Category Archives: film review

Netflix Film Review: The Secret @Netflix #NetflixReview

I don’t normally review films that aren’t new. But I just saw a film that was so outstanding, so unbelievable, and which moved me so profoundly, I just had to share it with you. I had to share… The Secret.

To coin a word, awfulsome: awesome in its awfulness.

Wow. Just… wow. Incredibly bad. I mean, what the heck!? I watched this at the behest of a colleague, and, sorry — WTF????? The fact that I’ve been reduced to the untermensch language of initialisms should show that no human words can express what this “film” is. A bestial scream of agony would probably articulate it well.

Firstly, how on earth did they manage to stretch literally one sentence into an entire ninety minute production???? “Whatever you think about will happen”. I kept expecting them to follow this sentence up with something, anything, but by the fifth minute I had already given up hope. Unreal how little substance there was. A 90 minute exercise in paraphrase. But people vehemently swear by The Secret, claiming it really works. Perhaps they believe this garbage because they’ve been brainwashed by hearing the same phrase, paraphrased, around six thousand times. Simple psychology; repeat the same thing over and over (and over) again, and you tend to start to believe it.

Secondly, how has this become a “phenomenon”? It’s very badly made, and totally ridiculous. I mean, where do I begin?

  • Laughable special effect “whoosh” flourishes every five seconds. Twinkly sounds, soft lighting that looks like it was added on Windows Movie Maker.
  • Talking heads/Experts who all look beyond insane: wild stare-y eyes, incredible haircuts, ridiculous teeth, and so on. It’s like the guests are meant to be a spoof. I’m surprised they didn’t just get Armando Ianucci, Peter Serafinowicz, and that guy from Garth Merenghi to play the parts instead.
  • And who are these guests? I mean, Google some of them and you’ll see what I mean. What. The. Eff!??! Crooks and fringe lunatics.
  • And what is with those titles: “metaphysician”, “visionary”!?!?!

WTF!!?! Sorry I keep saying that, but — WTF!?

The writers are surely having us on and rolling around in laughter behind the scenes, rubbing their diamond-encrusted ring-wearing hands, and spluttering “schmucks!”.

Some additional lowlights:

  • If you visualise cheques in the mail, you will literally receive cheques in the mail. No need to set up a business or get off your arse at all! But just so you don’t get carried away, the film-makers sagely advise us that we may still get the occasional bill apart from the cheques.
  • Medicine is useless. But chanting “cancer, cancer, go away” will surely destroy all metastasized growths.

I mean, sorry, The Secret was so cheap, so badly made, so idiotic, so ridiculous in every respect, the only thing this “film” deserves is the following sentence from me: whatever you do, please do NOT use “the secret” to attract free copies of “The Secret” to you…. (‘cos then they wouldn’t make money out of you) Deary me.

One fellow reviewer (on Netflix) said the following, and I think it’s hard to argue with him:

Sadly I wasted an entire 4 minutes of my life watching this utter tripe, before my own senses started to shut themselves down. Licking wasps or poking a massive bear in the face would result in less pain than having to sit through anymore of this new age, mumbo jumbo, hippy hokum. To Netflix: Can we introduce a rating system which allows us to score garbage content lower than 1 star? We could use this waste of hard drive space as a bench mark. For example, a terrible film would awarded 3 “The Secret” Turd Piles??

So why not one star, why two? Because it was so genuinely insane in every respect that it was actually marginally entertaining. And, despite the triteness of it, there is a nice core message: positivity of mind breeds further positivity. But it’s still turd.

2/5

featured image from https://readingraphics.com/uploads/2015/06/The-Secret_book1.jpg

review first published 8 October 2014

© 2014-2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

Netflix Film Review: P.S. I Love You (2007) @Netflix #NetflixReview @HilarySwank @GerardButler @LisaKudrow @MsKathyBates @Cecelia_Ahern

read the 100 word review here

P.S. I Love You is a romantic comedy based on a quirky and compelling idea. A terminally ill husband, Gerry (Gerard Butler), arranges for ten surprise packages to be delivered to his wife Holly (Hilary Swank) in the months after his death. Think: posthumous and vicarious Bucket List. Based on Cecelia Ahern’s 2004 novel, the packages are Gerry’s way of helping his wife move on and live again.

Great idea, some genuinely moving sequences — all utterly undermined by the fundamental unbelievability of the acting and set-pieces. The husband’s better-than-Ed-Sheeran serenade is a stand-out moment of absurdity. Hilary Swank’s behaviour is more indicative of someone who’s just lost their cat — or a heel on her favourite shoes. And the kooky humour is far less charming and funny than it thinks it is. The best friend who suffers from self-diagnosed “rudeness” supplies most of the alleged comedy and gives us a not-in-the-least-bit tantalising “will-they-won’t-they” hook up with our grieving widow. Lisa Kudrow’s character (close friend Denise), whose whole shtick is kissing random guys to decide whether she’ll marry them or not in a kind of “does the tongue fit” twist on Cinderella, provides yet more flat comedy.

A disappointing effort from writer-director Richard LaGravenese whose previous screenplays include the wonderful The Fisher King and the beautiful The Bridges of Madison County. Perhaps he just isn’t as suited to working behind the camera as he is to working in front of the keyboard.

An odd film: it made me both tear up, and reach for the zapper. A flawed but potentially great film, P.S. I Love You‘s self-satisfied smugness, unbelievability and misplaced zaniness ruin it.

