Sunday, 29 July 2018

Extinction - Netflix Originals Review

Extinction is the latest Netflix Originals film to hit the small-to-medium sized screens around the world and of the science fiction films to land on the streaming platform this year (Annihilation, Mute, The Cloverfield Paradox), it certainly feels the most generic and formulaic to begin with.
The ever-dependable Michael Pena plays Peter, a husband and a father, who is plagued by recurring nightmares of an alien invasion. As the frequency of the dreams increases, it causes him to drift further and further from his family.
Persuaded by his friend to visit a clinic to talk about his issues, he meets another patient having the same dreams and convinced of a conspiracy to wipe them of their memories. Is there something larger at work here?
Just when suspicions of a Body Snatchers-style situation are raised, Peter is unsurprisingly proved correct in his visions as aliens invade Earth in a huge action set piece that sees Pena try to escape their apartment building with his daughters and wife played by Lizzy Caplan (no stranger to alien invasion having appeared in Cloverfield and the Marvel One Shot set after the Invasion of New York).
The scope of the action scenes indicate that it was directed for the big screen but ultimately the budget and CGI make it feel more like a straight-to-DVD sci-fi film from the late Nineties.
It is a shame that the movie feels so carbon copy to others that have come before because with a format like Netflix, there is that danger that they could easily switch over to watch something else.
And in doing so, they would potentially miss out on dramatic plot developments in the second and third acts that flip everything on its head and make you question everything that you have seen before.
It is a fascinating twist that succeeds in temporarily elevating the film above its genre roots into something more profound.
While it is certainly no Annihilation, the twist should give Extinction a chance of not dying out on Netflix in the immediate future.

2 stars

Thursday, 26 July 2018

Mission Impossible Fallout - Review

"There cannot be peace without first a great suffering. The greater the suffering, the greater the peace"

It is a line that is repeated throughout Mission:Impossible Fallout and it is a line that is true of this particular instalment and the franchise in general.
When you look at Fallout, the suffering can be the physical suffering that Tom Cruise went through when he broke his ankle performing a stunt that involved jumping off a building. It was the insurance company's worst nightmare come true (and one that had surprisingly not happened before) but Cruise being Cruise, he took a couple of weeks off and was back at it again. Further cementing the theory that he is superhuman.
The other suffering that was endured during filming was the suffering of Justice League due to Henry Cavill's moustache. Cavill was needed for reshoots on JL but Paramount said you can have him but he cannot shave off the 'tache. Everyone joked about it at the time but the end result of a CGI upper lip was even worse.
However upon seeing the end result of Fallout, the suffering of Cruise and JL was completely worth it because this cements Mission Impossible franchise as the most dependable franchise currently going and one that is rather unique in that they improve in scope, scale and action from film to film.
Further to that, this franchise is something that 22 years ago, never looked like becoming what it is today. Yet after the critical mauling of the (underrated) Mission Impossible II, it has slowly evolved to become what it is today. I say evolved but Cruise has never really changed anything because they have always had a different director for each episode (with the exception of Fallout with the return of McQuarrie) to put their own spin on the franchise.
But something just clicked with Ghost Protocol, where the series seemed to find the magic mix of ingredients that proved successful. Similar to the Fast & Furious franchise when The Rock arrived in Fast Five and has gone from strength to strength.
Fallout is the culmination of a story thread that has run through Ghost Protocol and Rogue Nation. One that has involved a shadowy counter-IMF organisation called The Syndicate and one that has tied itself intrinsically into the lives of agents Ethan Hunt, Benji (Simon Pegg), Luther (Ving Rhames) and Isla Faust (Rebecca Ferguson, who is the first female agent to return for a second instalment).
One criticism of the franchise, beyond the fact that it fails the Bechdel Test every time, is that similar to the Marvel movies, they can lack a memorable villain. Dougray Scott anyone?
The series high point so far was Philip Seymour Hoffman's Owen Davian in III but Harris has a unique brand of menace which works.
But both of these are the villains who can fight Hunt intellectually and emotionally but are not a physical threat. Fallout finally produces an antagonist that can go toe-to-toe with Hunt and dominate him in hand-to-hand combat.
Henry Cavill's Agent Walker isn't an out-and-out villain however. Rather a CIA agent tasked with joining the team but there to take down Hunt is he goes rogue. Which is something that he does every single movie so it is no real surprise that this puts the two characters on a collision course.
Thankfully McQuarrie's story does not rely on McGuffins such as the "rabbit's foot" but a traditional spy movie "world ending" scenario involving missing plutonium and nuclear devices that need to be defused at the last possible second.
When executed correctly, that moment can be incredibly tense, exciting and one where the audience are holding their breath along with the characters.
That is how the audience will feel for every second of the truly exhilarating Fallout for this is *THE* best blockbuster movie of the Summer and one that moves effortlessly from one incredible set piece to incredible set piece.
Whether it is a bathroom fight that makes Casino Royale look like Johnny English; a foot chase through the rooftops of London; a dogfight between two helicopters or an incredible boat/truck/car/bike chase through the streets of Paris which is possibly the high point of the series... which is impressive in itself.
The majority of these stunts are performed by real stunt crews within the camera with very little reliance on CGI. It is a hark back to an earlier time and it shows how good these people are and it helps audiences relate and buy in and become more invested in the action when they know that it is the actors and their stunt doubles actually performing the stunts.
Say what you will about Tom Cruise as a person. As a pure action movie star, there is still no one in Hollywood who could possibly compare to him. It doesn't matter if you are Liam Neeson, Daniel Craig or even Jason Statham. You will be left holding Cruise's beer as he jumps out of a plane!
Mission Impossible might be the most incorrectly named franchise in the world but it is impossible to imagine a better example of a pure thrill ride this year.
The other line that is often repeated in the film is "Your mission if you choose to except it...". As far as one can remember, no one has ever chosen *not* to except a mission and if the films continue to set the bar for action, to the point that Cruise leaps on to and tap dances on the bar, then bring it on.

