Film Reviews by Strovey

Welcome to Strovey's film reviews page. Strovey has written 181 reviews and rated 215 films.

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Why Wasn't This Set in Wales? Questions Need to be Asked.

(Edit) 31/03/2024

Luke Scott is Ridley Scott’s son and it is Ridley’s production company that produced Morgan in 2016, so far so the usual way the cinematic world runs, but with this connection and the way that the story unfolds I could not help but link father to son in some way. Without spoiling exactly what is happening in Morgan it could be taken as an origin story for the unforgettable Roy Batty and his comrades. That is just me saying that no one else. The two Scotts are the only connection because while the late Hauer’s Roy Batty is iconic and unforgettable, Anya Taylor-Joy’s Morgan is dull as dishwater and entirely forgettable.

Morgan is a film that thinks it is far cleverer than it is. It is trying to say, just like Luke’s dad’s Blade Runner is trying to say, ‘what is it to be human’ and ‘who are the real monsters’ but this is a common theme in modern AI/robot films, so if you are going to ask the question you now have to ask it in a special or interesting way. Ex-Machina did this perfectly.

In the end, Morgan is just an average piece of science fiction with some action/peril near the end and if you are not paying full attention it might surprise you with the outcome, I was, and guessed the ‘surprise’ and the ending in short order.

Kate Mara, Roony’s older sister, is the mysterious protagonist who at first is the baddy but then flips your feelings for her, more than once. That in itself is interesting and fun. But, and it is a big but, the way Mara plays Lee Weathers makes it blindingly obvious what she is about and who she is, this makes you sigh and raise your eyebrows, about a quarter of an hour into the run time. Was it bad acting, writing or directing? Surely Luke Scott could have told her to reign it in a bit?

Mara herself is surrounded by a group of good and well-renowned actors, all of whom I am convinced did this film to either do Ridley Scott a favour or to get into his good books. Brian Cox bookends the film to let you know what is going on and what happened, Jennifer Jason Leigh is sort of in it but if you had cut her part out it would have made no difference to the story. Toby Jones plays a fairly cardboard cut-out character in the tale, which is a shame, and Paul Giamatti plays the world’s worst psychologist, so poorly written, if they had said, ‘That doctor, he was not a doctor but a plumber faking it’ that would have been believable. Michelle Yeoh again seems to be in the film but really her screen time is in minutes. All these great actors pop in and pop off to save on salaries I presume.

Probably the most interesting character was nutritionist Skip, Boyd Holbrook, his inclusion made me think there was something more to his role. There was not, he was just a nutritionist. A waste.

On the whole, Morgan was watchable, I cannot help feeling poor old Anya Taylor-Joy got the role because of her looks, which is a shame, but I will never watch it again and I will not remember it in a month or so.

For a film that tries to be intellectual and challenging about an interesting and controversial subject, it tends to get more stupid and easier to figure out what is happening the longer it runs.

It was a wasted opportunity and sadly had the reek of ‘the old boys club’ about it in some places.

Shame, a story about how the human race developed and made the likes of Roy Batty many decades before the time of Blade Runner would have been an interesting tale.

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Past Lives

Still Waiting for the Screaming, Shouting and Throwing Stuff About.....

(Edit) 21/03/2024

From a storytelling point of view Past Lives pulls no punches and for me was saying from the start Nay Young or Nora and Hae Sung were meant to be together from the moment they bonded as children, but as the old, tired and well-worn cliché goes, life got in the way. The question is, what do you do when it does? Past Lives looks at this and gives us the answer it does.

Only a three-hander with Lee and Yoo beautiful and soulfully playing the leads, there is obvious chemistry on screen, their performances are well complimented by John Magaro, in a role, if this were a rom-com, he would be the ‘baddy’. You know the trope and decent, earnest man, who has done nothing wrong, but gets dumped by his wife (or fiancée more properly) for the flashy, slightly wacky leading man. Well in this role Magaro is a decent caring man and acts so well you can see his conflict but the willingness to let his wife explore her past and feelings and discuss them all with her old friend. It is a great piece of believable acting and just once it is nice to see three people in a love story of sorts who are not a-holes, not one of them.

Past Lives boiled down to his basic components is a ‘What If?’ tale. What if they had got together back at school, what if they had stayed in touch for twenty years. All questions of course that can never be answered and you could be forgiven for saying there is literally no point asking those questions.

But of course, we all do.

Celine Song who wrote and directed Past Lives has a soft touch and the whole film sensitively approaches its topics. There is the clash of cultures, longing and nostalgia and love, and what loving a person really means.

It was a pleasure to see a soft gentle film with normal characters thrown into perhaps a slightly abnormal situation but nevertheless believable and entertaining. It is slow and quiet so if that is not your bag, if you have to have a baddie to boo and goodies to root for, with a lot of screaming and shouting, Past Lives is not for you.

There is a sense of anticipation throughout the story, and although the pace is slow it somehow still zips along, the change in language from the leads, from Korean, to English and back to Korean again certainly keeps your focus but also nothing is signposted or given away so you do not know how this will end. How you want it to end is up to you.

I have to recommend Past Lives as a sensitive and intelligent take on a non-traditional ‘love-triangle’ that is acted realistically, sensitively and not without a sense of fun and some sorrow. It is great.

