Pet Semetary (2019) Review

So there I was, gripping the edge of my seat watching in horror as a slow moving nightmare began to reach it’s inevitable nailbiting climax of terror after a slow buildup and just before the final act reached its crescendo and I began to believe that I would make it to the end credits with a few fingernails intact when….

A bunch of naked climate change protesters glued themselves to the House of Common’s glass-walled public gallery and then didn’t quite seem to know what to do with themselves. At which point I decided to stop watching the Brexit negotiations and go the cinema and watch an actual horror movie instead.

Because sleep is over-rated.

And just by luck, I had tickets to an advanced screening of Pet Semetary! From the pen of horror maestro Stephen King. Wait…. it’s not seriously called Semetary with an S is it? Oh that’s great. Now this review is going to be full of red wiggly lines.

Bu back to dead pet place and we find Dr. Louis Creed and his wife, Rachel, relocating from Boston to rural Maine with their two young children to have a slower pace of life. The couple soon discover a mysterious burial ground hidden deep in the woods near their new home and things go from bad to worse very, very quickly.

Now, the producers have expressed regret over the second trailer which apparently spoils the whole film but since I avoid trailers (especially horror trailers) like the plague I wouldn’t know.

But, I wouldn’t have thought there was much to spoil after the first thirty seconds which needs to go. Instantly, immediately, without hesitation or reservation it has to go. But leaving that aside, this is a pretty threadbare film. I mean it’s the kind of plot that only functions if everyone wasn’t either an idiot or incapable of holding an actual conversation with someone else. I’ve seen more dialogue in films staring Ryan Gosling!

Seriously, an actual conversation at any point in the first two thirds of this film would have stopped this. Which, isn’t a good thing, even for horror. A genre which traditionally relies on people making stupid decisions (a trope which was utterly destroyed by the amazing Cabin in the Woods) which, with a few tweaks this could almost be a prequel to.

Because yes, in the cinema I was scared and became very fascinated with my watch which is normally a good thing but at about the halfway point I twigged that this film only has about three scares which it repeats ad nauseum to the law of diminishing returns. Certain ‘creepy’ sets looked pretty cheap and very set-like which didn’t help. And I give certain props to the film for not having it’s finale become inadvertently hilarious but it was clear that the film had passed it’s peak and was heading downhill.

Also, for a film which the BBFC claims has “strong bloody violence, gore, threat” it seems pretty tame. Almost as if the film was intended to be a hard 12a and was cut down in anticipation of that certificate. What gore there is, is cut away from pretty quickly when it could have been allowed to go a little further to truly earn it’s certificate.

It’s made a few changes from the book, all of which are to the films benefit but it still feels pretty thin. Non of the characters really get any development making it hard to care about any of them when their in danger. More and more I realize that this film fell back on familiar horror tropes. Creepy looking kids? Check. Loud noises at night? Check. Events set during Halloween? Check. I’m not fully convinced that this wasn’t supposed to be some sort of black comedy with horror elements were it not for the fact that i’m certain the laughs that rippled through my screening weren’t always supposed to be there.

Treat Pet Memorial Place as a schlocky horror film. It’s got nothing to say about life, and the universe and ten minutes off the run-time (especially in a slowish moving first half) would have been only to the films benefit  but I went in, was scared then left and wasn’t anymore.

In other words,

My Score- If Nothing Else 

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Happy Death Day 2 You Review

Dunkers I’m used to having my heart broken on Valentines day but by Blumhouse? My favorite live-action studio in the whole, wide world? The studio that brought us the Venom film we all deserved in Upgrade? Who’s business model of making films on tiny million dollar budgets means that a wonderful, amazing break from CGI super-blockbusters is never too far away. Hell, their even allegedly bringing the DARK UNIVERSE back to life with an allegedly low budget, small focus, no stars 18 rated film in the pipeline. Aka EXACTLY WHAT THEY SHOULD HAVE DONE IN THE FIRST PLACE.

But back to today and I find myself being put through Happy Death Day 2U Death Harder which is a sequel to 2017’s Happy Death Day which is basically Groundhog day meeting a slasher film, a pretty solid film which needs about a sequel about as much as well…. Groundhog day.

Because where is there to go with a sequel? Either you retread old ground by either forcing the character to go through another looping day or you switch to another character and have them relive the same day over and over again.

