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Doctor Who: Chapter Four: Village of the Angels
(2021)
Episode 4, Season 13

Confronting the Weeping Angels in 1967
After the events at the end of the previous episode The Doctor must deal with a Weeping Angel aboard the Tardis. It looks as though she might have succeeded but when they land they are in a Devon village in 1967; and it spears that is where the Angel wanted them to be. Something is odd about the village; a child has gone missing and there appears to be an extra statue in the graveyard. Yaz and Dan join the search for the young girl while The Doctor heads to the house where Professor Jericho is performing psychic experiments on Claire... a woman who seems out of time and knows things about The Doctor's arrival. Soon everybody is trying to avoid the Angels, not entirely successfully and The Doctor is learning more about them. Meanwhile Bel has arrived on a planet where Azure is entrapping the remnants of humanity using Passenger.

So far I've enjoyed this season more than other recent ones and this episode is probably the best of the season so far. When the Angels were introduced in 'Blink' they were genuinely disturbing; since then they have never been quite as scary... until now. They have a purpose but until the episodes shocking finale it is far from obvious. I really liked their connection to Claire. There is a real sense of danger for all characters, even The Doctor. The rural setting is effective; it is easier to except strange things happening in a quiet village than in a busy city. The cast is solid with good performances from regulars and guests alike; especially Kevin McNally and Annabel Scholey as Professor Jericho and Claire respectively. Overall the best episode for some time; I can't wait to see what happens next.

Dalgliesh: A Taste for Death - Part Two
(2021)
Episode 6, Season 1

A solid episode to end the (first) series
These comments are based on watching both parts of 'A Taste for Death' not just the second.

As this story opens a lady and a young boy enter a church; when she looks for the vicar in the vestry she finds two bodies... a recently retired MP, Sir Paul Berowne, and a tramp. Dalgliesh is soon on the case, along with DS Masterson and DS Kate Miskin, who has recently transferred from Dorset. The investigation centres on Sir Paul's family and staff. They also look into the possibility of a connection to the drowning of a woman he may have been linked too.

This, the third and final instalment in this series, is another solid story which should please fans of the genre. The murders may have taken place in a church but early on it is clear that all the suspects are either family members of staff in a wealthy household; an obvious genre standard. This means that from early on the viewer can start trying to figure out which one will ultimately be exposed as the killer. In the first story Dalgliesh worked with DS Masterson, in the second he worked with DS Miskin; this time he works with both of them... their characters are a delightful contrast. He is a bit of a dinosaur with views that are out of date to put it mildly while Miskin represents a more diverse future without feeling tokenistic. The cast is pretty solid and the episode has a good '70s look... although I don't recall there being quite as much rubbish by the canals, perhaps because the ones I walked along then were in the Black Country not London! Overall a good story; on the strength of the three stories so far I hope we get more in future.

Bullets
(2018)

A solid Finnish Noir
Mari Saari is an agent of the Finnish Intelligence Service who lost her partner during an operation where they followed a suspicious character. This character was also being followed by the local police drug squad. Soon afterwards Madina Taburova, a Chechen terrorist who was presumed dead, turns up in Finland and demands asylum. Mari must discover why she has resurfaced and why she picked Finland. This requires going undercover as a social worker at the asylum centre to befriend Madina. She must also work with drug squad officer Tommi Viita and his team because Madina was brought to Finland by people smugglers linked to the drug trade. Things are further complicated by a shadowy character dubbed 'The Ghost' who appears to be involved with Madina in some way.

I rather enjoyed this ten part Finnish series. Early scenes nicely introduce the key characters before the main story gets underway. Once things get properly started there are plenty of tense moments and a degree of mystery. The characters are mostly fairly typical of this sort of show; Mari is a bit of a mystery and like most TV cops seem to Tommi has problems with his marriage. Madina is a nicely ambiguous character; we know she has been involved in terrible things but her back story involves tragedy and she may be being coerced to do what she is doing. The cast is solid; with fine performances from Krista Kosonen, Sibel Kekilli and Tommi Korpela as Mari, Madina and Tommi respectively; Dragomir Mrsic is suitably menacing as 'The Ghost'. The winter setting adds to the series' atmosphere... as well as helping brighten night-time outdoors scenes. The ending wraps up most plot lines but some are left open; these leaves the possibility of a second season but after three years I wouldn't count on it. Overall I'd certainly recommend this to fans of the genre.

