Archive for August, 2015

I don’t trust him!

Year Released : 2015z_for_zachariah
Director : Craig Zobel
Cast : Margot Robbie, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Chris Pine

In my recent look at the films that I am looking forward to in 2015 I chose this post apocalyptic film starring three of the best young talents in Hollywood today. Margot Robbie in particular has come out of seemingly nowhere in recent years to become one of Hollywood’s hottest properties, and is starring in hit after hit.

I came across the unexpected opportunity to watch Z for Zachariah on Sunday afternoon and took the opportunity as soon as I had the chance, so I am genuinely hoping that it lives up to my hopes.

Some of you may be puzzled as to why I am reviewing a film which will probably be pretty mainstream, it’s because I live in the UK and there hasn’t been a single trailer or TV spot released for this film, and at the time of writing it doesn’t even have a release date. Everyone once in a while I do review films released at the cinemas if I feel that they won’t be well known, and despite the cast I just get that feeling with Z for Zachariah.

 

Plot

Ann (Robbie) lives in the middle of a farm several years after an event that killed off the vast majority of human life. Her farm is in the middle of a valley that was somehow left exempt from whatever wiped out life, and Ann herself is afraid to go out of the valley after her family left, never to return. One day, whilst hunting, she stumbles across a man (Ejiofor) in a radiation suit and follows him as he bathes in a local pool. Ann quickly tries to grab his attention as the waterfall that sources the pool comes from outside the valley and isn’t safe.

The man, who reveals his name to be Loomis, spends the next several days being cared for by Ann as he becomes violently ill. She does eventually nurse him back to health and the two develop a friendship. Whilst exploring the house, Loomis finds a generator and realises that the water from the pool can be used to give the house electricity, although Ann declines the opportunity as it would mean tearing down her father’s chapel.

After the pair decide that they won’t enter a romantic relationship, a man called Caleb (Pine) wanders onto the farm and claims to be from a nearby town called Aston, a town that neither Loomis or Ann have heard of before. Ann eventually relents and agrees to tear down the chapel, and she and Caleb develop start a romantic relationship. Loomis becomes jealous of the two and starts to use any opportunity he can to wedge them apart, but will the perfect opportunity to take Caleb out of the picture be taken?

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Worth the wait?

In many ways yes, the film isn’t amazing by any stretch of the imagination, but they get a lot of what they attempt right.

I’m going to start off by something that always disappoints me in films like this. In a lot of post apocalyptic films there are a lot of stereotypes, such as characters trusting no-one but themselves, the characters having a radio with no-one to talk to and all vehicles well beyond the state of working, but the one that always pisses me off is that films like this are introduced in a way where you think they’re the only ones alive, but it turns out that there are hundreds, if not thousands of survivors that are relatively near by.

One such example being the Will Smith film “I Am Legend”. The film is presented in a way where Will Smith is the only man left alive, but they cop out of this and start introducing a lot of new characters by the end, and it feels wasted and it would have been more poetic to have the character finish as the only one alive. In many cases it feels like a deus-ex machina because without the new characters being introduced in “I Am Legend”, the film wouldn’t have been able to finish with a seemingly natural conclusion.

“Z for Zachariah” is not like that at all. You go into it being shown that there are only three characters, and there genuinely are only three characters in the entire run time of just over 90 minutes. There are no other characters introduced at any point, not even in any flashbacks (of which there are none, which is another stereotype), and this is definitely refreshing in so many ways. The film presents itself as only having three characters and it sticks at that. It doesn’t try and get fancy, it just does what it says on the tin.

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So based on that, I might as well talk about the performances of both actors and Robbie in turn as it won’t need going into at length.

I like Margot Robbie, I think she is an excellent actress and has a natural charisma, however, in both of her previous mainstream roles (The Wolf of Wall Street and Focus), she has been cast in roles where using her sexuality is a prominent characteristic, especially in the former of those two films, but in “Z for Zachariah” there is nothing sexualised about her character whatsoever (I’m not even entirely convinced that she is wearing any make up during the film) and allows Robbie more freedom to just act. Her character doesn’t dress in a feminine way, expect for the odd scene here and there where she is in a dress, and she gets to betray this independent, if still somewhat vulnerable character.

Pine, despite having the shortest screentime of the three, still imposes his mark on the film very well and you can tell that he has experience in the genre (the film Carriers, which I still review one day) via the use of mannerisms and body language use. Caleb is an interesting character as you’re never entirely sure of exactly what his true intentions are, and Pine plays on that so well. Without going into it so much that it gives you a spoiler, it’s almost perfect that the character’s fate is left very open.

Despite the more than adequate performances of Robbie and Pine, it is Ejiofor that arguably steals the show and has the most varied character. The character changes more than any of the others and therefore Ejiofor gets the most to work with, and he does well in showing each side of Ejiofor, ranging from his happiness and flirtations with Ann, right to when he almost hits for whilst drunk and the way that he becomes exceedingly jealous when he realises that he has lost his chance with Ann. The internal conflict in the final scene he shares with Caleb is portrayed beautifully.

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Away from the characters, the filmmakers got the look and feel of the film spot on. The feeling of isolation and loneliness if felt throughout the film, especially when Ann is walking around the town and even from the absolute basics, you can tell that she’s been on her own for a long time, such as the irony of a sign on the side of a repair shop being broken. The cinematography is outstanding and as good as the acting in a film of this nature is, I would argue that the look is far more important and I can’t praise it enough.

The soundtrack is haunting and adds to that almost hopeless feel that inevitably comes from post-apocalyptic films, right from the haunting ambient tones to the haunting melody that Ann plays over and over again on the church organ.

The strange thing is that I didn’t feel particularly entertained by the film, but looking back at it I can’t really point out a single negative, the movie just works

Summary

As I mention above, I wasn’t overwhelming entertained by Z for Zachariah, but it is an astonishingly well made and well acted film. I can’t put a finger on a single thing that I didn’t like and yet I feel no urge to ever watch it again, but aside from that is it one of the better films that I have seen for a while.approved

Pine, Robbie and Ejiofor all put in excellent performances and all successful show why they are all Hollywood A-listers at this moment in time. Each brings their own little twists to their characters and Robbie in particular comes out of the stereotype set by her characters in previous films, showing her flexibility and chameleonic availability.