5 stars

Monday, 23 July 2018

Hotel Artemis - Trip Advisor Review

Checked in to the Hotel Artemis on Saturday for a one night stay. It had been recommended to me because I was a fan of the Hotelier's previous establishments (Iron Man 3, Mission Impossible Rogue Nation).
It is a private members hotel that feels very similar to The Continental in Manhattan, New York which I had previously visited in 2014 and 2017.
Both are famous for their house rules that all guests must abide by. Here they include "No disrespectful words or actions allowed against staff" and "While on the premises, no fighting with or killing the other guests". Which only seems fair and implied at every Travelodge around the world too.
First impressions were good even if the place was a little run down around the edges. It had a speakeasy-kinda-vibe to it; Art-Deco design and furnishings, secret entrances, hidden passages.
What it has in atmosphere, it is lacking in amenities. Don't expect a fully stocked bar or fine dining restaurant. This is a place you come to when you are feeling down and they will fix you up.
It is very much designed for people looking for a quick getaway.
Having said that I did spend a lot of time speaking to a older staff member called "Nurse". She reminded me of Jodie Foster and I really got to know her character as she regaled me with tales of the hotel, its various guests and also spoke fondly of her son Beau. Sadly due to agroaphobia, she had not left the hotel in 20 years. However she was working on it thanks to some 'dealing with anxiety' tapes given to her by a fellow staff member nicknamed Everest (you will understand when you see him).
Although there are only five suites in the hotel, it was a busy night at the Artemis when I stayed with a number of other guests roaming the halls, all going by their suite names i.e. Nice, Waikiki, Acapulco and Niagara.
While Acapulco was incredibly loud, brash and rude, Nice and Waikiki seemed like decent, honourable folk and it was a pleasure to spend some time with them.
Things ended rather riotously when a group of unwelcome guests arrived after a late night out and didn't take to kindly to being refused entry.
Overall though, it did not dampen my stay as the staff looked after us all very well.
Some upgrading and refurbishment is required before I would stay again but I may very well check out their sister establishment in Vegas.

