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The Suicide Squad

Actually pretty good
First of all let me say that I'm actually one of those rare people who actually quite liked the original 'Suicide Squad.' No, it wasn't a masterpiece or anything, but the images presented to my eyes were not unappealing and I didn't think I'd wasted the couple of hours of my life I spent watching it. So, I was quite intrigued to hear how the second one (which is everything from a remake to a soft reboot) was so much better than the first.

It is.

No matter how good the first one was (my opinion, only) this one trumps it all round. The plot is basically the same, i.e. A load of (deliberately) B-list 'super-villains' are temporary released from incarceration in order to carry out a mission 'for the greater good.' It gets underway a lot quicker with us introduced to our new set of heroes (or 'anti-heroes' to be precise). Instead of Will Smith we have Idris Elba, but he's joined by fan-favourite Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn. Of course those to stalwarts are the general stars of the show, but the rest of the cast are on top of their game as they're sent on a mission to some fictional South American country to stop a giant monster from being unleashed on the world.

The action and plot is nothing that you haven't seen before, but it's James Gunn's writing that makes this one worth a watch. We live in a world that's completely oversaturated with superhero films and the general Box Office performance is showing how apathetic the general public is to the previously tried and tested formula which the superhero genre offers. Most new superhero movies may be new in terms of the titular character/s, yet they offer little that hasn't been done before. I'm not saying that 'The Suicide Squad' is so different that you'll be amazed at what you're witnessing, but it's certainly worth a watch if you like your humour dark and you're prepared to suspend your disbelief for a couple of hours.

In fact, the 'couple of hours' part is about the film's major drawback. Like many modern films it could probably do with being a little more trimmed here and there. It isn't the worst offender when it comes to outstaying its welcome, but I reckon if it lost ten to fifteen minutes here and there it would certainly be a tighter little number.

Cat People

Insert 'cat pun' here
I really wanted to use the cat pun 'purrfect' in the title of this review. The problem was that the film wasn't perfect. It wasn't bad, but still a long way from perfection. It's about a brother and sister (Malcolm McDowell and Nastassja Kinskis) who have recently been reunited in New Orleans, but, when the finally get to know each other, they discover there's more to their heritage than they first thought.

I guess 'Cat People' is a horror film, but I've seen it referred to as an 'erotic thriller.' Erotic, maybe - due to a lot of - ahem - 'adult' scenes, but definitely more a horror in nature than a thriller (there are even some pretty decent practical 'transformation' effects that still hold up to this day).

I normally would say I won't go into too many more details for fear of spoiling the film, but seeing as it's literally called 'Cat People' most people should kind of know what they're getting themselves in for when we talk of horror movies about cat people with transformation effects.

These two aren't just your normally tabby, content with a bowl of milk and a ball of yarn to play with. They prefer to hunt 'bigger prey.'

It's a nice concept that works well in terms of horror, plus it's helped along by a very strong cast (although Malcolm McDowell wasn't in it quite as much as I thought he was going to be - and as suggested by his billing).

I guess the only thing I found 'wrong' with it was that it went on a bit too long. I thought it was coming to the end at a reasonably respectable hour and a half mark, when it started going again and there was a whole new act to get through.

Some scenes go on way too long in some cases. I know the film's fans will say this adds to the tension and I get that to a degree, but I was far too tempted to his the fast forward button on my remote in certain long, drawn out parts.

I didn't think I wasted my time watching the film and the David Bowie remix that plays the movie out is almost worth sitting through the whole story for.

The Ninth Configuration

Monty Python without as many laughs
I had no idea what I was sitting down to watch when I saw 'The Ninth Configuration' - it said 'horror' so, as I'm a fan of the genre, I thought I'd give it a go. I guess I got some form of horror, but 'elevated horror' may be a more modern term for this vintage film.

A former marine is sent to a castle which is being used as a psychiatric home for other soldiers with mental health conditions. There he's meant to help them. How? Good question. That's sort of half of why you have to watch it.