I have no idea if this will actually get released in UK cinemas, but if it does then I would recommend giving it a chance. It’s length is just long enough to feel like your time and money is well invested, without getting to a length that feels ridiculously long.

February 2nd 2015 – Pointless sequels and needless remakes – Remakes and sequels are now a common sight at a cinema, but that is not a good thing.

February 14th 2015 – Can Star Wars regain it’s force in Episode 7? – With Star Wars due to be released at the end of the year, can it regain what made the original trilogy so popular. Please note before reading this that I am not a fan of Star Wars.

March 5th 2015 – A genre that could learn from another – A look into how films based on computer games could improve by following the example of comic book based films.

April 5th 2015 –  Top Twenty Films – Part 1 – A look into ten of my twenty favourite mainstream films. This half of the list contains a virus outbreak, a Spartan army, arguably Christian Bale’s greatest performance, a few classics from the 1980s and one film that contains arguably the best twist ever seen in a movie.

April 28th 2015 – My Top Twenty Films – Part 2 – Second half of my top twenty films of all time. This half of the list contains Brad Pitt aging backwards, a man turning into an insect, an entry from arguably the best franchise of more than five films in history, and a fantasy film from Ron Howard and George Lucas.

August 10th 2015 – The films of 2015 that I’m looking forward to

August 29th 2015 – Shawshank Redemption’s Andy is Guilty – A look into the character of Andy in “The Shawshank Redemption” and how everyone’s belief that he is innocent could infact be wrong.

September 6th 2015 – Why I won’t apologise for not liking your friend’s movie – I had negatively reviewed a film called “Teacher of the Year” before stepping away from my laptop for a few days. When I returned I had some very immature responses from the director’s friend and he didn’t like that I hadn’t praised the film. This was my response.

September 7th 2015 – Four underrated and underutilised actors – Mainstream movies are filled with actors who consistently put in poor performances, so I decided to take a brief look at four that I feel should be in the mainstream considerably more than that are.

January 19th 2016 – The acting gets nominated – Just before the Academy Awards in 2016, a race-row developed in Hollywood after no-one of a non-white origin was nominated for one of the big four individual awards. This was my take on the situation.

May 18th 2016 – The Bottom 5 so far – In May 2016 I realised that I was close on 200 reviews and articles on the site, so I decided to dedicate that post to listing the five worst films that I’ve reviewed so far.

August 2nd 2016 – Coming soon and looking good – A brief look at films that I am excited by.

September 4th 2016 – The 80s was the greatest decade – I look at why the 1980s is the greatest decade for films.

October 1st 2016 – A preview to the end of 2016 – At the end of each year I rank all of the mainstream films that I saw during the year, this was a preview.

March 17th 2017 – A film for every year – There was a social media thing going on amongst film reviewers in which they named their favourite film from each year that they have been alive. These were my choices.

March 19th 2017 – 85 reasons why the Resident Evil franchise sucked – The Resident Evil film franchise finally ended in 2017 and I took a look at why other than the first one, it was generally a poor franchise.

They say that the twins were cursed from birth…

Year Released : 2015Rise of the Krays
Director : Zachary Adler
Cast : Kevin Leslie, Simon Cotton and Danny Midwinter

Those who read my recent look at the films that I am looking forward to will notice that one of the additions to that list was “Legend”, the story about the Kray twins. It is a film I am looking forward to for many reasons, one of which is that it looks very stylish and is a subject that I know very little about. The is pretty much the only reason that I am about to watch a low budget telling of the Krays from earlier this year, and it’s one where I already have low expectations going in between because they have hired actors that don’t even look remotely alike to play the Kray twins.

Hiring actors who are not even related to play brothers is always an interesting casting choice in films when the two actors don’t look alike, but to cast actors that don’t even look remotely similar to play twins is taking it to a new step altogether. It’s a risk that I doubt will pay off as I watch the film.

 

Plot

Ronnie (Cotton) and Reggie (Leslie) are two young men who have developed a reputation for effective methods of persuasion, usually involving violence. The twins soon take up ownership of several establishments, including a snooker hall, and make short work of the threat of local gangsters who were “protecting” the venues from trouble.

As time goes on the twins’ reputation continues to grow during the 1960s, but with that reputation comes increased attention from the police and Ronnie is soon arrested following on from a vicious assault on the brother of another gangster. He is sentenced to several years in jail, eventually being diagnosed as clinically insane. Upon his release people are even more wary of the brothers, and even Reggie isn’t entirely sure of his safety from his brother.

Reggie decides that with new gambling laws coming into force, it’s time for the Krays to form a truce with the local Italian and Maltese gangs, much to Ronnie’s anger, and with Detective Inspector Leonard Read (Midwinter) breathing down their necks, surely it’s only a matter of time before they’re in trouble again.

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Does it have the potential to be better than Legend?

In many ways I feel that this could potentially be a far more accurate telling of the story than Legend. Obviously Legend hasn’t even been released yet, so it’s hard to really compare the two, but Rise of the Krays definitely has that realistic feel to it. I think it will only real be possible to make realistic comparisons of the two if they both cover the same time period of the life of the twins.

Rise of the Krays covers the twins up until just after their first major court case is thrown out of court due to things such as a lack of evidence, and it appears that the rest of their story will be covered by the sequel “Fall of the Krays”, but after watching this film, I’m not really sure it actually warrants a sequel and would have probably been better served as a single film of maybe two hours long.

The reason I say this is that Rise of the Krays wasn’t actually that exciting or enjoyable. It was just sort of there, there was no real reason to ever go back and watch it a second time, and that’s not a good thing. I didn’t actually watch the film from start to finish in one go, infact I stopped three or four times to go and do other things and the film gave me no reason not to. It was a relatively simple plot, but because it was so simple it just wasn’t that enjoyable. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a bad film, but it was someway off what I would call a good film as well.

The acting isn’t particularly stellar from anyone in the film, the only exception being Simon Cotton as Ronnie. Cotton’s performance is genuinely threatening and disturbed. He perfectly captures the essence of a man who is quite clearly insane and becoming more unhinged as time goes on. The final scene involves Ronnie torturing a man who has heavy debts with the twins and Cotton’s performance in that five or so minutes fills you with a genuine level of intensity and one where you sympathise with the man, and you feel his fear.