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The Last Outlaw

If Only It Really Was The Last Outlaw

(Edit) 28/02/2024

The Last Outlaw was made in 1993 and for this reason, and this reason alone, I harshly judge it. The story, if made in the 1950s, would have been a tad familiar and cliched but made many years after that era it is unforgivable.

The logic or lack of it in the screenplay and writing is shocking and actually distracts from the story being told.

Graff is a psychotic idiot who after twenty-nine successful band robberies somehow manages to balls this one up so much everyone who such much as looks at the bank is killed horribly by explosion or gunfire. His gang, so successful and deadly, does not seem to have any idea of teamwork or cooperation but constantly fight and argue with each other – this is to show how rough and tough they are, it makes them look like utter idiots. Talking of which they are just a cliché gang with little to no character development so you know they are disposable as far as the story goes. Even Graff and Eustis, the main characters, have no real character other than baddy gang leader, and goodie gang member.

People could kill or capture Graff and his gang a few times but somehow do not, otherwise the story ends. Nothing makes a great deal of sense and the dialogue is lame and so familiar.

I have to admit I sort of lost focus halfway through this film, completely missing Steve Buscemi being shot and killed apparently.

If the film is worth watching it is worth watching just to see some good actors in very early roles, with Dermot Mulroney, John C Riley, Ted Levine, Keith David and Steve Buscemi early and centre stage.

Levine as Potts, is easily the most interesting character out of everyone, and he is very one-dimensional, Gabby Hayes voiced, looking out only for himself yet somehow brave and noble too, makes the film a tiny bit more tolerable. Riley, David and Buscemi do the best with what they have and show why they all had successful and bountiful careers in the years to come.

What jars is Mulroney, who as the titular hero, seems a little out of place, a little too modern, it is not a bad performance and you can root for him, but he just gives the impression he is going to walk around a rocky outcrop and pop in his car and drive home.

What ruins this film for me is an ego, a huge ego. Mickey Rourke, a big name at the time, he was clearly able to get his own way with how his character looked and behaved. A ridiculous neatly cropped horseshoe moustache, too much eyeliner, clear plastic surgery, anachronistic clothing and behaviour, he is almost like some mystical superhero and all his portrayal says is ‘I’m cool, I’m Mickey Rourke, here are my wonders to behold’ it is distracting and frankly awful. He looks a bit too rock-starish to me, someone who has forgotten what acting is supposed to do.

It detracts from any positive points the film has.

Rumour has it a lot of his dialogue had to be post-dubbed due to classic mumbleathon.

The story is familiar, a mishmash of Western conventions, outlaws robbing banks because the ‘South’ lost the war – I mean that is okay then – and then one of their number turns against them to hunt them down.

Of course, this is Mickey Rourke and he gets to kill them off one by one, leaving his nemesis to last, he is like an avenging angel, he never, ever misses what he is shooting at, just like the real Wild West, so clichéd and so boring for a film about the west made in the nineties.

The finale has a last-minute turnaround, how many times have you seen that? Our pop-star-like outlaw anti-hero instead of just killing his sworn enemy lets him ‘draw’ on him at the end. The final scene is plain comedic in its denouement I just smiled all the way through. Utter drivel.

Just go away and produce something new please, I would have said that in 1993 and I say it now.

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Lamb Cutlets Definitely Off the Menu!

(Edit) 13/02/2024

I used taciturn in my synopsis of this film and I was not kidding. With an overwhelming feeling of being ‘European’ we get long sweeping and frankly beautiful vistas of Iceland’s cold and mountainous wilderness and little dialogue. The main actors Noomi Rapace and Hilmir Guonason go about their characters’ lives as if they were really them. Just working hard and talking little. Real life if you like.

The acting immediately makes you feel that the two characters are happy with each other and indeed seem to love their lives but something is missing, something unsaid. This is well-acted and well-directed. It is patience and time that will lead you to the answer. Many filmgoers these days do not have this and I can imagine more than a few viewers turning the film off or leaving the showing within half an hour of the start.

But your patience is rewarded with a very slow-burning and bizarre tale that seems to have some roots in folklore, without research I cannot say if it is or is not, but if not it should be.

Now without knowing you could take what you see literally and it becomes a very weird, slightly spooky tale or it could be something allegorical where you need to look past the initial images and story. Truth be told I do not know but I did enjoy what I saw.

If I say any more about this story I will basically give away the simple storyline and as there are only three main actors, plus a voice actor, who all do fine believable jobs there is nothing much more I add.

The actors are all particularly good and naturalistic in the style of European acting, with a lot less flash and more slow burn. The Icelandic remote mountainous scenery reminds me of where I live now, the Scottish Highlands, and I can imagine that the rural work life is actually similar to this for anyone familiar with it.

What happens at the very beginning of the film and in the last half an hour or so does not happen too often to anyone – I hope.

Overall, Lamb is a slow-paced, slow-burning, bonkers tale with a fairly surprising ending, although what precedes the ending does point to the conclusion if you are paying attention. The acting and cinematography are top notch, Noomi Rapace always seems to be good no matter what she is asked to do.

I liked Lamb but I have to say if like a bit of whizz-bang action, actors getting very emotional and smashing cups to show that and so forth, this is not going to be the film for you but if you are looking for something weird and different this might be.

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Winter Kills

Winter Kills but not as much everyone else in this film...

