Jungle Cruise: The New Pirates Of The Caribbean?

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Based on the Disney Park ride, Jungle Cruise sees an adventure, Emily Blunt, and her well-meaning brother, Jack Whitehall set off into the heart of the jungle to find a mythical treasure.

If I had to describe this film in a few words it would be dumb fun. Really it is neither hugely good, nor hugely bad, it is just dumb watchable entertainment that passes a few hours.

Certainly this film is trying to be the next Pirates of The Caribbean, you can feel it throughout, and though the film has similar vibes to POTC it lacks the compelling edge. The story for the most part is very throwaway action fare; a group of people head out looking for a mythical treasure and get into high jinks along the way- nothing new.

However, the cast do manage to elevate it somewhat. Rather surprisingly Dwayne Johnson is not on top form here and though he is passable enough in the lead role, he is increasingly out done at nearly every turn by Blunt. Blunt really is the star of this film and her presence helps it immensely. Originally, when I heard that Jack Whitehall had been cast in this I was expecting a disaster, as though he is hilarious he is not a proven actor by any means, however, this film entirely convinced me that he can hold his weight with the big guys and made me feel a lot more confident about his Clifford film.

I won’t go into the villain issue here but suffice it to say it is bad. There are two villains, one of which is entirely needless, and the other is Jessie Plemons who looks like he is having fun, but the film doesn’t know what to do with him.

Overall, a fine film to watch once.

Pros.

Blunt

Whitehall

The world

Cons.

Johnson is off form

The villains

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Batman The Long Halloween Part Two: DC Animations Best In Years

4.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Part Two finally brings to light the identity of the Holiday Killer, as well as seeing many of Batman’s most well known villains take to the streets of Gotham to wage war on the Falcone crime family.

This is the best thing out of DC animation in a while, a long, long while. By this I mean both parts of The Long Halloween viewed as one complete piece, but still on merit this is a strong second half. Not only is it a compelling mystery that gives us quality time with almost all of Batman’s rogues gallery, but it is also a surprisingly strong crime film.

I enjoyed the world set up by this film. I thought it made several changes to the source material and comics cannon that work well in this new context and serve to better the film. The films make the Falcone’s so interesting that you are almost sorry they didn’t split the graphic novel into three films, so you get to spend more time with them.

Furthermore I enjoyed the animation style and thought it looked just enough like the classic cartoons of my youth to be fondly remembered whilst also having more than a little clear anime inspiration. Both elements work well together and create for an animated feature that is a delight to watch.

My one slight criticism of this film would be that Batman gets beaten a lot. Now this might be my own fault for not knowing the timeline, but surely this happens after Year One, so it makes little sense to have a Batman that is clearly still very green in a lot of ways. Batman gets beaten by almost every villain in this film and yes I get that the film is trying to show us an inexperienced Batman but instead he comes off as almost out of his depth.

Overall, one of the best DC animated films in years.

Pros.

The animation

The world

The character development of the Falcone family

The story itself

Cons.

Batman is a little too easily beaten

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Limbo: The Struggle To Start Over

4/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Limbo tells the offbeat story of a refugee’s experience in rural Scotland.

I think this film needs to be seen. It should be mandatory viewing for just about everyone, as it shows the horrors that refugees have to go through once they arrive in the country: everything from the uncertainty of their asylum status to visits from the police to be deported back to the country they fled. It is heart-breaking and moving.

However, I don’t want this review to make the film sound too dower and serious, there are also a number of light hearted moments that provide some much needed respite and allow us to feel a sense of hope for proceedings again. I thought the ending of finally having Omar, Amir El-Masry, play his oud again was a wonderful choice as it highlights this enduring sense of optimism that maybe everything can be okay.

I think this film is incredibly timely and will open your eyes to something you may perhaps have never thought about before. I think it’s message is needed, now more than ever.

The performances across the board were all terrific with every single member of the cast having their own time to shine and individual moments that really help to make each character standout and be memorable.

Overall, I can’t recommend this film enough and though it might not always be the easiest of watches it is very needed.

Pros.

The message

The performances

The ending

The powerful emotion

Cons.

It is bleak at times, truly bleak

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The Bad Batch: Infested

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

The Batch are forced into a gang drug deal between various underworld figures and groups in order to save Cid.

This episode is interesting as it brings back the Pikes, which means the possibility of seeing a return of Maul and Crimson Dawn depending on how things shake out in the timeline. I think the Pikes really add something to this episode and serve to be great antagonists. There is a part of me that wishes the Batch hadn’t tied things up with them neatly, and that we could possibly explore a gang war between the Pikes and The Batch/Cid, ah well.

