Parallel Mothers: Always DNA Test Your Child

4/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Two mothers, played by Penelope Cruz and Milena Smit, become intertwined in each other’s lives after befriending one another on a maternity ward.

Spoilers

I found this film to be fascinating, they did so much with such a simplistic premise. To get right into spoilers I enjoyed the conspiracy angle to this film as Cruz’s character becomes more and more sure the child she is raising is not her own. I thought these ideas of paranoia and hormonal changes nicely lent the film a sense of tension that permeated it throughout.

Furthermore, I like the mania of the later film when Cruz’s character is forced to live with the knowledge of her discoveries and come to terms with what has happened, as she desperately clings to those around her looking for a life raft. I thought these later scenes were acted to perfection by Cruz and her performance on the whole was terrific and should be up for awards consideration this season. I liked Smit’s performance as well but thought she was totally outacted by Cruz.

My one complaint of this film would be that it had a number of very unnecessary subplots that led to nowhere, with these removed the film would have been phenomenal.

Overall, a very strong film and one to check out before awards season.

Pros.

Cruz

The tension

The conspiracy

The ending

Cons.

A few too many subplots, a little busy.

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Scream 2022: Death Brings New Life

3.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Ghostface is back this time playing by the rules of legacy sequels.

Spoilers

In many respects this film is the best in the Scream series, it nails the tone between scares and laughs and manages to do both fairly well, it has interesting new characters that you end up caring about, and it does something meaningful with the legacy characters.

However, then you get to the third act and the film loses its way and loses several points from me. My first issue with the final was that it is incredibly obvious from the jump who the killers are, the film does little to subvert that and it all plays out exactly how you imagined it would. Secondly, the motivation for why the killer kills, that of them being basically an incel fan who can’t cope with changes to the franchise and so has to try and make his own film, the series of murders, in order to set it right felt insulting to me. I understand it may have been tongue in cheek but to me it came across as the film flashing the fans the finger, which shouldn’t be something the new franchise reviver film sets out to do.

If you put the third act in a box and ignore it then the film is much better. I enjoyed how the film developed Dewey, played by David Arquette, and gave him a fitting heroes’ death, though I think Gale, played by Courtney Cox, would have been a better fit for that plot beat. Speaking off this was the first time in the series I really bought the emotional connection between Gale and Dewey and I thought both actors brought a lot to their respective performances.

Overall, I would say a nice end for the franchise but we all know it won’t be the last film.  

Pros.

Bringing back Skeet Ulrich

Dewey

The new characters

Managing to be both funny and scary

Cons.

The incel fan motivation

It is too obvious

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The Cleanse: Wellness Is A Troubling Industry

2.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

After his life falls apart Paul, played by Johnny Galecki, decides to go away on a cleansing retreat to unexpected results.

This whole same plot line was done far better in a twenty minute episode of Rick and Morty. Basically, during Paul’s stay at the retreat he sicks up some form of parasite that is supposed to represent all of his bad qualities, and as part of the retreat he has to kill it so he can become the person he wants to be. The difference between this and the very similar plot line on Rick and Morty is in the latter it only lasts for twenty minutes and the resolution is infinitely better. I thought from the beginning it was incredibly obvious where the film was heading.

The acting is fine Galecki is serviceable enough, no one really stands out. The thing I would give the film props for is the design of the creatures especially as they aged and became more monstrous, I thought they were well designed and made the appropriate impact.

Tonally this film is a mess as it doesn’t seem able to decide what it wants to be, there are serious moments ruined by a poorly written joke for example. It should really either be a straight horror or a darker comedy and not try for both as the writing just isn’t there.

Overall, some good ideas and strong creature design is balanced by a contrived and easy to guess story with a poorly thought through tone.

Pros.

Galecki

The creature design

Some interesting ideas

Cons.

Rick and Morty did it better

The tone is all over the places and clashes frequently

It is incredibly predictable  

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Deadly Cuts: Hairdressers Take On Gangland

2/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A group of Irish hairdressers kill someone and then enter into a hairdressing competition.

The marketing for this film is a lie. It markets itself almost as a thriller with comedic elements, I thought going in that these unlikely heroes were going to become vigilantes and face off against the Irish underworld in a Shaun Of The Dead esque dark comedy. However, that was not what we got, instead they kill one gang member, and the rest just conveniently leave until the end of the film when they kill one more all whilst competing in the most boring and cliched competition ever. Yeah not good.   

I found this film to be a tonal mess and not really knowing what it wanted to be, on top of that it wasted most of its cast and gave them nothing to work with, as a result the central foursome feels at best bland and at worst cliched. The story is uninspired and feels like a retread of many better films, with the stakes and drama not coming together at all and presenting us with an ending that feels entirely unearned.