(Edit) 12/02/2024

Apparently actually filmed in 1975 but not put together enough to be released until 1979 due to money and production problems Winter Kills is a singular and unique paranoid conspiracy thriller, basically a wackier JFK before Oliver Stone even thought about making stuff up about that president. With entirely fictional characters and set up, Joe Diamond is not Jack Ruby surely, Winter Kills is a plausible and possibly more so than some of the things I have seen written and filmed about Kennedy’s murder.

Interesting, tonally odd, serious in some places and purposely silly in other places Winter Kills has a backstory all of its own which in some ways is stranger, more violent and conspiracy-filled than the actual fiction.

What you get with Winter Kills is a fun romp with deception, murder and big money. A young Jeff Bridges fronts up the film and is superbly counterpointed by his on-screen father John Huston, a well-regarded director in his own right, showing here that he can act as well as his behind-the-camera work given the right role.

The supporting cast, some who only seem to have been flown in for a few scenes, all prop up a reasonably ludicrous story that nowadays if you voiced it half the world, including lots of British ex-professional footballers, would believe instantly. At points we get Antony Perkins, playing a deliciously silly role that some people believe actually exists in the real world right now, Sterling Hayden, Eli Wallach, always good value, Toshiro Mifune and even Elizabeth Taylor. All these people popping up, doing their stuff and leaving make you grin if you love films. Hayden seems to be having a ball as the tank owning nutter – or these days a normal bloke.

The more we get into the story, the more Jeff Bridges chases after the gloriously attractive Belinda Bauer, whose orgasm proves she could have a career in porn if all else fails, and she certainly looked great nude, sorry, but she really did, the more people die as soon as they give some interesting information, the more you know this is a black-hearted comedy that a lot of people watching then, and definitely watching now would take seriously.

The mob, political and family influence and the film industry all play a part in the conspiracy in a wacky and sort of complex way and let us just leave it at that.

The problem Winter Kills has, and its troubled production may well have contributed, is director Reichert cannot quite get the balance or mix correct, so going from one plot point can be daft and even funny and then suddenly someone is murdered or you are told they are in a ‘straight’ thriller way. Whatever you see on the screen though you are entertained and it has to be said you are not going to be bored.

All of the actors give solid displays, which is great considering the problems with pay and other important things that happened during the filming and the whole story is anchored by Bridges's likeable and sincere portrayal of Nick, the man stuck slap-bang in the middle of the subterfuge and even though it is against his better nature he takes it on.

Winter Kills is an inconsistent and not so well-known conspiracy thriller, clearly a take on the JFK assassination but with all the names changed and is present in a unique and fun way, perhaps very seventies it still stands up today, if a little disjointed and tonally variable. Nevertheless, the story is fun, everything gets to the point and does not meander the lead roles are played with some aplomb.

If you find Winter Kills on some streaming channel or a cheap film hire I recommend watching it, just remember in the seventies it was made a fun, madcap take on a real murder or a real president, it is not a documentary and nothing you see is ‘fact’.

Just enjoy Jeff Bridges and the entertainment.

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The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean

Mr Bean the Early Year, Historical Interesting, Not so Slapstick Though....

(Edit) 27/01/2024

The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean is an odd film made by prolific filmmaker John Huston, with star Paul Newman front and centre. Make no mistake this film revolves around Newman who seems to be having fun interpreting the eccentric real-life character Bean.

The film itself has an odd flow and feel to the story with characters breaking the fourth wall and talking directly to the camera, Perkins early in the film as the Reverand LaSalle and then Tab Hunter as doomed criminal Sam Dodd, then it does not seem to happen again although we get various characters voice-overs. Odd and very inconsistent.

Then again the whole film is extremely inconsistent, originally it seems as though you are watching a rip-roaring, slightly dark, hangings and shootings, comedy-western, which transforms into a melancholy sad section and finally everything goes off the rails with the main character and star disappearing and coming back like some sort of cowboy terminator as everyone and everything gets shot, burned down, destroyed and ‘revenged’. There is not a narrative story it is just a lot of set pieces, it is odd and makes for an unsatisfying tale.

The cast is great and great fun. Subtlety is off the menu and everything is turned up to eleven. No one is restrained and Newman in particular is given free reign to put Bean on the screen as he wanted. Depending on your temperament this will be a plus or a minus. I found the film, for all of its strange presentation and story, such as it is, entertaining, and overall, it was just great fun.

Being of a certain age it was great to see Ned Beatty, Roddy McDowall, Jacqueline Bisset and Stacey Keach looking young and vibrant. Talking of which one of the favourite sections of the film for many was Stacey Keach as an albino bad-man Bad Bob, the ‘real’ Bad Bob. I found this section annoying, how it ended was fun and funny but the whole character and how it was presented seemed from a different more comedic and comic-book-style film. It jarred with everything that came before and after.

Interesting to see an exceptionally beautiful and young Victoria Principal, aged twenty-one and so good-looking it should be criminal, playing, yup you guessed it, a Mexican. Being so young and at the start of a long career she more than holds her own against an experienced cast.

Judge Roy Bean was a real-life person who lived around the area shown in the film but if you are looking for historical facts you are going to be massively disappointed but perhaps it could be said that straying so far from the real story means Huston is saying do not look for the facts and enjoy yourself.