3 stars

Saturday, 21 July 2018

Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again! - Review

Where do you begin with a film like Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again? A film which is critic-proof with a guaranteed audience? Is it possible to hold it up to the same standards as other summer blockbusters?
Will simple things such as plot and characterisation matter when this movie will make a ton of Money, Money, Money?
The simple answer is... No!
Here We Go Again is simultaneously a sequel and a prequel to the unexpected smash hit based on the jukebox musical.
The issue with following that is the musical wasn't planning on any follow ups so they cherry picked the best songs first time round. Once you get through classics like Waterloo and Mamma Mia, you realise that they've exhausted the ABBA Gold album and you are left with the likes of I've Been Waiting For You and, er, Andante, Andante?
However the biggest problem with the film is the giant gaping plot holes visible from space.
For example, Donna's mother is referred to in the past tense in the first film but is alive now. How?
There are multiple references to events between Meryl Streep's character and her three lovers in the original that are forgotten about here. It's as if the screenwriters did not go back and watch it before putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboards).

Instead, all they seemed to focus on was shoehorning in ABBA songs into a back story that explains the origins of Donna's dungarees. So it will surprise absolutely no one that there is a character called Fernando in this.
Then there is the timeline. My word the timeline. If fans have issues with the complicated Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) timeline, they are nothing compared to the Mamma Mia Cinematic Universe (MMCU).
Starting off with Donna and the Dynamos at University in 1979, in which they sing I Just Kissed The Teacher that is an incredibly problematic song in that it implies the abuse of a child and would result in expulsion or jail time for the teacher involved.
If Donna meets the three men in late 1979 and has her baby in early 1980, this would make Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) 38 years old in this film set in 2018.
However, in the original set in 2008, Sophie is said to be 20 years old. Meaning that she was born in 1988.
Bit of a head scratcher huh? But it makes sense in order to cast younger versions of their characters with actors in their mid-twenties.
Of the younglings, particular praise goes to Jessica Keenan Wynn and Alexa Davies as the young Christine Baranski and Julie Walters, who absolutely nail it.
The rest of them don't fair so well. They are all perfectly capable actors but you never really buy into them becoming their older incarnations. Why cast Josh Dylan as a young Stellan Skarsgard when you could have actually cast one of his sons like Alexander or Bill?
Oh yeah, and let's not forget the Streep shaped elephant in the room. The main talking point from the trailers before the film was released. Yes. It's true. It's all true and thrown away with a minimal amount of dialogue that it is genuinely shocking and you won't believe it is real all the way through.
But in spite of all of these negatives... it is impossible not to get swept along with it all and leaving with a smile on your face and a spring in your step. And a lot of that comes down to one single reason.
From the moment she arrives on the Greek island dressed as Lady Gaga, the whole thing shifts up a gear.
Have you ever been at karaoke with a group of friends, all having a laugh and enjoying yourselves, when one friend gets up and takes the whole so seriously that you wonder why you even bothered showing up?
That is exactly how the rest of the cast musty have felt when she started blasting out Fernando.
She is on a whole other level and like the Ronaldo or Messi of the Mamma Mia ensemble.
The whole gang are enjoying themselves though and director Ol Parker gives it a technical flourish with some editing transitions, particularly in the musical number One of Us, that are superb and seem like they are deserving of a better film.
Some critics have called this The Godfather Part II of musicals. Understandable given its prequel/sequel storyline but also because it makes you an toe-tapping, OTT, enjoyable offering you can't refuse.

