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BBC TV REVIEW: INSIDE NO. 9 – SERIES 6: CONSISTENTLY DENYING ARTISTIC EXHAUSTION BY DELIVERING FURTHER TELEVISUAL GENIUS!

BBC TV REVIEW: INSIDE NO. 9 (2021) – SERIES 6

Created and written by: Steve Pemberton & Reece Shearsmith

Directors (Season 6): Matt Lipsey, Guillem Morales

Original Network: BBC (available on BBC Iplayer)

No. of Episodes: 6



I have written exhaustively about how brilliant this television programme is, so much so I don’t think I can add any further other than I believe it deserves regaling as TV national treasure. Just when you think Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton could be running out of creative steam they prove you wrong with another superb series of Inside No. 9. If you are interested, here are prior articles I have written about it.

1) NINE REASONS WHY INSIDE NO. 9 IS ONE OF THE BEST TV SHOWS EVER! | The Cinema Fix presents:

2) BBC TV REVIEW – INSIDE NO. 9 (2020) – SEASON 5 – more hare-raising twists from geniuses Pemberton and Shearsmith! | The Cinema Fix presents:

However, to recap, if you have never seen Inside No. 9 I urge you to do so. It is an exceptional anthology series with six stand-alone episodes per series. Individual episodes feature a whole host of different characters and amazing actors each time led by the multi-talented Pemberton and Shearsmith. As per the prior seasons, the latest one is absolutely unforgettable. It again privileges tightly woven thirty-minute short narratives, which more often than not, feature a twist in the tale. Moreover, the events usually unfold in one location with rarely more than a handful of characters. This makes the narratives feel more focussed, intense and intimate. In series 6, there is even more growth within the anthology genre and much risk-taking where style and form are concerned.

So, here are my mini-reviews of each episode from Season 6 with marks out of nine (obviously).

*** BEWARE: POTENTIAL SPOILERS ***



EPISODE 1: WUTHERING HEIST

Main cast: Paterson Joseph, Gemma Whelan, Kevin Bishop, Reece Shearsmith, Steve Pemberton, Rosa Robson, Dino Kelly etc.

Not only are Pemberton and Shearsmith accomplished actors, writers and directors, they are also acutely aware how fans revel in their incredible work, devilishly mocking their own mythology and playing with audience expectations. They do this to dizzying impact in the puntastic opening episode, Wuthering Heist. Marrying elements from farce, crime, Commedia dell’arte and the plot of Reservoir Dogs (1992), the players wear masks, prat about and bleed over each other while attempting to pull off a diamond heist. Set in one location, a disused warehouse, Gemma Whelan is superb as the fourth-wall breaking narrator attempting to hold all the story innards together. Pretty soon though one realises that the flurry of puns, sight gags, plot contrivances and comical misunderstandings are intended as wondrous and silly fun. The lack of emotional depth is the joke here and the writers know this. Because Shearsmith and Pemberton’s script has a gag every four seconds, be it a sight jape or involve some sparky verbal dexterity. Lastly, not only do they know they are jumping the shark, but they revel in doing so during this hilarious meta-work.

Mark: 8 out of 9



EPISODE 2: SIMON SAYS

Cast: Reece Shearsmith, Steve Pemberton, Lindsay Duncan, Nick Mohammed

Among many of the recurring pleasures of watching Inside No. 9 is wondering what the number nine will refer to. It’s been a myriad of things including: a karaoke booth, a hotel room, a train sleeper car, a dressing room, a referee’s changing room, and even a shoe. In Simon Says it’s the name of a television epic called The Ninth Circle. This show is very similar to Game of Thrones in genre and scale, and likewise has a battalion of fans across the country who feel the final series undid the majesty of the prior seasons. The episode opens with immediate mystery as Steve Pemberton’s writer, Spencer, enters his flat with blood staining his clothes and conscience. Suddenly, Simon (Reece Shearsmith), is at the door saying he has evidence Spencer has committed a serious crime. Simon, a Ninth Circle uber-fan then blackmails Spencer into, among others things, rewriting the whole of the last season of The Ninth Circle into something more fan-friendly. Managing to be both funny and suspenseful in equal measures, Pemberton and Shearsmith’s characters play cat-and-mouse expertly, throwing in several big plot twists at the end of this compelling tale.

