So what if I said it? Why the fuck would I write it on a postcard?

Year Released : 2012

Director : Robert Heath

Cast : David Oakes, Liam Boyle, Jack Gordon, Florence Hall, Jennie Jacques, Alex Valhos and Tom Kane

So there will be a few out there that might be wondering why I keep reviewing horror films if I don’t get any enjoyment out of them. The simple answer is that they have nothing complicated about them, and are easy to come by. There is an entire channel in my native UK decided purely to horror movies, imaginatively called “The Horror Channel”, so if I’m ever stuck for something to review then I am just a quick flick of the channel and there will be something on.

That’s not to say that the channel is full of good films, far from it infact. It’s full of some of the lowest budget nonsense that I’ve ever seen, but there are occasionally some gems in there, hence why I keep going back to it and the genre.

There is also the fact that this seems like a British horror, and I am a big fan of horror films from my native England. I’d love to review more than just “The Cottage” one day, but I think the other ones, such as “Severance” and “Creep” are far too well known for me to justify it given I only want to review obscure, rarely heard of films. For those that haven’t read the site before, if I see a film I want to review, I look at IMDB and if it has more than 10,000 votes then I don’t review it.

Plot

A few months after he is embarrassed at a party in a game of truth or day, shy Felix (Kane) invites the same group to his birthday party in a remote cabin. When they arrive it turns out that Felix knew nothing of the party and it was intended to be a surprise by his brother Justin (Oakes). After a dull start, Justin suggests that they start a game of truth or dare. After a few rounds Justin reveals that Felix has committed suicide and he invited them all around to investigate what happened as he blames the group. He ties all of them up and reveals that one of the group sent a postcard with “Truth or Dare, bitch” written on it, and the group immediately blames Chris (Gordon).

Chris chooses dare when it gets to him, but Justin tips up Gemma’s (Hall) chair. Justin forces a tube down her throat and says that it is connected to two bottles, one is filled with water, the other with battery acid. Chris successfully picks the side with water, but when it comes Liam’s (Boyle) turn, Chris is tipped up and he chooses with side with battery acid, killing Chris.

Soon after another member of the group turns up, and whilst Justin is sorting them out, Gemma successfully frees herself after getting to a saw on the workstation. She escapes and goes to find help, but Justin is close behind.

So, a rare decent film on The Horror Channel?

“Truth or Dare” has an interesting concept on some levels, and the torture porn element to it does have a bit of story behind it to be fair. It’s not simply just a body count for the sake of having a body count, and the main antagonist has a good reason for being as angry as he was. That being said, this isn’t a good film.

Whilst the antagonist is fairly decently done, the other characters are just so one dimensional that it was genuinely hard to start giving the slightest fuck about them. You can have the best antagonist in the world, but if the protagonists just aren’t that engaging then it’s really hard to me to find myself becoming invested in them. When you don’t care about the characters, how can you be impacted by their deaths?

Even if they were more than one dimensional characters, I would still found myself struggling to really care about their struggle because none of them are actually that likeable, they don’t have deeming features and I just complete indifference to what was happening to them. I’m not saying it’s poorly acted, I’m just saying it is poor characterisation!

I’m going to finish this review with what I consider to be a bit of a hole that made it fall into the realm of being unrealistic nonsense.Firstly, the characters are late teens, maybe 18/19, and I refuse to believe that they would interrupt a house-party to play a game of truth or dare, or seemingly take up any opportunity to play the game. Set in my native UK, I can assure you that the interest of the vast, vast majority of late teens would not half a party to play a childhood game. Just no.

Summary

“Truth or Dare” had an interesting concept that soon stopped being interesting one your realise that people in their late teens are not likely to play truth or dare. Even if you ignore that aspect of it, it is hard to find anything to overly enjoy whilst watching it.

It’s not poorly acted, but it’s just bland, relatively uninteresting realisation of what could have been an interesting and dark story.

Just meh!

Why me? What did I do?

Year Released : 2015

Director : Oz Perkins

Cast : Emma Roberts, Kiernan Shipka, Lucy Boynton, James Remar and Lauren Holly

So I was browsing Netflix on Saturday evening, trying to find any of the films that I currently have on my “to watch” list, proving ultimately unsuccessful, but one film that I did find was a film called “February”, more commonly known as “The Blackcoat’s Daughter”, and the set up seemed interesting, plus it had Emma Roberts and Lucy Boynton in it, two actresses in appeared in my top twenty last year with “Nerve” and “Sing Street” respectively.

