Archive for August, 2016

Talking to your father is like talking to a rock!

Year Released : 2015lx8j8fax
Director : Rodrigo Garcia
Cast : Ewan McGregor, Ciaran Hinds, Tye Sheridan and Ayelet Zurer

Now I am going to start this off by stating that I am not religious. I do not follow any faith and whilst I believe that there probably was a person called Jesus at around this time 2000 years ago, I don’t believe that he was a son of a theoretical deity, and that he was simply a man that was so far ahead of his time that the only explanation that people could come up with is that he was divinely touched. That’s my opinion.

The reason I mention this is that I have no idea if the story of Jesus’s interacting with a family in the desert is in the Bible or not, I have no interest in really finding out and the only reason I mention this is that if anyone is overly religious reads this, nothing I say is designed to offend you, so please don’t take my beliefs or review of a film as an attempt at causing upset.

But anyway, regardless of religious beliefs, I am not put off at all from watching films featuring religious characters if the story is decent enough, and the trailer for “Last Days in the Desert” got me intrigued enough to watch the film, and so I sit here in anticipation of not being entirely sure what type of film I’m about to watch.

Plot

Yeshua (McGregor – just for clarity, the character is only ever referred to by this name, and not Jesus) is making his way to Jerusalem after a lengthy fast in the desert. Despite being hungry, Yeshua is otherwise fine physically, but he is haunted by visions of the Devil (also McGregor), who goads him along the way about his poor relationship with his father.  After a few days Yeshua meets a young man (Sheridan) and agrees with his father (Hinds) to work in exchange for water and shelter. They are building a house for the young man, simply known as “Son”, whilst also caring for “Mother” (Zurer).

“Son” reveals that whilst he is happy to help build the house, he doesn’t want to stay there as he wants to see the world, but his father is adamant that he should stay and build a community with his parents. The devil eventually reveals to Yeshua that “Son” is the result of an affair that “Mother” had, unbeknowst to “Father”.

As time goes on Yeshua becomes friends with the family, but his becomes morally conflicted when “Son” starts to become more active in his desire to leave, which eventually causes an accidental tragedy.

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Is it a religious film?

Whilst the story obviously revolves around a religious figure, I wouldn’t really class this as a religious movie as it’s about one man’s moral conundrum and dealing with an evil presence. Take away the character’s name and this could have just been a very normal, generally enjoyable drama film.

All of that being said, this has to have had one of the most needless and pointless endings that I’ve ever seen in a film. The final shot, which I’m going to spoil, even though it isn’t really a spoiler, is of two men overlooking the desert that the film has been set in, and taking pictures of each other. It takes you completely out of the preceding 90odd minutes of your life, and there isn’t a single justifiable reason for ending a film that was otherwise very well done in such a manner.

However, that is the only major negative that I can think of for “Last Days in the Desert”. It’s not a blockbuster style film, but it’s rather the type that I love, a character driven piece. There are only five characters in the film (well, ones that have any lines or aren’t taking pictures of themselves), but you get to know these five characters relatively well, and for me the most interesting one was that of the Devil. The reason for that is that whilst he is trying to antagonise Yeshua, he reveals his weariness with everything and how eternity has become boring in it’s predictable nature. This presented an interesting side to a character that I thought I was easily going to be able to predict.

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He was one of many parts that surprised me about the film, not least of which is that it isn’t overly preachy, if preachy at all. You’ve got Jeshua and the Devil occasionally referencing God, but other than that there isn’t a lot of religious stuff going on, hence the comment earlier about even though the central character is a religious icon, you don’t feel like it’s a film driven by religion.

Acting wise everyone is pretty solid, everyone is very competent and you believe all of the characters because of the respective performances, even if there is one bizarre scene in which “Son” farts and Jeshua starts laughing, which was strange beyond belief. McGregor’s role as the Devil is pretty interesting given it’s the antithesis of the other character he’s playing, and the two look exactly the same in terms of style and clothing, so it’s an interesting method of portraying two very different characters, but McGregor nails it.

The pacing is excellent for the film that it’s trying to be, and the soundtrack aids in this. Don’t get into the movie expecting 100mph action, suspense or thrills. It is a very slow film, so much to the point where there are long spells in which nothing is being said or done by anyone.