These comments are based on watching the series in Finnish with English subtitles. Much of the series is actually in English as it is used when characters, such as Madina, don't know Finnish; it is also used between non Finnish speakers even if in reality they would be speaking a third language.

The Spy
(2019)

A gripping spy thriller inspired by real events
This series tells the story of Eli Cohen an Egyptian Jew who had emigrated to Israel. Here he was recruited the Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service, in the early 1960s. His task was to infiltrate the Syrian expat community in Buenos Aires before using the connections he made to move to Damascus. His cover is that of a successful businessman named Kamel Amin Thaabet. He is an affable character and once in Syria quickly makes friends with all the right people. Everything he learns is quickly relayed to his handlers in Israel; either by radio or smuggled out via his export business. He knows that any mistake will almost certainly lead to capture, torture and death but he continues to take risks as the information he uncovers could be vital to the survival of Israel.

I found this to be a really gripping series. I didn't know of Eli Cohen before watching so had no idea how things would end. Once Eli is in Syria there is a high level of tension; even when things appear to be going well one knows things could go wrong in a heartbeat. Given the nature of the story it is impossible to know just how close to the truth the events portrayed are; even if not everything is quite as it happened it is a fairly amazing story. Sacha Baron Cohen does a really fine job as Eli; who would have guessed that somebody known for his in-your-face comic creations could be such a fine actor in a serious role. Other cast members also impress. The series has a great look; filmed in slightly washed out colours; especially for the scenes set in Israel which at times look almost black and white. Overall I'd certainly recommend this to fans of spy dramas.

The Dark Red
(2018)

An average horror film with some good ideas but few real surprises
Sybil Warren has been confined to a psychiatric hospital. She claims that her unborn baby was stolen by her fiancé's parents who gave her a forced caesarean section because they believe the baby is 'special'. She herself claims to have certain telepathic powers. Is she telling the truth or is she schizophrenic as the doctors believe? Either way when she gets out of hospital she will go after those she believes wronged her.

This isn't a bad film; it isn't great either; it is one of those average films one watches without regretting but probably forget about soon afterwards. The set-up is interesting and for most of the film there is some ambiguity about Sybil's state of mind. The end is less surprising but quite entertaining. The cast is solid enough and the rural settings are pleasant. Overall certainly not a must see but it passed the time well enough.

Red Notice
(2021)

A fun caper film
In the opening prologue we are told that Mark Anthony gave Cleopatra three jewel encrusted eggs as a wedding present. After their deaths the eggs were lost until two were discovered in 1907. One is in a Rome museum, one is owned by Sotto Voce, an arms dealer, and the other is still lost.

After a tip off from an art thief known as 'The Bishop, 'FBI Profiler Special Agent John Hartley believes that rival art thief Nolan Booth is planning to steal the first egg so heads to Rome with Interpol agent Urvashi Das and a team of police to arrest him. The operation appears to go well but the egg disappears; Hartley is accused of being involved and finds himself in the same Russian jail cell as Booth. Hartley wants to clear his name and arrest the thieves but to do that he will have to form an unlikely alliance with Booth and seek the eggs. Before the adventure is over they will have visited several countries and faced various dangers. There will also be further twists.

It must be stated that this is a fairly silly film that requires the viewer to suspend disbelief and enjoy the ride; if one can do that it is rather fun. There is a lot of action in a series of exciting set pieces; fights; chases, shooting and explosions but nobody is seen to be killed. There are plenty of laughs to be had; usually provided by the banter between Booth and Hartley. The three leads; Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds and Gal Godot put in solid and enjoyable performances as Hartley, Booth and The Bishop; other notable performances come from Ritu Arya as Urvashi Das and Chris Diamantopoulos as Sotto Voce. Overall I'd say this is well worth watching if you want a brain-in-neutral thrill ride with excitement and laughs but not much to cause offence.

Glória
(2021)

Solid '60s set Portuguese Cold War drama
In 1968 the Cold War is at its height with East and West vying for victory. As part of the propaganda war the Americans operate RARET, a broadcasting facility at Glória do Ribatejo in a remote corner of Portugal. At the time Portugal isn't democratic but has a fascist government. This government is staunchly anti-communist; largely due to their support those fighting for independence in Portugal's African colonies.