So based on that I have decided to give it a go. Most people know that I’m not majorly into horror, I don’t find them particularly scary, remotely interesting or engaging. They are just there to let out the sadistic side of someone who generally just wants to see people killed. I didn’t realise how much I generally found the genre to be unengaging until I did those 31 reviews in October 2015 as I lead up to Halloween. Whilst there were some gems in there, such as “Hidden”, the vast majority were not very good.

The horror films that I have liked in recent years have been the ones where it wasn’t your typical horror. In other words it built the characters well, or whether it doesn’t fall into the typical horror cliches, with one example being the excellent “The Babadook”. But anyway, I digress, let’s see if this is any good.

Plot

Rose (Boynton) and Kat (Shipka) stay in a boarding school and are preparing to go home for the half term, but neither of their parents arrive to pick them up. It turns out that Rose did this on purpose as she wants to talk to her boyfriend as she believes she has fallen pregnant. The school convinces Rose to look after Kat, but she is less than willing when it comes to actually doing it.

Soon Kat starts being considerably quieter than before, and starts giving off a vibe that something is wrong. This starts proving offputting to Rose, especially when she sees Kat seemingly doing a ritual in front of the boiler. Short and sharp answers don’t help, and Rose is particularly disturbed when Kat utters “you had your chance!”

Meanwhile, a young woman called Joan (Roberts) is travelling to Portsmith, a small town near where the boarding school is. Whilst waiting at the bus stop she is approached by a man named Bill (Remar), who offers her a lift as he is heading that way, although his wife (Holly) is far from impressed. Bill reveals he had a daughter that once went to the school that died, almost nine years ago to the day.

So which side does it fall under?

I can see why some didn’t like this movie. It you go on IMDB it has a rating of 5.7/10, which isn’t that impressive, and I think the reason for this is that ultimately not a lot happens until the final twenty or so minutes. It is most definitely a slow burner and I think that it will polarise the audience into either hating or liking it, and I fall very much into the latter.

For the first twenty or so minutes I was struggling to really piece together what was going on and what the story was, and it does take a while to get into, but the atmosphere is so uneasy that you want to keep watching, and you’re inevitably rewarded with a solid horror experience. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still not scared by horrors, but the music, as well as the lighting techniques used throughout the movie, made me a bit uneasy in a film where nothing really happens, but you’re always on edge as the music makes you think something might be coming.

The cinematography in the film is surprisingly decent given that it is a low budget horror movie, and the dark nature of the early scenes sets the tone quite well.

The acting performances from the cast are pretty much spot on, even though the plot doesn’t require any of them to really show any sort of range. James Remar arguably gives the best performance though as a man who is trying to get over the loss of his daughter, and tells Joan that she reminds him of his daughter, even though they blatantly look nothing alike. You gain a deep understanding of the character, and that is what I like about these type of horror films. Having a body count for the sake of having a body count isn’t that engaging, but when you develop the characters to the point where you genuinely get upset when they’re killed, that’s when you’ve done a good job.

I only have one gripe about the film that is something I touched on in the last paragraph. The scene in which Bill shows Joan a picture of his daughter and says that she died nine years ago contains a major spoiler to the end of the film and takes some of the tension out of it as you know what to expect going forward. Don’t get me wrong, it didn’t actually stop me enjoying the movie, but it was still largely disappointing that you know how the movie will end at least 30/40 minutes in advance.

Other than that though “Blackcoat’s Daughter” is a fairly solid and understated attempt at a horror film.

Summary

Whilst there is the problem that it gives away part of the climax of the story about half way through the film, I found “Blackcoat’s Daughter” to be a very decent and original attempt at horror. It doesn’t try any of the usual stereotypes of horror, and I found this be quite refreshing.

It is genuinely unsettling at times, without really doing anything out of the ordinary, and to get that result when you’re ultimately not doing a lot says that about how refreshing the film is. I’m not going to sit here and claim that this is one of the most original horror films that I have ever seen as it does borrow from a lot of other movies in the genre, but it is an all-round decent effort.

I would definitely recommend that you watch this.

 

 

We had the $18million Maple Syrup theft!

