Category Archives: film review

Netflix Film Review: The Circle (2017) #150WordReview @Netflix

The Circle is the world’s number one tech business, a Facebook-Google-Apple mash-up led by a kind of Steve Zuckerjobs (Tom Hanks). Young intern Mae (Emma Watson) scores a dream opportunity to work for the firm, but the dream quickly turns into a nightmare. The set-up is compelling: the darkside of social media and modern technology, the invasion of people’s privacy and the loss of anonymity, as perpetrated by floppy-haired, latte-supping, trendy technologistas, under the guise of techtopian idealism.

Sadly, a well-realised world deserves a well-realised film. Most characters are cardboard cut-outs that we don’t care for. The development of Emma Watson’s character is illogical; the more she suffers the folly of this Brave New World, the more she seems to buy into it. And the ending is unfulfilling and makes no sense; Mae’s reaction is the literal opposite of the logical end point of her story arc. Watson does the best she can, and Tom Hanks is compelling, but the lack of through-line in the script makes for a frustrating what-might-have-been mess.

2/5

© 2018 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4287320/mediaviewer/rm2345938944

 

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Netflix Film Review: Annihilation (2018) #200WordReview @Netflix #Annihilation @AnnihilationMov @AlexGarland

An isolated area of countryside is cut off from the world by an eerie shimmering light which surrounds it; no one who enters “the shimmer” is heard from again. Communication in and out of the shimmer is impossible. And with the shimmer slowly growing in size daily, engulfing the surrounding area, the government is called in to carry out a classified investigation under the guise of a chemical clean-up operation.

An all-female team, led by a biology professor (Natalie Portman) and a psychologist (Jennifer Jason) Leigh, each with their own agendas and ulterior motives, are the latest to enter. The world they find within the shimmer is an Alice-in-Wonderland, LSD trip gone wrong. A nightmarish hallucination, which is both utterly unlike anything you’ve seen before, and completely convincing.

The film is a genre-defying science fiction-horror-thriller-psychological thriller-creature feature which shares genetic strands with Sphere (1998), Event Horizon (1997), Contact (1997), and Cloverfield (2008). But this is all par for the course for writer-director, Alex Garland, whose previous accomplishments include Ex Machina and 28 Days Later.

This film is tense and, yes, genuinely scary. A horrifying slow-burn with some first rate acting.

5/5

© 2018 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://media.aintitcool.com/media/uploads/2018/big_eyes/annihilation-movie-poster-snippet_huge.jpg

 

TV Review: Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 3 #GoTS7 #SpoilerSweats

Note: gotta say, I’m starting to struggle at keeping these reviews SPOILER FREE without being absurdly vague…

Episode 3 was the best of Season 7 so far. Not quite good enough to be a five star smash, but more exciting than eps 1 and 2. It’s entitled “The Queen’s Justice”, but which Queen? This was definitely an episode where powerful women had their say, shall we say. Indeed, the trend is continued whereby we are left in no doubt that the most powerful characters in Westeros are all women; perhaps a ploy from the writers to distract from the ample amount of bewbs present in the early series.

Cersei showed, once again, what a sadistic and calculating woman she can be. Daenerys is definitely starting to display more of that distinctly regal side. Somebody dies — but not before delivering a satisfying piece of revenge. There’s some top quality military outwitting going on. And, unfortunately, the most boring storyline of all made a showing: Bran, of three-eyed raven fame, has turned up spouting yet more gibberish; this plot thread better have a satisfying resolution.

I’m loving how the series is now zipping along. Now that most of the characters are dead, and the rest have all mostly hooked up, everything is happening in a handful of locations. It’s really starting to gear up for the great finale.