Centre of the story is João Vidal, a Portuguese engineer at RARET. He is the son of a government minister but we soon learn he was recruited by the Soviets while serving in Angola. When a translator is found dead shortly after an important tape that had been prepared for broadcast disappears James Wilson, the facility's American boss becomes concerned that the Communists have infiltrated the base. João's life is further complicated when he gets involved with a woman whose fiancé is serving in Portuguese Guinea (now Guinea-Bissau).

I really enjoyed this Netflix series. It beautifully captures the '60s aesthetic and the feeling of Cold War paranoia. The story isn't rushed but doesn't feel too slow. Many characters are fairly ambiguous. Protagonists, including João, are shown to do things that most people would judge unacceptable. Events are shown in a fairly matter of fact way leaving viewers to decide the rights and wrongs of the various politics. There isn't a huge amount of action but what there is is well staged and exciting. The cast does a solid job bringing their characters to life; this includes both Portuguese and American actors. The finale leaves many questions unanswered so hopefully theer will be further seasons Overall a solid Cold War drama that is well worth watching if you are interested in the era and are looking for something a little different.

Dalgliesh: The Black Tower - Part Two
(2021)
Episode 4, Season 1

Another solid instalment in this '70s set detective series
These comments are based on watching both parts of 'The Black Tower' not just the second.

This episode sees DCI Dalgliesh heading to the coast to visit old friend Father Michael; unfortunately when he arrives he learns that his host had died two weeks previously. Fr Michael had worked at the nearby Toynton Grange care home; while he had apparently died of natural causes his wasn't the only recent death there... a cantankerous old man had apparently committed suicide by wheeling himself over a cliff (thanks to the prologue viewers know he was pushed by an unseen assailant). Dalgliesh has his suspicions but the local police inspector isn't very helpful; thankfully Sergeant Kate Miskin, who has her own suspicions is happy to help investigate. Not surprisingly there will be more deaths as the case progresses.

I enjoyed the first of Channel Five's adaptations of P. D. James's stories and happily enjoyed this one just as much. The setting is classic murder mystery; remote, rural and effectively set in a closed community... suspects and victims are all living at the care home. This creates a sense of claustrophobia that is heightened by the fact that several residents have mobility issues. The number of suspects and motives should keep the viewer guessing till the reveal at the end. The cast does a solid job; Bertie Carvel continues to impress as Dalgliesh and guests Steven Mackintosh and Carlyss Peer stand out as the intense Brother Wilfred Antsey and Sgt Miskin respectively. Overall another fine story; it is just a pity we only have one more to go... hopefully further series will be commissioned soon.

Doctor Who: Chapter Three: Once, Upon Time
(2021)
Episode 3, Season 13

Somewhat confusing but in a good way
In a desperate attempt to save everybody The Doctor has hidden Yaz, Dan and Vinder in their own time streams where things get confusing. Meanwhile a girl named Bel is trying to evade first Daleks then Cybermen on a quest for love.

This is definitely not a stand-alone episode and it certainly requires one to pay attention. More than once I was confused as we jump between different events in time for our protagonists. I was also more than a little curious about who Bel was and why we were seeing her story... thankfully that mystery is answered. We are treated to a good range of threats; including one in the final sequence that provided a top notch cliff hanger. The cast was pretty solid; including guest performances from Thaddea Graham as Bel and Barbara Flynn as the mysterious and somewhat menacing Awsok. On the down side some of the special effects were rather disappointing to put it mildly. Overall though it was an interesting episode that left me keen to see what happens next.

Doctor Who: Chapter Two: War of the Sontarans
(2021)
Episode 2, Season 13

Fighting the Sontarans in the Crimea
After the events of last week The Doctor, Yaz and Dan find themselves in the Crimea in the 1850s. Here they meet Mary Seacole, the British-Jamaican nurse, and learn that something is wrong with history; Britain isn't at war with Russia; the fight is against the Sontarans. They control the land that should be Russia and China. Shortly after arriving Yaz and Dan start to fade and disappear. He ends up in present day Sontaran occupied Liverpool and she finds herself in a temple on the Planet Time. The Doctor and Dan must find ways to deal with the Sontarans in their respective time periods while Yaz faces her own dangers.