Year Released : 2015

Director : Robert Cohen

Cast : Robert Cohen, Cobie Smulders, Mike Myers, Seth Rogen, Mike Myers, William Shatner and Martin Short

“Being Canadian” has been on my to watch list for quite some time. Around five or six years ago I was making serious plans to move to Canada and dove into getting to know the country, the Canadian people and various others things. Not to forget that my favourite NHL team is the Calgary Flames. I even received a job offer from Toronto at one point, and was at one point about five days away from actually moving.

There is something about the country of Canada that I love, I can’t quite put my finger on it, maybe it is the aforementioned fandom of the Flames, or how beautiful the country is, or even how wonderfully isolated most places in the country are, but either way it is a country that I would still be interested living in one day, and therefore I am quite excited about finally getting the chance to watch this.

There is a little uncertainty in it though as this seems to follow a similar(ish) format to another documentary that I watched for this site, the frankly tedious “Do I Sound Gay?”

I hope that it is certainly better than that was, and I am somewhat hopeful as it doesn’t seem to be a vanity project, which is another reason why I’m looking forward to this documentary.

Plot

Rob Cohen has been in Hollywood for many years, working on several huge projects (such as “The Big Bang Theory”), but he got really frustrated one day and snapped after being mocked for being Canadian. He decides to go on a trip, starting in Nova Scotia, in which he gets the opinions of numerous celebrities about their views of their home country in an attempt to gain an understanding of what it means to be Canadian. Famous names include Eugene Levy, Dan Ackroyd, Michael J Fox, Will Arnett, Seth Rogen, Mike Myers and Cobie Smulders, amongst many others.

He soon moves through major Canadian cities, exploring the conflict between the English and French speaking sections, bizarre Canadian traditions and how they identify themselves by saying that they’re not something (we’re not American). Rob soon closes in on Vancouver just time to Canada Day, can he find the answer he is looking for?

 

So, better than “Do I Sound Gay?”

I’m not going to lie, it wouldn’t be hard to be better than that given how poor it is. Saying the documentary is better than “Do I Sound Gay?” would be faint praise indeed.

Before I went into this documentary film I made an internal list of stuff I’d want to see from these things, and the majority of those things were fulfilled. The only part that wasn’t was that there didn’t seem to be much of a point, other than him trying to find meaning in his nationality, but the documentary is done in such a way that you don’t really care that the main mission of the documentarian is a bit meaningless to anyone who isn’t Canadian.

Starting off the positives, I think it’s great that you get a perspective on what it is like to be Canadian, ranging from minor issues such as none of the non-Canadians he interviews knowing such simple information, such as what the capital of the country is (it’s Ottawa), right through to people stereotyping them about their hockey obsession, Tim Hortin’s chain of restaurants and that they’re viewed as a diet-America. One of the key points is how everyone assumes from their accent that they’re American, which is fairly similar to the Canadian accent to the untrained ear, and it is engaging to see how they view that situation.

For the first time since I reviewed Blackfish, I feel like I’ve come out of a documentary more motivated that before. That’s how good this is. I really want to go to Canada after watching this and discover more of it’s history. Some of the aspects that they discussed was fascinating, such as that there was once $18million worth of maple syrup stolen, right through to them forming the equivalent of the NFL, but two of the nine teams bizarrely sharing the same name.

The reason that “Being Canadian” works is that is refreshingly self-mocking, including a specific section of the film in which they mock themselves by everyone apologising for various aspects for their life. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, and I think that is one of the reasons people around the world have a lot of time for Canadians, especially when they realise that they’re not American, something that Seth Rogen reflects on.

Just watch it.

Summary

A quirky and unique look at what it means to be Canadian, “Being Canadian” is an enjoyable watch from start to finish. It pokes fun at itself, whilst also giving lessons about Canada that most outside of their country wouldn’t know, which is quite awesome.

If you’re even slightly into the country of Canada then I would recommend giving it a watch. I thought I’d learnt quite a bit about Canada from planning to move there, but there was virtually nothing mentioned that I knew, making it very worthwhile.

Give it a go, go on.

So we’re now close on the end of the first six months of 2017 and it’s getting to that point where I am starting to rank the films I’ve seen at the cinema during the year, but this year I am having a bit of difficulty. Whilst I normally review lesser known films, I always rank all of the films I saw at the cinema during the year, but unlike last year, I am really struggling this year.