3 stars

Friday, 20 July 2018

Set It Up - Netflix Originals Review

The greatest back-handed compliment that you can give Set It Up is that it doesn't feel like a Netflix Originals film. It feels like a mainstream Hollywood Rom-Com that has found its way to the streaming site after playing in cinemas.
It might hit every single beat of the romantic comedy playbook but it does it with a slickness and charm, delivered by strong lead performances.
Set in New York, as so many of the classic romantic comedies are, it starts with a montage of assistants being treated terribly by their bosses to the tune of Nowhere To Run by Martha & The Vandellas (itself provoking images of another classic NYC movie The Warriors).
This introduces us to the two lead protagonists, Harper (Zoey Deutch) and Charlie (Glen Powell). They are executive assistants to high powered and extremely demanding bosses (played by Taye Diggs and Lucy Liu), who have clearly learned nothing from films such as Swimming With Sharks and The Devil Wears Prada and live in the Hollywood version of New York where you can still act like a complete dick to your staff and have no recourse from Human Resources whatsoever. Anyway, I digress...
The being-on-call-24/7 lifestyle leaves the assistants with no time for themselves. Harper dreams of being a writer for her boss's online Sports website but cannot find the time to finish an article. Charlie has a high maintenance model girlfriend who is sick of being stood up all the time.
After bonding over a meet-cute involving their boss's dinner orders, they decide to try setting up their bosses into a relationship that would provide them with more time out of the office and able to enjoy their own lives.
From that point on, well no spoilers but you only have to have seen one other romantic comedy to know that; the bosses will get together, working together will cause the assistants to develop feelings for each other, the bosses will split up, the assistants will fight and everything will need to be wrapped up in a big bow by a dash to a public place for a declaration in front of many people...
What sells the film is the lead performances of Zoey Dutch and Glen Powell.
Both have been grafting for several years with bit parts and supporting roles in the likes of Everybody Wants Some, Dirty Grandpa, Hidden Figures, Expendables 3, etc. This is their first mainstream lead role and they carry it off with aplomb. Convincing in their characterisation on their own and generating great chemistry together.
Deutch gets a bit more to do but that it is not too surprising given the film is written and directed by women (Katie Silberman and Claire Scanlon respectively).
Lucy Liu also gets more character development than Taye Diggs, who is rather more of a stereotypical cinematic boss. Liu however is seen as a strong, powerful businesswoman who has made a successful career for herself. Albeit at the sacrifice of her personal life and this duplicitous scheme by Harper and Charlie might just show her that she is worth more than just a career.
If anything, the film tries to show that work isn't everything and it is important to have a life outside of work... or at the very least, find a job/career that makes you happy.
So while relaxing after a hard day's work or typing up that dream job resume, you could do worse that setting up a viewing of this romantic comedy on Netflix.

3 stars

Friday, 13 July 2018

Skyscraper - review

Dwayne Johnson, the most electrifying man at the box office, returns to the big screen this week with Skyscraper. It is not a film adaptation of Demi Levato’s musical banger but a movie that finds Dwayne stuck between The Rock and a Die Hard place.
Johnson proves for the second time in 2018 that age or background is no obstacle to a late career change as he moves from FBI agent to security consultant. In Rampage, he went from Special Forces to Primatologist. Never let anyone tell you you can’t dare to dream!
On a job in Hong Kong, he has been tasked with analysing the security of The Pearl. The world’s tallest building. To do that, he has been living in the residential area of the complex with his wife (Neve Campbell) and two children.
Just before the building is signed off for opening, Will Sawyer (Johnson) is framed for a fire that starts to rise through the Pearl, trapping his family.
He stops at nothing to get back into the building to save them. However the fire is a mere distraction because the real purpose of the event is to allow a group of criminals to steal a valuable object from the Pearl’s owner Zhao Long Ji (Chin Han).
At this point I know what you are thinking. Burning building, criminals, tall building, man needing to save his family.
All you would need is for The Rock to be barefoot and this would be Die Hard. Well actually, The Rock only has one foot and an artificial leg in this due to his backstory!
The filmmakers are well aware that this film is essentially a modern blend of two classics.
It wears its influences not on its sleeve but plastered to the outside of a very tall building. It is a throwback to the dumb, can-be-described-in-one-line, action movies of the 80s and 90s that works on many levels… 220 levels to be exact.
Any film that emulated the Die Hard concept could be described as “Die Hard on a boat” (Under Siege), “Die Hard on a Plane” (Air Force One), etc. So Skyscraper is “Die Hard in the Towering Inferno”.
So much in fact, that Johnson released these two posters before the film’s release, heading off any potential criticism…

Rather than focusing on a disaster movie style film with thousands of people trying to evacuate a burning building, Skyscraper jettisons 220 storeys to focus on just one. The good old Harrison Ford-esque “I just want my family back” and it is the role that Johnson is born to play (and has played for many, many films).
The first third of the movie sets up this story of Will and his family in the building, along with the main players (owner, former colleague-turned-boss, slimy insurance agent, etc) and anyone who has seen any of these films will be able to spot a wrong-un straight away. It also mentions lots of plot points about the building in that Aliens-style way that will come back later e.g. oh Ripley can drive a power loader, wonder if that will be important come the finale? Like the giant indoor room that features reflective computer panels that can replicate multiple versions of whoever is inside? Hmmm.
Once the building is on fire, Sawyer escapes the clutches of the police to climb a Super Crane in order to jump into a burning building.