This was a pretty decent episode. The Sontarans are fun bad guys and make a nice change from the overused Cybermen and Daleks. There is plenty of action although for the most part it could do with a greater sense of danger; one never feels for a moment that The Doctor or Dan are in real danger from the Sontarans. Thankfully Yaz's story does make one worry for her. Swarm, Azure and Passenger are impressively menacing; I look forward to learning more about them in future episodes. As well as drama there is a good level of humour; I liked Dan using a wok as a weapon. The cast does a solid job throughout. Once again having a cliff-hanger ending made me keen to discover what happens next. I hope this season long story will herald a return to the multi-episode stories of classic 'Doctor Who'.

Biohackers
(2020)

Enjoyably German sci-fi thriller
This German sci-fi is set in a reality where genetic engineering has progressed to the point where it is possible modify specific genes. Some have used this to do things like create glowing plants or mice; Professor Tanja Lorenz is far more ambitious; she believes it should be possible to make people immune to all disease from birth. Student Mia Akerlund is determined to become one of the professor's assistants; it isn't just because she wants to learn from the best; she believes that Lorenz has been using unethical and strictly illegal methods and is determined to expose the truth. To this end she befriends Jasper, Lorenz's assistant; she also gets some help from her somewhat eccentric trio of flatmates.

I rather enjoyed this series; it gets off to a great start with a prologue where people start collapsing on a train before the action moves back a few weeks and over the next few episodes we get to see exactly what happened, and more importantly why. The story provides plenty of tension some mystery. The characters and their actors are pretty good; Luna Wedler impresses as Mia and Jessica Schwarz is good as Lorenz. The three flatmates are quite amusing even if their antics slip into silliness at times. Many questions are answered by the end of season one but more are raised and the second season deals with some of these as well as Mia's suddenly deteriorating condition. Overall I think this is a solid series that I'm glad I watched; if there is a third season made I'd definitely watch it.

These comments are based on watching the series in German with English subtitles.

Prospect
(2018)

A fun little sci-fi with western tropes
Damon and his teenage daughter, Cee, are heading to a forested moon where they hope to strike it rich prospecting for precious gems. It won't be easy though; the air must be filtered due to toxic spores and anybody they encounter is unlikely to be friendly. Things go wrong from the start; their lander is damaged as they enter the atmosphere and they miss their intended landing site by some way. An early encounter leaves Cee on her own; if she is to survive and get off the moon again she will have to make an unlikely alliance.

I rather enjoyed this film; it might not be a classic and was clearly made for a relatively small amount but the story is solid in a fairly simply way. It may be set on a distant moon but the plot could come straight from a western. It is somewhat episodic with our protagonist facing a series of dangers that she must overcome but that isn't a problem. The tension is kept fairly high as there is always some danger to be overcome. The small cast does a solid job; most obviously Sophie Thatcher who really impressed as Cee; a character who toughens up nicely as she overcomes various dangers. Also notable are Pedro Pascal as Ezra and Jay Duplass as Damon. There aren't too many special effects but those that there are are pretty good in an unshowy way. The setting looks good; the forest being lush but also somewhat claustrophobic; one can't help feeling it would be easy to get lost there. Overall an enjoyable little sci-fi that is well worth watching.

Predestination
(2014)

Intelligent time travel sci-fi
Agent Doe works for the Temporal Agency; an organisation that uses time travel to prevent certain occurrences. In particular he is determined to stop 'The Fizzle Bomber' who killed thousands in a bomb attack in New York in 1975. His latest attempted left him needing facial reconstruction and still didn't stop the bomber. When he recovers he is told he has one more attempt before mandatory retirement. Returning to the '70s he gets a job in a bar. One day a man walks in and they get talking; the man bets him that he has a story more amazing than any he has heard... it begins 'When I was a girl'. He tells the story of how that girl grew up become the man in the bar; it is a story full of disappointments, a shocking revelation and a significant betrayal. When it is over the barman offers to put the man in a position where he can kill his betrayer.

When I saw this was a film about a time travelling law enforcement agent I assumed it would turn out to be rather similar to Jean-Claude Van Damme film 'Time Cop'... it turns out it is almost nothing like that. It is impossible to describe the story in much detail without giving too much away suffice to say It was intriguing and kept me gripped from start to finish. As is often the case with time travel stories one has to be able to accept certain paradoxes and expect lots of twists. Some of these twists are less expected than others. The cast does a great job; Ethan Hawke impresses as Agent Doe but it is Sarah Snook who really stands out as the man telling his story and the girl who grew up to become him. Science fiction is often associated with a high budget and lots of action and special effects; this shows that if can be done well on a relatively small budget with the right story. Overall I'd definitely recommend this to sci-fi fans looking for something that is gripping but not full of action.