And you'll be watching for quite some time. It's about two hours long and it starts to feel it after a while. Not that I'm saying everything is bad, just not very horrific - just weird. It feels like a Monty Python film with random sketches that don't really relate to each other and then someone from a previous 'sketch' interrupts the current sketch at an inappropriate time. Plus characters have 'conversations' with each other where they don't really answer each other. They say their lines, then the person they're with says their lines, only the second person's dialogue doesn't actually relate to what the first had said.

There are various 'plot twists' along the way, but I figured them out pretty easily (and I'm not normally good at guessing plot twists!) so they must have been pretty obvious!

It's not a bad film, just random. It tries to have messages in it about the nature of good/evil and right/wrong, but they kind of get lost among the deliberately nutty characters who water the script down with laughs.

Then, when there are no more real 'twists' for the film to try and sell as 'shocking' the film's ending/point is dragged out and you kind of know what's going to happen. Then it ends on a weird freezeframe. It's certainly memorable, but I'm not sure for all the right reasons. Apparently, it actually won awards, so I guess maybe I just didn't get it and should keep my love of horror for men in masks killing campers.

The Batman

Very popular (just not with me)
I suppose all us modern cinema-goers have 'our own' Batmans in the way everyone has 'their own James Bonds. I was twelve when Michael Keaton donned the cape and hood and, seeing as I'd only seen Adam West as Batman on the small screen doing the 'Bat-dance,' suddenly seeing him dark and moody fighting a scary and sinister Joker was the coolest thing ever.

Therefore (besides 'Batman Returns') I found no Batman movie could ever live up to Tim Burton's 1989 gothic fairytail. I know many loved the critically-acclaimed 'Nolan Trilogy,' but - again - they all kind of left me cold when compared to the first two Burton movies. Therefore, I was hopeful when the internet collectively started to praise 2021's 'The Batman' starring Robert Pattinson as the titular character. I must confess to not really seeing him as Bruce Wayne, due to my only real prior knowledge of his performance being as Edward Cullen in the 'Twilight' franchise.

However, I was pleasantly surprised with Pattinson's performance and the rumours that he hadn't really 'bulked up' enough to play a tank-like superhero proved incorrect. The film was well directed and there were some lovely shots of Gotham city which added to the overall landscape.

It was too long though.

Holy handbags did this film drag on waaay past its sell-by date (in my opinion). I'd heard a few brave souls online mention that the film sort of ended, only to start up again and you found that there was a whole new final act to get through. This is true, but I had long since checked out with the amount of talking and various gangsters double-crossing other gangsters to really care.

Colin Farrell is good as the Penguin (even if you have to Google his casting to check it really is him under all those prosthetics!). I'd never really seen the actress who played Catwoman in anything else and she was okay in one scene, but otherwise didn't really have the presence to carry off the character (but then - again - my generation was spoiled with Michelle Pfeiffer's performance). The major let-down was the Riddler who, when finally unmasked, just came across as totally unscary and more like 'Milton' from the classic comedy 'Office Space.'

But, I guess if you're considering seeing 'The Batman' then you have to side with the majority. All the movie critics I trust and watch on YouTube agreed that this was an amazing and nearly flawless film. So, it must just not have been for me.

The Birds

Hard to sum up what I just watched, but I liked it
I watched the classic Alfred Hitchcock horror film 'The Birds' a few years ago and I only remember that I enjoyed it (and the final shot in the movie). The rest of it I had completely forgotten. Now I've seen it again I can sort of see why. It's a difficult film to do justice when trying to - properly - sum it up.

It would be easy to say that it's a horror film where birds start to attack humans. Yes, that's an adequate summary, but the film is so much more than that just saying it like that. The first half is primarily build-up, where a well-to-do socialite decides to follow a man she only just met to his secluded home town in order to play a practical joke on him.

Maybe I'm just looking at it through '2023 eyes,' but it all just seems rather odd. I would call these actions 'stalking a stranger the woman had only just met' yet it's all presented as rather harmless and even romantic. But then again perhaps that's the point? This is a horror film after all and this could well all be part of creating a particularly unsettling atmosphere where things all feel a little bit too unreal to be true.

