John Wick: Chapter 3 ★★★☆☆

Picking up right after Chapter 2, does the action packed revenge-fest deliver for a third time ? It’s a mixed bag from us….

Directed by Chad Stahelski

Starring Keanu Reeves, Halle Berry, Laurence Fishburne


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Rewind Review: The Shining (1980) Returns to Cinemas

Adaptations and reboots of Stephen King’s work are popular right now, what with The Dark Tower, It, and Gerald’s Game recently released and with many others in development. Plus, with it being Halloween it only makes sense to revisit one of the frequently listed scariest movies of all time.

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Heeeeere’s Johnny! 

Look up any “Scariest Movies of All Time” list and you can bet that The Shining will be floating near the top, along with many adaptations from Stephen King. Combine “the master of horror” with Kubrick’s genius, it’s really no surprise this film has such a cult following; and after seeing it for the first time just a few days ago, it did not disappoint.

Before the film, we watched  “Work and Play: a short film about The Shining (2017)” directed by Matt Wells for Park Circus. This documentary investigates the creative process and incredible efforts behind this unique movie; intense research into the horror genre, the innovative use of the newly developed “Steadicam”, and a look into the personal musings of Kubrick and his views on film-making.

Featured in the documentary are: Lisa and Louise Burns (The Grady Twins), Garrett Brown (inventor and operator of the Steadicam), Diane Johnson (co-screenwriter on The Shining), Katharina Kubrick (Stanley Kubrick’s daughter) and Jan Harlan (Kubrick’s producing partner and brother-in-law).

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“It’s easy to make movie…but to make a great film is a miracle.”

If you want to watch something with tension and suspense on Halloween, then The Shining is for you. The music is really stand out for me, combining rapid high pitched strings with slow and deep brass makes you believe something terrifying is about to happen. The long Steadicam shots of corridors, the set and environment make it seem that something may jump out. The music and camera shots were eerie and surprisingly good at building suspense; I could feel myself tensing up and even jumping a little at the changes in instrumentation.

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Shelley Duvall at The Overlook Hotel

Of course, I cannot overlook the incredible acting of Jack Nicholson. His long, dead-eyed shots, creepy mannerisms, and seriously animated eyebrows, portrayed complete insanity with little to no motive or justification required. And he’s not the only one, many of the characters you meet throughout the movie are played in a seriously creepy manner.

If like me you haven’t seen this film before, the short version is Jack Nicholson plays “Jack Torrance” who gets a job as caretaker at The Overlook Hotel  over the winter months during closed season. He brings his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and his son Danny (Danny Lloyd) but the isolation, and something in the hotel’s past, makes Jack lose his mind and turn on his family.

Nicholson is great at being terrifying and Lloyd is good at being terrified, but I was not completely convinced by Duvall. A few things she does seem quite smart and resourceful in a pretty hopeless situation; however, her tone seemed forced and vacant, and she seemed to have little control over her limbs as she ran aimlessly around the hotel. Also, Nicholson gets a lot of praise for this film but I also think Lloyd was very good! He’s a very young boy but plays this part with maturity and intelligence.

Ignoring what I thought of Duvall’s portrayal, which I can probably attribute to the age of the film, this is a great scary movie that will really mess with your mind and the accompanied short is very interesting. I  would highly recommend re-visiting this film this Halloween if you can, and be sure to get there in time for the short! And remember….All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy!

The Shining is in cinemas across the UK on 31 October 2017 accompanied by short film “Work and Play: A Short Film about The Shining” (Director Matt Wells).

Film credit: http://www.parkcircus.com/films/21530-the-shining.

Image credits: © 1980 Warner Bros. Inc. All Rights Reserved. Images courtesy of Park Circus/Warner Bros.

Eat Locals: Laugh Out Loud Fun

Last weekend I was lucky enough to be invited to the premiere of the British made “Eat Locals” at FrightFest in Leicester Square. I met the director, producers and cast, and got to watch their hilarious creation.

With a low budget of just £1.6 million, you are not expecting “Tchaikovsky” as first-time director Jason Flemyng put it in our interview, you are expecting a fun piece of cinema lovingly put together by a group of friends. And that’s exactly what we got. After quite a sincere start, you soon realise that the actors are not taking themselves so seriously, creating a more laid back (and surprisingly realistic) environment than any other modern vampire movie you will have seen – until the violence commences.

