Posts Tagged ‘Review’

Many would put the first Hostel right at the beginning of the ‘toture porn’ genre (even though there were many foreign films before featuring similar themes). This is probably because it was one of the first big mainstream US films to openely advertise itself as such. It was a pretty good little horror film and made enough money to get a sequel green lit.

Hostel 2 (directed by the same director as the first, Eli Roth) doesnt aim to do much differently from the first on the outset as we yet again have a group of backpackers (this time all females) who get caught in the sights of the ‘hunting club’. But upon watching the film its clear Eli Roth has a much clearer sense of world building and characterisation. It would have been so easy for him to have done a quick easy rehash of the first but i’m happy to say this feels fresh and tense.

The three female leads have an interesting dynamic between them that feels realistic thanks to a well written script that clearly has had a lot of thought put into it. It wont win any screenwriting awards but it is nice to see some well written characters in a genre that seems to thrive on the opposite. As there backpacking holiday quickly unravels each handle things very differently, which creates some very tense and quite thought provoking consequences.

This time round we also get an almost equal time following the people who are planning on commiting sadistic acts on these girls which also highlights how the club wirks and is organised. This for me is one of the highlights as its well thought out and gives everything another dimension.

While the film does feature strong violence and gore, it doesnt focus on it as much as one might expect. It also never feels out of place as it all benefits and guides the story along its path.

The final act features some truly great twists and turns all of which work well and help elevate this film from the usual genre tropes.

I never expected to like this film as much as i did. Its easily the best in the series and is well worth your time if you like tense horror thrillers.

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A warning that this review will contain spoilers to both this and to Batman vs Superman!

So…Justice League! A film many have waited so many years do. A film with such a legacy in terms of the comics and characters that many wondered if it could ever get made. Well it did get made and it split critics in two. One side said it was terrible, while the other actually quite liked it. Where do I sit? Well read on to find out.

Following on shortly after the climax of BVS (batman vs superman) Justice League starts with Bruce Wayne tracking down the people he saw in the ‘secret’ computer file in the hopes of recruiting them to his super team. For those who havnt seen BvS he is looking for Arthur Curry aka. Aquaman, Barry Allen aka. Flash and Victor Stone aka. Cyborg. He kinda already has Diana on his team and superman,well we all know what happened to superman… He died.

If the death of superman wasn’t enough, the big threat Bruce was warned of in BvS is on his way to destroy everything in the villain called Steppenwolf (not to be confused with the rock band of the same name). Everyone must unite to defeat this threat and save the Earth.

Before the film was made many people, myself included, thought the main villain was going to be Darkseid (a god of extreme power) instead of his uncle Steppenwolf, but I guess this way if they made a sequel Darksid would have reason to hate the League. Although an odd choice it does work and he is a cool bad guy that has enough power for the League to have issues. He has the problem a lot of villains have in superhero films in that we are meant to understand everything about him and his power in the space of one film. Most of this is summed up in a single montage sequence that explains the last time all races came together to stop him. It’s done in an ok fashion but I would say it was hsdled as well as it could be been.

The same issue flows through to some of our hero’s. If the viewer had never heard of Cyborg, you get very little backstory to him or really his motivations. He is used more here as a plot device not a strong superhero. To a lesser extent we get the same with Aquaman and Flash. Flash in the film is reduced to an immature joke making fool (Thank you Mr Whedon) while Aquaman is essentially a heavy metal surfer. The latter works pretty well, the former does not.

The big problem is the terrible comedic relief courtesy of the once great director Joss Whedon. He feels the need to lighten the brilliant dark tone of BvS with some awful direction and writing (to be fair it’s what he was hired for but he could be done a better job) He also felt these to put in pointless yet film damaging scenes such as the awful phone footage of superman at the start which plays no purpose other then showing the audience superman was a good guy (as next time we see him he’s trying to kill stuff.) If only the studios would have gone with Snyder’s original much darker vision. We could have had something truly special. But instead we have half a dark DC movie and half a Joss Whedon mess. For those who believe it the other way round fair enough, but I genuinely believe whedon last great thing was Serenity (which was a massive step up from Firefly). It’s just sad. I guess if it was an entirely Joss Whedon film we would at least have a consistent film. As it stands it’s a mess. Albeit a mess I for the most part did enjoy.

