The Haunting: Nothing Is Scarier Than Poor CGI

1.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A group of insomniacs gather at an old mansion for what they think is a sleep survey, whilst in fact it is a study on fear.

Nighties era CGI really was terrible wasn’t it? Whenever there is a scene featuring a ghost in this film, because of the choice of CGI, it is more funny than scary- it is unintentionally hilarious. This film should have gone with practical effects for its horror as many older films did and some still do today, because the alternative is this and this is downright Scorpion King levels of bad.

The acting is at best spotty at worst weak. There are some personal favourites of mine in this film with Liam Neeson and Owen Wilson both being present however they are given nothing to do and are mostly wasted. Wilson particularly has poor dialogue. The screenplay for this film reads as someone who has never written one before using a screen writing for dummies book to try and get through it, whilst remaining untalented.

The worst thing I found with this film was the pacing, there was big gaps of time without anything really happening only to be punctuated with a terribly written cliched bit of dialogue. It was hard to get through.

Overall, an unscary film with laughably bad CGI.

Pros.

A few interesting ideas

Owen Wilson is still as charming as ever

Cons.

The actors are wasted

The CGI

It is not scary

Pacing issues

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The Witcher Nightmare Of The Wolf: Netflix Needs A New Animation Style

2.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Vesemir, voiced by Theo James, becomes wrapped up in a frightening series of monster attacks that seem different to anything he has ever encountered before.

Why do all of Netflix’s animated offerings look the same? I am not saying the art style doesn’t work, but I am saying that I want more diversity and variation within their animated output. I don’t like the fact you can’t tell this apart from Castlevania.

Moreover, the storyline here is so trite that I question anyone’s need to watch this film as they have seen it all before. Hated group has to work with those that hate them and then those that hate them turn on them it is so played out. I am a big fan of the Witcher books/games/TV show and as such I know that this storyline could have been done better. The evil mage who is anti-Witcher is so clear cut the twist reveal of oh actually she is evil doesn’t work as you already knew it, and it feels like the film gives it away early on.

Whatsmore, the tag at the end that showed Geralt felt ham-fisted. We all know where the story is going, we all know that Geralt is coming, however stuffing him in here feels like badly done fan service.

Overall, deeply bog standard.

Pros.

The fight scenes

A deeper look into Witcher lore
Theo James as Vesemir

Cons.

The end sting

The animation style and its overuse

The bland story  

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Fear Street Part Two: What Is More Cliche In Horror Than A Summer Camp

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

The Fear Street saga continues as we go into the past to follow the story of the only person to ever have survived a run in with the witch, and her undead minions.

Though this is a good film in its own right, it is also certainly a step back from the previous film. Maybe the American summer camp has been done to death as a horror location, in fact there is no maybe about it. So seeing it in all its cliched infamy here hurts the film as it lessens the quality and the originality.

Moreover, I found Sadie Sink to be a fine lead. Though she does get more than her fair share of the lime light and a lot of the side characters including her sister are given very little and are deeply underserved as a result. I enjoyed the few scenes we get with Gillian Jacobs she is very talented and brings a lot to the film, hopefully we get to see more of her in the final entry.

In terms of scares this is quite on a par with the first film with each of them having a few good scares here and there without feeling scary as a whole. Honestly, I found the horrific bullying in this film more traumatic than the undead killers. I will assume that was not how the film wanted it to be.

Overall, though this film is good the cracks and crucially the cliches are starting to show through.

Pros.

Gillian Jacobs

Sadie Sink

A few good scares

Cons.

For the most part not scary

The side characters, even those important to the plot, are pushed to the side

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My Salinger Year: White Privilege Is Alive And Well

1/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Everything about this film screams pretentious. The very idea of a struggling writer trying to make their way in New York City whilst also being given a fabulous job opportunity that they don’t value and continue to seek out more to satiate their own ego is a cliché- and sadly it makes up the entire plot of this film.

The problems of our lead, who just wants to write but can’t seem to get anywhere, not only very pedestrian but they also feel hollow. The whole film reeks of the sort of privilege that comes around when you don’t have to worry about the day to day problems and can instead just focus all your time into complaining about not having your dream life- unrelatable.