Bean was probably a lot more of a rapscallion and seemed from history to be mainly out for himself in the early years but did give some of his fortune back to the community in later life. In the film, he hangs and shoots a lot of people, not true, and he lives way into the time of World War One and beyond which is at least eleven years longer than he did, he had more than one child and he never rode off into the desert to return decades later.

Oddly, the final act is so poor it nearly drags the entire film down. Including some stunt work with characters being shot and blown up, looking very much like ‘stunt work’.

The ending, with Ava Gardner dropping in as Lilly Langtry, (presumably to earn some dollars which she admitted in her later years), is poignant and sad, but utter nonsense. A fitting finale for the entire film, that whilst entertaining with some top actors in cameo roles and Paul Newman at his charismatic best, is nonsensical and cartoonlike in places.

The cinematography is impressive, along with the overall look and feel of the ‘old West’. Outlaws are morally and matter-of-factly ambiguous, they look scruffy and desert-weary, the saloon bar ladies are not virtuous beauties but a bit rough and ready, and the town looks dusty and down at heels.

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Werewolf Santa

There Ain't No Sanity Clause With This Film That is For Sure

(Edit) 22/01/2024

Firstly, if you are going to watch this film Werewolf Santa which I think was called Frost Bites originally (a much better title in my opinion) you have to understand two things, it is very, very cheap, I would say loose change down the sofa budget and it is short, in truth mercifully, coming in at one hour and nine minutes.

Neither of the preceding statements is meant to be a vicious or mean criticism either. I am on record many times saying a strict or non-existent budget can often drive makers to be highly innovative in their production and to everyone’s advantage. With Werewolf Santa we are going for extremely silly or that seems to be the feeling from the start and as we progress, here I think the basis of the story and what we are being asked to view is definitely a bridge too far with the budget.

The early scenes with Katherine Rodden trying to make another episode of her YouTube channel are believable and played virtually straight. I did not like comic book panels and voice-over provided by John Bloom as it felt like and almost certainly was, ‘filler’. Emily Booth is always a coquettish presence and good value for money, which with her in the film I am guessing it is where all of the budget went or perhaps it was free, either way, they got a good deal and the film is better with Emily in it. The problem is she does not seem to have much chemistry with Mark Arnold who is easily the most experienced person you will see on the screen and he is clearly and weirdly miscast.

It has to be said that the cast all give their all and you could not complain about any effort put in, even if some it seemed at times a bit school-production. Talking of which the effects, the werewolf Santa itself was in a word ‘crap’ and could have been better, and no budget is no excuse. But the biggest problem aside from those outlined previously is you can almost see where the writing, by director Airell Anthony Hayles, loses its way as the story concludes, there are few scares and apart from Booth and the hole she digs herself about ‘dogging’ the laughs are not there. Even though the acting and the effects are messy they still are not as messy as the story which really meanders, gets lost and thus loses your attention as it just goes from set piece to set piece and daft exposition to the end.

Werewolf Santa is a ridiculously cheap film, and that in itself is not a criticism in any way but it also is not an excuse, I would suggest that there are many, many cheap films out there that can be looked at to see how to make them more engaging and more fun and to look less cheap. Emily Booth and her fellow cast members really make an effort so that is a big tick in the positive box, Emily Booth makes it fun anyway and the dogging scene and dialogue is surely just put in there to play on her ‘sexy media persona’ and it works.

Would I recommend Werewolf Santa the answer is no – most people will be less tolerant than me of minus-money budget films but if you are interested in filmmaking and not simply great filmmaking it is worth a look and anyway who does not love Emily?

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Monster Armageddon

Three Stars out of Five for Asylum - that's Oscar form that is....

(Edit) 14/01/2024

Firstly, this is an Asylum film so you know what you are going to get, some okay acting, some really poor acting, some okayish screen effects and created by a new user to Photoshop. All done with an underlying sense of humour and a bit of cheek.

Here though the film is set in the world of Asylum, so they are a film maker in the story and it is their films that cause the disaster. Asylum milk this well, especially early on and to completely frank it is funny. Particularly later in the film where we meet ‘actor’ played by Mike Gaglio, sort of playing himself, in a film, it is rather funny as so meta your head might start spinning.

The effects are absolutely spot-on Asylum effects, you can see where they give the creators a budget limit but the intent is there.

Credit where credit is due, despite the absolute lack of any care for any details of US military operations, ranks or how it all works, and clearly limited locations, the one thing that Asylum do is unashamedly have women in leading and important roles. In Monster Armageddon it is the unlikely-looking Maddy and Quinn played by the delightful Lindsey Marie Wilson and Jhey Castles both attractive and sparky ladies but at no point did I think they were sisters. Nevertheless, Asylum unashamedly put them front and centre as the heroes and also sort of did it in a way that says, ‘this is completely normal’. No fanfare or highlighting, two ladies, in the lead, saving the day, let us get on with it. Fair play to them.

Not only that but the people who bring how the ‘aliens’ are operating to the authorities' attention are also a woman, and a brown man, who are happily married.

As mentioned before the acting varies from scene to scene with probably the worst being in an obvious cost-saving scene as the main protagonists escape from the marauding ‘crocosaurus’ they comment on what they can see as they look out of the helicopter window. Except all of them seem to be watching a Sunday picnic or seem as emotionally affected in that way. Michael Pare probably the most experienced actor in the film is the worst, he is looking at a 200-foot-long crocodile destroying Washington DC with literally no emotion on his face.

