Year Released : 2015

Director : Stephen Fingleton

Cast : Martin McCann, Olwen Fouere and Mia Goth

I wonder how many times I’ve reviewed a film for this site that has quotes that contain the words “masterful” or “riveting” before? I’d bet it was a low number, and I’d also wager that the amount that actually lived up to those grandiose claims would be even lower.  I had when smaller films do this because they’re automatically setting themselves up for a fall, and more often than not I come out of the other end very pissed off after feeling lied to.

Then again, it’s all based on the opinion of someone else, and if there is anything that I am a firm believer of it is that even if your opinion is different, it doesn’t mean their’s is wrong. That’s the beauty about films, two people could see the exact same movie and have completely different views on it. For example, last year a lot of people raved about “Deadpool”, but I personally didn’t enjoy it, and the same will be said about some other films that have been released so far this year, and will surprise some when I get around to my annual look at the year at the cinema.

But anyway, I came across this film at random, I can’t even remember how, so I might as well give it a chance…..

Plot

An unnamed man (McCann) has been living alone in a shack for seven years following an apocalyptic event. One day he hears a noise outside and there are two woman, mother and daugther duo Katherine (Fouere) and Milja (Goth). He reluctantly agrees to feed them in exchange for sex with Milja. After a few days he agrees that they can stay permanently, but they secretly want to kill him so that they can take his supplies. Before they can though the man becomes aware of footprints in the mud that don’t belong to any of them.

The group has no choice but to hide from the raiders as there aren’t enough weapons to kill them. Soon after this Milja realises that she is pregnant with the man’s child, and she and her mother again conspire to kill him. A failed abortion attempt later drives the desire to kill him further, but he may soon be their only chance of survival as the raiders return.

So, is it worth the praise on the movie poster?

Films set in a post-apocalyptic environment usually fall under one of two categories, masterful and emotionally engaging, or pretentious nonsense that is full of completely uninteresting characters that are poorly acted. This very much falls into the latter.

Let’s start with the acting of the person who is bizarrely given top billing on a lot of sources, Mia Goth. Goth was in the disastrously bad “A Cure For Wellness” earlier in the year and she was one of the worst things about it. With a gormless look throughout “The Survivalist” and an acting style that screams disinterested bystander, she again repeats being the worst part about a film that is far too long for how dull it is. Had this film had a different actress playing the character of Milja then it might have stood a chance, but they went with someone who can’t stir a single emotion out of herself, let alone making anyone else feel any.

I’d love to know what they’re teaching young actresses at acting school these days because so many of them seem incapable of portraying any emotion that doesn’t involve having a gormless expression on their face, even in the most tense or emotional situation.

Away from the awful acting, the film just isn’t that interesting. “The Survivalist” moves at the pace of a snail and whilst this isn’t always a bad thing in some cases, it definitely is here. For a start it takes nearly 15 minutes for any dialogue to take place, and by that point I was already struggling to get engaged. This is one of the least enthralling post-apocalyptic films I’ve ever seen, and the quotes on the poster definitely don’t reflect what the movie, which has a 100+ minute runtime by the way.

Summary

It’s not engaging, it’s not exciting and it is about as bored as I have been watching a movie that I have reviewed for this site. With one of the worst young actresses working today, the movie never stood a chance of being exciting, and I’m almost tempted to ask for my 100 minutes or so of my life back.

If I was to assign a specific word to this film to be added to the poster, it would simply be “meh”.

In two hours we want thirty of you dead. If thirty of you are not dead, we will end sixty of your lives ourselves. Five, four, three, two, one.

Year Released : 2016

Director : Greg McLean

Cast : John Gallagher Jr, Tony Goldwyn, John C McGinley, Adria Arjona, Melonie Diaz, Josh Brener, Owain Yeoman, Michael Rooker, Sean Gunn and David Dastmalchian

So one of the things about working at a large cinema is that there is generally always room for smaller films to come in, and I was genuinely delighted when we got “The Belko Experiment”. I had seen the trailer for this several months ago, but I was genuinely surprised that we were showing it.

Those long term readers will know that survival/last man standing films interest me quite a lot due to the psychological aspect to them, especially when the characters are build correctly. For example, I’ve recently been rewatching “Circle” after it got added to Netflix (it’s a rarity that I will rewatch a film that I’ve reviewed on this site, even if I have liked it) and appreciated it more than I did last time as without a main character, you appreciate how they’ve built various characters very well, and even knowing who survived in the end didn’t change that.

But anyway, now that my cinema chain is no longer showing “The Belko Experiment”, I am finally able to talk about this, ad you’ll find out why in a minute.