The reason this film gets the score given, is because of Sigourney Weaver: make no mistake without Weaver I would have given this film less. Whenever Weaver is on screen the film momentarily comes alive, and you are reminded of how great she is and how you miss her not being in more things; what it would be to go back to the mid to late Eighties to Weaver’s peak.

Overall, if this film can’t see how the average viewer would struggle to relate to it, then it is even more pretentious then I thought.

Pros.

Weaver

Cons.

The rest of the cast

The clear privilege

It is a cliché

It is boring and uninspired   

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Pet Semetary: Toddlers With Top Hats

Pet Semetary

3.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Of all the older versions of Stephen Kings films this is probably the best, I won’t even bother to mention a lot of the newer adaptations of King’s work as they are mostly meh at best: I never wanted to see Pennywise dance or lick a piece of glass, but hey that’s me. By comparison to the remake this version of Pet Semetary might just be a masterpiece.

In terms of scares there is something of a fever dream quality to the film, where things never seem quite right. I enjoyed the gothic world the film creates where those we love can come back as evil versions of themselves, I think the premise is rife for exploration into the human condition and for the most part this film does that. There were a few unsettling moments that were made scary by the atmosphere the film had built, sadly in this regard the film also has an oddly comedic, campy charm to it that often takes away from a lot of the scares- on the plus side it does make the film hilarious.

I think the ending of this film is much better to what we got in the remake as well, as it ends with the hint of bad things to come, but it doesn’t go out of its way to show you, it leaves it to your imagination and there is defiantly something to be said for that approach.

Overall, a lot of goofy fun, not perfect but a damn sight better than what would follow it. PS. The Ramones tie in song rules and still holds up today.

Pros.

The end credits song

The ending

The scares

The unintentional comedy, though this does take away from the scares

Cons.

A little dated now

Quite slow pace

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City Of Lies: Depp Back In Action

Written by Luke Barnes

City Of Lies is a crime film directed by Brad Furman. The plot revolves around the death of Christopher Wallace aka Biggie Smalls, and the possible involvement of the LAPD.

It is nice to see Johnny Depp back on screen, it has been a while. Depp plays the detective who was investigating the case and the links to the LAPD, before he was thrown off the case as he was getting too close to the corruption, he meets Forrest Whittaker’s journalist character later on in his career and the two begin to investigate the case again.

I thought the two men had a lot of on-screen chemistry together and bounced off each other really well, true in both the banter scenes and also the more emotional and intense scenes. The emotions that Whittaker’s character has at the end of the film, for reasons I won’t spoil, feel heartbreakingly true and also reflective of how you’re feeling in that moment as well.

I think that though the story is not the most inspired, as there have been very similar plots in many other crime films, the quality of the acting really lifts it that bit beyond. Furthermore, the ideas and dialogues of this film start many important questions and conversations that will add to the ongoing introspection public towards the behaviour of the police.

Overall, a very strong crime film that overcomes a generic premise with strong performances from both of its leading men.

Pros.

Whittaker

Depp

The emotions especially at the end

Adding to a cultural dialogue

Cons.

The premise is fairly generic.

4/5

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The Mauritanian: Deeply Uncomfortable, But Needed Viewing

Written by Luke Barnes

The Mauritanian is a drama film directed by Kevin MacDonald. The film serves as an adaption of the Guantanamo Diaries by Mohamedou Ould Salahi, with the plot recounting the experiences of Salahi as he was detained by the United States Government, without a charge, for 16 years in Guantanamo Bay.

This is a powerful film. Tahar Rahim’s central performance is simply magnificent; it is no wonder that it is receiving so much awards attention. Rahim plays the character in a very human way, and that is fundamental to the film. We see the torture he endures, and it makes for very uncomfortable viewing but also very needed viewing, as it causes us to rethink our society and see where we are going wrong.

Jodie Foster has a supporting turn as Salahi’s Lawyer who spends the film fighting for his release and gives almost as good a performance as Rahim, but not quite. Foster commands the screen and makes for some very memorable scenes. The acting across the board in this film is great.

My one complaint of this film is that it is a little overly long, about 80% of this film is vital and is must watch, however there are a few scenes that run too long, or could have done with being cut out to make the film tighter.

Overall, a magnificent film that makes you rethink the world and that proves Rahim as a name to watch out for on the big screen for years to come.

