Archive for January, 2016

I wake up screaming!

Year Released : 2014ejecta-poster
Director: Chad Archibald and Matt Wiele
Cast : Julian Richings, Lisa Houle, Adam Seybold, Mark Gibson, Ry Barrett and Ari Millen

Around 18 or so months ago I started writing film reviews on this blog and the first film I went with was the excellent “Exit Humanity”. It is one of my favourite zombie films and one of the main reasons for that is the characters. They are all played excellently by their respective cast members and it brings you into the story. So whilst scanning through the channels the other night, I noticed that it was on and I started watching it, even though I have it on Blu-Ray and could watch it anytime I want.

Whilst in the middle of watching it I started wondering what the cast members had done since. Whilst I’ve seen Bill Moseley in other films, namely the poor “Old 37”, I hadn’t seen anything from the rest and therefore I looked into their filmographies, and was surprised to see that three of the cast members had been in another film together, with Seybold, Gibson and Millen all working together again on the poorly rated (IMDB rating of 3.7/10 at the time of writing) sci-fi film “Ejecta”.

Instantly I was fascinated, and watching the trailer I was more than a little curious as it looked to basically be an episode that was rejected script from the X-Files or Outer Limits. I still decide to watch it, mainly because I haven’t reviewed a lot recently…..so here it is.

Plot

William (Richings) claims to have been abducted by aliens nearly 40 years ago and has since become one of the most controversial online bloggers, spouting conspiracy theories. Believing him, a secret agency kidnaps him and tries to force information out of him through torture, lead by Dr. Tobin (Houle). She and the agents around her use various alien devices to try and force information out of him, but all fail and even attempts at outright killing him end with nothing more than a shrug. Dr. Tobin even kills several of her staff when they fail to get the information, however, they soon discover home-made videos that were filmed 24 hours prior that might give them answers..

The videos chronicle William being visited by conspiracy-theory nut Joe (Seybold) after he was invited via email, although William can’t remember writing that email. Joe struggles to get information out of William, they eventually see a space-ship crash and Joe in particularly is violently pursued by the creature that was inside.

As the night progressed, Joe struggles to fight off the alien, and Dr. Tobin can’t help but watch in fascination as his fate is revealed, not knowing that by torturing William she has actually sealed her own fate.

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Is 3.7/10 justified?

No, not really. Now I’m going to come right out of the bat and say that this will not be getting the approval stamp, whilst “Ejecta” is better than a 3.7/10, it’s definitely not worth more than a 5/10.

I’m going to start this with the main problem with “Ejecta” and that is that the film doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be. One minute it is a torture film in which information is trying to be extracted, the next it’s a found footage film, then it’s back to torture before going into a covert-ops style hunt, it’s very inconsistent and it all feels very distorted. With the camera work constantly changing, it’s hard to find your feet as the film progresses as one minute you’re watching what looks like a very professional film, and the next you’re looking at something that could have easily been filmed on a low budge phone.

The soundtrack and the use of it certainly don’t help this situation as the music is played so loudly at times that you can’t understand what the characters are trying to say. You’ve got the film-makers trying to create tension with the music in situations that don’t deserve it and films such as The Thing work so well because it doesn’t try to force the music to create the tension, although it definitely helps augment the sense of fear and stress that it already there.

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William just becomes boring as a character. Julian Richings plays him very well, but that’s not a hard push when the character barely says anything during the film and after a while, especially in the torture sections of the film, you don’t really care that much about what happens to him because it’s just dragged on and on and on. There’s no real engagement with him as a character because other than what happens to him in the end in his final interaction with Joe, you don’t really get to see anything other than a guy who speaks in riddles, if indeed he speaks at all, and just mopes around.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that a character that goes through something like this would be traumatised, but it just doesn’t make for a good film or character. Then again, I preferred his character to that of Dr Tobin, a character that is written to show pretty much every emotional state, but just isn’t that interesting in the long run and without telling you what her final fate is, when it came to it I really wasn’t that fussed about it because her character was just an awful antagonist. She’s not engaging, or entertaining, and this isn’t helped by a largely forgettable performance from Lisa Houle, who, to sum up her level of performance, has only had two film roles since the turn of the millennium to accompany a sporadic array of TV shows here and there.

I briefly touched on the acting of Richings there and he is one of the several competent acts throughout the film. Adam Seybold is excellent as a sci-fi fan and fellow conspiracy nut, and even though his presence on screen doesn’t last that long, Ari Millen’s showing as Agent Rudder is memorable, if for nothing more than when the camera randomly pans to him and and shows his reactions to something that doesn’t involve him. Unfortunately Mark Gibson doesn’t contribute to a decent trio of showings from the members of the Exit Humanity cast as he is largely forgettable in his role as Agent Brinkman. Now don’t get me wrong, he does nothing wrong, but the character is practically pointless and is never seen other than brief glances through a night-vision camera.

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Summary

Ejecta offers precisely nothing that you haven’t already seen before and feels lost on a regular basis as it tries to desperately draw you in as an audience member….and fails miserably. You can’t have your main character mope around and barely say anything in the film as it just becomes tired and you stop caring about them. It’s definitely not helped when you don’t care about the antagonist either.

Whilst the acting is relatively decent throughout by the majority, they are let down by an inconsistent plot, tone and a soundtrack and makes you want to mute the whole thing.

It’s not as bad as 3.7/10, but it’s definitely not much better.

Is there anybody out there? It’s happened!

Year Released : 2013These_Final_Hours
Director: Zak Hilditch
Cast : Nathan Philips, Angourie Rice, Jessica De Gouw and David Field

Critically acclaimed is not a phrase that can often be associated with films that I review on this site, but that’s the case with this film as numerous critics praised These Final Hours.

I am exceptionally excited by this as it recently appeared in a Watchmojo video for the best films about the end of the world and it looked to have considerable more substance than Hollywood films about the same subject matter, and that in many ways sums up why I love independent and low budget films. Whilst there are obviously exceptions, these types of films are often forced to make it about the characters rather than the effects, whereas Hollywood is completely the opposite, focusing on the explosions and the characters are almost secondary.