Overall, watchable but weak.

Pros.

It is watchable

It is short

Cons.

It is not funny

The competition angle feels played out

There is no drama or real stakes

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Silent Night: Perhaps The Worst Christmas Film Ever Made

1/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A group of people spend one final Christmas together before they are killed supposedly killed by a poisonous gas in the morning.

Where to start with why I didn’t like this film? I suppose the most glaring issue with it was the fact that it preaches absolute faith in what the Government preaches and punishes the characters that dare to think contrary to that. I have read some reviews of the film that say that the message is the exact opposite to how I have taken it and that the point is a critique on mass panics/ mass obedience but I think if that were the case the film needed to do more to show that people were silly to take the pills,

Another wide issue with this film is its preaching. In many ways this can be viewed as an eco-horror as the gas that is coming to kill everyone is of course a result of man’s treatment of the planet. Frankly this rather obvious explanation felt irritating from the beginning, as we get it the planet is hurting but that doesn’t mean it needs to be stuffed into every piece of media as an easy plot point. I would have preferred it if the gas had been sent by some other foreign power.

Moreover, there is an argument to be made that this film is in bad taste. It tries to be a dark comedy horror film, but abandons any semblance of comedy early on and instead tries to become a horror drama film. The bad taste elements come in with regard to the pandemic that we are all living through, there are a number of things here that parallel where we are right now and these elements come across in bad taste at least to me.

Finally, this might be one of the most depressing films you will ever see, there is nothing fun or even really watchable about it and it is so unpleasant that simply finishing it feels like a herculean effort.

Overall, the only reason this film didn’t get lower is because Keira Knightly, Sope Dirisu and Lily-Rose Depp are all trying enough to give the film a few redeemable moments.

Pros.

Knightly, Dirisu and Depp are all trying their best

Cons.

The rest of the cast are not very good, especially Roman Griffin Davis who embodies everything wrong with child actors

It is deeply depressing

It has troubled and flawed morals

The preaching   

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The Sitter: Children Are Evil

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

An unemployed slacker, played by Jonah Hill, takes up a job babysitting three kids little does he know just how much he has taken on and how much trouble it will be.

Okay I’ll admit it, every now and then I like a trashy comedy. I won’t sit here and pretend to be highbrow. My sense of humour is darkly juvenile and/or edgy for sure. As such I actually found this film to be quite funny, I wouldn’t say all of the jokes landed but about sixty percent of them did and that pushes the ratio in a positive direction.

I found the film to be surprisingly heart felt at times as well, yes it won’t win any awards for the more serious moments, but I thought when the film took a break to reflect it really worked well. I particularly enjoyed how Hill’s character realised slowly over the course of the film that he was in a toxic relationship; I thought these moments felt earnt and well done.

Sam Rockwell is a delight as the villain though I would say he is underused.

In terms of issues I would say this film is a little too reliant on gross out humour, or little kids saying bad words humour, neither of which land well and more often than not come across of quite desperate.

Overall, a funny trashy comedy film that won’t blow you away and is a bit too reliant on gross out humour.

Pros.

The heartfelt moments

A good number of funny jokes

Hill

Cons.

Too much gross out humour

The ending

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The Trip: Three Violent Criminals Saving A Marriage

4/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A husband and wife duo, played by Aksel Hennie and Noomi Rapace, head up to their cabin with plans to murder one another, however these plans are thwarted when three escaped prisoners show up and take them hostage.

I don’t think this film wins any awards for originality, I have seen this premise before, a husband and wife who hate each other being forced to defeat a threat and then coming back together at the end with the troubling events having saved their relationship. However, it is done well here.

Both Hennie and Rapace are terrific and I enjoyed the game of one-upmanship they have. Neither of their characters knows the other is plotting against them and I enjoyed seeing their plans run into each other with each thinking they had the advantage over the other only to later have that stripped away.

Moreover, I also really liked this film’s sense of humour and I found myself laughing a number of times throughout. Obviously the humour here is quite dark and won’t be to everyone’s taste, but I found this to be one of the funniest films I have seen in a while.

My only real criticism of the film would be that there are a number of scenes that I think go too far and maybe start to cross into bad taste. I am of course talking about the attempted rape scene, many films have these sort of scenes in them as they apply to the story however here I found it to be far more intense and graphic than what we normally see and as such it made me feel very uncomfortable, the camera often lingered for too long.

Overall, a terrific dark comedy film, minus a slight bit of bad taste.

Pros.

The humour

Hennie

Rapace

The ending

Cons.