I think the action for the episode was solid, there was a good amount of tension in the closing showdown as there feels like there is a real threat to Omega’s wellbeing. Moreover, I thought the cart chase scene was well done and used the setting well within the sequence.

I enjoyed that this episode explored Cid’s character a bit more and gave her more to do as up till this point she had only really been a background character. However, this episode does not give the Batch much to do and for the most part they are just along for the ride: if we could have put some character development in their for them that would have made the episode stronger.

Overall, an episode that has promise, however it needs more development.

Pros.

Cid

The action

The Pikes

Cons.

The Batch are more of a footnote in the episode

The final scene of the episode between Omega and Hunter

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Halloween 4: Michael The Cult Icon

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Michael Myers is back, and this time he is after his infant niece.

This was a mixed bag. I think you can definitely feel the absence of Carpenter in a lot of ways, and the film plays as trying to recapture or even imitate both the man himself and the first Halloween which he directed. I understand trying to return to the series roots after the third film underperformed, but making this film feel so heavily ‘inspired’ by Carpenter’s style ends up making it feel like a pale imitation.

That said I do think this film has some promise. I thought the more supernatural take on Myers, with him being evil incarnate was interesting and I am curious to see where they will take it. Moreover, I enjoyed the return of Donald Pleasant’s Dr Loomis, I think Pleasant brings an air of class to the film and really helps to bring the acting up to a believable degree.

I thought the film struggled to find new things for Michael Myers to do, yes he gets a few new kills but nothing to truly make this film feel any different from any of the others. Nightmare On Elm Street had massively different kills and wild lore things happening between instalments, even Friday The 13 at least had Jason in different costumes. Furthermore, I am not quite sure how I feel about the end twist of having Jamie continue on the ‘family business’. Though it was a shocking reveal, I question whether it was just a desperate attempt to keep the franchise fresh.

Overall, there is still some good stuff here, but it is a shadow of its former self.

Pros.

The theme is still great

The supernatural take on Myers

The return of Dr Loomis

Cons.

Nothing new

Carpenter’s absence is noticeable

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iCarly: iLoveGwen

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Millicent’s mum re-enters the picture prompting hopes that her and Freddie will get back together.

I think the only character that this series seems to understand is Freddie, Nathan Kress, as this and the previous episode proved. He is the only character that the series seems interested in exploring and developing; the rest they don’t really seem to know what to do with.

I enjoyed, once again, seeing the Freddie storyline here I think his relationship with Jaidyn Triplet’s Millicent is easily the best thing about the revival so far, or certainly the most meaningful at least. I thought the idea of having Millicent constantly seeing things that suggested her parents were getting back together, only for them not in the end was both maturely handled and surprisingly heart-warming.

As I said before this episode doesn’t know what to do with any of its characters other than Freddie and Millicent, Carly, Miranda Cosgrove, is awkwardly along for the ride and Spencer, Jerry Trainor, and Harper, Laci Mosley, are forced into a competition for no real reason at all. With Carly you can’t ignore the fact that the way she is behaving is not charming or funny, as she is too old to behave like a child and with Harper and Spencer it is just a joke that you have seen before- still not funny. Harper seems to just be mean to every one of the male characters in the show for some reason, I don’t understand why she has been written this way?

Overall, perhaps a more mature episode of iCarly which is appreciated but is really wastes most of its character and that can’t be ignored.

Pros.

Freddie and Millicent

Further emotional and character growth

Well intentioned

Cons.

Harper

It wastes most of its characters who aren’t Freddie and Millicent

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Zola: The Twitter Film

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Based on the infamous twitter thread, Zola tells the story of a road trip gone wrong, highlighting how easy it is for people to end up in dangerous situations.

I had no expectations for this film going in, I didn’t really keep up with the thread when it was viral, though I was aware of the story itself.

I found the film to be on the better side of average but nothing to write home about.

On the positive side I thought the film managed to perfectly nail the tension and produced several scenes that were captivating as they feel so unexpected and threatening.  You could feel the danger these women would have been in, and honesty it is both terrifying and heart-breaking.

Moreover, Colman Domingo was magnificent as X, the pimp who runs the girls through the later stages of the story. Why the character works so well and why Domingo’s performance is so good is because it is unpredictable, one minute he is cool calm and collect and the next he is knocking someone through a wall, the character works as they are seemingly very spontaneous and that is reflected in the performance. Furthermore, the character represents the moral ambiguity of our tale as we don’t know who to trust or believe, none of these characters are morally good and each do good and bad things throughout the film complicating them further.