Unlike a lot of other films that I have reviewed on this site, I’ve actually got a friend that has seen this and they praised it, and that’s ultimately what encouraged me to watch it…..this is the same person that said I would hate Bloom, so I trust his judgement.

Plot

Ten minutes ago a meteor hit Earth in the north Atlantic and a giant wall of fire is sweeping the world. In Australia, they calculate that they have less than twelve hours to live before the wall reaches them and James (Philips) decides that after having sex with Zoe (De Gouw) one final time, he is going to attend an epic party. She tries to get him to stay by telling him that she is pregnant, although he fails to see the point in telling him that news given that they’ll all be dead by the end of the day, and he leaves.

Whilst trying to make it to the party he sees Rose (Rice) being dragged into a house by two men. He responds to her call for help and rescues her. She asks James to take her to Roleystone to be with her father, but instead he takes her to his sister’s house, only to discover that she and her husband killed themselves after murdering their children in order to escape the pain of the wall. Now James is determined to get Rose to her father before getting to the party.

As countries around the world slowly succumb to the wall, James tries all he can to get Rose to her father before the end, whilst also attending the party and realising that he didn’t know some people as well as he thought he did.

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Better than Hollywood films of the same type?

Whilst These Final Hours has it’s flaws, I did find myself more than gripped to the screen for most of the 86 minute run time.

Let’s start with the very beginning of the film. The first few minutes of the film are all dedicated to people finding out what has happened and everything turning into what could effectively be defined as marshall law. The music that plays in the background is beautiful and haunting at the same time, whilst at the same time having disturbingly poignant radio broadcasts going through the details, all spoken in a resigned fashion. The opening few minutes is nigh on perfect for the film’s tone and situation.

Whilst the tone quickly changes and doesn’t return until the equally as poignant and well thought out final scene, the radio broadcasts are kept throughout the film, with the station popping up at well chosen points to give you an update with how far the wall of fire has progressed, and there’s something terrifying about hearing which countries have fallen, knowing that your own demise will soon at at hand. It brings a sense of not only time, but how close the wall of fire is actually getting in terms of distance, something that’s not usually considered in this situation.

It makes you question what you would do in that situation, especially as you’re completely helpless in this situation. There is literally nothing you can do and unlike some other films in which you can run from the danger facing you, such as San Andreas, 2012, etc, these characters have one of two choices, accept their fate and live out the limited remainder of their lives, or kill themselves early so they don’t have to face the pain of being burnt alive. The latter of which brings someone of the more interesting scenes in the film.

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The moment when James sees that his sister has performed a murder-suicide reminded me a lot of the scene in 28 Days Later in which Jim found his parents had killed themselves, whereas there is the complete flip side of the ending your life early side of things when James makes it to the party, only to see that Russian Roulette has become a joyful spectator sport. It’s quite interesting to see how different people react.

However, away from the reflective storyline and character development,

The first flaw is the character of Rose. I found it a bit strange that the official plot summary described James as a self-centred character, and yet he takes the last few hours of his life to help this girl find her family, a girl who is so one-dimensional and self-absorbed that she doesn’t seem to grasp that if people only have a few hours to live, they might have things that they want to do that don’t involve her. Whilst she isn’t played badly, the character is so poorly written that I genuinely don’t care about her part in the story and she is used for pretty much nothing more than giving James something to do.

 

The second flaw is that despite that image above and the one below not appearing to show it, there is a severe orange filter portrayed in the entire film and it just seems overwhelming unnecessary. Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely not the first time that I’ve seen this technique used in films, which the Saw franchise using a green filter, Gone Girl having a blueish filter and various other examples, but for me it was unnecessary. Other than that though the film is visually pretty decent, especially when you finally see the giant wall of fire at the end.

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Summary

There are parts of me that really want to give this the approval stamp. The opening and ending are both excellent are far more appropriate in terms of tone than better known films. However, the character of Rose is also making me consider not to put the stamp. I write this sentence not knowing whether I will give the stamp and will probably only decide just before I press submit.

Infact, I am not going to give it for the simple reason that I only want to give the stamp to those films that may have flaws, but at least they’re only minor flaws. Having one of the two main characters be as poorly written as Rose is a big sin for me and as good as the non-Rose scenes are, she ruins most scenes that she is in.

By all means, give it a watch, but you’ll be much better off if you skip through scenes she is in.

It’s awards season and as usual the debates are going on about who should win the awards. Leonardo Dicaprio is being heavily tipped to finally win the big one (Best Actor for clarification) after high profile disappointments in recent years, and a stellar list of performances from pretty much everyone in category, but that in itself has caused an issue in that a lot of people have noted a lack of diversity in the nominations….well…..I say a lot of people…..

Basically, a lot of people of non-white origin, mainly Spike Lee and Jada-Pinkett Smith, have stated that it is ridiculous that no-one in any of the four main acting categories is of a non-white origin, with many threatening to not attend the ceremony due to alleged racism. Now, before I start this, I’m going to state that I am white. I have never (knowingly) been in a film so I am coming at this from a purely outsiders point of view.

Now, I wasn’t going to comment on this really until I heard a radio interview on the way home from work in which someone basically said that “Straight Out of Compton” deserved a nomination for Best Film simply because it earned over $100m worldwide. Even that logic shows that some people who are making comments that the Academy are racist is beyond ridiculous.

Whilst $100m isn’t anything to be scoffed at, it didn’t even enter the top 10 highest grossing films of 2015, with five films earning over $1b, so if we’re going pure on box office returns, that would mean that The Force Awakens, Jurassic World, Furious 7, Avengers : Age of Ultron and Minions would be the five Best Film candidates.

Now, I can’t comment on the quality of Straight Out Of Compton as I didn’t watch it. I have precisely zero interest in watching a film about a bunch of music artists that I don’t care about from a genre of music that I don’t like, so instead I’m going to look at what seems to have started the whole debate, Jada Pinkett-Smith bemoaning that her husband, Will Smith, didn’t get a Best Actor nod for his role in Concussion, and causing a race-row in the process (good job, Jada).

