Firestarter: The Remade Stephen King Universe

3.5/5      

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A remake of Stephen King’s Firestarter. The plot follows Charlie, played by Ryan Keira Armstrong, a young girl hunted down for her supernatural powers.

A lot of reviewers out there are giving this film very low scores and personally I can’t see why. I don’t know if they were very attached to either King’s original novel or the previous film, but I haven’t read or seen those so I can only judge this film based on its own merits and not compare it to anything else.

I thought for the most part this film was good, the tension was well done and I got vibes of Doctor Sleep in this regard. I thought John Rainbird, played by Michael Greyeyes, was fantastic until the final 10 minutes, he gave off a strong amount of supernatural intrigue as such you constantly wanted to know more about his character but the film didn’t reveal anything which I thought was a smart move. Moreover, Zac Effron also did a great job here further proving his serious acting chops, I thought during the psychic battle sequences he was incredibly.

Another highpoint for me was the score composed by John Carpenter, his son Cody Carpenter and David Davies. It felt like the perfect 80’s call back mixed with just the right amount of excitement and intensity.

However, it wasn’t all roses. I thought the CGI fire effects were poor, to make matters worse whenever Charlie used her powers the camera would cut to a close up of her face with the fires happening off screen which felt cheap and obvious. In addition, there were several moments in this film were it became unintentionally hilarious and made me laugh out loud in the cinema, I don’t think that is what the filmmakers were going for. Finally the ending of Charlie forgiving Rainbird and then going with him despite all the trauma he has inflicted upon her makes no sense and just seems forced in so that the film can have a happy ending.

Overall, above average and certainly with redeemable elements despite not being a great film.

Pros.

The score

Effron

The mystery of Rainbird

The tension

Cons.

The ending

The cheap CGI

It is unintentionally hilarious

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The Rings Of Power: The Question Of 21st Century Fantasy

1.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Several old faces from Carly’s past return in an effort to end her web show.

My, my how do you go from a first episode that by all accounts was very good and pushed the show as a whole forward to this? Quite frankly, this second episode might be one of the worst of the revival.

The most egregious thing is just how badly this episode wants to milk nostalgia, bringing back all of these old familiar faces to try and sue Carly, played by Miranda Cosgrove, thereby forcing in member berries in a way that couldn’t be more blatant. The court trial simply serves as a means to be like oh remember this person from this episode? Remember?

Moreover, this is only added to by the worst ending of an episode of iCarly possibly ever, whereby when it looks like Carly might have to face some consequences for her past misdeeds Spencer, played by Jerry Trainor, just buys her way out. The reason why this sucks is because it could have been an actual emotional moment which could have led to some character development for Carly or at the very least a shift in perspective, but no.

Additionally, this episode forces in a Harper, played by Laci Mosley, and Millicent, played by Jaidyn Triplett, side-plot that is the definition of time wasting. It goes nowhere and undoes a lot of the great Harper work the first episode does, reducing her back into the loud, obnoxious stereotype.

Overall, a sorry state of an episode made worse by the fact it followed such a good one.

Pros.

A few funny jokes

It is watchable

Cons.

The nostalgia baiting

The terrible ending and message of it

Reducing Harper back into a stereotype

Seemingly doing it best to stop any kind of character development

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The Witcher Season Two: The Grey Tide Of Netflix’s Efforts Into Fantasy, How Not To Adapt.

Written by Luke Barnes

In a break from my reviewing tradition I want to take a minute today to talk about season two of the Witcher on Netflix, and why I couldn’t make it to the end of it despite being a fan of the books and the games.

So straight off the bat we have to debate whether this show even is the Witcher, like it is called that and has characters which bare the same names as those who appear in the books and the games but in most other ways it is devoid of the wider franchise and feels far closer to generic fantasy. Whether it is the fact that show choose to cut out so, so much from the books or the fact it changes so much of what it does keep there is just something about this show that just doesn’t feel like the Witcher to me.

Clearly this show is hell bent on appealing to the Twitter brigade, we all know who I am talking about, they have race swapped a number of key characters and are constantly queer baiting a relationship between Geralt, played by Henry Cavil, and Jaskier, played by Joey Batey. I am surprised more people aren’t annoyed about the queer baiting on this show as it is quite obviously leading to nothing and is a poor stand in for any real LGBTQ+ representation on the show. Moreover, the race swaps could have been used well, maybe even played some sort of role in the new story the show wants to tell, but no, they were done for no reason other than for the people behind the show to preach about how diverse their cast is. Yikes.

