Tag Archives: action

CINEMA REVIEW: SICK OF MYSELF (2022)

CINEMA REVIEW: SICK OF MYSELF (2022)

Written and Directed by: Kristoffer Borgli

Produced by: Andrea Berentsen Ottmar, Dyveke Bjørkly Graver

Cast: Kristine Kujath Thorp , Eirik Sæther, Fanny Vaager, Henrik Mestad, Andrea Bræin Hovig, Steinar Klouman Hallert, Fredrik Stenberg, etc.

Cinematography by Benjamin Loeb

*** MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS ***



Human beings are capable of incredible acts of compassion, creativity, kindness, artistry, charity, care and beauty. But I have to admit there is a flaw, and in some people a sickness, which makes them narcissistic, selfish and image-obsessed with the constant need for attention. Indeed, with the advent of mobile phones and social media anyone with an internet connection can drop a video on YouTube, Facebook, TikTok or Instagram and get instant gratification. Not to mention the plague of TV talent and reality programming which showcase the epitome of this “me-me-me” generation.

Maybe society has always been like this, full of attention seekers desiring to become actors or singers or comedians or artists. But now there is a constant platform for the talented, untalented and arguably mentally unbalanced to post their wares online for an ego hit, likes and if they’re lucky, to “go viral.” But it’s just a bit entertainment isn’t it? A bit of a laugh? Getting a bit of attention and maybe even becoming famous. But there is a dark, horrific side to social media and reality show attention. The internet is replete with stories about people who have killed themselves having found “fame” this way. Sometimes too much attention becomes too much for some.



The Norwegian black comedy, Sick of Myself (2022) written and directed by Kristoffer Borgli, darkly explores the themes of narcissism, art and attention-seeking through the twentysomething characters of Signe and Thomas. The couple live somewhat regular lives in Oslo. Signe is a coffee shop server, while Thomas is an aspiring artist. Two excellent scenes introduce their characters succinctly. Thomas, who it is revealed throughout to be a kleptomaniac, initially gets a hit stealing an expensive bottle of wine from a posh restaurant. While Signe gets a massive adrenaline punch from the attention she receives when assisting a bloodied customer savaged by a dog. These fascinating narrative strands are the foundation for a series of funny, cringeworthy and horrific scenes expertly developed by Borgli.

The film is very much delivered in a believable and realistic style as, Sick of Myself (2022), develops its character and thematic analysis with understated direction. But the actions of the characters are anything but understated. Signe diverts attention away from Thomas’ growing fame in the art world by resorting to more extreme ways to get people to notice to her. The initial comedic situations, such as Signe faking a nut allergy to interrupt Thomas’ speech in a restaurant, give way to constant lying and actual self-harm, as her personality is blighted by undiagnosed Munchausen’s syndrome. With echoes of DeNiro’s and Scorsese’s The King of Comedy (1983), Signe is a grotesque creation reflecting a dangerous side within our society. But whereas Rupert Pupkin had a goal to become a famous stand-up comedian, Signe, as portrayed with muted and natural brilliance by Kristine Kujath Thorp, has no such career desire other than to just be constantly noticed. She is a tragic character, like many in society, who desperately need psychological help.

Mark: 8 out of 11


NETFLIX SPRING FILM REVIEWS – PART ONE! Including: All Quiet on the Western Front (2022), Glass Onion (2022), Passing (2021) and more . . .

Having not been too impressed by Netflix’s summer 2022 blockbuster releases – see my reviews here – I questioned the amount of money spent on big budget productions which had very average scripts and indifferent storytelling. Well, Netflix have certainly redeemed themselves of late, because the majority of the films I have seen on the platform recently have been excellent.

Indeed, I have watched so many Netflix films since the turn of 2023, I have decided to split the reviews into two parts. I have been so busy at work that I just don’t have time to review them all separately. Many of these films are so impressive they do deserve longer critical pieces, but there you go. I have even passed over reviewing John Wick 4 (2023) and Scream 6 (2023). While they are decent genre films, they offer nothing new to The Cinema Fix reviewing realm.

Ultimately, I hope you enjoyed these films as much as did. All power to Netflix – keep up the amazing work!



ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT (2022)

The German war film adaptation of the classic novel by Erich Maria Remarque has been made twice before. This big budget version is directed by Edward Berger and certainly has a powerful and spectacular visual style, allied to some formidable filmmaking expertise. I fear the television screen was not the right medium to witness the muddy majesty on show as it can barely contain the crunching metallic and bloody horrors of the first World War. The film has unsurprisingly been nominated for and won many awards, and benefits from a brilliant debutant screen performance from Felix Kammerer. Personally, I still feel that the original 1930 film adaptation has more human emotion to it, as the characters in this version aren’t as well set-up from the start in comparison. A phenomenal achievement in sound and vision though nonetheless. The cinematography and soundtrack are as good as gets.

Mark: 8.5 out 11



ATHENA (2022)

Imagine taking the anger and social commentary within La Haine (1996), and adding vivid colour, pyrotechnics, kinetic cameras, long takes, and turning it all the way up to eleven? If so, then you have an idea of what Roman Gavras’ socio-political-action-thriller, Athena (2022) delivers. The death of a youth at the hands of police brutality kicks off rioting from the underclasses on a French council estate. What follows is a stunning group of frantic and explosive action set-pieces as fraternal loyalties are tested between the main protagonists with police, youth and gangsters at each other’s throats. Arguably though, the fast pace and fireworks dampen the sociological message in an otherwise breath-taking directorial and cinematographic achievement.

Mark: 8.5 out of 11


GLASS ONION: A KNIVES OUT MYSTERY (2022)

I really enjoyed the first Knives Out (2019) reviewed here. It was one of my films of the year. I also absolutely love Agatha Christie’s model of ensemble characters being investigated by a brilliant detective, with complex plotting and surprise twists and dark secrets being uncovered as a “whodunnit” is solved. Rian Johnson’s brilliant screenwriting abilities also breathed fresh air into a well-worn subgenre. He attempts to capture lightning in a bottle again with Glass Onion (2022), and while the famous cast, notably Dave Bautista, Janelle Monae, and Kathryn Hahn stand out among the over-actors, the devilish plot concerning rich people trying to out-do each other just did not connect and make me care. Also, am I the only one who still thinks Daniel Craig is miscast in this role? Even though I really enjoyed the cleverness of the script, his appalling “Foghorn Leghorn” accent still grates me.

Mark: 7.5 out of 11



THE HOUSE (2022)

From the leading voices in independent stop motion animation – Emma de Swaef & Marc Roels, Niki Lindroth von Bahr and Paloma Baeza – The House (2022) is a triumph of eccentric imagination, artistic talent and surreal vision. But the three bizarre tales contained within this anthology, while kind of enjoyable, were just TOO weird for me to thoroughly enjoy in a conventional sense. File under impressive avant-garde and experimental genius, rather than safe popcorn entertainment, and that is probably what the filmmakers were aiming for.

Mark: 7 out of 11



PASSING (2021)

I wish I’d seen this amazingly powerful film on release as it would certainly have been in my top ten films of the year. It’s a low budget, intimate and yet emotionally resonant adaptation of Nella Larson’s novel. Set in 1920s New York, the heartfelt drama juxtaposes the lives of two black women, portrayed by Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga, with the latter passing herself as white within the racially charged era of the time. As their friendship develops their respective life choices are explored with subtlety and intensity by the impressive cast and director, Rebecca Hall. The choice to employ black-and-white cinematography, while often an over-used artistic indie-film trope, is absolutely the right choice. Lastly, Tessa Thompson is wonderful, but Ruth Negga is quite sublime in a complex, pathos-laden and unforgettable tragic screen personification.

Mark: 9.5 out of 11


CINEMA REVIEW: COCAINE BEAR (2023)

CINEMA REVIEW: COCAINE BEAR (2023)

Directed by Elizabeth Banks

Written by Jimmy Warden

Produced by: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, Aditya Sood, Elizabeth Banks, Max Handelman and Brian Duffield

Main Cast: Keri Russell, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Christian Convery, Alden Ehrenreich, Brooklynn Prince, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Margo Martindale and Ray Liotta

*** CONTAINS SPOILERS ***



Every now and then a film title hooks you in immediately. Snakes on a Plane (2006) anyone? Now, another beast driven movie comes along and says, “Hold. . . My. . . Bear!” Enter based-on-a-crazy-true-story Cocaine Bear (2023)! Yes, incredibly, the B-movie comedy-horror film is based on the real-life events in 1985, when a drug smuggler chucked themselves, and over forty bags of cocaine, out of a mechanically flailing aeroplane. When his parachute failed to open the smuggler plummeted to his death. The raining coke fell into Georgia forest terrain, only to be found by a black bear who, thinking it was food perhaps, tucked into the white powder.