The story wobbles all over the place and like many Asylum films seems to have changed at the last minute, cutting scenes or dialogue out that then makes things a bit incomprehensible but if you are in the right mood, that is the fun of it.

We get everything, from giant robots, snakes, sharks and so on, but we also get potato-headed aliens and zombies, the cleanest looking unscary zombies ever to have risen from the dead but they are there.

Overall, Monster Armageddon or 2025 Armageddon as it appears to be called now is everything bad about Asylum, cheap, silly, nonsensical and rushed and everything good, cheap, silly, nonsensical and too rushed. But the winner for the company is the premise. Base everything on your films, promote them in the film, take the mickey and even cause an alien invasion. That has never happened to MGM.

If you cannot stand any Asylum film and I admit I am not a big fan and have never been, you might be able to bear this effort. If you love watching their style of silly rip-off fun then you will love this.

You pays your money and takes your choice.

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Meg 2: The Trench

Abuses the Premise of 'Switch Your Brain Off'

(Edit) 06/01/2024

The film Meg 2 gives all the appearances of being written by a very excitable 11-year-old who wanted to watch, monsters, robot suits, baddies and see explosions, monsters eating people and a hero killing the monsters, oh and guns and shooting.

Well anyone who wants to watch this has got it and Meg 2 is ten out of ten for that.

If you are over eleven years of age and have a discerning part of your brain that can reason and see at least a fundamental logic then the Meg 2 will annoy you and in fact, as it did with me, bore you.

The positives in it are Jason Statham and Jason Statham and even then I am not so sure I could see the glint of his bank-balance in his eyes because even with his history of hokey and utterly stoooopid films this one towers above them.

The other cast members are ‘I’ve seen him in something before’ and ‘She looks like cut-price Kate Winslett’ and ‘Who?’ They try their best and are enthusiastic but I feel that this film is not their path to fame and stardom even if they were ‘acting with The Stath’ and being directed by ‘Ben – hang your head in shame – Wheatley’.

The opening scene is similar to something I saw on an Attenborough documentary on dinosaurs but was more believable how it occurred and featured a different sea monster because megalodons did not exist at the same time as tyrannosaurus rexes and the whole shock event was just there to say the Meg is bigger and scarier than that Jurassic Park star and much more powerful. Ironically Jurassic Park jumped the shark some time back. This opening ‘wow’ scene does not make any sense and is highly unrealistic and thus we are set up for the entire film.

The visual effects are poor at times, especially things on the surface of the sea, some of the sharks look impressive in certain setups, but other times not so much. I thought the whole octopus part was almost a parody because of what happened and how it looked but no apparently it was meant to be terrifying.

The lizard things, not sure how they lived where they did, not sure why they just went around killing people because predators in my experience tend to kill other animals to eat them. These just wanted to kill people, that was it.

Statham plays Statham as per usual, still does not know how to use a razor but luckily enough for him his stubble stays the same length in perpetuity. He looks like he is carved from granite, he just looks tough, I suspect he probably is fairly tough, so why make his character impervious to the laws of nature and physics? This is a common theme nowadays, even the recent ‘The Killer’ on Netflix set it up with a calculating, clever and cerebral assassin still being indestructible in one scene as his skinny frame survives a battering that would literally kill anyone – why do filmmakers to this? In films made for grown adults?

The film is poor and has little to no redeeming features.

It does however open up an interesting can-of-worms. Clearly the brief was ‘bigger’, and expand on everything the first film had. S, more megalodons, more monsters, more peril, more evil baddies and just more. I have no doubt there is an audience that will lap this up so we will get the terrible prospect of Meg 3: This Time It is Personal soon.

Why can’t the makers, writers and actors look at the first film and say ‘how can we improve on this’ (not difficult but they failed) how can we expand the lore and make it interesting, perhaps we can make it different? Nope, they just doubled down and made it stupider. But this is not the Meg 2’s fault they are just following a too well-worn path now in moviemaking. Is it us the audience’s fault, it seems that films that deal with serious problems or have stories that do not involve explosions and monsters or superheroes do not do as well.

Is the audience getting dumber and the films are being made for them?

Do dopey films make a dopier audience?

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The Flash

All It Needed was a New Super-Villain called 'The Pan' and We'd Have Been Complete

(Edit) 26/12/2023

The Flash is an odd superhero movie, it has the elements we expect, a lot of explosions, a lot of cars flipping end over end, a lot of peril for people, including a ‘shower of babies’ that the hero eventually puts a stop to – but only just. Yet it mixes this in with a dorky alter-ego and some misplaced and at times rather low-brow humour. Pile on top of this a lot of people getting killed, and there were a lot of families of servicepeople who were going to be affected and the unpleasant stabbing murder of the main protagonist's mother. What age group was it aimed at? I have no idea.

The story is certainly nothing we have not seen in many films, books and other fiction before. A Sound of Thunder always comes to mind when anyone tackles this because the outcome, the moral, is always exactly the same. You cannot go back in time to change one thing without changing everything.

In The Flash it seems as if the writers could not resist the temptation to make this simple premise well, simple really. It gets convoluted and odd and makes little sense the longer it goes on. What it really seems to be is a good excuse for some hard-core comic-book, super-hero nostalgia porn, as every version ever put on any screen (in the Western hemisphere at least) of Superman and few other heroes pops up for a little cameo, including poor old Nic Cage’s fervent wish from decades ago. For me it did nothing but for some viewers I would imagine it was Nirvana.

