenes well and provides a nice contrast between city and desert. The same can be said for the audio, it’s serviceable. Nothing more, nothing less.

It’s kind of sad as the elements for a good film are here but are never combined in such a way as to create a fully realised product. I’m sure a lot of work went into the production but the sheer mediocrity of proceedings means I can’t and won’t recommend the film. It’s neither good nor bad, it’s merely meh.

With so many horror films being pumped out in recent years, it’s easy to see the genre as stale and unoriginal, but in amongst all of the remakes, sequels and zombie films there are some truly great gems. Get Out is one of them.

Going into the film I had no expectations and knew nothing about it apart from what the poster showed me (A screaming man in a chair), which really wasn’t much. What I Got was an intense horror thriller that constantly kept me on the edge of my seat.

Actor Daniel Kaluuya plays Chris, a young African-American who visits his white girlfriend’s parents on a secluded estate in the middle of the woods. What starts as a happy romantic trip quickly spirals into something much different.

In a way the film is reminiscent of the original Wicker-man film in the whole ‘outsider trying to figure out what’s happening’ sense. And it works. Throughout the film there is always something that feels ‘off’ with everyone, something not quite right. This feeling builds at a nice rate as the story evolves and begins explaing itself. Some moments are quute predictable when you see the ditection the film is heading but that doesnt detract from the quality. The acting is great from everyone and every character plays their part in the story. The writing really does help fully flesh out each character and make them feel unique.

Direction and writing are great with both allowing the film to flow at a brisk pace and taking the viewer through a refreshingly fresh tale. It’s rare that a film works from opening image through to credits but this film does and the ending is perfect.

It’s hard to not instantly see the messages about racism both in an historical sense, but also in the now. The film makes some powerful points which many could learn from as racism, as we all know is something that is always around no matter how much people pretend it isn’t. Right at the start of the film Chris asks his girlfriend ‘do your parents know I’m black?’ Her response is to shrug it off like it doesn’t matter. It’s scary that we live in a world where even today the colour of one’s skin effects how people treat you. Even scarier is that the people in charge of some of the most powerful countries in the world allow this and sometimes openly encourage it.

These messages run rife through the film and help give a good base to everyone’s mindsets. What is good is that this provides a level of gritty realism to proceedings. The horror is never forced and never relies on silly jump scares. It’s all about creating tension and intensity through the characters and the script.

I recommend this film whole-heartedly and feel it is one of those horror films that will stay long after it has finished.

blair

I’ll begin by saying that the first Blair Witch Project film is easily one of my favourite horror films of all time even if many cast it off as a basic found footage film of people running around the woods. It was pivotal at the time and say what you will, but it did change horror cinema and pretty much spawned the found footage horror genre.  One of the big things that made it work so much is that there was very little script and the directors Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez let the actors improvise in a very loose filming style. It was fascinating to watch and stunningly made when you consider the size of the crew and budget.

The first film also has the benefit of being very ‘new’ and with social media very much on the rise, managed to latch on and create this feeling that the film was actually a real documentary. For me it worked and was nigh on perfect for what it tried to do.

In 2000 a sequel was made that was interesting as it had some interesting uses of the original films ‘footage’ but ultimately it was pretty terrible and the less said the better.

This leads us to the 2016 sequel to the original film. it completely ignores the events of ‘The Blair Witch project 2: Book of Shadows’ and tells a tale following the brother of one of the original characters who is still trying to find out what really happened to her.

17 years have passed since the making of the first film and technology has advanced greatly with tiny attachable cameras and flying drones. Wingrad has decided that he will utilise all of these and that is one of the biggest faults of the film. It never feels like a found footage film, it all looks to pristine and the shots are all so obviously framed and staged it is almost embarrassing.  Gone is any of the realism of the original, now we have what looks like a glossy low budget horror film and that is a real shame.

