Leofwine_draca

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Reviews

Hon zin 2
(2016)

The writing's not up to par
While I really enjoyed the first film in this series, this follow-up isn't anywhere near so good. It follows straight on from the first one but brings back characters whose arcs were already complete for a new story that feels like it was made up on the spot. All of the major players return (Andy Lau excepted) with newcomer Chow Yun Fat playing the role of a lawyer eager to prosecute corrupt cops. What we get is a needlessly complex, laboured and occasionally histrionic story that has a few cool action sequences (dodgy CGI aside) and very little else. The actors are fine but but the screenwriter not so...

Another Fine Mess
(1930)

Surreal humour
ANOTHER FINE MESS is one of the boys' earliest talkies and a remake of an earlier silent feature. This one has them being forced into a mansion after the owner leaves; an aggressive cop is in pursuit of them outside so they have no choice but to impersonate the owner and his staff. What follows is a classic comedy of errors, with Laurel forced to play both butler Hives (!) and a maid while Ollie is the lord of the manor. This comedy leans towards the absurdist more than ever, nowhere more so than in the electrifying climax which takes surreal humour to the next level. James Finlayson is, as ever, joyous support.

From Soup to Nuts
(1928)

A fine show
FROM SOUP TO NUTS is one of the classic silent shorts featuring the boys playing waiters at a swanky dinner party with high class guests. Of course, everything that could go wrong does end up going wrong, from obvious slapstick (the classic cream pie to the face sketch is repeated constantly) to classic misunderstandings and bizarro situations. While the boys are on top form as ever here, what I really liked was the characterisation of the other players. The scene with the lady trying to get the cherry on her spoon is utterly delightful and on par with the established players. Altogether a fine show.

Westworld: The Stray
(2016)
Episode 3, Season 1

Complex, fluid, shifting
Another episode that adds immeasurably to the experience. It's complex, fluid, ever-shifting, with the viewer being re-introduced to Dolores and Teddy and their own unique storylines at this point. I found the whole thing thoroughly engrossing, from the mysterious flashbacks to Anthony Hopkins and his exposition; there's nary a foot put wrong at any point. What I particularly enjoy is the mystery, the sense of foreboding, the sense of mankind reaching too far and about to get a very nasty surprise indeed. There are only hints and foreshadowing at this point, but if things play out in the way we're expecting then this is going to be awesome.

El mariscal del infierno
(1974)

Loosely based on a true story
THE DEVIL'S POSSESSED (1974, original title El mariscal del infierno) marks another collaboration between director Leon Klimovsky and star Paul Naschy, not as classic as their earlier WEREWOLF SHADOW, but still telling an intriguing and entertaining tale. This one is more of a horror/adventure film, based loosely on the life of the notorious French nobleman Gilles de Rais. Naschy plays a French baron who commits endless atrocities in his pursuit of fame and fortune and unlocking the secret of the philosopher's stone.

The film is heavy on the swashbuckling and light on the gore and nudity, which is unusual for Naschy. There's a notable stand-out scene involving a severed head and some nasty moments in a torture chamber, but this is more involved with a Robin Hood-style outlaw band hiding out in the woods. There are fine real-world locations, Naschy's on strong form as the sympathetic sadist, and we get some fun with his Lady Macbeth-esque wife, although horror lovers may be a little disappointed by the lack of explicit grue on offer.

Westworld: Chestnut
(2016)
Episode 2, Season 1

Excellent world building
This one was quite different from the first episode yet building on the themes and characters introduced there. Evan Rachel Wood and Ed Harris take more of a back seat but both feature, the latter in what feels like a particularly important storyline. There's an absolute ton of world-building here which really zings along, along with sub-plots which really engage, including the most obvious reference to the original movie with the two visitors. Thandie Newton's role is particularly intriguing at this point, but the whole thing is impeccably done, the writing and the acting particularly impressing.

Das Rätsel der grünen Spinne
(1960)

More music than mystery
I watched MYSTERY OF THE GREEN SPIDER due to my love of the German krimi films, although this one's more musical than mystery. It stars Adrian Hoven, who I know for his later involvement with MARK OF THE DEVIL, and is set entirely in a little nightclub populated by a variety of musical acts circa Germany in 1959. Oh, and one of the singers gets bumped off, and the usual detective and reporter team up to figure out who did it. While the mystery is intriguing at times, there simply isn't enough of it to keep this film going. The musical numbers are fun at times but there are too many similar-sounding ones and that saps enjoyment from them.

Le trio infernal
(1974)

Farce failure
Quite a rare one and based on a true story too which caught my attention, but I found THE INFERNAL TRIO hard to sit through. It's about some bourgeois characters in Marseilles, a man and two women, who through a series of unfortunate events end up committing murder. Bizarre stuff indeed, but this is a French farce picking apart class conventions and as such it left me completely cold. I do enjoy the subject matter - Emile Zola is perhaps my favourite author - but I didn't like any of the characters here, and often this felt rudderless, throwing in a bit of this and a bit of that to get along. There's a notably grisly sequence, but that's the only memorable bit in this.