In addition, the effects are often quite poor, yes every now and again they get one sequence where the effects come together well but more often then not it doesn’t work. This might sound bias against Netflix, which is humorous as many people have called me a Netflix shill in the past, but there is a hue of their trademark cheapness to this show that really shows up more often than it should.

The scene that finally killed this show for me was when Eskel, played by Basil Eidenbenz, was turned into a monster and killed just for the random shock value of it despite only just being introduced and being important in the wider lore. They could have handled this scene in any number of better ways but they did it to prove their independence from the successful books the show is based on and show how there is no element of Sapkowski’s universe that this show won’t ruin.

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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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The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey: Greed Is Not Limited To Dragons

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

The Lord Of The Ring’s disappointing cousin.

As some of you may know The Lord Of The Rings is one of my favourite trilogies ever, so much so that I may never review them: as even the concept of having to think critically about something I care so deeply about seems hard. However, the Hobbit and it’s various sequels are fair game.

Like many people when I watched An Unexpected Journey in the cinema for the first time I was mixed, and then in the short term afterwards I grew more negative towards the film. However, with time I found within me a fondness for this trilogy so I decided to go back to it, and after all these years I can honestly say that this film was okay, not great, not terrible.

This film has a lot going for it Tolkien’s fantastic world, strong source material and a good cast with the likes of Martin Freeman, Aiden Turner and Richard Armitage and for the most part these factors stop the film from being awful and even create positive feelings towards the Hobbit trilogy, then you get to the ending and yeah…….. Then you remember why everyone dislikes the Hobbit films.

The rather obvious issue with these films as many have pointed out in the past is the pacing. Now I have nothing against the long run times of these films, but I do take umbrage when I feel the audience is being exploited, as in to take a short story contained within one book and then turning it into three films. When we reach the end of the film and realise that we aren’t even going to see Smaug basically at all, it feels as though you have been cheated. It feels like a smack in the face and an executive laughing at you saying, ‘oh better come back for the sequel’.

This clear mentality is what I think really harms this film and its sequels.   

Overall, exploitative but not without promise.

Pros.

The cast

The world

There is fun to be had

Cons.

The pacing

The unmistakable feeling of corporate greed

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Pam And Tommy: Drilling And Pounding

1/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

An opening episode with all the depth and nuance of a puddle of sick, which often revels in its crass vulgarities thinking that simply by being shocking the series can be entertaining.

Honestly, I can’t understand why this show is getting good reviews? I am bemused by it. Within the first episode I found nearly all the characters to be so loathsome and unpleasant that I had trouble finishing it. If Tommy Lee, here played by Sebastian Stan, did indeed behave like that in real life he should be in prison, and if not he should sue this show for defamation.

Moreover, I am no prude, but this episode was needly vulgar every step of the way, I don’t know why it needed to be. Did the show think this would make it funny? Is it trying to make some kind of comment on the lifestyles of the rich and famous? Is it supposed to be shocking? I don’t know the answers to these questions dear reader, but I do know that after the hundredth ‘oh yeah do you like that’, that it becomes cringe and feels like it is trying too hard.

Also I have not seen the whole series yet so I can’t comment fully, but it seems to me that in the little we see of Lily James’ Pamela Anderson here, she is being sexualised. Which maybe they will do more with her over the course of the series and they will give her some nuance, but I doubt it. Objectification very clearly on display.

I also think it is worth noting that the real life Anderson, did not want this show to be made. So it is a show about a deeply intimate and embarrassing moment of her life being made without her consent. Ponder that.

Overall, I don’t think I’ll be returning for episode two.

Pros.

At least they didn’t have alleged sexual predator James Franco staring in it like they were going to

Cons.

Everyone in it is deeply unlikeable

It is trying to hard to be gross out and adult

It is vulgar

Lily James’s Anderson is being objectified

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The Tragedy Of Macbeth: One For The Art House Crowd And Not Many More

2.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A retelling of Macbeth with Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand in the leading roles, no more is needed.

I am sure the art house attendees will love this film; I however was decidedly less impressed. I think the performances from Washington and McDormand are good, not Oscar worthy but good, and the style of the film is cool to look at, but really other than that I struggle to see what is so impressive about this film.

It does little different to any other Macbeth adaption you have seen and though it tries to differentiate itself with its style it is only partially successful. Furthermore, the language choice of old Shakespearian English will be a barrier to entry for some, just as it was with the Fassbender adaption that tried a similar thing only a few years prior; and is probably the better of the two.

Perhaps I am a philistine but through most of this film I was bored. I had seen it all before and though Washington and McDormand are good they are not good enough to get me to invest in something I have already seen before. Moreover, despite clocking in at less than two hours this feels much, much longer and will test the patience of most moviegoers.    