Now, I haven’t seen Concussion as it hasn’t been released in the UK yet, but I will be. Will Smith is arguably the biggest A-lister in the world, but JPS (who definitely isn’t an A-lister), and I genuinely enjoy his movies. Not once have I looked at him and thought “Will Smith is an excellent black-actor”, I look at him and think that he is a fantastic actor. He wouldn’t be in hit after hit if he wasn’t and I can’t think of a single film that I have seen him in that I haven’t enjoyed, with the exception of After Earth (I hate to break it to you Jada, but your son, Jaden Smith wasn’t nominated for the Best Actor in the year either).

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Jada Pinkett-Smith has basically turned into that girl who stays at the side of a Sunday League pitch and can’t understand why all of the other players aren’t giving the ball to her husband. I have nothing against Will Smith at all, afterall, he was in my second favourite film of 2015, but when I looked at the five nominees for Best Actor, it wasn’t the colour of their skin that jumped to mind, it was the fantastic performances from all of those concerned. She has effectively turned around and put a very bitter taste on what is normally a pleasant evening.

But away from that, we should look to see if there is any foundation in the claim that it’s unfair that certain actors of a non-white origin didn’t get nominated. So let’s start with analysing the Best Actor. Nominated are;

Bryan Cranston (Trumbo)

Matt Damon (The Martian)

Leonardo Dicaprio (The Revenant)

Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs)

Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl)

I’ve seen four of those five movies (Trumbo gets released next month) and the performances from the four actors in question were fantastic, with Damon and Dicaprio especially excelling. One of the examples given by those threatening to boycott the Oscars is Samuel L Jackson in The Hateful Eight, a film that I loved and Jackson is excellent in it, but is his performance better than any of the five above (based on the four that I have seen)? No. No is the answer.

Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t particularly like Steve Jobs or The Danish Girl as films (and before someone says I only didn’t like The Danish Girl because it’s subject matter, I am transgender myself so subject matter has nothing to do with it), but the performances from Fassbender and Redmayne were fantastic and were Oscar-nomination worthy. As mentioned above, there is also a debate asking why Will Smith hasn’t been nominated again for Concussion. Now, again I will state that I haven’t seen Concussion yet, so for this argument I’m going to use Will Smith’s performance in Focus. I loved Focus and pretty much everything about it, hence why it was my number 2 film of 2015, and in this case I would say that I did enjoy Smith’s performance more than Fassbender or Redmayne’s respective portrayals.

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However, movies are all about opinion, there could be someone out there who thought Smith’s performance in Focus as calamitous, but that’s what makes movies fantastic, it’s all about opinions.

For me, looking at the list, I’d be surprised if Dicaprio doesn’t get it.

So moving on, let’s look at the Best Supporting Actor category, the nominees are;

Christian Bale (The Big Short)

Tom Hardy (The Revenant)

Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight)

Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies)

Sylvester Stallone (Creed)

Now this one is considerably different for me as I have only seen The Big Short and The Revenant at the time of writing. I have no interest in seeing Creed at all (it’s basically just another Rocky movie and I am not a fan of the franchise) but even then I find Stallone being nominated for any kind of positive acting award is laughable.

From that list, again based on what I have personally seen, for me the only option is Tom Hardy. His showing in The Revenant was fantastic and you could argue that he was infact the lead actor as he is in the film and has a considerably more varied role than Leo, but such is the nature of the beast.

I looked through the list of films that I watched in 2015 and on not one single film was the main supporting actor played by someone of a non-white origin and out performed Hardy’s showing in Revenant.

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You know what, I could sit here and go through each category, but ultimately it won’t change the route cause of the problem that is that you can’t nominate someone simply because they are not white. The awards celebrate acting, and in the case of the acting awards specifically, the best five performances that year. You could have red skin for all I care, if your performance was one of the five best of the year, you deserve to be there, regardless of race, religion, sexual preference, etc.

If the Academy and those that decide the nominees are racist, explain how Jamie Foxx was even nominated for his winning role in Ray in 2005…….or Forest Whitaker two years later for The Last King of Scotland. You can’t can you? You know the reason why you can’t explain them…..because it’s nonsense! If the Academy was racist, neither of them would have been nominated, and nor would the many actors of non-white origin over the years.

Let me put this into perspective, I am a fan of football (as in the sport where the use their foot to kick the ball, actual football) and regularly in England there is a debate when a manager of black origin gets sacked, with a lot of people in the media quoting a lot of stats about managers of a non-white origin. The problem with this argument is that whilst some are controversial sackings (as are a lot of sackings of managers that aren’t of a black-origin) when you look at their management records, they have a very low winning percentage and regularly haven’t done a good job. The simple fact about any sport is that if you lose considerably more games than you win, you’re going to get sacked eventually (unless you quit of course), but a lot of people don’t seem to see that.

Basically, it ultimately comes down the best performances of the year getting nominated and those that weren’t nominated finding any excuse than can to make up for their shortfall. To accuse that Academy of not including various people because of their skin colour is a racist statement in itself.

If the actor is in the right role and puts in the right performance, they would get nominated. It’s as simple as that.

Stay on the path, or you will die! If you are lapped twice, you will die! Race, or you will die!

Year Released : 2013The-Human-Race-Poster
Director: Paul Hough
Cast : Paul McCarthy-Boyington, Eddie McGee, Fred Coury, Trista Robinson and T. Arthur Cottam.

As you could probably tell from a few of my reviews in the past, I love watching films that are pretty much presenting original ideas, and whilst everyone fighting each other in order to survive is a story that’s as old as time, literally racing against each other is a completely new idea as far as I am aware.

I’ve reviewed a few films in the past, such as Circle, in which everyone has to work together whilst ultimately knowing that only one of them will survive. I loved the whole aspect of people having to deal with that ultimately consequence, whilst ultimately trying to prolong their own survival. It was a great look at Darwinism, i/e survival of the fittest.