Jumanji: The Next Level
(2019)

A sequel that is as much fun as the previous film
These comments assume people have seen the previous film so are familiar with the returning characters and the nature of the Jumanji game.

Two years have passed since the events of the previous film and the four protagonists have drifted apart somewhat. They plan to get back together to catch up but Spencer doesn't turn up. He has been feeling down and restarts the Jumanji game. When 'Fridge', Martha and Bethany go to his house they find Eddie, his crotchety grandfather, along with his former business partner, Milo, but no sign of Spencer. They decide they must enter the game to find him. Things don't go as expected... Fridge and Martha end up in different game characters than before and Bethany is left behind... and rather bemused Eddie and Milo end up in the game. It isn't long before an NPC gives them their quest... they will have to face various challenges before they can leave the game; they also still need to find Spencer.

Often sequels are a little disappointing but I found this to be as much fun as the original. The main actors are back playing four game avatars but thanks to a fun twist each is playing a different 'real world' person. There is almost non-stop action once they are in the game; this provides plenty of thrills and a similar number of laughs. The effects are impressive and the cast does a great job. Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan, Jack Black and Kevin Hart really impress as the four main avatars and Danny DeVito and Danny Glover are fun in the real world roles of Eddie and Milo. Awkwafina is a good addition as new avatar Ming Fleetfoot and Rory McCann is suitably menacing as villain Jurgen the Brutal. The story is pretty simple but serves its purpose of delivering action and laughs. Overall a lot of fun from start to finish; well worth watching if you enjoyed the first film.

Dalgliesh: Shroud for a Nightingale - Part Two
(2021)
Episode 2, Season 1

A solid first case for a new Dalgliesh
These comments refer to both parts one and two of 'Shroud for a Nightingale'.

This story opening in Nightingale House in 1975 where a group of trainee nurses are being taught. In the class they are giving a demonstration of how to feed a patient through a tube, with a nurse playing the part of the patient... as soon as the liquid in the tube reaches her stomach she reacts violently and dies. It appears that somebody has replaced the milk meant to be used with disinfectant. Inspector Adam Dalgliesh and DS Charles Masterson turn up to investigate. As the case progresses various suspects and motives emerge.

I watched the old version of this story, starring Roy Marsden in the leading role, but thankfully, apart from the opening scene, I could remember very little about it so never felt a need to compare the two while watching. The story is divided into two sixty minute episodes, including adverts, and both can now be watched in a single two hour slot which I'd recommend. I enjoyed the story; the mystery was intriguing and kept me guessing till near the end. It has a great '70s feel. Early on it isn't too obvious why the story is set at the time rather than being updated but as the motive emerges it is clear that time matters. Bertie Carvel impresses as Dalgliesh, a character who feels more 1870s than 1970s... slightly old fashioned rather than out of place. The supporting cast is solid too. On the strength of this I will certainly be watching future Dalgliesh stories.

Baegabondeu
(2019)

Vagabond
Cha Dal Geon has dreams of becoming a movie stuntman but things aren't going well. He has also adopted his young nephew Cha Hoon. Cha Hoon takes part in a trip to Morocco with his Taekwondo class; unfortunately the plane never gets there; somebody has caused it to crash. The authorities quickly determine that it crashed due to a fault with the plane. Dal Geon initially accepts this but when, during a trip for the bereaved families to Morocco, he sees a man who appeared in Cha Hoon's last video message from the plane he is certain that the crash was deliberate. He approaches Go Hae Ri, an agent of the Korean National Intelligence Service (NIS) for help and ultimately she teams up with him to uncover the truth. This will put them in frequent danger as powerful business interests and certain people in the government and NIS determined to keep the crime secret.

I really enjoyed this series. The central story is solid providing plenty of excuses for impressive action. This action is nicely varied with car chases; shootings and martial arts fights. There is also a good degree of humour which doesn't get in the way of the story or feel forced. Cha Dal Geon and Go Hae Ri are great protagonists with an enjoyable chemistry. The other characters are solid; those identified as villains early of are suitably villainous and many other characters are nicely ambiguous leaving the viewer guessing as to whether they are good or bad. The cast is great; most obviously Lee Seung-gi and Bae Suzy as Go Hae Ri. Production values were high with overseas scenes clearly shot on location which adds an obvious sense of reality. The story does not end with the last episode; hopefully there will be a second season at some point. Overall I'd definitely recommend this to fans of action packed drama and political machinations.

