Only Murders In The Building: Persons Of Interest

3/5         

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

After being hauled in for murder the trio try and prove their innocence and begin to find themselves staring down another mystery.

I find this show to be good comfort viewing, you aren’t really watching it to see something you have never seen before or to be challenged you are just watching it to be casually entertained. In that view I enjoyed this first episode well enough it was very easy to watch and the central trio all had great chemistry, as they did last season.

My question for this season which the first episode made very more crystal clear, is why did it need a second season, where is there to go from here? Honestly, I feel like the mystery this time around feels a little forced, but who knows maybe they will go somewhere interesting with it and justify why the show needed to come back for a second season.

I liked that the Charles, played by Steve Martin, storyline had him return to his former role as Brazzo’s, and in doing so pointed out and made fun of the idea of legacy sequels wherein the previous main character is only kept around for nostalgias sake and the show or film usually tries to reinvent itself to mixed results.

I won’t spend long talking about the Amy Schumer cameo as a lot of you will know my thoughts on Schumer, though I will say here scene sucked all of the life out of the sequence and certainly was a low point of the episode. The fact some of the characters are in awe of seeing Amy Schumer in a lift is laughably up her arse, also if it was true to life she would be angry for being recognised.

Overall, an enjoyable first episode but not one that justifies why this show needed to come back for season two.

Pros.

It is watchable

The leads all still have great chemistry

I like the meta commentary on legacy sequels

Cons.

Schumer

It doesn’t justify its existence  

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The Warriors: Shirtless Street Gangs

3/5         

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A street gang from Staten Island must get back home after a get together of all the New York gangs goes awry and they become hunted.

To many this is a classic cult film and whilst this didn’t hit me in the same way something like Battle Royale did in that regard, I did find a lot to like about this film.

To get the negatives out of the way first I didn’t like the pacing off this film, it felt far longer than it actually and does drag in places. Moreover, the performances are a deeply mixed bag some of them are good but some are laughably bad, to the point where there is no way you can imagine them as gang members.

In terms of what I enjoyed, I liked the style of the film I thought it was very distinctive and had almost an apocalyptic feel to it that I thought worked really well. Furthermore, I also thought the film communicated great threat during its runtime, as such you were worried for the fate of the characters as danger seemed to lurk around every corner.

Overall, not perfect but very much a snap shot of a point in time.

Pros.

The style

The ending

The threat

Cons.

The pacing

Some of the performances were quite bad

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Gangster No.1: More American Psycho Then Lock Stock

3/5         

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

An east end gangster, played by Malcom McDowell, recounts the story of his rise to power.

I thought this film felt very original and had a voice entirely separate from the early noughties gangster fare put out by the likes of Guy Ritchie. In many ways this film has more in common with American Psycho then it does Snatch and is all the better for it.

I thought the philosophy of this film and its comments on what it means to have it all where interesting and McDowell does a good job playing unhinged, although Paul Bettany who plays the younger version of McDowell’s character does out stage him on a number of occasions in terms of sheer fright factor.

Where this film was weaker for me was in the few instances wherein it was trying to replicate Ritchie’s style and have that same sort of tongue in cheek irreverent tone, that I think didn’t work. I think this film could have been better if it had played itself more straight and been more of a character study into the mind of a crime boss. Ultimately, I think the film should have leaned into its own voice more and stayed away from what was popular at the time.

Overall, a fun and interesting film when it is leaning into the warped psychology of a gang enforcer, less so when it is trying to rip-off Lock Stock.

Pros.

Bettany

McDowell

The physiological spin  

Cons.

The ending doesn’t land in a dramatic sense

It is trying to hard to be like a Guy Ritchie film at times   

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Peaky Blinders: A Fundamental Misunderstanding, Perception Vs Reality

Written by Luke Barnes

In this piece I want to talk about why I believe the final series of Peaky Blinders was not only a great series in its own right but also how it was a fitting end point for the program,  as well as how some of the criticism on social media seems to lack a fundamental understanding of what the series was as well as the style of its creator.