Plot

As they had into work the employees of Belko are puzzled as to why anyone who is a national of Columbia (where the company is based) is turned away by an unknown security unit. Other than that the day is running relatively normally until a voice comes over the intercom saying that they have to kill two people in the building or suffer consequences. Everyone treats it as a prank until huge metal sheets raise and cover any possible exit. The employees fail to kill two of their own, so the voice fulfils his threat and kills four at random.

Soon after the voice returns and says that if thirty of them aren’t dead within two hours, then sixty of them will die. Realising what a real threat this is, the group starts heading in different moral directions, with a group lead by Barry (Goldwyn) attempting to gain access to the weapons. They eventually split the large group into smaller ones and start executing people in certain groups (such as the over 60s), but that isn’t enough as only 29 are killed, and those that aren’t killed in the subsequent punishment are told that it is now a case of last one standing.

So why did you have to wait to review it?

Now, I know that some of you will know that I have reviewed films in the past that my cinema chain has been showing, but the reason that I was able to talk about those films was because I was about to give them the approved stamp, and a largely positive review, but unfortunately that isn’t going to be the case here. I am not contractually allowed to criticise any film that my chain is showing.

On paper this is my type of film and I have reviewed many similar for this site, such as “Circle”, but the problem with “The Belko Experiment” is that it has far, far too many forgettable characters, and one-dimensional ones at that. I am going to liken it to “Circle” in the sense that as mentioned above, “Circle” doesn’t have a main character, nor does it ever claim to, you are never sure who is going to survive, but unfortunately that isn’t the case. The primary protagonist and antagonist are obvious throughout the entire film. As the rounds go on, there is somewhat of a lack of engagement because you know which two are going to survive right until the end, so in that sense it is disappointing.

However, other than that it’s actually not a bad effort. I do like the moral conundrum and it left me curious how I would react in the situation, and ultimately I found myself leaning towards the logic of Barry and his group. If you don’t kill, you’re going to be killed and you need to get used to the idea. The way that they deal with those who they view as expendable of a no-nonsense approach that you would need to take, so in that sense I can certainly appreciate it on some level.

I also have to single out John C McGinley as Wendell. He is fantastic. Obviously the majority of people will know McGinley from his time on the TV show “Scrubs” and his comedically genius portrayal of Dr Cox, but in this he is menacing and would make an excellent primary antagonist in virtually every other horror film. In an otherwise forgettable cast of characters, he stands out.

To be fair, no-one puts in a bad performance, the problem is that some characters are simply too irrelevant and forgettable. Before writing this review I had completely forgotten the vast majority of the character names, I only saw the film a few weeks ago. That’s not to say that they aren’t enjoyable to watch, such as Sean Gunn’s conspiracy nut Marty, but realistically you know that characters such as him are never ultimately going to survive the story.

It is a shame that it was just too predictable.

Summary

A high level of predictability plagues this film throughout and whilst you’re never bored, the lack of a central character that makes other films more engaging would have been very welcome. Even in the trailer you can tell who the likely character(s) to make it to the end are, and that level of predictability just isn’t enjoyable to watch.

No-one puts in a bad performance, but there certainly isn’t anything about “The Belko Experiment” that stands out as being unique.

I really wanted to love this, but I just couldn’t.

Playing Russian Roulette with his pecker is one of his new favourite games

Year Released : 2017

Director : Bradley Stryker

Cast : Alex Turshen, Keenan Henson, Caitlin Stryker, Bradley Stryker and Krista Donargo

It is not often that I review a film that has an average rating of less than 3/10 on IMDB, but here we are. I got randomly sent the trailer for this feature and thought it looks relatively interesting, but the 2.9/10 rating has left me with strong doubts that this will prove to be enjoyable.

Of course having a low rating on IMDB means precisely nothing until you’ve seen it. I’ve seen a lot of films with low ratings on there and enjoyed them, infact the first film I ever reviewed for this site was “Exit Humanity”, which had a very average 5.2/10 at the time, and I loved it. Then again, there have been times where I have said that the low rating is still too high for some films.

I guess we’ll just have to see.

Plot

Abby (Turshen) is reluctant to go on holiday until she catches her boyfriend having sex with another woman. She decides to travel to Thailand after all, and within hours she has her bag stolen, but it is returned by Ben (Henson) and Jewel (C Stryker), tourists making a documentary about backpackers. She soon receives a photo of her sister Penny’s (Donargo) feet.

A few days pass before Abby goes to have a video chat with Penny, but she is horrified when she sees her being held hostage by a man in a clown mask, but Ben tries to convince her that it is part of a known prank in Asia in which someone wants someone close to them to start appreciating life, or the right priorities in life.