Let me come right out and say it, the film line up for this year sucks. By this same time last year I had already seen over 70 films, but at the time of writing I have only seen 54 (I’m currently waiting to go into my 55th as I type this). For me 2017 has been a year where I’ve heard about so many laudable films, but failed to see why they were so highly praised when I went to view them.

By this time last year I already had a solid top ten, and that’s without including a lot of films that I really liked, whereas this year I am really struggling. Out of those 54 films, I personally feel that only five have been worthy of a top ten place, and if I were to do that list right now, it would have so much filler that it wouldn’t be a fair reflection of the quality of the films that actually deserve to be in there.

There are so many films that I ranked outside of the top ten in 2016 that would comfortably be in it this year. For example, “The Witch” and “Arrival” just failed to make my top ten last year, but both would probably be in my top five if they had been released this year. Infact, looking at my 20-11 ranking list last year, the majority would outrank most films I have seen this year, and I’d go as far as saying that some from my 30-21 list would also do the same.. Don’t get me wrong, there have been plenty of good films this year, ones that I would give a solid 7 or 8/10 to, but can I honestly say that they’re top ten worthy? No.

One such example is “Silence”, Martin Scorsese’s film about Jesuit priests going to Japan. I actually really liked this film, but wouldn’t currently include it in my top ten because whilst it is a film that you will need to watch twice to catch everything (it is a very long film), you wouldn’t really want to. That’s a big thing for me, and whether I would willingly watch a film again is a bit factor in whether a good film would make my top ten.

The one thing that keeps me going is the hope that things improve. I’ve been doing this site for three years now, and each of my previous lists have been topped by films released in the final few months of the year. 2014’s “Nightcrawler” came out in November (I think), whereas 2015’s “No Escape” and 2016’s “Captain Fantastic” were both September releases. Looking ahead to the films in the second half of the year, there are a few that interest me and have a chance of making my top ten, but we’ll see.

To be fair, on the flip side there haven’t been that many awful films, and there are only five again that I have seen that I would consider bad enough to go into a list like that. Granted, there are a few others which I currently don’t have on that list that I will happily include if I don’t see more awful films.

Without revealing what the specific films are, here are a few notable aspects about the top and bottom tens if I were to compile them right now.

  • I would have an actor in two films in the top ten for the first time.
  • One actress would appear in both my top and bottom ten, also for the first time.
  • And also for the first time, one actor would be in my bottom ten twice (Zac Efron very narrowly missed out on that last year)
  • One comic-book movie would make my top ten, but it is not one of those that I consider worthy.
  • Out of the 54 films I’ve seen to date, the least represented mainstream genre that would feature in the top half of the list would be horror.
  • On the flip side, two of my definite bottom five so far would fall into the horror genre.

That’s all I’m going to give you for now. Let’s hope the quality of films gets better soon.

I started this film blog in 2014 with the intention of consistently talking about lesser known films that I love, but at the end of each year I rank all of the films that I have seen at the cinema during the previous twelve months. Obviously currently working at a cinema means I can watch considerably more than I used to, and even though I am currently behind where I was this time last year (I had already seen 70 by this time last year, whereas I’m currently on 54 for 2017), I should still easily hit the 100 films mark again.

As I’m struggling to find films to review at the moment as not a lot of independent films are taking my interest enough to want to review them, I decided to look back on a few previous years to see what my top mainstream films from that year would be, and where better to start than from the year before I started this site.

Those who have read my site for a while will already know what my favourite film for 2013 is as I spoke about it in part one of my favourite films list, but the other places were very much up for grabs. As I only saw fourteen films during 2013 (something which took me just three weeks this year), I’ve decided to only have a top five.

I only saw 14 films in the whole of 2013, which says it all when you compare it to how many I watch now. Just for the record, the films that aren’t included in this top five are Star Trek Beyond, Hunger Games : Catching Fire, Hobbit : The Desolation of Smaug, Anchorman 2, Elysium, Hangover 3, Purge, This is the End and The World’s End. For the record, the only one of those that I would have struggled to actually find any praise for is Hangover 3, which was particularly bad and would probably rank at the bottom of the list.

So here we go, the top five films I saw that in 2013.