That being said, a lot of other films that I’ve seen of a “everyone for themselves” style film have been very sketchy. “Battle Royale” is comfortably the best in that category, hence why the Hunger Games franchise ripped it off, but other than that I can’t think of too many films in the category that would fall into the “good” side of the argument.

Plot

Eighty people wake up to find themselves trapped in an unknown environment and with a message playing that states that they are effectively in a race, and only one person will get out of the race alive. The contestants aren’t evenly matched, with some being elderly and/or disabled, and others being athletically built.

War veteran friends Justin (McCarthy-Boyington) and Eddie (McGee) stop several times along the way to help those less fortunate than themselves, such as Asian children and an elderly man (J Louis Reid). Upon finding the elderly man, they realise that he is about to die and try to keep everyone else from lapping him, although a cycling champion (Coury) tricks them and ends up killing a significant number of the field by lapping them.

It’s not just him though, with another group using the sign posts to kill anyone who they encounter. With only one winner and the field dwindling, to what lengths are some people willing to go in order to survive.

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Worth the watch?

I’m just going to get this out of the way now, this will not be getting the approval stamp.

Whilst not an awful film at all, there are a lot of issues with the film itself, but I’m going to start with the aspects that I did actually like.

I love that the first few minutes of the film are focused on one character in particular and right there and then you think that she is obviously going to make it to the end….but as soon as the race starts she is killed, infact the race hasn’t even technically started yet and she steps on the grass, killing herself.

There are many examples throughout the film of characters who you thought would survive right until the end before then dying around half way through. I love the unpredictability of the whole thing in terms of when certain people would survive.. Having said that, I did manage to predict how the film would end. I obviously won’t go into it but what happens to the winner was kind of obvious and reminded me of the ending of how a film called “The Killing Room” ended.

It’s also very interesting that people are put in there that are quite clearly not evenly matched, such as a man who has to use a zimmer-frame in order to walk (he can’t even get off of the start line by himself), deaf people who obviously can’t communicate with other people, and various other little things like that. Much like the aforementioned “Circle”, it is an interesting look at society and the blatantly obvious way in that everyone could have survived if they had simply worked together reminded me a bit of the otherwise shockingly bad “Saw 5”.

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However, almost ironically, for a film about people racing against each other there is a distinctive inconsistency with regards to pacing. In a very similar fashion to the TV show “Lost”, The Human Race spends a lot of it’s early time committing itself to telling you of the final few minutes of a person’s life before they were zapped (for lack of a better word) into the race.

Don’t get me wrong, establishing your characters is very important and arguably the main thing that I look for in a film, but even then they completely kill the momentum of the film by constantly going back to the flashback scenes. One in particular comes when the deaf couple are flashbacked, and all of a sudden you’ve gone from watching people race against each other to watching a deaf couple having a sign language conversation for a few minutes.

The best thing about films such as “Circle” was that the characters were developed without a need for flashbacks, yet “The Human Race” ruins it’s pacing throughout. The deaf pair, whilst not awful characters in any sense, kill the momentum whenever they are on screen.

The deaf couple are very unusual in the sense that they often sign to each other….even when the other person isn’t looking. If they’re not looking at you, and you can see that they’re not looking at you, what’s the point of signing when you know that the person you’re signing to won’t see it? There is also a strange moment when the deaf woman feels responsible for the death of another contestant and the subtitle reads “She died because of me”….but she’s not actually signing at the time. There is also a conversation about masturbating to porn in which there are subtitles…but neither of them are signing. It’s all very bizarre, especially when you see them having a very angry conversation after he attacks her with a hammer and then tries to rape her.

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“The Human Race” also is very unclear on a lot of aspects, for example, one woman is shown walking in a daydream state, and yet she is comfortably ahead of people who set off before she did and were actually running, how did that happen? It just makes no sense that a woman who isn’t even really trying can someone outpace those that are clearly shown on numerous occasions to be running consistently. She should have died a lot time before she eventually does.

And the very aspect of the rules is also a bit unclear, it states that “if you are lapped, you will die,” however, it also states that various parts of the course are safe, so I would assume that that would mean that even if you’re lapped twice, if the second time comes whilst you’re one of the safe locations, that you remain alive. This turns out to be a lie as the athlete in the yellow shirt runs past a pair of Japanese kids, killing them.

It just shows that the rules are confusing and contradictory, something which some of the characters also point out, because you could in theory just keep everyone alive by all going to a safe location (which they attempt to do at various points), taking it in turns to do a lap, therefore the race is still theoretically going on and everyone survives.

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Summary

“The Human Race” had the potential to be a very interesting film, but ultimately it is let down by it’s remarkably unclear nature, inconsistencies and the bizarre nature in which the deaf couple kill the momentum of the film whenever they are on screen.

Don’t get me wrong, “The Human Race” isn’t a truly awful film at all, I’ve seen far, far worse, but there are just too many issues for me to actually get anywhere near considering it for the “approved” badge.

If you’re going to watch it, go in with low expectations.

 

I think we’ve reached that point in the evening where we should leave before anything crazy happens.

Year Released : 2015the_overnight_poster
Director: Patrick Brice
Cast : Adam Scott, Taylor Schilling, Jason Schwartzman and Judith Godrèche

Going on from one actor who only ever seems to play the same character in each film, I move onto a film starring another actor that could be described in pretty much the exact same way, Jason Schwartzman. I’ve never been a particular fan of his, not even in the otherwise excellent “Scott Pilgrim vs The World” and a few months ago I started watching “7 Chinese Brothers” with the intention of reviewing it for this site, but found it ridiculously boring and turned it off after 25 minutes.

To be honest, the only thing attracting me to this film is that it has Adam Scott in it, one of my favourite comedic actors of the last few years after a variety of excellent showings in “Parks and Recreation” and “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”. His deadpan delivery of comedic lines fits right into my personal choice of comedy, but whether he can make the difference in a film that looks overwise luke-warm remains to be seen.

I’m not going to lie, from the trailer this just doesn’t look interesting, but I’m prepared to give things a chance these days, although whether I’d give it a chance if Scott wasn’t in it is very unlikely.

