Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Review Pet Sematary (2019)

#PetSematary (2019): 6/10

Based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name, Pet Sematary follows a young family as they relocate to a property situated in the vicinity of an eerie cemetery in the woods. The 2019 film has been changed in places when compared with the 1989 original film but the basic premise of the story remains the same.

Jason Clarke (‘Mudbound’) plays Louis the husband, who quickly befriends neighbour Jud on arrival at their new home, played by the brilliant John Lithgow (‘3rd Rock From The Sun’), whom also has a soft spot for Louis’s daughter Ellie (Jeté Laurence). The film sets the scene at a good pace and allows us to get to know the family in a little more depth. Amy Seimetz (‘Stranger Things’) does a great job of portraying Louis’s wife Rachel, who is constantly tormented by thoughts surrounding the death of her sister, and as such, is not so keen to talk about death around her kids. Jeté Laurence (‘The Americans’) also lays on a very assured and mature performance for such a young age as daughter Ellie.

And yet the film as a whole still feels rather unremarkable. Not in a bad way, just rather generic. Pet Sematary sometimes relies on jump-scares for its kicks when it doesn’t really need to, although it does make for an intense few minutes, particularly during Rachel’s freakish flashbacks. 2017’s ‘IT’, based on another famous Stephen King novel, set the bar high and gave us something a bit different in the horror genre. Unfortunately Pet Sematary never reaches those same heights. Overall though, it’s still a decent chiller, is wickedly creepy in places with some good performances, and for horror enthusiasts will do enough to please.

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Monday, July 13, 2020

Review Mid90s (2018)

#Mid90s (2018): 7/10

Mid90s follows Stevie (Sunny Suljic), a thirteen-year-old boy growing up in Los Angeles who befriends a group of skateboarders during the summer break, much to the displeasure of his mother, played by Katherine Waterston (‘Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them’). This is a coming-of-age comedy drama from first time director Jonah Hill, who draws on his own experiences of growing up in the same era.

The film is shot entirely on 16mm film which, coupled with the effects over the film’s picture, makes for an intimate 90’s feel. Stevie quickly befriends the skateboarding crew and is introduced to a whole host of life’s “pleasures”, including alcohol and the opposite sex, experiences that his brother Ian (Lucas Hedges) and overprotective mother look to shield him from, an occurrence many of us will have had as youngsters.

Mid90s is edgy, cool. It really captures the essence of the 90’s with its laid back and minimalistic approach to hang-out’s at the shop and house parties. It feels less like a film and more like real life with each passing minute. Each of the skateboarding crew members plays their part well, with a great central performance from Suljic. The musical numbers come thick and fast, each Hill’s own choices, which really compliment the film itself. Overall, an encouraging debut feature.

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Sunday, July 12, 2020

Review Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (2015)

#ScoutsGuideToTheZombieApocalypse (2015): 7/10

Scouts Guide stars Tye Sheridan (‘Ready Player One’), Logan Miller (‘Love, Simon’) and newcomer Joey Morgan as three long-time school friends who are also part of a scouts club, a club two of the friends wish to distance themselves from in order to appeal to the opposite sex. It’s a plot idea that is very relatable to any school kid of a similar age, or anyone who has been through school, complete with those awkward conversations with the girls you really desire the most.

The opening scene of the film really sets the tone for the film, with a really quite hilarious rendition of ‘Black Widow’ by the school janitor, played by Blake Anderson (‘Game Over, Man’). In fact, the film has a spring in its step throughout, and doesn’t get bogged down in intricate details of where the zombie virus originated from or how it has made its way into a local laboratory. It just gets stuck in with some good old fashioned fun. Think ‘Superbad’ meets ‘Shaun Of The Dead’.

All three of the friends bring something to the table, with the chemistry working well as a collective unit; they really feel like friends. A side story develops involving one of the gang looking to muster up the courage to speak to a girl he’s liked for some time. Unfortunately on this occasion, that girl is also his friend’s sister! Much like ‘Shaun Of The Dead’, Scouts Guide also boasts a bangin’ soundtrack. Add some outrageous tongue-in-cheek guts and gore to boot, and you’ve got yourself a very entertaining zombie flick with a slight twist on previous efforts.

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Saturday, July 11, 2020

Review Shazam! (2019)

#Shazam (2019): 6/10

Shazam! is DC’s latest attempt to break the mould and try something a bit different and new. Billy Batson (Asher Angel) is chosen as champion and entrusted with god-like powers and must stop Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong), who has taken the Eye Of Envy containing the power and spirits of the Seven Deadly Sins, but in truth Billy is more concerned with finding his estranged mother whom he lost as a child.

Anyone who has seen the trailer will already know what to expect from Zachary Levi (‘Chuck’) as the film’s more adult Billy Batson. He provides most of the film’s energy and wit, and is impressive in the role. There are a plethora of neat pop culture references too, with many aimed at other DC icons, although at times the tone of these scenes does teeter on the edge of silliness.