The film also feels far too short to everything that’s crammed in. I would have preferred a 3 hour long film that fully fledged everything out. The pacing again comes from the 2 different directors and it’s easy to see who filmed what. Any piece that flows with a piece of music seamlessly is the work of Snyder. Any piece that’s layered heavily with Danny Elfman’s (albeit great) score is Whedon. It doesn’t really gel at any point and it really hurts the film because if it.

Acting-wise everyone does their part pretty well. You can see some are hindered by script issues but they try their best. Lots have faulted Affleck’s performance but I quite like his take on an older more tired batman. It’s definitely a step up from the 2nd two Christian Bale performances. I love Jason Momoa’s heavy metal inspired, surfer dude Aquaman. Gone are the days if the Aquaman who merely talks to fish like a Dr Dolittle of the sea.

As a film it is really fun and does move from set piece to set piece at a rapid rate. It’s a shame it’s not more like BvS as that truly nailed being a mature grown up comic book movie, whereas this is more akin to the lighter fluff marvel pumps out regularly each year. There is a rather silly bit (sillier then the rest) featuring a robot spider vehicle. That part wasn’t so good. For the most part the other set pieces are pretty great if a little staged at times. When the league are all battling together it gives hints of a much grander and better film.

One day We may see the ‘proper’ cut of the film Zack Snyder set out to make. Until then we have to make do with the flawed yet highly enjoyable mess. It may not be the film fans wanted but it’s the film we got.

When any big horror franchise declares ‘the final chapter’ in it’s last films title, you can be sure the series will be back. This is sadly evident with this, the 8th film in the Saw franchise. Who’d have thought that 13 years after the first movie we’d have a massive franchise with a deep lore spanning across 8 movies.

The basic plot follows on from the original films while also trying to work a bit like a reboot to grab new fans. With murders seemingly being committed by Jigsaw and a series of sinister traps, cops try to solve the mystery before more people are killed.

It’s a plot similar to the old films in that it features traps and mystery but that is almost where the similarities end. Here the traps are even more over the top and silly, some of which are downright unbelievable. In the older films, no matter how extreme the traps got they were all feasible and kind of believable (apart from the opening trap from part 7 which from a logistics point of view just didn’t work). The ones featured in Jigsaw are just downright stupid and also rely far more on coincidence and luck rather then choice and sacrifice. In 1-7 the traps are beatable and were all meant to teach the victim something about themselves. In Jigsaw all of them rely on someone being in the right place at the right time and looking at the right thing at the exact right moment. It takes away a major sense of fear and tension while also dropping some of the fundamental plot points from the original films.

One of the big problems is that it isn’t filmed like a Saw picture. Over the course of the franchise the Saw films developed their own look and their own feel which was largely helped by the director Darren Lynn Bousman who was responsible for parts 2, 3 and 4. Here though the Spierig brothers seem to throw all of that out of the window to make a glossy modern day horror that just loses all of the atmosphere the look gave to the series. It almost feels like they’ve never watched a Saw movie and have simply made the film on the back of knowing parts of the overall story.

The film also isnt helped by the fact its not that well written (from what I gather not because of the writers, more the fact the directors changed so much). Many people bash the Saw franchise for just being violence for the sake of violence and for being nothing more then ‘torture porn’. This does the whole series a massive disservice as each film is tightly plotted and works as a stand alone film as well as playing a major part in the 1-7 overarching story. Taken as a whole I can happily say 1-7 as a whole story is fantastic and has a near perfect beginning, middle and end. Number 8 fails in this department by trying desperately to link itself into the 1-7 story and failing pretty badly. It’s almost like they couldn’t think of a new idea so they just pasted over some of the plot points from the franchise and tried to slot themselves into the story. The Spierig brothers rely so much on a massive plot point towards the end of the film that just doesn’t work. It’s meant to tie everything together but it fails in every way. It’s poorly constructed and so ridiculously flawed it’s almost laughable.