© 2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from http://www.fiz-x.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Game-of-Thrones-Season-7-2-1.jpg

TV Review: Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 2 #GoTS7 #SpoilerSweats

Note: this aims to be a spoiler-free episode review…

Episode 2, “Stormborn”, was exciting stuff! A lot happened. Daenerys showed yet more of the steeliness she flashed in episodes 7.1 and 6.10. She even presumptuously demands that someone else “bend the knee”. Theon, known to his close friends as “Reek”, gets an opportunity to showcase his newfound confidence and courage. Happily, the show gets back to basics: by bringing us some hawt seks. Well, naked bods, boobies and all, and a bit of heavy petting. And we witness everyone’s favourite (read: nobody’s favourite) Samwise Gamgee rip-off, err, Sam, perform a rather disturbing Cronenbergesque operation. There’s also a shocking bit of carnage to finish the episode. In short, everything Game of Thrones fans love and crave.

Also notable was just how slow pre-broadband Westerosi communications technology was. We see different people get news about various developments at vastly different times. It’s something we don’t think about, but was a key factor back then… in the Middle Ages(??)

On the downside, the funny-cum-disgusting camerawork shtick from Episode 7.1, which saw canteen food and sloppy chamber pots quickly intercut, was repeated in a different context in this episode. I hope this isn’t the start of meta, distracting, drawing-attention-to-itself direction. You can have too much of a good thing.

© 2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from http://www.fiz-x.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Game-of-Thrones-Season-7-2-1.jpg

TV Review: Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 1 #GoTS7 #SpoilerSweats

Hmm, how to do a Game of Thrones episode review with no spoilers? Well, here we go.

Season 7 of the visual crack that is Game of Thrones kicked off yesterday. Unlike the last six seasons which had ten episodes apiece, this time we’ll get seven. But we’re promised they will be more epic than ever. I’m not disappointed, but actually really respect this decision: none of the old, ‘Well, we have to fill ten episodes, so let’s just stretch it all out a bit’. David Benioff and D. B. Weiss are clearly all about quality over quantity.

As for last night’s episode, it was no “Red Wedding”, but it was no “Lord Snow” either: it was solid, entertaining, and oh so tense. And it began with a truly arresting scene which was horrifying, brilliant, and delightful all at once. Let’s just say that revenge is a dish best served cold.

As for the rest of the episode, nothing much happened. But at the same time, a lot happened. Pieces got moved around the board, and the episode felt very much like the calm before the storm. Shit is about to go down, big time, and we were left in no doubt that this was the last moments before it all kicks off.

More than that, many possible future developments were hinted at: new alliances, old alliances fracturing. Very exciting.

On a weird side-note, one man band Ed Sheeran made a jarring cameo as a, erm, musician. And who was that beside him but Thomas “This Is England” Turngoose. I don’t know which was more distracting! Sheeran’s performance itself was actually alright and non-intrusive. But because the Twitterverse melted down beforehand, my attention was drawn to him: I couldn’t help but get tunnel vision and keep repeating in my own head “OMG! That’s ED SHEERAN!!!”. If no one had gone on about it beforehand, I probably wouldn’t have noticed it was him at all. Strangely, though, Sheeran got upset by the reactions to his cameo and has quit Twitter. I find it weird that a ridiculously talented, rich, adored singer would, at this stage, have such thin skin. But no worries: if you’re reading this, Ed, for I know you surely are, then chin up — you were no David “King Arthur” Beckham.

© 2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from http://www.fiz-x.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Game-of-Thrones-Season-7-2-1.jpg

Film RE-view: Crash (2004) [SPOILERS!!!]

This RE-view has spoilers

WHY RE-VIEW?

Crash is about racism in America today and the different forms and faces it takes. Institutional, white-on-black, black-on-white, conscious, unconscious bias, rich, poor, and all between: the film was awarded three Oscars for its in-your-face message. It confronted racial tensions in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. Various story strands are interwoven in what I can only call a Love Actually ensemble stylee — although the film seems to think itself more Pulp Fiction. Yes, a whiff of self-satisfaction, self-righteousness, and self-congratulation emanate from this flick. And that’s why I gave it 2/5 when it came out. But a friend kept begging me to give it a second look. So finally I did.