Plot

Alex (Scott) and Emily (Schilling) have recently moved to Los Angeles and have struggled to make friends after two weeks. One day they take their son to the park and he starts playing with another boy, and this leads them to meet that boy’s father, Kurt (Schwartzman). After trading pleasantries, Kurt invites the pair around to his house for a meal and they agree, excited at finally making a new friend.

They arrive at the exceptionally large house and although things seems very pleasant at first, the night starts taking a very bizarre tone when Kurt reveals his collection of paintings of (and there’s no nice way of putting this) the arseholes of his friends and family, and the night continues to get more and more disturbed as the evening goes on, eventually getting to the point where Emily wants to leave but Alex refuses.

Is an evening with a very open couple exactly what Alex and Emily need, or could it be the worst thing possible for their marriage?

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Is it better than I’d hoped?

In a word, no, and the main reason for this is that despite being advertised as raunchy, thought provoking and funny, The Overnight is just kind of boring. It is 75 or so minutes worth of weird and when you find out what is going on and the reasons behind it, it doesn’t really feel like a pay off that’s been worth the effort to get to that stage.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen far, far, far worse films than “The Overnight”, but for me there just didn’t seem to be a lot of point to the story, and the story isn’t really that interesting to begin with. The crux of the story is basically a seemingly that a couple gets invited around the house of a stranger, that stranger is in a seemingly perfect marriage and then all sorts of random shit goes off, making the couple very uncomfortable, although they ultimately get a sexual awakening.

“The Overnight” is very disappointing in the sense that it doesn’t feel like it’s any special. Yes, it’s rather more forward and sexually exploring than some other comedies, such as having paintings of arseholes and porn DVDs of Kurt breast pumping Charlotte in order to make some money. It is very unusual in many ways, but it offers precisely nothing new to the genre and the laughs throughout feel almost forced.

For example, one of the running jokes throughout the movie is that Alex has a tiny penis, and you even see it at one point at length (and I hope for Adam Scott that it was just a prosthetic), but it soon gets very old and yet they keep referencing it right until the end of the film.

Adam Scott is comfortably the best thing about “The Overnight”, as I was expecting going in. Scott’s dry sense of humour works perfect in this situation because the character is put in a situation that he is quite clearly not comfortable with, and Scott’s perfect delivery brings the character to life. I don’t know what it is about Adam Scott but he just nails every single role he is in (from what I’ve seen).

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Despite the brilliant of Adam Scott, Jason Schwartzman plays his character in pretty much the exact same way as he plays the majority of his roles and it just feels more like Adam Scott and co just went to his actual house and they filmed everything around him in a similar sense to Bowfinger. I wouldn’t be surprised if Schwartzman had never intentionally been in a film. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Schwartzman on a personal level, but he doesn’t offer anything to any roles that you wouldn’t have already seen in his other films, and there doesn’t seem to be a lot of flexibility there.

Outside of the acting, the soundtrack to “The Overnight” is interesting to say the least. There is a section of the film in which is played in slow motion and there is a seemingly fun song playing to it, but then it you listen carefully, the song isn’t really that up tempo, it’s a bizarre choice of song and doesn’t even fit in with the scene. That’s the case throughout the film and not once does the music feel natural to the scene.

As I mentioned above, “The Overnight” is just dull and tedious and the very fact that it lasts barely over 75 minutes and yet I still felt no motivation to watch it in one sitting should tell you all that you need to know.

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Summary

“The Overnight” is a boring way to spend 75 or so minutes of your life and had it not been for Adam Scott, the one saving grace of this film, then I wouldn’t have watched it beyond the first 45 minutes, but even then Scott can’t carry the film on his own wn and by the end I was wanting it to end.

The overall premise of the film just isn’t that interesting, everything feels forced and for a comedy, it’s just not that funny.

I don’t know whether it was just hyped too much by those that pitched it to me, but I just didn’t enjoy “The Overnight” at all

You’re a complete idiot, picking one of the few animals that can talk when you have speech impediment. You’ll lisp, even as an animal.

Year Released : 2015YBsoy8f
Director : Yorgos Lanthimos
Cast : Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Lea Seydoux, Ben Whishaw, John C Reilly, Olivia Colman and Angeliki Papoulia

Sometimes you’ve never heard of a film and nothing about it looks interesting, right from the cast or the poster, but then you read the plot and all of a sudden you’re desperate to watch it. That was the case when I went to watch “The Lobster” just before Christmas (I’m doing a rare write up of this section after the film) as the concept seemed exceptionally original.

It looked very odd and like the sort of film that I would love, but there was something beforehand that I just felt was wrong about the film and ultimately this becomes the first review of 2016 in which I won’t be giving an approval stamp to, that despite it’s high rating of 7.5/10 on IMDB.

In many ways, likening it to football (actual football, not what the Americans claim as football), it’s a film of two halves.

Plot

David (Farrell) has recently been admitted to an isolated hotel full of single people. Under the new laws, anyone who isn’t in a relationship must find love within 45 days of being admitted, and if they are not in a relationship when their 45 days is up then they are turned into an animal of their choosing. David’s choice is a lobster as it has a long life, is always fertile and he likes swimming. He soon befriends a limping man (Whishaw) and a man with a severe lisp (Reilly).

All of David’s initial attempts to partner with a woman are unsuccessful and with just a few days left, he takes the desperate move to go for a woman who everyone hates (Papouloia) due her morbid outlook on life. David successfully couples with her with just days to go, but to test his commitment she purposefully kills his dog by kicking it viciously in the stomach (the dog had been David’s brother but had unsuccessfully failed to find a partner in the hotel). David can’t hide his emotions and the woman tries to drag him to the hotel’s owner (Colman) to tell her of David’s deceit, something which carries a punishment of being turned into an animal not of his choosing. He successfully subdues her on the way and takes his revenge by kicking her several times. He forces her into the transformation room

David runs away and ends up being taken in by a group of loners, a group where love is forbidden, but he soon starts falling for a short sighted woman (Weisz).

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So why no approval sticker?