Happily though this film decides to go for option three and completely flips genres on us. So instead of having to sit though a pointless sequel about another killer after our heroine, we get a pointless sequel that presents and then ignores a fascinating idea about how this time loop are destroying the universe and our cast should do something about it by killing themselves forever, instead opting to punt our heroine into a parallel universe where she has to relive the first film whilst debating whether she should return home or stay where fate has dumped her…

Except the killers different and all the people that we came to know over the first film have different relationships and personalities because different universe. Except we aren’t focusing on finding our new killer, we’re instead focusing on…erm….

Actually, what the hell are we focusing on?

I mean there is the thread about Tree (our alleged heroine)trying to get home by utilizing some wibbly, wobbly timey wimey device straight out of a middling episode of Doctor Who but where the first was a very tight, very simple film, this film is baggy and seems very plot light. I confess I did enjoy some some the death scenes but that’s very thin gruel when I can go to any Final Destination or Saw movie or even Death Day 1 and watch people die in interesting ways.

The dialogue isn’t as good, the characters aren’t as interesting, the film (even though it”s a mere 4 minutes longer) doesn’t really seem to have any idea what to do with itself. I get wanting to go back to the well but sometimes you should just leave be.

At the end of the day, Happy Death Day 2: Death Harder  is trying to do something more than simply retreading the first one but when you open with the idea of the universe decaying because of the events of the prior and current film and then do nothing beyond another time loop film without little hints that the universe is decaying and that time is therefore running out to fix this just seems maddening. Imagine the possibilities!

And yes, the thread that Trees body is retaining the damage it’s accumulating thanks to the repeated deaths and therefore she’s getting weaker every loop is continued but wasted. Put her in a wheelchair, a cast, have her wake up missing a leg, a hand, an eye – SOMETHING to show that she’s decaying but, instead it’s just one random trip to the hospital and then off we go. And yes, there is still the mystery of who the killer is (and they do do something slightly interesting with it) but it’s just off to the sideline and is solved pretty much by accident and very little fanfare.

If this was a CW show (which it seems to aspire to want to be,) this would be one of the episodes they throw together when the budgets running low, but this isn’t a TV episode, it’s a feature film made by one of the most innovate studios out there. A sequel with no reason to exist as it has very little to say. It’s not completely hopeless, but it’s the weakest film that I’ve seen Blumhouse put out and i’m not looking forward to the already in production part 3 in the slightest.

My Score- Skip It

Death Note Review

Having worked in retail for more years than I care to imagine, the chance to kill anyone whose name I know and face I can picture seems like a tempting idea. Although unlike the main character presented here, I would be less avenging angel and more old testament God.

I would differ in other, more subtle, ways as well. For example I would use an ancient mystical ability called ‘acting’ to convey my emotions, thoughts and feelings as opposed alternating between looking at all times like i’m about to burst into tears or screaming.

Another difference would be me asking why one of the major characters is never in shot. A case could be made that it’s to do with keeping an air of mystery and menace and that any character voiced by Willem Dafoe and has two glowing red eyes is inherently scary enough. But, then when you do get a clear look at Ryuk you realize that it could be because he looks about as realistic as a villain of the week in an early episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

As is, they both appear to have a similar budget. Although episodes of Buffy had much, much better, writing, plot, characters and played with cliches instead of embracing them.

Hell, even the original Buffy film didn’t feel as rushed or full of hackneyed characters.

But I hung in there, thinking that there might be some interesting ideas coming up, justice versus vengeance, do you have the right to play God and what happens if you make a mistake?

Instead, Sherlock Holmes tuns up, determined to track down the main character and I knew that whatever charms, or ideas or clever moments this film had were gone. Instead it was just a race to the bottom in a bid to see if this was bad as Dragonball Evolution which it isn’t (by a whisker).

Because this does have some nice shots and atmosphere but since I’ve never read the manga or seen the anime I don’t know if these are original shots and atmosphere or just copies. And how this got an 18 rating is beyond me. It plays out like a 12a film except maybe two or three times someone covers themselves in tomato ketchup and everyone pretends that they’ve dies in some horrific manner.

And if you can’t tell exactly whats going to happen and when, then i’m going to assume that you haven’t seen a lot of films.

It has themes that it doesn’t develop and tries to cram in a hell of a lot of lore into a single film. It’s not menacing, or scary or thought provoking in any way shape or form. It might turn into a minor cult classic but it’s not bad enough to develop that much of a following.

Recast the main character, calm down and develop your ideas and characters a bit more and this might have been salvageable.

As is?

