Cemetery Junction: Are The Kids Alright?

2.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A group of young people come of age in 70s era Britain.

There is some charm to this film for sure, I found its final scene to be heartfelt, hopeful and warm and still a ways away from overly sentimental. Moreover, I also thought whenever Ricky Gervais was on screen the film perked up, sadly he didn’t show up all that often.

That said, I also think this film has a lot of issues. Most prominently, it feels more like the co-directors of Gervais and Merchant reminiscing about a very specific time period in recent British history rather than a film with a narrative to tell in its own right. In that regard it gave us a very fixed version of the coming of age, wayward teen story that I think we have all seen before. It felt to me as though the film was more interested in showing how life was then rather than telling any kind of story.

Further in that vein, a lot of the characters didn’t come across as real people rather as cliches or architypes used to push the narrative in a certain direction and to set up later character decisions. Moreover, when the film did try and hit on sentimentality a lot of the time it came across overly so, which is why I singled out the ending for not doing this, as it was a nice change.

Overall, not without charm but widely I don’t see the point in this film or why it needed to exist.

Pros.

The ending  

The sound track

Gervais as an actor

Cons.

The writing

It doesn’t need to exist

The emotion often feels overly sentimental

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The Village: The Beginning Of The End For M. Night Shyamalan

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A township of people exist in fear of the creatures that live in the woods just outside of town.

Prior to watching I had heard very mixed things about this film, and after watching it I can say I am mixed. Do I think this film marks the start of Shyamalan’s journey into hackdom, with a brief moment of hope with Split? Yes, I would say so, all the elements that would come to form the basis of bad Shyamalan are present here, though it is not as egregious as it would get with his later works.

I think there are some good elements here, the premise is interesting and the world building is strong, couple this with good performances from Joaquin Phoenix, Adrien Brody, Bryce Dallas Howard and William Hurt and you can see the film has a lot going for it.

However, where everything is undercut is with the twist. I would say this is the first time in early Shyamalan’s work where the twist feels both needless, but also entirely predictable. The reveal that the elders were behind the monsters all along as a means to keep the town isolated from the rest of the world feels incredibly obvious from the early stages of the film. Moreover, though the climax of the film teases us with the outside world it then promptly does nothing with it and basically ignores it, which feels like a huge missed opportunity.

Overall, this film feels like a midway point in Shyamalan’s career, situated between past glories and future disappointments.

Pros.

The performances

The world building

The premise

Cons.

The twist

The ending  

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Gwen: The Horrors Of Rural Wales

2/5

Reviewed by Luke Barnes

Summary

A family in period Wales must try and keep it together in the face of hostile forces, both from within and outside

In many ways, this film wants to be the vvitch, which is evidenced by a lot of thematic borrowing, but it can’t even come close.

This film’s big problem is that you are never quite sure whether it is a horror film or a drama, that shouldn’t be a question that I am still asking even after watching. The horrors of this film come from its incredibly slow pace, which is almost torturous at times, rather than anything else.

That is not to say there aren’t any good scares here, there are one or two interesting scenes that mesh old and new folk horror elements together to create something that feels refreshing, however, the issue with this is that though those scenes are good they are far too few and far between.

Moreover, the ending doesn’t make any sense at all and leaves you going ‘wait what’ which is always a red flag.

Overall, an incredibly slow film that has a few brief moments of promise.

Pros.

A few good scares

Cox

Cons.

The pace

The ending

Is it a horror or a drama

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Interview With Director/Editor Jacob Melling and Actor/Writer Amy Cotter: Fish Out Of Water

Written by Luke Barnes

I recently had the chance to interview editor/director Jacob Melling and actor/writer Amy Cotter about their new film Fish Out Of Water, which tells the tale of an anxious person, played by Cotter, trying to navigate the hellishly social world of the adult.           In this interview we discuss issues of anxiety, poetry and early morning bathing  . I hope you enjoy.  

Q: What made you want to make this film?

JM: Post pandemic I was looking to do a low budget Independent film that really pushed myself creatively whilst having fun and working some creative like minded people. I had been wanting to work with my good Amy since previously working on a short film with her. She is a very talented poet and had sent me this poem called ‘Fish out of Water’ and reading it for the first time I found it so relatable, funny and truthful and I immediately knew it would be fantastic as a short film.

Q: Why choose to feature poetry so heavily?

AC: I wanted to make a film using a process and form I’d not tried before, with a written poem as stimulus and developing the film from there. We wanted to experiment with comedy and rhythm usually reserved for performance poetry and see if it would work. I was especially keen to work with a musician to mainly improvise in the studio, discovering Fish’s thoughts in music and culminating in a thoughtful and beautiful sound track. It was important to us to collaborate with a brilliant team of creatives to bring the characters and aspects of Fish’s world and worries to life. To the voice of her Friend to the credit song- each aspect as important as each other.