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Left to right: Freema Agyman (Angel), Vincent Regan (The Duke), Charlie Cox (Henry), Eve Myles (Vanessa), Annette Crosbie (Alice)

In a quiet country farmhouse, 8 British vampire overlords have met to discuss matters of feeding quotas and territories. Following the death of one of their own, they will also decide whether to turn or kill poor, unwitting Sebastian (Billy Cook); led to the farmhouse by sexy vamp Vanessa (Eve Myles). Before they can carry out their verdict, the vampires are interrupted by a team of Elite vampire-killers sent by the Vatican and under orders from Captain Bingham (Robert Portal) and Larousse (Mackenzie Crook), chaos and blood shed ensues.

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Eve Myles as sexy cougar “Vanessa”, leading Sebastian astray. 

The dialogue in the vampire meeting is natural but quite serious (with a slightly eerie and ominous soundtrack), making reference to some current events and expressing a few opinions on such matters (from a vampire perspective of course). The conversation devolves into quite a grim scenario, but with the introduction of Sebastian humour is injected into these scenes. This is later followed by what sounds like a pretty horrific scene between the vampires and some soldiers. This variety of scenes display a contrast of character and a breadth of acting ability; they attempt to be both modern, civilised individuals, and the viscous vampires they are. Others are just viscous vampires *cough*Tony Curran*cough*.

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Left to Right: Vincent Regan (The Duke), Henry (Charlie Cox), Angel (Freema Agyeman), Alice (Annette Crosbie), Thomas (Jordan Long), Peter Boniface (Tony Curran). 

 

Converse to Tony Curran’s crazy portrayal of vampire “Peter Boniface”; Charlie Cox, having been temporarily poached from Netflix and Marvel, plays a slightly softer vampire than some of the others. His character “Henry” is a vampire who refuses to feed on humans,  and tries to keep the peace between his fellow vampires and keep young Sebastian alive during the battle.  Between martial arts proficient Chen (Lukaz Leong) and sweet old Alice (Annette Crosbie) with an assault rifle, there’s plenty of action for everyone to sink their teeth into. And with Jason Statham directing the fights, it maintains a good level of ridiculousness.

You grow to seriously dislike “Captain Bingham” and “Larousse”, which is always key to making good villains and gets you rooting for the vampires; however, even though he was on their side, I liked “18” (Johnny Palmiero). He was terrified of the vampires and sympathetic to the Thatchers (Dexter Fletcher and Ruth Jones) who own the farmhouse, both of which make him smart and a good person, which I like.

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Bingham (Robert Portal)

There’s a few twists and little surprises, and many, many, MANY laughs. Everyone in the cinema was laughing along, cheering for their friends when they came on screen, and woo-ing whenever anyone did anything cool. Eve Myles was sat in front of me and believe me she was LOVING every minute of it. 

If you want something that is easy and fun to watch, and are a fan of something a little silly, you definitely need to watch this film. But ensure you begin with no expectation of this being a masterpiece of film making. The cast and crew have clearly had a fantastic time making this and we all had an awesome time watching it with them.

It’s also nice to meet people who you’ve been watching on screen for years and find out they’re genuinely nice, funny people.

And Jason, as promised, I think I’ve been pretty nice 😉

Check out the Live coverage and interviews here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LYUi79fR1no

 

 

American Made: It’s Just Fine

Sure it’s based on a true story which sets some limits, but a change of pace here and there would have been much appreciated.

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This is the story of Barry Seal (played by Tom Cruise), a tired TWA pilot recruited by CIA agent ‘Schafer’ (Domhnall Gleeson) to run reconnaissance flights in Central and South America. Over the course of the movie Seal evolves into gun runner, drug smuggler for the Medellin cartel, and informant for the DEA. Through all this Barry and his wife Lucy (Sarah Wright) raise a family and contribute to their community. As you can imagine, juggling so many jobs, things start to fall apart.

You’d hope that a film starring Tom Cruise and directed by Doug Liman (responsible for such action-packed flicks like The Bourne Identity, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Jumper, Fair Game, and Edge of Tomorrow) would have some excitement and good action. Especially if that movie is about a guy simultaneously working for the CIA, DEA and Escobar. Unfortunately, in my opinion, there was a lot lacking in terms of pace, excitement and much emotion of any kind. I left the cinema not really filming anything, but not quite feeling like it had been a waste of time.