These comments are based on watching the series in Korean with English subtitles.

Nightflyers
(2018)

Solid sci-fi horror that ended too soon
This series opens aboard a spaceship; something has clearly gone very wrong. Dr Agatha Matheson floats into a room before the gravity is re-established; she tries to dispose of something but is suddenly attacked by a man, Rowan, wielding an axe! Following a struggle she manages to dispose of the item then kills herself. Following this prologue the action moves back to the start of the mission. Agatha and Rowan are part of a team led by Karl d'Branin which has boarded the ship 'Nightflyer' on a mission to make first contact with an alien species known as the Volcryn. The crew of the ship aren't too happy as the team includes Thale, a powerful and potentially dangerous telepath. As the series progresses dangers emerge and tensions increase dramatically, as does the madness.

Whenever a new space set sci-fi comes along I suspect it will either be clearly inspired by 'Star Trek' or 'Star Wars'; as soon as I'd started watching this my thoughts turned to 'Event Horizon'; this was clearly going to be a horror in space. Paranoia abounds; it starts with the fear of Thale but soon expands and nobody seems to be immune. There are some quite gory moments; if you can get past the prologue it shouldn't be too much of a problem though. The characters are interesting even if most of them aren't particularly likable; the cast does a solid job bringing them to life. Unfortunately the series was cancelled after a single season so the ending is more than a little frustrating. Overall I thought this was a good first season but as it is just a first season rather than a complete series I can't wholeheartedly recommend it... what there is is good but it needs a proper ending.

Overall I'd certainly recommend this to fans of sci-fi horror.

The Harder They Fall
(2021)

An impressive modern western
As this western opens a reverend, his wife and their ten year old son are sitting down for dinner when a man, with associates, comes to the door. He clearly has a grudge to settle with the reverend. The woman then the reverend are gunned down before the man cuts the boy's forehead with a razor.

Years pass and the boy, Nat Love, has become a man. He is operating on the wrong side of the law; although he and his gang target other thieves rather than robbing banks himself. He has also been hunting down those who killed his parents; apart from Rufus Buck, the actual killer, who is rotting in Yuma Jail. One day Buck is being transferred by train and is sprung by his gang; they return to their hometown of Redwood. Nat's latest robbery has left them desperately short of funds. Buck wants the money back with interest and Love wants his revenge. Inevitably the two gangs will clash and many involved will not survive.

I first heard of this film when I read a news article about a soon to be released mostly black western; I like the genre and wondered how it would compare to more traditional westerns. It might not be the best western I've seen but it is far from the worst and to be honest the race of the characters doesn't affect the story. The characters are nicely varied; the villains are bad but not unsympathetic and the heroes are mostly good but hardly pure. Jonathan Majors impresses as Nat Love and Idris Elba is great as Rufus Buck. The rest of the cast is impressive; I particularly liked Zazie Beetz as Stagecoach Mary, Regina King as Trudy Smith, Danielle Deadwyler as Cuffee and Delroy Lindo as Marshal Bass Reeves. Writer/Director Jeymes Samuel is clearly a fan of the genre; capturing the classic feel of westerns with more modern attitudes to realistic violence and some salty language. The action is impressive and at times fairly bloody. There is a degree of humour, enough to make me laugh without getting in the way of the action. I was particularly amuse by Marysville; a 'white town' where the people are white, the buildings are painted white and even the dust is white! There are some flaws of course; at almost two hours twenty minutes it is a bit too long. Some people might not be keen on the reggae sound track but I thought it worked surprisingly well. Overall I'd definitely recommend this to fans of westerns; it may have all black leads and several strong female characters but doesn't feel 'politically correct' or preachy because it is a cracking story.

In the Tall Grass
(2019)

Will siblings Becky and Cal ever get out of the tall grass?
Brother and pregnant sister, Cal and Becky DeMuth are driving through Kansas on their way to San Diego when they stop by a large field of eight foot high grass. They hear the voice of a young boy, Tobin, calling for help. He is lost in the grass. Cal heads in, followed by Becky. She can't be more than a few yards behind him but they immediately become separated. They shout to each other but it seems the voices are constantly coming from different places... within the grass the normal rules of time and space seem not to apply. Walking through the grass they eventually meet Tobin and his parents and are shown a strange boulder in the middle of the field. Later Travis, the father of Becky's baby, arrives looking for her.