Last Days in the Desert Ewan McGregor sitting by the river

Summary

A film featuring religious characters that isn’t overly religious is a breath of fresh air, and whilst the film is approvedvery slow in parts, I found myself enjoying it for the near 100 minute run time. I think that you can enjoy this regardless of whether you’re religious or not, and I get the feeling that it has a relatively low IMDB rating because the Christian community didn’t get the exact story that they wanted.

It’s not perfect by any stretch, and I still for the life of me can’t figure out why they included a shot of people taking pictures right at the end, but it’s not the first time I’ve seen such a stupid decision in a film.

I would recommend “Last Days in the Desert” if you’re into character driven films, but if you don’t then don’t bother as you’ll end up very disappointed.

Thirty-three men, trapped underground, and we don’t even know if they are alive?

Year Released : 2016The_33_(film)_poster
Director : Patricia Riggen
Cast : Antonio Banderas, Rodrigo Santoro, Juliette Binoche, James Brolin, Juan Pablo Raba, Kate del Castillo, Jacob Vargas, Cote de Pablo and Bob Gunton.

Right at the beginning of 2016 I moved to the city of Leeds and transferred from one cinema in a certain multiplex chain to another. The new cinema had 13 screens and this allowed more space for them to show smaller films, and therefore I was delighted, if a little surprised, when “The 33” was going to be shown.

Now whilst “The 33” did relatively well in America, it was practically non-existent in my native UK, and the fact that I was the only person in the screen (and one of only three people who went to watch it all week) should tell it’s own story, but I had been looking forward to “The 33” for some time.

Please bare in mind that this is more than likely going to be a much shorter review than usual given that it’s several months since I saw this, and I haven’t had the chance to rewatch it yet. The only reason I am reviewing it now is that my internet at home isn’t working and therefore I can’t watch new films online (and there are none on TV that interest me at the moment), and I’m reviewing this on my phone.

Plot

In 2010 a group of miners went to work in the San Jose mine in Chile. It started off as a normal day for each of them, with some having a normal day, others coping with drinking disorders and another having a very troubled relationship with his sister, but little did they all know that there were discussions going on as they entered the mine about how it was so dangerous.

The owner ignores all of the warnings but he is soon horrified as the largest rock in the mountain collapses, trapping 33 men under ground with a limited supply of air, food and water. Mario (Banderas) appoints himself leader of the group, but he struggles to keep morale up as no-one knows for sure if they are going to be rescued.

Meanwhile, several miles away, Laurence Golborne (Santoro) convinces President Piñera (Gunton) to allow him to mount a rescue, but when he gets down there he not only has to deal with the already troublesome situation of how to get the miners out, but also the gathering families outside of the gates and how he rarely has positive news for them.

Can Laurence get them out in time?

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So did it deserve more attention?

In my opinion, most definitely. It has an excellent cast, lead by the ever dependable Rodrigo Santoro (more on him in a minute), a storyline that gets you hooked and best of all, it’s pretty much all factual. I remember watching the news way back in 2010 when this incident was going on and whilst you had other things going on in the world, the miners trapped underground kept me hooked to the television, and the film did the same.

Now I’m not going to sit here and claim that it’s a masterpiece, and it does suffer from the obvious and unavoidable issue that anything based on well-known events has done previously, and that is that you already know what is going to happen. Similar to most films based on major historical events, it’s hard to get truly invested because you know what is going to happen at the end, but ultimately the issue isn’t really that big in this due to the story telling.

The filmmakers do a great job of capturing the many layers to this film, such as how the miners are keeping motivated in the mine, their distrust of each other with a limited supply of food and water, how the families are interacting with Laurence, and how he also tries desperately to overcome all of the negativity to get the men out of the mine, and that is so interesting to watch because of the portrayal from Rodrigo Santoro.

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Those who have read my site in the past will know that I am a big fan of Santoro, and two of his films have featured in my Top 10 for the year at one point or another in 2016 (this and “Jane Got a Gun”). He was also arguably the main antagonist in my second favourite film of last year, Focus (you can see my full top 10 here). Rodrigo controls any scene he is in and this is no different.