Q: The ocean serves as an apt metaphor, however, what inspired that visual element?

AC: We wanted to portray a calming dreamlike alternative world that contrasted to the dreary domestic anxiety of Fish’s reality. The ocean serves as Fish’s go-to ‘happy place’, where she can keep her head above water.

Q: What was the message of this film?

AC: I think there are any number of  messages in the film, hopefully it speaks to whichever part of the viewer that needs soothing. I think it’s an intimate insight into social anxiety and shines a light on the domestic demons we face, sometimes on a daily basis. I also hope it’s an entertaining comfort to a generation unsettled by our growing strains and stresses.

Q: Do you have any funny on-set stories?

JM & AC: During the bath scenes there was a local festival going on so we had to keep restarting the dunking in and out of the bath. A lot of water was swallowed. It was a very joyful summer soundtrack to our luke warm morning of 4 hours in the bath- and VERY hard not to sing along to Sister Sledge.

Q: What was your favourite moment from production?

AC: My favourite part of production was probably getting into the studio to do the ADR and music. Playing the full film to our composer and seeing him improvise to it was magical! A culmination of everyones hard work right there, a very special moment seeing that happen. Also sighing and scoffing into a microphone for 10 minutes for the foley sounds is always fun!

Q: Future projects?

AC: We might develop the next part of Fish’s story, using everything we have learnt about merging poetry and filmmaking. I’d like to make more poetry shorts, different poets, different stories, and experimenting with this style of storytelling, so we are always on the look out for creatives and collaborators to work with!

Q: Do you have any advice for upcoming filmmakers?

JM & AC: If you have even a half formed idea that you want to develop, approach some like-minded dreamers, get a little team together and make it happen. We all need support and I’m so grateful that our tiny team got behind the poem and made it happen.

Keep making films! Keep creating. Keep pushing yourself. I’m nowhere near where I want to be as a filmmaker, but each film I make I learn from and improve. Each experience I also go on to make so many amazing connections and creative relationships just like I have with Amy and the rest of the team working on ‘Fish’.

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Fish Out Of Water: I Wish I Could Swim

4/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A tale of anxiety, woe and the ocean blue.

As some of you may know if you have been reading my reviews for a while, I like poetry. I have dabbled at it a fair bit in the past to mixed degrees of success, it’s a fickle thing. As such I am impressed that this film managed to condense its entire narrative into one poem, and that from that poem the film is able to go in many different directions and illicit so many different emotions.

I often found this film to be deep and surprisingly thoughtful, it made me smile as much as it made me think and broadly ponder. I thought the film was quite true in a lot of the things it was saying about anxiety disorder and the struggles those of us who have it have to go through. It felt very real and human.

My one critique of the film would be that it is too short. I mean that both in terms of I wanted more but also in that I think the film could have done with a few extra minutes to flesh out some of its themes and deeper meanings.

Overall, a beautifully unique film.

Pros.

How it covered dealing with anxiety

The emotion

The poem

The cinematography

Cons.

It is too short

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Asking For It: Yikes

1/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

The rape revenge-sub genre needs to end, or find something interesting to say.

Many people have called this a feminist film, however, to them I say is it? This film does nothing to advance the cause, or add to the conversation, it just shouts out a lot of things  other films have already said about gender issues, but hopes that by being the loudest you won’t realise that this film actually has nothing new to say. It is barely knee deep.  

None of this is helped by the fact that the characters are barely two dimensional and are written as hollow cliches, acting more as mouth pieces for regurgitation than as characters. The cast have all been talented in other things so I am left to either assume they either couldn’t be bothered here, or the writing wasn’t good enough to induce a good performance.

Moreover, the greatest crime of this film is that it is deeply boring and never really does or says anything that is worthy of getting your attention let alone keeping it.

A final question I have for you all is this, who was this film made for? Who is supposed to like it? Anyone? No one?

Overall, a poorly executed message film that will no doubt be forgotten about by next week.

Pros.

Hudgens has charisma even if her character is a horrendous cliché

Cons.

The message achieves nothing and is regurgitated

The cast are all barely two dimensional

It has awful pacing

It is boring and generic  

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Family Squares: Grief In The Time Of Covid

4/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A group of people gather together on zoom after the death of their Grandmother.

I thought this film was surprisingly effecting, there were a number of moments I had a tear in my eye or could feel myself welling up. On first appearance this film is sold as a comedy film and yes there are jokes, a few of which even make you laugh, but in my mind this film is far stronger as a dramatic piece about people dealing with life changes and loss.