Pros

Rahim

Foster

Showing the torture and doing it in an impactful way that provokes a strong response#

Recontextualising history

Cons.

A few pacing issues

4.5/5

White Tiger: America Is The Past

The White Tiger is a drama film directed by Ramin Bahrani, based on the novel of the same name written by Aravind Adiga. The plot tells the life story of Balram (Adarsh Gourav), as he goes from a lowly slum dweller to king of the business jungle.

On my shortlist for best films of 2021 this along with Shadow In The Clouds and Spree are up near the top. There is something wonderfully fresh about this film, that I just can’t put my finger on. I think my favourite part of the film is the fourth wall breaking dialogue, wherein the narrator asked us to not judge him harshly for the life he has led: throughout the film whilst doing this is he making wonderfully quippy but also insightful statements that stay with you after the film.

The narrative takes you on an emotional roller coaster as you go from cheering, to crying, to being infuriated and then back again. The film really understands how to play with the audiences’ emotions to make us really care about Balram and his struggle, this in turn makes the pay off at the end feel all the more deserved.

Moreover, and I don’t talk about this enough in these reviews, the soundtrack is absolutely first class. Not only does the score perfectly reflect the emotion and the sense of place on screen but it also gives a vibrancy and liveliness to the film that really helps to keep you engaged throughout.

Overall, one of the best films I have seen so far this year, don’t sleep on it.

Pros.

The soundtrack

The fourth wall breaking asides

The emotion

The performances

The ending feeling earnt

Cons.

None

5/5

Reviewed by Luke

Jack Reacher: Closer To The Real Tom Cruise

Jack Reacher Never Go Back is an action film directed by Edward Zwick, based on the novel series by Lee Child. The plot this time around sees Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise), become wanted for murder after a military contractor betrays his employer. Furthermore, a young woman called Samantha (Danika Yarosh), appears on the scene who has a personal connection to Reacher thereby making her a target.

This film is just plain boring, there is no other way to describe it. The coolest bit of the film is the dinner fight scene in the first five minutes after that it quickly plunges off a cliff, do yourself a favour and turn this off after the five-minute mark.

The action is all very humdrum nothing special or memorable as we have come to expect of Cruise in recent years, all the stunts and fight scenes seem very tame and safe and fail to illicit anything more than an uninterested shrug from you.

Cruise’s performance here lacks all of the charm that made the first film so good, the character seems aloof at best and cold and almost sociopathic at worst. The character is given an emotional journey, but he seems no different at the end to how he was at the start. It is very underwhelming.

Overall, deeply generic, and not worth your time.

Pros.

Cobie Smulders has a very good scenes, sadly she is wasted for the rest of the film

Cons.

It has been done better before

The action is not exciting

Cruise seems bored

The film is badly paced, and you lose interest quickly

0.5/5

Reviewed by Luke

Bridget Jones, The Edge of Reason: The Horrors Of A Thai Prison

Bridget Jones, The Edge Of Reason is a British romantic comedy film directed by Beeban Kidron, serving as a sequel to The Bridget Jones Diaries. The plot this time around see Bridget (Renee Zellweger), in a happy relationship. Though for one reason or another she suspects her boyfriend Mark (Colin Firth), is cheating on her and they break up and then through a series of comedic misunderstanding and lapses in judgment they end up back together again.

This is by far a lesser film than the first. It is still funny and charming, but not nearly as much as the first film. Also the humour here seems far more intent on laughing at Bridget rather than with her, I noticed quite a mean streak to the humour that I found to be quite off putting.

Moreover, the plot of this film is basically just a rehash of the first. It spends almost 99% of its runtime covering old ground and repeating plot points from the first film; it is almost as though there didn’t need to be a sequel. Right from the off you know where the plot is going and can guess the resolution because you have seen it before, in the previous film.

Also the film was made infinitely worse by bringing back Hugh Grant’s character rather than introducing a new character.

Overall, though there is still some fun moments and enjoyment to be had this is a lesser sequel in almost everyway and pales in the light of the first film.

Pros.

A few funny moments

Zellweger is still very charming in the role

It is cheering

Cons.

It brings nothing new to the table

Hugh Grant should not have come back

The humour seems more mean spirited

It is entirely predictable

2.5/5

Reviewed by Luke