You feel the characters anguish as he wants to help in many different ways, but is restricted by guidelines and safety issues, and he faces an internal battle to keep his own positivity up in difficult circumstances. His is a very different type of performance to those trapped underground, and with no disrespect to any of the actors who played the miners, I found the above ground scenes more interesting.

That isn’t to say that the scenes in the mine are bad, not in the slightest. With thirty-three characters in that situation you’re obviously not going to get to know everyone, but the film tries it’s hardest to get as many covered as possible and it relatively succeeds.

As I said earlier, the only real problem that “The 33” has is that the edge is taken off by the fact that you know what’s going to happen when you go in, but that still didn’t stop me from enjoying this, and as mentioned a few paragraphs ago, it was in my Top 10 for the year so far at one point (although it’s since been replaced).

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Summary

An enjoyable drama that keeps you engrossed in what is going on, and Rodrigo Santoro unsurprisingly shines in his role. Surely it’s only a matter of time before he gets the lead in a major Hollywood film, approvedrather than just a bit part player?

“The 33” is an excellent film and whilst it stretches a bit at times, it is still a great watch and I would definitely recommend it. Don’t get in expecting action and scenes moving at a fast pace, it is a character based film and is mainly dialogue based.

If you go in expecting an edge of your seat drama, or something to be constantly happening, then you’re going to be disappointed. However, if you go in with the correct expectation levels then you should be absolutely fine.

 

I would have thought that putting a child in hospital whilst high on coke might have made you grow up a bit!

Year Released : 2016Bachelor-Games-2016
Director : Edward McGown
Cast : Charlie Bewley, Jack Doolan, Jack Gordon, Mike Noble and Obi Abili

So whilst I’m working on tidying up the site a bit (working on a few old reviews and adding more features….for example, notice the Facebook link to the left of the page), I took the time to watch and review another this, “Bachelor Games”.

I decided to watch it not knowing a lot going in, and let’s face it, it is one of the less interesting movie posters that you’ve ever seen, but what is lacks in some areas, it’ll hopefully make up for in others. I’m not even entirely sure what genre it is, I’m going to guess horror, and I love a good old Brit-horror……having said that I am British so that’s not exactly a stretch is it?

Hopefully I’ll be returning to reviewing on a semi-regular basis again soon, so this should be the first of many to come in a relatively quick succession (well, compared to normal anyway)

Plot

Leon (Bewley) has decided to Mexico for his stag do with friends Terence (Doolan), Roy (Noble), Max (Abili) and best man Henry (Gordon). The lads have a long trip planned, and after a night of drinking, Henry convinces them to climb a mountain. Terence wakes up to find his watch missing and is the first to drop out when the heat gets too much.

The remaining members of the group hear about a legend of a man, known as “The Hunter”, who had his head cut off by his rival, but they just laugh it off. The group continues up the trail until they find a pink polo shirt covered in blood stains, the shirt worn by Terence when he walked off. The group quickly starts disappearing and Henry retreats into a cave, only to be cornered by “The Hunter”. He successfully manages to stab “The Hunter”, but it turns out to be nothing more than Terence in disguise, and it is revealed to have been a plan by Leon to get back at Henry for sleeping with his fiance.

With the group at breaking point, they start heading back to the hotel before finding their guide (who had previously run off) dangling from a tree. They cut him down, but he is quickly taken down by an arrow, and the group realises that there is a very genuine threat out there.

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A decent film or a forgettable foray?

“Bachelor Games” is never going to be one of those films that is going to be remembered for long than a few days after it’s initially watched. It’s not a bad film by any stretch and as I write this I am still debating whether to give it the approved badge or not, which just shows that it’s not bad at all.

I’m going to start with my one main negative from the film and that is the fact that the very first scene is Leon in a police interrogation room, and he talks about how it wasn’t supposed to go the way he did. Whilst it’s good at setting a scene for what you might be about to see for the next 80something minutes of your life, it takes any real tension out of any scene in which the character is on the cusp of death. You know he survives before you’ve even started.