The initial poster image was the source of some ridicule with mathematicians speculating on the angle and trajectory of the jump but it works much better in the context of the film and feels “just about” believable but hey, this is the movies. It is the kind of big punch-the-air moment that Hollywood is famed for and even if the audience in the cinema don’t cheer, the huge crowd of people gathered in Hong Kong watching the action unfold on giant plasma screens certainly do.
Once back inside, the final act becomes Die Hard with a vengeance as Johnson simultaneously tries to rescue his family and take down the criminals who are led by one with a European accent.
Rolland Moller (excellent in the Oscar nominated Land of Mine) is a charismatic and physical threat but sadly no one can ever come close to Hans Gruber as this type of villain.
Elsewhere there are several direct nods to the Bruce Willis classic that include hanging out of windows tethered to heavy objects and improvised uses of duct tape (one that would actually put Tom Cruise in Ghost Protocol to shame).
What Skyscraper does lack in comparison to Die Hard is the humour and one liners. This film is played fairly straight. Almost in an Airplane style but it really could have benefited from allowing The Rock to lay down some one liners on these criminal Jabronies as well as the physical smack down.
What was heartening to see however was the development and characterisation of Sawyer’s wife played by Neve Campbell. In most films of this type, she would be nothing more than a damsel in distress but she, as a former soldier and combat medic, is capable of handling herself against the bad guys and actually proves herself just as heroic as The Rock, particularly in one moment that will have fans of The I.T. Crowd giving a standing ovation.
Skyscraper might be skyscraping the barrel in terms of inspiration but Johnson once again proves he can carry a cheesy, summer blockbuster like this on his Atlas-like shoulders.

3 stars

Sunday, 8 July 2018

The First Purge - review

Who knew that five years ago when The Purge was released, a high concept horror about a vision of America where all the violence and hatred was released in one night, that it would go on to become the most socially relevant and prescient franchise of the last decade?
Shockingly, what started out as a film listed as "Science Fiction" on, the concept and events witnessed in the four movies have become increasingly plausible and realistic.
As the franchise has grown and evolved, any pretence of being influenced by real world events has disappeared. While The Purge was self-contained and The Purge Anarchy broadened the scope of the action, in 2016's The Purge: Election Year had a female presidential candidate under attack from right wing Purge fanatics wanting to preserve their way of life.
In The First Purge, we witness the very first iteration of the experiment that would define a nation. It is localised to Staten Island and offers citizens $5000 to remain on the island during the experiment, along with higher incentives for active participation.
Much of the action is focused on one of the "Projects" and the African-Americans who live there. They are the ones that need the money most but what the Government don't count on is the sense of community within these areas. They would rather stay together in churches or host street parties dancing to "This Is America" than participate (okay, maybe not quite).
Yes, these people are angry. But not at each other, at the government.
When participation is deemed too low. The New Founding Fathers Association (NFFA) send in groups of white mercenaries disguised as the KKK and other racist organisations to wipe out large swaths of the population.
Only when their livelihood and lives are threatened, the community decides to fight back. Ending in a third act that sees a drug dealer D'Mitri (hey, drug dealers can be good people to) strip down to a white vest and go all John McClane in an apartment block.
I mean, it makes sense. Can't sell drugs to the community if there is no one left in the community!
Jokes aside, given everything that has happened (and is happening) in these communities in America over the last few years, this film feels chillingly real and that is what is truly scary.
"Just remember all the good the Purge does" i.e. makes perfectly adequate action/horror movies with a disturbingly authentic political subtext.

3 stars

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Top Ten Films of 2018 (so far)

We have reached the halfway point of the year and now is as good a time as any to reflect back on the films that have stood out as we patiently wait for Ant-Man and the Wasp to be released here in the UK.
As always the list will only feature films which have had a UK theatrical or Netflix release by 30th June 2018. Hence why many of the films viewed at the Edinburgh & Glasgow Film Festivals, and Incredibles 2 are not on the list.
So without further adieu...


