Slash/Back: Aliens Are Always Popping Up Where You Least Expect Them

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A group of Inuit teens do battle with aliens.

I thought this was a really quite fresh feeling horror film, both for exploring the mythology of a group of people that most of the world isn’t familiar with, and also for depicting aliens in a way that differs quite strongly from the little green men or humanoid figures we are so used to.

I really appreciated and liked the low-fi appeal of the monsters, I thought when the clearly dead animals were possessed and moving it was quite unsettling because in a sense you hadn’t, or certainly I hadn’t, seen something move like that before. I thought the skin suits later employed by the aliens were equally quite unnerving.

My one complaint of the film would be that it has a slow start, it feels like it is quite a while before we actually get into the alien business, and yes the film is setting up its world and characters in this time but it drags on.

Overall, a fun film that tries and mostly succeeds in doing something new.

4/5

Pros.

The look of the aliens both in animal and human form

The scares

Exploring Inuit mythology

The central teen cast are all likeable and do a good job for child actors

Cons.

A slow first act

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The Craft: Hormones And Magic

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A group of teenage witches go to war after a new girl, played by Robin Tunney, enters their number and begins to clash with the power structure.

I think this film is in many senses a classic, and an underrated one at that. The tone is just right as it feels frightening at times and there definitely are proper horror moments here but there is also the teen aspect of it all and the coming of age stuff, which do blend well. The worry would be that the film would lean far too heavily into teen issues and be like a supernatural mean girls and lose its horror credentials, but in actuality the film manages to do both.

I think the performances are strong across the board, though I would say if I was forced to pick that Fairuza Balk probably gives the best performance as she plays Nancy with such maliciousness, but at the same times keeps her as a somewhat pitiable figure, at the end of the film we are both relieved that she is locked away, but also saddened by it. That speaks to the power of the performance that she is able to illicit two completely separate feelings from the audience.

I think the main issue with the film is how dated it feels and in the same breath how bad the CGI is, both do hold the film back to a degree and could have been done better, but hey it is still a hell of a lot better than the terrible sequel that we got in recent years.

Overall, a strong teen horror film.

4/5

Pros.

The horror

The teen issues angle

The performances

Balk specifically

Cons.

It feels incredibly dated and the CGI isn’t good

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The Fabelmans: Spielberg Takes On Boyhood

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A semi-autobiographical take on the early years of Steven Spielberg told through a fictional family.

This film had a long way to go to shake off both the idea of it being blatant awards bait, in the insufferable smugness that conjures up, and also the notion of it being a director indulging in a vanity project and I think to a degree it does manage to shake off both of those labels, but not completely.

I found the coming of age angle to be quite effective, I was heavily invested in Sammy’s, played by Gabrielle LaBelle, journey into filmmaking an also adulthood and thought that the whole plot line was anchored by incredibly strong turns from Michelle Williams and Paul Dano. Even Seth Rogen brings his A game in a muted supporting role, which makes a nice change.

My big question for the film and in it my wider criticism is how is this film any different from the million other coming of age films out there? Yes it is somewhat of an origin story for Spielberg, but other than that this is incredibly by the numbers and doesn’t have anything to set it apart. The story as a whole is riddled with cliches and overly familiar plot beats, yes to a degree if this film is trying to be true to life than things were unchangeable but if it isn’t, if it is tenuous, then this needed to be changed as what we get feels like a rehash.

Overall, a compelling coming of age story with good performances, but an over-reliance on worn out cliches holds it back.

3/5

Pros

Strong performances across the board

You care about Sammy’s journey into filmmaking

The David Lynch cameo was nice

Cons.

It feels familiar

It has heavy pacing issues

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Ms Marvel: No Normal

4.5/5      

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Kamala, played by Iman Vellani, and her friends face off against the forces of Damage Control and a character I have named Agent Karen, played by Alysia Reiner.

So let’s get the big talking point out of the way first, do I like the fact that Kamala is the MCU’s first mutant? Not really, I am one of the few people who actually like the Inhumans, at least in the comics, and I think that this would have been the best time to have brought them into the fore. However, the author of the original run and creator of Ms Marvel as a character has said that she always wanted Kamala to be a mutant so I guess that it makes sense to make her one here.

Moving on, for the most part I really enjoyed this season finale I thought it was a smart move to focus on tying up emotional arcs rather than trying to shove in a huge CGI fest final battle, we do sort of get one but it is over with pretty quickly. I believe focusing on the characters is far more in-keeping with the type of show this is, which fundamentally is coming of age.

I also liked the fact that Kamala finally got her comics accurate costume and that we got a big time MCU cameo in the post credits, I thought that both things helped to give this finale episode a satisfying sense of payoff.