It’s the story of “young” Billy finding himself and his relationship with his foster family that proves the real charm of the film. Asher Angel (‘Andi Mack’) is endearing as the younger Billy, fed up of the foster system as he continues to be thrown from one family to the other, and untrusting of those around him. Billy warms to his new foster family, just as we do. All play their part and are great throughout, in particular foster brother Freddy, played by Jack Dylan Grazer, who has great on-screen chemistry with both Billy actors. When looking to cast a worthy villain though, Mark Strong probably wouldn’t be at the top of your wish list. After roles in comedy films such as ‘Grimsby’ and ‘Kingsman’ where he really brought something to the film, his performance here feels largely underwhelming and generic.

Overall, it’s a mixed bag. A film that is charming when it wants to be, quick-witted in some places, silly in others. It’s a refreshing change from the relentless Marvel production line though, which can only be a good thing. Be sure to stick around for a double helping of post credit scenes.

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Friday, July 10, 2020

Review The Front Runner (2018)

#TheFrontRunner (2018): 6/10

The Front Runner was directed by Jason Reitman (‘Thank You For Smoking’, ‘Juno’), and tells the story of Gary Hart’s presidential campaign in 1988 which took a disastrous turn, all captured in the book from which the film is based, “All The Truth Is Out” by Matt Bai.

The film does take a little time to settle and for the plot to establish exactly what is going on and who is who, but once the film is in full swing it’s a captivating watch. Hugh Jackman is terrific, but then when is he not? His charisma and confidence shine through. J.K. Simmons is once again at his snappy best as campaign manager Bill Dixon, but feels under-utilised. In fact many of the side-characters feel underdeveloped, making it difficult to really feel invested in them and their role within the film. We would’ve liked to have seen more from Vera Farmiga (‘The Conjuring’ film series) also, who takes on the role of Hart’s wife Lee.

The screenplay almost feels like it’s split in half; the first showing Hart and his sensational rise in popularity, gathering momentum, the second almost a polar opposite, as the media frenzy brings the campaign to its knees, not only affecting Hart’s wife and daughter but also his aides and campaign volunteers; the family and lady involved in the affair in particular smothered by the claustrophobic feeling of constant media attention.

The Front Runner is probably not as riveting as Reitman believes it to be, but serves as a thought-provoking and an intriguing foray into the world of American politics, particularly for those that have no prior knowledge of the presidential campaign system nor the history of this remarkable series of events.

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Thursday, July 9, 2020

Review The Dark Tower (2017)

#TheDarkTower (2017): 5/10

The Dark Tower is based on the novel series by Stephen King, and stars Idris Elba (‘Luthor’) as the mysterious Gunslinger, sworn to protect the Tower, and Matthew McConaughey (‘Interstellar’) as the positively evil Man in Black, who hatches a plan to bring the Dark Tower crashing down.

The film had been in production hell for a number of years prior to its release, finally landing at Sony, who clearly saw the project as the beginnings of a possible film franchise, but with the runtime clocking in at a measly 94 minutes, there’s little time to really introduce or explore the realm of Mid-World and flesh out its history, making it difficult to really feel invested in it. Aside from the Gunslinger and Jake, a young boy on the run from the Man in Black’s accomplices, many of the characters share the same fate, with little or no explanation into their character. What we’re left with is a fantasy film that feels rushed and thrown together.

The role of the Man in Black isn’t a particularly testing one for McConaughey, who mostly coasts through his performance. Idris Elba gives us a deep and meaningful performance, but there’s no weight behind his feelings of vengeance toward the Man in Black. Save for short dream sequence involving the two, there is no real base for the pair’s relationship, which makes for an anticlimactic finale.

The Dark Tower is a passable film, but almost forgettable, which is a shame. There’s no reason why it couldn’t have become the next big film universe for avid cinemagoers to really get invested in, but just like ‘Mortal Engines’, it never really feels carefully thought out, the studio thinking five or ten steps ahead without being sure to get the first, most important step right first.

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Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Review The Mule (2018)

#TheMule (2018): 6/10

Clint Eastwood directs and stars in The Mule, a film inspired by a World War II veteran in the 1980’s, who became the world’s oldest and most prolific drug mule for the Sinaloa Cartel. The film marks the second collaboration between Eastwood and writer Nick Schenk after ‘Gran Torino’.

Eastwood and Schenk do well to make the story captivating but not too unbelievable. Eastwood’s character Earle is infectious and dry-witted, a charming man who is instantly likeable and interesting to follow. His charm does not appear work on his family as well however due to his constant neglect of his duties as a father, grandfather and husband, instead treating to his precious crop of lilies and travelling the country.

Bradley Cooper (‘A Star Is Born’) and Michael Pena (‘Ant-Man And The Wasp’) are along for the ride as wisecracking DEA agents desperate for a bust. In truth though, this part of the plot feels a little disjointed from the rest to begin with; the DEA’s attempts to crack down on drug smuggling in the area doesn’t seem to fit in with the slow-burn chill of Earle’s journey, but as the story unfolds, it becomes clear that their paths will inevitably cross.

Not the most exhilarating film you’re likely to see in 2019 for sure, but The Mule is a touching tale of one man trying to reconnect with his estranged loved ones before it’s too late, with a little drama and dash of cheekiness thrown in for good measure. Worth a watch.

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