5) You’re Next

Cast : Sharni Vinson, Nicholas Tucci, Wendy Glenn, Joe Swanberg, A.J Bowen, Rob Moran, Barbara Crampton, Ti West, Am Seimez

Plot : Erin (Vinson) joins Crispian (Bowen) to his family reunion, but it soon becomes evident that this family has a few issues, especially as Crispian soon starts arguing with Paul (Moran) and Drake (Swanberg). The family continues to argue as Tariq (West) notices something odd out of the window, and is subsequently shot by an arrow when he goes to investigate. In the ensuing chaos Drake is also shot.

Several men in animal masks invade the house and start killing off the family members one by one, but Erin is far from defenceless and they soon realise this with much horror.

Why in this position? : I don’t often like horror films, and I think that there has only been one out and out horror film that I’ve included in my three top tens so far. I find them exceptionally boring, with dull and uninteresting characters. This certainly does not fit into this category and is everything I could want from a horror film.

It is has fleshed out and very developed characters, the relationships between them are well built and it makes you invested in them as characters. This is essential for horror films because otherwise it would just be a body count without having any meaning. The acting throughout is also great, especially in the scene in which Tariq is killed, and the family slowly come to the horrified realisation of what has happened.

“You’re Next” is about as rounded as you can get for a horror film in the modern era. It doesn’t use any/many cliches, and the fact is has arguably the strongest female character out of any film released during 2013 definitely helps its cause.

 

4) Thor : The Dark World

Cast : Chris Hemsworth, Christopher Eccleston, Tim Hiddleston, Natalie Portman, Idris Elba, Anthony Hopkins and Rene Russo

Plot : Thor (Hemsworth) is celebrating yet another victory in battle and he has earnt Odin’s (Hopkins) utmost respect, but it is obvious he is still missing Jane (Portman) after destroying the bifrost. Meanwhile Jane has found a mysterious portal and it transports her to a cave. In that cave is a mysterious red liquid that soon forces itself into her body, but also wakes up Malekith (Eccleston), a dark-elf who is determined to remove all light from the universe.

Thor must rely on his devious brother Loki (Hiddleston) if he is to stand any chance of saving the universe. Loki is reluctant to help after being imprisoned following the events of “The Avengers”, but soon becomes just as vengeful as Malekith kills Frigga (Russo).

Why in this position? : I’m a sucker for Norse mythology after they strangely taught it to us in primary school. This is potentially the reason why “Thor” is the only sub-franchise other than “Guardians of the Galaxy” that I enjoy from the MCU. Whilst “Thor : Dark World” is not as enjoyable as the first film, it is still a film that I can watch on a regular basis and enjoy.

“Thor” feels a lot different to most other films in the MCU and that is possibly why I enjoy it a lot. The rest of them feel very formulaic, but the character of Thor is constantly evolving and learning, plus he has the only credible Marvel villain to fight in the form of Loki, who is again played with ease by Tom Hiddleston.

It might not win a lot of plaudits and it may be the least interesting part of the MCU for some, but I like it. Whether it would be in my top five, or even top ten in any other year is highly doubtful, so it’ll be interesting to see where “Ragnarok” ranks when that comes out later in the year.

 

3) World War Z

Cast : Brad Pitt, Mirieille Enos, Fana Mokoena, Daniella Kertesz, Pierfrancesco Favino, Peter Capaldi and Ruth Negga

Plot : Jerry (Pitt) and Karin (Enos) are taking their daughters somewhere when all of a sudden the streets turn to chaos as people attack each other. Each person being attacked suddenly turns violent themselves. The family barely escapes into an apartment building and taken in by an hispanic family. Jerry receives calls from his old friend Thierry (Mokoena), who is Deputy Secretary General at the United Nations, and goes to a rescue helicopter on the roof, but not before again being attacked by a large group.

When they get on board a ship, Jerry is convinced to help out the U.N under the threat of his family being thrown off of the boat for being non-essential. He travels to South Korea after hearing a rumour that the virus start there, but this leads him to Israel. It turns out that even 100ft high walls can’t keep out the infected, and no matter where he goes Jerry is always being chased.

Why in this position? : “World War Z” was a great attempt at a zombie film and was one of the best made in recent years. I think this is definitely helped by the fact that it feels like a truly worldwide issue. Jerry goes to several locations that aren’t normally shown in films and are very far apart. He meets different cultures and beliefs, but no-one seems to truly know the source of the virus.