My two small complaints about this final episode would be that it entirely ignores the Nor dimension for the most part and that it brings back the incredibly bland Damage Control baddies that feel painfully uninteresting, I would have much preferred them to have brought back the Clandestines for one final scrap.

Overall, this series has proven itself to be the best Marvel Disney + show so far.

Pros.

The feeling of satisfaction

The emotions

The costume and the cameo

The teases for the future

Vellani

Cons.

Generic baddies

Ignoring the Nor dimension

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Ms Marvel: Time And Again

4/5         

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Kamala, played by Iman Vellani, learns about her family’s history with the Djinn and the Nor dimension.

Despite this being one of the shortest episodes of the season I also thought it was one of the best. I really enjoyed the interpersonal family relationships here, such as between Aisha, played by Mehwish Hayat, and Hasan, played by Fawad Khan, as well as between Kamala and her mother, played by Zenobia Shroff. I thought in the case of the former their love story was incredibly sweet and effecting and in the case of the latter their mother daughter relationship finally felt satisfying as the two come to an understanding.

I thought the ending of the Clandestines, was perhaps a little premature as their final battle with Kamala felt a little rushed. However, I am sure the ending will right this and might even bring them back once again. I am still resolute that the weakest part of this otherwise great TV show is its villains, as they continue to be woefully underdeveloped, but that is par for the course with Marvel Studios productions.

Finally, I just want to once again say what a great job Vellani is doing in the lead role. She radiates charm and genuine enthusiasm throughout and it is almost impossible to not instantly warm to her character, she may be the best new character Marvel has introduced anywhere in the last two phases.

Overall, another strong episode.

Pros.

The history

The relationships

The ending and tease for the finale

Vellani

Cons.

The Clandestines continue to be weak villains    

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Ms Marvel: Destined

3/5         

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Kamala, played by Iman Vellani, learns the origin of her powers, and is forced to make some difficult decisions.

I would say this was the worst episode of Ms Marvel yet, which shows how good the rest of the show is as this still isn’t a bad episode just far weaker than the previous two episodes. The reason for my thinking is twofold, firstly I don’t like the new Djinn origin for her powers and would have much preferred they stuck with her being an Inhuman. We knew for a while the show was taking the character in this direction but I was hoping that they would stick the landing with his new origin for her powers and they really don’t. Secondly, the villains of this show are, so far, incredibly poor and written as cliches in almost every possible way. The DODC agent, played by Alysia Reiner feels like a karen and has all the hallmarks of that character type, I hope the series does something more with her as right now she feels downright cartoonish. Moreover, the Clandestine group really highlights the poor writing, as they go from friendly to villainous in the space of about 5 minutes because Kamala won’t help them immediately, this seems like incredibly dumb villain writing as it would make more sense for them to let her have her time to try and gain her trust before using her.

However, despite these issues the episode is not bad and has more than a few redeemable moments.  The entirety of the wedding scene is terrific, all of the characters we have come to know over the past two episodes get to have sweet little moments, and the dance sequence towards the end is one of the most pure and joyous things I have seen out of the MCU in a long while. I also like that Nakia, played by Yasmin Fletcher, now knows about Kamala’s powers as I feel like it will lead to some interesting interactions in the coming episodes between the two of them.

Overall, the villains need improvement otherwise a lot of people are going to say that this is yet another example of Marvel’s villain problem whereby they are all paper thin and forgettable.

Pros.

The wedding scene

Nakia finding out about Kamala’s powers

The ending

Cons.

The villains

The new powers origins  

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Ms. Marvel: Crushed

4.5/5      

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Kamala, played by Iman Vellani, starts to use her powers whilst also crushing on the new boy at school.

This show continues to be excellent.

So many times I criticise films and TV shows for not understanding the youth of today and for not being able to write for it, however, this show proves that it can be done and gives me hope for the future. I really enjoyed all of the teen angst of this episode, and thought that once again Vellani was just excellent in the role.

It was fun to see Kamala learning more about her powers, it is interesting to note that in the episode they make a point to say how her powers are a product of her and not the bangles, which means her being an Inhuman might still be on the table. I also thought the sequence of her saving the kid was really well done and I liked that it did not go perfectly first time, it feels like good character progression.

Moreover, I thought the scenes with Kamala’s friend Nakia, played by Yasmeen Fletcher, about her Muslim identity and fitting in were really powerful and well written. It also serves to highlight the importance of good well written representation as it can take someone’s innermost thought or struggle and showcase it on screen showing others who might have the same issue that they are not alone.