Cocaine Bear (2023) imagines what happened next to this bizarre but somehow tragic series of unfortunate events. Let’s just say that P.E.T.A would certainly not approve of what happens to the bear in this film. Although they may enjoy the many grisly and bone-crunching deaths that occur to the mostly two-dimensional human characters on show. But while the cast, notably Alden Ehrenreich and Keri Russell, do their best with the material, the film lacks the wit and ensemble acting strength of a far superior movie involving an apex predator gone rogue, Lake Placid (1999).

Safe to say that Cocaine Bear (2023) is a pretty terrible movie. It is, however, very entertaining in a stupid way. It is deliberately intended to be that way by the writer, Jimmy Warden and director Elizabeth Banks. The flimsy characterisation, over-acting and half-witted plotting place the film on the verge of parody, without reaching the richly, gag-heavy scripts of say the Naked Gun series. There are some fantastically funny scenes involving the kids finding the cocaine and the realistic CGI bear causing carnage killing dumb teenage gang members and bickering gangsters. So, go into Cocaine Bear (2023) with low expectations and you will be rewarded with a funny and bloody B-movie monster flick. Ultimately, it has a great trailer and clickbait title, and contains enough crowd-pleasing carnage and dumb fun to make it worth a trip to the cinema.

Mark: 6.5 out of 11


FILM REVIEW: RRR (2022)

FILM REVIEW: RRR (2022)

Directed by S. S. Rajamouli

Screenplay by S. S. Rajamouli and Story by V. Vijayendra Prasad

Produced by D. V. V. Danayya

Cast: N. T. Rama Rao Jr., Ram Charan, Ajay Devgn, Alia Bhatt, Shriya Saran, Samuthirakani, Ray Stevenson, Alison Doody, Olivia Morris, etc.

Cinematography: K. K. Senthil Kumar

Music by M. M. Keeravani



I have a couple of confessions to make before reviewing the exhilarating action-period-musical-drama-martial-arts-hybrid extravaganza that is RRR (2022). Firstly, I did not see it at the cinema. It was only a recommendation from a work colleague that there was an amazing and spectacular three-hour Indian-produced epic film on Netflix I should watch! I am so glad I did as it is a tremendous work of genre entertainment.

My second confession is, that while I call myself a film fanatic, I have not watched many films that could be classed as part of the Bollywood oeuvre. This is a massive admission of guilt because initial research reveals that Bollywood, the informal name for the vast Hindi-language cinema, is one of the world’s largest film producers. Yet, it is important to state that RRR (2022), the most expensively budgeted Indian film of all time, is not technically Bollywood, but rather ‘Tollywood’, being an Indian Telugu-language film.

Further research reveals the traditional Bollywood-style film will most certainly be a musical, full of scenes with joyous singing and dancing. Moreover, standard narratives involve family dramas, unrequited love, rich-girl-poor-boy romances, dividing settings between urban and rural landscapes. Conversely, RRR (2022) certainly has stunning song and dance set-pieces, but it is so much more than that. It is stupendously energetic and inventive, with so much amazing action I was left breathless. Arguably the songs get in the way of the high-octane brilliance, although one spectacular dance sequence at an English garden party left me with a massive cheesy grin.



The story is set in India, 1920, during the British Raj. This, if you were not aware, was part of the Empire, with the Crown ruling in India from 1858 to 1947. Safe to say that the British, aside from one main sympathiser, encapsulated within monstrous characters portrayed by Ray Stevenson and Alison Doody are the big baddies. Because, this is a film about overcoming oppression through the heroic and revolutionary acts of two larger-than-life characters named Komaram Bheem (N. T. Rama Rao Jr.) and Alluri Sitarama Raju (Ram Charan). The inventive, if at times predictably structured screenplay, is inspired to incorporate the lives of these two real-life Indian rebels, who never met, but challenged the Raj and the Nizam of Hyderabad, respectively.