THE GOOD

It’s true, there are some great moments. The sweet story of the protective cloak that a father tells his daughter stands out as genuinely touching and believable. The film is well directed and the plot well structured. You can’t fault writer-director Paul Haggis for his mastery over the craft. And despite the large cast, there is good character development, and the film is well paced and zips along nicely. Despite this, some characters are completely extraneous and should have been cut. Particularly, the roles played by Sandra Bullock and her on-screen husband.

THE BAD

The film is also very funny in places. Although I strongly suspect that was unintentional. Either way, it’s certainly odd. The two African American car-jackers provide much of this unintentional comic relief. They drive around procrastinating on race and racism, like a crap Travolta-Jackson Pulp Fiction rip-off duo, whilst their actions confirm the negative stereotypes that they rail against.

This is the worst thing is that nobody reacts normally. Everybody is ready to fly off the handle over the slightest thing. It’s this constant hysteria that jarred so badly thirteen years ago and jars so badly now. And in these sobre days, where 9/11 is now history, we can see this film for what it is. Over-the-top characters and cartoonish racism are par for the course. Everyone constantly make shouty outbursts laced with racial slurs that seem shoe-horned in and never genuine. Example: “So tell me, who gathered these remarkably different cultures together and taught them all to park their cars on their lawns” says a black man whilst hanging out of the back of a Hispanic woman…. Another example: a moronic, obnoxious Iranian shopkeeper — driven to rudeness by post-9/11 hysteria and racism, we are meant to think — does not do what his locksmith told him to, consequently gets robbed, and then does what anyone would: get a gun and go shoot a child… I mean, seriously, we never see him get pushed to that breaking point. By opting for pure melodrama at every turn, the message that racism comes in many forms, not just the obvious KKK lynch ’em kind, is completely undermined.

IN CONCLUSION: OVER-HYPED

I still think the hype and the three Oscars were overboard. Right after watching this again, Midnight Express came on the telly. So I watched that — also, for the first time in ten years or so. Wow, that is what a multiple Oscar winner is all about (despite an equally dubious portrayal of race), not this melodramatic, unrealistic portrayal of racism designed to exorcise middle class white America’s racial and 9/11 demons. Crash was the kind of film America needed in 2004, but that doesn’t mean it lived up to the hype. Crash‘s ideology and surreal histrionic racism are just as jarring as ever. But I have a renewed appreciation for the craft of this film and the moments when it is believable. For that, it earns an improved mark: 3/5.

© 2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from http://image.tmdb.org/t/p/original/x0zz5XjT9FkZqoktcb7zGdbx8la.jpg

100 Word Film Review: The Blind Side (2009)

The Blind Side is the true story of a wealthy WASP family, headed by Mater Familias Sandra Bullock, who take in a seventeen year old homeless black kid from the wrong side of the tracks. Battling social prejudice, lavishing him with clothes and an education, this is altruism at its best — or is there an ulterior motive? A prestigious football scholarship is at stake.

This fish-out-of-water tale has plenty of heart. Success is never a foregone conclusion. Tight scripting earnt this flick an Oscar nom for best screenplay, Bullock herself won Best Actress for her subtle, humane, and convincing portrayal.

4/5

© 2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image http://truesportsmovies.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/the_blind_side1.jpg

150 Word Film Review: Honeymoon (2014)

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Honeymoon stars the ridiculously lovely Rose Leslie (a.k.a. “Ygritte”, of Game of Thrones fame) and Harry Treadaway as can’t-keep-their-hands-off-each-other newlyweds Bea and Paul. Honeymooning in Bea’s family cabin in the woods, things start to unravel quickly for the young couple after Paul wakes up to find his wife sleepwalking in the forest. Despite Bea claiming no memory, it soon becomes clear that something very bad happened that night.