Mark: 8 out of 9


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EPISODE 3: LIP SERVICE

Cast: Sian Clifford, Steve Pemberton, Reece Shearsmith

I watch some television series and films and am often struck at how much time is wasted in setting up the protagonists and story. Similarly, in unnecessarily long TV series you get either eight or ten episodes full of padding in the middle which destabilizes the momentum of the story. Nothing of the sort occurs in Inside No. 9. Stories are set-up with stylish economy and the situations immediately grab you by the throat and rarely let go. In Lip Service, Steve Pemberton’s downtrodden Felix is holed up in a hotel room waiting to liaise with a woman. But it’s not what you think. Sian Clifford’s Iris arrives and it turns out she is there to offer her services as a lip-reader. Felix suspects the woman he loves is having an affair and he requires Iris to read her and a possible lover’s lips at an adjacent hotel suite. I’ve now seen this episode three times and it truly is breathtaking. There’s empathy for Felix’s lost soul, some fine linguistic comedy, a potential romance, Clifford’s performance knocking it out of the park, Reece Shearsmith having great fun as an officious German hotel manager and THAT ending. The denouement, while totally believable, comes out of nowhere and leaves you genuinely speechless.

Mark: 8.5 out 9



EPISODE 4: HURRY UP AND WAIT

Cast: Adrian Dunbar, Steve Pemberton, Reece Shearsmith, Donna Preston, Bhavna Limbachia, and Pauline McGlynn

Quite possibly my favourite episode of the series, Hurry Up and Wait manages to achieve that difficult juxtaposition of being meta-textual and containing some real emotional power. Because it is one thing to be self-referential and satirise the creative process, in this case the making of a television police drama starring famous actor Adrian Dunbar, but it’s quite another to build in a murder mystery and empathetic characters who you root for. While Reece Shearsmith is always excellent playing angry characters, here he portrays James, a mild-mannered actor, who has got a break playing a scene with the precious talent, Dunbar. The TV drama they are in concerns a missing child and the “green room” happens to be a static caravan owned by a working-class family who may have important information about said grisly crime. Steve Pemberton and Pauline McGlynn play the parents of immature, Beverley – the brilliant Donna Preston – adding much comic relief, but all possibly hiding a dark secret. As James learns his lines he also plays detective seemingly discovering the truth until the truly chilling ending is revealed.

Mark: 9 out of 9


EPISODE 5: HOW DO YOU PLEAD?

Cast: Steve Pemberton, Reece Shearsmith, Derek Jacobi

Arguably the darkest tale, both in terms of the noir lighting and foreboding themes, it is difficult to discuss this tale of soul-searching guilt and justice without giving away too much of the story. Thus, I’ll talk about the actors and characters more. Derek Jacobi gives a deeply moving performance of a dying barrister who prides himself of, after an upturn in his early legal career, never losing a case in court until retirement. As he lies dying in bed, lungs heavy around his heart, he feels guilt about one case where he defended the indefensible. As he confesses his regret to Shearsmith’s cheery carer, it is soon revealed both men have sins they buried in the past which will soon come back to bite them. Watching these two fine actors spark off one another is as compelling as television drama can get, but there’s also comedy there too as Shearsmith delivers some spirited one-liners in between Jacobi’s grand screen gravitas. But where’s Pemberton I hear you ask? He’s sitting there waiting patiently in the shadows of this evocatively lit and thrilling tale.

Mark: 8 out of 9



EPISODE 6: LAST NIGHT OF THE PROMS!