RRR (2022) is not an accurate historical epic. Who cares! This three-hour behemoth is a thrill-ride that successfully establishes not one, but two, kick-ass heroes. Bheem, who takes the name Akhtar, is introduced fighting a tiger in the jungle, while Ragu, an Officer in the British Army — for reasons which are revealed in a tremendously moving flashback later in the film — is launched into the story fighting a baying crowd of insurgents. The two action men are initially on opposing sides as we get plot strands which echo Infernal Affairs (2002) / The Departed (2006). As the two form a bromantic friendship we know that the script is building to a big face-off between them. It is certainly worth waiting for as S. S. Rajamouli and his production team deliver a gob-smacking action centrepiece midpoint that involves Akhtar and Ragu battling amidst wild animals, vehicles, British soldiers, explosions and bullets aplenty!

RRR (2022) is not without issues. The boo-hiss stereotypical British colonialists simplify the complex politics of the era. Having said that, the British did asset strip India of valuable resources, essentially enslaving and murdering the Indigenous population during its rule. So, any negative emotions against the British are deserved. The female characters, aside from one, were a tad one-dimensional. Moreover, the film is way too long with one or two songs too many. Finally, the CGI, while actually impressive in its own way, did not always gel perfectly with the live action. However, the scale and ambition of the film is to be totally admired, as is the vibrant direction by S. S. Rajamouli. N. T. Rama Rao Jr. and Ram Charan, as the lead revolutionaries, are bona fide film stars. Their energy, physicality and charisma on screen really grabbed me and never let go with fight scenes reminding me of the heart-stopping acrobatics of Tony Jaa . Amidst the kinetics there is an emotional heart within RRR (2022), but where the British once ruled India, now it’s the spectacular that reigns.

Mark: 9 out of 11



FIVE REASONS THIS COULD BE GOOD: COCAINE BEAR (2023)

FIVE REASONS THIS COULD BE GOOD: COCAINE BEAR (2023)

Every now and then a film title hooks you in immediately. Snakes on a Plane (2006) anyone? Now, another beast driven movie comes along and says, “Hold. . . My. . . Bear!”Enter the thrill-a-second trailer for – Cocaine Bear (2023)!

So here are five reasons, Cocaine Bear (2023) could be good!

  1. The title of the film is Cocaine Bear (2023)!
  2. It has a kill crazy bear high on cocaine in it!
  3. It is amazingly inspired by a TRUE story!
  4. It’s Ray Liotta’s R.I.P, final film.
  5. The trailer is amazing – check it out here:

Cocaine Bear (2023) releases on February 24th 2023 in the US, UK and most of the world exclusively in movie theatres.

[BOOK REVIEW] Directing Great Television: Inside TV’s New Golden Age – by Dan Attias

Directing Great Television: Inside TV’s New Golden Age – by Dan Attias  – Review by Paul Laight

The opening quotes of praise from a myriad of industry colleagues will make my little review pale into insignificance, as there is no doubt that Dan Attias is a director of some repute, expertise, and experience. Here is an Emmy-nominated director who has worked on an incredible list of amazing television shows such as: Miami Vice, Beauty and the Beast, Wolf, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, The Sopranos, The Wire, House, Homeland, Witness (Peter Weir), Northern Exposure, Penny Dreadful: City of Angels, The Americans, The Killing, The Boys, Six Feet Under, The Wire, Marvellous Mrs Maisel, Friday Night Lights, etc.

With such a breath of experience Dan Attias therefore offers much to those seeking insight into the world of directing high quality TV. Moreover, it will also give priceless advice to those seeking a career in directing for all forms of creative media. It is structured and presented eloquently in a language that doesn’t blind the reader with techno-speak either.

The author began as an actor before moving into directing. In fact he states that the best training he had for directing was being an actor. Dan Attias moved from in front of the camera to behind it as assistant director for Steven Spielberg and Francis Ford Coppola before directing the feature film Silver Bullet (1985). After which he moved into directing episodic television. 

Throughout the book, the author shares his wealth of experiences, highs, lows, and scars got from directing many great TV shows of recent years. Dan Attias does not glamorise the industry but illustrates that the craft of television production is all about the hard work and harder knocks. He advises honing one’s craft through being prepared, with collaboration also being vital. It’s a fast-paced endeavour where choices can often go wrong. But learning from those mistakes builds one’s directorial nous. Preparation is invaluable. Even if episodic television does not always allow it. The director will often arrive late to the party as it were with the showrunners, writers, actors, and pre-production crew having worked months developing a project.



