Blacklight: The Battle Against Retirement

2/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Liam Neeson continues to refuse to retire and stars in yet another disappointing action film.

Folks we are a long way from the days of Taken.

I remember when a Liam Neeson action film used to be a sight to see, there was a time when almost all of the films Neeson, wherein he was staring, were golden. Sadly those days seem long over. I admit as a Neeson fan there was still a little of that old Neeson charm to be found here, but it is wearing thin. That said if this film didn’t star Neeson I would have turned it off early and not reviewed it, he was the one thing that kept me going.

The plot of this film is deeply generic and familiar to the point of parody. All of the threads have been well tread by other better films, and the attempts at social commentary never seem to come together, it can’t seem to decide what it wants to say.

The rest of the cast outside of Neeson might as well not exist as they are given so little to do it would have made more sense to simply have Neeson just doing things and not interacting with anyone for the length of the film as they add nothing.

Overall, it is sad to see Neeson reduced to this.

Pros.

Neeson

It is watchable

Cons.

The plot

The wider supporting cast

It is boring and generic

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No Exit: No One Cared About This Film So Why Should You?

1/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Yet another deeply generic, thoughtless thriller that you have seen one hundred times before, maybe more.

Is this the standard of films coming out these days? Honestly whilst watching I found it quite hard not to go on my phone, or just do something else, there really was nothing in this film that kept me engaged or even remotely interested.

The performances all reek of a group of people brought together by a need to get another hot tub rather than by anyone caring about the project. Most of the cast keep one look on their face consistently throughout the film, such is the standard of acting on display here.

Some other reviewers have been angered by a scene in which a character snorts some cocaine as a means to gain strength, now I am not bothered by this because in a film as poor as this with a script and screenplay that both scream of being written over a weekend with the idea to crank something out I would not expect anything more.

Overall, clearly no one on the production side of things gave a damn about this film and it shows.

Pros.

It is short

Cons.

It is generic

It is way too familiar

The acting is awful

So is the writing

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Kimi: All The Different Hair Colours Can’t Distract From The Blatant Plagiarism

2/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

An agoraphobic tech worker, played by Zoe Kravitz, discovers a murder and becomes tangled up in the latest blatant copy of Rear Window.

If I had to describe this film in a sentence it would be a rehash of Rear Window told through the lens of something like The Woman In The Window, which is also incredibly similar to Rear Window, mixed with a dash of covid to date it immediately.

In that vein, I have written before about how I think it is far too early for films about covid, it is still on going and is still very raw for a lot of people, as such seeing it in films is off putting. People go to the cinema to escape the world around them not to just live it through someone else’s eyes.

A lot of the praise for this film is being heaped on Kravitz, somewhat unduly I would say. Kravitz is fine don’t get me wrong, but I wouldn’t say this is an awards worthy performance or even her best. Though that is not necessarily Kravitz fault as the character she is playing is a cliché through and through.

Overall, this one really did little for me, it was far too familiar.

Pros.

It was short

It was watchable

Cons.

It feels too familiar

Keep covid out of films

Kravitz’s character is a cliché    

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The Revenant: The Bear And The Maiden Not So Fair

2/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Really this was the one that Leo won an Oscar for?

I have only given this film a two because I can’t wholly dislike a film wherein Tom Hardy is doing a strange character performance. I like Hardy and find that as an actor he can do no wrong, he is easily the best part of the film even though I never really took him seriously as a villain.

I can’t really understand how anyone could enjoy this film, it has sizeable pacing issues, it is relentlessly bleak, including all sorts of needless scenes I guess just for the sake of it, and it is also incredibly pretentious thinking simply by existing that it is going to reinvent the wheel.

Moreover, DiCaprio has given many fantastic performances over the years, but in all honesty I don’t think he was very good here. His character isn’t particularly engageable not just because he is so bland but also because he is not likeable at all and the film doesn’t do much to make you like him.

By the time the film had reached its climax I was finding it hard to stay awake.

Overall, a deeply overrated film.

Pros.

Tom Hardy

I liked the period setting

Cons.

DiCaprio

The pacing

The bleakness/ the pretention

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Body Cam: No One Wants This Footage

1.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A troubled police officer, played by Mary J. Blige, and her young partner, played by Nat Wolff, must do battle with the supernatural.

Honestly, I was surprised this film passed me by when it first came out at the start of the pandemic, at first glance it seemed to be right up my alley, however as the film began and then painfully continued I realised it was a blessing that I hadn’t until that point heard of this film and now I wish I never had.

The film is not dreadfully bad, frankly it might have been more fun if it was, no it is instead oppressively generic and dull. There are no thrills or surprises here as everything that happens you know is coming as this film has been done hundreds of times before and it doesn’t bother to change a thing. This also plays true for the character development with both of the leads being cliches through and through.

