Saturday, 30 June 2018

Tag - review

Tag, as the poster emphasises, is "based on a true story" that sounds too bizarre to be true. It is inspired by a Wall Street Journal article about a group of friends who had been playing the same game of tag since childhood.
Would a big screen adaptation be able to turn this strange tale into something cinematic?
Will Tag be a case of "You're hit!" or "You're Shit!"?
An amusing prologue where Ed Helms' character Hogan "Hoagie" Malloy gets a job as a janitor at Jon Hamm's company for the sole purpose of tagging him while being interviewed for the Wall Street Journal helps to set up the premise.
Every May the friends play an elaborate game of tag that involves pranks, subterfuge and a lot of cross country travel. The film comes at the story from a "men on a mission" angle as Ed Helms character gets the gang back together to join forces to take down one particular man.
Their target is Jerry (played by Jeremy Renner), the member of the group who has never been tagged in 30 years and is planning on retiring undefeated at the end of the season. At least it answers the question of what Hawkeye was up to during Infinity War. Playing tag.
The group see their opportunity with only a few days left in the competition as Jerry is getting married, potentially leaving himself exposed.
However, Jerry is the best to ever play the game and has superhero-level skills and reflexes to help him avoid being tagged and take down the gang. And so begins an all out war that threatens to not only disrupt the wedding but also the group's lifelong friendship.
The tag scenes themselves are well staged. From Renner's spider-sense narration of talking through how he will defeat his enemies to an incredibly effective homage to Predator as Jerry takes out the group one by one in a forest next to the country club hosting his rehearsal dinner.
But deep down, the film understands that this is story about friendship and the plot feels more akin to a high school reunion movie as the group come back home, meet old flames, reminisce about old times and reevaluate their futures.
The ensemble cast have good chemistry together and you have each archetype; Jock (Renner), Stoner (Jake Johnson), Success (Jon Hamm), Sad sack (Ed Helms) and if this was South Park we know what Hannibal Buress's character would be called.
While their on-screen relationship is believable, it would have been good to see more time spent on characterisation. Buress is dealing with some mental health issues and Renner is a recovering alcoholic but the group gloss over this fact to use the meeting to try and trap him rather than help him.
If the characterisation is given short shrift, then the same can certainly be said for the female characters who have nothing really to do expect act as enablers or obstacles to the challenge.
A quote that is repeated throughout the film is "We don't stop playing because we grow old. We grow old when we stop playing".
There is certainly a danger that with a feature length film about tag that the playing of it could get old real fast but it has enough charm and heart to keep audiences game for a laugh.

Plus bonus points for bringing Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm by Crash Test Dummies back into the social consciousness.

3 stars

Thursday, 28 June 2018

Unicorn Store - EIFF review

Captain Marvel must complete a series of tasks set by Nick Fury in order to get a real life unicorn. It sounds like Deadpool's wet dream or, at the very least, one of his spin-off comics.
In reality, Unicorn Store is Brie Larson's directorial debut in which she plays Kit, a young woman who is kicked out of art school and moves back in to her parents house. While she tries to figure out her future, a mysterious Salesman offers her the chance to own a unicorn. If she can fulfil a number of chores and criteria. Will the challenge offer her a chance to gain some grown up responsibility or will it see Kit regress deeper into adolescence?
Brie Larson follows in the footsteps of indie actors transitioning into directing such as Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Don Jon), Ryan Gosling (Lost River), Drew Barrymore (Whip It) and Zach Braff (Garden State).
Of those, this is most akin to Garden State in terms of story, character and success.
Larson delivers a charming performance as Kit, showcasing her comedic side that was evident in Scott Pilgrim (2010) but not really called for in her breakout films Short Term 12 or Room.
She also has a great understanding of comedy as a director as well. Whether it is Kit's fears compounded via commercials as she channel hops the TV (a well worn gag but executed perfectly) or a single shot of someone's smile fading which is held to the perfect length that makes it one of the funniest moments you will see all year.
Larson has also surrounding herself with an excellent cast. Joan Cusack and Bradley Whitford provide great support as her parents who run an emotional retreat for troubled youths; Hamish Linklater has some great laughs as her borderline inappropriate boss and Samuel L. Jackson is Samuel L. Jackson as The Salesman. However it is Mamoudou Athie (Patti Cake$) who steals the show as the hardware store clerk Virgil who becomes Kit's potential real-life unicorn that could give her life meaning and purpose.
For all the whimsical nature in Samantha McIntyre's script that's choc full of more charm than a box of Lucky Charms, there is a moral message at its heart. Ultimately, the question of whether or not the mystical unicorn actually exists is irrelevant. The Salesman is teaching Kit how to get her own life in order along the way and that as long as you believe in something, whether that be family, a relationship, work or a unicorn, you will be okay.
Unicorn Store is the sweetest film of 2018 but not sickly sweet because beneath the quirky, glitzy exterior is a message at its nutty centre. So kind of like a Ferrero Rocher then. Brie Larson, with your debut you are really spoiling us!

4 stars

Unicorn Store has its International Premiere at Edinburgh International Film Festival on Friday 29th June, 8.45 and Saturday 30th June, 8.35.

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

The Most Assassinated Woman In The World - EIFF review

At the dark and bloody heart of this period film by director Franck Ribière is real-life iconic actor Paula Maxa (played by Anna Mouglalis), the most famous of the Grand Guignol’s leading ladies and the titular woman, who was graphically slain on stage multiple times a day. A young journalist suspects the theatre is linked to a series of gruesome murders. After falling for Paula and learning of her painful past, he aims to save her from a mysterious killer.

Back in its heyday, the Grand Guignol theatre in Paris became so famous, or should that be infamous, that the name became synonomos with any form of theatre or film that was designed to shock and horrify its audience.
Although literally translated, Grand Guignol actually means "the big puppet". Who were the ones being manipulated though? Was it the actors or the audience? Will it be the same for this audience?
Paula Maxa was the reason that people came to the Grand Guignol and Anna Mouglalis is the reason to watch the film. Delivering a mesmerising performance as the woman haunted by the ghosts of her past and feels that the only way to truly live is to die.
The true story of Maxa is the inspiration for this gleefully gory tale of murder, mystery and intrigue set during a murder spree in the city of lights in the early 1930s. Imagine Theatre of Blood meets From Hell set in gay Paris. Jacques The Ripper if you will.
The Most Assassinated Woman In The World is certainly not for everyone but that is true of any piece of art. Some will call it art. Others trash. Some will be entranced, some will walk out in disgust but this is trash of the highest order and you have appreciate the pure theatre of it.

