Bruno: Does Anyone Find This Funny?

1/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Austrian fashion journalist Bruno, played by Sasha Baron Cohen, travels to America to make it as a big Hollywood celebrity.

I think this is the worst of all Sasha Baron Cohen’s comedy films. All the most obnoxious and irritating elements are turned up to beyond the max here in a desperate attempt to be funny. Even then it still fails. I didn’t find myself laughing once whilst watching this.

Many praise this film for how it presented Bruno’s sexuality. However, though this film may have subverted some homosexual stereotypes in its depiction it also made new ones which were just as bad as those before it. It still often used Bruno’s sexuality as the butt of the joke, which coming from a straight actor seems a little poor show and homophobic.

I also thought that despite being under an hour and a half this film felt like it was on for at least three hours, such was its terrible pacing. It truly was a slog to get through.

Overall, not funny, irritating and mildly homophobic.

Pros.

Some of the celebrities that have been ‘caught unaware’ give funny reactions

Cons.

It isn’t funny when it tries to be

It is awfully paced

It creates new homophobic stereotypes

Most of the characters feel very one note

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Cool Runnings: A Winter Olmypics You Can Enjoy

4/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Everyone’s favourite bobsled team takes the Olympics by storm.

This film really does hold up. It is just as good now as when I first saw it, happy, wholesome and inspirational; the perfect film to watch during the bleak month of January.

Sadly the film is tinged with sadness by the fact that John Candy isn’t with us anymore, as his is one of the best characters here, only really beaten out by Rawle D. Lewis’s Junior. Though having said that there isn’t a bad performance from anyone in this film, everyone is compelling and helps to bring the story to life.

I thought the ending of this film is one of the best of any sports movie, as not only does it have a good message, it is not about winning but instead about doing right by yourselves, it also has all the feel good beats you would want from a sports film with even the adversarial characters becoming friends and supporters by the end.

The pacing is good and the film knows when to end, two things that a lot of modern films don’t understand. I liked that this film kept it tight and used all the screen time it has effectively, I didn’t become bored once whilst watching.

Overall, a near perfect sports film.

Pros.

The message

The feel good factor

The characters and the performances

The ending

Cons.

The humour didn’t click with me

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Interview With Writer Director David Axe: BAE WOLF

Written by Luke Barnes

I recently had the chance to interview writer/director David Axe about his new film Bae Wolf, which provides a fresh take on the classic Beowulf legend. We discuss issues of fantasy, representation and the importance of striking monster design. I hope you enjoy.  

Q: What inspired you to make this film?

A: I was inspired by the set — a live-action roleplaying facility in Trenton, South Carolina that was convenient to where I live (Columbia) and affordable in my budget. When a resource like that presents itself, you’d be a fool not to take advantage of it. I was also inspired by one of my favourite books. GRENDEL by John Gardner. A postmodern twist on the Beowulf legend and a great political polemic.

Q: What would you say is the message of the film?

A: The message is simple. Monsters don’t always look like monsters. And kindness can be a radical act.

Q: How do you feel your film redefines stereotypes and cliches within the broader fantasy landscape?

A: My project in a lot of my movies is to create sympathy for monsters. To give hideous things humanity. With BAE WOLF, I wanted to create a heightened but believable world and populate it with desperate creatures, all of whom have the same needs. To be understood. To be loved. To be included.

Q: What inspired your monster design?

A: The monster design had to be striking but VERY simple and cheap. We were shooting in an austere location with no time and no money, after all. In my experience, a solid, bold color makes more of an impression than anything overwrought texture. So we just painted our monsters weird colors you rarely see in nature. Bright orange. Bright blue. That plus a simple prostheses — and energetic performances, of course — did the trick.

Q: What is your favourite fantasy film?

A: My current favourite is THE GREEN KNIGHT, which came out right after I finished editing BAE WOLF and scratched the same revisionist itch that drove me to make my own movie. Plus, GREEN KNIGHT is gorgeous. And it hides more than it reveals. I love that.

Q: Any future film plans?

A: In a few weeks I’m shooting a movie called ACORN. It’s about a young woman filmmaker who gets a cancer diagnosis and struggles to make her last movie — a weird, sci-fi Western. It goes badly. Also, there’s a man-eating tree. I’m also producing several movies by other directors, starting with Shawn Phillips’ WOODS WITCH.

Q: Any funny on-set stories?

A: My on-set stories are rarely funny. It’s really hard making microbudget movies. You can’t throw money at problems. So everything is a struggle. One funny thing did happen on BAE WOLF, though. I stayed on set, in a cabin. I brought along a bottle of bourbon so I could have a drink every night before crashing in sheer exhaustion. I know my cast and crew, so I hid the bottle. But those miscreants found it, anyway. Like bloodhounds. Every day that bottle got a little lighter as, I imagine, half my people slipped into my cabin to take sips they thought I wouldn’t notice. And I didn’t, at first. And then all of the sudden I was out of booze

Q: Do you have any advice for upcoming filmmakers?