It's not until about the halfway mark where all the family parties take a backseat when Woody Woodpecker and his hordes of mates start trying to take a piece of flesh or two out of our human protagonists. The effects do feel a little dated compared to today's standards and they haven't held up that well, but, if you believe what you read on the internet, it wasn't just overlaying footage of flying birds over the humans, but the producers actually trained birds to peck at the actors.

It's hard to say whether I should recommend this film or not. I certainly enjoyed it both times I watched it. Hopefully it will stick in my head a little longer after this viewing. There's certainly elements of conventional horror in there, but it's the weird sub-plots that seem to give it whatever 'charm' as made it the classic it is.

The Barbarians

So, so, bad, yet so much fun
While checking the 'trivia' section online after watching 1987's 'The Barbarians' I found that it frequently appears in various YouTube 'so-bad-it's-good' lists. Yeah, there's not much more that really needs to be said. This film is utterly terrible and yet I sat through it with a smile so goofy it rivalled the main stars' permanent expression.

It's a pretty shameless 'Conan' rip-off, set in those magical days of 'sword and sorcery' that the 80s seemed to be so obsessed with. A group of baddies, led by - you guessed it - a bad guy (that's about all the character development he gets) kills a load of innocent people and takes two young brothers as slaves. They spend their lives being whipped and tortured in a prison labour camp which somehow turns them into bodybuilders some twenty years later with amazing fighting abilities (I haven't seen this method of 'keep fit' anywhere before, but I guess it must work!).

So, now our two heroes are 'supercharged' it's time for them to seek revenge on that generic bad bloke and rescue their adopted mother who he's fallen in love with (a woman who doesn't really age much in the twenty year time gap - probably magic. Most plot holes in this film can most likely be explained by magic).

If you've seen any type of Conan rip-off you'll know they have to go on various quests before they reach their goal, plus fight a few giant rubbery monsters (a scene towards the end which has to be seen to be believed!) and where armour that looks cheaper than most cosplayers at a Comic-con.

As I say, this film is terrible. But I loved it it. If you actually sit down to watch this movie with expectations of an epic, deep 'Lord of the Rings' saga then you're going to be sorely disappointed. You have to loved your 'trash' films to get the most out of this escapade. I'm now off to watch 'Beastmaster' which could and should be some sort of 'companion piece' to 'The Barbarians.'


Be kind
Yes, it's another one of those horror films where the studio saw 'Alien' and what it did with not that much of a budget and thought 'Hey, we can squeeze a few dollars out of that idea, too!' Does it work? Short answer: yes. Longer answer: only if you know what you're in for and are very forgiving when it comes to low budget, badly-acted, cheesy, eighties horror rip-offs.

There's a space crew. They're on a planet (which may or may not have been names - I forget and it doesn't matter anyway!). One of them gets mysteriously impregnated by an alien who was most likely kicked off the set of 'Dr Who' at the time) and she goes nuts killing the rest of them.

Firstly... the good. The lighting. Um, that's about it. I read online that it was filmed inside real caves and the production team have done real wonders with the lighting effect, giving the movie a greater sense of 'realism' than most modern blockbusters with their perfectly-rendered CGI set pieces.

Then the bad. You have the acting, the script, the (not that special) special effects and the general lack of logic and realistic thinking displayed by the characters (seriously, the crew of the 'Red Dwarf' make more sensible decisions and would have a greater chance of survival than this lot).

However, despite all this film's (many!) flaws, I couldn't bring myself to totally hate it. I found it entertaining and, although it may not be the first film I'd choose to watch again in a hurry, I didn't feel like I'd wasted an hour and a half of my life when all was said and done. As I mentioned, if you're forgiving of such B-movies then there's fun to be had here.

The Babysitter: Killer Queen

Not what I was expecting
It's rare that, when reviewing a sequel, I find myself more wanting to talk about the original, but bare with me. In the first film, a boy gets a babysitter who turns out to be part of a 'blood cult' who worship the devil and want to sacrifice him to become Tik Tok influencers (no, really - I'm only being mildly sarcastic). Anyway, the lad has other plans and the night becomes a fight for his life. However, the stand-out (and star) of the show is the babysitter herself, played by Samara Weaving (niece of Elron and Agent Smith, I believe). And, without wishing to give too much away about the first film, I was kind of expecting her to return for the sequel - that shouldn't be too much of a spoiler as her name was attached to the marketing for 2020's 'Killer Queen' addition.