4 stars

The Most Assassinated Woman In The World has its International Premiere at Edinburgh International Film Festival on Wednesday 27th June, 6.00 and Thursday 28th June, 11.10. To book tickets, click here.

Flammable Children (Swinging Safari) - EIFF review

If there was one word that would perfectly encapsulate Flammable Children (Swinging Safari), it would be "romp".
(Partly) based on Priscilla Queen Of The Desert writer-director Stephen Elliot's childhood growing up in Australia in the Seventies, the film feels like Richard Linklater directing a nostalgic, X-Rated version of Neighbours.
It is easy to draw those comparisons when the film takes place over the course of a summer focusing on three families that live on the same street, including a married couple played by Guy Pearce and Kylie Minogue.
The film is narrated by the adult version of Jeff Marsh, looking back at his fourteen year old self during the famous summer that his small town became famous when a giant blue whale beached itself in the middle of their popular tourist town.
Jeff spends his days obsessively making home movies on his Super 8 featuring his group of friends doing outrageous stunts. However he develops more than movies that year as the sparks of romance flicker with neighbour Minnie.
It isn't just the children coming-of-age as the summer of love has an affect on the adults as well, leading to a "Swinging Safari" night that will have lasting repercussions for the neighbourhood that devolves into a hilarious game of petty name-calling and practical jokes.
The top notch cast gamely commit to the material and all look ridiculous in their fake tan and outrageous outfits. Their over-the-top characteristics in keeping with how the children's perspective and how they would have viewed their parents at the time.
The period detail is spot on and enhanced by an eclectic range of super sounds of the Seventies (complete with obligatory Kylie Minogue cover on the end credits).
While the film has a sweetness and melancholic wistfulness for a time-gone-by, it is the humour that will stay with audiences.
Easily the funniest film to play the Festival, this has more laugh-out-loud moments than shrimps on a barbie! Plus some of the most non-PC laughs this side of a Ricky Gervais stand up e.g. a girl reading a magazine article about Karen Carpenter's brand new diet!
Just like the eponymous Flammable Children of the title, this is a red hot Summer hit that you must go and see. If not you're a flaming galah!

4 stars

Flammable Children (Swinging Safari) has its International premiere at the Edinburgh International Film Festival on Wednesday 27th June, 6.00 and Friday 29th June, 8.30. To book tickets, click here.

Solis - EIFF review

Solis opens with a escape pod hurtling through space towards the sun. The sole inhabitant Troy Holloway (Steven Ogg) must find away to stay alive long enough for another spaceship to come rescue him. Trying to keep him calm and focused over the comms is that ship’s commander (Alice Lowe).
What follows is a low-budget but effective thrill ride set in real time that is a blend of Gravity meets A Matter Of Life And Death.
With a film set entirely in one location, there is literally nowhere to hide. Not for the main character or writer-director Carl Strathie.
Although working with a small budget, Strathie has made every penny count. Building a claustrophobic set but simultaneously using camera work and lighting to disguise any potential shortcomings. The special effects are also impressive for the scenes outside of the capsule and when Troy is floating in zero gravity.
Speaking of Troy, a film where there is only one character on screen for the entire run time can live or die on its lead actor. Steven Ogg (best known for voicing Trevor Phillips in Grand Theft Auto V and a role on The Walking Dead) gives a fairly captivating performance, holding the audience's attention for the duration of his predicament.
He shares decent chemistry with the only other two characters he interacts with; Alice Lowe's Roberts (appearing only as a voice over the communication relay) who is Troy's only constant in a world spinning out of control. And that is down to Murphy. As in Murphy's Law of "anything that can go wrong will go wrong", with Troy facing more obstacles than the crews of Apollo 13 and The Martian combined.
While the film holds the audience's attention for its brief run time, the main obstacle is the script. Another couple of orbits around the script to sharpen up the dialogue could have elevated it to something truly special within the genre.
As it is, Solis can take solace in the fact it should find a home and audience on Netflix or streaming services and act as a calling card for Strathie who we should expect to have a very bright future.

3 stars

Solis receives its World Premiere at Edinburgh International Film Festival on Wednesday 27th June, 8.35 and screens again on Thursday 28th June, 8,45. To book tickets, click here.

Monday, 25 June 2018

In Darkness - EIFF review

Game of Thrones star Natalie Dormer is terrific in this psychological revenge thriller directed by Anthony Byrne from a script co-written by Dormer and Byrne. Dormer plays Sofia, a blind musician drawn into London’s criminal underbelly when her neighbour Veronique (Emily Ratajkowski) dies in the apartment upstairs. Initially, police believe it is suicide, but Veronique, the daughter of an alleged war criminal, knew she was in trouble. Caught between the police and criminals, Sofia must try to survive.

Having found herself at a loose end following the latest season of GoT (sorry, spoilers), rather than wait to for a good meaty role to come her way, Natalie Dormer has been very proactive.
Producing a film to star in that passes the Bechdel test plus writing herself a seriously, juicy role in Sofia.
The film, directed and co-written by Dormer's fiancee Anthony Byrne, begins very strongly with an homage to DePalma's Blow Out and introduces the audience to Sofia as a pianist who works on movie scores.
The following journey home to her flat in London features some fantastic use of sound design and mixing which highlights the importance of this sense to Sofia's ability to manage and survive day to day life.
One night she hears her upstairs neighbour in a struggle before falling to her death which leads Sofia into a deadly mystery.
The start of the movie indicates the film might be something akin to Rear Window or Wait Until Dark.
Instead it turns into a cross between a Eighties/Nineties erotic thriller and Eastern Promises.
Dormer delivers a committed and intense performance, convincing as a person who has suffered from blindness all her life.
The film is slickly edited and the cinematography elevates the action as it becomes increasingly ridiculous through a variety of twists that like the main character, you might not see coming.
In the kingdom of the blind movies, Natalie Dormer is Queen.

3 stars

In Darkness screens at the Edinburgh International Film Festival on Tuesday 26th June, 6.00 and Thursday 28th June, 8.35. To book tickets, click here.
The film is on general release in the UK from Friday 6th July.

Listen to The Nerd Party interview Anthony Byrne and Natalie Dormer on the Filibuster podcast here.

Sunday, 24 June 2018

The Eyes of Orson Welles - EIFF review

The art, sketches, set designs and storyboards Orson Welles produced throughout his career act as an entry point for director Mark Cousins to delve into the life and career of one of cinema’s most talented filmmakers. Welles trained as an artist before becoming an actor and director, and Cousins has been allowed unprecedented access to a treasure trove of images that provide a fascinating glimpse into Welles’ visual thinking. This film is a journey through his life punctuated by delightful insight.

