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Age of the Living Dead (2018)
Great idea poor execution....
If you looked at the script for "Age of the Living Dead" having never seen an episode, you might just be moderately impressed. Its not exactly a new idea but there's enough here that's new and novel to get your attention. I especially liked the international aspect of this story, with global and not just local interests effected by the vampire infestation of roughly two thirds of the USA.
Regrettably the "B" execution leaves much to be desired. The acting ranges from alright to downright wooden. Its not helped by a conspicuously low budget, that even extends to sound effects. I wonder how many times in a week "combat practise with sergeant such and such, can be delayed". This had me chuckling as did the truly comedic vampires, who are a cross between any Hammer Films vamp you care to name and the Count from Sesame Street.
Its such as shame more money was not spent on this series. It's very much a case of wasted potential. The result being a series that's, at best, a marginal watch.
4/10 from me.
Mr Inbetween (2018)
Don't mess with.....
Mr Inbetween brilliantly captures the raw underbelly of Australian society.
The main character Ray is a man of two parts. One is a kind, generous and considerate rough diamond. The other a ruthless monster, who brutalises and kills, with a pragmatic, at times almost jovial, "you had this coming", coldness.
The juxtaposition of conflicting yet at the same time oddly reconciled personality traits, that constitute Ray's complex persona, make for fascinating viewing. Ray slips with relative ease into and out of a world of pedestrian normalcy, into one fuelled by organised crime, violence and sudden death.
It never ceases to amaze me how many quality productions come out of Australia. Mr Inbetween is yet another example. Well acted, intelligently written and ably directed. Great stuff from "down, down under".
8/10 from me.
La Femme Nikita for amateurs.....
Replete with clumsy cliched Soviet caricatures, a bland, unsophisticated story line and uninspired action, Anna is faded facsimile of La Femme Nikita.
Its a shame too, as this film has a decent cast, with a lead who fits the role nicely. Sadly, everything else is so poorly executed, with such a brash lack of refinement, its really hard to say anything positive.
In short, I feel this is a amateurish effort, that somehow feels "rushed" and not surprisingly, suffers badly when it is inevitably compared to the older film, it awkwardly apes.
4/10 from me.
Interview with an idiot......
I'm amazed at some of the positive reviews of this one. Vidar the Vampire sucks and not in a good way.
Its tries far too hard to be clever, ending up being little more than a rather depressing insight into the life of an overlooked foolish individual, trapped by obligation, co-dependency and a lack of self confidence.
Worse still, it takes time before you realise there's nothing on offer here. This flick starts out well enough and even offers some novelty, before ever so slowly dragging you down the path to a tiresome "dead end" on a shrinks couch.
Carnival Row (2019)
A novel concept weighed down by political baggage....
I really like the idea behind Carnival Row. Its "fairy tales for adults", as opposed to the kind you find at the bottom of the garden premise is fresh enough to actually be quite engaging.
Its helped a lot by imagining a Victorian cyber punk mash up world, replete with the kind of problems we see every day. Regrettably this is also this series shortcoming.
It's not hard or I personally feel, unreasonable, that the viewer might see it as a nod to the kind of pro immigration agenda being pushed by many governments and big business these days. Not to mention the kind of sexual ambiguity many people are not comfortable with or like me don't really care about one way or another. Yet at the same time are simply tired of being lectured about at every turn.
These politicised elements load this series down with baggage it does not need. Its a shame too as there remains much to like here. As it stands I can't give this series a resounding endorsement but I can't write it off entirely either. A 6/10 will have to suffice.
I simply could not watch this. The dialogue was so low brow it would have been better if they had simply started shooting and kept going until the closing credits.
Indeed, from what I did see the action is the only place where this thing shines, if ever so briefly and faintly.
In short I found this one inexplicably bad, even by action flick standards. 3/10 from me.
Puerile and a little nasty.....
I should have known better than to go near teenie drama's. That said I rather liked the original Sabrina back in the 90's. It had just enough going for it as a lighthearted comedy to be accessible to a broad viewership.
Not so with the new make over. This series is squarely focused on teens but that said looking back even as a teen, I'd have found this puerile and annoying.
The main character Sabrina is an irritating poster child for political correctness. Her fad laden, pseudo feminist musing's are validated by blatantly misogynistic characterizations, easy fodder for Sabrina's weedy, feminist outrage.