So what did happen in the woods? The film never spells it out. But it doesn’t matter; the nocturnal events are merely a device to explore what becomes of a healthy and seemingly rock solid relationship when one partner is violated in some way.

Brilliant and deeply unsettling, the off-centre performances heighten the tension. Honeymoon gave me repeated goosebumps and made me shiver almost endlessly. Horrific and disturbing. Perhaps the finest American horror film in years.

© 2015-2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/d/db/Honeymoon_film_poster.jpg

review originally appeared at https://doggerelizer.com/2015/08/17/150honeymoon/

Film Review: Cabin Fever (2016) @thefilmreview @KermodeMovie

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Ah, the great tradition of the horror film remake: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974, 2003), The Last House on the Left (1972, 2009), Carrie (1976, 2013), Poltergeist (1982, 2015) and now… Cabin Fever. When I first heard they’d be rebooting the thirteen year old Eli Roth flick, I thought it was an actual joke. The 2002 original was hardly a classic, and surely thirteen years was just too soon. At least with those dodgy English language remakes (Ring, Let Me In), there’s some vaguely-justifiable kind of point: more familiar actors, setting, language. Cabin Fever version 2016 might just be the most pointless remake ever.

I was at least hoping writer Randy Pearlstein would take Eli Roth’s concept in a completely different direction, give it a different spin: do a number like the Scissor Sisters did to Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb. But instead they’ve done a Madonna American Pie.

It really is the same film. A bunch of young adults go to a cabin in the woods but they all start getting mysteriously ill with a flesh-eating sickness: hence the punny title, Cabin Fever. The same horror shocks as the original (the razor scene, anybody?), the same OTT humour (violent hillbilly locals). But at least the lead characters in the Travis Zariwny directed reboot are not annoying. In fact, they’re quite believable — by horror movie standards, at least. I mean, one character does try to get help by peering in the window at a love-making couple, and promptly gets chased away for being a pervert, instead of just, y’know, knocking on the door. The slightly (like 10%) heightened realism affects the humour, too: the jokes just aren’t quite as zany and funny as the original (for example, there’s no sign of everyone’s favourite line “shootin’ niggas”).

All in all, I thought 2002 Cabin Fever was entertaining if pretty poor. I gave it two stars. 2016 Cabin Fever is still pretty funny, though not quite as much, and it’s still pretty horror-ish, yet slightly more believable. Good fun. A slight improvement over the original. But seriously: no more remakes of decade old non-classics, please. What next? A remake of Osunsanmi’s 2009 The Fourth Kind? Another Hitcher Reboot?

3/5

© 2016-2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

review originally appeared on my other blog here: https://doggerelizer.com/2016/02/19/film-review-cabin-fever-2016-thefilmreview-kermodemovie/

featured image from http://www.tribute.ca/images/videos/cabin-fever-trailer-14806-large.jpg

Netflix Film Review: Victoria #100WordReview @thefilmreview @KermodeMovie #Victoria @VictoriaFilmUK @Netflix #Netflix

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Victoria (2015) is the latest film by German actor-cum-writer/director, Sebastian Schipper. It generated a lot of hype because, unlike Iñárritu’s Birdman, Kovcheg’s Russian Ark, or Hitchkock’s Rope, Victoria’s 138 minutes really are one tracking shot.

The technical mastery: undeniable. The effect: to suck you in with unparalleled realism to the single most believable drunken night out ever committed to film.

Unfortunately, the plot is thin. Loner girl meets dodgy guys, gets roped into their illegal hijinks. The first hour is completely pointless with no hint of direction or plot, though there is some foreshadowing. An all-time classic, scuppered.

3/5

© 2016-2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

Post originally appeared on https://doggerelizer.com/2016/10/20/netflixfilmreview-victoria2015/

featured image from http://www.firstshowing.net/2015/watch-first-trailer-for-award-winning-one-shot-german-film-victoria/