The visual effects on display are at times poor, and Polar Express 'uncanny', which considering the development time and money spent is a poor return. Apparently, this was deliberate as it was supposed to represent the view through Barry’s eyes in the alternate dimensions and it had absolutely nothing with impossible deadlines and penny-pinching.

Ezra Miller plays dual roles and much like Ezra’s off-screen persona they are both at times good and others really bad. Playing up the camera and hamming it for it is worth and then in an emotional scene with his mother getting the effect required from the acting. Puzzling. Regardless of the events beyond the camera, I can only judge what I see on the screen. It is not a review of dreadful events in the real world although I have opinions on those, definitely for another Blog or place.

Throughout the run time we get superhero returnees, including croaky-voiced Affleck and Keaton as Batpeople and discarding with Henry Cavill we get Sash Calle donning a figure-hugging CGI suit as Superman’s niece who does very little except get angry and killed – about twenty times.

Michael Shannon returns as Zod, again looks mean, badly CGIed and does little else.

Really the whole thing is a mess but I am glad every probably got paid well at least.

Sprinkle throughout as some familiar faces to UK viewers, Saoirse-Monica Jackson, Sanjeev Bhaskar and Kieran Hodgson, who was sat on the sofa of Glaswegian living-room only a few days previously.

The more enjoyable aspects are when Barry interacts with his parents, the ever-reliable Ron Livingston and Maribel Verdú but people who watch The Flash do not want to see that, they are there for their heroes and explosions, and flipping cars and derring-do and to be fair you do get that.

Overall, The Flash had a job to do, to persuade me to review my bias against comic-book superhero films and it failed. Flashing lights, a billion dollars worth of CGI and visual effects, non-stop violence where peripheral characters die, a flawed protagonist, who starts out a bit wonky but gets better and learns near the end and a big ‘twist’ that I guessed the first time I saw the character.

If this was for adults it was too simplistic and too illogical and if it was for the younger generation too violent and panders too much.

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Cutter's Way

The Big Bone was a title not used in the end, but Jeff Bridges never forgot that title.

(Edit) 21/12/2023

Cutter's Way is a film that sneaked under my radar way back in the early eighties when I was a teenager and with subsequent showings on TV which I am guessing there must have been, its style and story seem set up perfectly for late-night Saturday night showings on BBC2 when I was in my twenties but even I cannot see every film.

When I was a young man in his twenties I would have loved this and it has to be said despite it being of its time with a few moments that rightfully would have to be handled carefully in this day and age it is still a well-acted, well-directed enjoyable romp despite the content which, let us make no mistake, is dark from the beginning to the end.

Cutter's Way is certainly of a ‘type’ with the two main characters whilst both likable in their own way are ‘off the normal path’ and in real life would be avoided by a country mile by most of us.

Alex Cutter is played by a noticeably young John Heard, the late actor here is unrecognisable if you only know him from his later work. Cutter is a rage-filled, drunken and disabled by war veteran. More or less embodying the Vietnam rage felt by many Heard enjoys bringing all of his acting tools to the fore. Some scenes showing the pent-up rage and impotence of his character are actorly and exceedingly dramatic but within the context of the story and characters it a cinematic device that can be forgiven.

The mystery of the murder and who committed it takes a step out of focus and we are plunged into the nuances of the relationship between Bone, Cutter and Mo and the complicated and fractious set of protagonists.

The stunningly handsome and languid Jeff Bridges despite being a drifter with little focus is front and centre and the moral guide, trying at all turns to save Cutter from himself and comfort and console Mo his much put-upon wife.

Lisa Eichhorn given the difficult role of Mo is at least given something to do other than just being the ‘wife’ but herein lies the problem as she is sidelined for longer periods and although Cutter is damaged his treatment of his problematical to say the least, but nevertheless Eichhorn holds her own against the male heavyweights and is memorable.

So far so good, Cutter's Way seems to be a buddy movie from the early 80s with two loveable but wacky main characters supported by Eichhorn and Ann Dusenberry, the vengeful sister, and the establishment friend Arthur Rosenberg, both creditable. In reality clearly, the makers, and the original novel I suspect, is an indictment of the relationship between the small people and the wealth and power of the USA. Corruption and power rule the roost and justice for the small and weak is rare, if not impossible with the not long passed Vietnam War the pivot on which the tale revolves.

This theory taken to an extreme means that Cutter has seen the corruption and uncaring nature of power, or J.J. Cord (an oil baron surprise, surprise), and Bone is an aware but naïve American public. It seems obvious to me but if you miss this point, it is underlined, Cutter tossing an innocent child’s toy into the Ocean and then shooting it to shreds, Bone taking the gun off him and throwing it away – and so forth.

If you do miss this, or do not agree, Cutter's Way is still a great murder revenge tale about a corrupt man intending to get away with literal murder. On this level is quirky, well-acted and fun. It has aged well, there are few ‘N’ references and some spousal abuse, so not cool, but within the context of the characters and story you should be able to let them pass with perhaps a modicum of bad taste in your mouth.

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The Priest's Children

A Priest's Tale but No Nuns

(Edit) 09/12/2023

Not my usual fair, a Croatian film, so the culture and sensibilities on display will clearly not be something I am used to at all. The story involves the Roman Catholic Church, their attitude, in the form of a young priest, to birth control, sin and confession and the hypocrisy of those that practice it and how it affects everyone. When you take on a topic that can be as heavy as this, in a culture that has suffered a catastrophic war you are always doing something risky. Humour and satire are always a way to approach it.