Overall, don’t believe the hype.

Pros.

Washington and McDormand

The style

The story is a literary classic

Cons.

There is little new here

The style doesn’t add enough

It is badly paced  

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Diary Of A Wimpy Kid: Disney Coming In To Ruin Another Franchise

1/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A new animated take on the Diary Of A Wimpy Kid books by Jeff Kinney.

Where to begin on what went wrong with this film.

I think the most obvious place to start is that this film is a carbon copy of the much better live action version, it lifts scenes and lines of dialogue from that film and that just serves to remind you how needless this film really is, it is an animated reskin of a better product that came out just long ago enough for kids today to not remember it.

Speaking of the animation there is something noticeably off with it. I can’t quite put my finger on what is wrong, but there is certainly something going wrong with the lighting and the framing of it a lot of the time throughout the film. The animation style itself is fairly ugly, I understand they have chosen it to look closer to the books however it looks cheap and low rent.

The voice cast for the most part is doing their best to mimic the performances from the beloved live action films, and whilst in a few cases the effort is valiant, it never really rises to the occasion and lacks a lot of the charm and the warmth that made the performances in the live action films what they were.

Overall, entirely needless.

Pros.

It is short and if you close your eyes at times it feels like you are watching the live action version.

Cons.

The animation is off

It feels wholly unneeded and unoriginal

It is unfunny

It lacks any charm or warmth

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10 Things I Hate About You: Getting Paid To Date, The Solution To An Aging Population

2/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A modern remix of Shakespeare’s The Taming Of The Shrew.

Honestly upon watching this for the first time I don’t see what so many people like about it, it just seems like a fairly generic teen movie about the perils of dating and the horrors of high school. Couple this with a wealth of outdated views and yes, I didn’t see what the big deal was about.

I thought the film had some heart, not all the time, but in parts it did come through sweetly. I found myself enjoying the relationship between Julia Stiles’ character and Heath Ledger’s, those were the only characters that I found myself rooting for and if anything this film just served to remind me how much I miss Ledger. Both Ledger and Stiles do their best to elevate the source material, and give this film some kind of personality outside of Shakespeare. However, the over-reliance on cliches and thoroughly predictable dramas drag this film back down again.

Overall, I didn’t see the appeal of this one it reminded me of just another teenage high school movie. Yes, it had heart in some places but it also had multitudes of cliches and more than its fair share of iffy moments. A mixed bag.

Pros.

Hedger

A few sweet moments

Cons.

The Shakespearian dialogue really felt out of place

It had pacing issues

It felt deeply generic

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Dune: Adapting The Unadaptable

4/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

The prestigious house of Atreides is given the fiefdom of the planet Arrakis and is forced further into a blood war between the previous rulers of the planet and its natural inhabitants.

I will say right off the bat I have recently developed a dislike for Denis Villeneuve as his ego has really come to light, and much like Christopher Nolan he seems to think his films are works of art and worse yet that he can tell people how to watch them. Much like Nolan, Villeneuve has also launched a series of outdated, out of touch attacks on streaming services which acts as a further point of irritation. However, for the purposes of this review I will put my thoughts about the man aside and just focus on the film.

For the most part this is a stellar adaption of the classic science fiction novel, I am currently reading the book to further my understanding of this film and I have to say there are scenes in it that feel directly translated with such precise attention to detail that you can really feel the love for the text coming through. Obviously, there are a few things cut out for brevity here and there such as a wider backstory for Dr Yueh, played by Chang Chen, which I feel hurts the film but for the most part this is a very faithful and well done adaption.

In terms of aesthetics and CGI this film is a dream, it has a clear and distinct style and is honestly beautiful to look at. The world feels so real and so refreshingly new it reminds one of watching Avatar for the first time. The only time I noticed the CGI looking a little patchy would be in one of the future, vison, battle scenes in which Paul, played by Timothee Chalamet, envisions himself fighting alongside the natives in battle armour and at one point in the conflict his face covering comes off and the effects on the characters face are poor.

In terms of performances it is strong across the board, everyone has a moment to shine, except for Chalamet and Zendaya. Zendaya is not given much to do beyond be the person Paul sees in his visons and is likely be saved more for the second film. Whereas Chalamet drifts through the whole film with an indifference that borders on boredom. I understand that once he gets the sight in the novel Paul becomes a little detached, but Chalamet is instead like that throughout even before he gets the ability to see into the future.

Overall, a strong adaption with only minor issues.

Pros.

Well realised

Beautiful CGI   

A distinct personality

Mostly good performances

Cons.

Chalamet

Pacing issues and leaving some important things out

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