The script is beyond terrible and never feels natural. It would have been nice to actually delve into the history of the tale of the Blair witch a little more as from what I’ve seen through the other media based on the film (such as games, books, comics and even Book of Shadows)there is a deep lore to everything which is only hinted on in the original film. here we just have a series of loose jump scares linked with some really ropey dialogue.

the film had none of the dread that one would expect, there is no tension and it relies on getting any form of scare across by using either average jump scares like people literally bursting out of bushes, or using rally loud transitions into new scenes.  Neither work on any form of level other then being annoying.

Wingrad in my view had a lot of luck when he made the film ‘You’re Next’ which I find is actually an enjoyable horror film. Everything else he has made is pretty terrible and he really hasn’t proven that he is a particularly competent filmmaker. It’s sad as you can see in him that there is the hint of something special but with Blair Witch he just destroys all credibility he may have had.

I’d say it isn’t worth any amount of your time and to be fair you’d be better off watching ‘The Blair Witch Project: Book of Shadows’ as at least that film had a few interesting ideas albeit badly executed. This is a poor imitation of the fantastic original and really is so incredibly disappointing. 2/10

 

lady

I’ve always been massively interested in the character of ‘Lady Death’. She has a great dark backstory and some awesome character design, which rivals some of the very best on the market. As such I was really interested in reading her humble beginnings again and what better way than reading ‘Lady Death: The Reckoning (revised)’ which contains the first 3 issue series from 1994 as well as the ½ issue and a few other extras.
So what’s it all about?
Lady death concerns the life of Hope who after sacrificing her soul to Lucifer has become Lady Death who is literally the queen of the dead. The tale collected here shows her origin and transformation from a simple noble girl to one of the most powerful forces to ever take on the devil. The story, while quite simple is gripping and powerfully told. It is almost narrated by the lead character as she replays her painful memories of her past life on Earth.
As an origin tale it has everything we could hope for. It gives us a good backstory on who the main character is, how she got where she is now and how she can eventually find salvation. There is a deeper story contained within this short story then in a lot of long running series I’ve read. The writer and creator Brian Pulido absolutely nails it when it comes to a carefully crafted story with a well-crafted lead character.
The art by the late Steven Hughes is as fantastic as the story. The characters pop from the pages, with each image perfectly leading into the next. Each character, especially Lady Death/Hope is designed stunningly and each feels individual and brilliantly crafted. As I previously mentioned, the reason I first got into reading Lady Death was because I loved the medieval design of the whole comic, which made everything feel different enough to stand out from the usual superhero comics, which the market is always saturated with. The covers for the individual issues are just as amazing as the inside artwork and could easily be paintings on gallery walls. It’s one of those series that buying the individual issues is quite a nice idea just because the covers are so unbelievably good.
If I were to have one minor gripe with the book it would have to be that some of the pages full of action can be slightly confusing in their layout. It’s by no means bad, but it does mean that occasionally I had to reread passages as I seemed to be reading out of order. This confusion only really happened a few times throughout the story, with the most noticeable parts being during the epic final battle in the third issue.
The book also contains the 12 page ‘1/2’ issue of Lady Death which is quite a nice little tale that is a brief preview of the character. As with the main story Pulido has crafted some amazingly descriptive narration to tell the short tale. It’s a stunning preview and just highlights why Lady Death has been going strong for over 20 years.
As a final bonus the final extra in the graphic novel is the first ‘swimsuit’ issue. That’s right a swimsuit issue! It is essentially a series of covers and splash pages by different artists showing the character in various different poses in varying designs of swimsuit. Those new to the world of ‘chaos comics’ may think this a little weird, but if you go with it does feature some truly great artwork.
So as you may have guessed I really loved rereading the humble beginnings of Lady Death and feel like this is a great way of experiencing the start of the character. It’s a deep brooding story that features almost no humour and is dark and gripping. The setting, the dialogue and the art are all spot on. For those who want to see perfection in indie comics, Lady Death is the perfect example. Pulido has created a magnificent world with some truly amazing characters that inhabit it. With over 20 years of stories following ion from these 3 issues, there’s not a better time to start experiencing the brilliance that is ‘Lady Death’.