A: My advice to filmmakers is simple. Don’t let anyone tell you no. Figure out how much money you can beg, steal or take from your own paycheck. Write a movie that you can shoot with the budget you have. Interesting locations are often free. Give some thought to lighting. Worry most about recording clean sound. Don’t be afraid to take chances with performances, camerawork and effects. Don’t think that an expensive camera can replace an interesting lens and strong choices. Always pay your actors, even if it’s $50 a day. Learn to edit. Once you’ve made your movie, let go of all expectations, You won’t get famous or rich, but you’ll get to tell a story.

If you would like to check Bae Wolf out for yourself then you can find it on DVD and Tubi now.

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Bae Wolf: The Rampage Has Only Just Begun

4.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A princess and her trusty sidekick must rally together to go and fight an evil monster.

I thought this film was great, it was pure escapist fantasy fun. However, it was also far more than that, I admired the depth of the characters and how they are given such distinct personalities that really help to set them apart from your bog standard fantasy cliches.

Moreover, I enjoyed the subtext of the film and the hidden layers of meaning I found within it. There is a strong LGBTQIA identity to this film which I thought was a nice change of pace for the fantasy genre and also provided some much needed representation. I also applaud the film for using these themes and ideas but not having it dominate the film to a preaching degree, I thought the film did a superb job balancing the fun, meaningful and the more complex topics it tried to hit on.

Furthermore, as a gore hound I appreciated the gore in this film and how the film held nothing back. If you are going to do a fantasy film it should be stuffed to the gills with slashing, pillaging and general rampaging and certainly this film achieved that.

Overall, a fresh fantasy film that you should definitely check out if you’re a fan of the genre.

Pros.

The gore

The fun

It never took itself too seriously

The representation

The monster

Cons.

The opening was a little slow for my taste   

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Hotel Transylvania Transformania: This Film Needed Adam Sandler

2/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

The monsters are back at it again, only now they have been turned human.

I thought this film was in danger when Adam Sandler and director Genndy Tartakovsky walked away. I know many like to malign Sandler, myself included, but he brought a lot of heart to the role of Dracula and though Brian Hull sounds like the character he can’t bring it to life in the way Sandler did. Yes, I am starting this review by saying the film is worse off for not featuring Sandler, what is the world coming to.

For those with small kids this film is just more of the same. In that you can know what to expect, if your kids liked the other three films it is likely they will like this one as well. However, if you or your kids are more discerning then this is easily the worst in the franchise. The jokes come off as far more bland and tame then they do in the other films, with not a one making me laugh. Adding to that the plot feels like a rehash of the Dracula/ Johnny, voiced by Andy Samberg, plot from the first film and sees the two at odds with one another only for them to come to like and understand each other by the end of the film. We’ve already been there and done that.

The actual transformation gimmick here is nothing impressive either it is mainly just used as set up for bad jokes and to make Dracula less capable and so able to see Johnny from a new light. It is a fairly lazy body swap approach.

Overall, a clear decline in the franchise, hopefully this will be the last one.

Pros.

Selina Gomez has far more time to shine here as Mavis

It is watchable

Cons.

It is lame

It is unfunny

The film needed Sandler and Tartakovsky

The dance number  

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Nightmare Alley: Not Even Willem Dafoe Can Save This

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A man with a dark past, played by Bradley Cooper, joins a traveling circus and tries to make it big as a mentalist.

What happened here? Coming off Crimson Peak and The Shape Of Water two very strong del Toro films he makes this. That is not to say this film is bad just very average. I have seen this film being talked about under the notion of awards contention and frankly it couldn’t be further away from deserving that.

The film is self-indulgent to a tee and goes on for far, far too long. There are moments of promise throughout the film, but they are quickly undone by all the mediocrity that fills out the rest of the runtime. An example of which can be found with the final twist when Bradley Cooper’s character falls prey to a new circus master, played by Tim Blake Nelson, and becomes the new geek. Now some might say this ending for the character is profound but frankly I saw it coming from midway into the film.

The performances are equally a mixed bag. On the one hand you have strong turns from Willem Dafoe and Rooney Mara, but on the other you have an incredibly one note Cate Blanchett as a femme fatale and Bradley Cooper as a character that seems devoid of any kind of personality.

However, though this review has mainly focused on the negative, as I was disappointed with the film, that is not to say it is all bad. The film’s ending does manage to build a nice amount of tension and feel engaging, and some of the early carnival stuff features nice character work and moments that help the audience to power through just how long the first act goes on for.

Overall, not terrible but certainly a step back for del Toro.

Pros.
Dafoe

Mara

The third act tension

Cons.

Cooper

Blanchett

The pacing

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The Tragedy Of Macbeth: One For The Art House Crowd And Not Many More

2.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A retelling of Macbeth with Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand in the leading roles, no more is needed.