It goes too far for my sensibilities   

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Interview With Actor/ Director Robert DeSanti: The Epilogue Of Gregory Archambault

Written by Luke Barnes

I recently had the chance to interview director/actor/writer Robert DeSanti about his new film The Epilogue Of Gregory Archambault, which sees a writer, also played by DeSanti struggle to write the perfect suicide note. We discuss issues of mental health, the writing process and the classic that is Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

Q:  What inspired you to make this film?

A:  I think the inspiration came from a mixture of several things that were happening to me
at once. The main one being I was in a place where I was auditioning all the time but
never quite landing the role. I had a sadness that came from that. I felt like a good actor
with a high level of training (I am good enough) but couldn’t quite land the role(s) (wait,
am I not good enough?). This all-to-common artist juxtaposition caused very dark
thoughts for me. Knowing I couldn’t be the only one going through this, and like the
artist that I am, I decided to pour my heart onto the page.

Q:  What was the message you were trying to get across?

A:  It’s my attempt to address a very taboo subject—the mental health of an artist and
contemplations of suicide.

To me art should make us confront our own vulnerability and contemplate our shared
humanity. With this film I wanted to offer something real. The private moments often
associated with but seldom spoken about in regards to being an artist.

Being an artist means putting your work out there, often to be rejected time and time
again, and the brutal truth is this doesn’t come without a cost. Many of us are rejected
more times in a year than others will face in a lifetime. As artists at some point, we must
confront the duality of rejection (we aren’t good enough) while idealistically clinging to
the hope that we are good enough. The disconnect between artistic aspirations and the
gatekeeper’s system that dictates the marketplace can create a difficult psychological
split that can feel like madness. Life is hard. I feel for everyone’s struggles but I have a
soft spot for the pain an artist goes through because, well… I am an artist.

I wanted to highlight this relationship from an artist’s perspective as taboo as it may be.
It’s told, not as an outsider observer, but from inside the mind of our main character,
Gregory Archambault — it’s his world as he perceives it to be. As right or wrong as that
may feel, or as funny as it might seem from outside looking in, the stakes couldn’t be
higher from Gregory’s perspective.

It’s easy, and even delightful to speak about the successes, awards, and highlights but
what I hope, above all, is that this inspires you to speak about the doubts, dark
thoughts, and pain you also feel, and through that realize that you’re not alone. That
there is a beautiful community of artists around you that has your back, knows your
pain, and is always rooting for you. I hope you laugh. Maybe even cry. But above all, I
hope that you feel seen, and heard, and inspired to have deep dialogue with your fellow
artists.

Satire is comedy about things you care deeply about. It has the ability to express dark
themes in blunt yet relatable ways. I felt this was the best way to confront myself and
the audience with these brutal truths we often carry with us while also making it
digestible and hopefully enjoyable.

Q:  How was the writing process for this film?

A:  Brutal! In many ways it mimicked the film. It was very difficult, and I was full of doubt,
but it was also an amazing process of exploration and learning my craft. It feels weird to
even type this out but if you really watch the film (might take multiple viewings) you will
pick up how layered the film is. There are things in this film that add context and
meaning that no one has picked up on (so far) which really excites me. I’m a big fan of
Chekov and his belief that every element in a story must be necessary, any irrelevant
elements should be removed. I combed over each line of the script time and time again
to make sure that every word had meaning, that no space was wasted, and that I could
justify every single thing that I wrote.

I wrote it to be like Russian literature or a piece of work from Shakespeare. The stakes
had to be high, and it had to be as real as it could be for the character for the comedy to
land. This brought many struggles going back and forth to balance the tone and how far
to go or not to go. I’d act it out in my room and tape it on my phone and make decisions
based on seeing it out loud.

I had two friends whose writing I really respect, Kyle Kolich and Tom Connor, look over
it at certain phases and give honest feedback which really helped me understand how it
was being perceived.

 Q:  Did you find any overlap between the character’s writing experiences and your own?

A:  Absolutely! I think many artists of any discipline can feel imposter syndrome whether
you are talented or not. You have this ideal of yourself and ability but at some point, or
many times, you must be confronted by that inner voice that mocks your very existence.
As an actor and writer, I have dealt with that on many occasions. In writing this film that
was very frustrating but also a very helpful feeling to utilize. I probably found more
genuine, deep truth because of that than if I had not been going through that while
writing this. Now it was nowhere near as bad as Gregory, but it still existed.

Q: If you could go back in time to when you were first starting in the industry what advice would you give to your younger self?