The supernatural element is in no way scary and again feels boringly predictable. They try and create a sense of tension but fail miserably. If you would like a good police centred horror film check out Scott Derrickson’s Deliver Us From Evil, that is a vastly better film.

If you thought this film was going to share some insight into the issues facing policing in America then you expected too much, it throws out some banal statements and trite conclusions and doesn’t achieve anything more than that.

Overall, weak, played out and too familiar.

Pros.

It is watchable

Wolff is trying, sadly his character is but a cliché

Cons.

It is boring

It is generic

It has pacing issues

It fails as a horror film   

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Death Of A Telemarketer: Everyone Hates Sales Calls

2.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Telemarketer Casey, played by Lamorne Morris, meets his match when he gets on the wrong end of Asa Ellenbogen, played by Jackie Earle Haley, a hostage situation ensues.

I thought this was watchable but not much more. Honestly, my biggest issue with this film was how played out it was. Not only was the story been there and done that, though maybe not in the telemarketing guise but I have seen this same story done time and again in other films, but so too were the moral conclusions of the film. The lessons that Casey learnt at the end of the film have been taught to us by other better films in the past, this film has no new revelations about the work life balance or how we should all treat each other.

Due to the fact that it all feels so familiar the film really hamstrings it’s chances of success in any major way.

However, it does have two silver linings in the form of its hero and villain. Both Morris and Haley are in top form here and do deliver good performances, especially when you consider the dire nature of the script. Morris manages to be loathsome enough for us to know he needs to change but not loathsome enough for us to dislike him. Morris has a lot of charm and that is on show here. Haley manages to pull off threatening and menacing well and create a strong sense of tension during the midpart of the film.

Overall, nothing that you haven’t seen before but passable if you have nothing better to watch.

Pros.

Morris

Haley

The tension

Cons.

It is too familiar

It is not funny

It’s lessons feel simplistic

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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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The Circle: Big Tech Is Scary We Get It

1.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Hermione Granger, because lets face it she can’t play anything else, starts working at a tech company and because it’s a trope of course they are evil.

You might have guess by the summary that I was not impressed by Emma Watson here. Really, of the central trio from the Harry Potter films only Daniel Radcliff has gone on to be a good actor and have an interesting career, Watson just plays variants on her Hermione character: sometimes they even break bad- see her in The Bling Ring. Her character here feels out of place and oddly miscast.

Moreover, Tom Hanks also feels out of place here. Maybe the intent of the film was to surprise us by casting the wrong actors for the parts in an effort to be daring? Hanks fails to deliver any kind of menace, and just feels around for the pay check.

Honestly, this film reads to me like it was written by someone who grew up in a time before the internet was so prevalent and as such both resents how interdependent people are on the internet and tech these days, whilst also thinking their day in the before times was better. The whole threat just feels so cliché and coming from a place of total misunderstanding.

Overall, another stinker for Miss Watson’s post Potter resume

Pros.

I liked Beck’s cameo

It is unintentionally hilarious

Cons.

Emma Watson

Tom Hanks

The premise is cliched

It has pacing issues

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The 355: Men Are Bad And Simon Kinberg Is A Hack

1/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A group of female spies must come together to get a McGuffin and beat up some men folk.

Until the final ten minutes this film is below average but passably watchable if you have nothing better to do, and then the lecture starts and the film drops down even further. When I say a lecture I am referring to Jessica Chastain’s Mace going on a long ambling  rant to the camera about how men use woman, but how times are changing and how they are going to fight back, a message that feels both overtly hostile to a large portion of the target audience for this film as well as one that feels far too late. However, this isn’t the only questionable thing this film does in regard to gender as it also has all of the villains in the film be men, and those that aren’t get killed off, once again a not so subtle message and one that won’t score this film any points at all.

If all that isn’t enough to make you dislike this film it then also sneaks in a bit of sucking up to the Chinese regime, in order to open in China of course. There is a scene in the film when this all powerful McGuffin needs to be handed over to someone who will keep it safe and out of nefarious hands, so Mace gives it to a Chinese agent…….. Really? Was this some sort of meta joke?…….. Really?

I also think Jessica Chastain is deeply miscast here. Unlike the rest of the ensemble who actually do a good job Chastain sticks out for all the wrong reasons. In many ways her character reads like how America sees itself around the world dominant and in charge, but to everyone else entitled, self-involved and driven more by their own ego than what they should find right and wrong. Chastain’s character was honestly charmless and is probably the thing that sinks this film.

The other minor issues with this film are that it is terribly paced and becomes boring somewhere around the end of act I, furthermore the plot about scary internet hacking devices screams of being written by someone who doesn’t understand the internet or know anything about it.

Overall, this film is trash and you should avoid it at all costs.

Pros.

Cruz, Nyong’o, Kruger

Cons.

Evil men/ forcing its agenda down your throats

Pandering to China

Chastain

The pacing/ fear of the internet   

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