I am sure the art house attendees will love this film; I however was decidedly less impressed. I think the performances from Washington and McDormand are good, not Oscar worthy but good, and the style of the film is cool to look at, but really other than that I struggle to see what is so impressive about this film.

It does little different to any other Macbeth adaption you have seen and though it tries to differentiate itself with its style it is only partially successful. Furthermore, the language choice of old Shakespearian English will be a barrier to entry for some, just as it was with the Fassbender adaption that tried a similar thing only a few years prior; and is probably the better of the two.

Perhaps I am a philistine but through most of this film I was bored. I had seen it all before and though Washington and McDormand are good they are not good enough to get me to invest in something I have already seen before. Moreover, despite clocking in at less than two hours this feels much, much longer and will test the patience of most moviegoers.    

Overall, don’t believe the hype.

Pros.

Washington and McDormand

The style

The story is a literary classic

Cons.

There is little new here

The style doesn’t add enough

It is badly paced  

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How I Met Your Father: Pilot

0.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A gender swapped version of How I Met Your Mother.

This was rancid, so much so that I won’t be reviewing any of the other episodes. One was enough for me to check out. Maybe the show will pick up, or maybe it will continue in this vein and if so I am glad I have already given up.

Right from the new cover version of the original How I Met Your Mother theme song red flags are going off, firstly because this theme is not good and secondly because it feels a bit too nostalgia baity. Little did I know that nostalgia bait is the key driving force of this show, as it references and outrightly shows various things from HIMYM in an effort to trigger the member berries in what may be the most desperate way I have seen yet.

Moreover, this film was written by a group of ageing, almost certainly white men, who don’t understand anything about how young people now interact beyond what they see trending on twitter as such this episode is constantly cringe, and not a one of the jokes work. Somewhere after our first tinder mention I started to realise this show wasn’t for me.

Finally, and perhaps most obnoxious of all is the flashforward. Yes, very much like HIMYM this show has a future sequence, where they make terrible jokes about how Alexa’s get things wrong and that older women can be sexual too? Is this funny? This section was so painful it made me want to turn the episode off and honestly I wish I did.

Overall, absolutely terrible.

Pros.

Hillary Duff is trying her best

Cons.

It isn’t funny

It is cringe

It relies too heavily on nostalgia

The new cover song theme song

There is no need for this to exist  

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Bruised: Berry’s Career Receives A Knockout Blow

1.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

In her first directorial role Halle Berry has to give herself the lead role of a disgraced UFC fighter trying to get back in the game, as no one else is offering her roles. It is funny how life mirrors art, though I suppose Berry isn’t disgraced simply forgotten.

If this is how Berry wants to get back into cinema stardom then she has gone the wrong way about it, casting herself feels cheap and more than a little narcissistic, this wouldn’t be so bad if she was able to provide the film with a good performance, sadly that is not forthcoming.

As I have said in many other reviews the actor turned director often doesn’t have a lot of luck making good films that are well received by both audiences and critics, this provides us with another example. Berry certainly throws everything she has at this film, but it isn’t nearly enough. The pace of over two hours is simply grotesque and the story of a broken former star trying to regain past glories is about as played out as they come. If the film had better material to work with then perhaps it wouldn’t be as bad as it is.

As it stands this is just another bad and soon to be forgotten Netflix movie, though it does leave us with a lesson that not every actor has what it takes to excel behind the camera.

Overall, incredibly familiar, overly long and frankly an effort in egotism.

Pros.

It has a good soundtrack

The supporting cast are trying

Cons.

Berry

It is too familiar

It is too long

It is incredibly generic    

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Sex Appeal: Why Are The Kids Today So Damn Cringe?

1/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A young overachiever, played by Mika Abdalla, must enlist the help of her friend Larson, played by Jake Short, in order to get herself ready for her first time with her long distance boyfriend.

If that doesn’t sound like one of the most generic premises you have ever heard, then honestly I am worried about you. I feel like I have seen about fifty other films with that same premise at least. I am getting so sick of this smart girl breaking bad narrative, it worked well in Booksmart it doesn’t mean you need to copy it relentlessly Hollywood. It is also reductive to the cause as it implies that women can’t be both smart and sexually liberated and adventurous, it has to be one or the other.

The young cast are all incredibly unlikeable, and push the boundaries of cringe honestly some of the things they say and do feel so cringey that I almost had to turn the film off. It feels several years out of date to say the least, now I don’t know any American teens so maybe they do carry on like this but dear God I hope not. It feels more likely to just be old executives thinking this is how teens act.

This film did not need to be made, the money used to construct it could have been used for one hundred superior projects or even just given to charity and it would have made the world better, this film enriches nothing and no one, showing the most desperate side of the industry.

Overall, it is depressing that this film was made.

Pros.

It is short

Cons.

It is cringe

It isn’t funny

It is painfully derivative

It has no reason to exist

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