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No-one other than Cotton puts in a memorable performance and whilst the character is obviously not going to allow as much creative freedom as that of Ronnie, Leslie’s performance as Reggie is somewhat bland. Whilst Reggie was regularly deemed to be the calmer of the two, Leslie’s lack of character in the role fails to really get you emotionally engaged in the scenes that he doesn’t share with Ronnie, and in many ways it feels like Cotton carried Leslie through the film.

In many ways I do feel somewhat bad for saying that Leslie’s performance was bland because of the far superior portrayal of Ronnie from Cotton, but after sitting through the near 110 minute run time, I’m struggling to think of any scene in which Leslie was memorable.

I think this problem is caused somewhat by not hiring actors that at least look alike. One of the key aspects of the upcoming Legend is that both roles are played by Tom Hardy, and whilst you appreciate that lower budget films might not be able to afford to have one actor doing both roles, you would have at least thought they’d hire two actors that look alike, possibly even real life brothers.

 

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Summary

After looking into the history of the Kray twins after watching the film, this definitely feels very realistic and is possibly a more authentic telling of the story than the upcoming mainstream telling of the story in “Legend”, however, it takes more than an authentic storyline to be an engaging film and in many ways the film struggles to really get going or keep you interested.

Cotton does an excellent job as Reggie Kray, but he is the only actor that puts in a memorable performance in a film that is at least 20 minutes too long.

Probably the biggest indication of how I feel about this film is that whilst it’s not awful, it left me with absolutely no desire to watch the sequel.

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1994’s “The Shawshank Redemption” is arguably the greatest film ever made. This isn’t necessarily a personal opinion (although I do love The Shawshank Redemption), but rather the general consensus around the world based on an average rating of 9.3/10 on IMDB from more than 1.5 million votes. The only film that ever rivals this is the Godfather (which is on 9.2 as it stands).

There are numerous reasons why it is generally regarded as one of the best, if not the best. It is a story about hope and the bonds that can develop between people from all walks of life when put in a difficult circumstance.

For those that haven’t seen it, The Shawshank Redemption is the story of a man named Andy (Tim Robbins), who is imprisoned for the murder of his wife and her lover. Whilst in prison he befriends Red (Morgan Freeman) and his group. As time goes on, Andy develops a professional relationship with the prison staff due to his previous employment in banking, and this leads to corruption, conspiracies and punishments, all of which happen whilst Andy is adamant of his innocence of the original crime.

I’m not going to tell you the ending because I don’t want to spoil it for those that have somehow managed to avoid the film up until now, but trust me when I say that it has an exceptional ending.

However, I was sent a link earlier today to a fan theory that makes you question the entire film as it basically says that Andy is actually guilty of the crime he is accused of. Normally I just ignore a lot of fan theories about films. The only one that I have ever really found interesting is that 007 theory. That theory basically states that the name “James Bond” is actually just a code name and is given to a new agent when the previous incumbant dies/retires/whatever, and this explains why each incarnation has a considerable different personality than the others, and why the character seemingly stays young even though everyone else is aging around him and the technology moves on.

Anyway, I read the theory with interest and the more I read into it, the more it made sense.

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I have in no way edited or changed the theory from it’s original text and I won’t take credit for it in the slightest, but I wanted to share it for those that haven’t seen it before. The entire theory is below, however, the original and the subsequent debate about it can be found here – https://www.reddit.com/r/FanTheories/comments/2thntq/shawshank_andy_is_guilty/

The “Andy is Guilty” theory

He had a quiet way about him, a walk and a talk that just wasn’t normal around here. He strolled, like a man in a park without a care or a worry in the world, like he had on an invisible coat that would shield him from this place…

..because he was a sociopath, and he was guilty.

First off I love the Shawshank Redemption (I’ve seen it over 50 times). I also like to watch movies with a different twist, so I’m going to pose this theory out there for everyone to think about and discuss. Warning— as I started writing this up I got sad with the prospect it may be true. If you don’t want to maintain the purity forever click away now.

Andy Dufresne is in fact an “icy and remorseless” killer who manipulated everyone around him.

-He’s a chess player, and he has no one to play with. While chess is pervasive in the movie, we never quite see Andy’s mind in this mode. It’s all about chess, but we as the audience never seem to see the game. In contemporary stories (such as House of Cards) we get to see the story from the viewpoint of the main character (Frank in House of Cards). But we forget that the story of the Shawshank Redemption is told from the point of view of Red. By his own admission chess is a total mystery to him. Andy is surrounded by pawns — people below his intelligence. He will let them in on whatever he wants them to see as he plots his escape. Red is explaining a game of checkers to us. We don’t see the chess game actually going on.

-He only befriended Red when he needed something that only Red could provide. Not for companionship or friendship. That developed after the request.

-He started it. It was Andy who first offered financial help to the guards. He targeted the Captain Hadley (let’s say the queen on the chess board). Red speculates maybe it was to curry favor with the guards or make friends among the cons. I think he was dead on here and the reason he sat quietly with a strange smile across his face is the board was set and it was finally time for him to start playing his game.

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-Andy is an unreliable source for our narrator. The interactions perceive between the warden and Andy are based off what Andy tells Red and the others. The only real observation Red has directly between the Warden and Andy always strikes me (if you can remember it) as interesting. The warden looks completely perplexed, listening to Andy like a school child would listen to a teacher. Andy tells Red stories in the library stacks like gossip, villainizing someone who is an easy mark already— the hated Warden. The actual (observed) Warden doesn’t seem sharp enough to concoct the schemes Andy only helped facilitate. Perhaps it was Andy who was puppeteering the Warden until the Warden suspected he had gotten too far involved. Warden was a hardass, sure. But these schemes didn’t come online until Andy was in the picture.

-Andy concocted someone out of thin air. He knew the cracks, and he had the ability. He was a ‘Rembrandt’ . Why do this? Clearly the Warden didn’t seem to have the smarts to think “that many moves ahead” regarding the money laundering. Andy did. Andy wanted a golden parachute for when he escaped. So he set things in motion so he would be in a position to walk out of bank after bank with the money. If Andy was an honest man, why not just leave the trails pointing to the Warden? Why go the extra mile?