The reason for this is simply because it’s effectively a film of two halves, the bit in the hotel and then after he escapes. The section of the film where he is in the hotel is exceptionally well written, clever, unforgiving and genuinely interesting, but the second half of the film is so boring and bland that I just lost all interest in it whatsoever.

Let’s start with the overall premise of the film and what gets people in the hotel in the first place, being single. The film is unclear in a lot of aspects of this law that causes anyone who is single to be forced into a hotel and turned into an animal if they are unsuccessful in finding love. Whilst it is interesting to see numerous animals in a wooded area that wouldn’t normally be in that environment, giving you an idea into what people choose (such as a camel), the law is ultimately flawed in that it doesn’t make the rules of the law clear.

For example, at what age can you be single and not be forced into the hotel? The youngest person in the hotel appears to be in their mid-20s (she is also the only character that you see gets transformed into an animal, although you only see the after effect rather than the transformation), so at what age are people free until? It’s just unclear and there’s something a bit uninteresting watching a bunch of middle aged people awkwardly flirting with each other.

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The law is ridiculously harsh. For example, the limping man’s wife has died just a few days prior and yet he’s quickly launched into this hotel for being single. There’s no grieving period and no chance for him to be fine again, it’s just there.

Whilst I am prepared to cut films a lot of slack when it comes to reality bending, they have to at least make sense on some level and in this sense, I found myself getting less and less interested as the film went on as it was just unclear as to why people are forced into the hotel. I know that’s probably part of the idea, leaving people in a bit of limbo when it comes to this sort of thing, but some sort of context would be nice.

As I say, the time in the hotel is actually relatively decent. You see the lengths that some people will go to as the depression sets in and the desperate lengths people will go to (for example, the lisping man threatens to shoot to David after he’s escaped to give himself another day of trying to find someone). Even sexually relieving yourself is forbidden, with the lisping man having his hand forced into a toaster by the hotel management for masturbating, with the scene of burning his fingers being my particular favourite in the overall run time of the film.

The dialogue in this half of the film is witty and well written, which is much more than I can say for the second half of the film, which I will move onto now.

When David does eventually get out of the hotel and is in the wooded area, the tone of the film, it’s feel and general level of interest serious wains, it, for a lack of a better word, becomes boring. There are long segments in this section which make even less sense that the law mentioned above, and the character of the Loner Leader (none of the characters other than David are named by the way) is played in such a lifeless way by Lea Seydoux that it completely disengages you from her as a mildly antagonistic character.

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Summary

The Lobster was a missed opportunity in many ways. Whilst this could have been brilliant, the second half of the film completely kills the momentum and interest level that has been gained in the first half. It’s reminds me in many ways of Goal of the Dead in that sense, but in that film they had the excuse of different writers for the different halves of the film. The Lobster has no such excuse.

I’m not saying that The Lobster is an awful film by any stretch. There are bits that I genuinely enjoyed, such as the scene with the toaster, but after David escapes the hotel that film just doesn’t feel as interesting.

I wouldn’t say don’t waste your time because the first half is worth watching, but after he escapes you might as well turn off.

It may be what in the old days was called a spiritual crisis or whatever. It’s just the feeling as though the entire, every axiom of your life turned out to be false, and there was actually nothing, and you were nothing, and it was all a delusion. And that you were better than everyone else because you saw that it was a delusion, and yet you were worse because you couldn’t function.

Year Released : 2015The-End-of-the-Tour-Poster
Director: James Ponsoldt
Cast : Jason Segal and Jesse Eisenberg

A while ago I compiled a list of films that I was looking forward to during the rest of the year, but unfortunately most of them don’t appear to be getting a UK release date, and one of those films was “The End of the Tour”. I had looked forward to the film since I first heard about it at the beginning of 2015, but I had resigned myself to not seeing it for a long time, but then one night at the end of 2015 I was browsing what was available to rent online, and I found a copy. Even though it was 11:30pm, I decided to make the investment and watch it.

I am admittedly a bit nervous going into this as one of the other films I profiled in the same list was “Infinitely Polar Bear” and I was very disappointed by that film, not through any fault of either Saldana and Ruffalo, but the child characters. As far as I’m aware, there aren’t any children at all during the run time of “The End of the Tour”, which can only be a good thing.

Please don’t be awful.

Plot

In 2008 David Lipsky (Eisenberg) receives a phone call to tell him David Foster Wallace (Segal), an acclaimed writer that he had interviewed during the 1990s had committed suicide. Feeling sad about the loss of someone he considered a friend, Lipsky finds the tapes of his conversation with Wallace and relives the few days that he spent with him.

Back in the 1990s Lipsky has just released his first novel, but he grows jealous when people already talk about another book being so good that it has practically already won all of the major awards, David Foster Ward’s “Infinite Jest”. Lipsky refuses to believe that it’s as good as people are saying it is, but upon reading it he becomes a huge fan, and begs his editor at Rolling Stone magazine to allow him to interview the writer. His editor reluctantly agrees.

Lipsky travels to Wallace’s home and starts the interview nearly straight away. Although the two share many length conversations about the variety of subjects, Wallace grows increasingly upset about some of Lipsky’s questions and attitude, whereas Lipsky starts to believe that Wallace is being false in order to appear more intellectual. The two share a fragile relationship until the end of the interview process.

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Worth the wait?

Unlike “Infinitely Polar Bear”, I did enjoy “The End of the Tour” as it has arguably the best dialogue that I have heard in a film for a long time. This isn’t a movie full of action, comedy or even movement, most of the film is the characters just in general conversation in the car, on planes, etc, and it’s probably one of the wordiest films that I’ve ever seen in my life.

Normally I wouldn’t like a film where there is a lot of talking, but what I do like about “The End of the Tour” is that it is the conversations aren’t all serious and cover a variety of subjects. Much like the conversation in “Pulp Fiction” is very fluidic and genuine, the conversations in “The End of the Tour” do a great job in establishing not only Wallace’s intelligence, but also that both characters are actually just normal guys and that they feel comfortable talking about anything.