The story is an interesting one and the actors play the characters well, there’s even a few decent laughs thrown in; but the film itself had no dynamics, it seemed to sit at the same level throughout. I can’t fault the actors for their portrayal, they were smart and most importantly believable; especially Sarah Wright as the wife, she was often skeptical of her husbands behaviour and was pretty vocal about it until he told her the truth.

More than likely it’s the script that has no flavour and lacks the changes in pace to make this film a little more intriguing. Unfortunately, in this case the story of Barry Seal has been narrated, but not really told.

Still better than The Mummy though….

Annabelle:Creation, A Vast Improvement

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Annabelle:Creation is the follow up to the 2014 horror, Annabelle. A spin off from The Conjuring franchise. Although Annabelle was a hit at the box office, it wasn’t well received by both fans and critics.  But as we saw last year with the Origins of Evil, an underwhelming first entry can be saved by an impressive second outing! Can Creation do the same for Annabelle?

Creation is directed by David F. Sandberg, who also directed Lights Out,  which was a fascinatingly created horror using a unique concept and managed to not fall into most of the usual horror troupes! So expectation was raised for Creation, and it’s nice to say, that Creation makes up for the lackluster original.

The sequel tells the story a group on orphans, who are moving in with the Mullins family, who have kindly offered to take in the children following their eviction. The Mullins however are still dealing with the loss of their young daughter, following a car accident, a daughter that they are unwilling to let go off. It’s not long before the orphans realize not everything is as it seems in their lonely, isolated home out in the middle of nowhere….

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Janice (Talitha Bateman) & Linda (Lulu Wilson) are two of the orphans, who the film follows throughout the movie. It’s this friendship that they have that makes the movie feel a lot more immersive than random no name characters who are simply there to be killed off! Janice, who suffers from polio, causing her to require crutches for walking, was a different way to add tension.  The moment it’s revealed she has a condition, the entire theater reacted all the same, she will be the poor girl who gets the unwanted attention of our demon!  Lulu Wilson also appeared in Origins of Evil, and is already making a promising career in the horror genre. Both young actors do a strong job with their roles.

The film is very much a game of two halves. The first half is very much at a serene pace, all about the fear the girls are going through, and the presence of the Mullins, especially Mrs Mullins (Miranda Otto), who happens to never leave her room, and is never seen by the girls, or the nun looking after the girls. Whereas Mr Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia) appears to be a stoic person, who displays very little affection towards the children. The movie does a great job in building up the suspense, and there are always something happening in the background! So pay attention! Personally I preferred this part of the film more, as the Annabelle doll really did a wonderful job of being disturbing, irregardless of the fact it never actually moves!! The scenes involving the tea party and Linda firing her toy gun into the darkness, are very unnerving!

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The entire tone of the film changes as soon as the reveal of the demon is made, and it starts going on a rampage! The demon looks pretty generic, and it does talk, which really does take away some of it’s mystique. But, as a horror movie, the intense panic of the 2nd half is required, and it does a fairly good job. It does get surprisingly graphic at times,  considering the subtle tones of the earlier scenes, it does feel slightly out of left field! But the characters are rather well made, and you do root for their survival, rather than hoping they just die for their stupid decisions.

The film still suffers some inconsistent details. Considering the main group of orphans are all young girls, they really don’t act like a young child facing a demonic presence, yes there are some screams and terror at points, but some other parts, they act rather calm, considering the situation they are in! There are also scenes where things feel like you have to just accept the moment.  Considering the home is filled with various other children, the Mullins, and Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman), the home does feel very empty at times suiting the moment!  There are scenes were both Linda & Janice would most likely call for help, rather than just going it alone for the sake of the drama!

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Overall, the positives do outweigh the negatives. Creation gives us a solid horror movie, with intriguing characters, and some genuinely creepy moments! It also give us a look into fan favorite Valak, who will have it’s own spin off soon! If you enjoyed Origins of Evil, you will definitely want to give this a watch too!

 

[The Vault] Spooks : The Greater Good (2015)

For anyone not familiar with the series, Spooks was a wonderfully gritty espionage drama on the BBC, which ran from 2002 to 2011. The show was widely praised for its polished, sleek production, together with its shocking story lines. This was a show not afraid to display graphic violence, or kill off a main character. Things did taper off as the series reached it conclusion, but the shows peak in the earlier seasons are most definitely worth a watch online!

