Peacemaker: Best Friends, For Never

4/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Peacemaker, played by John Cena, tidies up after a wild night before and finds kinship in his old friend Vigilante, played by Freddie Stroma.

I think the show really finds its footing in this episode. I thought everything was firing on all cylinders the comedy was strong, the characters were strong, Cena carried on a great performance my only issue with it was that the side characters continue to go unexplored. Yes, there are little nuggets given to us here and there that give us a peak behind the curtain of the underdeveloped side characters, but I wish the show would commit more to this.

For example I thought the show did a good job introducing us to Vigilante, without actually telling us all that much about him. I thought the sequence of him and Peacemaker hanging out and bonding was funny as well as providing us with a nice amount of insight into their friendship. I also liked that this episode gave Harcourt, played by Jennifer Holland, more time to show off and her bar room brawl provided us with a well-executed action scene.  

I also like the White Dragon set up with Robert Patrick and hope that it gets furthered in the coming episodes.

Overall, a strong second episode in what is proving to be a very good DC series.

Pros.

The comedy

Cena

Vigilante

The set up for White Dragon

Cons.

The team could do with more development  

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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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The Interview: Aren’t We All Getting Too Old For This Weak Form Of Comedy?

2/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

The film sees Seth Rogen and James Franco play aspiring journalists sent out to interview Kim Jong-un, played by Randall Park, once in country the objective of their mission changes.

I will tackle the elephant in the room before we proceed, yes James Franco has faced abuse allegations, which he has paid off, yes that makes me not want to watch any films with him in, but for the purposes of this review I tried to place that to one side and view the film without thinking about Franco’s sordid personal life.

However, even with that to one side my view of this film is negative. I found both ‘funny men’ to not be all that funny at all instead I found both to just be churning out the same old shtick they always do and in a particularly unlikeable way here. There was nothing about either of the two heroes that made me feel anything towards them other than mild annoyance.

Randall Park on the other hand fares better and actually managed to make me laugh several times, Park really is an underappreciated hard worker in the Hollywood comedy scene he often delivers the laughs but rarely gets the praise for it.

Park aside I found the comedy to mostly be lifeless and overly reliant on cliches, stereotypes and the exceptional sense of American superiority and smugness anywhere outside their borders. I rarely found myself laughing instead I was often bored.

Overall, watchable in a pinch but fairly subpar.

Pros.

Park

It is watchable

Cons.

Rogen and Franco are annoying

It isn’t funny

It relies too hard on cliches and stereotypes

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Peacemaker: A Whole New Whirled

3.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Peacemaker, played by John Cena, has somehow survived his seeming death in The Suicide Squad and is now back again working for the government this time being brought in to wipe out butterflies.

I understand a lot of people don’t like James Gunn’s tone or sense of humour but I do. Though I didn’t find this episode as funny as the second, review coming soon, I still found that it had me laughing more than I thought it would.

Cena handles the comedy well and makes Peacemaker a layered character. Despite his grovelling to the Chinese Government Cena has such an affability to him that makes him hard to root against, as such you can’t help but like his Peacemaker and want him to succeed. The supporting cast is rounded out by some new faces and some returning, most of whom are fairly bland though Jennifer Holland’s Harcourt is a nice romantic foil for Peacemaker and the two have great banter together.

My issues with this first episode would be that it is still quite rough in places and is obviously finding its footing. Likewise I would prefer to not see Amanda Waller, played by Viola Davis, again as I feel she is in danger of being overexposed in the DCEU, however I suppose she was necessary for set up.

Overall, a solid start for the series made so by Cena, a funny script and a nice odd ball sensibility.

Pros.

The tone

The comedy

Cena

Eagly

Cons.

A bit rough in places

Bringing back Waller

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Ghost In The Shell: Is Scarlett Johansson A Believable Action Star?

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

The popular anime series of the same name is brought to life with Major, played by Scarlett Johansson, a part human part cyborg investigating her past.

I understand many people didn’t like this film because they perceived it as whitewashing the source material and I respect that, however for the purpose of this review I aim to look beyond that.

I actually enjoyed this film when I saw it in cinemas and then when I rewatched it again recently. I thought Johansson was good in the role and brought a lot to it, she was good in both the action set pieces as well as the more emotional and philosophical scenes. Her performance can’t be faulted.