Anyway, 'Part II' kicks off a couple of years later where the boy is trying to live a normal life, despite no one believing him about what happened on that fateful night (I started to moan about a reason why he had a witness, but this 'plot hole' actually gets cleared up later). He then takes a trip with some friends to a lake to get away from it all (or rather with ONE friend, the others seem to hate him, but never mind).

Guess what? Bad things start to happen and much blood gets sprayed in many characters' faces.

Now, I know the original was about devil worshiping, but I never really considered it a 'supernatural' film, more standard horror/teen slasher. However, 'Killer Queen' leans heavily into the supernatural element, so be prepared for a severe tonal shift in the gore. Secondly, the story does kind of change some characters' motivations from what we once thought they were (again, if you saw the original). I didn't really like the change because I thought it was a bit out of character, but in the end I just went with it (and had a much better time when doing so).

And, finally, if - like me - you were expecting a major return from Samara Weaving, you'll be bitterly disappointed. I'd describe her screentime as little more than an extended cameo, which is a shame as the film would have been better with more of her.

Now, if I'm sounding a little negative it's because the first time I tried to watch this film it was a few years after I'd seen 'The Babysitter' and I'd sort of forgotten the original story. I therefore turned it off midway through. However, because I enjoyed the first one so much I watched it again and then decided to watch the sequel back to back. And that certainly makes it a more enjoyable experience.

Part II is a good film, but feels very different from the original. It does retain a lot of the black comedy and gore - which is good, but you have to be prepared for many changes to the overall feel if you're going to really get the most out of it. I kind of think of the two films as two completely separate tongue in cheek horror movies, both with their good points (only the first is probably better).

Joshua Tree

Who says your protagonist has to be likable?
I do like a good (or even not so good!) eighties action film and I know that 'Army of One' (aka 'Joshua Tree' in some parts) was technically well into the nineties when it was released, but, believe me, it could well have been made around the heyday of the Stallone/Schwarzenegger era.

When I sat down I wanted little more than Dolph Lundgren kicking and punching his way through hordes of baddies. And I guess I got what I came for. First of all, being a big 'Dawn of the Dead' (1979) fan, I was delighted to see Ken Foree's name in the opening credits, but, sadly, his screentime amounts to little more than an extended cameo/plot device. So Dolph is framed for a murder he didn't commit and has to escape, get revenge on those who set him up and - possibly - clear his name if he has the time.

Of course he escapes police custody pretty damn quickly and we're well on our way with what little story the film bothers to give us. All nothing new here and I'd be quite happy if it wasn't for just how unlikeable Lundgren's character is. Yes, he softens a bit as the film goes on (while killing people, if that's possible), but, overall, he's a right miserable sod with few redeeming features (other than he's slightly better than those he's killing).

If you're a major fan of Lundgren's then you'll probably enjoy the ride a lot more than the casual viewer. There are some car chases, a bit of romance and one hell of a long shoot-out where he mows down every bad guy in the state without taking so much as a flesh wound.

It's all pretty standard stuff and maybe that's its main fault - it's a little too standard with few moments that really set it apart from other films of the time and genre. I've - amazingly - always believed that Dolph Lundgren can act better than his critics give him credit for and I think the script could have been better for him.

To me this was quite a forgettable action movie of the era, but, judging by many of the other reviews, loads of people really seemed to enjoy it, so maybe best not to take only my advice and check out some other reviews before you sit down to watch this grumpy anti-hero grumble his way through ninety minutes of screen time.

A Quiet Place Part II

Now even quieter!
If you read up on the first 'Quiet Place' film, you'll see that actor/writer John Krasinski never had any plans for a sequel. And, if you watched the original, you'll probably agree that it was all pretty nicely wrapped up in terms of storytelling and could definitely be left there. But it was successful. So successful in fact that a sequel was greenlit before the first movie could even leave the cinema.