As time goes on Abby starts to believe that it isn’t actually a prank and convinces Ben and Jewel to go with her to find Penny, but soon afterwards they receive a package with a video of Penny claiming to be fine, even though she is on the verge of tears. Ben admits to his camera that he doesn’t have the heart to tell Abby that the package it arrived in also contained some severed fingers.

How long can Penny survive?

So is it worth a 2.9/10?

Whilst I was watching this I decided to have a look at some of the comments from those that have watched the film already, and one thing that came to mind straight away is something that I have commented on in the past, in other words, people who are involved in the film, or related to them, have given it a good score, and that’s all that is proping it up at 2.9.

The reason I am so sceptical is because, putting it nicely, “Land of Smiles” is a boring, disjointed, piece of shit. Let’s start with the most confusing aspect of the film and that is that it can’t seem to make its mind up with whether it is a found footage movie or not. There are some scenes that are presented in that fashion, whereas others aren’t, I refuse to believe this nonsense from the throw-away line of a guy making a documentary about backpackers so his camera is ALWAYS on.

This lack of a clear structure is made even less convincing by the eyebrow-raising cringy acting from all concerned. For example, when Abby has her bag stolen, she is just stood there with a gormless look on her face whilst they remove the bag very slowly and casually off of their back, she doesn’t do anything to stop it and then they just canter off without Abby even so much as putting up a half-hearted chase. If you want me to care about your character and her plight then at least make it look like she cares herself.

I would normally suggest that the cast just aren’t capable of acting, but Alex Turshen was in another film that I reviewed a few months ago, Boy Meets Girl, and she was decent then, so I don’t get it. It is almost like she just decided “fuck it” just before filming started.

I think that is arguably the biggest reason why this fails as a compelling story, the characters just aren’t that interesting, or even well written. There is very little that actually compels you to get behind any of them, nor even feel sorry for Penny as she is getting tortured, and even then I’m being VERY generous with that. All you’ve seen of Penny for the majority of the film is, other than her sat there whilst the clown makes threats, is that she didn’t like Abby’s boyfriend and acted like a spoilt child when Abby declined to go on holiday with her. Even the Saw franchise built up it’s torture victims better than this, well……some of them anyway.

For me the biggest insult is that whilst it uses the beautiful location of Thailand to make it look very decent for a low budget film, it seems to use it purely to distract you from the poor dialogue on screen. There is one scene in particular that seemed to have the camera set up so far from what was happening so that you could admire the hilly island in the background of the shot, rather than focusing on the characters having a yoga session and an uninteresting conversation.

Other than the use of the location, I can’t think of a single positive about “Land of Smiles”.

Summary

Poor acting, awful dialogue, an uninteresting story and boring characters, I can definitely see why this is rated as 2.9/10 on IMDB at the time of writing. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that this is the worst film I’ve seen for this site, nor would it break into a bottom five position, but there doesn’t change it from being awful.

If you’re looking for an example of good film-making with an exotic location, don’t choose this. Other than the beautiful location of Thailand, there is precisely nothing interesting in this movie at all and it is a waste of ninety or so minutes of you time.

Just avoid.

Year Released : 2010

Director : Mark McQueen

Cast : Craig Fairbrass, Myanna Buring, Danny Dyer, Jaime Murray, Shane Taylor, Shane Taylor, Bart Ruspoli, Craig Conway, Lisa McAllister and Colin Salmon

Being English I have a strong affection for many British horror films, including 28 Days Later, The Cottage, Tormented, Severance and Creep, but alternatively there are some awful ones as well, Night of the Living Dead : Resurrection, so whenever I find a horror from my home land then I do get somewhat excited.

After finding “Devil’s Playground” on Netflix I got the feeling that this was trying to achieve the same success that the aforementioned “28 Days Later” did given it’s raw appearing nature, but the cast doesn’t fill me with excitement or optimism.

This will turn out to either be great, or a pile of crap. I get the feeling I know which.

Plot

Cole (Fairbrass) is a problem solver for Peter (Salmon), the CEO of a major medical corporation. The company has tested a new drug on 30,000 volunteers, but it caused major medical issues for the vast majority of them and now Peter is determined to get to the bottom of it so he can avoid being sued, but whilst examining one of the infected he is bitten, as is Cole. Cole manages to obtain the last three vials of anti-virus that will hold off the infection 18 hours at a time.

To find a permanent cure, he knows that he will have to find the only volunteer who reported no side effects, Angela (McAllister). She herself is still trying to get over her husband Joe’s (Dyer) imprisonment for killing a teenager, although he is adamant that he did it in self defence.