Furthermore, I thought the world of the film was dripping with potential for interesting storytelling. Honestly, I think if this film had been better received we would have gotten numerous spin offs and sequels which would have given us a better look into the world which could have been really interesting, alas such a thing was not meant to be.

My main issue with the film was that it tried to do too much. It crammed a lot of story in a relatively short runtime and as such a lot came off as underdeveloped or even confusing. Even upon rewatching it there are still moments in the films narrative that don’t make any sense to me at all.

Furthermore, Michael Pitt as the film’s villain was deeply miscast.

Overall, a film that is better than a lot make it out to be, but one that still has some major issues.

Pros.

Johannsson

The world

The visual style and the composition

Cons.

Michael Pitt

It needed further expanding   

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The Parent Trap: Almost Killing Your Step-Mother To Get Your Parents Back Together Again

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Two twins, both played by Lindsey Lohan, switch places in order to try and get their parents back together.

I understand that for many this film is a classic, and whilst I thought it was good and had a number of nice moments I wouldn’t go that far. If I were to pick my favourite Disney era Lohan performance it would undoubtably be Freaky Friday, but that’s just me.

I thought the narrative was a little simplistic, though I suppose it would have been fresher upon release when movies like The Princess Switch hadn’t taken the same concept and run away with it. I also thought the film struggled with its characters with the evil step mother, played by Elaine Hendrix, being the most egregious.

I thought Lohan was good in both her roles if a little samey between the two, as far as child actors go she was on the better side of average as her performance didn’t become irritating to me.

Overall, a warm watchable film that isn’t going to set the world on fire but will nicely give you an escape from reality.

Pros.

Lohan

It is very watchable

A few funny scenes

A nice ending

Cons.

Overly simplistic

A little too reliant on tropes

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Kicking And Screaming: Fathers And Sons Comparing Balls

3.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Phil Weston, played by Will Ferrell, has daddy issues and tries to exorcise those demons by beating his dad, played by Robert Duvall, at coaching children’s football.

I think within Ferrell’s catalogue of work this is one of his better outings. For the most part he plays the character straight, he is not loud, or overtly weird, and that gives the character far more of an earnest relatability then we often get from Ferrell’s other roles. He plays the everyman well here and we recognise and understand his motivations for wanting to beat his dad.

I would say this film made me laugh a few times, but it also has its fair shares of misses, it is not the funniest film in the world and there are other Ferrell films that succeed more in this regard; however I think this might be the Ferrell film with the biggest heart. There is a nice emotional core at the centre of this film and it is often on show, there are a number of scenes that are quite sweet and maybe even moving and Ferrell executes them well.

Overall, a sweet Ferrell film that highlights the need for reserve within performing, less is more Mr Ferrell.

Pros.

The sweetness

The emotion

Ferrell

Cons.

A fair number of its jokes don’t land

Some pacing issues  

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Licorice Pizza: Grooming And Further Consent Issues

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A young man, played by Cooper Hoffman, pursues an older woman, played by Alana Haim, whilst both try and do something with their lives and become successful.

I will come right out and say it, the age difference in this film really bothered me. The boy is underage and the woman is much older, ten years his senior, I thought the film teasing us with the will they wont they aspect was disturbing as regardless of the outcome he is still a minor. They do in fact end up together just in case you’re wondering. I can’t help but note that if the romance was flipped so it was an older man and a below age girl, there would be an uproar and the film would never have been made yet that seems to be ignored here, suspect.

I also thought this film suffered from some of the worst pacing I have seen in the last year, it felt double its run time and far outstayed its welcome bringing in more and more subplots and side stories that you just don’t care about.

On a positive note, I thought there were things to enjoy here. I liked the charming strangeness of the whole thing and thought that there were a number of very funny scenes, whenever Bradley Cooper came on screen and wrecked something or threaten someone that always got a laugh out of me. I also thought the film had a really strong soundtrack that helped it out in various different ways.

Overall, the film has enjoyable elements, Cooper, the soundtrack, some laughs, but the icky romance and terrible pacing really bring it down for me.

Pros.

Cooper

The soundtrack

A good few laughs

Cons.

The icky romance

The pacing is awful

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Interview With Director Judson Vaughn And Screen Writer Chris Barnes: Burn

Written by Luke Barnes

I recently had the chance to interview director Judson Vaughn and screen writer Chris Barnes  about their new film Burn, which sees a young boy born into a world of societal panic and hidden truths. We discuss media representations, nature vs nurture and classic horror. As always I hope you enjoy.