This is a rare example of a zombie film which I wouldn’t class as a horror film. It’s more like an action film, especially as most of it takes place during the day. The pacing is perfect throughout, with there never been a long gap between situations where Jerry has to escape a hoard, but more vitally is that most of them don’t last too long. There is a chance to develop him as a rounded character. The only problem is that he is the only character that is developed.

Whilst it might be faint praise, this is probably the best zombie film released at cinemas in the 21st century.

 

2) The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Cast : Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Adam Scott, Kathryn Hahn, Sean Penn, Adrian Martinez and Patton Oswalt

Plot : Walter (Stiller) is a raw-photograph processor for Life magazine and he is attracted to Cheryl (Wiig), a new starter at his office. He is however prone to daydreaming and this doesn’t go unnoticed by Ted (Scott), another new face who announces he is there to start the process of downsizing the staff as the magazine moves online. He keeps Walter around initially after it turns out that prolifically acclaimed photographer Sean O’Connell (Penn) has sent an image that he wants to use on the final issue.

One problem is that Walter can’t find the image and believes it wasn’t sent. He decides to track it down as it would be a fitting end to his time at the magazine, but this means going abroad for the first time ever, and sees him travel to Iceland and Greenland….and several other locations in his mind.

Why in this position? “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” took a while to grow on me, taking several rewatches before I started to enjoy it. Had this list been written at the end of 2013, just as this film was released, then it would never have been my second favourite film of that year. I have no idea why I bought it on BluRay, probably just an impulse buy, but several years later I am glad I did.

As time has gone on I have come to appreciate so many aspects to this film, such as the coming-of-age story of a man around at the 40 mark, or that it has such a large scale for a relatively small film. I have been tempted on so many occasions to write a full on article about why this is a life-affirming and enjoyable use of nearly two hours of your time.

Stiller excels as Walter, bringing warmth and feeling to a genre that different from his usual efforts. Wiig is also the same as she plays a very straight character, with no sense of comedy at all. The film also introduced me to Adam Scott, who seems at home with his portrayal as the generally unlikeable, but completely understandable character of Ted.

With exceptional cinematography, and an unbelievable soundtrack from Jose Gonzalez, I can happily sit and watch this film at any point.

 

And finally, the best film I saw at the cinema in 2013………

1) Rush

Cast : Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Brühl, Olivia Wilde, Alexandra Maria Lara and Pierfrancesco Favino

Plot : James Hunt (Hemsworth) is preparing for the 1970 Formula Three race at Crystal Palace when he lays eyes on Niki Lauda (Brühl) for the first time and they soon get into an argument after Hunt races in a dangerous manner, almost causing Lauda to crash. Lauda soon buys himself into Formula One and quickly establishes himself as a great driver. Hunt’s group decides to enter Formula One as well.

Hunt and Lauda renew their rivalry but Hesketh is no match for Lauda’s Ferrari. Hunt joins McLaren, a car that can make him competitive and the two, whilst respecting each other’s abilities, start a bitter rivalry for the title. Meanwhile, Hunt’s marriage has fallen apart and that, combined with bad luck, means Niki establishes a very early and seemingly dominating lead in the title race.

Niki marries his girlfriend just before the German Grand Prix is due to take place. The weather is terrible and the track already has a reputation for injuring people and taking lives. Niki calls a meeting to get the race postponed but Hunt rallies the room to vote for the race to go ahead. Lauda’s suspension breaks midway through the third lap and sends him crashing into the safety railing. Lauda has to be pulled from the burning wreckage and is taken to hospital.

Why my favourite film of 2013? : Rush is one of the most stylish and realistic sports films that I have ever seen, possibly only bettered by Moneyball. Rush is visually incredible on every single level, right down to the simple things, such as Niki Lauda’s overbite. Too many sports films based on historical events ignore the little things, such as not making the actors look like those that they are portraying, and if you see a picture of Daniel Brühl normally compared to how he looked in the film, you will be amazed. It is a truly incredible transformation that the film-makers have pulled off.

Brühl is incredible as the Austrian Lauda and it’s impossible not to be impressed by him. I first became aware of Brühl due to his appearance in “Inglorious Basterds” and his mesmerising portrayal of a seemingly well mannered young man who simply won’t take no for an answer. He brings a great level of sympathy to the character because although the character is a self confessed arsehole, you understand why he is how he is and Brühl plays it excellently.