A lot of people were worried that any continuation of the story about aliens wiping out humanity due to how well they can hear (seriously, one creaky floorboard and you're a monster's lunch!) would ruin what came before. Luckily, I'm pleased to say that Part II is a pretty solid sequel - and that's saying something in terms of horror films! First of all, it helps that the cast (and much of the team behind the camera) have returned and this gives a nice feeling of continuity. Plus the bleak vibe is still there and the fact that you literally cannot even talk without some giant beast ripping you limb from limb keeps the tension levels high.

Cillian Murphy is a welcome addition to the cast, but I felt that his inclusion came at the expense of Emily Blunt, who seemed to have less to do in this one.

There are a few moments where - you could say - that 'lore is broken.' I've mentioned that the whole gimmick of this film is that the aliens have super-sensitive hearing and so much as a whisper could give you away to them. However, sometimes when characters are not meant to be killed at that particular point, they can even go as far as scream when they get their leg caught in a bear trap and live to tell the tale (or live to use sign language to tell the tale, to be precise). I hear that's called 'plot armour' these days, but - hey - most films are like that, aren't they?

Anyway, if you liked the original, you should enjoy this one, too. It certainly doesn't deviate from the formula that made the first one so successful and that's no bad thing. If I had to say which one was better, I'd say the first, simply because it was original and had more John Krasinski in it more. Either way, parts I or II are head and shoulders over the other similar horror flick, 'Birdbox,' - seriously, don't bother with that one, even if it does have Sandra Bullock in it.

Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre

How is this film not more well known?
I may be a little biased - I've been watching Guy Ritchie's films since 'Lock Stock' and also been a fan of Jason Statham since then, but I'd never even heard of this film until a YouTubers on a live stream made a throw-away lie about Guy Ritchie having a new film out. Of course I had to check that it wasn't another 'Aladdin-style' movie, so I was delighted when I found it was what he does best - a crime caper with slick direction, snappy dialogue and The Stath himself in the lead.

And yet the film seemed to almost bypass cinemas altogether and find its way to the - sometimes maligned - streaming services. Anyway, I suppose I shouldn't complain as - technically - I got to watch it for free - and I'm very glad I did.

I know there are some reviews saying that the plot was hardly original and the story was nothing that we hadn't seen a hundred times before in similar spy movies and - to be fair - they may have a point. But I simply didn't care as I was having too much fun.

In a cinematic world populated with superheros and huge CGI armies of aliens being defeated, it was like a breath of fresh air to find a movie that didn't really take itself too seriously and just did its best to entertain. Statham plays the leader of a 'privately contracted firm' used by the British Government. But we'll just call him a 'spy' - it's easier. And there's a villain who is going to acquire something dastardly which could cause the end of the world. And, seeing how right now there's no James Bond to save the day, Statham must assemble a team to stop this naughtiness.

So, yes, it's nothing that you haven't seen in every Roger Moore Bond film, but you get the action, you get the witty banter, the colourful locations and you get High Grant doing a semi impression of Michael Caine who manages to steal many a scene.

If you're looking for 'dark and gritty' you won't find it here. If you're looking for a deep and original plot you also won't get that here. However, if all you want to do is enjoy a film that is enjoying itself then sit back and have a blast.

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension

A lot of potential
I missed out on watching the - implausibly-long titled - 'The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension' when I was a kid in the eighties, but I often saw the cover (and title!) on VHS rental boxes and wondered what it would have been like. Now, after viewing it as an adult, I wonder if I'd have liked it more if I'd had more feelings of nostalgia about it.

First of all, I can see why people now regard it as a 'cult classic' - it does have a lot going for it. It's about a surgeon-playboy (Buckaroo Banzai, played by a pre-Robocop Peter Weller) taking on aliens hell-bet on invading the Earth and it's got a great cast, a wacky plot, some colourful characters and brilliant practical special effects. In fact - on paper - it probably has everything I could ever want from a movie. So why didn't it quite gel with me?

Although I can appreciate all its strong points, I just felt that the overall story was a little bit 'all over the place.' Today, if by some miracle it got made, this sort of story would require a ten part series on one of the big streaming platforms where every character and aspect of the plot can be fleshed out like I felt they should have been.