Mark Cousins' admiration for Orson Welles shines through in this intimate portrait of a man whose public persona was larger than life. Cousins uses access to Welles' personal works of art to paint a picture of the private man behind the image and how his artistic style on the page and canvas influenced his work on the big screen.
Cousins' uses his trademark and distinctive narration to converse directly to Orson via a series of "letters" looking at different stages of his life, career and personality.
Like the original cut of The Magnificent Ambersons, the documentary goes on slightly too long but provides a new perspective to Welles and new insights into his work. Even if, unlike Citizen Kane, he ultimately cannot be defined by any one particular piece of art.

3 stars

The Eyes Of Orson Welles screens at the Edinburgh International Film Festival on Sunday 24th June, 8.35 and Monday 25th June, 6.00. To book tickets, click here.

The Parting Glass - EIFF review

A family dealing with their sister’s death travel across country to collect her belongings and piece together their memories of the woman they lost.

Coming from a screenplay from Denis O’Hare, an actor equally at ease on the stage and screen, The Parting Glass feels theatrical in its origins. It is essentially a film with scene after scene of people talking in cars, motel rooms and diners.
However there is a point during the film that you start to feel that something this raw and powerful must have come from a real place and is inspired by true events.
O’Hare has assembled a group of friends (who also happen to be incredible actors) like Ed Asner, Melissa Leo, Cynthia Nixon and Rhys Ifans to become his family to help work through this traumatic event.
The group are completely convincing as a family and from the first couple of interactions, you feel as if these people have known each other all their lives. There is a familiarity and openness between that is almost impossible to fake.
Actor turned director Stephen Moyer makes an assured debut. Knowing when to let the actors take over and let a scene play out. Witness for example the scene towards the end where they get drunk in a motel room and share their memories of their late sister, wife and daughter.
Although only glimpsed briefly in flashbacks and memories, Anna Paquin makes a lasting impression as the woman who has brought this family back together. It is a demanding performance because it is essentially five different performances as she is remembered differently by each person she knew.
Similar to Pixar’s Coco, it understand the importance of memory in keeping someone alive and also how everyone’ individual ones will be unique to them. Whether that be in their thoughts or physically through photographs or video.
The Parting Glass certainly won’t be a parting film for Moyer or O’Hare as they have created a tender, moving film that celebrates the fact that True Blood is thicker than water.

4 stars

Saturday, 23 June 2018

The Great Buddha+ - EIFF review

Pickle is a night security guard at a bronze statue factory. His colleague, Belly Bottom, works as a recycling collector during the day, and Pickle's biggest pleasure in life is flicking through the porn magazines Belly Bottom collects in the small hours in the security room. Having late night snacks and watching television are an integral part of their dull lives. One day when the television is broken, their lives are changed forever. The story involves gods, the middle-aged men's sexual desire and the conversation between ghosts and humans. Maybe the audience will find it preposterous, but isn't life itself a farce?

Documentary filmmaker Huang Hsin-Yao fingerprints are all over his debut feature, adapted from a short film of the same name.
In fact it starts off documentary style with Hsin-Yao introducing the film; talking about the financiers and how he plans to chip in on the story where he deems it necessary.
Immediately, this not what one is expecting and sets the bar for the rest of the film. It will follow the rules of narrative fiction but will happily break them along the way (along with the fourth wall) but it works. Drawing the audience further in to the story.
It begins as one thing; a sort of mockumentary on the lives of a group of men, working menial jobs and who are so low down on the class scale that they don't even have real names. They are referred to as nicknames like Pickle and Belly Button. Hsing-Yao describes their days, their motivations. Even stopping to mention how he had forgotten to ask one character why he was fascinated by those grabbing machine games. At which point the man stops, turns to the camera and responds to the director and audience.
Pickle works the night shift as a security guard at a workshop that creates giant Grand Buddha statues, hence the title of the film. One night, Belly Button comes over and convinces him to while away the boredom by viewing the dashcam footage of his boss's Benz.
This is where the film evolves into something else entirely as the footage from the car is in colour which provides a shock to the system but also a shock to the characters as they witness an incident that could have dramatic consequences for all involved.
Drawing inspiration from Hitchcock and Rear Window, plus films such as Blow Up and Blow Out, it proposes a mystery about obsession, voyeurism and the dangers of living life through a lens.
The Great Buddha+ is just like the statue that is featured in the film. Something to be admired and marvelled but also can never truly be completely understood or explained.

4 stars

Director Huang Hsin-Yao at Q&A with Dallas King

Lucid - EIFF review

Timid Zel (Laurie Calvert), adrift in a city with no friends, simultaneously craves and fears intimacy. His eccentric neighbour, Elliot (Billy Zane), offers to help him try and win over dancer Jasmine (Felicity Gilbert) using an experimental form of dream therapy. While this so-called lucid dreaming helps him change and become more confident, his lust leads him on a dark adventure and the question remains as to whether he can charm Jasmine in reality.

Laurie Calvert delivers a quirky but sympathetic performance as Zel, a young man with a potential history of mental health issues who is plagued by a crippling shyness and inability to talk to girls. He makes the decision to listen to his friend Billy Zane (he's a cool dude) and starts to experiment with Lucid dreaming in order to practice wooing his dream girl who lives in his building.
Descending into the dream world, Zel immediately appears more confident, not only in terms of action but appearance as well (although one wonders why the decision was made to give him a hairstyle that resembles Donald Trump's). He is able to become the man he wishes he could always be; standing up to his bully of a boss and speaking to the woman in his life.
Imagine Inception except instead of an idea, the goal is to plant the seed of love.
This confidence starts to transfer over to the real world but the more and more Zel experiences with lucid dreaming, the more he begins to lose his grip on reality and is unable to determine which world he is in and in control of.
Lucid is a confident debut from writer/director Adam Morse who experiments with lucid dreaming himself. Even going so far as to rehearse shooting the scenes in his head in advance while asleep. What is even more astonishing is that Morse revealed that he is actually registered blind just one week ahead of the film's premiere in Edinburgh.
Any visual impairment that the director suffers from is certainly not evident in the visuals on screen as it has differing palettes for the real and dream worlds that slowly converge the deeper Zel goes.
There is bound to be some frustration from audiences relating to the ending but it is important to remember that this is not our lucid dream it is the director’s.
He is in control and the thing with dreams is they never end exactly when we want them to and that is what the film does well and will lead to some interesting debate and discussions in the foyer after the credits roll.

3 stars

Lucid received its World Premiere at Edinburgh International Film Festival on Saturday 23rd June, 8.35 with another screening on Sunday 24th June, 3.45. To book tickets, click here.