I was seriously inspired by many of Dan Attias’ informative anecdotes. Having worked in both drama and comedy it is clear he is not just a point-and-shoot director. One senses a burning desire on his part to tell stories an imaginative, creative, and emotionally interesting style. Moreover, the book provides key insight into the rehearsal process, positioning actors, use of lenses, shifting points-of-view within scenes, framing, background mise-en-scene and of course lighting. For Attias, above all else, engaging with the environment is imperative as, “Each scene is staging a journey.”

As well as the technical knowledge delivered, the author continually promotes the idea that coordinating positively with showrunners and writers is integral when creating the best work. That does not mean there won’t be disagreements or having to overcome material which appears dramatically unpromising. It is the director’s job to be creative and collaborative while breathing new life into well-known characters within long running shows. 

The final chapters share excellent scene breakdowns from the author’s experience of working on three different TV shows, Snowfall, Manhattan, and Good Girls Revolt. Here he delivers a fine perspective of a director’s vision, using the camera and stylistic choices to tell the story, both following and breaking the rules. If you’re breaking the rules you may face conflict from certain crew members, but it is all about staying confident in one’s vision for the storytelling. Overall, Attias’ honesty in overcoming difficult creative moments is to be admired.

Some may think that television was always the lesser cousin, locked in the artistic attic when compared to the noble art of cinema. No more though as programmes such as Game of Thrones, The Wire, The Sopranos, Homeland, Breaking Bad, and many more have proved. Such classic television finds the writing, cinematography, acting and increased production values, elevating their status to the cinematic. The old-school image of a 1970’s TV director shouting at a bank of monitors giving orders to the beleaguered floor manager and cast in a studio is now gone. Dan Attias and his book are testament to that.

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Buy the book from here:

Publication from https://mwp.com/product/directing-great-television-inside-tvs-new-golden-age/  

Michael Wiese Productions (MWP) was launched in San Francisco in 1976 primarily to produce films. Today, the company is known worldwide having published some 200 books. Some of the bestsellers have been translated into 18 languages, are used in over 700 film courses, in the Hollywood studios and by emerging filmmakers.

Paul Laight is a screenwriter, filmmaker, and blogger. In 2005, he formed Fix Films and has written and produced many shorts and other promos. Many of his films have been screened all over the world at various film festivals.

Paul is currently working on feature and short film scripts for future productions. His work can be found here: 

https://www.youtube.com/c/FixFilmsLtd 

https://thecinemafix.com/

CINEMA REVIEW: NOPE (2022)

CINEMA REVIEW: NOPE (2022)

Directed by Jordan Peele

Written by Jordan Peele

Produced by: Jordan Peele and Ian Cooper


Cast: Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Steven Yeun, Michael Wincott, Brandon Perea, Wrenn Schmidt, Barbie Ferreira, Keith David, etc.

Cinematography: Hoyte van Hoytema

*** MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS ***



Following on from the Oscar winning, Get Out (2017), and the should-have-won-an-Oscar-for-Best-Actress-in-Lupita-Nyong’o, Us (2019), Jordan Peele is back with the enigmatically titled, and equally ambiguous sci-fi-Western-horror film, NOPE (2022). Taking on writing and directing duties again, Peele has delivered a majestic looking cinematic feast, brimming with incredibly memorable images involving horses, chimpanzees, cinema, waving inflatables, surveillance cameras, carnival shows, and something very large that comes from beyond the clouds.

So, what’s Nope (2022) actually about? Well, put simply it’s all about cowboys and girls overcoming a monster. But it is much more than that. Because, narratively speaking it is difficult to sum up in a few sentences. Peele builds his most complex film to date by delivering a series of visually powerful set-pieces throughout. He also challenges the audience with an intelligent visual system which thematically links television, cinema, cameras, Hollywood, animals and a spectacular eye in the sky. Like Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019), Joel Coen’s The Tragedy of Macbeth (2021) and Martin Scorsese’s religious epics, Nope (2022), is what I consider to be a big-budget, arthouse blockbuster.



The film, which is divided into chapters, establishes brother, OJ (Daniel Kaluuya) and sister, Emerald (Keke Palmer), trying valiantly to keep the family ranch from going under. Once thriving under their father’s management, the ranch would supply horses to the Hollywood conveyor belt of A-list and B-movie Westerns. With such work now in short supply, OJ is forced to sell horses to local theme park owner, Ricky “Jupe” Park (Steven Yeun), however, he vows to get them back when business improves. But a bigger threat is soon looming over the ranch.