For example, there are conversations about movies, such as an entire conversation about masturbation – “Yes, you’re performing muscular movements with your hand as you’re jerking off. But what you’re really doing, I think, is you’re running a movie in your head. You’re having a fantasy relationship with somebody who is not real… strictly to stimulate a neurological response. So as the Internet grows in the next 10, 15 years… and virtual reality pornography becomes a reality, we’re gonna have to develop some real machinery inside our guts… to turn off pure, unalloyed pleasure. Or, I don’t know about you, I’m gonna have to leave the planet. ‘Cause the technology is just gonna get better and better. And it’s gonna get easier and easier… and more and more convenient and more and more pleasurable… to sit alone with images on a screen… given to us by people who do not love us but want our money. And that’s fine in low doses, but if it’s the basic main staple of your diet, you’re gonna die.”

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I’m not going to lie and pretend that I knew who David Foster Wallace was before I heard about this film. I’ve stated in previous reviews that I’m not much of a reader (and some would argue that I’m not much of a writer), but much like a few other films that I’ve reviewed that chronicled a point in someone’s life, I went in completed blind to the person’s life and the events of what happens, and in many ways.

My only real complaint with the film is that it’s yet another in a long line of films in which Jesse Eisenberg plays practically the exact same character. He doesn’t change from film to film, his delivery of lines is exactly the same, his characters are always portrayed as neurotic and he just doesn’t change from film to film. I could literally be watching the same character over and over again. I just don’t enjoy watching him and whilst he’s not awful in “The End of the Tour”, this could be the same character that he played in films such as The Social Network, Adventureland and Zombieland.

Unlike Segal, who plays Wallace brilliantly, Eisenberg has seemingly no flexibility and again, whilst not awful, he is very much second fiddle to Segal and scenes which don’t involve Wallace are significantly reduced in terms of their impact and enjoyment. Segal moves away from his stereotypical jock-comedy style characters and gives a heart-warming and vulnerable performance of a clearly fragile man.

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Summary

“The End of the Tour” is a very enjoyable, albeit very wordy movie. If you’re in the mood for an intelligent look into the mind of someone who was lauded by the majority of critics, then it is definitely worth checking out.

Whilst Eisenberg plays the same character he’s played in numerous other films, Segal is excellent as David Foster Wallaceapproved and brings him to life. The characterisation could have been so easily wrong in this film, but they executed it really well and you genuinely care about what the characters are saying.

The conversations between them are interesting and thought provoking, but more importantly natural and flowing.

If you get a chance to watch “The End of the Tour” then I would recommend it, although I’d recommend watching it when fully awake.

 

Merry Christmas Eve, Bitch!

Year Released : 2015Tangerine_(film)_POSTER
Director: Sean S Baker
Cast : Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor, James Ransone, Mickey O’Hagan, Karren Karagulian and Alla Tumanian.

Finally, a film with transgender main characters that doesn’t focus on the fact that they’re transgendered. For those that don’t know or haven’t read any of my previous reviews, I am transgendered myself and whilst it doesn’t bother me how transgender characters are portrayed in a lot of movies, it does bother me how people automatically assume things about me because of how they have seen characters act in films.

So based on that, just once I’d love to see a different portrayal of transgendered characters and judging by reviews and various others things, that might be what I’m about to get.

Interestingly, there has been a campaign for Taylor to be nominated for the Best Actress award at the Academy Awards, something that would make her a history maker as the first transgendered person to be nominated for one of the main awards.

It’ll will be interesting to see if it makes the mistakes of making the film all about their transgenderism, and whether Taylor is good enough to be held in such esteem.

Plot

Transgendered prostitutes Sin-Dee Rella (Rodriguez) and Alexandra (Taylor) are having a catch up on Christmas Eve and Sin-Dee reveals that she is thinking about breaking up with her boyfriend, Chester (Ransone). Alexandra gets really excited that Sin-Dee is finally acting on Chester cheating on her, but the problem is that Sin-Dee doesn’t know and angrily sets out to the woman who’s sleeping with him, although she doesn’t know any details other than that her name starts with D.

Whilst Alexandra goes about her normal business during the day, including servicing several clients, Sin-Dee goes in hunt of the girl who has been sleeping with Chester, eventually finding the woman, named Dinah (O’Hagan), who basically suggests that Sin-Dee being Chester’s girlfriend is a laughable concept as he doesn’t have girlfriends.

All hell breaks loose when Sin-Dee eventually finds Chester, but it isn’t only Dinah that she should have been worried about.

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The typical movie representation of transgendered characters?

Whilst there are many transgendered characters in Tangerine, the very fact that they’re transgendered is portrayed as secondary to the plot of the film. Taylor and Rodriguez are both excellent in their roles and whilst they and the characters are openly transgender, that fact isn’t overly-referenced during the film, and I found this remarkably refreshing.

More often than not, films starring transgendered people, or about transgendered characters, focus on nothing more than their change of gender, but that’s definitely not the case in “Tangerine”. The fact that the characters are transgendered is treated with respect and the way that the characters interact with them is in that mould.

There are some very interesting representations of the non-transgendered characters though, with two cops talking about Alexandra and using the male pronouns, but then as soon as she’s in ear shot they switch to female pronouns. It’s an interesting study that shows that what people say about people and directly to people are two very different things.

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The soundtrack for Tangerine is absolutely fantastic and adds to the film. The film half of the film is basically putting Sin-Dee into the phrase “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”, she is genuinely scary in her actions and the soundtrack backs that up, almost bringing it into an angry form of chaos. It is genuinely engaging and when she eventually finds Dinah, you genuinely fear for the character’s life.

Throughout the 87 minute run time, the music consistently impresses you and brings you into the environment, and it also helps establish the atmosphere of a grimy

The dialogue is fantastic in it’s openness and fluidic nature. It’s witty and dramatically harsh for example, when talking about a server at a donut shop, the dialogue is as follows;

Sin-Dee : “Does your husband ever cheat on you?”

Chester : “Who’s going to marry her smiling ass?”

Sin-Dee : “The one who orders her online!”