Ultimately the film is entirely unneeded. The seventh film ended the franchise on a near perfect note and almost brought the series full circle. This just feels like a cash grab and a poor man’s wannabe Saw flick. That said, there are much worse films out there and it is still very watchable. If it wasn’t part of such a well known franchise it would be an ok horror thriller. As it stands it’s a watchable but very average imitation of a series many have grown to love.

It’s a real shame that it just doesn’t work as there are moments when it almost works. I hope they don’t make anymore because as much as I love 1-7 I don’t want to see them drive this franchise into the gutter.

Der Todesking is the 2nd film by Jorg Buttgereit following his cult hit Nekromantik. Both have the similar violent episodes and graphic ideas, but der Todesking is a much more serious film and doesn’t rely on special effects to get its deep and quite powerful message across.

The film is a series of 7 shorts covering each day of the week and focusing on a different individual. Each short is linked by the theme of suicide or death with the linking tool being a chain letter explaining why death is the only option.

Devoid of pretty much all humour, der Todesking presents a stunning nihilistic view on life and humanity. There’s No one trying to stop these suicides, no one mourning the loss. It’s a stark, realistic portrayal on the subject and one that is unlike pretty much anything else.

Some of the segments are stronger then others but none are bad. Wednesday is especially poignant and powerful as it used no dialogue, no characters and no violence instead it features a suicide bridge and the names of some who have jumped from it. I got the same feeling from it that I got from the documentary ‘the Bridge’ which focused on suicides on the Golden Gate Bridge. To evoke such emotion using little other then names and film of a concert bridge is quite remarkable and it’s a great feat of filmmaking. It would have been easy to just film people jumping off the bridge but instead Buttgereit reigns it back and uses simplicity and minimalism and in doing so creates something remarkable.

Saturday is the other day that stands out as with recent shootings around the world it rings very true. It consists of a woman filming herself shooting people during a concert. No reason for it and no justification, just a shooting. It’s scary because it feels pretty real.

The no justification is a theme that runs through the film and is one of the things that makes it stand out. We as order a want to know why something is happening and not knowing scares us. By presenting the segments in this way Buttgereit has created a far more powerful and far more real film.

Gore is at a minimum here as well which is a surprise considering the visual effects of Nekromantik. The goriest moments are a decomposing body that works s a bridge between days. This decision is another smart one as itdoesnt distract from the deep message the film is conveying.

The soundtrack is fascinating as well as it’s nothing like you’d expect (unless you have seen Nekromantik). It doesn’t always 100% gel but it’s always great. When it does work it just merges with the visuals creating a sensationally strong experience.

All in all der Todesking is a remarkable film that defies genre and really is unlike anything else. I wouldn’t call it a happy film you can pop on, grab the popcorn and enjoy. I’d say it is a film that strikes fast and hard and drives home a powerful and important message about suicide and death. It doesn’t glorify it like most horror films, it doesn’t portray it as good or bad, just a thing that happens.

As an experience I cannot recommend it enough. Yes it is slightly dated in places but it doesn’t really affect the impact. It’s definitely not for everyone. I imagine the audience for it is quite small but I urge any intrigued to watch it. It’s fascinating, powerful and thought provoking filmmaking at it’s best.

Board games are quickly becoming the new videogames, that were once the new Board Games? Does that work? I think it does. Either way, with the popularity of board games on the rise again, it’s common for gaggles of people to congregate together again, in a small room / medium sized room, around a table and play some good old fashioned board based activities. Many find an escape playing these kinds of games. How do you wreck this escape?

1989’s Jason Donovan: Straight From The Heart board game. That’s how.