I watched the most recent series of this show through a number of trips to a friend of mine’s house, we both enjoyed it, but after most of the episodes I would check online and see a lot of negative buzz and hate, with the finale being the only real exception. The criticism would all say base things like ‘oh remember when this was a gangster show’, or ‘when did the show become so boring’. To these complaints I would say you were watching a different show altogether, Peaky Blinders did have gang aspects to it, but the fundamental drive of the series was Thomas Shelby, played by Cillian Murphy, as a character and exploring his psyche.  For every street set gun battle, there was a quite conversation done to execute a subtle social twist.

The shows broad themes are a huge reflection of that, with the ideas of the pursuit for power and the supernatural steering the series towards more philosophical fare. Yes, within this drift the series featured a gun battle or two, but I would never say it was just a ‘gangster show’, or even that that was the show’s main focus, some people it seems got far too hung up on these aspects.

To further prove my point one needs only look at the series creator Steven Knight who is known for introspective fare like Locke and Hummingbird, which in the latter’s case does feature some action thriller elements, but is front and centre a drama, as is Locke. Fundamentally, I think many thought of Peaky Blinders simply as a badass action show that gave them a reason to wear a flat cap in real life to try and be a part of it,  when it reality it was always a drama series that featured action elements. In that vein I can’t see how the final series was anything other than a fitting conclusion as it delivered on all aspects of what it was striving to be as a show.  

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Ambulance: A Return To Form For Michael Bay

3.5/5      

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Criminal brother Danny and Will Sharp, played by Jake Gyllenhaal and Yaya Abdul-Mateen II, end up hijacking an ambulance after a bank robbery they are involved with goes down the pan.

In many ways I thought this was a return to form for director Michael Bay, it was tense, thought provoking and totally nailed its action/chase scenes. There were a number of times were you could say I was on the edge of my seat, and I thought Bay did a good job of racketing up the stakes, there is a surprising amount of action for a film where most of the characters remain in the titular ambulance for most of the film. I thought the best scene was most likely the cartel attack which brought the crazy manic violence to a whole new level.

I also thought the performances across the board were strong, Abdul-Mateen II and Eiza Gonzales both gave great performance and brought a lot to their respective characters, likewise Garret Dillahunt seemed to be having a lot of fun in his role too. The one bad apple in the bunch, however, was Gyllenhaal, that is not to say he gave a bad performance but rather that it was incredibly limited. I don’t believe that this is Gyllenhaal’s fault more so I think the character is written to be very two dimensional and then because of that Gyllenhaal has little to work with.

My main area of criticism would be the pacing, the film is on for way too long and there are  a lot of unnecessary sub-plots that add nothing to the film. For example why did we need to see the marriage counselling session of Keir O’ Donnell’s FBI character? We didn’t. Maybe the film included it for a bit of levity within an otherwise quite dark film, but even in this case it comes off as needless.

Overall, the best film Michael Bay has made in a long while.

Pros.

Abdul-Mateen II

Gonzales

The action and stakes

The ending

Cons.

The pacing

The needless sub-plots  

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Windfall: Netflix Needs To Stop Giving Lily Collins Work

2/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

An ode to Hollywood that really didn’t understand the assignment.

This film did the impossible, it gave us a rare bad Jessie Plemons performance; a thing until recently I thought impossible. However, I will contextualise that point as no one is really good in this film as such how can anyone be bad? More so it is shades of average in terms of performance. Jason Segel is the most palatable, and it is nice to see him giving a straight dramatic performance without making dumb jokes. Lily Colins is just playing herself, it would have been more interesting to have cast Plemons’s real life wife Kristen Dunst in the role and played it that way but hey Colins is married to the director and that has to have some perks right? Plemons just seems tired here, there are a few scenes where it looks like he is going to give it his all but then he seems to run out of steam.

As I mentioned in the summary this film opens like a classic Hollywood picture and has the ego to think that it is the modern incarnation, but the noir esque sensibilities quickly get lost along the way as the film devolves into a very basic crime/ hostage film. Moreover, if the ending was going for shocking then it failed at that too as almost everyone must have seen that twist coming from a million miles away.

Overall, more drab fare for Netflix soon to be forgotten about.

Pros.

Segel is palatable

It is watchable if dull

Cons.

Colins

Plemons

It feels derivative

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The Afterparty: Everyone Hates High School Reunions

4.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A high school reunion takes a turn for the macabre as one of the attendees is found dead.

I thought this was a great series, one of the best I have seen in a while. It totally nails most of what it is going for and delivers laughs, shocks and sweet moments fairly on the regular.