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Spooks: The Greater Good takes place after the events of the show. Sir Harry Pearce (Peter Firth), the long standing head of counter terrorism at MI5, has to disappear off the grid. Following the failed attempt at transferring terror suspect Qasim (Elyes Gable,) over to the CIA. Harry suspects that it was an inside job at MI5, and relies on the assistance of Holloway (Kit Harington), a former MI5 agent, to find out the truth.

Although there are a few minor appearances from some of the cast from the show, The Greater Good focuses mainly on new allies and antagonists. Kit Harington is the main star of the film, but it feels like he was simply cast in this, to ride the wave of his tremendous popularity from his Game of Thrones work. He does a credible job, but he does not elude the aura of an action hero, well not yet anyway!  Our villain never really feels like a threat, you don’t really see what he has done before, or why we should be afraid of him.  He just does not feel intimating at all!

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The plot is your standard ‘The Mole’ story line you have seen in many Spy movies from before. If you enjoy espionage movies, this has all the enjoyable troupes. Shady meetings in car parks, chases, interrogation and explosions! If you’re a fan of the show, you may admire the connection it has to the series, but if you have no idea what Spooks is, you’ll have a difficult time bothering to care about what’s going on!

It’s clear to see the budget for the movie was not huge, and the BBC sheen is obviously missing. The TV version felt so real, and raw. Here, it just feels like a generic movie. But it makes the most of what it can, and there are several famous locations in London that feature throughout. As some who live in London, it’s always nice to see places you recognize in a movie!

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Harry is by far the most interesting part of the movie. He is a character who has been beaten by years of service, and having to suffer all the tough decisions he has had to make, and it’s nice to see him away from his desk & suit, and getting his hands well and truly dirty. The rest of the cast are not very memorable. David Harewood brings some gravitas to his role as Warrender, the head of the Joint Intelligence Committee, other than that, not much else to report!

Spooks: The Greater Good is in no way a bad movie, but it suffers from a bland storyline and simply just not feeling as real as the show. Though at just over 1:30, it’s a perfectly decent movie to watch if you got some time on hand, and like your espionage!

3 word review: For Fans Only

 

Split Shines

Directed by M. Night Shyamalan” is a phrase that’s been associated with several cinematic disasters. The less said about the likes of Avatar, The Happening, After Earth and The Lady in the Water have all been savaged by the critics & fans alike. A roll of dishonour! It wasn’t until The Visit (2015) that his slow climb back up to redemption started. Split is the latest release by the eccentric director, will this movie prove that Shyamalan has still got it, or if The Visit was just a one off?

Split, as the name suggests, is about Kevin (James McAvoy), a person with split personalities, 23 of them to be exact! Kevin abducts 3 girls, and it’s via his interactions with his therapist, that we come to find out the sinister workings of our conflicted figure.

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McAvoy is by far the strongest aspect of the film, and does an outstanding job in portraying his various alter egos. Obviously the movie doesn’t show all 23 egos in the film, but the ones that do get screen time are wonderfully unique in their own way. We have ‘Dennis’, the intimidating alpha male, ‘Ms Patricia’, the caring mother, ‘Hedwig’, the immature 9 year old boy & ‘Barry’, the colourful fashion designer. It’s not just the simple costume changes that convey each character, but the body language and mannerisms that McAvoy manages to assign each persona. It’s a great shame the film missed out on the Oscar nominations for this year.

The supporting cast is a mixed bag, Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy) our main protagonist, and the wisest of the three kidnapped girls, does a solid job as the calm, collected, yet emotionally scarred heroine. As her past is slowly revealed, you do feel for her, and care for her survival. Her other two friends though, feel disposable, and their lack of smarts pretty much makes them forgettable. Betty Buckley as Dr Fletcher makes a challenging foil to Kevin, it’s her interactions with our psychotic kidnapper that really opens up the clashes within his mind.

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The film is essentially told in 3 segments. Kevin, Dr Fletcher and the girls.  The scenes with Kevin & Dr Fletcher are the most intriguing, and provide the best parts of the movie. It’s the scenes featuring the trapped girls, where the film tends to fall into the horror cliches. It’s pretty predictable what will happen to them in their scenes, and slows the movie down a lot.

Split is by far the best movie that Shyamalan has released in well over a decade, after a string of disasters; it’s relieving to see a throwback to his earlier movies, such as Signs, Unbreakable & The 6th Sense, when his directing was more visionary than sporadic. Split builds up the suspense in is tremendous ways, and this is mostly due to the charisma of McAvoy, the plot does well to weave in the multiple personalities, but the ending is quite hit & miss. It’s not as dramatic as The 6th Sense, the finale is a lot more subtle. I can see viewers either loving the ending, or being disappointed by it. Long term fans of Shyamalan will be delighted by the cameo at the end, so stay seated after the final scenes!