To listen to interviews with director Adam Morse and lead actor Laurie Calvert, check out this episode of the Filibuster podcast on The Nerd Party.

Ideal Home - EIFF review

Erasmus (Coogan) and Paul (Rudd) are a gay couple whose life is turned inside out when a ten-year old boy shows up at their door claiming to be Erasmus' grandson. Neither Paul, nor Erasmus, are ready to give up their extravagant lifestyles to be parents, but maybe this little kid has thing or two to teach them about the value of family.
On paper, given the synopsis, Ideal Home could have been a series of garishly cheap, cliched and jokes as over the top as Erasmus's wardrobe or interior design.
Thankfully the actual film under writer/director Andrew Fleming's careful eye is surprisingly sweet and never goes for the stereotypical “gay” jokes but instead the humour comes out of the odd couple situation of having to deal with a kid and also their dysfunctional relationship.
The chemistry between Coogan and Rudd is some of the best you will see all year and their relationship is always completely believable. A chemistry that is shared with Jack Gore who plays the grandson Bill.
Where Coogan may get many of the big laughs, Rudd delivers some surprisingly complex emotional work. Between this and Mute, Rudd continues to prove himself in 2018 as more than just the comedic actor he broke through as in the early Noughties.
Plus it is the best product placement for Taco Bell since 1993's Demolition Man.

4 stars

Ideal Home screens at the Edinburgh International Film Festival on Saturday 23rd June, 8.30 and Monday 25th June, 8.40. To book tickets, click here.
Ideal Home is on general release in the UK from Friday 13th July.

The Secret Of Marrowbone - EIFF review

Sergio G. Sanchez effortlessly makes the transition from J.A. Bayona's screenwriter to his own directorial debut The Secret of Marrowbone.
And it is clear that Sanchez has learned a few things from his friend because the film effectively combines the emotional family drama and struggle at the heart of The Impossible with the mystery and chills of The Orphanage.
Scottish actor George McKay stars as Jack, the oldest of the Fairburn siblings who arrive with their mother's at her old family home called Marrowbone in upstate New York, having escaped from their abusive father back in England.
They slowly adapt to their new life, befriending a young woman called Allie (Anya Taylor-Joy) who lives on a nearby farm but their idyllic existence threatens to be shattered when their mother succumbs to illness. Jack promises to do whatever he must to keep them all together. Whatever the cost.
The appearance of a young, upstart lawyer dealing with the deeds to the house will force the family to confront the ghosts of the past and face up to a few skeletons in the closet.
Why are all the mirrors covered? Is there really a ghost in the house?
Sanchez wisely takes his time in drawing out the mystery of the true nature of the eponymous secret of Marrowbone, keeping the audience in the dark until the horrifying truth is finally revealed.
The house itself becomes another character in the film thanks to incredible set design and effective use of sound mixing to draw every creeping ounce of dread out of a creaking floorboard here or piece of splintering glass there.
McKay excels as a young man whose responsibilities to his family weigh heavy on his shoulders and at odds with his desire for a relationship with Taylor-Joy's character who offers a ray of light, hope and possible redemption.
With recent horrors such as The Babadook and Hereditary leading the way in balancing heartfelt family drama with chill-inducing scares, Marrowbone is one secret that will hopefully not remain a secret to audiences.

4 stars

The Secret of Marrowbone is on general release in the UK from Friday 13th July.

Listen to an interview with director Sergio G. Sanchez on the Filibuster podcast on The Nerd Party here.

Friday, 22 June 2018

Calibre - EIFF review

Calibre is the debut feature film from writer/director Matt Palmer. Matt has experience directing short films but many know him as the programmer and curator of All Night Horror Madness, an annual celebration of horror movies that takes place at The Cameo.
It is clear that his love of horror and film has given him the tools to craft a tense and thrilling tale.
Childhood friends Vaughn (Jack Lowden) and Marcus (Martin McCann) head up to the remote Scottish highlands on a hunting trip before Vaughn settles down with his fiancee and baby that is on the way.
After a night of heavy drinking with the locals, ruffling a few feathers along the way, the pals set out to stalk deer in the woods. Only the peace of the misty morning is shattered by a tragic accident that will set the friends down a road from which there may be no return.
What can let a horror or thriller down is when it strays too far from believability but this is not an issue here. Every single decision or choice that the two lead characters make comes from an honest and believable place from where they are at that time. It dares to ask the question of "what would you do?" in a situation like that. Would you have acted any differently? We like to think we would but...
Palmer understands the notion of "best laid plans" and slowly dials up the tension and naturalistically placing obstacles in the way of the duo's success and escape.
Yet the note perfect script would all be for nothing if not they had not assembled a talented group of actors to deliver the goods and they are uniformly terrific.
Jack Lowden is fast becoming one of Scotland's finest talents (Dunkirk, England Is Mine) and completely convinces as a young man whose life as he knows it is suddenly over with the click of a trigger. Torn between a need to tell the truth and a desire to be there for his growing family, he allows himself to be dragged further and further into an impossible situation by his friend.
Where Vaughn is quiet and reserved, Martin McCann's Marcus is loud, brash and cocky. The Northern Ireland actor has the swagger of a young Michael Fassbender and his behaviour sets him at odds with the rural locals (played by the likes of Tony Curran and Ian Pirie) and stirs tensions that potentially put any chance of reconciliation off the table.
The film certainly plays on the differences between the rural and city folk. Not to the over-the-top stereotypical levels League Of Gentlemen ("are you local? there's nothing for you here") or The Wicker Man (even though a bonfire is mentioned at one point) but instead coming in this modern landscape where the gulf in wealth and opportunity is as great as the physical distance between the Highlands and the City.
Palmer's debut deserves to be mentioned in the same conversations as the likes of similar genre films Eden Lake, Deliverance and Straw Dogs. Effectively ringing every drop of tension and menace out of this unsettling moral dilemma.
This is Scottish, and indeed, world filmmaking of the truly highest calibre.

5 stars

Calibre has its World Premiere at the Edinburgh International Film Festival on Friday 22nd June, 8.30 with extra screenings on Saturday 23rd June, 3.15 and Saturday 20th June, 3.15. 
To book, click here.
Calibre will debut on Netlfix from Friday 29th June.

To listen to interviews with the cast and crew of Calibre, check out the latest Filibuster podcast on The Nerd Party/

Thursday, 21 June 2018

Blood Fest - EIFF 2018 review

Fans flock to a festival celebrating the most iconic horror movies, only to discover that the charismatic showman behind the event has a diabolical agenda. As attendees start dying off, three teenagers with more horror-film wits than real-world knowledge must band together and battle through every madman, monstrosity and terrifying scenario if they have any hope of surviving.