That doesn’t really weaken the character though and the characters are relatively well written. The good thing about having a small cast is that you have a great chance to develop your characters and in an 85 minute run time, you learn a lot about quite a few of them. For example, you learn that Terence is a drug addict, Roy very jealous about the careers and opportunities that the others have, Max is basically always on edge and is a walking ball of rage, Leon definitely has a dark and angry side, and Henry, well, is just Henry. You’re constantly learning new things about each of the characters, and that is refreshing.

Overall there isn’t really a lot to say about “Bachelor Games”, and this is one of the shortest reviews I think I’ve ever written, but it’s definitely one of those films that you can just sit back, watch and not really have to think about things too much.

Summary

After what I am pretty sure is the shortest review I’ve written for this site, I have decided to give it the approvedapproved stamp, simply because I can’t really think of that many genuine reasons not to.

Whilst the fact that you know Leon survives before the film has even properly started, it doesn’t disengage you from the film overall, and there is something to be said for that.

Don’t get in expecting the best film in the world,it’s not that much better than average, but it’s a decent enough way to spend 80odd minutes of your time.

These two came in loving each other, but the first to wake up will kill the other and not know why!

Year Released : 2016Pandemic_Poster
Director : John Suits
Cast : Rachel Nicholas, Alfie Allen, Mekhi Phifer, Missi Pylke and Paul Guilfoyle

You’ve got to admire when a film tries something that is relatively new, even in a genre that you’ve personally got a bit tired of, and that is exactly what has happened with “Pandemic”, a zombie/infection film that is trying the gimmick of filming in first person, without seeming like a found-footage style film.

I’ve personally grown very tired of both the zombie and found-footage style genres in recent years, both are cliched to death and long term readers may notice that I don’t really bother with either anymore, or at least reviewing them, but with “Pandemic” I feel the need to watch is because at least it’s taking a different approach to things.

Where what it seems matches reality is a very different question though…..

Plot

A viral epidemic has swept the world and left only very small pockets of survivors. Rebecca (McNicholas) has just arrived at the Los Angeles survival camp after being present for New York’s falling, and she is quickly assigned as the doctor in a team that is being sent out to rescue a bunch of survivors.

She is assigned Gunner (Phifer), who is desperately trying to find his wife, Denise (Pyle), and Wheeler (Allen), an ex-con, however, Rebecca is herself hiding that she isn’t actually a doctor at all and has lied so that she can find her daughter. The group struggle to stay alive on the streets of LA from not only those that are already at Stage 4 and above of the infection, but those that are at stage one and have just been infected.

As time goes on Rebecca struggles to hide that she isn’t a doctor, something that is made even more difficult when her team start getting badly wounded and she doesn’t know what to do, but can she still defy the odds and find her daughter?

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So does the gimmick word for the genre?

Basically “Pandemic” is no different than any other zombie/viral infection film, with the exception of it’s got the gimmick of being largely first-person, with a few third person scenes thrown in here and there, but this gimmick does not make it a good film, not even close. I feel that with the right film, first person (and not in a found footage style way) in the horror genre could definitely word with the right film, but “Pandemic” is not that film, not even close.

Gimmicks in films only work if the film is actually good to begin with. For example, the found footage genre has some very, very strong entries, such as the first two films in the [REC] franchise, but largely they’re a pile of crap because they all copy each other, and it’s basically a breeding ground for desperate actors to try and get noticed by falling into arguably the most cliched sub-genre of films.

It’s not even as if the acting in “Pandemic” is bad because each of the actors does a reasonable job, but there is only so far that you can go with what they’re given, and unfortunately they have been given something painfully generic and not very well thought out. For example, the character of Wheeler is probably the most interesting and is the most morally grey of the group, and yet it’s barely touched on at all. It would have been good to see him developed more than he was, even if he is in the film for the majority.

I think the problem is that they focus on the character of Rebecca/Lauren far too much and ultimately she is just a walking set of cliches, and as soon as you find out that she is looking for her daughter, you know that chances are that she is going to find her. I’m not even considering that a spoiler because try and think of the last film you saw in which a main character said that and didn’t find their son/daughter by the end of that film….I bet you can’t.

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Infact, I don’t do this often but I’m going to end this by talking about a major plot hole that happens towards the end of the film. You can skip to the rest of the review by scrolling down to the summary section, but I can’t avoid talking about the ending because it’s stupid.