Both Landa and Hunt are portrayed as exactly what they were, flawed human beings. Hunt, despite being a world class racing driver, struggles with the normalities of life and this costs him his marriage, and Landa refuses to accept anything less than perfection and doesn’t know how to do anything other than via the most simple to achieve it. For example, when he marries his girlfriend, it’s simply in a registry office, he doesn’t go with a full on wedding because it is simple. Even Landa’s home is as basic as it gets.

Hunt and Landa are the perfect antithesis to each other and the duel between them, and how it escalates from a mere professional rivalry to a more personal battle, is a great build, but even better is when Niki has had his rivalry and James’ reaction to it. James’ guilt about how he rallied the other racers to ignore Niki’s protests for a race to go ahead, and the subsequent accident, is the perfect character development.

Let’s go back to our dull lives and search for meaning.

Year Released : 1993

Director : Daniel Stern

Cast : Thomas Ian Nicholas, Amy Morton, Gary Busey, Bruce Altman, Albert Hall, Daniel Stern and Dan Hedaya

When they’re done right sports movies can be fantastic. Every sport has an exceptional film in a particular genre. Formula One has “Rush”, American Football has “Any Given Sunday”, ice hockey has “Mystery, Alaska”, and even bowls has “Blackball”. One sports genre that gets an abundance of entries is baseball, with 2011’s “Moneyball” even getting nominated for some Academy Awards”, but other than that there haven’t been a lot of exceptional baseball films.

The late-eighties and early-nineties were full of them. The “Major League” franchise, “Bull Durham”, “A Field of Dreams” and “A League of Their Own” all came out in quick succession and were all decent enough, but none of them were what you’d define as spectacular. One day I was browsing Netflix looking for a new film to review and I came across another baseball film from that era, and one that I remember from my youth, “Rookie of the Year”.

From what I remember it was enjoyable fun, but as I’ve pointed out several times on this site, what I remember as being fun in my childhood, doesn’t necessarily remain fun in adulthood.

We’ll see.

Plot

Henry (Nicholas) is a very keen baseball player, but is very incompetent on the field. One day he is teased for his latest mistake, but to try to impress a girl he attempts to catch a throw. He slips on a stray baseball and breaks various parts of his arm. When he eventually gets out of his cast, he is gifted tickets to a Chicago Cubs game by his mother (Morton) and whilst there he goes to return a home run, but throws the ball more than 400 feet in less than two seconds.

His is immediately signed by the Cubs to be their new pitcher, much to the bewilderment of various professionals, most notably Chet (Busey), another pitcher that is coming to the end of his career. This isn’t helped when Henry’s first appearance goes horrendously, but he still wins over the fans as the Cubs go on an amazing winning streak.

With the success on the field coming thick and fast, it isn’t long before things off the field get a bit complicated.

As enjoyable as I remember from my childhood?

For anyone under the age of 13 this would be a very enjoyable film. It’s fun, not very serious and is relateable to people of those age, but for anyone else there are some major flaws throughout.

I’m going to start with one of my biggest gripes and that is that Henry is cheered on by the crowds, regardless of how well he is doing. Whilst this isn’t an issue with the Cubs fans, he gets cheered on at away games by the home team’s fans. Their fans are literally cheering an opposition player on to beating their own team. It makes no sense. Infact, it doesn’t seem to matter what Henry does, he gets cheered. In his very first match he throws three pitches, all of them atrociously, and yet gets cheered like a conquering hero at the end, with everyone citing him as saving the game.

That isn’t one of the only plot holes. For example, there is a plot point in the middle act of the film in which Henry’s mother is tricked into signing him up to a deal with the New York Yankees, yet they’re allowed to just pull out of the deal, or at least I assume so as after she realise what has happened it’s never mentioned again. I think this is one of several plot points that isn’t helped by the abrupt ending to the film. I’d also love to know how Henry landing on his shoulder (and you quite clearly see it is just his shoulder) can break his ulna…..for those that aren’t biologically knowledgeable, the ulna is one of the two main bones in your lower arm. It would be astronomically difficult to break your ulna by landing on your shoulder.