January hasn’t been a stellar month for releases over here in the UK, and Split isn’t the perfect movie, but it is by far the best film to hit our shores at the start of this year!

Ghost In The Shell, Iconic

With the release of the live action remake of  Ghost in the Shell this year, I had the opportunity to watch the original 1995 anime at one of the few limited screenings at the cinema. Even though a fan of anime & manga, I’ve never got round to watching this film, so it was time to see what the hype was about!

Following on from 1988’s Akira, GITS follows on with the cyber-punk genre, with a captivating foresight into the future, with a movie that still holds up today. The film was such an inspiration, that the Wachowski’s showed the film to producers when pitching their idea for The Matrix!

GITS revolves around Major Motoko Kusunagi, an android who works for Sector 9, a branch of law enforcement; she is joined by Batou, her partner, and Togusa, the only human in the force, as they attempt to track down the manipulative ‘Puppet Master’ , but things are not as they seem, as they uncover a hidden government conspiracy!

Although I watched it last week, I decided to wait a couple of days before writing about it, as it’s a movie that requires some level of thought, and you may not grasp everything immediately afterwards! Similar to Your Name, it’s a movie that requires some time to go over the finer points!

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The film takes place in the not so future 2029! But considering this film was released over 20 years ago, it does manage to predict what society would be like, and frankly, what it’s like now! The central plot to the movie is that the entire world is interconnected by a computer network, which controls most things, and enabling the authorities to go as far as using wonders such as satellite tracking. Sound familiar? This was all before the internet was really a thing, where a concept of satellite tracking was pure fantasy! How people access this network is via their cybernetic bodies, their ‘shells’, via the ports in the back of their neck. A concept The Matrix franchise used as inspiration for its own lore! The film even inspired the ‘code rain’ that The Matrix films used to great effect, the falling screen of green numbers.

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The very concept of androids and life is the vocal point of our protagonist’s internal conflict, though the Major is an all-powerful robot, who very much looks and thinks like a human, she comes to realise, that at the end of the day, she isn’t. Her ‘ghost’, who is the term used to describe someone soul, is just something that has been programmed into her, and it’s this that eats away at her every night. The search for being human is so concerning for her, the she goes diving underwater in her free time, in order to feel human, knowing if there was any equipment failure, it would doom her in her metallic shell.

It’s important to understand that this is not an action film, though it may be emblazoned with guns on the cover! It’s very much a thriller, with its action set pieces. There are the standard police chase scenes, and stand offs, but don’t expect it to be all guns blazing for the entire run time.  It’s also a slow paced movie, and depending on your personal taste, this may be something you may not be a fan off. The film has a tendency to cut to scenes of the city, showing everyday life, this may not bother you, but others may find it abit too much.

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Let’s for a moment, discuss the sheer beauty of the movie. The animation is gorgeous, for a film made in ’95, it still looks lush now. The detail in the scenery is immaculate; the backstreets of the city are bought to life, simply due to all the signs and colours! The accompanying score is majestic; Kenji Kawai does a magnificent job in telling the story through music. The opening credits to the film are haunting and chilling, in which they depict the creation of the Major, without the music, the scene would be nowhere near as memorable. Showing the Major being created in a factory, gives the character a lot more depth, when it comes to her existential crisis.  It’s great to see that the Hollywood remake will use the same piece of music in its film, a tribute to how iconic the music is.

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The final act is very melancholic and  dialogue heavy. As our hero and villain engage in conversation, regarding their purpose of existing.  It does delve into some very engaging points such as requiring genetic variation, in order to survive. It does require intense focus; otherwise it may just end up as one big mess to the viewer. The ending of the film does film rather abrupt, as it sets up subsequent chapters to the saga. It feels like the movie could have run on for an extra half hour, just to make things a bit easier to grasp, just as you feel like the heroine is set up to make one final charge, it ends!

Ghost in The Shell is not the perfect movie, nor will it appeal to everyone. But the theme and motives of the film were far ahead of its time, and it’s gone on to influence several films since its release.  If you’re a fan of science fiction, even if you don’t have an interest in anime, this film will certainly give you a lot to think over!

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