While there will be some people who just don't get it, there will be some who find it akin to 2001: A Space Odyssey in its themes and messages about humanity. They will spread the word and build up its cult status for years to come. Potentially even organising underground guerrilla screenings.
It's legacy on the science fiction genre certainly won't be annihilated. If anything, this is just the beginning!
Read the full review here.


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".
Read the full review here.

In A Quiet Place, silence is not only golden, it's survival. However it is safe to say that audiences and critics won't stay silent after watching it and this will turn into the breakout horror film of the year.
Read the full review here.

Avengers: Infinity War

Just like someone holding a complete Infinity Gauntlet, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is virtually unstoppable at this point and Avengers Infinity War is their finest hour so far... but one expects, as a time stone would tell, the best is yet to come.

Isle of Dogs

Deftly walking the tightrope of Eastern and Western influences, Anderson has bred a film of the highest pedigree that must already be one of the favourites to win the Best Animated Film at next year’s Oscars.
Read the full review here.

The Shape of Water

Grinding Nemo is one of the most beautiful, stunning, moving fairy tales ever to grace the silver screen and it is deserving of so many superlatives that, just as the lead character, one struggles to find the words to describe how fantastic it truly is.
Read the full review here.

You Were Never Really Here

Joe is a tortured anti-hero, at times literally hammering the point home, and his relationship with Nina mirrors that of Travis and Iris in Taxi Driver, hinting that an escape and redemption might be possible for both of them. Yet like Bickle, it is left open to interpretation as to whether he is the rain that washes the scum of the streets or is ultimately another one of the animals that come out at night.
Read the full review here.

Lady Bird

With her debut feature film as writer-director, Greta Gerwig proves that a beautiful Lady Bird is just waiting to emerge from the cocoon of the cover girl for manic, hipster pixie girls.
Read the full review here.

This is Scottish, and indeed, world filmmaking of the highest calibre. Read the full review here.

Secret Cinema Presents Blade Runner - The Final Cut

To be honest, I went back and forth on this final entry. Ultimately I struggled to come up with ten films that would make the cut so decided to go for a slice of Event Cinema to fill the final slot. Sorry Hugh Jackman, The Greatest Showman Sing-A-Long was very close but this just pipped it.
"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..."
Read the full review here.

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Ext. New York City - On Location

Four years ago I spent 3 days in July walking around New York City with my dad, taking photos of over 100 filming locations. In total, we walked 84 miles. The equivalent of a marathon every day.

The reason and result was my first book; Ext. New York City - Discover The Reel New York On Location. A guide to some of the most iconic locations in the Big Apple to have featured on the silver screen. Plus it detailed my Top Ten films set in NYC, along with the history of film making in Manhattan.

Read an interview about my experience on here.

Read a review of the book on here.

Finally, if you want to buy a copy of Ext. New York City, you can get it on paperback or eBook from Amazon.

Dead In A Week (Or Your Money Back) - EIFF review

Dead In A Week (Or Your Money Back) is the blackest of black comedies that attempts to prove that suicide is painless… or at the very least, very, very funny.
Yes, there may be some audiences that are horrified by the idea of a film making jokes about a very difficult, emotional and topical subject matter. However those people probably haven’t actually watched it because the film manages to walk the fine line to handle the issue of ending one's life with sensitivity, care, humour and also how at the darkest moments in life, there is a chance to turn everything around. With the help of the right people.
One night struggling writer William, played by Aneurin Barnard (Dunkirk), attempts to end his life by jumping off a bridge. As he stands there hesitating, he is approached by a mysterious shadowy figure who offers him some assistance.
After the attempt fails (it turns out this is his ninth - if you include the cries for help), William meets with Leslie (Tom Wilkinson) who explains that he is a hitman and will be able to take the stress out of ending one's life for a small fee.
After signing on the dotted line, William receives interest in his book about suicide from a publisher and editor Ellie (Freya Mayor). Turns out he might have a couple of reasons to live for now but will Leslie be happy to cancel the contract?
What sells the film is the fully realised world that writer/director Tom Edmunds has created. Leslie works for a company of assassins and hitmen that present themselves as a legitimate business. They have brochures, away days for training and quotas to meet. It's like a British branch of the assassin's guild from John Wick.
Wilkinson's character is getting on a bit and faces retirement if he is unable to meet his quota for the year and William's contract is all that stands in his way.
Edmunds balances the two storylines perfectly; a young man wanting to end it all while an older man faces the end of his own life as he knows it. The performances from Barnard and Wilkinson are exceptional and pitched perfectly to sell the concept and make the audience empathise with both men.
There is also excellent support from Marion Bailey as Leslie's wife Penny and a scene-stealing cameo from Christopher Eccleston as Leslie's boss Harvey. Yes, he might be doing the standard British-thespian-as-a-gangster role which means doing their own take on Ben Kingsley's Sexy Beast performance (see also Ralph Fiennes in In Bruges) but who cares when it is this hilarious?
Dead In A Week should lead a long, happy life in cinemas, on DVD and streaming and is one film that won't have you asking for your money back.