This film, based on a novella by Stephan King and his son, has an interesting premise although it does perhaps go on a bit too long. The field of tall grass may be a fairly basic setting but it is highly effective. The way the grass closes in around the characters creates an impressive sense of claustrophobia which is only increased when they learn the normal rules of time and space don't apply. Tension raises nicely as the story progresses. At times it is more than a little confusing; that is clearly deliberate as it helps put the viewer in a similar frame of mind to those lost in the field. The acting is pretty solid; young Will Buie Jr is delightfully creepy as Tobin. There are a couple of gory moments but nothing too disturbing. Overall a decent enough low budget horror film that is worth a watch for horror fans.

La Venganza de las Juanas
(2021)

The Five Juanas
This Mexican series, a remake of a Colombian show, opens with five women having a rather surprising meeting at a resort in Cancun. Each of them is named Juana and each of them has an identical birthmark on their backside! They soon learn that they have the same father but different mothers. The more they learn about their father, a powerful politician expecting a major promotion the more they determine to take revenge for how he threated their mothers. Along the way they will face many difficulties and some real danger.

It must be stated that this series is based on an unlikely coincidence but if you can get past that and don't mind plenty of melodrama it is rather fun. The five Juanas of the title are suitably different in character; one is a trainee nun another is a stripper for example! The other characters are interesting; some appear good, some are good and some are obvious villains; as one might expect from such a story. If you want lots of action you may be disappointed but there is often a sense of threat; sometimes the danger is physical other times reputational. The villains of the story are suitably wicked, even if it isn't always immediately obvious. There is a fair amount of sex and nudity although for the most part not too much is visible; just the occasional backside or glimpse of a breast. Overall I thought it was a fairly entertaining series; perhaps not a must see but still fun enough for me to be glad I chose to watch it.

These comments are based on watching the series in Spanish with English subtitles.

Doctor Who: Chapter One: The Halloween Apocalypse
(2021)
Episode 1, Season 13

A solid start to Series Thirteen
As this opens The Doctor and Yaz are dangling above an acid ocean having triggered a trap set by Karvanista. Inevitably they escape and give chase. Karvanista has headed to Earth and kidnapped Dan Lewis a somewhat ordinary Liverpudlian. Meanwhile The Doctor has a vision of a being known as 'Swarm' escaping from his thousand year incarceration by the Time Lord Division. When The Doctor and Yaz catch up with Karvanista it emerges that they have something far greater to worry about; something called The Flux is destroying the universe; what is it? Why hasn't The Doctor heard about it? And most importantly can it be stopped?

As this episode opened I expected to be unimpressed as the opening scene was more than a little cheesy. Thankfully things quickly improved. There were some good scary moments; the way Swarm killed his captors involved impressive special effects and were suitably frightening; at least as scary as the as yet unexplained appearance of a Weeping Angel. Having ditched two companions the relationship between The Doctor and Yaz has improved markedly. This being a single story season, harking back to the show's early years, many questions are raised and not yet answered and we had a proper cliff-hanger ending that took me back to my childhood, watching in the '70s, wondering how The Doctor and those near him would survive. It isn't all action and scares; there are some good humorous moments; the best being when a drunk knocks on Dan's door to trick or treat him. Overall I think this was an impressive series opener... of course we'll only truly be able to judge when the story concludes.

Malevolent
(2018)

A decent enough haunted house film
In mid-eighties Glasgow brother and sister, Jackson and Angela Sayers, run a fake ghost busting service. They, and a couple of associates turn up with various impressive looking pieces of equipment and Angela, with the 'gift' inherited from her late mother persuades the ghosts to leave. On their latest job she thinks she really saw something. Their next job takes them to a large country house which was once an orphanage. Owner, Mrs Green, tells them it is haunted by the ghosts of girls murdered by her son many years before. Jackson sees it as a great opportunity to make a quick buck to pay off his debts but things soon look more scary; Angela sees the girls, with their mouths sown shut and one of them is hurt in an accident... things will soon get much more dangerous for them.