Away from the numerous plot issues, which believe me when I say I could happily continue for a while, the film has very little going for it. Whilst no-one acts badly, other than maybe Daniel Stern himself (playing a horrendous attempt at a comic relief character), no-one stands out as being good, and as much as Nicholas tries, it is really hard to get behind Henry because he is an irritating little twat, especially given that his voice is quite clearly in the process of breaking at the time that this movie was made.

Unfortunately there is nothing unique about this movie at all. It is remarkably predictable.

Summary

“Rookie of the Year” is one of those films that will never go down as a classic. It is full of issues and is a poor attempt at telling a story that could have actually been interesting had it been done right.

There is nothing positively noteworthy that I can write about. It’s just a bad film.

Don’t waste your time.

Year Released : 2011

Director : Xavier Gems

Cast : Michael Biehn, Lauren German, Milo Ventimiglia, Courtney Vance, Ashton Holmes, Rosanna Arquette, Iván González and Michael Eklund

Michael Biehn was one of the quintessential action stars of the eighties thanks to appearances in “Aliens”, “The Abyss” and “The Terminator”, but the roles soon dried up and it has been a long time since he featured on screen in British cinemas, with (and I stand to be corrected) his last appearance on the big screen in the UK coming in 2007’s “Planet Terror”. I have seen a few of his independent films since his heyday and it is safe to say that he is one of those actors that appears in a lot of films, but very rarely are they any good.

I’m hoping that this turns out to be a better effort than some of the others, and I always like films with a psychological edge of them. Had this just been a generic post-apocalyptic then I wouldn’t have even given it a second glance, but when I saw how the characters change as time and radiation goes on, I think I might just enjoy this.

Plot : A nuclear missile is launched on New York and the residents of an apartment building flee towards the basement, with eight making it into Mickey’s (Biehn) basement bomb-shelter.  After several days of arguing, a group of soldiers in bio suits make their way into the apartment and kidnap Wendi (Abbey Thickson), but the group manages to kill one of the soldiers before they leave. Josh (Ventimiglia) volunteers to go out and see what it is like, but he is forced back into the shelter when he is discovered. The soldiers then weld the door shut.

Devlin (Vance) soon discovers that Mickey has some other food stored away, but Mickey kills him before he can tell the rest of the group, however, they soon figure it out and force their way in. The fail to ration the food however and it quickly disappears. and the fact that several of the group are showing signs of radiation poisoning (such as hair falling out) causes several members to turn crazy.

So, another Biehn film that is disappointing?

Unfortunately I do have to say that despite having a creepy atmosphere and look, there is unfortunately a lot missing from the film that made it enjoyable throughout the majority of a run time that goes on for far longer than it really should do.

I’m going to start with the stuff that I liked that the first is the little things that are done, such as how characters visually degrade over time, some lose their hair, others start getting visual defects to their eyes, but what makes it work is that the changes are subtle over time. In “Silent Hill” there was an effect used in which the central character’s costume gradually changes throughout the film, changing from the summery outfit to one that is dark and far different than what she turned up with, and it works because it was done subtle changes in each scene. When the changes are done subtly, it is almost like they’re done there and then for the first time.

One such example is the below image (not my own) of Bobby, who is seemingly one of the main protagonists at first but soon turns into one of the two central villains.

That’s about as far as my positive comments extend.

For me the main problem is that the majority of the characters just aren’t that interesting. By the time that some characters start turning insane, you’re really struggling to give a shit about them and the situation that they’re in. I am glad that they got rid of the kid early as it helps at least give her mother some form of development, but beyond that she doesn’t really do anything worthwhile for the whole film.

Mickey is the only worthwhile and developed character. I actually sympathise with Mickey for the most part, he is clearly unstable and mentally vulnerable, but right from the off everyone is disrespecting him and demanding stuff from him. I don’t think he is once thanked for letting them stay there, or indeed sharing his food.

I found myself getting bored on a regular basis and being able to scan away from the screen to look at my phone, and that is never a good thing.

Summary

“The Divide” was a film that left me with precisely zero urgency to write this review. I am writing this specific section on Friday afternoon, four days after I watched the film, and that should tell you everything you need to know. It just isn’t engaging, and whilst there are some minor aspects I liked, there isn’t really a lot.
Other than the clever little things and the subtle changes over time, there is nothing really about this film that would ever make me want to watch it again.
Just meh!

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.