Cast: Steve Pemberton, Reece Shearsmith, Julian Glover, Debra Gillett, Bamshad Abedi-Amin, Sarah Parish etc.

Are you aware of the work of Dennis Potter? He was one of the finest writers in British television from the 1960’s way into the early 1990’s. His scripts were always highly erotic, political and incredibly controversial. They skewered very British and human themes and burnt great sacred cows of the church, government, family, sex and marriage on the TV barbecue, leaving charcoal remains in their stead. Potter was a genius and with Last Night of the Proms, Pemberton and Shearsmith match him for bravado in deconstructing human nature and what it means to be British. Set in a well-to-do, middle-class household, a family of three generations sit down to watch the Last of the Proms on the BBC. It’s a big traditional classical music event and cultural celebration of what it means to be British. It makes me sick! Britain isn’t great. The British are racist, imperialistic and hardy murderers, who have a history and present (fucking Brexit!) they should be ashamed of. The thought-provoking screenplay here is heavy on compelling themes, memorable imagery and striking symbolism. This is a jarring and messy episode and what it lacks in precise plotting it more than makes up for in juxtaposing horror, satire, drama, surrealism, Jesus, social commentary and comedy to rather mesmerising effect. Potter’s ghost would have watched with glee and disgust and hate and love and pity and sadness; which is much how I felt witnessing Last Night of the Proms.

Mark: 9 out of 9


THE INVISIBLE MAN (2020) – MOVIE REVIEW

THE INVISIBLE MAN (2020)

Directed by: Leigh Whannell

Screenplay by Leigh Whannell – based on H. G. Wells The Invisible Man

Produced by: Jason Blum, Kylie du Fresne

Main cast: Elisabeth Moss, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Harriet Dyer, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Michael Dorman,

Music: Benjamin Wallfisch

Cinematography: Stefan Duscio

***MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS***



Many a work, home, pub, dinner party and school conversation has started with the following question: what would YOU do if you were invisible? Depending on the company it’s something that can descend into wild fantasy territory. Being invisible will allow you the freedom to spy and become the ultimate voyeur. You could also become a criminal and creep into places without being seen to thieve. You could be a prankster and play tricks on your friends and family. You could become a superhero, battle crime and help people. You could simply just disappear not just literally, but philosophically from society. The possibilities are endless.

H. G. Wells original novel is an absolute genre masterpiece. Arguably the most famous version was filmed in 1933 with incredible practical effects and an exceptional performance from Claude Rains. In this new version the conventional invisible scientist-goes-mad story is twisted successfully into an exhilarating horror suspense film with themes relating to toxic masculinity and abusive relationships. Here invisibility is used to control and instil fear, as the recently deceased Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) is, according to his ex-partner, Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss), targeting her from the grave.



Leigh Whannell has great experience writing and producing low-budget horror films including: Saw (2004) and Insidious (2010). His last directorial release, Upgrade (2018), was a fantastic mix of 1980’s B-movies, sci-fi and horror cinema. Building on the crowd-pleasing thrills of Upgrade, Whannell has crafted a paranoiac classic with Elisabeth Moss giving a fantastically nerve-shredding and physically adept performance. From the tense opening scene, we empathise with her desire to escape a controlling and malevolent force. Building slowly throughout the first act, Whannell’s script brilliantly picks up the pace and plots Cecilia’s descent into a living hell. Consequently, Cecilia’s anxiety reaches peak stress as no one believes she is being set up by a gas-lighting, unseen and venal monster.

It pays to see this film on the big screen with the finest sound quality available. I watched it on an IMAX screen where the sound design and Benjamin Wallfisch’s amazing score really enhance the fear-inducing visuals. How the production team made this film for a reported $7 million dollars is beyond me. Yet, Whannell is an economical and highly efficient filmmaker. His writing is lean and mean, as the script is full of fantastic set-pieces and plot reversals. Moreover, the story is very relevant, exploring the themes of the day relating to domestic abuse, depression and mental illness. However, it’s not an overbearing message movie, but rather a smart and surprising thriller.