Kaluuya’s performance as OJ is laconic, invoking pure Robert Mitchum. Did I like and root for OJ? Sort of. Keke Palmer as Emerald brought the energy to the screen, but I never felt the two characters really gelled with the themes successfully. Peele’s intellectual leaps, while thought-provoking, barriered an emotional connection within Nope (2022). Likewise, Yuen’s Jupe is given a tremendously imaginative and powerful backstory which brings us into his character, but ultimately fails to pay off dramatically. In fact, these scenes felt like they were from a different film altogether. Indeed, Peele uses the sci-fi monster genre to hang his view of the world on, not always to maximum impact.

While the characterisations and themes arguably fail to gel within the screenplay, it is visually where Nope (2022) really soars. Hoyte van Hoytema should sweep he board come awards time. Further, Peele creates an optical banquet by juxtaposing the majestic vistas of the Californian landscape with modern camera and surveillance equipment, plus those colourful inflatable dummies. Then there’s the thing that is “Not Of Planet Earth”. What is it and what does it represent? Who is watching and controlling and feeding on us? Peele’s challenging concepts are to be applauded within the genre blockbuster, but I just wanted to be scared and care a bit more. On additional viewings, Nope (2022), may be considered a masterpiece, but at the moment it could be one of those great films which I kind of didn’t like. As discussed previously here.

Mark: 8 out of 11


NETFLIX FILM REVIEWS: DAYSHIFT (2022), THE GRAY MAN (2022) & SPIDERHEAD (2022)

NETFLIX FILM REVIEWS: DAYSHIFT (2022), THE GRAY MAN (2022) & SPIDERHEAD (2022)

Along with fashion, football, and Formula One, the cinema is one of many capitalistic and cyclical industries which spends and makes money that seems to self-perpetuate its own existence. My lord though there are many more. But isn’t it a bit obscene that so much money is spent on movies while so many people struggle in the world?

Maybe I’m just old. Jaded. Drifting away from the dream factory where such large amounts of cash should be spent on film folly. People are starving, energy bills are rising and there are so many sick across the world, can we not divert some of that money to them? Some people may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. Plus, I’m a hypocrite. Using film and alcohol to divert my mind from the world’s problems.

What has prompted this sober reflection? Netflix! Now, I have no idea about business and money and algorithms and subscription revenue. What I have read is that $370 million dollars have allegedly been spent on these three blockbuster films. Could the cash have been spent on more interesting and entertaining product? I mean, why not give $15 million to a whole host of up-and-coming filmmakers to produce thirty lower-budgeted films? Why not concentrate on script, characterisation and strive to explore more original concepts. Surely, the law of averages dictate that there would be a number of gems produced?

Blumhouse Productions and A24 both seem, from the outside, to have industry models which produce successful genre and arthouse films. One may not rate all of their releases, however, these studios appear to avoid burning huge sums of money on their cinematic offerings. Netflix, continue to invest in tentpole monsters which are NEVER released on a cinema screen and are of questionable quality. What of these films? Here are three short reviews of new Netflix releases I have watched recently. With the usual marks out of eleven.



DAYSHIFT (2022)

Directed by J. J. Perry

Screenplay by: Tyler Tice, Shay Hatten

Main cast: Jamie Foxx, Dave Franco, Natasha Liu Bordizzo, Meagan Good, Karla Souza, Steve Howey, Scott Adkins, Snoop Dogg etc.

I’d say this is a cheap, photo-copied and terrible rip-off of Blade (1998) drizzled with John Wick (2014) style fight-scenes, but Dayshift (2022) isn’t bloody cheap. It’s a gigantic waste of money and the viewer’s time. Jamie Foxx, portrays a pool cleaner moonlighting as a vampire hunter, pitted against a den of uber-vampires threatening to take over Los Angeles.

An insult to my intelligence, the script plunders Men in Black (1997) and the execrable R.I.P.D (2013), with the villain’s plan making no sense at all. Dave Franco adds some humour as the unlikely buddy/partner, but this one of those films where the stuntmen get most credit for some amazing fight and vehicle work. It’s a shame the story, plot and characters are so anaemic.

Mark: 5.5 out of 11



THE GRAY MAN (2022)

Directed by Anthony Russo & Joe Russo

Screenplay by Joe Russo, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely

Main cast: Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jessica Henwick, Regé-Jean Page, Wagner Moura, Julia Butters, Alfre Woodard, Billy Bob Thornton etc.