Just like in the film, the titular Blood Fest will have massive appeal to die hard horror genre fans. Particularly those who enjoyed the likes of Scream, Cabin In The Woods and The Final Girls.
Because this is a horror film for horror fans and clearly made by someone with a huge affection for the genre.
Owen Egerton is a triple threat as writer/director/actor as he also takes on the role of Blood Fest host and movie producer Anthony Walsh. He also resembles Zach Galifinaikas.
Set in a world where all the famous horror movies exist and can be referenced by name but unable to feature due to obvious copyright reasons, Blood Fest is a festival designed to celebrate fictional horror films like Arbor Day and Hell's Gate which all represent recognisable sub-genres including slashers, torture porn, zombies, vampires and killer clowns.
Attending the festival are a group of friends including Dax (Robbie Kay), who like all good horror leads has a slightly androgynous first name and a tragic backstory in which he saw his mother murdered by a psychopath.
He grew up obsessed by horror films as he felt safe knowing that violence was fake but his psychiatrist father feels rather differently. Making a career out of writing and teaching on the subject of violence in the media.
This theme plays out through the film with many of the characters commenting on it. One such character is Walsh. Fed up with watered down, PG-13 genre flicks, he sets out to put the scares back into scary movies by slaughtering the attendees.
Dax and his friends (including Jacob Batalon, best known for playing Ned in Spider-Man Homecoming) must make it through the night by keeping their heads when others are (literally) losing theirs and follow the rules.
If the film has a flaw it is that as it is targeted to hardcore fans who know all the rules, tropes and cliches, there are very few surprises and the few twists and turns the story takes are easily signposted ahead of time to anyone with knowledge of the genre.
That being said, it is the epitome of a Ronseal film and does exactly what it says on the tin and provides lashings and lashings of blood at a festival (the Edinburgh Film Festival).
Best enjoyed with a late night crowd baying for blood... and a wicked Zachary Levi cameo.

3 stars

Blood Fest screens at the Edinburgh International Film Festival as part of the Night Moves strand on Friday 22nd June, 11.35pm. To book tickets, click here.

Puzzle - EIFF 2018 Opening Gala review

This year's Edinburgh International Film Festival kicked off in style on Wednesday night with the Opening Gala film Puzzle by Marc Turtletaub.
It tells the story of a downtrodden domestic housewife called Agnes (played by Kelly MacDonald), who spends most of her time looking after her house and her family but she is sleepwalking for life and inside is screaming for more out of life.
When she receives a 1000 piece puzzle at her birthday party (which she had to organise and host herself), she discovers a passion and talent for putting them together.
Answering an ad for a puzzle partner, she meets Robert (Irrfan Khan), a divorced puzzle champion and inventor who is also coasting through life.
Will they find each to be the missing piece of their puzzle?
Unfortunately the film has all the right pieces to make for a cute and quirky romantic comedy but the filmmakers don't put them together in the right order and the end result does not look like it does on the box.
Kelly MacDonald is superb as Agnes, able to find the pain and pathos in the character and is completely believable and the audience know exactly who she is within the first five minutes and you are willing her to find happiness.
If this had been a film about Agnes finding her calling and growing in confidence through her training sessions with teacher and partner Robert, going on to compete in a competition (complete with training montage which is sadly missing), this could have been a terrific film. Like a female Good Will Hunting but with jigsaws instead of equations.
Instead, it goes down a tricky and uncomfortable romance and affair subplot that doesn't really convince as the chemistry between McDonald and Khan isn't really there.
Puzzles just aren't all that sexy and no amount of fingers accidentally brushing against each other will prove otherwise.
The real issue lies with the treatment of Agnes's husband Louie (David Denman). Yes, he is a bit boorish and takes his wife for granted but he is clearly a good man at heart and has just lost sight of how to appreciate her and show her love. Because of this, it doesn't feel like the affair is justified and lost this particular viewer at that point.
MacDonald's performance is as impressive as the feeling you get from completing a 4000 piece jigsaw but is ultimately let down by some puzzling story choices.

2 stars

Listen to an interview with director Marc Turtletaub on the Filibuster podcast on The Nerd Party.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Supa Modo - EIFF 2018 review

Jo, a witty 9-year old terminally ill girl is taken back to her rural village to live out the rest of her short life. Her only comfort during these dull times are her dreams of being a Superhero, which prove to be something her rebellious teenage sister Mwix, overprotective mother Kathryn and the entire village of Maweni think they can fulfil.

On paper, Supa Modo sounds like the African film version of the real life Batkid story; a child suffering from cancer who got to live out his fantasy to be Batman's sidekick in an adventure that saw the city of San Francisco come together to Make A Wish happen.
The reality is an incredible moving, heartfelt but warm and uplifting story of a girl and her family coming to terms with the inevitable.
Jo (Stycie Waweru) is dying. She knows it. Her overprotective mother knows it and her sister knows it. She finds escape through her love of Kung Fu movies starring Jackie Chan and superheroes including her very own creation Supa Modo, inspired by her late father.
When her mother Kathryn takes her out of hospital to live out her last few months at home, her sister starts to get the village to play roles in games designed to provide Jo with an outlet for her "superpowers".
Unable to process the fact that she is unable to keep her own daughter alive and well when she is working as a midwife bringing new life into the world Kathryn's mollycoddling threatens to deprive Jo of whatever fun and joy she has left.
This leads to a confrontation that sees the family come together to fulfil Jo's final wish. To star in her very own superhero movie.
With help from the entire town, they set about putting together a superhero epic that has more heart, humour and production value than anything in the DC universe.
Forget Wonder Woman, Supa Modo is the new female superhero kids will want to be.
The film's final act goes exactly the way one may expect but it packs an emotional punch that could shatter a moon and shed more tears than Peter Parker telling Tony "I don't feel so good".
Director Likarion Wainaina coaxes terrific performances from his cast and delivers on the emotional promise with the story that he not only created himself but one that is universal in any language.