Overall, The Invisible Man (2020) starts strongly and proceeds to deliver a series of gripping and, at times, heart-in-the-mouth cinematic moments. There are none of the usual scientific and over-expositional set-ups that can slow down such films. The visuals, sound, score and performances deliver the story most effectively. I felt like there were a few fuzzy plot moments that Whannell could have explained in more detail, however, that could have hindered the pace of the story. Finally, with Elisabeth Moss imbuing her character with resilience, energy and steel, we get an individual who will never give up. She sees through her ghosting nemesis and will fight to the last breath to prove her innocence and remain in control.

Mark: 9 out of 11


5 REASONS THIS COULD BE GOOD – THE INVISIBLE MAN (2020)

5 REASONS THIS COULD BE GOOD – THE INVISIBLE MAN (2020)

Directed by: Leigh Whannell

Screenplay by Leigh Whannell – based on H. G. Wells The Invisible Man

Produced by: Jason Blum, Kylie du Fresne

Main cast: Elisabeth Moss, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Harriet Dyer, Oliver Jackson-Cohen

UK Release date: 28th February 2020

*****SPOILER FREE*****



THE INVISIBLE MAN (2020)

A contemporary version of the science fiction classic The Invisible Man has been made. Here are five reasons it could be good.

1. LEIGH WHANNELL

Whannell has great experience writing and producing low-budget horror films including: Saw (2004) and Insidious (2010). His directorial debut Upgrade (2018) was a fantastic mix of 1980’s, sci-fi and horror movies. I loved it and it proved to be one of my favourite films of 2018.

2. ELISABETH MOSS

Elisabeth Moss is one of the best actresses around as she has proved with her brilliant work in television classics Mad Men and The Handmaid’s Tale. Moss is now breaking out in cinematic releases and proved she excels in horror having starred in Jordan Peele’s frightening film Us (2019).

3. BLUMHOUSE PRODUCTIONS

The prolific Blumhouse Productions certainly turn out a lot of product each year. Their modus operandi is to keep film budgets low in order to maximise profits on release. You could be forgiven for thinking Jason Blum greenlights just cheap exploitation films, however, Whiplash (2014) The Gift (2015), Split (2016), Get Out (2017), BlackKklansman (2018) and Us (2019) transcend the low-budget model to provide excellent cinematic experiences.

4. BASED ON A LITERARY CLASSIC

H. G. Wells original novel is an absolute genre masterpiece. It has been made, remade, re-imagined and re-booted in horror, comedy, thriller and romance genres. Arguably the most famous version was filmed in 1933 with incredible practical effects and an exceptional performance from Claude Rains. In this new version the conventional scientist-goes-mad following successful experimentation into invisibility remains, but he now seems to be targeting Elisabeth Moss’s character.

5. THEMES

The trailer reveals a slightly conventional female-protagonist-as-victim narrative. But I expect Leigh Whannell will have a number of twists and surprises up his sleeve. Indeed, science fiction and invisibility are ripe for the exploration of themes relating to toxic masculinity and hidden identity. Either that or it will simply be a fun, scary and suspenseful experience in the hands of the reliable Whannell.


HORROR DOUBLE BILL: THE DEAD DON’T DIE (2019) & ANNABELLE COMES HOME (2019) REVIEWS

HORROR DOUBLE BILL REVIEWS

THE DEAD DON’T DIE (2019)

Written and directed by: Jim Jarmusch

Cast: Adam Driver, Bill Murray, Chloe Sevigny, Tilda Swinton, Steve Buscemi, Caleb Landry-Jones, Danny Glover, Selena Gomez, Tom Waits and many more.

As a big fan of Jim Jarmusch films and a big fan of zombie films I was really looking forward to the Dead Don’t Die (2019). Interestingly though, it neither works as an arthouse horror film or dramatic zombie film. There’s a lot to enjoy, especially with the deadpan wit, but overall the film felt underwhelming to me.