Vinko Bresan is a veteran of Croatian cinema and apparently the situation we find ourselves in is something with which he is familiar. He likes to set stories on islands, probably confining the action and actors to a restrictive setting almost a play setting in some ways.

The island setting itself looks slow and idyllic and sets the atmosphere and feel for the story very well. The acting, for my part, seemed fairly natural and there was not too much ham or gurning, even in the more farcical situations, I have since read the accents are not island-style but I am never going to know if that is a failing or not if I am honest.

It is easy to see The Priest’s Children as a polemic on the Catholic Church but Bresan oversees how the priest behaves fairly and at no time is he the deliberate butt of every joke and stupid situation. Indeed, the islanders can be seen to be more hypocritical at all times whilst Don Fabijan is held to the highest standards. It is an interesting point raised with a smile.

Where the problems start to arise is this basic tenant is established early on and that is all we get throughout the film, just characters weaving in and out of the same problem. Until the film ends on huge tone shift where there is no laughing to be had. This is a huge gear change and no clutch is used. It was problematic for me.

It has to be said it is some sort of strange skill to get a mainly farcical comedy film that is just over ninety minutes long to seem longer.

The acting for all involved is subtle and good enough not to ruin the story and the fun poked at the corruption of the church by the people inside it, the bishop rolling up in a yacht that one character thinks is either a government or Mafioso yacht is laugh out loud funny, but what you get from this film will definitely come from where you start, being Croatian or from that area and growing up amongst a strong Catholic Church presence means you will certainly view this differently than me, an atheist 61-year old man from Hampshire in the UK who has had a lucky and charmed life.

Overall, The Priest’s Children is certainly worth viewing, if only to see some Croatian cinema, and get a feel for it. If you watch enough satires on religion and how people interact with it there is nothing new and if you do not like repetitive, twee and on-the-nose music throughout the runtime you will not like this.

I have watched The Priest’s Children, it kept my attention but I doubt I will ever watch it again.

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Night Shift

Not So Many Happy Days at the Morgue - I'll get my coat.

(Edit) 08/11/2023

Grand Theft Auto was really Ron Howard’s first film he directed but Night Shift is touted as his first attempt at a big Hollywood style film or feature. At the time he was just twenty-eight and it seems he was in a ‘safe place’ as he was surrounded by Happy Days friends, Henry Winkler or Fonzie and the writers Ganz and Mandel who wrote for Happy Days. Throw in the mix Richard Belzer, Winkler’s cousin, who in this film looks too much like him, and his brother Clint, who has an entire career based on Ron Howard’s films and the young director must have been fairly relaxed.

Michael Keaton is probably second billed here but it can be argued that this was his breakout film and his manic, cock-eyed and very Keatonesque performance proved popular with the 80s audiences, on the other hand Winkler, certainly the bigger star at the time, played against type swimming upstream from the confident, all-fighting, all-loving Fonzie to play what is basically a cowardly dweeb for want of better description. It maybe did not help him that he played it very well showing a bigger range than early Keaton but audiences did not like or could not adjust to it. Aside from playing Fonzie for a few more years Winkler sort of disappeared whilst Keaton went from strength to strength.

The final member of the trio, and basically the film revolves around these three for the majority of the running time is Shelley Long, who cleverly booked a role in long-running TV success ‘Cheers’ whilst still popping up in mainly light frothy comedies. Here, much like a lot of her roles, she is not given a great deal to work with being the favourite of Hollywood an attractive, lovely, prostitute (I am using the vernacular of the time) who is smart, intelligent and kind. Sure, they will be out there but in the cinematic world there seems to be a lot. Having said that she plays this role to the hilt and the chemistry between her and the two male leads is up there to be seen.

Overall, where does Night Shift sit? The comedy revolves around the mismatch between the two male leads and at this point it works, Keaton and Winkler play off each other well and the mismatched friendship is believable, as is the romance between Long and Winkler despite the role Long is given. The rest of the story is problematic. I suppose in 1982 when I was 20 I would have laughed like a drain but viewing from 2023 we can see things we could not then,

We have, Gina Hecht, who plays Chuck’s attractive and slightly paranoid fiancé Charlotte, somehow being one the film’s more unattractive characters yet basically she does nothing wrong and is dumped. How many films have you seen where the original partner of a character is shown to be undesirable often by being normal? It was a trope in 1982 and it is a trope now. Tired, lazy and worn-out.

Then of course the whole topic of sex-workers exploitation. All the girls look exactly what you think they should look like at the time, except they are on the right side of attractive, not one of them drug-addled and worn out from the life they have led. Rather than beating a dead horse than you have read from better writers on the topic than me this all seemed to me to be a bit stereotypical and even for the eighties once again, a bit tired.

The film is comedic, yet there are murders, women being exploited and beaten, men earning from immoral purposes, I mean I am not one for stopping distasteful comedy but I think when you get into this territory you need to try to have an underlying message to give the comedy some substance. Night Shift mostly misses this target and let us face it even back then it was a fairly big and easy target to make a statement.