The Handmaid's Tale: No Man's Land
(2022)
Episode 7, Season 5

Yawn...
So this one's a two-hander of an episode and of course anyone with the slightest inkling or knowledge of the show at this point will have seen this coming a long time ago. Not to mention it's entirely contrived, even ridiculous, to have the characters in this situation in the first place. A ten-minute sequence in another show is dragged out to hour-plus episode length, with long scenes of nothing and quarrelling really testing the viewer's patience. Serena's acting is as bad as the rest, there are pointless flashbacks to season one events to pad out yet more screen time, and of course the obligatory twist ending. Yawn!

The Northman
(2022)

Hulking misfire
Another disappointment from director Robert Eggers, about on par with his LIGHTHOUSE. I did enjoy THE WITCH but it seems the bigger the budget the less he has to say for himself. The trailer shows this as an action adventure with a revenge narrative at heart, but in truth there's only one (good) battle sequence shoehorned into the saga, and the rest is a stodgy mystical drama. Skarsgard has always been my least favourite of the acting family and although he's remarkably hulking, his character rings hollow. The others are served even worse and the whole thing drags along with random CGI visions I found quite embarrassing. Worst of the lot is Kidman, delivering a breathtakingly awful performance in a role that copies Queen Gertrude in HAMLET.

The Walking Dead: Rest in Peace
(2022)
Episode 24, Season 11

What a shame!
The final-ever episode of the show and it has to rank as a crushing disappointment. It turns out that all of the large-scale action we'd been teased for never happens, it's all in the build-up episodes. Instead we get an abrupt stand-off and a pat ending. Even worse, there are lengthy bedroom sentimental scenes at the climax that bring to mind the way Jackson infamously refused to tie up THE RETURN OF THE KING in a neat way. They also pull a Rowling by refusing to kill off many, hardly any, of the main cast members, limiting it to just a few minor players. Sure, some old faces return, but even they're there for fan service and seemingly to tease follow-up spin-offs. Shame!

The Walking Dead: Family
(2022)
Episode 23, Season 11

The penultimate
The penultimate episode of the show and it's as good as it gets at this point. Plenty of plotting moving the show forward, lots of different sequences featuring numerous characters, and a good mix of human conflict with zombie action. All of the characters are now congregating on the main location and taking their fight to Pamela. As usual, some of this is filled with trite dialogue and there's a certain rushed and cheap feel elsewhere, but nothing too much to complain about. Best of all, at least for me, is the inclusion of a massive zombie horde that recalls the glory days of season six in Alexandria.

Sin-gwa ham-kke: In-gwa yeon
(2018)

Overloaded
A weak-sauce follow up to the original hit, this one feels like it was cobbled together from plot odds and ends left over from the last film. All of the cast are back, with the exception of one of Yeomra's aides, to follow yet another odyssey through the next world in which souls strive for forgiveness and aim to be reincarnated. It's a long, slow slog of a film, mildly enlivened by the presence of Ma Dong-seok who perks up the first half of the film before being forgotten about because he's not the main story. Instead we get some guff about Ha Jung-woo looking for his dad's forgiveness. Endless sentiment, crying and melodrama are the order of the day in this overloaded fable.

The Walking Dead: Faith
(2022)
Episode 22, Season 11

Moving at speed with a few errors
Another fast-paced episode which delivers a good deal of solid thrills and experience. The one downside to this is the court case, which just comes across as very vague and very rushed and not at all convincing. The script offers the most basic law-related terms and the idea of getting the public to come to Eugene's aid is a non-starter in the first place, so why dwell on it so much? The rest, more action-focused elements are better, particularly those involving the engaging Negan who continues to impress, and it's nice to see Ezekiel getting a little more screen time too. A shame others like Maggie are totally wasted.

The Walking Dead: Outpost 22
(2022)
Episode 21, Season 11

Picking up speed
As we move into the very last episodes of the show, this episode turns out to be pretty good - and fast-paced at the very least. It offers a new milieu in the welcome form of a return to Alexandria, looking very different from the last time we saw it. The plot splits and divides between various sub-plots as usual, but the most interesting ones are those following the characters infiltrating a much tougher enemy. I did like the train scenes too, which add something to the show that hasn't been done before. This means that characterisation suffers for the sake of action, but in the case of this series I don't think that's a bad thing.

Dai si hing
(2018)

Polemic on Hong Kong's education system
A recent but less well-known Donnie Yen movie in which the martial artist plays a former soldier turned schoolteacher. He takes on an unruly class and in time helps the unlikeliest pupils with all of their personal problems, and there are a lot of them. After a while you realise this is less an action or comedy than a polemic on the state of the Hong Kong education system, so not particularly relevant globally. Saying that, I did enjoy the discussions even though the film lapses into sentimentality at times. Yen excels in a couple of good fight scenes randomly shoehorned into the storyline, and it's rather an effortless watch.