Set in the fictional American town of Centerville, we find out fracking or some similar stupid human being industrial act has caused a global disaster. Suddenly we get a disparate set of townsfolk including hermits, Republican farmers, waitresses, cops, morticians, College kids, all fighting the living dead. The acting led by Adam Driver, Bill Murray and Tilda Swinton is the best thing about the film. Yet, while I was chuckling at many of the dry lines of dialogue, the film falls flat with a plodding and disappointing ending. Jarmusch, in his inimitable style essentially undermines the raft of intriguing archetypes he has established with a deconstructive and knowing final act.

I think the main problem is Jarmusch, while paying lip service to the likes of George A. Romero, did not commit fully to making a proper zombie film. This is a comedic parody and satire which lost me when Adam Driver’s character become overly self-reflexive. Jarmusch sets up some great characters to fight the dead but throws them away for clever-clever-Godardian-oh-we’re-in-a-movie references which undermine the comedy, drama and horror. I love Jarmusch’s style and he has made some cult cinema classics. This, alas, is not one of them.

Mark: 6.5 out of 11

ANNABELLE COMES HOME (2019)

Directed and written by: Gary Dauberman

Cast: McKenna Grace, Madison Iseman, Katie Sarife, Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga etc.

Having watched the Dead Don’t Die (2019), I decided to make the most of my Odeon Limitless card and watch the next instalment in a franchise which shows absolutely no sign of dying. I really liked The Conjuring and Insidious franchises, which involved horror experts including James Wan and Leigh Whannell. However, the monstrous creations such as Annabelle and The Nun are pretty thin in terms of credible horror threat and cinematic quality. Having said that this latest film Annabelle 3 film already made $200 million at the box office, so what do I know!?

The story is pretty threadbare, but it concerns Ed and Lorraine Warren’s demonic spirit room which, for some bizarre reason they entrust a teenage babysitter, Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman) and their daughter, Judy (McKenna Grace), NOT to open while they’re away. Guess what happens? A friend of Mary Ellen, Daniela (Katie Sarife), opens the spirit room and all hell breaks loose due to Annabelle the evil doll causing all the devilish spirits to rise up and frighten the characters half to death.

I actually liked the cast of young actors here, most notably McKenna Grace, who is very talented. Daniela’s character also had some decent motivation for her ridiculous actions as she sought closure with her dead father. At times I was quite fearful due to some decent jump scares, deadly creatures and creepy use of lighting tricks. However, the whole thing seemed like a cash-in with new monsters being introduced to expand the franchise further. Even fine actors such as Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga seemed happy, laughing all the way to the bank with their book-ended cameos.

Mark: 5.5 out of 11

TEN THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU #3: FOUND FOOTAGE “FILMS”!

TEN THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU:  FOUND FOOTAGE FILMS

**CONTAINS SWEARING AND SPOILERS AND OVER-USE OF CAPITALS**

Usually I’m very positive on this page but on occasions I feel the need to let rip at things that irk me. Loss of the Voice-Over Guy in film trailers pisses me off as does the generally poor expositional style of many trailers which TELL the whole story or give key plot points away IN THE TRAILER!!!  E.g. Terminator: Genocide (2015). But there is one sub-genre of movie-making which has me tearing my nuts off with rage and that is the continued proliferation of FOUND FOOTAGE style films. And here are TEN reasons why!!!


1) THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999)

I hate this fucking film!  Because of its ridiculous success it undoubtedly gave birth to an army of other bastards that have been stinking up the cinema and TV screens for the past few decades. Firstly, this film sucks!  As both a story AND a horror story.  If this film scares you then you are a moron!  It’s an okay short film padded out to an overlong bore-fest which was only topped for boringness when Paranormal Activity (2007) came out.