2/5

© 2017-2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from http://www.waitsel.com/actors/gerard_butler/ps_i_love_you-1.jpg

Netflix Film Review: No Good Deed (2014) @Netflix @thefilmreview @KermodeMovie @idriselba

check out my film review and Netflix blog at https://filmmovietvblog.wordpress.com

Idris Elba is Colin, a charismatic and violent sociopathic criminal on the lam and winner of the Most Unbefitting Name Ever Award. Whilst making his escape, he totals his car into a tree and legs it through the forest. The first house he stumbles upon is that of all-alone Terri (Taraji P. Henson) who is just putting her young kids down for the night. This charming stranger works his charisma, asks for help after his “accident”, and talks his way from the porch into the living room. Soon Terri is putty in his hands. But as they say, No Good Deed goes unpunished.

No Good Deed is a fairly standard crime thriller, but I mean that in the best way. It is gripping, entertaining, keeps us on the edge of our seats, but doesn’t really show us anything we haven’t seen before. Great performances from the small cast really sell this film and keep you engaged to the end.

There is one stand-out moment, however, an unexpected plot twist that made me choke on my coke and splutter, “Ohmigod, whuh!?”. The twist is really neat. But it isn’t so much clever, as the rest of the film is so run-of-the-mill, that you kind of don’t expect the twist at all. The twist is particularly effective as it isn’t done merely for the sake of it, as so often is the case, but actually has a punch which makes sense and gives an underlying logic which holds the picture together. I’ll stop there before I plot spoil.

All in all, a standard but very well-made and well-acted crime thriller which is a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend 84 minutes.

3/5

review originally published 14 September 2018

© 2018-2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

Netflix Film Review: Ghost Story (2017) @Netflix @ghoststorymovie #GhostStoryMovie


Starring Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara, this is A Ghost Story told from the perspective of the ghost. But unlike classic Oscar winner Ghost, where being a ghost is portrayed much like being alive, A Ghost Story paints a more realistic picture (if ghosts are realistic at all, which they aren’t): the ghost is silent, unable to effect change in the world, and robbed of all that made him a personality in life, such as voice, memory, and that dreamy Patrick Swayze quiff.

Ghost Story makes some interesting choices. It’s shot in 4:3, although it’s not apparent why. The ghost is portrayed as a man with a sheet over his head which, believe it or not, does actually work and isn’t ridiculous as it surely deserves to be. And our spectral protagonist never utters a word in death. The film is a tale of loss and how you struggle to come to terms to loss.

Well, “protagonist”, “tale”, “struggle”. Perhaps those aren’t the best words. The film actually has no plot whatsoever, let alone “tale” or “struggle”, and the “protagonist”, such as he is, doesn’t “tagonise” anything. And when I say “no plot”, I don’t mean in that hyperbolic jargonised English that “his head LITERALLY fell off”; I mean, quite actually, there. is. no. plot. Therefore I can plot spoil without plot spoiling for there is no plot to spoil. The unnamed couple cuddle in bed for several minutes without talking. Affleck’s character dies, which we don’t see. Mara’s character then sits around doing nothing, and I mean nothing: we see her eat a pie, in real time, for a full ten minutes. Eventually, she moves out of their house, someone else moves in, then they move out, then someone else in, and so on, until the house is knocked down. The ghost silent watches all of this. Fin. Literally nothing happens, and there is no character arc for our ghost or plot development.

Aristotle wrote in his Poetics, some 2300 or so years ago, that drama needs the following elements: a beginning, a middle, an end; plot, character, diction, thought, spectacle, music; a single central theme whose elements are logically related; that the dramatic causation and probability of events hangs on the characters’ actions and reactions; and catharsis of the spectators, that is, “to arouse in” spectators “feelings of pity and fear, and to purge them of these emotions so that they leave the theatre feeling cleansed and uplifted”.[1] A Ghost Story has none of these apart from “spectacle” (nice cinematography and visual effects) and “music” (sound effects, which were effective in building atmosphere). The whole film, in fact, feels exactly like a five minute A-Level student’s film project which has been inflated to 92 minutes and a massive budget.

Here are some snippets from IMDb user reviews.

“Worst film I’ve seen in a long, long time. 1/10”
“What a total waste of time. 1/10”
“Like watching paint dry. 1/10”
“Enough to make you think you have died! Do not bother! 1/10”
“Truly awful. 1/10. Boring, pretentious, irritating, amateur, self-indulgent”
“High rating on IMDb is inside joke about this movie. 1/10”
“The director thinks he’s Bergman and he is not. 1/10”
“A wonderfully hypnotic and philosophical film exploring the enormity of life. 8/10”
“A mind-alteringly realistic depiction of human life. 10/10”

This film isn’t so much “Marmite: love it or hate it”, as it is “hate it, or brainwash yourself into thinking you love it”. Do not believe the many wanker reviews or critics that have boosted this to a very respectable 6.9 on IMDb and, extraordinarily, a 91% Fresh Critical Consensus on RottenTomatoes.com, who declare that this film is “powerful” with a “passionate couple” at the core. The film is no such thing. It is self-indulgent crap at its worst. This really is a case of “the Emperor has no clothes”; fearful, mindless, cretinous film critics rate it highly as they are scared that to do otherwise would make them appear uncouth and uncultured and probably get their next schmooze fest invitation cancelled. Above all, nobody wants to say the emperor has no clothes.

The film’s not even saved by the “so bad it’s good” factor; this is the most tedious, boring piece of shit I have ever watched. And I do mean “ever”. Good news, though; that I managed to make it through the film without turning off or tearing my own eyeballs out means that the instanews social media whizz-bang world we now inhabit hasn’t completely destroyed my patience. One out of five — for spelling its own name correctly.

1/5

[1] https://www.cliffsnotes.com/literature/a/agamemnon-the-choephori-and-the-eumenides/critical-essay/aristotle-on-tragedy

review originally published 23 August 2018

© 2018 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://image.tmdb.org/t/p/original/sD94aixD7fMAc2e9ugbv4KQprBL.jpg

 

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

 

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