So here we go (final spoiler warning). The film ends with Rebecca finding her daughter and realising that she is infected. She wants to get her back to base so that she can be treated.

She and her daughter eventually make it back to the base, but by now Rebecca’s daughter is actually wearing the biological contamination suit and the soldiers shoot Rebecca as they believe her to be infected. They message over the radio to the main doctor and he allows Rebecca’s daughter to come into the facility, although he doesn’t know that she isn’t actually Rebecca (who he actually thinks is called Lauren), nor that she is infected. Rebecca dies happily in the knowledge that her daughter is safe.

Now whilst that may sound like a happy ending, it isn’t. Rebecca was clearly told by the base’s lead doctor that the only people that they will allow back into the base are her, the other team members, the team that they’re trying to rescue and any uninfected survivors. Whilst the doctor initially believes that Rebecca’s daughter is actually her, as soon as he realises it’s not, more than likely before he’s about to administer the toxins (which he has already said he will only do for her) he is either going to kill the daughter, or put her in the research facility so that she can be monitored and tested before she reaches the final stage.

What Rebecca has actually done is condemn her daughter to misery for the final few days/weeks before she eventually turns, something which she must have known. There is no way that the doctor was going to allow her daughter on the site as she was already infected, something that has been made clear to her.

Right, spoiler over.

Summary

“Pandemic” tried something new and had a decent enough quality in terms of acting, but it sadly lacks in other areas and has a stupid ending.

I wouldn’t quite say that this is a missed opportunity, but there is something to be said for the first person genre (in a non-found footage style) that means that it could potentially be big in the future, but “Pandemic” isn’t the pioneer it more than likely hopes it would be.

It’s not awful, but it’s definitely not great.

So recently I haven’t posted many reviews, and there are a few reasons for this. One is that I have moved, and another is that I am currently in the process of trying to lose around 5 stone (70 pounds for those who don’t use stones as a weight measurement), meaning that I spend a lot of my spare time (of which there isn’t much) at the gym, and that my laptop is a bit dodgy at the moment, but the main one is that there just aren’t that many films that I’m interested in watching.

For those that haven’t read my site before, I don’t review mainstream films. Granted,there are the odd ones here and there that are mainstream that I have reviewed, such as “The Fly” and “The Thing”, but they were for a purpose during my run of reviewing a film every day in October 2015 leading up to Halloween (which I won’t be repeating this year)

After watching “Men and Chicken” and reviewing it a few nights ago, I was in the mood to watch another and review it, but I couldn’t find anything that I was particularly interested in. I’m struggling to be honest, but I don’t want that to impact the site on a long term and so I’m going to do what I did last year and that is reveal the five mainstream films that are coming out soon that I’m looking forward to, and more importantly, ones that I don’t think a lot of people, especially in my native England, will know about yet.

So based on that, here are the five films that are coming out within the near(ish) future that I am excited about. Please note that I won’t really be talking about them, just posting the trailers and the odd comment here and there.

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

I never thought I’d get excited by a movie that has Kristen Stewart in it, but thankfully her role looks to be a small one.

“Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” looks like it follows Ang Lee’s trend of brilliant visuals and great story telling.

 

Hell or High Water

Chris Pine and Ben Foster, need I say more?

 

Imperium

Say what you want about Daniel Radcliffe, he is a very promising young actor and his choice of roles since the Harry Potter franchise has not only been varied, but also very flexible. He has played a man who grew horns on his head (Horns), the son of a former billionaire seeking revenge (Now You See Me 2) and a farting corpse (Swiss Army Man).

Now he appears in the very different “Imperium”, which looks to be the best movie about Neo-Nazism since “American History X”.

 

The Light Between Oceans

Much like “The Danish Girl”, this does look like a film that is desperately trying to be Oscar-bait, but it looks very good and morally complex.

 

Split

It’s safe to say that M. Night Shyamalan has had a mixed career so far. He started off exceptionally well with films such as Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, but his efforts more recently have not been that good, but I still have high hopes for this horror film.

From the trailers you are left under no illusions what the film is about, and you realise that with 23 personalities to work with, this is a true test of James McAvoy’s acting chops.