This isn't a great film but it is solid enough. There is a decent twist and the end is suitably disturbing, and quite violent. The setting is good although I'm not sure why we are told it is set in the eighties as it doesn't really have a feel of that time; it could have been set anytime in the last forty years from what we see. The cast is impressive; Florence Pugh is great as Angela, I've yet to see her not impress; Ben Lloyd-Hughes is solid as Jackson and Celia Imrie is impressive as Mrs. Greene. The scenes in the house are nicely creepy and there are some decent jump scares. Overall this isn't a classic and those involved have starred in better things; however if you want a ninety minute horror film you could do a lot worse.

Out of Death
(2021)

Okay thriller in the woods
Shannon Mathers is hiking when she hears two people arguing in a car on a nearby road; they are a cop and a drug dealer; it is clear that they had planned a deal. This goes wrong and the cop shoots the dealer... Shannon captures it on film. When the cop spots Shannon she calls for support from her department, who are also clearly corrupt and gives chase. It is now a cat and mouse game between Shannon and the local cops. She isn't entirely alone; Jack Harris, a retired member of the Philadelphia Police Department comes to her aid. Things get complicated for Jack when the sheriff threatens his niece.

This film is okay if you go into it expecting nothing special. The plot is fairly predictable with no real twists to speak of. It does at least serve to deliver some tense moments and some pleasant scenery. The characters are all right; Shannon Mathers is a good protagonist and the corrupt cops are villainous enough... even if the town's sheriff's department must have a very low bar for intelligence! Jack is okay; just ambiguous enough to make one wonder if he can ultimately be trusted. Thankfully they didn't shoehorn any romance between the leads. The action scenes are mostly okay but it must be stated the first shooting is terrible; I would say the ultra-slow motion CGI looked like something from a video game but no serious game developer would use such a cheesy effect. The acting isn't going to win any awards but is decent enough for this sort of film. Overall not a must see by any stretch of the imagination but I found it passed ninety minutes well enough.

The Long Call
(2021)

Decent enough ITV crime drama
This ITV crime drama, based on a story from Ann Cleeves, of Shetland and Vera fame, is centred on DI Matthew Venn. He has recently returned to his home town in North Devon following the death of his father. He had previously been made unwelcome by his family because their strict religion couldn't accommodate the fact that he was gay. The first case of the series involves the discovery of a body on the beach; it soon emerges that some years previously he had killed a young girl while drunk driving and had, on one occasion, attended the church the Venn family attend. Later a girl disappears; she also attends the church and is linked to the murdered man.

Having enjoyed Shetland and Vera I was keen to watch this too; it is too early to say how it will ultimately compare but I do feel this got off to a bit off a slow start... perhaps because it is one case over four episodes rather than single episode stories. This meant much time was spent introducing key characters rather than the case. The case itself was intriguing enough; various suspects and motives were hinted at early on and as one would expect there is lots of lovely Devonian scenery. The cast, which includes many familiar faces, does a solid enough job even if the accents are a bit wobbly. Overall a fairly typical ITV crime drama; not a must see but a decent enough if you are a fan of the genre. If there are further stories I'd tune in.

W lesie dzis nie zasnie nikt 2
(2021)

Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight II
This film takes place immediately after the first film and won't make too much sense if you haven't seen that original. For that reason these comments assume people have seen the first film.

Adas, a rookie police officer is called to the station after the events of the night before. His boss tells him how the young woman in the cells has reported the murders at the camp. She claims the two responsible were killed but they appear to be alive and well in another cell. Whatever happened special forces will be arriving from Warsaw the next day. His boss takes the girl back to cabin where things happened to get further details... they don't return. Adas and Wanessa, another officer, go to investigate along with some hunters they know. Inevitable things go badly; some end up dead and one of them ends up becoming a monster after an encounter with a female monster. The film then switches its focus to this pair of monsters before we get a final showdown in the police station.

I rather enjoyed the first film and early on thought I'd probably enjoy this just as much. It provided plenty of laughs as well as some over the top gory deaths. The idea of switching focus to the monsters did feel original although the execution didn't work for me; their conversations went on too long and weren't particularly interesting. The monster sex scene was unnecessary... boring rather than amusing. On the plus side the special effects were pretty good and I quite liked the use of music at times. Overall hardly a must see but it was okay enough for me to watch a part three if it gets made.

These comments are based on watching the film in Polish with English subtitles.

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