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Showing posts from February 19, 2017

Review: The Watcher in the Woods

Musician David McCallum and his family (including wife Carroll Baker) stay in an estate in an isolated part of the English countryside. It’s not long before sisters Lynn-Holly Johnson and Kyle Richards start to experience weird shit, including the unnerving sensation that they are being watched by someone or something in the nearby woods. Bette Davis plays the owner of the estate, and Sir Ian Bannen plays another nearby resident.

Directed by John Hough (“Twins of Evil”, “The Legend of Hell House”, the underrated “Brass Target”), this 1980 ghostly flick is about the closest Disney have gotten to horror, and all things considered it’s not too bad. In fact, if it weren’t for the godawful visual FX and the fact that there’s ultimately not much story, it might’ve been worthy of a recommendation. It’s not scary of course, but for what it is, it’s a bit more intense than you might expect. It’s also been expertly shot by Alan Hume (“For Your Eyes Only”, “Return of the Jedi”, “Runaway Train”,

Review: Room

***** I’ll be getting spoiler-y later on (and will warn you when the time comes), but I’d actually advise you to not read this at all until after you’ve seen the film. Going in as blind as possible really does enhance the viewing. *****

The story of five year-old Jack (Jacob Tremblay) his mother (Brie Larson) and the sound-proof ‘room’ they find themselves currently existing in. The only other person they have contact with is Old Nick (Sean Bridgers), the man who kidnapped Jack’s mother several years ago and rapes her on a weekly basis (in an area away from Jack). So far, she has managed to keep Jack (who has only known this current existence) happy and healthy by creating a fantasy world where nothing exists outside of the room. She has also managed to protect him from Old Nick. However, the older Jack gets, the more inquisitive he gets, and his mother knows she needs to do something about that.

Obviously not to be confused with Tommy Wiseau’s cinematic mental breakdown of ineptitude…

Review: The Unauthorised Saved By the Bell Story

The supposed story of how the popular Saturday morning TV show “Saved By the Bell” came to be, and ended up a bit of a phenomenon. The film focuses mostly on co-star Dustin Diamond (Sam Kindseth), the youngest cast member who struggled to fit in and eventually tired of playing the geeky comic relief.

The story goes that Dustin ‘Screech’ Diamond wrote a tell-all a while back that supposedly dished a lot of dirt on his time on TV’s Saturday morning favourite “Saved By the Bell”. His co-stars refuted a lot of what was written, and Diamond himself later stated that it was ghost-written and distanced himself entirely from it. Yet here he is as the EP of this 2014 TV movie that apparently is unofficially based on that book, presumably trying to set the record a little straighter than the book might’ve done. Or to put it another way, Dustin Diamond needed money when he wrote the book, dude needed money when he made his sex tape (which he claims he hired a penile double for), and dude probabl…

Review: Tokarev

Nic Cage plays an ex-member of the mob (Irish-American) now gone legit. One night his teenaged daughter supposedly gets kidnapped by masked intruders. When he finds out that a Russian-made gun (that would be the Tokarev of the title) was involved, Cage and his old buddies (Michael McGrady and Max Ryan) start to suspect that the whole thing is tied to a past misdeed on their part. Danny Glover plays a police detective who tries to keep Cage from doing his own brand of investigating. Rachel Nichols is Cage’s current squeeze, Peter Stormare is Cage’s ex-employer Irish (!) mob boss, Max Fowler is the nice kid who wants to date Cage’s daughter, and Pasha D. Lychnikoff plays an intimidating Russian mobster.

I think we’ve reached the point where we can safely say that Nic Cage fluked his way to an Oscar with “Leaving Las Vegas”. It was a great performance, but his batting average before and since simply doesn’t support any other argument. In the last decade he has almost exclusively been wad…

Review: No Escape

Engineer Owen Wilson relocates his family to a part of South-East Asia for work purposes. On arrival the multinational water company employee finds that there is a large section of the locals who have started a violent coup, putting Wilson, wife Lake Bell and their daughters in potentially serious harm. They are forced to accept the help of a shadowy British agent (a charismatic Pierce Brosnan) if there are going to stay alive and make it to refuge in Vietnam. Yeah, Americans fleeing to Vietnam for safety.