I’m happy for the filmmakers for garnering such success but given they have not released anything of note since shows this was a fluke success. I mean the characters were awful and dumb; notably when one moron threw away the map and got them LOST!  The ending isn’t bad but I was just so relieved when they all died!  Verbal Kint once said, “The greatest trick the Devil pulled was convincing you he doesn’t exist.”  I disagree: it was making this film so phenomenally successful.



2) UNNECESSARY!

Found footage is unnecessary to tell a story. I can see some benefit in perhaps framing your story like that if it’s Cannibal Holocaust (1980) and it’s documentary film crew blah-blah-blah!  But in my opinion it ADDS NOTHING to the story as a stylistic device.  Use flash-backs, montage, flash-forwards, voiceover, non-linear structures etc. but found footage is like one of those Chihuahua dogs: irritating, totally lacking in charm and completely pointless.



3) POISON 

Like Hitler, Gangnam Style, Miley Cyrus, Adam Sandler, Ugg Boots etc. found footage films are inexplicably successful yet also poison humanity!!  I admire low-budget/independent filmmakers and DO NOT begrudge any success these people have had BUT THE FILMS ARE RUBBISH!! The cinematic epitome of the Emperor’s New Clothes.


4) CLUMSY

It’s just SO clunky!! Even the best ever found footage film Chronicle (2012) which uses the device imaginatively suffered because they had to make up some reason for one of the characters to be filming.   Oh, it’s my sister’s mum’s birthday and funeral and we need to film it for future posterity. Oh, I accidentally left my phone camera on while in the woods and am now being hunted down by my own shadow! No!  STOP IT!!


5) THE FILMS LOOK SHIT! 

Need I say more?!?  Low budget does not mean the film needs to be shot through CCTV or infra-red or in low-grade digital footage grainier than hamster shit. Ten minutes or so is bearable but a whole film like that is just too much to handle!


6) LAZY

Oh, we’re gonna make a horror film shall but we don’t have much money: shall we use our imagination like say Sam Raimi or James Wan and construct a proper story with nasty monsters, witty dialogue, funny and horrific set-pieces OR shall we set up a fake camera and have doors move slightly or faces suddenly appear on screen or it’s quiet and then a shadow moves!  Yeah, don’t bother with characters you may connect with or creating suspense through something called a story let’s make a found footage film because WE ARE LAZY!!



7) INSULTING

Occasionally, found footage is used well such as in Creep (2014) with Mark Duplass or REC (2007), but overall the films are an insult to the horror genre. I love horror films and there have been some really good ones recently such as: Insidious (2010), Saw (2004), The Conjuring (2013), The Babadook (2014), It Follows (2014), You’re Next (2011), Let The Right One In (2008), The Descent (2005), Cabin in the Woods (2012), Shaun of the Dead (2004) to name a few.  And were any of them found footage films:  HELL NO!!!



8) MORONS

It’s an invite for every talentless, breathing moron with a camera who think they can become a filmmaker.  Don’t bother writing a script or creating decent characters or storyboarding imaginative cinematic moments – just don’t bother because you can just tripod a camera and PRETEND its close-circuit TV or a cameraman or videographer! Even horror legend George Romero got sucked into the talent vortex with the atrocious Diary of the Dead (2007) and Oscar winner Barry Levinson too with The Bay (2012).  Stop the world I’m getting off!!



9) VERMIN

Like rats in London you’re never too far away from a found footage film.  There’s too many of them – they are a plague upon the culture and humanity overall. Please STOP watching them because as they are cheap to make they spawn rubbish sequels! They are like the appendix; utterly pointless but when they burst on the cinema screen they are poisonous, painful and one must immediately seek medical help.

10) FOUND FOOTAGE FILMS ARE NOT SCARY! 

Perhaps in the darkened cinema you could be tricked into THINKING they are scary when a shadow, door or tree moves but they’re not. Overall they are as scary as a Panda in a bib!