Worse still this attitude permeates the whole series. The idea of telling a story about a young witch or even making a decent comedy is crushed beneath 16 going on 36 cynical Sabrina's, tiresome crusades. Even when that's not the case, her chronic overdose of self absorbed prattle, does little to lighten the mood.
Its not helped either by aunt characters who are offer up more of the same. Delighted at the idea of using the blood of a young murdered man for Sabrina's ritual initiation into witch hood........"ugh".
In my view one to avoid. 2/10.
Not worth a penny.....
Pennyworth is another low currency series from the Marvel universe. This time its the butler Alfred's turn to put on the franchise treadmill.
Its tedious stuff that seems to follow the Michael Caine interpretation of Alfred as a working class lad with big aspirations. The fact poor old Alfred ends up as a weird rich guy in a bat outfit's butler, would seem to suggest those ambitions fell short of the mark.
The series itself tries very hard, too hard in fact, to capture the vibe of sixties London. The whole tone and atmosphere is as overcooked as last Sundays corned beef. Alfred's characterization fairs little better. Its not helped either by a dash of social climbing elitism. His girlfriend who would have been called a "posh bird" back in the day, seems wholly out of place.
The action such is it is, is alright but its really the same old goodies and baddies formula in an ill-fitting, sixties suit.
In short, this is an awkward series that simply did not resonate with me. It tries too hard and feels wholly forced, with cumbersome cliches of English actors and series, of the era. My advice take a look at the real deal instead. The Avengers and Diana Rigg's "Miss Emma Peel" wont disappoint!
5/10 from me.
Could be more than it is.......
Elementary is yet another Sherlock Holmes retake, this time in a US setting. Its a pale imitation of UK counterparts, only made tolerable by Jonny Lee Miller's exceptional acting.
Miller defines this show, making up, in large part, for the conspicuous absence of chemistry between his Holmes and Lucy Liu's female Watson. Liu's character is flat and uninteresting, with little in the way of emotional range or depth.
The stories are hardly complex for the most part either. Instead its pretty bland "who dun-nit" fare that's more crime drama than the kind of series where you can follow along and try and solve the murder mysteries Holmes and co face.
What is most annoying however, is what I call "US positivism". The notion that everything can be solved with shrinks, meetings and sponsors. Its neurotic, tiresome stuff, that's a reflection of the shallow neediness and social isolation found in much of modern society in the US. Small wonder Holmes character rebels against it.
All in all, this series is a mixed bag. It does have some positives but there is enough negative baggage to weigh down what could be a decent series. As it stands its alright as a casual watch but its a long way from being engrossing viewing. 6/10 from me.
1944 is an extraordinarily sad film. It looks at the reality of war but in this context, its awfulness is made worse by the fact the Soviet and Nazi presence in Estonia, renders the populace proxy pawns. They are compelled to fight in a conflict that, in essence, was not their's to start with. Nor moreover, did the outcome benefit the Estonians, who were eventually absorbed into the Soviet Union, against their will.
Soldiers on both sides kill their fellow countrymen on behalf of the Nazi's or the Soviets. Some fight for both, as soldiers defect as the Germans start to loose the war. All the while the soldiers not only see their countrymen die, but also their own civilian populace, men, women and children killed or deported to Siberia. The latter initiated by the Soviets to suppress opposition to their occupation of Estonia.
As this film shows those involved are conflicted, feeling guilt at killing their own people, even though, in most respects, they have little choice. Its the unbearable and irreconcilable psychological impact on Estonians on both sides of the political divide, that makes this film so unique and memorable.
The war scenes spare no one either. They are frank, at times brutal and unapologetic. Showing the impact on civilians as well as the soldiers.
This is a remarkable film that is not for everyone but I think everyone should watch. 10/10.
Shed of the Dead (2019)
Could have been worthwhile.....
Like the shuffling zombies that inhabit this black comedy this film simply takes far too long to get anywhere interesting.
Its a shame too as there are some capable English actors in this film and it certainly looked promising. Sadly its "dead slow" pacing and lack of genuine humour leave it feeling empty and aimless.
I watched two thirds and simply gave up. 4/10 from me.
Gomorra: La serie (2014)
Colosseum of crime.....