Cole does eventually find her, as does Joe after he gets bail, and the trio end up working together with some other survivors in order to escape on a helicopter with limited space in east London, but the other survivors start to team up against them as they get paranoid thoughts about being left behind.

As good as “28 Days Later”, or even remotely unique?

There is not a chance in hell that anyone will watch this and think that it is on a level even close to that brilliant zombie-like (28 Days Later is not a zombie film) movie, or even the slightly less engaging and interesting sequel. The one thing that I will say is that I have never seen a zombie film that features so many of the infected knowing parkour.

Throughout the near 100 minute run tie is zombies running over and jumping over objects that they have purposefully gone towards to jump over, even though it would be considerably easier to simply go around, especially when they’re chasing food.

That isn’t the only oddity about this movie as there is a big plot hole at the beginning of the film. The company that produces the medication that eventually zombifies the population is getting sued by those who took it, but the problem with that is that they are volunteers and would almost certainly have signed paperwork that doesn’t make the company liable in the event of side-effects. I’ll grant you, it’s not a major plot hole, but right from the off it is starting to have a lack of sense.

Unfortunately the problems don’t stop there as most of the characters are horrendously one dimensional and aren’t built even slightly well. It becomes a bit tedious as you don’t feel any semblance of sadness when certain characters start dying. Their lack of intelligence doesn’t help with this either as they know that people who have been bitten will turn, but they keep them around anyway. These people are basically fodder for the zombies, and it is effectively natural selection in all of its glory.

I like to try to come up with at least one favourable comment per review, but unfortunately there isn’t really a lot that is going on here that is that exciting, or even remotely interesting. I was sat there late at night, bored by one dimensional characters and action that is so stop-start that you could easily turn it off and not feel remotely sorry about it.

There are some great British films out there. This isn’t one of them.

Summary

Full of characters that aren’t interesting, several relationships between actors played by people with no chemistry, and an overall boring story, “Devil’s Playground” is one of the least imaginative zombie films I’ve seen. It offers little new to the genre, and it is something that I’ll have completely forgotten about by the time I watch the next zombie film that I’ll review.

I am really struggling to come up with a single positive about it, and based on that I have to say that it is probably best if you miss this.

Year Released : 1983

Director : Peter Yates

Cast : Ken Marshall, Lysette Anthony, Freddie Jones, David Battley, Bernard Bresslaw, Alun Armstrong, Liam Neeson and Robbie Coltrane

So, after a near unexpected three week break from reviewing films (I got really busy at work), I am now back and will start with a look at another film that was with me during my youth, the relatively ok known “Krull”. It is probably best known for early on-screen appearances for some members of the cast, more specifically Liam Neeson and Robbie Coltrane, as well as it’s unusual set design.

“Krull” is unusual in the sense that it’s one of the few films that I’ve reviewed for this site that is actually older than I am, something I will only be able to say about two or three of the more than two hundred films I’ve reviewed for this site. I really should start looking into some older films on a more regular basis.

But oh well, here’s the review.

Plot

Colwyn (Marshall) and Lyssa (Anthony) are getting married to unite their rival kingdoms when their ceremony is interupted by servants of a creature simply known as “The Beast”, a being who goes to various planets with his army and dominates until everyone is dead. The fathers of both are killed, and Lyssa is also kidnapped, leaving an unconcious Colwyn alone. He is nursed to health by several people, including Ynyr (Jones). Ynyr is familiar with the beast and claims it can be defeated with an ancient weapon known as the Glaive, a starfish-shaped blade.

He successfully retrieves it from the mountain, but encounters a large group of bandits that are lead by Torquil (Armstrong). They pledge the allegiance to Colwyn as he is now king following his father’s death, and they are later joined by a cyclops known as Rell (Bresslaw). However, the quest soon starts appearing more difficult as the beast starts to take control of the planet, as well as sending his troops out in disguise to try and kill Colwyn, claiming Lyssa as his own.

The main problem for Colwyn is that the fortress in which the beast is located changes its location each day.

Still decent after 34 years?

“Krull” has certainly not aged well, but it is still visually quite unique, which you’d expect for a film that had a budget of $47million, which was huge for the day. Infact I’d go as far as saying that this film couldn’t be more early-80s if it tried given how cheesy some of the acting it.

The acting throughout is a bit suspect, putting it nicely, but that doesn’t stop it being an enjoyable romp throughout and whilst it doesn’t have the same appeal as similar films, such as “Willow” or “Lord of the Rings”, this is definitely a fun watch.

One element that I really like is that the slayers that the beast controls are actually quite deadly, far more so than other armies from other movies. They kill a fairly large number of characters throughout the movie, and the body count of the protagonists is very high indeed. What makes the body count even more effective is that you actually have time to get to know these characters, meaning that they’re not meaningless deaths.