A game for 2-6 players. Straight From The Heart tasks you with working your way round a board answering questions about Jason Donovan, while collecting jigsaw pieces of his face. The aim is to complete one of the heart shaped puzzle and claim victory over everyone else.

That’s easy I hear you say. Not so, says I.

Each time someone correctly answers a question about Mr Donovan they have a choice to steal pieces from another player. That s right. You can screw over other players big time. It also doesn’t help that when you aquire pieces from the box you do so at random. This means you could technically be working in all the pictures. The group I played with preferred the stealing off another player method because it’s more annoying.

Each section on the board has a ifferent type of question but I can quite happily say that any answer that requires a song title will either be ‘ten good reasons’ or ‘too many broken hearts’. They were Jason’s biggest hits when the game came out so it stands to reason they would be the answers.

Each time we’ve played the game its been with 4 adult males, who I believe, are not the target audience. I say this because many of the questions regard the other players boyfriends. If you are playing with a group of males you may need to skip a couple of questions.

The other popular question choices involve Jason himself, his likes, dislikes and loves. Trivia such as ‘What’s Jason’s favourite food?’ And ‘what’s Jason’s favourite kind of food?’ The answer to the latter doesn’t 100% match that of the former but that’s ok. All this trivia will stay with you like a happy dream/scary nightmare. At least I can now say I know his favourite food. Although I imagine it may have changed in almost 30 years. It would be useful to find out.

A personal favourite question is ‘does Jason believe in nuclear disarmament?’ The answer is a non surprising yes but it’s the randomness of the question that is pure brilliance.

It just kind of springs from nowhere, considering the lightish tone of other questions. It’s a good thing to know I guess but it really isn’t the bit of trivia I would have read up on before playing.

The playtime is a little on the longer side considering one time we played it took around 2.5 hours to eget to completion. Another time it took around 5 hours. 5 hours is a lot of Jason and a lot of time answering very similar questions. As you can see from the picture below, enjoyment was being had by all.

With more diversity in the questions and a more complex winning strategy it could be a classic game. (Well maybe not). It was quite enjoyable in a tongue in cheek way. I’ll also say that I somehow own 2 copies of the game making we could technically play a 12 player game. But alas finding 11 other people to play is not easy. I also imagine it may increase the playtime by quite some length.

Now would be the perfect time for a sequel covering the years between 1989 and 2018. I think someone needs to tell Jason there is a market for more board games about his life. It could even cover questions like ‘which character did Jason play in Jeff Wayne’s new war of the world’s?’ Or ‘what are Jason’s views on the current political climate?’

I have to say that in my group, that the game is a running joke. I had lots of fun plating it, but some if not all of it was from the sheer hilarity of playing it with adult males.

Until I can convince more people to play I guess it’s going to sit gathering dust.

Written by James Gunn (director of Guardians of the Galaxy 1& 2 and writer of films such as Tromeo and Juliet) Belko Experiment feels like a refreshing hark back to something like Lord of the flies.

A group of employees are locked in a building and are told to kill each if he, otherwise a bomb charge in the back of their skull with detonate. It’s a very simple pemise and one similar to any number of films such as Battle Royale or even Hunger Games. But the office environment gives it a new spin.

At the start no one wants to kill but as the film progresses we all know some are going to change their minds. Gunn gets creative in his writing and keeps throwing in new rules to keep the film fresh and entertaining. Everything leads to a truly great ending which keeps he momentum going until the very last image.

I loved how the film didn’t wait around. There’s always something new happening as we jump between the small groups of people. It would have been easy for the film to get boring and repetitive but it never does.

The cast are great and really work well together. It’s amazing how many pretty big names there are in the film, even if some feel like small cameos for James Gunn (Michael Rooker for example is in almost all of Gunn’s films). Many of these actors play roles very different from their usual styles.

Although directed by Greg McLean it really does feel like and early James Gunn film. It’s fast, witty and violent, all things that Gunn does really well. It’s a breath of of tense almost horror. It’s well worth checking out.

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.

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.