My Score- Skip It 

Baby Driver Review

 

Coming out of my screening I heard another audience member say that ‘fast and the furious is dead. Too much green screen and it got too silly, this film is the madness’. And I agree completely, because yes, I had a ton a jokes about fast and furious reboots and how vin now has hair but why would I silly this, this masterpiece with comparisons to that beached whale of a franchise? Because this is light years beyond fast and the furious.

Imagine the film that you thought drive was going to be, then throw in the verve, swagger, attitude, soundtrack and sunglasses of The Blues Brothers, throw in a spark of madness and your pretty much at Baby Driver.

Edgar wright has truly made his masterpiece in a film that far surpasses the ice cream trilogy.

Taking the relatively simple story of criminal meets girl, criminal has to do one last job, last job goes sideways, allies and enemies shift… you may think you know the drill but there’s enough twists in the tale to keep you entertained throughout.

Special credit has to go to the cast , from Lily James as the love interest, to Keiza Soz… I mean frank Underwood as a mob boss, even Jaime Foxx- attempting to atone for Sleepless whilst still chewing all the scenery he can get his mitts on. But special credit has to go to Ansel Elgort of Divergent franchise fame, as the titular character, who dances around the set rocking a seemingly unlimited supply of sunglasses, iPods and attitude whilst speaking maybe 10-15 words in the film.

Speaking of iPod’s, forget Guardians of the Galaxy, this is the soundtrack to own this summer. I’ve had it on repeat since I got home from my screening and it rules. My neighbors seem to like it as well- they keep banging on the walls to get me to turn it up.

And I guess spending all that money on song rights meant that the reason that there was no cgi or green screen was because Wright had run out of cash? Either that or Wight had a deep desire to show actual pulse pounding car chases instead of CGI cartoons? Either way he’s proven my theory that CGI and green-screen will never, ever, look as good as an actual car driven by an actual person doing actual stunts.

Throw in some amazing one take shots of car chases, Baby dancing around apartments and Atlanta whils’t never being placed in the corenr, that must have been a nightmare to film and you’ve got yourself a classic.

Hell, I haven’t even gotten to the dialogue which cracks and sparkles better than Tarentino on his best day. My audience laughed more at this than any comedy more that I’ve sat through this year.

I mean, one poor, brave soul even tried to applaud at the end credits.

But, as this isn’t mad max fury road, this isn’t a perfect film. It could do with 15 minute being taken off the runtime and the main couple fall in love faster than a Disney princess. And i’ll be charitable and say that the characters aren’t exactly for the ages and that unless Keizer Underwood has one hell of a cleanup team or the dirtiest cops outside of The Shield every single person in the film would have been arrested within about… hmmmm 15 minutes.

But these minor quibbles aside? Nope. Nothing else from me. Drop everything , SEE IT NOW and please don’t let it turn into this years The Nice Guy’s.

Please?

For me?

Wonder Woman has been banned in Lebanon

(Note: This article is correct at time of writing- 31/05/17)

Wonder Woman has been subject to some of the most pathetic ‘controversies’ I’ve ever had the misfortune to glare at over my morning cornflakes. They include the ‘expected’ controversy over whether or not her costume is too sexy (which according to the director it isn’t.)

To an actual controversy about whether or not the Amazons would have shaved their armpits or not (I told you the ‘controversies’ were pathetic.)

Then the Alamo Drafthouse movie theater received some negative responses for announcing a series of women’s only screenings of the film now, they are taking place after the premier of the film and for charity but I still have mixed feelings on the subject.

But the award for most astonishing and in some ways most pathetic controversy belongs to the country of Lebanon. Which has banned the film completely. Not for moral or ethical reasons or because their still scarred from Suicide Squad and Batman Vs Superman: Dawn. It’s not even really for religious reasons.

Rather it’s because Gal Gadot is an Israeli.
Lebanon, which has been officially at war with Israel for decades, has a law that encourages boycotts of Israeli products and bars Lebanese citizens from traveling to Israel or having contacts with Israelis.

And this has been a seriously last minute ban- allegedly coming into effect a mere 2 hours before projectors started rolling.

The ban was prompted by a group called Campaign to Boycott Supporters of Israel – Lebanon, which pressured the government in Beirut to block the movie. On its Facebook page, the group said it is advocating a ban because Gadot was a soldier in the Israeli army, and has expressed support for Israel’s military policies against the Gaza Strip, a coastal Palestinian territory run by the militant Hamas group.

In a widely shared posting on her Facebook page, Gadot had praised Israel’s military during the Gaza-Israel 2014 war, sending prayers to Israeli soldiers “who are risking their lives protecting my country against the horrific acts conducted by Hamas.”