There is a constant threat throughout the film from not only the slayers, but also the creatures that the beast controls, and at times it does resemble a horror film in terms of its presentation. These days it would probably render a 12A rating at the cinemas due to what happens, it’s similar to how there is no chance that the original Star Wars films would get a Universal rating again if released these days.

 

Arguably the most interesting part of “Krull” is not the main plot however, it’s the character of Rell, the cyclops. The mythology in the film says that his race sacrificed one of their eyes on exchange for seeing the future, but they were cursed with only seeing their deaths. The character of Rell sees how he will die throughout the film, and it becomes a sub-plot about whether you should just accept your fate, or risk a more painful one for the greater good. I personally found the character otherwise tediously dull, but that subplot is through provoking.

Summary

Cheesy as hell and about as eighties as you can get, “Krull” is a fun romp of around two hours. Don’t go into it expecting brilliance because it is definitely one of those that will test the patience of some, but if you like fantasy and/or adventure films then I think this is for you.

It has its flaws, and it has aged horribly in the 34 years since its release, but it still has more heart and character than most similar films released these days. It takes time to develop the characters, as well as giving you something to think about.

Give it a watch.

You’ll understand when you get divorced someday!

Year Released : 2015

Director : Stephen Dunn

Cast : Connor Jessup, Aaron Abrams, Joanne Kelly, Aliocha Schneider, Jack Fulton, Sofia Banzhaf and Mary Walsh

Diverting away from films I found in a pile of VHS tapes whilst at the house of my parents, I’m going to look into a film that has been on my Youtube playlist for some time now. I really should get through that list properly as there are some films that have been on there for a few years.

Those of you who are long term readers of this site know that reviewing smaller, independent films meant that I was able to discover up and coming directors such as Xavier Dolan, so to have a film that describes itself as part him, and part David Cronenberg (another great director), is a treat, and one that I couldn’t resist.

If it can be even remotely similar to Dolan’s efforts then I will be very happy as he is arguably the most accomplished director when it comes to LGBT films, but whether it turns out to the the case is another matter as for all I know it could be nothing like either of them, let alone the two combined, but we’ll see.

Plot

Oscar’s (Fulton – Child, Older – Jessup) parents split up when he was a child and his only companion was his pet hamster, who he imagines talks to him. His friends also suspect that he will grow up to be gay, but after being called on it he follows a bunch of teens visually beating another young man, ending with them shoving a pipe up his rear. He is traumatised by what he sees and his father Peter (Abrams) says that it happened because he was homosexual, further worrying Oscar.

Several years later Oscar is involved in a photography project with Gemma (Banzhaf) in the hopes of moving to New York when he meets a new co-worker named Wilder (Schneider). Oscar finds himself being sexually attracted to Wilder, but is still haunted by the incident with the brutalised teen from several years prior. This new connection with his feelings coincides with a breakdown in the relationship with Peter.

Oscar and Wilder begin to bond, but a brief conversation between the latter and Peter leads to more trouble as he believed that Oscar and Gemma were in a relationship. Peter slowly starts putting the pieces together and realises that his son might be homosexual.

So is it a genuine mix between Dolan and Cronenberg

For the first time in a long time after seeing a description like that, I feel that I can genuinely see why it was made, and for once I fully agree. There are definitely similarities in the techniques of film making, and I would argue that there is also a touch of Nicolas Winding Refn in there as well. It takes the best aspects of the three whilst feeling completely unique, and this is only a good thing.

The characterisation in the film is remarkable, with the relationship between Oscar and Peter being exceptionally well developed. Their interactions with each other get more and more tense as the film goes on, especially as the latter starts to realise his son’s sexuality. It is an interesting dynamic and the best part is that whilst Peter is as close as the film comes to having an antagonist, he is certainly not an awful human being.

Peter is clearly going through issues throughout the whole film as he struggles through his separation to the point where he keeps his ex-wife’s belongings around, and how he gets hurt when he finds that Oscar described him as a deadbeat in an art project. There are glimpses of him being a good dad, such as the scene right at the beginning of the film where he pretends to inflate a balloon with a dream and place it into Oscar’s head, but he lets the issues get on top of him and each good deed is countered by the opposite.

 

He is just one of the several captivating characters in the film and visuals definitely aid you falling into Oscar’s world as he struggles to come to terms with what he saw as a youth. This includes a scene in which he is having sex with a man at a party, visualises the brutal attack from his youth, and then imagines himself vomiting screws and a variety of other similar objects.