The apparent reports that $200 million dollars were spent on this film make The Gray Man (2022) a crime against humanity. This is such a bad film. Nikita (1990) is the template as Ryan Gosling’s lifer is offered the chance to become an assassin for a secret US government agency. Flash forward a number of years and Gosling, who doesn’t look any older, gets screwed on a mission and psychotic Chris Evans has to take him down. Cue expertly choreographed death, explosions, shouting, shoot-outs, and zero emotional connection.

I like all the talent involved in this. Gosling, Evans and Ana de Armas are genuine stars. But were they trapped on a brainless rollercoaster that wouldn’t stop? Did it even have a script? And if it did who thought it was worth spending money on. The camera swoops around the globe like a maniac hoovering up the budget. Everyone takes a grand payday as the bullets fly and fire fills up the screen. I was with Gosling’s anti-heroic blank until they introduced the girl moppet and I deflated. Everyone involved is better that the $200 million spent.

Mark: 5 out of 11



SPIDERHEAD (2022)

Directed by Joseph Kosinski

Screenplay by: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick

Based on:
“Escape From Spiderhead” by George Saunders

Main Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Miles Teller, Jurnee Smollett etc.

This is actually a brilliant film concept absolutely ruined by the miscasting of Chris Hemsworth and a director obsessed with filling the dark themes with inane humour and incongruous 1980’s music. Maybe these elements were all in George Saunders original short story from The New Yorker, but I doubt it. It’s a butchered adaptation from my instinct. By the way, Chris Hemsworth is a brilliant film star, but he cannot act.

So, imagine a Black Mirror episode done really badly with Miles Teller’s criminal being given certain freedoms within a prison as long as he tests drugs and adheres to the rules of the medical experimentation. The plot beats are impactful and Teller’s character arc is very moving. as he tries to escape his past wrongdoings and guilt, but Kosinski and Hemsworth piss over the potential with awful creative decisions that grate and drain all emotion away. It’s a character drama trapped in an insulting action comedy, which must be called out.

Netflix. Stop wasting money.

Mark: 6 out of 11


CINEMA REVIEW: THE BLACK PHONE (2021)

CINEMA REVIEW: THE BLACK PHONE (2021)

Directed by Scott Derrickson

Screenplay by: Scott Derrickson & C. Robert Cargill

Based on “The Black Phone” by Joe Hill

Produced by: Jason Blum, Scott Derrickson, C. Robert Cargill

Main cast: Mason Thames, Madeleine McGraw, Jeremy Davies, James Ransone, Ethan Hawke


Cinematography Brett Jutkiewicz

** MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS **


Halloween party-goers now have a new mask to wear on their faces in the guise of The Black Phone (2021) villain daubed, “The Grabber”. Although one must point out the mask is highly influenced by Japanese classic horror, Onibaba (1964). Anyway, the Grabber is a sick individual who prowls and abducts kids from the Denver suburbs in the 1970s, using black balloons and a creepy van as his signature. Portrayed by Ethan Hawke, he isn’t most subtle or interesting of killers, but his chilling behaviour drives this effective horror film from director Scott Derrickson.

The story is the essence of every parent’s living nightmare. Their child goes missing having been snatched off the street in broad daylight. The film takes the time to establish many of the children’s characterisations so we have time to bond with them and feel the horror of their plight. Central to the story are teen brother, Finney (Mason Thames), and younger sister, Gwen (Madeline McGraw). Even without the threat of the murderer, their mother has passed and they are brought up by abusive and alcoholic father (Jeremy Davies). To add further woe, Finney, finds himself bullied by older kids at school. Could things get any worse? Of course! Finney finds himself the next victim of the evil Grabber!



Plunged into a gloomy and sound-proofed basement, Finney, is trapped with no way out from the Grabber’s nefarious plans. Ah, but Finney suddenly gets assistance from, not one, but two supernatural sources. Firstly, the titular black phone which hangs on the wall of the basement and scares us half to death when it rings. Who is on the other end? Well, lets just say they are not of the living. The second magical helper for Finney is that Gwen has the second sight in her dreams. Over time she is able to conveniently assist the police at significant stages of the narrative. Much suspense is raised from Finney’s attempts to escape as time begins to run out for him. His conversations on the black phone are imaginatively delivered as he reaches some weird dimension beyond life and death.