 

firepower

Opening with some pretty good title music 1993’s FIREPOWER instantly feels like a homage to the action films of the 1980’s. It also helps that from the beginning you know your not in store for something award winning but something that looks fun.

Set in the year 2007 the film follows 2 cops as they enter a ‘zone’ in a futuristic Los Angeles in order to expose a black market creating and selling counterfeit AIDS vaccines.

Although the subject matter could be quite deep (well deeper then some action films) the film happy settles for a rather predictable underground fighting plot where good fights evil in battles to the death (well sometimes). The two cops are played by Chad Mcqueen and Gary Daniels. Both actors are great in the film and put in some pretty good performances. It helps both are good fighters as well which helps the fight sequences flow and feel somewhat more believable.  Daniels especially is a really impressive athlete and really proves he can hold his own in a fight.

The main crime boss who they are up against has a hilariously over the top ‘lacky’ called ‘The Swordsman’ who looks much like an 80’s hair metal guitarist. He is quite imposing but at times is almost laughable. In terms of the fights in the film, it is quite nice that some of the matches are from the outset, non-lethal affairs. This makes it slightly differnet from your usual ‘to the death’ features that were popular at the time. As with most action films of this period, the bad guys are absolutely terrible shot with guns. In this some are overly bad but it never wrecks the fun.

All in all if you want to see a fun film that is kind of a mix of Mad max, Robocop and Mortal Kombat, you could do much worse than this film. It’s nothing special but the style and the production design are pretty awesome and the acting from Mcqueen and Daniels keep the film enjoyably watchable.