My one criticism of the episode is that the clearly villainous DODC agent, played by Alysia Reiner, feels incredibly on the nose. I am fine with it if she is just going to be a throw away villain of the early part of the series, but it would really be a disserve to the show if she were to stick around until the end or serve as the shows main villain and she feels like a cliché walking.

Overall, this continues to be one of Marvel’s best TV shows.

Pros.

Vellani

The music

The representation

The teen voice

It is a lot of fun

Cons.

The DODC agent feels almost cartoonishly evil

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Ms. Marvel: Generation Why

4.5/5      

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Teenager Kamala Khan, played by Iman Vellani, dreams of breaking away from her strict parents and being like her hero Captain Marvel, sadly that seems like a faraway dream when we first meet her. However, all of that changes when she receives a magical accessory that allows her to have superhuman abilities.

I will open this review by saying two things that need saying before I get into a wider discussion on the episode. Obviously this series should be heralded from bringing in Marvel’s first grouping of Muslim characters, representation is very important and hopefully this show will allow new groups of people to look towards the MCU and see a hero that is like them; and that is a powerful thing. Additionally, my review for this episode and the coming ones in the series will be from someone who is fairly unfamiliar with Ms. Marvel as a character, I have read a few stories featuring her here and there but for the most part I am going in blind.

Now onto the review proper.

I thought that this may be the best episode of any of the Disney + Marvel shows thus far. I really liked the tone and the Edgar Wright esque cinematography and graphic blendings/ transitions, I thought this helped the show to feel fresh and different to both the other Disney + shows as well as the wider MCU.

Moreover, I also really liked the family focus here and thought it was done much better than in Hawkeye. Though I thought having Kamala’s mum, played by Zenobia Shroff, be a low key baddie, or at least an antagonist figure in her life is a little trite and played out, I thought her wider family dynamic was a lot of fun. Furthermore, the family actually felt like a family, whereas with the Bishops in Hawkeye, the mother and daughter felt more like estranged business associates rather than how I personally would view family, though again everyone’s family is different.

I also thought Vellani was terrific and instantly super likeable and warm, she sank into the world and character really well and I am excited to see more from her both in this show and the wider universe.

Overall, I enjoyed this first episode a lot.

Pros.

Vellani

The humour

The visual style

The family dynamics

Giving us a wider look into the MCU

Cons.

The mother daughter stuff felt a little cliché to me

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The Kid Who Would Be King: The School Play Version Of King Arthur

2.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A new retelling of the King Arthur legend.

I am very mixed on this one, on one hand I enjoyed that it felt like a fresh take on the King Arthur legend apart from all the other adaptions of the story, it also had an incredibly distinct British charm and sensibility to it that I thought added a lot to the film. Moreover, it featured Patrick Stewart and I find it hard to not like something with Stewart in it.

However, on the other hand this film lacked any fun or imagination it needed to really come to life. There are some sections in the film that feel imaginative and well-executed perhaps even Harry Potter esque, but then they end and the film replaces them with a long drawn out beige scene in which the film progresses but doesn’t make you feel anything whilst doing so.

Additionally, what may be the greatest crime of this film is that it wastes Rebecca Ferguson in a villain role wherein she is given nothing to do and is kept off-screen for most of the film. This is an incredibly baffling decision as Ferguson is an incredibly strong performer so by not including her the film shoots itself in the foot.

Overall, it has potential but does nothing with it.

Pros.

The British feel to the film

A number of imaginative scenes

Patrick Stewart

Cons.

It doesn’t execute on its potential

It splits into dull

It wastes Rebecca Ferguson

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Metal Lords: Yet Another Film About High School Outcasts Forming A Band

2/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A group of high school outcasts form a metal band.

My, my the originality of this film is honestly a little shocking, I am being sarcastic if that wasn’t obvious. How many films before have had this exact same plot, I would find it very hard to say but I would say it is a very large number.

I understand D.B Weiss, yes one of the Game Of Thrones writers who you thought had faded away into infamy, wrote this based on his own personal high school experience but there is so little love or personality here that it just sort of fades into the shadow of other better films like Deathgasm.

Adrian Greensmith was well cast and does manage to give us a truly haunting performance of a deeply troubled young man who is lashing out at a world that has never shown him any kindness. He and an oddly perfect cameo from Joe Manganiello do help to make the film somewhat more enjoyable, however it simply isn’t enough.

Overall, this is the sort of film that will be promptly forgotten about 10 minutes after watching.

Pros.

Greensmith

Manganiello

Cons.

It is generic

It adds nothing new to the genre

Most of the cast are deeply milquetoast

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