-Tommy may have been Andy’s ultimate work of art. I think here of Hannibal Lecter getting Miggs to swallow his own tongue. Tommy “I don’t read so good” becomes Andy’s one on one project for months. MONTHS. Let’s suppose that Andy plants the idea of the confession in Tommy’s head. Or that he knows Tommy enough to know he will make up a story like that to appease his new best friend. We all know those compulsive liar types. The Warden did too. Andy was shocked that the Warden was smart enough to see through this bullshit. But let’s say just in case he told Tommy that if anything happened to him he needed to break out of Shawshank and get the truth out to the public.

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-Tommy was trying to escape, and the Warden wasn’t lying when he said it broke Hadley’s heart to have to shoot him. So break it down like this… The Warden is starting to get wise to the fact that Andy is seriously a bad guy and that he (the Warden) is being manipulated. His only recourse is to lock him away while he tries to figure out what to do and get his arms around the situation. During this time, Tommy decides to make a break for it, and Hadley actually does have to fire on him and kill him. Remember the interaction we see on film is only what Red supposes happens. What else do we know about Hadley? I heard that Hadley cried like a baby when they arrested him. Its possible Hadley was a seriously messed up man, who hid behind aggression and fell apart when he killed Tommy (as the Warden said). When he was arrested, he just broke down. At this point, Andy was ready to go. He had amassed enough money, created a reasonable doubt story to his guilt, and simultaneously painted the perfect picture of a Warden behind everything.

-Andy goes away to the Pacific which has no memory. No memory of the judge (the only possible intellectual peer) who saw through him and called him for what he was.

Now watch the scene where he crawls out of the sewer and stretches his hands in the air, but picture in his head he is laughing maniacally.

 

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I am the captain of my fate!

Year Released : 2015Icarus_Attacked_Poster_Logo_350w
Director : Tim Russ
Cast : Adrienne Wilkinson, Bruce Young, Walter Koenig, Manu Intiraymi, Edward Furlong, Sean Young, Robert Picardo, Tim Russ and Corin Nemec

I was not one of the popular kids in school, I was, and am, a self confessed nerd and am proud of that fact. Being a nerd isn’t necessarily a bad thing because it just means that you’re passionate about a particular subject, or indeed a group of subjects. Being a nerd isn’t a bad thing and I would rather be an unpopular nerd than fit in with the so called popular kids that are sheep and follow everyone else in doing the same tedious activities.

That’s what I told myself when I was 15.

I’m now 30 years old and whilst I still enjoy things that would be defined as nerdy, my tastes have moved on somewhat and I am now of an age where quality means more to me than it did when I was literally half a lifetime ago. Whilst poor quality CGI, scripts and acting were more acceptable to me at that age, my standards have certainly increased since then.

It’s safe to say that I don’t have high hopes for this….

Plot

Ten years after the events of “Star Trek : Voyager” Starfleet has noticed that planets have started disappearing, all after the appearance of Syphon, a planet that had seemingly never existed until three years prior. To investigate what is going on, Tuvok (Russ) frees Lexxa (Wilkinson) from prison and encourages her to rejoin her former crew. She reluctantly agrees under the promise of information from Tuvok regarding her previously thought dead mother.

Lexxa catches up to her old crew and they all begin to hunt down the Syphon species, only to be taken hostage when they eventually find them. They are lead by Borrada (Young), a man who is determined to make Starfleet pay for their role in the destruction of his home planet 300 years prior, but it is only when Lexxa kills his son that he decides it’s time to destroy Earth. He initiates his weapon and forms a time-based shield around Earth that prevents any sunlight getting to any part of the planet, giving it just weeks to survive until it falls to the same temperatures of space.

Can the crew successfully stop Borrada and remove the shield around Earth?

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Worth the watch?

I’m going to start this by putting it in the simplest form possible, if you are not a Star Trek fan then you have precisely zero chance of liking this because people who are fans of the franchise have described it as awful. That is not a good sign when even the most basic need of a movie based on a TV show is to impress those that are already fans.

It’s difficult to know where to go from there as there are numerous problems with the movie and I suppose I should start with the script and storyline, and to describe both as very shoddy would be an understatement.

The problem with introducing so many new characters to a loved franchise, especially in a made-for-TV movie, is that you have to get the characters and storyline spot on, and this fails. This starts right from the simple premise of the antagonist being pissed off at Starfleet for not preventing their planet from being destroyed, whereas in reality Starfleet couldn’t do anything about it. That is also pretty much the absolute basic plot of the reboot of Star Trek in 2009. The only difference is that in 2009 it was because a sun went supernova, and in this the alien race blames Starfleet for a disaster that happened 300 years ago….even though Starfleet didn’t exist at the time. Obviously that last bit could be thrown away with the space-time theme of the movie, but that’d be extremely lazy writing.

Even the basics, such as the make-up, are completely wrong. The Syphon species have been designed in such a way that the actors struggle to talk due to the lack of movement of the prosthetic jaw that’s been attached to them. The actors are barely understandable because of this and they are unable to convey emotion through their eyes due to the restrictions of what has been applied to their face. It’s like watching someone who has had so much botox in their face that they’re only able to move their tongue.

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This is in no way a criticism of the acting skills of the actors playing the members of the species, but unfortunately they are the only ones who get a reprieve in that sense because the acting from the rest of the cast is laughable, and that’s putting it nicely. Edward Furlong’s performance as Fixer was an example of why his career has seriously floundered since films such as “Terminator 2” and “American History X”, but even then he somehow manages to escape being tagged with the worst performance award.

That goes to Crystal Conway as Chekov’s great-granddaughter. Whilst I am not entirely convinced that her voice hasn’t been dubbed over, her lack of charisma is only overwhelmed by the stench of being someone who wandered onto the set one day and being given a part. She is just a terrible and in a movie full of lackluster and laughably bad performances, she somehow manages to surpass everyone at warp speed and get to the wooden spoon first.

Much like several other films I have reviewed in the past, films that are part of a franchise will automatically be compared to the previous entries in that franchise and when you do this, Renegades fails miserably, but I’d be saying that even if it was a standalone film. There are some films which could be part of franchises and be poor by comparison, but still be classed as a decent film if you look at them as if they were standing alone, that doesn’t apply to Renegades.

Visually the film is ridiculous and there are numerous times where you could tell just how low budget this was. There is a scene right at the start of the film with fire effects that looked like they came straight out of the early 1990s, characters are teleported to locations off screen (you hear the teleportation noise and then see them walking around the corner, saving money on not actually showing it) and many other things that show just how low budget that the film is. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with low budget films in general, hence why I review them, but it has to be made with at least some attempt to look believable.