The Black Phone (2021) is both a suspenseful and silly ride, efficiently directed by expert genre filmmaker, Scott Derrickson. The characters are nicely written and you really root for them as the kids deal with all manner of terror. Themes relating to sibling community, stranger-danger, and sticking up for yourself against bullying are intelligently explored also. However, I must say the film has, for all the emotional depth felt and evocative 1970s locations and costumes displayed, a number of serious plot-holes struck me as incredibly questionable. I also thought Ethan Hawke’s villain while visually striking, lacked intelligence and a proper characterisation. I get that he is masked symbol of evil, but a great actor like Hawke was wasted in such casting. Overall though, The Black Phone (2021) is definitely a cinematic call worth answering.

Mark: 7.5 out of 11


CINEMA REVIEW: DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS (2022)

CINEMA REVIEW: DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS (2022)

Directed by Sam Raimi

Written by Michael Waldron – Based on the Marvel Comics

Produced by Kevin Feige

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong, Xochitl Gomez, Michael Stuhlbarg, Rachel McAdams, etc.

Cinematography John Mathieson

***MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS ***



I have to admit, and fully conceding my opinion counts for zero, that Disney’s Marvel and Star Wars bandwagons have reached a zenith of saturation. Too much of a good thing is definitely not a good thing. The Disney cinema and streaming products released over the last year or so, since the Avengers hit their endgame has been, just obscene. So much so I now have a powerful fatigue when it comes to watching said releases. They may be of excellent quality, but I’m not really sure I give a damn, darling.

While I am yet to see Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021) or Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021), I did have the misfortune to slog through the stodgy and nonsensical Eternals (2021) on Disney+. Having said that I did enjoy the meta-textual invention of Wandavision (2021). Aside from the conventional ending it tried to do something different with the character of Wanda Maximoff, dealing powerfully with the theme of grief in an imaginative and thoughtful way.

But it would take a hell of a hook to drag me to the cinema again to watch a Marvel film. I’m happy squeezing the value out of my Disney+ subscription thank you very much. But, what was this? Sam Raimi has directed Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)? One of my favourite directors entered the Marvel creative team. A bona fide horror and fantasy auteur returned to the superhero genre he inhabited so tremendously in his millennial Spiderman trilogy. Okay Disney – you’ve pulled me back in. I’m tired of your high quality entertainment but here’s my cinema cash.


Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff in Marvel Studios’ DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022) is a big, dumb, fast-paced, scary, fantastic, mystical, surprising and funny chunk of visually stunning fantasy cinema. After unluckily being denied the Oscar for his subtle, yet brilliant performance in The Power of the Dog (2021), Benedict Cumberbatch is on superb hand-waving, cape-throwing, shape-shifting, death-defying, hair-flicking, multiverse-jumping, father-figuring form as Dr Stephen Strange. His hypnotic character finds himself haunted by weird dreams. But are they dreams? Are they instead visions of other worlds? Other lives. Other deaths.

Enter Xochitl Gomez as America Chavez a dimension jumping teenager who, as a “human” plot device, drags Strange into devilish conflict with another powerful magician from the Avengers team. Namely, Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen). Wanda is still struggling with her losses before and during the crazy events that occurred in the small town of Westview. Anyway, multiverse films are like buses it would seem. You wait ages and three or more come along at the same time. Indeed, with the time-travel narrative arguably becoming exhausted or rested, multiverse plots provide the writers the ability to introduce and reinvent characters and rules of the world within the Marvel canon.

So you’ve got to see the middle act of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022), where America and Doctor crash into an alternative-Earth that contains some startlingly fun casting and unexpected character reveals. Add to that the dark arts delivered by Wanda’s continued obsession with getting America’s dimension-jumping powers light up and darken the screen. This allows Raimi to splatter the walls with a dazzling array of colour amidst the spellbinding set-pieces.

The end battle isn’t half bad either with Strange confronting Maximoff’s sorcery via a deathly conduit and ghoulish switching of identity. While I would have preferred Wanda not to have been cast as the nemesis, Olsen gives a fine performance of some depth amidst the mercurial madness. Overall though, this is Raimi’s film. He pulls out all the stops and magic tricks from his cinematic repertoire making Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022) more his film than just another generic release in whatever-phase-of-Disney’s plot to take over the universe this may be.

Mark: 8.5 out of 11