Even though Lebanon enjoys a greater margin of freedom of expression than other countries in the region, prior censorship remains in place, particularly with content relating to Israel, religion and homosexuality.

Ironcially, the same council that decided to ban Wonder Woman failed to get Batman v Superman: Dawn of Migraines banned in the country. And other Gadot films (like the Fast & Furious installments she starred in and Tom Cruise vehicle Knight & Day) were also shown in the country.

And despite the ban in Lebanon, Wonder Woman is set to open as scheduled during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan across theatres in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Kuwait on Thursday. It is scheduled for release June 22 in Oman and June 29 in Bahrain. Although this may change at any time.

Interestingly, In 2013, the Lebanese government heeded a call by the Arab League to ban Lebanese-born filmmaker Ziad Doueiri’s “The Attack” because it was shot in Israel. As a result, the film was “massively pirated across Lebanon where the DVD was prominently showcased and sold in all major pirate DVD stores there,” says the film’s Middle East distributor Gianluca Chakra, head of Dubai-based Front Row Entertainment.

“Did they actually stop people from watching the film? Absolutely not,” he said.

And I figure the same will happen here.

Alien Covenant Review

“I’m really excited, I love the Alien franchise as much as you love Mad Max Fury Road & Dredd.” Wittered my scriptgremlin from underneath his rock. And, as I looked at him, his little face full of hope and expectation, I wondered what exactly he was basing this delusion on.

Because lets face facts, the last good Alien film was released in 1986. That’s 31 years ago! Since then we’ve had to deal with Alien 3, Alien: Resurrection, Alien Vs Predator, Alien Vs Predator: Requiem  and Prometheus. I seriously hope he wasn’t talking about Aliens: Colonial Marines. But maybe he was talking about the creatures numerous appearances in graphical novels? I mean wow has the xenomorphs gotten around in its life. As well as taking on the Predator, The Alien has taken on Superman, Green Lantern, Batman, Tarzan, Buffy, Archie, Star Trek: The Next Generation AND of course, my own beloved Judge Dredd.

None of these are regarded as classics and almost non of them are regarded as cannon within their own universes.

But hey, every 111 million dollar film directed by man who gave us 2010’s Robin Hood deserves to be looked at as it’s own entity. It’s own, mediocre, unsure of what it want’s to be so it winds up being a hybrid of Alien and Aliens.

I mean it, you’ve got your people answering a distress call and winding up dealing with the Xenomorph on a planet which is hopefully the birthplace of wherever the always superb Michael Fassbenders accent calls home, and then finish up the film back on board their spaceship which i’m pretty sure the people from Space 1999 would like back at some point.

And as this is an Alien film, allow me to introduce out not-Ripley for the evening- the mono-named Daniel’s, portrayed by Fantastic Beasts star Katherine Waterston who for me seemed less like a woman finding her inner steel so that she could defeat one of the most deadly animals in the universe, than  a head girl trying to decide whether or not to tell the head teacher that someone keeps disliking her Instagram posts.

Your going to spot every twist from a mile away and resent every scene that doesn’t have Fassbender in. I mean everyone else is fine, but there’s no memorable lines or characters in the entire thing. Even my notes only refer to them as ‘redshirt’ ‘redshirt in hat’ and ‘cowardly redhsirt.’

It had some tense moments and some points where I was squirming in my seat and yes, the music was very impressive and unsettling and it did fly past fairly quickly and inoffensively but this could have been a much better film if there had been better and less dialogue, not telegraphed their plot twists in advance, had a lot more Fassbender and a lot less everybody else and realized that the xenomorph is supposed to be a practical effect that you don’t really see allowing your imagination to fill in the blanks and not a CGI creation. Especially not when the budget is running low.

It’s defiantly not the worst film I’m going to see this summer, but it’s certainly not the best.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to re-watch a 31 year old Vietnam metaphor.

My Score- If Nothing Else 

What Went Wrong With Live By Night?

2016 was not a good year for Ben Affleck.

Not only did he feature in both Batman Vs Superman and Suicide Squad which… i’ll be charitable and say split audiences down the middle whilst neither one made anywhere near the level of money that was expected on them.

And then there’s the ongoing mess of The Batman in which Affleck has not only stepped down as director but there are rumors of script rewrites and even those who are whispering that he may step down as the Dark Knight altogether.