A Colosseum of crime, that's how I describe Gomorra.
Naples crime world is a place for fast living, high stakes and sudden, violent death. Gangs known collectively as Comorra fight incessant, endless wars of attrition, to rise above petty crimes of poverty and desperation. Most die but a few become gang leaders and Godfathers of crime only in turn to be bloodily betrayed and replaced. Its an endless cycle that's reminiscent of the Roman arena.
The acting is simply put excellent with plots and sub plots that cleverly and subtly interweave. You get to know characters personally, see their lives intersect, understand how poverty or some other need make them what they are. You see them grow and often die.
There are tales of genuine sadness and sacrifice in the personal stories found in Gomorra. People doing the wrong things for the right reasons. To keep family afloat, put food on tables and roofs over heads.
I can't say enough about this series and look forward to season five which I believe will be airing in 2020.
10/10 from me.
Men in Black: International (2019)
Lots of exposition but not a lot of story.....
Hollywood for me seems uninspired of late and films like Men In Black: International, don't help.
Essentially this is eye candy driven action fare with yet another beige story line. A predictably tiresome "underdog saves the world", proposition with a dash of ever tedious, political correctness.
Beyond that its brand placement and a few bubble gum wrapper jokes.
An okay watch but little more. 5/10 from me.
Wild Bill (2019)
Wild Bill's an interesting proposition that places a US cop in a UK setting. The cultural and interpersonal differences and similarities blend well, as does an excellent performance from Rob Lowe and the cast.
The results a series that's inherently watchable, with decent stories to back up the quality characterizations. My only regret is the first season has been limited to six episodes.
Look forward to a possible second season. 7/10 from me.
Another Life (2019)
Perhaps by casting Katee Sackhoff in the lead role, an actor with quite an extensive sci fi pedigree, this series creators thought they could take some liberties with the cast of characters?
Fact is it takes more than one capable actress to make a series work and Another Life fails to appreciate this fact. Putting Sackoff aside, a good portion of the team sent on the "space mission", feel like they belong in one of those snarky show's about aspiring models. The characterizations simply could not be less convincing. So much so the general sense you are left with is one of "farce".
Worse still this series falls back on tropes so well worn they are threadbare. Aliens with an unknown objective, a spaceship that's inexplicably off course and needs to "slingshot" off a star to get back on track. Hubby left at home with their pining daughter.
Suffice to say not only have I encountered nothing new here, the dismal characterizations and a good number of odd ball casting choices, result in a series that for me is simply unconvincing.
4/10 from me.
Reef Break (2019)
Five dollar Chardonnay...
Remember that cheap bottle of plonk you purchased on a whim and drank the same night only to suffer a serious dose of buyers regret the next day?
If that's a metaphor for a TV series in my opinion Reef Break is it.Its not bad as such, it just is what it is. So if you come to it with no expectations beyond a basic "reef and romance" style, action crime drama, you'll be ok. If you had hopes of something akin to "Death in Paradise" which is substantially more sophisticated, you'll be disappointed.
Not bad in small doses. My advice just don't overdo it. 5/10 from me.
The Rook (2019)
A series with a main character named Myfanwy isn't a great place to start and things don't get better.
What The Rook tries to do is something akin to The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen with a more urbane setting. Its this very setting that dulls this series down. Wandering the toffee nosed quaters of London doing something vaguely supernatural is just plain boring.
What made League work where this does not is its use of exotic, intriguing locations, fast action and interesting hero's and villains. Which brings us back to Myfanwy. She reminds me of a pent up librarian with some form of neurosis, masking her yet msotly untapped supernatural talents. Its tideous stuff. Her character is not only not interesting, she's not even terribly likable or engaging.
All in all for me this one's a real flop. I tried to wade my way through episode two but simply couldn't swallow its drippy brand of polite upper crust pant suits and tartan, exclusively snooty, superhero stick.
4/10 from me.
The InBetween (2019)
Not Medium but not bad......
Medium set the standard for supernatural psychic crime drama's. The InBetween walks a similar path but its simply not as polished or sophisticated.
That's ok though because this series is robust enough in terms of story telling, choice of cast and characters, to still offer up a watchable experience.
Where it comes up short at times, is it can be a little cloyingly poltically correct and a little superficial.