Renegades feels like a movie made for the SyFy channel rather than a serious addition to the franchise and the inclusion of characters from previous additions to the Star Trek universe doesn’t change that. Characters such as Echeb were barely interesting during the television show, so why would I care about them in a movie? There were initially a lot of the cast from Star Trek Voyager attached at one point, so surely that they only ended up with three (and one of them made the film) should tell it’s own story.

There are a few similar films coming out for the Star Trek universe later on this year that are also fan-funded and I don’t have high hopes for them based on this.

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Summary

When people who are already fans of the franchise aren’t a fan of this, you’ve got no chance if you’re not a fan. Even as a Star Trek fan, I couldn’t find a single positive after watching the film and that’s never a good thing. I’ve watched plenty of crap when it comes to Star Trek, including some horrendously bad episodes (usually the ones revolving around the characters of Troi in the Next Generation and several characters in Voyager….and the whole of Deep Space Nine), but this is probably the worst of the worst.

The characters aren’t compelling, the acting is laughably bad and there’s not even a decent storyline to make up for all of the inadequacies, and don’t let that it’s funded by fans fool you, this is a bad movie.

Avoid.

I don’t want to be eaten by a cannonball! (character mistakenly says cannonball instead of cannibal)

Year Released : 2014Untitled
Director : Ian Kessner
Cast : Sarah Fisher, Jesse Camacho, Elise Gatien, Justin Kelly, Stephan (no, not Stephen) James, Eve Harlow, Lanie McAuley, Alexander Calvert, Kendra Timmins, Robert Patrick and Mark Wiebe

The 1980s was arguably the best decade for horror in the history of cinema. During that time period you had films such as The Fly, The Thing, the franchises of A Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween and Friday 13th, An American Werewolf in London, the Shining, Evil Dead, Gremlins, Aliens and many more. No decade has put out hits in the genre as consistently as the 1980s and there has been something lacking from horror films since then….but then I saw that there was modern day horror film that has been shot in the same style as an 80s horror film.

As I have mentioned in previous reviews of horror films, modern day films from the genre have become predictable and tired, so it’ll be interesting to see if a film that boasts to be a homage to films of arguably the best era of it’s existence. It won’t be the first time that a film has tried to resemble one from yesteryear, with arguably the only decent conversion in recent years being Planet Terror.

Plot

Whilst attending their school prom, a group of students steal one of the buses in order to go to the cabin of Adrienne (Timmins), a social outcast that is attracted to Sean (Kelly), the school’s football star. Their plan is discovered by the strict vice-principle (Patrick), but he is unable to stop them in time and they set off.

All appears to be fine as they approach Adrienne’s cabin before the engine spontaneously stops working. Whilst some of the group go off to find a telephone, the rest stay in the bus and the relationships between them develop, including Adrienne’s aforementioned attraction to Sean. The group is soon reunited and decide to take shelter in a nearby abandoned house. Whilst exploring they discover a wall made of human skin and bones, and it turns out that the house is that of the infamous Joad family. The Joads were a bunch of cannibals that were believed dead, but it turns out that the son survived a shoot out with the local sheriffs several years before.

Whilst trying to make it obvious to Marilyn (Harlow) that he is attracted to her, Tobe (Camacho) loses his glasses and he is soon captured and is used as bait by Junior Joad (Wiebe). Whilst running to save Tobe, Junior suddenly appears to the rest of the group and starts killing them off one by one, but could the vice principle prove to be the group’s saviour after he tracks them down?

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So just a gimmick or a genuine attempt to pay homage?

In many ways it’s both, it is definitely a gimmick and not one that I can see taking off…..but I would like it to. I genuinely liked Lost After Dark and it was definitely a throw back to the better slasher flicks of the 1980s.

The film is nearly structurally identical to a lot of horror films from the 1980s in that it actually spends half of the film developing the character to the point where you care about them. Each of the characters are given a chance to breath and actually let you get to know them. It takes around 45 minutes for the antagonist to be introduced and that’s relatively late for a 85 minute film, but it actually works because of how the characters are introduced and progress.

In that sense I compare it to a film that I have previously reviewed, Andy Serkis’ The Cottage. In many ways Lost After Dark is very similar to The Cottage. Neither introduces the antagonist early but does hint at it very well. I’ve spoken about building your characters, and your antagonist, in numerous times and introducing them when the time is right and Lost After Dark got it pretty much exactly right. It was at the point of the film where introducing the antagonist felt natural and fluid, rather than forced, and that was so refreshing.

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I love films that aren’t predictable and therefore keep you interested, and it again feels very representative of films from the arguable golden age of horror films.

What I love about films in the late 70s/80s early is that the characters that survive are never predictable. For example, if you watch the original Alien there is pretty much nothing to suggest that Ripley will the lone survivor until it’s actually the case, mainly because there isn’t really a main character in that film. Seriously, go back and watch it. There isn’t a main character in the film and although it seems strange saying that now after Ripley’s involvement in the three subsequent films, there is nothing to suggest she is the main character in the first. Because of this you care about the whole group instead of just one specific individual.

Whilst Lost After Dark will never be considered one of the greats (and I don’t mean that in an offensive way at all), it repeats that element of seemingly having no main character from Alien and whilst I’m not going to reveal which character or characters survive until the end, there is an aspect to the first death which took me completely by surprise. I won’t go into it because it will spoil it for anyone that wants to watch it, but believe me when I say that you will not see it coming…..and I love when that happens. There were several times in the film where I thought it was going one way and then it swung in a completely different direction.

I mentioned in a recent review for another film (I can’t recall which) that I went to see “The Gallows” recently and correctly predicted five things that would happen in the film, and I hate when films are predictable to that extent. Nothing about Lost After Dark is predictable, especially the deaths. All take you by surprise and I really wish that I could spoil it for you to go fully into it and even better, talking about how visceral and violent some of the deaths are, but I won’t spoil it for you because it would ruin the enjoyment of the film.

My one minor gripe against the film is that it’s so full of stereotypes and there isn’t a lot of originality included within. However, I can cut both a bit of slack when considering the film is inspired by a lot of movies from that 1980s, and it captures the essence of those. If you love slasher films from the 1980s then I think you’ll love this and even though it all feels very familiar due to the stereotypes and relative unoriginality, that familiarity brings a very welcome sense of nostalgia.