Night Shift is worth watching to see Henry Winkler showing what a good actor he is and the start of Michael Keaton’s screen persona around that time and much like Winkler what an accomplished actor Shelly Long was.

Although despite this the truth is I probably would not watch it again

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If You Only Take One Thing Away From Conviction - Could You Do What Betty-Anne did?

(Edit) 30/10/2023

Conviction is not something you have not seen before, that is the plain truth. An innocent man imprisoned and fighting to prove that innocence against all the odds by one determined individual. So far so TV movie of the week. What lifts this particular film way about this crowd is, and I have said this so many times before with my opinions, the acting. The script, directing and pace of the film are all good and help but add two less talented actors taking the weight of the story on their shoulders and you get a poorer quality product.

Another strength for Conviction is that as improbable as it might seem it is based mainly on a true story. A man really did spend eighteen years of his life in prison for a crime he most definitely did not commit and the only person who believed him from the start and stuck with him to the bitter end was his sister.

What we really have here amongst the courtroom, lazy police officers, and trailer trash witnesses’ travails is a simple dramatic story of the love between two siblings. Viewed like this Conviction is a triumph. Hilary Swank once again is strong, earnest and fun as the hard-working, almost in some sense blind to her brother’s short-comings Betty Anne and Sam Rockwell in the more colourful role of Kenny once again shows his acting chops by toning it down, making Kenny, dreadful, funny, sad and sympathetic. I have previously noted Rockwell seems to have the ability to create believable on-screen chemistry with his co-stars, an amazing tool he has at his disposal. It is now at the point that if Sam Rockwell is in a film I will watch no matter the topic.

Strong support is provided by the always dependable Minnie Driver, possibly a fictional character to reflect the audience's viewpoint, and the black-hat Melissa Leo as a vengeful cop and white-hat Peter Gallagher as the Innocence Project bossman. Equally, the young actors dropping in and out of the film as her sons put in believable performances. Casting is so important in any film.

Director Tony Goldwyn and writer Pamela Gray carefully avoid too much courtroom or prison action or even the desperation of the law classroom for Betty Anne, wisely choosing to invest emotional heft in familial flashbacks and dramatic meetings between desperate Kenny and determined Betty Ann. This keeps proceedings simple, some would say dull or slow I suppose, but it builds up to what, if you do not know the story, you hope is the end. For me it worked well.

If I have any complaints it does appear that the makers want to really underline who are the baddies later in the film with Juliette ‘look at my manky teeth’ Lewis looking like a leftover from The Walking Dead and Kenny’s ex-wife, played by Clea DuVall, looking as if her double-dealing has made it all go downhill. Doing the wrong thing means the rest of your life will not turn out too well. We all know that is not necessarily so but it is a filmatic device and not a major complaint.

Overall Conviction is a fascinating tale of strong sibling love, and one woman’s utter set-in-stone conviction and unbreakable determination. All true as well. Sure, there will be little breakaways from the story, dramatic devices and exaggerations but as ‘true life stories go’ stick in Sam Rockwell, Hilary Swank and Minnie Driver and half your work is done before you start.

This film took ten years to make due to funding falling through, so take a little under two hours of your day to watch it and then ponder in the same circumstances could you do it? I am not so sure I could, shame on me.

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Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

Animation Shouldn't Be Better than Lauded Actors - But it Is!

(Edit) 23/10/2023

It has to be said upfront that the Spider-Verse animated films are not targeted to me, a 61-year-old man. Nevertheless, the original Into the Spider-Verse film featuring the adventures of Miles Morales and his Spider-Friends was one of my favourite super-hero films of any type of ‘brand’, therefore, I was looking forward to the Across the Spider-Verse further adventure.

In some ways my anticipation was more than excelled but some ways it was disappointed.

The animation, voice acting, fun and excitement were again top-notch. Which coming from with the kinetic and brightly coloured nature of what is thrown at you on the screen is a high compliment. The bright colours and almost surrealist-style shapes which would normally have got these old eyes spinning and upset me just seemed part of the story and in keeping with what I was expecting. All good.

What perhaps held this particular film back from being as well-regarded by me as the first, I really did like that first film, is the running time. Did it really need to be over two hours long? I would say no and the part that failed the most was what I think the makers as the showpiece. When Miles gets to Spider-Verse Central and we see many, many versions of Spider-types. It was too much, with too many variants and became a little dull. I also feel it would have been wiser to make this, like the first, a self-contained story and not a part one. Seems a cynical money grab if I am being honest.

The humour throughout the film is spot on including the in-joke of having Miguel O’Hara, voiced by Oscar Issacs, being the only Spider-Person with literally no sense of humour or fun. It also helps, unlike a lot of Marvel output that this humour derives from many sources and is not just the central character being a ‘smartarse’ to the point where you start to dislike them.

This time I feel the animation, although fluid and impressive did not have as many variants but that might have more to do with my lack of observation than any failing on the part of the makers. The voice acting and casting is spot-on, especially Daniel Kaluuya going back to London, and frankly the film and performances drag you into such a point that you almost forget you are watching an animation, no small feat.

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is a fun action-packed adventure that adds to the first Spider-Verse film and takes nothing away. Fans and aficionados will love it and if a tired, seen-it-all old man can enjoy it then Lord, Miller et al have done their job well.

I will watch the ‘Part 2’ that is going to turn up and no doubt enjoy it. Just make sure you have a nice comfortable cushion to sit on before settling down.

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