Still not a bad effort for those of us who miss Medium. 6/10 from me.
Too Old to Die Young (2019)
"Too Old to Die Young" ought to be called "Deeply Shallow". It starts out with a catchy dash of eighties and nineties styling, with visuals and music reminiscent of groups like Tangerine Dream and films like Risky Business.
This hook has been known to work but only if it has a decent story to go along with it. Yet again, this series borrows heavily from past efforts digging into films like Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs for inspiration.
Unfortunately it seems unable to cash in on these well worn tropes, in a new, intelligent and engaging manner. One characters colostomy bag is an apt metaphor for how I felt about this series by the end of episode two.
I'll add I have seen a few reviews that suggest if you don't like it youre not "smart enough" to like it. My advice make your own mind up. i have two degrees and its not pressing my buttons.
Suffice to say originality never goe's out of style. 4/10 from me.
"What if " movies with a dark twist tend to offer a more mature, sophisticated take on otherwise rather pedestrian material. I've always found the notion of a superman belongs more in the category of darkly Nietzsche, with a eugenics, elitist twist.
Brightburn plays nicely into this proposition. A superbeing whose complete superiority to the rest of humanity leads to an inevitable Darkly Darwinian conclusion. A lesser class of species faced with one of a higher order.
The result is a film that rather cleverly subverts the comfortable, folksie, vibe found in the original Superman tale and takes it to a very, very dark and disturbing place. Its a well formed tale too, that only really feels a little rushed, as it moves towards its climax.
That said, for me there's a hell of a lot more to like here, than not. This is very fresh horror film that takes a well worn genre and actually manages to do something reasonably innovative with it. 8/10 from me.
The Killer Elite (1975)
Good actors can't fix a bad film......
I like older films. They often have a straightforward style of storytelling that dispenses with the pretense and padding found in newer cinema. Regrettably, much as I like Caan and Duvall, The Killer Elite, fails to impress.
Its over long lead in, at times shambolic story, that's over populated with ill defined characters, leaves little to like.
Worse still, there's no time spent developing any chemistry between the key protagonists before setting them against each other. Aside from a brief "Odd Couple" with guns lead in, in the opening scenes.
In short a mediocre affair that could have been more. 5/10 from me.
What are we?
Animas of course gives a hint to what this film is about. What makes us the animals we are? Are we one thing or maybe more than that? In this instance is the key protagonist who suffers abuse one person or more than one person and if so what is he?
Its a novel idea but its presentation is so ambiguous its an easy message to miss. Its not helped by a story that languishes mid way through, wallowing in its own confused and troubled identity.
I could not say I enjoyed this film. I found it self absorbed to a degree where it does not engage with the audience in a meaningful way.. Which is a shame, as there are worthwhile performances offered up by the cast.
4/10 from me.
El pacto (2018)
Subtle Spanish supernatural thriller.....
This is slow burn supernatural thriller and that's not going to appeal to everyone.
That said, if you give this film a chance its actually quite interesting. The premise is not a new one but its presented in such a subtle understated manner, that the story avoids becoming an Faustian cliche.
There's a decent twist near the end I did not see coming either that ties into the emotional family dynamic in a way any parent can relate to.
7/10 from me.
For me Tueurs feels incomplete. Its chief shortcoming, a story that's not well fleshed out, with characters you never really get to know. The problem with this, of course, is it makes it hard to appreciate whats going on or why people are motivated to do what they do.
By contrast, what this film does do well is action. Readily sprinkled throughout this film, its frenetic, violent and on more than one occasion, a little disturbing.
If the plot had been more substantial and this film maybe 20 minutes longer I think it could have been truly memorable. As its stands, its watchable but also easily forgettable. 6/10 from me.
Legenda o Kolovrate (2017)
Furious is a beautifully crafted film that's reminiscent in some respects of Braveheart. A people fighting for their liberty and freedom against overwhelming odds.
This well crafted and well told tale, is both stirring and touching, with a very Russian character. It also reminds those of us who know our history how much the Russians sacrificed not just then but also in the 20th century defeating Nazism at an enormous personal cost. Ordinary people who paid an extraordinary price.
Wonderful rich visuals, well paced, loads of action and excellent acting. A real winner in my books. 8/10 from me.