It’s quick, it’s witty and ignoring the fact that it’s a bit racist, it’s a fantastically written line, and the dialogue is of a similar nature throughout the film. I’m not going to lie and pretend I’ve been to LA, or even America, and I know very little about life in the street sort of setting, but it all strikes me as genuine and very realistic to the environment.

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There are few boundaries that “Tangerine” isn’t willing to cross and it not only crosses them, it runs straight over them and several miles down the road. It is remarkably honest and best of all, fresh. No scene is without purpose and everything contributes to the story, something which isn’t the case in a lot of films.

This is shown no more prominently than a scene in a shop called “Donut Time” about 15 minutes from the end, in which all of the relevant storylines come together. There is a scene about ten minutes long in which Sin-Dee confronts Chester, then argues with Dinah, it reveals that there is a marriage coming, then a cab-driver who is attracted to transgendered prostitutes comes in to find Sin-Dee, some to be followed by his family. It’s a chaotic scene, with several different elements and it’s so well done that I can’t praise it highly enough.

Now onto the final point and the performance of Mya Taylor. Now whilst Mya Taylor does well in the film and is great to watch, is she worthy of a Best Actress nomination for this performance? In a word, no. That’s nothing against her in the slightest, she does very well, but I prefer the outing from Rodriguez, who shows a larger variety in her performance, and has more flexibility.

Again, don’t get me wrong, Taylor puts in a great performance, but for me Rodriguez does a better job.

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Summary

“Tangerine” is unlike anything that I have ever seen before. I can’t even start comparing it to another film as it is completely original. To that effect I stand up and applaud all of those involved in the film, it was 87 minutes of my life that was well spent.approved

When the film came to it’s conclusion, I was sat there wanting more and that’s exactly what you want from a film, you don’t want it to stop, and I would go as far as saying that out of all of the low-budget independent films I reviewed in 2015, this was one of the best.

The acting is brilliant, the soundtrack is fantastic and other than not really having much of a point for the first 20/30 minutes, there isn’t a single complaint that I can make about the film.

I would definitely recommend “Tangerine”

Vaginas are like coupon books for alcohol!

Year Released : 2015he-never-died-poster
Director: Jason Krawcyzk
Cast : Henry Rollins, Kate Greenhouse, Jordan Todosey, Steven Ogg and Booboo Stewart

I often think of stories that I think would make interesting films, and over the years I have come up with a variety of different genres and ideas, and one a few years ago was of a man who did something several thousand years ago that he was cursed with immortality and forced to watch all those that he loves die, and then becoming emotionally detached as he realises the futility of starting new friendships and relationships. Of course I was never going to do anything with it……but it appears that someone else had pretty much the exact same idea as as soon as I saw the trailer for “He Never Died”, it looked exactly like what I had thought.

So here I am, a few days before the new year, writing a review for a film that interests me heavily and in the hopes that it won’t be awful….then again, I don’t go into films hoping that they’re awful, although as you would be able to see from my recent Bottom 10 of 2015, I do go into films expecting them to be bad.

Hopefully it won’t be the case with “He Never Died”….I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Plot

Jack (Rollins) is misanthropic after being alive for several millenniums. He is impossible to kill and wounds heal in minutes. He has lost touch with all humanity and doesn’t care for interacting with anyone, whether it be Jeremy (Stewart), his supplier of a mysterious package from the hospital, former employer Alex (Ogg), or Cara (Greenhouse) a waitress who is quite clearly attracted to him.

One day a mysterious girl (Todosey) appears at his door before running off without saying anything. He soon gets a call from an ex-lover who reveals that the girl was actually his daughter. He goes in search with her, eventually finding her after she hooks up with a random stranger, he agrees to let her stay for a few days but resists any attempts to bond.

She is soon taken by mysterious gangsters and despite not really being interested in fatherly responsibilities, Jack goes in search of her.

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As good as I’d hoped?

Well the good news is that it definitely wasn’t like my idea in many ways, so if I did choose to go with it then I could still do my film and not be accused of plagiarism (as far as I’m aware), and in that sense I was relieved and could just sit back and enjoy (or at least try to enjoy).

So let’s start with the ultimate problem with films such as this though is the main character. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with Jack in most senses and Rollins does an excellent job portraying him, but when your main character can’t die, and doesn’t appear to feel pain, it’s hard to really get emotionally engaged. If you go into every situation knowing that the character is going to be fine then it takes a lot of the tension out, hell, he even spends a few scenes with bullet holes in the middle of his head.

That is my only real problem with “He Never Died”.

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As mentioned above, Rollins is fantastic and wonderfully deadpan in his portrayal as Jack. The wit is brilliantly written and is the same type of sense of humour and automatic response mechanism that I have. For example, when he ex phones to ask what he did to piss Andrea off to the point where she disappears, he simply says “I opened the door and she ran off.” It’s so simple and yet so wonderfully appropriate and expertly delivered that I couldn’t help but chuckle. Infact that is pretty much the first fifteen to twenty minutes, and I can actually see myself being that grumpy when I reach the same sort of physical age that Jack is at (around 45-50).

Then we get onto the support cast. All do their job very competently, but there was one that caught my eye and it’s surprising given that his role is so minor. I was sat there for ages trying to figure out where I knew the actor who played Alex from, it was really bugging me, and then I realised that it was Steve Ogg portrayed Trevor in the critically acclaimed Grand Theft Auto 5. Ogg’s portrayal as Trevor was nigh on perfect, and whilst his role is considerably reduced, he successfully steals the scenes that he is in.

“He Never Died” looks fantastic and the soundtrack works to supplement what you’re seeing on screen,

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Summary

“He Never Died” is a very enjoyable dark-comedy and has some excellent acting from Henry Rollins. He delivers a approvedwonderfully dry performance that it really brings you into the disdain that the character has for the situation that he finds him in. The invincibility factor does make the scenes in which he’s fighting in slightly less engaging, but other than that he is an excellent character.

The film itself is very slick and stylish, whilst also staying humble throughout and the characters are written very well indeed. The dark comedy throughout and the writing is superb, and other that the invincibility thing, I couldn’t really find anything wrong with “He Never Died”.

Definitely recommended.