In the 80s, this would’ve been made by Cannon and starring Chuck Norris. This 2015 film’s director John Erick Dowdle (“Quarantine”, “Devil”) and co-writer/brother Drew (“Quarantine”) don’t seem to realise it’s no longer the 80s anymore. I just don’t think the world needs such a lousy, hardly racially sensitive action/thriller, even though Owen Wilson is a vastly superior actor to Chuck Norris and he’s not disastrously lesser in the action department, either. I felt very uneasy throu…

Review: Spotlight

Based on a true story from the early 00s, Liev Schrieber is Marty Baron, the new editor-in-chief at the Boston Globe. Boston has a predominantly Catholic community, and Baron wants to tackle a story about a Boston priest accused of molestation several times, and somehow still managing to keep serving as a priest. For this he gathers the tight-knit investigative team known as ‘Spotlight’: Editor Walter Robinson (Michael Keaton), and reporters Sacha Pfeifer (Rachel McAdams), Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), and Matt Carroll (Brian d'Arcy James). Once they start digging, they uncover a shockingly mammoth amount of wrongdoing by priests, and an equally shocking amount of cover-up by the Church. John Slattery plays managing editor Ben Bradlee Jr., Stanley Tucci plays an attorney named Mitchell Garabedian representing a group of victims, Billy Crudup plays a lawyer involved in the abuse cases who seems to be settling an awful lot, while Len Cariou plays the powerful Cardinal Law, and Paul …

Review: Irrational Man

Joaquin Phoenix plays the new cool Philosophy professor on campus, but in reality the guy is an emotional wreck and drinking heavily. He’s pursued by two women, married but unsatisfied colleague Parker Posey, and a student (Emma Stone) who has a boyfriend but can’t help but become infatuated with this tortured soul. He’s ‘deep’ and she ‘gets’ him, you know the type. Things (i.e. an actual plot) pick up when Phoenix and Stone overhear a diner conversation about a custody court case and a frankly sleazy, biased judge. And that’s when Phoenix gets to thinking…about murder. Ethan Phillips plays Posey’s husband.

Writer-director Woody Allen (“Annie Hall”, “Manhattan”, “Broadway Danny Rose”, “Blue Jasmine”) doesn’t have one of his better outings with this 2015 murder-themed flick, which at best one can say is a better and more honest variant on “Manhattan Murder Mystery”. And still not terribly good (There’s also elements of “Scoop”, “Match Point”, and “Cassandra’s Dream”, none of which were…

Review: Concussion

Set in the early 00s, Will Smith plays Nigerian-born forensic pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu, who uncovers something very concerning to him about a recent crop of former American football players who exhibited erratic and violent behaviour before taking their own lives. Dr. Omalu (who has never watched a game of football nor has much interest in such matters) discovers a degenerative brain disease caused by multiple concussions, a disease he labels Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (or CTE for short). Dr. Omalu lives and works in Pittsburgh, a football mad city and home to the Steelers. Needless to say that his published findings in a medical journal warning of the effects of repeated head-on collisions in gridiron does not go over well with the NFL, nor the people of Pittsburgh. He’s accused of hating football and wanting to destroy the NFL itself by the seemingly wilfully ignorant. However, with more and more cases cropping up, Dr. Omalu soon finds an unlikely ally in longtime former S…

Review: Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension

Chris J. Murray and wife Brit Shaw have Murray’s brother Dan Gill staying with them for Christmas, after the latter has gone through a messy relationship break-up. One day the brothers are cleaning out some old stuff when they stumble upon a video camera unlike anything they’ve seen before. It seems customised, and everything viewed from it comes off weird, almost ghostly. They also find some old videotapes that are recordings featuring former occupiers of the house: Katie and Kristi, the two girls we’ve followed in the previous films. Here they appear to be a part of some weird cult, headed by Don McManus. Meanwhile, in the film’s present, Murray and Shaw’s young daughter seems to have a new playmate…that only the girl can see.

This franchise has been all over the shop. The first film was one of the better ‘found footage’ films. The second was terrible. The third even worse. “Paranormal Activity 4”, however really wasn’t bad at all, nor was the subsequent “Paranormal Activity: The Ma…