Make no mistake, this is a visually brutal film, but it is also a captivating experience and it is one of the best LGBT films I’ve seen in recent years, and comfortably one of the most unique films from any genre that I have reviewed for this site. This is helped by the excellent electronic soundtrack, bringing you into this world.

Stephen Dunn is a director that I will be keeping a keen eye on in the near future and if he can produce something as engaging as this on a large scale, he could achieve the same heights of the aforementioned three directors.

Summary

“Closet Monster” is captivating, engaging and most importantly, driven. The great characterisation is simple, yet effective, and that is a sign of great film-making.

Stephen Dunn has fell well and truly onto my radar with his mix of Xavier Dolan, Nicolas Winding Refn and David Cronenberg, and this is about as fresh as I have seen in a long time, certainly for a film in the LGBT genre.

I would thoroughly recommend “Closet Monster” and the films of Stephen Dunn will hopefully appear on this site again.

 

Don’t let me catch you giving any muffins to those little beggars outside!

Year Released : 1985

Director : Jim and Ken Wheat

Cast : Warwick Davis, Wilford Brimley, Aubree Miller, Paul Gleason, Carel Struykcen and Sian Phillips

Another VHS that I found at my parents house whilst I was clearing out some old belongings, “Ewoks : Battle for Endor” was the first film from the Star Wars universe that I ever actually saw. Obviously this isn’t part of the main film franchise, but it can still be considered canon for the universe given that it was written by George Lucas, so was part of the intended set up.

Unlike my last review for “Mac and Me“, I have actually seen this in the relatively recent past before I rewatch for reviewing purposes, and I seem to remember enjoying it when I watched it in my late twenties. However, as I mentioned during the aforementioned review, I now don’t view films in the same way that I did before due to reviewing them as a hobby just under three years ago. That’s the one thing that they never tell you about film reviewing, it soon becomes very difficult to watch a film without being able to notice all of the little errors. I can’t remember the last time I was able to sit back and just enjoy a film.

But away, time will tell if this film is what I remember it to be.

Plot

Some time after crashing on the moon of Endor, Cindel (Miller) has befriended the Ewok community that helped in the Battle of Endor several years before, especially Wicket (Davis). Just when their ship is close to being repaired they are attacked by a group or marauders and all of Cindel’s remaining family are killed because of a power source, as well as her and a large group of Ewoks being captured by Terak (Struycken) and his witch Charal (Philips).

Cindel and Wicket escape and are greeted by a fast creature named Teek that helps them find a cabin the woods, helping themselves to the food inside. Noa (Brimley), the owner of the cabin, soon returns and is far from happy but eventually agrees to house them for the night. Noa reveals that he has a ship that could get them off the planet, and when Cindel is tricked into being kidnapped by Charal, it’s decided to double the efforts and get the power source that Terak stole.

It soon turns into a much later battle between the Ewoks and the race of marauders.

As good as I remembered?

It’s hard to really say whether it was as good as I remembered because I recall it being fairly decent, and whilst I didn’t dislike it on this viewing, it felt somewhat humble to the point that you couldn’t ever really get into it.

The problem is that you are literally following a child, several puppets or people in costumes, and only two adult characters, one of which isn’t given any development whatsoever. Unfortunately there isn’t a lot to really get invested in because let’s face it, when was the last time you saw a film in which a small child went on a mission and didn’t achieve it? It makes it a bit uncompelling in that sense…..but it’s not a bad film.

I think the best word to describe it would be “quaint”. It’s a nice little science fiction film, with a bit of fantasy thrown in, but one thing that it definitely doesn’t feel like is a Star Wars universe film, that despite being set in the same universe. It’s hard to really call this a Star Wars film because there is very little that it has in common with the rest of the franchise, other than the Ewoks and the odd sign of technology from the series. In many ways this is more of a fantasy film given that Tarek’s army looks more like a bunch of half decomposed dead bodies, and the addition of a witch that can turn herself into a bird at any point.

That’s not to say that it’s not a bad thing that it’s not like a lot of the Star Wars films as I’m not a big fan of that franchise. I like them, but not to the point where I think they deserve the praise that they get so easily in the media.

This is a much darker film than you would expect for most other kids films. Granted, this was the 1980s and standards back then for children were less strict, afterall, the original Star Wars franchise were Universals and yet had people stabbing each other, cutting arms off, etc, but “Battle for Endor” could in some ways be considered a horror-fantasy for kids. The design of the marauders is off putting, you have very dark and unsettling environments, and the character of Noa, who I would remind everyone is a protagonist, is quite a scary (well, by the standards of films aimed at kids) old man at various points. Granted, at times Noa is also a very friendly man in his grandfather style role and relationship with Cindel, but even so.