4 stars

Ocean's 8 - review

Ocean’s 8 is a prime example of the perfect con. The unsuspecting punter is sucked in to the film, entertained and astonished by the array of talent on show and it is only once they have left the cinema that they realise they’ve been had.
The plot holes start to appear and you begin to over-analyse everything you’ve just witnessed but sometimes you can just accept it and admire the sheer audacity of the crew involved in stealing 110 minutes of your time and your heart.
Here, unlike the infamous Ghostbusters reboot, a group of women have seamlessly and effortlessly stolen a franchise from the men and the audience will have no complaints.
At no point during the film are you left thinking, “I wish there were more men in this film”. In fact any time a male character was introduced, it was like “Meh”... and not just because one of those men was James Corden!
If anything, it would have been nice to just spend more time getting to know the team as some of the characters are criminally underserved by the script.
Of the seven members of the crew (yes, seven. We’ll get to why it is called Ocean’s Eight in a minute), here is a quick ranking of them based on screen time and impression made:
  1. Sandra Bullock
  2. Cate Blanchett
  3. Sarah Paulson
  4. Rihanna
  5. Helena Bonham Carter
  6. Awkwafina
  7. Mindy Kaling
Yes, the film might pass the Bechdel Test with flying colours and Rihanna sinks the memory of Battleship but one can’t help but wish that more time had been spent introducing the characters and scenes of them interacting as a group.
This is an odd request because the film does take its time in getting through the first act before the heist begins and a lot of that is on the shoulders of writer/director Gary Ross.
Ross is probably best described as similar to Ron Howard, “a safe pair of hands”. His films come in one time, on budget and meet expectations but he is not really known for a particular visual style or flair.
This is something that Steven Soderbergh (director of the Ocean’s trilogy) has in spades and brought to Ocean’s Eleven in particular, giving it a pace and polish that allowed it to zip through exposition effortlessly and introduce characters quickly and with charm and hutzpah.
It is what Eight is ultimately lacking to give it some extra energy and help raise the stakes because the biggest problem the film has is that the stakes never feel all that high. It never feels as though the outcome of the heist is ever in jeopardy.
The film doesn’t need the “getting revenge on the former boyfriend” subplot and could easily have been reworked as a plot about getting even with a former female partner-in-crime and it would have worked just as well.
I know that Debbie Ocean has been planning the job for 5 years, 3 months, 12 days or whatever but in that time the filmmakers could have added a bit more polish to the script or editing.
Of course that is not to say that there are no diamonds in the rough. Quite the opposite as there are elements that shine bright like a diamond (Rihanna reference), brighter than the Toussaint necklace that is the prime mark of the Met Ball heist.
Anne Hathaway is delightfully ditzy as movie star Daphne Kluger who is hosting the Met Ball; the shock realisation of how good Sandra Bullock is at speaking German; the delight of creating a subplot in your head that Bullock was the woman who plays off star-crossed lovers Blanchett and Paulson in a sequel to Carol; and a whole five stars just to the costume designer for Cate Blanchett who is dressed like the goddess she is in every single frame.
For those of you good at maths, you will notice a slight discrepancy between the title of the film and the number of people in the crew. This is one con that won’t take a genius to work out given how the film plays out and certain aspects of the promotional campaign.
Ocean’s 8 tagline is “Every con has its pros” and this perfectly encapsulates the end result. Just like a diamond, it has flaws but you’ll be too dazzled by its beauty to care all that much.

3 stars

Monday, 18 June 2018

Making Fun: The Story of Funko - Netflix review

Coming off the back of the fascinating Netflix series The Toys That Made Us, comes a documentary called Making Fun: The Story of Funko.
Where the TV series focused on the toys of our childhood such as Star Wars, He Man, Transformers, etc. the subject of this new film is the Funko company, a relative newcomer to the toy and collectable game but one of the genuine phenomenons of the last twenty years.
And phenomenon is really the only word to accurately describe the company that started out in Mike Becker's garage in Snohomish, Washington in 1998.
Even if one doesn't own a Funko Pop, it is impossible not to be aware of them. Just go into any HMV on the high street and there seems to be more space on the shelves dedicated to Funko than there is for vinyl records or CDs.
The film starts by looking at the origins of the company that was set up by a group of friends making "Wacky Wobbler" bobbleheads of Big Boy and how their designs, creativity and fun attitude to the business led to a dedicated fan base called Funko Fanatics or "Funatics" who would help grow the company into what it is today.
In 2005, Becker sold the company to Brian Mariotti who developed key licencing agreements with the likes of Star Wars, DC Comics and Marvel that would take Funko to the next level. Giving them Cate Blanchett to essentially print money with every new item.
In 2011, the company released their very first Funko Pop. These are the iconic toys that everyone will know with the unique shape with the Stewie from Family Guy over-sized head and anime style face.
According to the doc, some original fans were not too keen on the new design, having built their collections on the wacky wobblers but it brought them a whole new audience and the rest is history.
The rest of the documentary spends time with some of the fans talking about their collections, fandom and what the toys mean to them as they all gear up for Funko open their new headquarters and landmark store back in the hometown of the company, Everett Washington.
It is at this point the film feels less like a documentary and more like a marketing puff piece to showcase how great the company is.
It is nice to see people passionate about the toys and collecting but it never delves deeper into the darker world of collecting; such as watching people fight at a comic-con over a limited edition Pop, or the ones who would "flip" the toys i.e. buying them and then selling them online for a profit which is something that happens a lot.
Ultimately, while a sweet starter for 10 look at the company, it feels as empty as the inside of a Funko toy's head and lacks a killer edge to make it really Pop!

2 stars

Friday, 15 June 2018

Hereditary - review

From the very first shot that slowly tracks in to a model house only for it to seamlessly transitions into real life, it is clear that the audience is in the hands of a master of horror.
What is most shocking about Hereditary, and there are a LOT of shocking moments, is that this "master", Ari Aster, is a first-time writer/director. The film feels so assured, controlled and effortless in its slow build and execution that the only explanation can be that his parents made a pact with the devil and the ghost of Kubrick.
The theme of control looms large over the film. Aster is always in complete control over the story but he is the only one.
Just like the small scale models that Toni Collette's Annie makes are designed and controlled by her mood and desires, the central family are merely pawns in a wicked game and have no control of their own destiny.
It is clear from the outset that something is not right. Annie's mother, whose funeral opens the film, was obviously into some odd pastimes and hobbies but the exact nature of which is left to the audiences imaginations. A clever move on the part of Aster who knows that what the audience conjures in their imagination can be infinitely more terrifying than anything physically manifested on screen.
That is not to say that there aren't images and shots in the movie that will chill your blood to the bone and imprint themselves on your soul till the end of time.
There is one particular shot that will be discussed more than any in the film and rightly so. It is the cinematic equivalent of a "Retweet when you see it" meme on Twitter where you can feel the realisation slowly and surely trickle through the auditorium. It is proof of Aster's skill and mastery of score, lighting and camera placement all coming together to produce something truly terrifying.
While this is the scariest film of the year, before it dials up the Kill List-esque levels of "What. The. Actual. Fuck" in the third act, Hereditary is one of the best character studies of grief that you will ever see.
Drawing from horror classics such as Don't Look Now and The Babadook, the raw, emotional anguish is palpable and it is heartbreaking to see the family being torn apart by being unable to express that grief and pain. Instead it drives them further apart as dark secrets slowly emerge from the cupboards like a graveyard worth of skeletons.
A lot of credit must go to Toni Collette who is simply incredible as the mother who, similar to Essie Davis in The Babadook ,may be dealing with some mental health issues beyond grief. It is a performance that deserves awards attention and hopefully can break through the stigma of being in a "horror movie".
Like the roots of this family's twisted family tree, Hereditary slowly grabs a hold of you and the sense of creeping dread works its way up from the ground until you find yourself paralysed with fear. Indeed by the end of the film you will be so tense you'll need to double check for Rigor mortis.
Exiting the cinema in a complete daze, utterly shell-shocked by what one has just seen, don't lose your head. Just keep repeating "It's only a 5 star movie, it's only a 5 star movie, it's only a 5 star movie".