But to my money, the biggest mess for Affleck was Live By Night a passion project that was released in the US on December 13 and over in the UK on the 13th of January.

Up until now, Affleck has been a very solid director.  His directorial debut, Gone Baby Gone (2007) (Budget $19 million Box office $34.6 million, 94% on Rotten Tomatoes) which he also co-wrote, was well received. He then directed, co-wrote, and starred in the crime drama The Town (2010) (Budget $37 million, Box office $154 million 94% on Rotten Tomatoes). For the historically inaccurate political thriller Argo (2012) (Budget $44.5 million, Box office $232.3 million, 96% on Rotten Tomatoes), which he directed and starred in. Affleck won the Golden Globe and BAFTA Award for Best Director, and the Golden Globe, BAFTA, and Academy Award for Best Picture. Becoming the first director to win these awards without a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Director. Also, Alan Arkin’s nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in Argo meant that Affleck’s first three films all secured Academy Award nominations for an actor or actress in a supporting role.

The point i’m trying to make is that when Ben Affleck makes a film, he typically makes money which keeps the executives happy, earns critical praise and awards which keeps the actors happy and praise as a director for himself. And as he’s made films across several genres, all of which have been well received I imagine that it was with little difficulty that he got the green light to adapt Live by Night – a crime novel by Dennis Lehane that was published in 2012. It won even won a 2013 Edgar Award for novel of the year.

And by rights this should have worked. Previously the two had collaborated on Gone Baby Gone which had worked well. And yet… something got lost somehow. I’ve already reviewed this film and found it to be beautiful to look at somehow empty and soulless. A very episodic nature didn’t help either. I figured it would do OK  and I would probably never have to think about it again.

Except then I started to hear some disturbing things about Live by Night. First was the reviews. Rotten Tomatoes gave the  film a mere 35% with other critics noting that   “Live by Night boasts visual style and an impressive cast, but they’re lost in a would-be crime saga that finds producer, director, and star Ben Affleck revisiting familiar themes to diminishing effect.”

There was the lack of praise for how he used his actors with absolutely no awards buzz in any way shape or form. And then came the big issue. Money.

Live by Night had a budget of 65 million and probably the same again for advertising but it took a mere 20.8 million dollars at the box office making it the first (but by no means last) box office bomb of 2017.  But it gets worse.  Live By Night had the biggest third-week drop in cinema screens since records began, according to Box Office Mojo. The film lost over 94% of movie theatres willing to show the film. In its second week of release the movie was showing on 2822 screens, but a week later just 163 were prepared to have the movie.

The loss of 2,659 screens in a single week tops that of previous record-holder, Eddie Murphy’s ‘Meet Dave’ from 2008, the sci-fi ‘comedy’ in which Murphy played a space craft which looks like Eddie Murphy, piloted by 100 tiny humanoid aliens, one of which was played by Eddie Murphy. (Budget $60 million, Box office $50.7 million, 19% on Rotten Tomatoes)

That movie, as well as losing its shirt at the box office, dropped from 3,011 screens in 488, while last year’s ‘Hardcore Henry’, in third place, dropped from 3,015 to 519. (Budget $2–3 million, Box office $14.3 million, 49% on Rotten Tomatoes)

So what happened? According to Scott Mendelson, a Forbes contributor, the problem is that films these days have to compete with several blockbusters that both children and adults want to see, like “Rogue One” and “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.”

“Part of the problem is that so many of the big blockbuster-y movies… are playing to adults as well as kids,” he said. “So the actual adult movies are fighting for a smaller piece of the pie. Since most casual adult moviegoers go to the movies once or twice a month, if that, if they spend that date night checking out ‘Rogue One,’ then the actual adult movies suffer accordingly.”

Mendelson said there is only room for a few big hits each season.

“There is usually one or two adult films that can thrive in a given season, ‘Arrival’ and ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ over the holiday; ‘La La Land’ and ‘Hidden Figures’ over the New Year. But otherwise it’s a tough going for most studio programmers.”

And whilst I agree with most of his points, I don’t feel that the film would have done better if it had been released in say May. The critical response would still have been the same, what little word-of-mouth there was would still have been the same. I doubt that the marketing would have been more effective, in fact it would have been less effective had it been released alter in the year when all of the big budget blockbusters were ruling over cinema.

Every director gets to make one disappointment and I guess that this is Afflecks. It certainly won’t hurt anyone’s career and it’s a good bit of trivia to have in the event of a pub quiz.

But what do you guys think? Did you see Live By Night and what film do you think most deserves to bomb this year?