Visually the film is reasonably quaint considering the low budget and time in which it was made. It has a pleasant enough soundtrack and as I say, certainly isn’t a bad film in how it’s been made.

Summary

Just because this is part of the “Star Wars” franchise, don’t go in expecting it to be anything like that main series as it is anything but. It’s certainly not a bad film and is a quaint science fiction film that borders on being close to a horror movie for children.

As this was apparently made for TV, don’t go in expecting a top of the range film, it isn’t. Whilst not awful, there are a few minor issues that whilst I can overlook, certainly mean that I can’t give it the approved stamp.

Not sure what else to say really.

Year Released : 1988

Director : Stewart Raffill

Cast : Jade Calegory, Christine Ebersole, Jonathan Ward, Katrina Caspary and Lauren Stanley

I’ve mentioned a few times during this site that I do find it odd when I watch films that I saw when I was young, mainly because they’re often not even close to being as good as I remembered. This has happened with numerous films that I’ve reviewed on this site, but I get the feeling none will come as close as this.

My parents are currently downsizing and therefore I’m currently on holiday so I can go through a lot of my old stuff to help them save space, and I found a VHS of “Mac and Me” (as well as a lot of older films, expect quite a few reviews of older films coming up), a film that I enjoyed a lot in my youth, but I haven’t watched it in what I estimate to be around 25 years. Since then I’ve regularly seen this film on many countdowns of the worst films ever made, including many saying that it’s a glorified McDonalds advert, so when I found the VHS I decided that it was time to relive this and see if it didn’t hold up anymore.

Hopefully this will prove to be as enjoyable as it was during my youth, but I very much doubt it as I’m now in my thirties and I’d like to think my tastes were better than back then.

Plot

A family of aliens are going about their everyday lives on their home planet when a NASA rock sampling machine accidentally sucks them up. When the machine returns to Earth the family is able to escape, but they get separated from their infant son, who finds his way into the back of a family car.

Eric (Calegory) is the youngest of the family and they’re moving from Chicago to California to make it easier for his spina bifida, but as soon as they arrive at their new home the alien starts causing trouble. The first morning sees Eric accidentally going down a hill in his wheelchair and crashing into the lake at the bottom of the cliff. He is rescued by the alien, although his family refuses to believe that this happened and gets him professional help as his mother thinks it might have been a suicide attempt.

Eventually he and neighbour Debbie (Stanley) catch the alien, which he dubs MAC (mysterious alien creature), and this proves it to Michael (Ward), but as more people find out about MAC’s existence, the more his life is in danger.

Is it as bad as people have said it is, or is it actually reasonable?

Well I’ll say one thing, it definitely wasn’t as good as I remembered it being.

Let’s start with the main point of contention that the majority have for this film, the product placements. During all of the ridicule for it I thought that the comments on product placement were exaggerated, but they really aren’t. During my viewing I noticed skittles, Gatorade, McDonalds and Coke on such a regular basis that it did start feeling like a feature length advert. I would love to know what amount of the budget was dedicated to Coke cans because they are in nearly every scene. One of the common jokes with “Fight Club” was that there was a Starbucks cup in every single scene, and I think “Mac and Me” does the exact same thing with Coke.

Having said that, it’s not as sinful as the constant references to McDonalds get in the second half of the film, including a full on dance scene in a McDonalds restaurant that just appears out of nowhere. I’ve worked in McDonalds twice during my life and can assure you that there are no dance contests, not even at kids parties. The McDonalds references aren’t even subtle, including below conversation;

Michael : ‘So, McDonalds huh?’ (Referring to Katrina’s uniform)

Debbie (Katrina’s little sister) : ‘Yeah, why don’t you stop for a Big Mac?’

And the next minute, literally the very next minute;

Michael : Know what I feel like?’

Eric : A Big Mac?

Michael : You’re a genius!

If you must insist on forcing product placement down our throats then please don’t make it so unsubtle. I’ve never seen anything like it and I can definitely see why this has caused a lot of people to criticise the film. I realise that these films have to get their money in some how, but to do it to this extent is just beyond defensible. I can’t think of a single reason to stick up for the film in this respect.

Had this not had the product placement then I think it would have certainly had more of a chance with critics and the general viewing public but I found myself unable to stop laughing at how poorly it was made in that sense. I notice product placement a lot more than I did before I started reviewing films, but at least other films try and integrate it subtlety, something which doesn’t happen here.

So ignoring the product placement, to be fair it’s not actually an awful film, it’s passable in a small way. It does contain a LOT of cliches, but this was released in the eighties so it would be unfair to criticise it for cliches by the standards of today given that a lot of them did actually start in the eighties, and wouldn’t have been regarded as cliches at the time of release.