SCREENWASH – FILM REVIEWS – JUNE 2015

SCREENWASH – FILM REVIEWS – JUNE 2015

Watched quite a lot of TV stuff in June including a binge on Hannibal Seasons 1 & 2 plus I have started watching the old school Star Trek series with Shatner and crew so not that many films watched in June. Anyway, here’s my humble little reviews with marks out of ELEVEN! Peace!

**YES – THERE’S SPOILERS!**

THE BABADOOK (2014) – BLU-RAY 

Eerie low-budget Aussie chiller which involves a blow-the-spectrum kid and his mother who mentally unravels following the death of her husband. Together they become isolated as outsiders and are left to the mercy of The Babadook; a dark creature from a weird indestructible book. It’s filmed with consummate skill and has a creeping style which gets under the skin. For an hour I was gripped but in the end felt it was somewhat one-paced and lacking a satisfactory gore-frenzied ending I like from my horror.  However, the dark symbolism in the piece was highly compelling and the director is one to watch.  (7 out of 11)

THE BEAT THAT MY HEART SKIPPED (2005) – BLU RAY

This one’s a rewatch and on second viewing it remains a complex and humanely ambiguous French drama from one of my favourite directors Jacques Audiard. It’s a loose remake of James Toback’s Fingers (1978) and concerns Thomas (Romain Duris) as an unsympathetic slum landlord who tries to use a mild talent for the piano to try and escape his nefarious job. However, he is delusional and ultimately finds little peace from this pursuit as he is constantly dragged back to violence.  It’s an involving character study of a man with family and anger issues and is typical Audiard; holding a mirror up to complex humans and their relationships. (8 out of 11)

CHEAP THRILLS (2013) – NOW TV

This cracking micro-budgeted horror-thriller may be shot on a shoe-string but it’s sharp and nasty as piano wire.  The basic premise is a drunken game of “Would You” which escalates way out of hand as two friends meets a decadent drunken couple including Anchorman’s Champ Kind – David Koechner.  Mild dares such as: fighting a club bouncer and crapping in the neighbour’s house are just for starters as this darkly comedic gore-fest illustrates the lengths some people will go to for fun or money.  This film killed:  in a good way and the final image is still burned on my retina.
(9 out of 11)

COLD IN JULY (2014) – NOW TV

I love my Southern neo-noir movies. John Dahl and the Coen Brothers made some cracking films a few years ago like Blood Simple (1984) and The Last Seduction (1994) and Cold in July is in that territory as it tells a dark, twisted story as slippery as an eel smeared in grease.  Michael C. Hall of Dexter infamy plays an ordinary Joe whose house is invaded by a burglar and having killed said intruder he is then hunted down by the dead man’s career criminal father. This is just the taster as tables are turned and chairs are burnt in a first act full of suspense.  The story then diverts into murkier waters as Don Johnson pops up as a charismatic Farmer/Private Investigator!! Jim Mickle is an unsung director of very good lower budget films like vampire-western Stakeland (2010) but this was an even better thriller with a keen sense of mood, doom and unsettling fear.  (8 out of 11)

THE CONNECTION (2014) – CINEMA

This solid French police drama starring the handsome Jean Dujardin takes a looks at the team who brought down the biggest heroin dealers in 70s France.  It’s nothing we haven’t seen before but it brilliantly filmed with a brutal, masculine cast crossing and double-crossing each other all for a bit of money and power.  I have to admit I was VERY tired watching this so dozed off at one point as the cinema was bloody hot!  However, my cinema fail aside it’s certainly one to catch online or DVD rental. Performances from Dujardin as heroic prosecutor Pierre Michel and Gilles Lellouche as his gangster counterpart are worth the admission alone.  (7 out of 11).