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Summary

A great homage to films of the 1980s and I feel very disappointed that, at the time of writing, it only has a rating of 4.7/10 on IMDB, it’s better than that suggests and I really enjoyed it. I think a lot of people gave it a poor review because the style and structure of films from the 80s doesn’t necessarily work with people who were born after the 80s took place. approved

If you’re a fan of all of the films that I mentioned at the very beginning of the review then I think you will enjoy this because it is a tribute done with the right intentions and it’s executed quite well. It doesn’t feel like it’s mocking that era and that is so important when trying to produce a film in that style, and Kessner has achieved that.

When you get a spare 85 minutes, I would definitely recommend Lost After Dark.

 

Thank You and Sorry. That’s what I want on my tombstone! It speaks to everything that I feel on a daily basis. I feel so grateful and so thankful…….and so fucking sorry.

Year Released : 201586NguYU5xhM.showposter_hq
Cast : Jack Antonoff, Olivia Wilde and the other members of Bleachers

Who’s ready for something a little bit different?

Whilst working nights at one of my previous jobs I stumbled across a band called Bleachers. I had never heard of the American indie rock band, mainly because they haven’t released a single in the UK and their debut album, the brilliant Strange Desires, wasn’t even released until nine months after I had first heard them.

After seeing them live in London in May, I soon became excited that they had made their own documentary and that is what I about to review. It’s only the second documentary-film that I have reviewed on this site following on from Blackfish, and because of this I have virtually no expectations going in so I’m actually going to leave my intro here. Before I start, I would definitely recommend listening to songs such as “I Wanna Get Better”, “Live a River Runs” and “Rollercoaster”.

Unusually for me, I’m also going to put a video here of the final show from the aforementioned concert, so if you listen to this and decide that you don’t like the music, you can leave the rest of the review at this stage….

Plot

Thank You and Sorry follows Jack and the fellow members of Bleachers as they head out on tour. Jack gives an insight into life as a touring artist via interviews and scripted calls and meetings with loved ones. Before a show in Chicago, Jack reflects that he only has a small handful of people that he still keeps in contact with, but he loves touring as waking up somewhere new virtually guarantees that there will be no emotional baggage that accompanies you near your home.

The various members of the band reflect on each other’s idiosyncratic behaviours, such as Jack’s approach to meeting fans before and after shows, and a dinner with Olivia Wilde that turns into a frenzy of OCD concerns and usage of hand-sanitiser.

As time progresses and the tour rolls through Detroit, Boston and various other cities, Jack’s relationship with his girlfriend is slowly falling apart and as he returns home to New York for the end of the tour, the two will have a discussion about their relationship that will define the both of them.

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Does scripted-reality work as a docufilm idea?

Scripted reality isn’t something that’s new to people in the UK as some of the biggest TV shows are based on the idea (please note that I said biggest, but most certainly not best). For those that are unfamiliar with the concept, an example of scripted reality would be finding a group of friends and filming their every day lives…..but give them scripts to follow to create drama. This means that the station gets pretty much exactly what they want, but that causes it’s own issues.

The problem is that you never really believe that what you’re being shown in anything that can be defined as scripted reality, but Thank You and Sorry somehow avoids falling into the trap of of shows such as The Only Way is Essex. Even though you know what you’re watching (well, the non-interview style and concert sections) is scripted and probably exaggerated, it feels genuine and in the nicest possible way, you really warm to Jack as a person.

There is a scene in Part 2 which shows him having a dinner with Olivia Wilde and they have a little battle over where a bowl of cartons of milk should go, before then getting into a full on conversation about both being OCD and uncomfortable about doing things that are likely to spread even the tiniest of germs. They lather their hands in sanitiser and the whole scene is just wonderfully put together. It doesn’t feel like either are being patronised by the filmmakers and it felt genuine.

Thank You and Sorry is full of moments that convey a variety of different emotions, and I just love the subtle humour that you wouldn’t expect about a documentary of musicians going on tour. As well as the aforementioned scene with Olivia Wilde, Jack calls someone to tell them that they shouldn’t continue their relationship. The conversation makes you think it’s his girlfriend because of the previous two minutes, whereas in reality it was a producer from earlier in the episode.

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As I always do, if I like a film, even a docufilm, I struggle to write long reviews and I find myself already coming towards a conclusion, but before I move onto my only negative I have to talk about what is arguably my favourite aspect of the film and something that I don’t regularly reference…..the sound editing. Acoustically the film is beyond exceptional. Right from the band playing live in front of the audiences, to the songs being subtly played in the background as Jack goes to cross the street, it is put together so well that you feel immersed in the environment.

Now, you may have that earlier, in the paragraph about Jack and Olivia Wilde having a dinner, that I mentioned a Part 2 and this brings me onto my only real negative about the documentary film and that is that it’s divided into six parts over six separate videos. Even though it’s presented as a docufilm, it doesn’t feel like it in some ways because of this. I don’t understand why they didn’t create it as one large film, rather than six smaller ones.

Because of this, I did find myself getting a little bit bored by the end and if I’m getting bored as a fan, what is someone who isn’t a fan going to think?

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Summary

Thank You and Sorry is something that any fan of the band will really appreciate, and probably fans of indie pop rock, however, I think that if you’re not into the band or that type of music then you’ll more than likely struggle to enjoy it. Even as a fan I struggled to enjoy it all of the way through, but on the whole I genuinely enjoyed it.approved

The docufilm presents the band and Jack in particular in a respectful way, whilst also trying to show the idiosyncratic nature that Antonoff is known for. The scene with Olivia Wilde in particular is delightful and even now, more than two hours later, it still has me sporting a wry smile on my face.

If you’re into music then I would recommend giving it a go, especially as it is completely free on Google Play and I even found it on Youtube earlier.

Last year I posted an article about my ten favourite mainstream films and proclaimed Nightcrawler to be the best film of 2014, in my opinion of course. Because I struggled to remember most of the films I saw from the earlier part of the year, including the film that would be number two on my list (The Wolf on Wall Street),  I decided to keep track of films that I saw on an Excel spreadsheet……and I have realised in recent days that I might struggle to come up with a top ten.