The acting is fine (considering what they had to work with) and the characters are likeable, if a little one dimensional, but it doesn’t surprise me that not a single member of the principle cast had a lasting career in Hollywood.

To put this in some sort of context, the film currently has a rating of 3.4/10 on IMDB. Had it not been for the product placement then I’d say it was a solid 5/10, albeit slightly generously.

I’m really struggling to come up with a true positive from the film, other than the exceptionally laudable decision to actually give a role of a kid with spina bifida to a young actor that actually had that condition himself. It would have been far too easy to give it to just anyone, so to give an opportunity to a disabled actor is commendable.

 

Summary

If you can get past the multiple product placements then you might enjoy this as it’s a nice enough little sci-fi film, albeit without being spectacular. I really wanted to say something nice about a film that I loved when I was a child, but unfortunately I couldn’t think of something that was noteworthy in a positive sense.

I really can’t think of anything majorly positive about “Mac and Me” and in many ways I wish I had left it in the past. If you’re going to put this on for your young children then yes, they might enjoy it, but anyone over the age of about seven or eight might start to notice the things that would stop this being a fun film.

It’s not something I would urge you to avoid, but it certainly isn’t one that I can recommend that you watch.

You killed my wife and left my baby outside?

Year Released : 2014

Director : Scott Foley

Cast : Donald Faison, Patrick Wilson, Scott Foley, James Carpinello, Dagmara Domińczyk and Greg Grunberg

So whilst browsing Netflix I found a film that looks different to what I normally review, in other words a comedy. Many of you that read this site on a regular basis will know that I don’t really like comedies, often finding them anything but funny. I have a very specific sense of humour and find it hard to really enjoy a film aimed to make me laugh. I enjoy a more subtle or intelligent form of comedy.

That’s one of the reasons that I didn’t really enjoy films such as “Deadpool”, it tried far, far too hard to be funny and this caused it not to be for me.

If you went through my collection of roughly 70 Blu Rays and several thousand DVDs you would find very few comedies at all, and the ones that are there are several decades old. It is arguably my least favourite genre.

Then again, this might turn out to be an hidden gem.

Plot 

Ward (Faison) is a very likeable man who is married to Stacy (Domińczyk), a woman that everyone hates due to being abusive, rude and abrasive, including Ward himself. After he is denied the opportunity to play golf, Ward’s friends Ronnie (Carpinello), David (Wilson) and Tom (Foley) start speculating what it would be like to kill Stacey and the positive impact it would have on everyone concerned. David won’t let the idea go though, but it is actually Tom that succeeds after he strangles her following a slip.

The group and their wives then have a lengthy discussion about how to get rid of the body. After making their decision, they start breaking down the body, but Ward’s neighbour Bruce (Grunberg) is a police officer and is becoming suspicious of the unusual behaviour.

So is it a hidden gem?

No, it is definitely not.

The film currently has a rating of 5.4/10 on IMDB and I find that to be very, very generous indeed. This film is a mercifully shortly 82 minutes, but not once does it get anywhere near anything that’s worth laughing at. It’s stale and largely lifeless, and there is no intention of irony in that statement given that it’s a film about killing someone.

Let’s start with one of the key problems with the film, none of the characters are worthy of your time. They’re all completely one dimensional and even after the death of Stacy, none of them really act like any differently than what they did before, other than obviously being slightly more panicked than they were previously.

Stacy is not a believable character. Whilst I firmly believe that there are some women somewhat like her out there, there isn’t a single secondary characteristic and I find it hard to believe that she would ever convince someone to fall in love with her, or be friends with her for an extended amount of time. I sort of get that Ward would want to stay with her after they have a kid together, but there is precisely nothing forcing anyone else to interact with her when she is not here. The very fact that no-one really gives a shit after she has died says it all. Even Ward ends up urinating on her at some point.

You actually want her to be killed, but the actual scene in which she does actually die is so underwhelming that it doesn’t feel like a satisfying outcome. More to the point it is a bit ridiculous as she basically slips on a piece of cake and smashes her head open on the floor. However, rather than slipping in a natural way, she sort of casually falls over.

I can’t think of a single redeeming feature from this film other than the aforementioned runtime.

Summary

A painfully unfunny comedy, “Let’s Kill Ward’s Wife” is an attempt at the genre that I can’t imagine anyone actually enjoying. I can see why it’s only got a 5.4/10 on IMDB at the time of writing, and even then I think that rating is being exceptionally generous.

There characters are one dimensional and it’s hard to really care about any of them. It makes the whole film a bit pointless when they eventually killed Stacy and their lives are barely affected.

Just don’t waste your time.