X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST (2014) – NOW TV

I positively reviewed this one last year and on second watch it holds up well but certainly loses power on the smaller screen.  Still a very entertaining superhero-time-travel film with the X-Men battling the past to resolve future extinction. Still loving the Quicksilver v Fort Knox slow-mo fight scene. Gets me every time.  Good solid home-screen entertainment. (7.5 out of 11)

CLICK FOR ORIGINAL REVIEW

THE EQUALIZER (2014) – NOW TV

I also reviewed this one last year and it actually works so much better as a put-your-feet-up-in-front-of-the-telly-after-work-actioner.  Here the always-reliable movie star Denzel’s portrays a seemingly meek Homebase worker when in fact he is a deadly former CIA shadow able to take bad guys down  in a heartbeat.  Like a modern-day Robin Hood he kills the bad and rewards the good all in a calm, professional and explosive fashion.  Great, if brutal, fun. (7.5 out of 11)

CLICK FOR ORIGINAL REVIEW

INSIDIOUS (2010) – DVD/INSIDIOUS 3 (2015) – CINEMA

I rewatched the petrifying original before watching the prequel Chapter 3 at the cinema and while not as good as the first the latter had some cracking scares which had my heart in my mouth throughout. I love a decent horror and also enjoy the more fantastical elements present in the Insidious franchise. I know it’s about Astral Travelling and some such nonsense but Leigh Whannell and James Wan crafted a terrifying original complete with horrific demons and ghosts from the other side.  The plots basically involve a family being terrorized by ghosties and troubled medium Elise Ranier and her team go into ‘The Further’ to slam the door shut!

Wan is a wonderful genre director who during Insidious uses a box of cinematic tricks to convey terror including: light and shadows; kinetic camera movement; smash cuts; sudden music cues including screeching violins; characters appearing out of nowhere; ghosts hiding in the corners; and many more. It’s not always subtle but damn it works well to get the heart pumping. Writer Whannell directs Insidious: Chapter 3 and makes a good fist of it as old favourites come back from the beyond along with some newer nasties to give you nightmares.  (7.5 out of 11)

JURASSIC WORLD (2015) – CINEMA

Jurassic World is loads of fun. The formula that Michael Crichton began in Westworld and continued with the original Jurassic Park is ratcheted up to eleven! I mean, who doesn’t enjoy watching Dinosaurs wreak havoc on the screen; and the Dinosaurs in this are impressive with the vicious Indominus Rex stealing the thunder. Chris Pratt coasts through all muscles and winks; while Bryce Dallas Howard’s character arc is defined by the reduction of clothing throughout. The joy of cinema is to divert the brain from the real world outside by creating an exciting one on screen. Jurassic World succeeds — despite the paper-thin characters — with impressive chases, scares and one-liners . (7.5 out of 11)

KAJAKI (2014) – BLU RAY

I’m anti-war.  But I enjoy war films.  For me “blood will have blood” and historically one can blame Kings, Governments and greedy humans for wars.  When watching a war film I will look at the humanity on show; the story that is told rather than solely the politics.

Kajaki is a brilliant lower-budget British war film set in the Helmond Province, Afghanistan in 2006 and focuses on the true events which befell a group of soldiers trapped in a historical Russian minefield.   The screenplay is impressive as it establishes the characters and longueurs of war before exploding into furious action when the men become locked in a small patch of hellish land.  It’s both illuminating and suspenseful as soldiers become prisoners to the past conflict of a land persistently ravaged by conflict.

Indeed, Afghanistan has been invaded more times than a Wild West Saloon whore and STILL there’s no resolution to the fight.  Amidst the bloody suspense of Kajaki, however, the bravery, humour and camaraderie on display is something to be in awe of. (9 out of 11)

TWO FACES OF JANUARY (2014) – AMAZON PRIME

With Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst and rising star Oscar Isaac in the cast I had very high hopes for this Hitchcockian thriller based on Patricia Highsmith’s book.  But it kind of petered out as a story really after a very gripping start.  Still, the cast are good and the sunny setting of 1960s Greece and Turkey is beautiful to look but the main issue was I never felt any empathy for the unlikeable characters and rarely felt like there was much at stake. A mirage of a film: promises much but then you realise there is nothing there. (5 out of 11)