In 2014 I saw twenty three films at the cinema, a total which I matched the other day when I went to watch three films in a day after a shift at the local cinema. Yes, with more than four and a half months to go of 2015, I have already seen as many films as I did in the whole of last year

Now, normally coming up with a top 10 wouldn’t be an issue, I am pretty decisive with my films, but out of the twenty three that I have seen this year, I have only seen seven which I think would be worthy of featuring within a top ten list. Don’t get me wrong, there are a few on there that I did like, but I don’t feel that they are worthy of a top ten and their inclusion would be nothing more than filler.

There aren’t that many films coming out over the next fifteen or so weeks that I am excited about, but this won’t stop me watching films. As I’ve mentioned a few times in recent weeks, I recently started working in a cinema and get into films for free, so I am hoping that I can see some hidden gems that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise, and one film that I saw a few weeks ago actually stands a very good chance of not only making my top ten, but also the number one spot.

But anyway, I wanted to share with you the trailers for five films that I am looking forward to that are due to be released in the UK at some point later this year, well, except one. Unlike when I usually do a little list, I’m not going to go indepth about the films and I’m just simply going to place the trailers. Assuming all do come out at the cinema then they will all feature at the end of the year.

Infinitely Polar Bear

Z for Zachariah

The End of the Tour

The Martian

Legend

 

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Year Released : 2015
Director : Alejandro Monteverde
Cast : Jakob Salvati, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Tom Wilkinson, Kevin James, Michael Raraport and Emily Watson

Whilst looking for new films to watch the other night, I came across the trailer for this film on Youtube and there is something that I haven’t really reviewed on this site, and that is something that could be described as life-affirming. That’s the impression of the film that I got when I saw the trailer and it instantly jumped to the top of the queue of films that I have lined up to watch for review on this site at some point or another.

Infact, I’m going to do something which I wasn’t ever intending on doing, I’m going to share with you the Youtube playlist I have of trailers for films that I want to watch and review – https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL99qrMvtP4f7Kx2ZhIMEWayaaBOI861ta

I suppose that there’s nowhere else to go following on that than the review….

Plot

Pepper (Salvati) is an 8 year old boy that is regularly bullied and mocked because of his stunted height, but he shares a special relationship with his father James (Raraport). The two have a deep connection and Pepper often puts his father as the central figure in his daydream based adventures. However, the two are torn apart when Pepper’s brother is refused entry to fight in World War 2 due to having flat feet, and James replaces him.

Struggling to cope without his father, Pepper visits a magic show and is chosen to go up on stage. Much to everyone’s surprise, he moves a bottle from one side of a table to another, but he is still largely mocked by everyone. Whilst trying to enhance his powers, Pepper runs into Hasimoto (Tagawa), a Japanese man living in the town at the height of America’s hatred towards Japan. Pepper, along with several others in the area, antagonise Hasimoto and vandalise his house.

News reaches Pepper’s family that James’ regiment was killed by men in the Philippines, although they didn’t find James’ body, leading them to speculate he was instead took in as a prisoner of war. In desperation to get his father home, Pepper seeks help from the local priest (Wilkinson) and he wants to know why he can’t bring his father home if he can move a bottle. The priest decides to set him some moral goals, such as feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, and also befriending Hasimoto.

The two, despite a difficult start, do start becoming friends but the xenophobia of the local community towards Hasimoto makes life difficult for both. Pepper is mocked for continuing to believe that he can move objects, that is until he tries to move a mountain with his “powers” and an earthquake coincides with the attempt. Pepper takes this as a sign that he can bring his father home, but does he actually have powers at all?

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Decent?

Well let’s start with something that is pretty important when going into the film and that is that the film isn’t what the trailer suggests. In recent days I have become interested in watching “The Gift” because it is apparently nothing like the trailer makes it out to be (and the trailer is awful). Little Boy is pretty much the same as there are major themes in the film that aren’t even remotely hinted at in the trailer.

Don’t get me wrong, the film didn’t do a bad job in terms of the additional hidden storylines, far from the xenophobic theme towards Hasimoto is very well done. Despite loving America and having lived there most of his life, Hasimoto is vilified simply because he is of Japanese descent and this is very much an approach grounded in reality and even today that theme is still very much prevalent in the world today and I’ve witnessed it first hand.

I live in England and often see a lot of racism and xenophobia towards members of the Muslim faith. Having lived in Blackburn, a town which is about 40% Muslim, a few years back, I got to know quite a lot of them and in the majority of cases they are far nicer and more morally just than those that accuse them all of being terrorists because one member of the religion committed an atrocity. It’s the same with the way that Hasimoto is treated by the local community in this film. He is treated like he committed murders on American soldiers, even though he had precisely nothing to do with it at all.

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The relationships between characters are expertly put together and the connection between James and Pepper feels genuine. You don’t really see them together for long, maybe a total of ten minutes in the film, if that, but you get the feeling for the relationship and whilst I could easily praise Jakob Salvati, I’d rather praise Raraport. I’ve always liked Michael Raraport and find him to be highly likable. He brings a humble brilliance to the role of James and he drives the relationship between him and Pepper.

Salvati doesn’t do a bad job either, although on occasions he is definitely guilty of overacting. I was thinking all of the way through that he looks he could pass for Chloe Grace-Moretz’s little brother, and he does well in the scenes where he is having to react to something negative, such as the bullying, James leaving and what I’m going to talk to about later. He does a competent job for the majority of the film, although his performance does get a bit tiresome in places.

The scenes that the two spend remind me a lot of “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” in terms of presentation and that isn’t a bad thing for me. Whilst TSLOWM had some big flaws, the scenes set inside of Walter’s imagination had some great emotional depth and Little Boy captures that same level

There are subtle levels of comedy that were amusing as well, such as Pepper talking to the local priest about magic, the priest mocks it in a way that also contradicts the majority of the stories in the Bible, leaving him desperately backtracking when Pepper calls him on it. It is subtle but works very well and as someone who is half way between atheist and agnostic, I found the calling out of the hypocrisy to be hilarious.

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However, it’s not all positive and there are two main contentions with the film.

The first of which is the performance of Emily Watson. In my review for “The Proposition” right at the start of this site, I described Emily Watson in the following way….

“Then we get onto the acting, if you can indeed call it that, provided by Emily Watson. There are few actresses with a less varied emotional range than Watson and in any film that I have seen her in, she has yet to produce a performance that convinces me that she should be in the movie industry. Her character plays a seemingly happily married woman that then finds out that her husband has been covering up that her pregnant friend was raped and murdered, all before having her life threatened on several occasions, and despite a character description like that, Watson doesn’t once move from the vacuous expression that she conveys in every performance.”