Shadow Zone: My Teacher Ate My Homework
(1997)

Mindless kid's film
A silly kid's film, low budget and made in the style of those churned out by Full Moon Entertainment. They even have a creepy puppet that resembles the ones found in the PUPPET MASTER franchise. This one was made in Canada but I assumed it was Eastern Europe. The kid from EVERWOOD plays a lad having trouble with a sadistic teacher until he finds a voodoo doll which comes in handy. At that point it all just falls apart with a jumbled mass of plot ingredients that never come together. Some camaraderie between the kids, but that's about it. Shelly Duvall gives a kooky turn as the teacher and Margot Kidder and John Neville cameo. The opening randomly copies TALES TO THE CRYPT and then some.

Così fan tutte
(1992)

A mere masquerade
Softcore trash from a master of titillation; you might say Tinto Brass is a man obsessed. Sadly, this is one of those high-class slices of erotica that turns out to cater for mankind's most base obsessions, but of course it's all okay because it's about a woman's desire rather than a man's - yeah, right. Inevitably it's a film shot via the male gaze throughout, with barely a scene going by that doesn't focus on the female figure in some respect. It's near plotless, with horrid acting and dialogue, and the lack of concrete narrative makes it an entirely boring and, indeed, repetitive watch. You know what you're here for.

The Walking Dead: What's Been Lost
(2022)
Episode 20, Season 11

More exciting
This one was something of a step up in terms of screen excitement, building on the last episode's final scene and offering some good action to start things off. It then turns into another manhunt of sorts with Carol and Darryl coming back to the fore in a hunt for their missing friends. There's still rather a lot of dialogue that doesn't add much, but alongside that is a wealth of action which comes across as well-directed and heart-pounding at times. I have to say I was disappointed by the final moments which I felt were perfunctory at best, tying up loose ends in the most ordinary way. Let's hope it picks up again.

The Walking Dead: Variant
(2022)
Episode 19, Season 11

Average
Another episode that smacks of filler despite being so close to the end now. This one begins with Eugene finding himself suspected (not without reason) in Sebastian's death and the consequences that follow. I was worried it was going to be the Eugene show again but thankfully he doesn't get an awful lot of screen time. We do get Darryl being badass in the woods which is a lot more satisfying, and I have to say that the Hornsby character has grown on me quite a bit over this season. The scene in his prison cell is relatively shocking but the rest is very much average, neither amazing nor particularly bad.

The Reef: Stalked
(2022)

Highly predictable
STALKED is the sequel to THE REEF, an older Aussie shark horror that I really loved thanks to its oodles of suspense and unrelenting tension. Sadly, although the same director returns his skills seem to have evaporated in the interim period, because this is unrecognisable from his earlier film. Now we get three female characters going kayaking (one of whom has a back story, which means we're subjected to repetitive and ridiculous flashbacks) before a shark comes after them. It's interchangeable with other modern shark thrillers, with a lot of uninteresting dialogue interspersed with very few exciting moments. Highly predictable, too.

Fanny Lye Deliver'd
(2019)

Everything and nothing
FANNY LYE DELIVER'D interested me on paper as I'm a big fan of folk horror, but this is A FIELD IN ENGLAND levels of bad. In other words, a micro-budgeted, single location production that tries to be many things at the same time and ends up being nothing. The cod proto-feminist plot is nonsensical and irrelevant, the final text laughable. Instead this feels more like a mini STRAW DOGS re-run but lacking any suspense, tension or indeed good scripting, just actors stuck doing their farmer accents. The only good thing about this is Charles Dance, but I felt a bit sorry to see him in something so far below his talents.

The Walking Dead: A New Deal
(2022)
Episode 18, Season 11

Filler
A very average episode now and one that smacks of filler. I'm astonished that there are only six episodes left after this one and yet they're still treading water. Too much time is spent on getting characters from one place to the next which is never very interesting. The political shenanigans fail to inspire and the new 'villains' must be some of the least imposing ever. This one builds to a final twist ending which you'll see coming a mile off if you're got any idea at all of how this show works. Let's hope it starts to pick up a head of steam once we move into the next few episodes, but I won't hold my breath.

The Walking Dead: Lockdown
(2022)
Episode 17, Season 11

Action-packed mid-season opener
And so we're moving into the final stretch of the show now, with just eight episodes left. This one carries on the old tradition of mid-season openers by being action packed which works in its favour. There are plenty of prowling zombies, gore sequences and extras getting bumped off, although in terms of concrete plotting it's far more limited and mainly focuses on a protest. It always amuses me how heavy-handed these shows are with their political references, hence the 'lockdown' episode title and protest content. Still, it's pretty good as far as 'new' WALKING DEAD episodes go, and I look forward to the next.

Two Witches
(2021)

Doesn't even come close
TWO WITCHES is the kind of modern indie horror that inevitably leaves me cold. It's low budget, small scale and entirely predictable, featuring a bland young cast who find themselves assailed by a couple of old-fashioned witches. The story is so limited that the first half cuts off to introduce a whole new milieu in the second. As with a lot of these modern films, this one's overdirected to the hilt, with OTT transitions and camera effects to try to make it scary, but of course it doesn't work. Add in some gurning actors and a few nasty moments and you have something that doesn't even come close to horror.

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