Switching gears, what didn’t work for me at all was the dialogue. I understand that the way the main two characters speak is based on the real life tweets, you even get the tweet sound here and there, but I would have preferred it if they could have written it as actual dialogue for the film rather than just inserting tweets. Not only is it hard to understand but it quickly becomes annoying and grating as you watch.

Overall, it has its moments, but the dialogue really brings it down.

Pros

Solid tension

An interesting premise

Domingo

Cons.

The dialogue

The performances from everyone other than Domingo

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American Horror Stories: The Rubber Woman Part 1 and 2

4/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

The first two episodes of the American Horror Story spin off see us return to Murder House as we witness yet another young person fall under its dark charm.

So yes this is every Ryan Murphy cliché under the sun that you would expect, there is needless over sexualisation, there is a strange S and M theme running throughout and nearly every line is cringe. However, where that falls apart with his other work, like the god awful Ratched, it just works with AHS and feels fitting.

Did I think it was a little lazy that the first two episodes of this supposedly standalone spin off series returned back to a series old haunt? Yes. However, that said I felt like it did manage to add something new to the Murder House lore and gave us another interesting character in the universe.

I did find the morality of the series to be a little twisted when this undeniably evil character, she kills a bunch of people, is allowed to have a happy ending, but again that is very AHS. As far as the performances go Matt Bomer is by far the standout of the episodes, though Sierra McCormick is a strong new addition.

Overall, though it is a little reliant on what came before it, there is still enough here to make this series interesting in its own right.

Pros.

The Rubber Woman

Matt Bomer

The return to Murder House

A few good scares

Cons.

A little too reliant on nostalgia

The ending should have punished the lead   

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Jolt: Missing A Spark

2/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Kate Beckinsale’s Lindy is a woman with an explosive temper and a keen set of skills. As she re-enters society after years kept hidden away she falls in love, then her new beau is killed. You know what happens next.

Never has an actor needed to reinvent themselves more than Kate Beckinsale. Beckinsale has been on the forefront of the action genre for longer than I have been alive, but if her recent output is anything to go by the spark is gone.

As you might imagine from the premise Jolt is a very by the numbers film, it is passable action, but it is neither good nor bad just deeply average. What this film has going against it is a deeply generic plot that has been done so many times over the years in films and tv shows that you can’t help but role your eyes when you see it done yet again here.

Moreover, the cast aren’t bringing anything to the roles to make them or the film memorable. Yes, Beckinsale is a capable enough lead, but her character is forgotten the moment the film is turned off, and Jai Courtney………. Has no one told the makers of this film that Jai Courtney had his moment and blew it? The moment I saw him show up I immediately knew the film was going to be bad. If ever there was an omen to suggest a film is going to be bad, it is the casting of Courtney.

Again the action is fine, but it is nothing new.

Overall, you have seen this film before.

Pros.

It is passable

Everything is fine

Cons.

It is generic and played out

Courtney

The pacing

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Halloween 2: You Just Can’t Kill Michael Myers

4/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Michael Myers can’t be killed and now he is back at it, tracking Laurie Strode down to her hospital room with a mind to finish what he started.

Though not as good as the original, as few horror sequels are, there is still some electricity here. The moment we are treated to John Carpenter’s wonderful score we are send straight back into that world, as goosepimples are returned to our arms.

I really enjoy the slow dread and paranoia that comes from these early Halloween films, as we see just how frightened of Michael Myers all the characters are, and we get to see that grow as they begin to realise the supernatural qualities he has and how he cant be killed- at least not for very long.

There is a beautiful simplicity to Halloween that other slasher just cant beat. At the end of the day the premise is simple the killer is coming to claim his victims, and no matter what changes or happens that will always be true.

Furthermore this film not only proves without a doubt that Jamie Lee Curtis is not only the heart and soul of the Halloween franchise, as if there was any doubt of that, but also that she is the definitive Scream Queen. Curtis brings so much to the role of Laurie here as we begin to see the trauma coursing through her character as she is not quite in battle hardened mode yet, but she still gives Michael one hell of an opponent.

Overall, a strong sequel that sets the bedrock for the franchise.

Pros.

The slow dread

Michael

Laurie

The theme song/ wider score

Cons.

It is not quite as tight as the original film in terms of pacing

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