4 stars

Listen to interviews with Tom Edmunds and Freya Mayor from the Edinburgh International Film Festival on the Filibuster podcast here at The Nerd Party.

Sunday, 1 July 2018

Patrick - review

Patrick is a complete dog's dinner of a film.
A quintessentially "British" comedy which consists of around 1/3 of Beattie Edmondson's Sarah gurning and stomping her feet at how awful her life is; 1/3 laughing at Sarah's attempts to run and 1/3 Sarah shouting "Patrick!" and pug reaction shots where he tilts his head.
The story of a Bridget Jones-esque character having to deal with an unwanted dog, a new job, dysfunctional love life, etc, etc is so formulaic and predictable that if it was a Choose Your Own Adventure book, there would only be one option per page because every single audience member could correctly predict how the plot will unfold scene to scene.
Also the movie seems to be one 96 minute long infomercial for singer Amy McDonald's new album as the soundtrack consists of around nine of her songs which relate to the plot.
How to sum up the experience of watching Patrick? Pitiful, Unfunny, Ghastly, Lazy and Yawn-inducing. So that would be P, U, G, L, Y, you ain't go no alibi, you Pugly!

1 star

Sicario 2: Day Of The Soldado - review

Following the breakout success of Denis Vileneuve's Sicario, Soldado looks to continue the story. Expanding on the battle for the US/Mexico border, the focus of the saga moves from Emily Blunt's character (missing from this film) to Josh Brolin's Matt Graver and Benicio Del Toro's lawyer-turned-assassin Alejandro.
Following a bombing perpetrated by terrorists smuggled across the border, the US government classifies the Mexican cartels as terrorist organisations. Allowing Graver carte blanche to instigate a war between the cartels to try and take them all down.
But a bungled kidnapping puts the two former allies at odds that could put this fragile alliance to the ultimate test.
Taking over directorial duties, Stefano Sollima (director of Italian crime dramas such as Gomorrah, Romanzo Criminale and Suburra) is initially able to recreate that incredible feeling of tension and unease that the original film had. A film that felt like a coiled snake ready to strike at any moment.
This is particularly evident in a sequence where the US team attempt to transport a kidnapping victim back across the Mexican border only to be attacked by the police. This is equivalent of the border crossing sequence in the first film and just as effective.
What is less effective is the dawning realisation of just how right-wing the film (and saga) is in terms of its politics. The issue of the US/Mexico border and separation of families is obviously a very tender subject at the moment and the film is not particularly balanced in announcing which side of "the wall" it stands on. Following the initial bombing of a Costco on US soil, the government manage to frame the narrative in a way to allow them to wage war with the Mexican cartels, even though they were not the ones who physically carried out the bombings.
This is potentially why a large proportion of time is spent attempting to humanise the characters of Brolin and Del Toro. Particularly Alejandro as he develops a paternal bond with Isabella, the kidnapped daughter of a cartel boss. Del Toro is unsurprisingly excellent in the role. However the issue is that based on their actions in the first film, these people are already way beyond redemption.
Which is what this film is.
For it is difficult to remember a film in recent memory that has capitulated so fast in the final act.
Honestly, there is a particular moment from which point the entire film deflates faster than an undercooked souffle that you are left questioning just what the filmmakers were thinking.
There was a huge amount of excitement and potential for this sequel. Unfortunately Sicario 2 is less Day of the Soldado and more Day of the Sol-dud-o.

2 stars