The cast is all fairly strong across the board, all are able to be both light and affable and also to bring out the dramatic big guns when required, if I were to single one person out for special acting commendation it would probably be Judy Greer, I thought there were a number of scenes here where Greer really shined and stood out from the crowd through her dramatic work.

My one issue with the film is that the teams/zoom setting will quickly date it, as will all the copious references to Covid, I understand the desire to be topical, but it does become a crutch after a while narratively.

Overall, a warm, touching, sometimes funny film.

Pros.

The cast

Greer specially

The drama and the emotion

The pace

Cons.

The format as well as mentions to covid will quickly date the film

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Sundown: Tim Roth In All His Topless Glory

2.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A rich man, played by Tim Roth, deliberately stays behind, abroad, after his family holiday is suddenly called off so that he can enjoy single life.

This one will be a hard one for a lot of people to get into, it is doing something quite specific and it doesn’t go where you are expecting it to. Often the pace and the way the film is structured can also be quite off putting as it is slow and at times seemingly random. When the narrative reveal comes late into the film that explains why Roth’s character is doing what he is doing it both allows you to understand the film but also depresses you at the same time. The ending is a real downer.

The only reason this film gets half marks from me is because Tim Roth manages to make what would otherwise be quite a boring and sad film somewhat watchable. Roth seems to be having fun and that translates into you having a bit as well, this film truly owes a debt to Roth as without him it would be scoring much lower.

Overall, certainly not for all, only people with a certain disposition will enjoy this.

Pros.

Roth

It doesn’t go where you expect it to

It is watchable

Cons.

The pacing

The ending

It is dull

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Death On The Nile: Cancel The Gal Gadot Cleopatra Film Right Now

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Hercule Poirot, played by Kenneth Branagh, is back and this time he is trying to solve a murder that takes place on a steamboat.

To address the elephant in the room first, obviously it is unfortunate that this film features alleged cannibal sexual predator Armie Harmer in such a large role, but it is what it is and they filmed it before the allegations came to light so for the most part I just tried to ignore it.

This was a mixed bag of a film. To the film’s strength it boasts a terrific performance from director/ star Branagh who really taps into the emotion of the character and gives us a peak behind the curtain in a way the first film never did, the latter stages of the film really highlight this. Moreover, newcomer Emma Mackey is also terrific and steals a lot of the scenes she appears in.

However, to its detriment the pacing is awful and it feels like the film has been on for hours before the plot-forwarding murder even happens. This is a result of the first act dragging horribly, it is also wildly inaccurate to the time period with music and dancing that belongs in a different era entirely, Branagh seems to be growing bored with the period setting here.

Worse yet, the film features some incredibly on the nose product placement for Tiffanies, perhaps on the same level as Crispy Kreme in the Power Rangers film everyone has forgotten about now.

The worst thing about this film is Gal Gadot. I have defended Gadot against a lot of in my opinion unfair criticism, I think she makes a fine Wonder Woman, however here her serious lack of acting chops really shows, as she is unable to do any accent other than her own, or emote, basic stuff. When she is finally removed from play, midway into the film, you are grateful as she was quite clearly miscast.

Overall, a fun if flawed second film.

Pros.

Branagh as Poirot

Mackey

The mystery

Cons.

The pacing made worse by the awful first act

Gadot    

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A Taste Of Hunger: Making Delicious Food Isn’t Enough To Save Your Failing Marriage

3.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A couple, played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Katrine Gries-Rosenthal, try desperately to achieve a Michelin Star.

I thought this film had it all, charm, character and drama. The more I explore Danish cinema the more I am starting to become enamoured with it.

I thought both Coster-Waldau and Gries-Rosenthal brought a lot to the film and each gave strong performances. Moreover, I also thought their relationship and its various woes were also conveyed very realistically and in a way that affected you watching. Whilst watching you were never quite sure who was in the wrong in the relationship or whether the relationship should even continue on, but by the end you learn it is far more complex and nuanced than that. Much like life.

I thought the non-linear structure of the narrative became a bit confusing at times, though after watching it I can see why they went for it. I liked the mystery around who was writing the notes and thought the reveal was clever and well set-up.

My main issue with the film would be that the pacing didn’t work. Frequently scenes either needed longer, when trying to convey an important event, or less time, when trying to convey an unimportant one: better editing was needed.

Overall, an intriguing drama film with a compelling relationship at the centre.

Pros.

Coster-Waldau

Gries-Rosenthal

The drama

The mystery

Cons.

The pacing

The non-liner narrative wasn’t always clear       

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