5 stars

Monday, 11 June 2018

Book Club - review

Just as you shouldn't judge a book by it's cover, you shouldn't judge a film by its poster.
However this poster is a fairly accurate representation of the film in just how relevance and importance the actual "book" part of the book club has to the film. Can you make it out on the poster? It is there I promise you.
That might be harsh because for all I know most book groups might be a mere front for drinking copious amounts of wine and gossiping about men!
Beginning with a voiceover from Diane Keaton's character, it introduces the audience to the four main protagonists who formed a book club and have been meeting for forty years now.
There is the one who talks via narration (Keaton), the one who is sexually dominant (Fonda), the career minded lawyer (Bergen) and the meek, family oriented one (Steenburgen).
If that line up of characteristics sounds familiar, it does feel like a script for a potential sequel to Sex And The City set 30 years after the original that has been reworked to sell to a studio by including a rather tenuous link to a popular novel. Just like Fifty Shades of Grey and Twilight then!
How tenuous you ask? Well at one point Fonda tells the group "50 million readers can be wrong" only for a minute later to have one of them reading the book with the back cover stating "Over 100 million copies sold" which shows how little the film cares about the book.
In the 2002 TV series The Book Group and 2007 film The Jane Austen Book Club, the plots of the books that were being read become part of the characters lives and influence the story.
Here beyond a few initial smutty jokes, there is very little in the way of plot references.
*Spoilers* There is only one post-coitus scene in the film which is not very progressive for a film about women reclaiming their sexual power*
Instead it is just a rather bland, formulaic, poorly written romantic comedy... just like Fifty Shades then!
(For those who are saying Fifty Shades wasn't a comedy, you clearly didn't see the film I saw)
If the filmmakers wanted to try to convince audiences that this movie was about a book group, they could have included at least one scene of them actually reviewing one of the books let alone all three of them.
The biggest difference between the Fifty Shades trilogy and Book Club is simply the sheer amount of talent attached to the material.
Between the top six names on the cast list are 5 Oscars, 11 nominations, 10 Golden Globes, 37 nominations, 4 BAFTAs, 9 nominations, 7 Emmys and 15 nominations.
Which begs the question? Why are they all starring in this?
At one point Bergen says of Steele's character "She should never have signed that contract!". The same could be said of all these great actors.
Much has been made of the argument that there are not many good roles out there for women of a certain age. Was this script all that was available?
Similar to choosing Fifty Shades of Grey for a book group, was there really no other options?
Particularly when this film was written and directed by a man.
It is an strange situation because European cinema has shown recently that there are great films out there for women such as Elle and Let The Sunshine In so why is America and the UK flagging behind. I say the UK because unless you are a Dame (Dench, Smith or Mirren) your options are still limited. And obviously there is the Streep exemption as well.
The women here still show a sparkle in the eye and have a joie de vivre. Keaton's subplot involves her two daughters believing she is over the hill and unable to look after herself but she learns to stand up to them and say she still has a life to live and leaves them to go enjoy it.
Here's hoping that Keaton, Fonda et all get the chance to have that big screen renaissance in real life too.

1 star

Friday, 8 June 2018

Secret Cinema : Blade Runner The Final Cut

"It's too bad she won't live. But then again who does?"

This past weekend I had the opportunity to truly discover what it was like to live within my all-time favourite film Blade Runner: The Final Cut thanks to Secret Cinema.

For those in on the secret, Secret Cinema have been THE company when it comes to Event Cinema, providing immersive, interactive experiences relating to a film that is screened at the end of the night. When it first began in 2007, it really was a secret in that the audience did not know what they were going to see until they got to the event.
It has grown and grown over the years to the point now where the film selections and productions have become so big that the "secret" is out in order to guarantee ticket sales and buy-in from the customers e.g. Back To The Future and The Empire Strikes Back.
But with an inflated price tag of £45-£115, equivalent to a concert or West End show, come inflated expectations.