A:  I’m a big believer that life is what it is and learn to roll with the punches. I love who I am
now and although being an up-and-coming artist that is still struggling in many ways to
get his work out there, I do believe it is forcing me to slowly become that much better at
my craft which will pay dividends in the long run. So, I’m pretty content where I am at
and the choices I have made as an artist. With that being said I would have emphasized
the importance of it’s who you know not what you know that often gets you ahead. So,
definitely to put a little more emphasis early on into heavily networking (I solely focused
on the craft for many years).

Q:  How did you strike the balance between comedy and more serious elements?

A:  I love a story I heard about the writing of Forgetting Sarah Marshall. I think that is one of
the funniest comedies of all time and I remember an interview where Jason Segal spoke
about the writing process and Judd had told him to write a drama and then fill in the funny moments. So very much that’s what I did. I focused on the more dramatic elements first. Then I slowly layered in more and more comedy. I also had the advantage that I would be acting in this. I know my own voice pretty well and when writing it I could take a few lines of dialogue and act them out. If I couldn’t make it funny while also hitting the more serious tone I’d change it until I felt I could do that.

Q:  Is the ending happy or sad? Or is it bittersweet?

A:  It changes as I change, as I experience more, and have ups and downs in this industry.
And I hope that people who watch it feel the same way. I think it’s up for debate and
dependent on who you ask and where they are at in life.

Q:  Who would you say your influences were for this film?

A:  My biggest inspirations in everything that I do, but very much for this film in the writing
department, were Paul Thomas Anderson and Charlie Kaufman. I think that they both
explore character and the human psyche as good as anyone who does this and also
make it fun and unique while doing so. I hoped that I could maybe touch the surface of
what they do through this film. Directing style was also very much inspired by Paul
Thomas Anderson. This film is not clean and composed. It gets messy and has a very
nice build up and that is very much inspired by PTA’s early work (specifically Magnolia).
And as an actor my north star is and will always be Philip Seymour Hoffman. I just do
my best to make interesting and honest choices no matter the genre and that was as
true as ever with this role.

Q: Upcoming projects?

A: I’m currently auditioning as much as I can. I also have two more short films in the works,
and it just depends on timing which will be made. One revolves around institutional
policing and is based on a true story of a mixed-race couple that I am very close to and
the other is another piece for me to act in that was inspired by a statue I saw at the
Acropolis Museum in Greece outside the Parthenon.

If you want to watch The Epilogue Of Gregory Archambault it is currently doing the festival circuit, and will be available to watch outside of that soon.   

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The Epilogue Of Gregory Archambault: Finding The Right Last Words

4.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A suicidal writer, played by Robert DeSanti, cannot kill himself until he has written what he believes to be a good suicide note.

Dark comedies are hit or miss for me, I find they can be done really well but rarely are. Usually there is an issue in balancing tone with it either being too serious or too silly, however, this film entirely hits the mark in that regard.

There are several moments that are funny and that do make you laugh, such as the character’s conversation with his mum and the final reveal of what he has been writing all along. As well as this the film also nails the more serious and emotional moments, with the voices that he hears in his head being an apt example of this. Many creatives struggle with feelings of inadequacy or self-loathing, this is an extreme example of it, so it is nice to see that represented here: the feeling that no matter how hard you write you can never write anything good is a common problem that a lot of people face.

Overall, a strong dark comedy film that nails both the comedy and the emotions.

Pros.

The comedy

The mental health focus

The emotions

The ending

The reveal

Cons.

Minor pacing issues

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Comes A Day: Never Go To A Jewellery Shop They Just Aren’t Safe, Learn From Films

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A group of people become trapped in a jewellery shop during a robbery.

This film doesn’t seem to quite know what it wants to be, on the one hand it wants to be a dark comedy and on the other a pure crime film. However, the film brings over elements of each which end up complimenting each other nicely to produce a comedy crime film that will bring a smile to your face.

I have been a big fan of Craig Roberts for a while now, ever since I first watched Young Dracula on CBBC, and he continues to impress me across his career. I found his lead to be likeable and more than a little relatable, he feels human and reflects how most would be in that situation: I thought it was a masterstroke to have him not be the action hero sort as it would have thrown off the whole vibe of the film.

Furthermore, he is also supported by a very strong cast with Imogen Poots and Timothy Spall shining in every second of screen time. I appreciated the amount of character development Roberts’ and Spall’s characters get and think it was well done, however, it needed to be applied to Poots’ character who remained underdeveloped throughout. The same can also be said for the villains.

I think this films greatest weakness is that it is overly ambitious: it starts a lot of ideas and themes that it then doesn’t finish which cheapens the impact.

Overall, a very enjoyable crime film that could have just done with stronger villains and more development for Poots’ character.

Pros.

Spall

Roberts

The ending

Cons.

Poots is underserved

The villains need more personality

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