I enjoyed the format and thought the idea of having each person’s story be told through a different genre formatting was a really interesting idea that let the show play around with a lot, it also helped keep the show feeling fresh.

I thought the whole cast was strong and each had their own moment to shine over the course of the series. It really is a testament to what a talented and committed cast can achieve. Moreover, this series also features Jamie Demetriou which as a fan of Stath Lets Flats is a big win for me: I thought his character of Walt was frequently a scene stealer.

I thought the mystery as a whole was well done and thought out as it proved my predictions for who the killer was to be inaccurate and surprised me with its reveal, which again is a tick for me.

Overall, one of the best shows on Apple TV for sure.

Pros.

It is funny

It has a good mystery

The cast are all really good

It plays around with different genres and formats

Demetriou

Cons.

Whilst the wrap up reveal was good it felt a little convenient in places.

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The Absurd, Surreal, Metaphysical And Fractured Destiny Of Cerebus The Aardvark: A New Candidate For Best Animated Feature Has Arrived

5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

An animated heist film with a self-reflective Aardvark, voiced by John Di Crosta.

This film struck a chord with me. There was just something about it I really enjoyed. The thing I perhaps enjoyed most of all was the wonderful absurdist elements  that both made me laugh but were also quite deep and introspective at times, this film really goes places.

In that vein I thought the writing was clever and really helped the film to excel. The runtime flew by and by the end of it you are asking for more, if only more films could be paced liked this. The characters all felt fully realised and rounded, you ended up caring about each of them and becoming somewhat lost in the world.

The animation was beautiful and really highlighted what can be achieved on a budget. I thought the animation had way more personality than a lot of the samey looking animated films that come out, and that brought with it a lot of charm. I think the animators of this film deserve a pat on the back, they did top notch work.

Overall, a magnificent film that definitely deserves a watch.

Pros.

The world

The characters

The animation

The heart

The absurdity

Cons.

None   

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Last Looks: Charlie Hunnam Finally Finds His Big Screen Franchise

4/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A retired PI, played by Charlie Hunnam, must come out of retirement to solve the mystery of a daytime TV actor’s, played by Mel Gibson, dead wife.

I thought this was a very well done film. It illuded very much to the golden age of noir films in many ways, however it had more than enough personality to it that you can ignore some of the familiarities.

I have been saying for a long time that Hunnam is a terrific actor who sadly never seems to get cast in the right roles to make him into a big star, but once again he is great here. However, I would say he is outacted by Mel Gibson, yes I know Gibson is controversial but I tried to put that to one side when watching this. Gibson’s hammy British daytime TV actor is hilarious whenever he is on-screen, add to that Gibson’s ability to bring the emotion and deliver some quite touching scenes and you have a scene stealing performance.

The mystery was fairly well done, it was familiar but not predictable I didn’t guess where it was going.

My main criticism of this film would be that it gave Morena Baccarin so little to do, it felt like a huge waste of her talents, though maybe they will develop her character out if the film gets a sequel.

Overall, a charming whodunit.

Pros.

Hunnam

Gibson

A good mystery

Laughs and heart

Cons.

It doesn’t give Baccarin anything to work with

Pacing issues

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Pusher III: Hosting A Party Is More Stressful Than Running A Drug Empire

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Refn concludes his Pusher trilogy with a day in the life of Milo, played by Zlatko Buric, the drug lord from the first film.

Though I still enjoyed this film I thought it was the most needless of the trilogy and could see why Refn didn’t really want to make sequels, this one felt the most stagnate and time killy. Whilst the other films had an ever increasing sense of tension and claustrophobia this film feels decidedly smaller in scale and in stakes. Though for the most part this leads the film to feel less enthralling it also gives us a more intimate look at this character and their mentality which is nice and leads to a number of good character moments.

I think Buric does a good job here and keeps the film trucking along nicely, of the series characters I feel like he was the only one other than the two already used interesting enough to justify there own film and it was intriguing to see his own little slice of the underworld.

I would say this film struggled with its pace as unlike the others it did have moments that drastically slowed down and in doing so lost your attention.

Overall, a good but not great ending to the trilogy.

Pros.

Buric

The intimacy

A deeper look at Milo’s slice of the underworld

Cons.

Pacing issues

Weaker stakes

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