The reason that I bring up that quote from the aforementioned review is that it saves me repeating pretty much the exact thing, she is again absolutely atrocious. How does such an incompetent actress keep on getting roles. She’d make an excellent Terminator because her face seems like it has just been permanently botoxed and she has a paralytic face. She is just absolutely atrocious and I can’t say a good thing about her performance.

Even when she finds out that there is the possibility that James has died, Watson’s facial expression makes it seem like the character couldn’t give the slightest shit. It’s only during what I am going to talk about in my second negative in which she shows any semblance of emotion.

Now, I said that there were two negatives and this next one is a MAJOR spoiler and deals with the ending of the film. Anything from now until the summary section is a spoiler, so you have been warned.

The family is told that James was killed whilst in a Prisoner of War Camp whilst trying to escape, it then cuts to flashbacks and how he was killed. To be fair, it was really well done and exceptionally presented, and ends with a fellow prisoner stealing his boots whilst he lay dying. The next ten minutes or so is the family dealing with the death and it gives a genuinely heart-wrenching ending…..that is until it’s revealed that James didn’t die.

It turns out that the soldier who stole James’ boots was shot as soon as he stood up and it was his body that was recovered. Within the boot was James’ name tag and therefore the nurses assumed that it was James that they recovered, whereas it wasn’t. The family is subsequently told and go to visit James in hospital and that is the ending of the film.

Now, don’t get me wrong, the ending is relatively clever, but it felt like such a get out clause and fed into America’s inability to settle on a sad ending in the majority of films. The film would have had a much deeper and more impactful meaning had James actually died, but it felt like a get out clause and it almost invalidates the excellent ten or so minutes of the family mourning.

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Summary

If you can ignore Watson’s typical incompetence then you will probably enjoy Little Boy. It’s 100 minutesapproved of fairly decent story telling and has engaging themes and whilst it does drag in parts of at times does seem like it’s telling storylines that are from different films, it is largely a reasonable effort from all concerned.

Don’t go into it excepting brilliance, because you won’t get it, mainly because of the aforementioned Watson, but it is what it is and that is a generally enjoyable film.

That’s all I really have to say about it really.

Richard the Lionheart: Rebellion

Posted: August 6, 2015 in War

And this is why the English will always beat the French!

Year Released : 2015Resize_Image
Director : Stefano Milla
Cast : Greg Maness, Mishael Lopes Cardozo, Debbie Rachon, Andrea Zirio and Marco Naggar

With just 14 people rating this film on IMDB, a new low for this site, I knew that as soon as I saw it that I had to watch it. So I sat there, watching this story, or what tried to pass for a story, unfold in a barrage of mediocrity and I fell asleep after 30 minutes. Yep, this film sent me to sleep after 1/3 of it’s run times. I was prepared to leave it at that but then I decided that I would watch it for a second time and see how long I lasted again.

I’m not going to lie to you, I write this paragraph after I have finally completed the film and I am desperately struggling to think of something to write which hides how deplorably dull “Richard The Lionheart : Rebellion” is.

Oh well, I suppose I should at least try to find the motivation to review a film that left my devoid of energy several times.

Plot

I’m going to do something that I have never done before and that is copy the plot directly from the Wikipedia page. I sat here for 90 minutes and there wasn’t really a plot to speak of, so I was amazed when I went on Wikipedia and they had one……

In an Europe divided between the two great powers of England and France, the sons of the English king, Henry The Young, Richard and Geoffrey, lead a rebellion against their own father supported in their fight by the old king of France, Louis, and especially by their french mother Eleanor of Aquitaine.

The eldest of the three, Henry, while trying to find allies, is forced to comply the compromises imposed by a land too much divided and with too many lords. But, after the Queen has been captured in an ambush, the war is inevitable. Richard leads the rebel army and, with his bravery, conquered the most of the English territories on French soil, sieging their father the king in the castle of Rouen.

But the kings of England and France are much more intertwined then it could seem at a first glance, in fact their plans were established long before the beginning of the rebellion. The three brothers have to face a path filled of traps, betrayal and shifting alliance until the incomplete defeat. But in the process Richard will learn the true meaning of being a knight and will also meet his promise bride Alys.

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So, did I make it through without falling asleep again?

No, including the first time that I mentioned at the beginning of the reviewing, I fell asleep a total of four times whilst watching RTLR (I’m just going to abbreviate it as it saves time). Now, before someone says that I can’t possibly review a film that I kept falling asleep during, I did keep going back to the last bit I remembered and even gave it another full watch (again falling asleep)

I’m not going to waste all of your time and I’m going to keep this review short. The film is just tediously dull and unimaginative. Not once during the 90 or so minute run time was there any semblance of a plot and I was genuinely amazed when I went onto Wikipedia and there was one. Had that not been there I wouldn’t have known how to summarise the plot as it was seemingly non-existent during the film. I had to sit through the film four times and not once could I figure out what was going out because of the awfully dull presentation.

RTLR did start off promisingly and seemed to have a unique visual style and distinctive sweeping cameras, but it soon falls into the realms of being mediocre at best. This isn’t helped by battles being shot in a shaky-cam format, meaning you’re never entirely sure exactly what’s going on, who’s on which side and more importantly, who’s dying. This continues through any battle and especially in the final battle, a battle which is frightfully sluggish.

To sum up just how trite the main battle within the film is, they make a big deal of catapults giving the protagonists a genuine chance of winning, only for a lot of the rocks that they do shoot towards the opposition to simply bounce off of the walls and not cause a single bit of damage. It’s almost like throwing a tennis ball against a sturdy fence.

The characters are dreadfully underdeveloped and the main antagonist is the stereotype of a bad guy. He kills mercilessly, thinks he’s better than everyone else and does everything he can to be an arsehole….but there’s no development whatsoever. He’s such a woefully under-developed character that you really couldn’t give any less of a crap about the fights he is involved in.

I even bored writing this review and I’m simply going to leave it here. Don’t bother and more importantly, don’t waste your time.

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Summary

A painfully dull film that not only made me fall asleep four times whilst trying to watch it, but also made so lethargic whilst trying to review it.

Avoid. Just avoid.