Having signed up for a new life that was awaiting me on the off-world colony of Utopia, I, Henry Carradine, arrived at World Terminus with a group of my scavenger/dreamer friends to begin our journey. Albeit scavengers who had scavenged costumes off people who looked suspiciously like Rick Deckard and a cosmic Katy Perry.
Sadly the LAPD deemed us not worthy of travel and revoked our identity papers and placed us in a holding pen to watch the rich and powerful breeze by to their new lives.
It was within this pen that we learned of the resistance, a group sick of this world and the injustices they endured. But no longer. For tonight, they would execute Operation Blackout which would reset the clock and level the playing field for everyone.
If the blackout sounds familiar, the writers of Secret Cinema have cleverly tied in to the events that lead into Blade Runner 2049 with a blackout that erased all digital records allowing replicants to disappear without a trace and remove barriers of wealth and class to the rest.
I won't go into the plot too much further but once we were smuggled inside we were given missions and had the opportunity to interact with characters that many would recognise from the original film.
Other guests with different character types (detectives, entertainment models, replicants, etc) all had different mini-missions and there was the immediate temptation to return to try another story thread.
But don't worry if getting into character isn't really your thing or you reach a dead end because you are unable to locate Zhora within The Snake Pit and are refused entry to the dressing room area even when you claim to be from the Committee of Moral Abuses!
For there is so much to see and explore that you won't even care. You will be too busy trying to reattach your dropped jaw to the roof of your mouth.
The level of detail in the recreation of 2019 Los Angeles is simply astonishing. I spent the first twenty minutes just trying to take it all in. There is the noodle bar; check out the digital ad screens for Coca-Cola and Pan-Am; woah, was that Rachel that just walked past?; I wonder if I could buy an artificial owl from Abdul Ben Hassan?
The organisers (L.A.P.D. officers) make you seal your phone in a bag prior to entering the world so you are unable to take photos and share/spoil the experience for others. Part of you will wish that you could capture the memories forever (like Leon and his precious photos) but there is something refreshing about not being on your phone the whole time and being able to absorb and savour every little detail.
I had previously attended the Star Wars event but the quality of the acting and commitment to the characters from all the actors (and guests) was out of this world for Blade Runner and added to the whole experience.
Having gotten a tip from a Replicant singer, we made our way to The Snake Pit where the storyline reached its climax in a thrilling way which was completely in keeping with the universe.
Following that, there was just enough time to order some noodles before taking our seats for the main feature.
With so much energy and focus put into creating this interactive world, it is always a risk that the projection of the film may not be up to the same level. Especially as you are watching it in a converted warehouse and not a cinema auditorium.
However the projection is excellent both in terms of picture and audio. The only problem is that due to audiences enjoying the bars and food stalls for two hours previously, many of them need to visit the bathroom so there is a lot of movement but nothing that will ruin one's enjoyment.
I mentioned previously that Blade Runner is my favourite film of all-time and one of the reasons I love it so much is that I seem to notice something knew every time I see it.
This time it was just how childlike Roy Batty is at some moments, in keeping with the fact that his mind is really only four years old and testament to Hauer's performance.
The other reason is that every time I genuinely change my opinion on the central question of the film; Is Deckard a Replicant?
This time? I would say that he is human. My reasoning this time? Replicants are unable to empathise. This is the reason that they fail the Voight-Kampff test. In the film, Deckard gets very emotional every time that he "retires" a replicant. This leads me to think that he is human and Roy saves him at the end to save his humanity which he has rediscovered through Rachel.
Am I right? Ah, we will never know and part of me loves that mystery. Sorry Ridley.
Without a doubt, this is the greatest and most immersive event that Secret Cinema have put on and I applaud them for that. "You've done a man's job sir". It will be hard for them to top it but I look forward to seeing them try.
Philip K. Dick asked the question, "Do androids dream of electric sheep?". I don't know about androids but I know I will dream of my night in Los Angeles 2019 and unicorns for many a night to come.
So to sum up and paraphrase Batty's final speech...
"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. I've watched a sea of people dancing under umbrellas in the Los Angeles acid rain. I watched Roy Batty take down a squad of Blade Runners without breaking a sweat. Without being able to take photos at Secret Cinema, all these moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain..."

5 stars

Secret Cinema presents Blade Runner The Final Cut runs till 8th July and you can get tickets here.

Top 5 Tips

1) Bring your umbrella - You will get wet!
2) Take old photographs - Old memories are essential for bartering for information or entrance to secret areas
3) Don't bring cash - all bars and food stalls take contactless payment. Even if that means you will end up spending more than you planned!
4) Do dress up according to your character - Don't come straight from work in your normal outifit. You will get picked on by the actors as my friend discovered.
5) Once the film is over, make your way to The Snake Pit where you can dance the night away with replicants and blade runners side-by-side. Even if the music selection is not in keeping with the 2019 setting i.e. Beyonce, Outhere Brothers, etc.

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom - review

"That's how it starts with 'ooohs' and 'aaahhs' but later there's running and screaming"

Jurassic World breathed new life into an all-but-extinct franchise back in 2015, to the tune of over $1 billion dollars, prompting the "ooohs" and "aaahs".
Now Fallen Kingdom could cause the running and screaming from the franchise as it splits audiences like a T-Rex tearing through a lawyer on Isla Nublar.
While Jurassic World was a success, there were some that felt it was just rehashing the original story for a new audience. Similar to what Star Wars did with the Force Awakens.
Well if World is Force Awakens, then Fallen Kingdom is definitely The Last Jedi because it will divide the fans by destroying what has gone before (metaphorically and literally by blowing up the original island) and forging its own path, albeit for better or worse.
At first glance, this did not appear to be the case as the first trailer and the first hour of the film play out like a beat-for-beat retread of The Lost World.
Character with previous bad experiences in the park is summoned to an old man's mansion and asked to return to help save the dinosaurs. In this case it is Bryce Dallas Howard's Claire, who is re-introduced via a shot of her much maligned high heels, before pointedly switching to boots upon the island. There, like Malcolm did in the original, they team up with an ex and a couple of thinly sketched supporting characters to save the day but are hindered in their efforts by a bald hunter in khakis who may or may not have a hidden agenda.
In fact, Ted Levine's character seems to be dressed as the lead truck Nazi from Raiders of the Lost Ark and the whole first act has a Indy trying to recover the Ark from the Nazis-vibe with the team hiding on board a boat and dressing like the villains. Even Giachianno's score has a familiar theme to that other Spielberg classic.
Once they are off the island, following one of the most emotionally moving shots in the saga and indeed of the last few years of cinemagoing, J.A. Bayona is finally able to take the franchise in a new direction. Like a geneticist, creating a new hybrid of dinosaur perhaps.
Having made his name with The Orphanage, Bayona goes back to the well by setting the remainder of the film within a creepy mansion. This one also features a dark secret in the basement but unfortunately this is a surprise that was spoiled by the final trailer for the film.
To be honest, if you have seen that trailer, you have seen Fallen Kingdom as there are no real surprises left to be had.
At one point, Claire asks Owen (Chris Pratt), "Do you remember the first time you saw a dinosaur?"
For many of us, our idea of what a dinosaur is and looks like was from Jurassic Park and the incredible animatronics.
Sadly, the majority of the dinosaurs in this film are now CGI and they do lose some of that sense of wonder knowing they were created in a computer rather than a lab. Which is a huge shame given how well the effects from the original film still hold up.
The over-reliance on CGI dinosaurs and the 12A rating mean that Bayona's attempts to create a stalk n slash style horror mood in the third act lose some of their power and the end result is as toothless and neutered as a hand-reared velociraptor.

Mild spoilers coming after the scary dinosaur...

Please can we call time on the T-Rex suddenly appearing in shot to eat something/someone? Yes it is a shock for the audience but are we really expected to still believe that the dinosaur or character does not see or hear it coming?!

End of spoilers. Here is a happy dinosaur!

Anyway, the kid at the beginning of the first Jurassic Park said it best, "that's not scary, looks more like a six foot turkey". That's what Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom is, a giant turkey that is about to go extinct.

2 stars (would have been 1 star but for the Brachiosaurus shot)