7/10

girl-who-leapt-through-time-bandai-us

Comic adaptations from films are always a mixed bag as the different forms of storytelling don’t always work with a certain story. ‘The Girl Who Leapt Through Time’ is interesting in the fact that the film it is based on, is in itself based on a 1967 novel of the same name meaning that this is essentially the third iteration of the story. It’s also interesting as it’s one of those instances when a successful Japanese animated film is turned into a manga/comic to allow a wider audience to experience the story (as well as making more money).  The book follows the same basic story, but as usually happens, strips quite a few of the side elements to try an create a more streamlined piece.
The film is one of the most heart-wrenchingly beautiful pieces of fiction that I have had the pleasure of watching many times, leading me to wonder how or if the book would do it justice. I wondered how the raw and powerful emotion would translate to a static medium without the aid of music or audible vocal emotion. Now I’m not saying that books can’t have the same level of power as film, because they can and in some ways can achieve it on a far more intense level. This is usually down to the fact that we have been introduced to the story/ characters through description and clever use of written language. When it comes to comics though, I find emotion translates far worse due to the fact that the description is generally no longer written as we have fallen into the ‘show, don’t tell’ mentality of the more visual medium. It doesn’t mean that a comic can’t achieve the same draw of the heart, it just means that the writers and artists need to work closely and try much harder to try and evoke the same kind of level of power as they have none of the liberties of sound and moving image.
They say that ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ and this is a statement that is generally true of stand-alone imagery, but when you have a book made up of hundreds of images it generally becomes much harder to find the statement true. Most of the images, if stripped back, work as a kind of filler, easing the reader into new environments or allowing the reader to see character movement. There is the odd occasion where an image stands out above the rest and lingers in the mind long after you finish the story. This is how you know that they’ve achieved the power.
Throughout ‘The Girl Who Leapt Through Time’ there are around 6 images that truly stand out with such emotional intensity that they hit the heart hard. Even though I knew what to expect of the story and I knew what was going to happen, I still found myself pulled left and right on an unexpected emotional rollercoaster ride. It’s amazing that fiction can manipulate ones emotions in such a real way as to bring about true feelings and here they’ve achieved it. I found myself audibly gasping at numerous points during the story and can even say that I felt a tear welling in the corner of my eye.
For those who have never heard of ‘The Girl Who Leapt Through Time’, It concerns Makoto Konno, a junior in high school who’s life suddenly takes a turn for the peculiar when she comes across a device that allows her to ‘time leap’. This sets about a series of events that will change her past, present and future forever. At its heart it is a coming of age story about acceptance and love but it is told in a truly interesting way.
Time travel is a plot device that is often used in science fiction as an easier way of telling a basic story in a slightly more interesting way. It’s hard to find a story that truly justifies the use of time travel as story telling device, but here is one of those exceptions. Here the time travelling element is more a visual means of explaining how Konno’s mind is working and where she is in her mental state, rather than showing the effects on the much wider world. It does look at some of the external effects of her new found powers, but these are still shown within her tight unit of friends. With all that’s said and done, ‘The Girl Who Leapt Through Time’ is a beautiful coming of age story that is told in a powerful yet very careful way.
I don’t want to explain much more about the story itself as I don’t want to spoil it for any potential readers, but I can say that it is a story with very little in the way of action but lots of emotional drama that’s far deeper then it first seems.  It’s a nice change from the usual comics that I tend to read and has more akin to fiction like the book ‘Norwegian Wood’ by Haruki Murakami then anything superhero related.
The characters in the story may be few, but each has a deep personality that makes them truly individual from one another. There are only four main characters in the story including Makoto Konno. Each of them work at pushing Konno on her path through the story and help her realise what she wants in life. Her friends Kousuke Tsuda and Chiaki Mamiya both show the contrasts of personality with one being more about studying while the other is more about fun. They work as a visual split in Konno’s mind. We also have Konno’s Auntie who acts as the voice of reason and I Konno’s main guide through the story.  The writer has dialled back some of the other side characters in the story which I was a little sad about as they further pushed emotional buttons in the film, but I guess it does mean that the story is far more streamlined with more focus on an end point. What we do have works brilliantly though and if I hadn’t seen the film I wouldn’t have thought I’d have questioned any of these gripes.
The art throughout is truly fantastic and helps the story flow forwards at a natural pace without ever rushing it. Some of the individual panel images contain so much in the way of emotion, that it’s truly quite a remarkable feat. It’s amazing how an image of a completely fictitious character’s eyes can evoke so much and at the same time feel so real. The character design is just as brilliant, even if they are taken straight out of the film. Everyone is individual making the story easy to follow and means that the artwork never gets confusing. In the art department side of things there is very little, if nothing at all to fault.
‘The Girl Who Leapt Through Time’ is a remarkable story on almost every level, from base enjoyment all the way through to being an emotional rollercoaster.  It really is a truly beautiful masterpiece of storytelling. A good story will take you on a journey, one that will make you forget about the real world until you’ve finished reading. This is one of those stories. How can something so entirely fictitious contain the ability to manipulate real emotions? It’s a question that can be applied to so many stories and can be applied to almost any visual or written medium, but it’s one that can never truly be answered. Why one person feels something while another doesn’t will always be one of those special subjective things that makes each one of us individual and ultimately is one of the things that can be linked to what makes us human.
So how does the adaptation hold up to the film and is it a worthwhile read?
I’d say that the manga holds up remarkably well and works well by itself or as a companion piece to the film. It’s a story that really should be experienced in any of its various mediums. Whichever you choose you’re in for a treat. As an emotional rollercoaster I’d say that the film version may work slightly better due to the added emotional pull that sound can have, but to deny the book of any emotion would be to do it a massive injustice. I have not felt like this after reading a comic in a long time and would argue never to the level.
I’d highly recommend the book and/or film to everyone who doesn’t just look for action in their storytelling and actually wants some truly raw feelings coming out of the words the characters say and the movement of the story. It’s a true masterpiece in any medium and a story that deserves to be experienced by everyone.