Q: What was the message you wanted this film to send?

A: Chris: In the original story, the setting, in my mind, was a lot more working class and no frills; not the grand, rural landscape it ended up becoming – the idea being psychopathic serial killers didn’t have to be these completely cut-off and detached characters. They could be living right next door, only a thin layer of bricks away. The story evolved as myself and Judson worked on my initial idea and script to something much more grand but that’s how it began.   

Judson: That how everything can seem so normal beneath a veneer, whilst trying to convey a subtle sense of former glory (the house and family) of a bygone era as well as crumbling murderous ways – the end of a murderous bloodline… or is it?? 🙂

Q: The film often comments on the nature of worry and panic what inspired this choice?

A: Chris: I guess it came from how the media (and whom they’re driven by), in the main, thrives on fear to keep control. While an active serial killer is an extreme example, I feel that awful events and ‘stories’ are almost welcomed by certain parties to keep people scared and compliant.

Q: The child in the film is essentially born from the sins of the parents in what way do you think this is reflective of early childhood?

A: Chris: I suppose it’s the old ‘nature versus nurture’ debate. Does Charlie learn this behaviour purely from DVDs? It’s doubtful. External influences and a million other things play their part too, and not knowing exactly what they are is why such dark stories and characters are so fun, I guess. 

Judson: I think it can and does happen, but we have to remind ourselves and remain respectful, mindful of the fact that a child is its own person essentially, certainly even more once grown up of course… and separate of their parents afflictions – they deserve that separatist thought, they can’t’ be blamed for their parents wrong doings. However… I think there’s always the debate that rages on, about being a product of your environment or not, or rather, how much of an influence it might have been. It was fascinating to explore these themes within BURN.

Q: What inspired you to make this film?

A: Chris: Judson did! I had a story and a rough script and was in contact with Judson for something completely different. I happened to mention to him I had these things and being the boundless, creative crackpot he is, he said “Let’s make it!” I didn’t have a clue. So it’s down to him. What a bastard.
Judson: Hahaha! Chris’s story made me do it. I’m glad we turned it into a red hot multi-award winning shock fest!

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

A: Judson: Yeah, some of the actors got to torcher the director in a memorable scene. I think they really enjoyed that part. I’m in that scene obviously, say no more.

Q: Future plans and projects?

A: Judson: As BURN continues to cinder- its last couple of film fests are approaching (probably Frostbiter next in Iceland) I’m putting together a short dark drama that laughs loudly in the dark called ‘Little Terrors’ we’ll be fundraising this one and also currently raising money for a new feature crime-drama/action called TRIGGER.

Q: What is your favourite horror film?
A: Judson: The Shining – all time fave. Class. I’m always up for a re-watch, just brilliant.

Q: Are any of your own experiences influencing the creation and style of the film?
A: Judson: I guess it’s inevitable, along the way somewhere it will happen, whatever type of film I might make, everything around us can be an inspiration of sorts or subtle influence… I mean if… if you let it… if you want it to be. Let it flow.

Q: Do you have any words for future filmmakers who may be influenced by your work?

A: Judson: Get inspired. Find that inspiration. Seek it out, be compelled. Go tell your story. Just go and make it, no matter the budget. We made BURN for £5,390 and it came out pretty cool. Similarly, I’m not afraid to make films with £150!

If you would like to check Burn out for yourselves then you can catch it the above mentioned festivals or as it hits digital.

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Burn: There Is No Need To Panic

4/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

The film follows a child, played by Matti Kolirin,  born into an unkind world with themes of national panic and personal tragedy.

I found this to be a surprisingly affecting horror film for a number of reasons, firstly the film does a good job in making us care about the child, their experiences, and how they are growing up, so therefore as things begin to happen you care about the fate of the character. Secondly there is more than enough of our modern times reflected in the film, even though it was made a number of years ago, maybe I am reading into it but I saw a lot of home truths reflective of our current hyper panicked world.

I thought the performances across the board were all strong, I believed the family bond and thought each of the actors played off each other well. I was thoroughly convinced.

My only real criticism of the film would be that there were some pacing issues especially towards the start that really slowed the film down, if it weren’t for them this film could be sweeping full marks

Overall, I related to this film quite a lot and found myself moved by it as well as a little disconcerted.

Pros.

The performances

The ending

The emotion

The relatability

Cons.

Pacing issues  

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