As it is, every though its runtime is just over an hour and a half, it feels like a whistlestop tour of whatever story the film-makers where originally trying to tell. All the characters come across like they have a backstory and interesting features, just we don't have time to find out about any of them, including the titular hero who is almost at 'superhero level' of public awareness - and yet, despite the opening text crawl which I guess is supposed to fill us in on his backstory - we don't really find out anything more about him or how he reached such levels of notoriety.

I really wanted to enjoy this as much as I can see by the other reviews online that the public now seem to. I just wanted to know more about the world and how things came to be with this band of characters. I know they were planning on making a sequel, but that never came. I hear a book was released many years later. Perhaps that gives the world the deep-dive it deserves?

Bullet Train

Snatch on the Orient Express
I'll say straight off the bat that I enjoyed 'Bullet Train.' I must have because I continued to watch it past the halfway mark, even though I had little clue as to what was going on. A lot of people have compared it to 'Snatch' (probably because of Brad Pitt's involvement), but I though its style of story was more in keeping with 'Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels,' due to the way it had multiple characters all with their own weaving storylines which eventually put them all on a collision course with each other.

However, where as 'Lock Stock' was set all over London, 'Bullet Train' is kept primarily to a single location of a train as it hurtles through Japan one night. Aboard are a multitude of hitmen and general henchmen from the criminal underworld, all with their own motives. Like I said, the narrative is quite convoluted and I have to confess getting kind of lost most of the way through. Luckily, the film pulls itself together and nicely ties up the various tales to a satisfying ending.

Brad Pitt is always good value for money, but it's the two assassins 'Lemon' and 'Tangerine' who steal every scene they're in and could almost be the central characters to a spin-off of their own (and I will never think of 'Thomas the Tank Engine' the same way ever again!).

About my main gripe was that the film does feel like it drags a bit near the end. It seems that it's wrapping up and coming to a conclusion, only to keep on going for a further half an hour. I'm pretty sure they could have edited it down by about fifteen minutes here or there to keep it a little tighter.

I never saw the trailer before I watched this, but I understand it's cut like some sort of 'Matrix' action film with loads of fight scenes. I would warn anyone that there isn't that much of this and if you're thinking you're in for a wall to wall action epic then you're going to be a bit disappointed.

Overall, if you like films with multiple (crime?) story threads that weave and twist, before finally coming together, then you should enjoy this one.

Black Adam

Why all the hate?
I never bothered rushing out and seeing 'Black Adam' at the cinema - partly because I followed the whole MCU 'Infinity Saga' right up until 'Endgame' and that kind of gave me my fill of superhero movies. Then there's the fact that the reviews for Dwayne Johnson's long-awaited entry into the genre were average to say the least, plus the film itself serves as part of a 'shared universe' that's effectively been cancelled and is about to be rebooted, courtesy of James Gunn. I guess those are some of the reasons why the film hardly set the Box Office ablaze.

However, I have to say that it was actually quite fun, despite falling victim to many of the flaws that its bigger 'DC shared universe' created for itself. The first fifteen minutes you can skip. It's pretty dull. Just wait until The Rock comes into it and then it gets going. Yes, it's your typical superhero film, i.e. It follows a tried and tested formula of having a hero fight a villain with similar powers in the final act, a sky-beam and an army of generic computer-generated soldiers to be fought in an epic battle. Yet, despite its flaws, I couldn't help but enjoy it.

The Rock himself is almost always good value for money and would have been a decent enough reason to recommend the film, but it's the other characters who help flesh out the story, namely the 'Justice Society.' Maybe die-hard fans of comic books would have heard of them, but they're like the Justice League's B-team - yet the sort of steal many of the scenes they're in. This left me rather wanting to know more about them, especially Pierce Brosnan's 'Dr Fate' character, who - in a perfect cinematic shared universe - probably should have had a couple of films of his own leading up to his appearance in 'Black Adam.'

So, if you're not completely tired of superhero movies and TV shows by now, this one is - at best - entertaining, rather than anything too special. Although I would say it's better than 90% of Marvel's 'Phase 4' output, if that's anything to go by. I get the impression that if it had been released at the time (a few years ago) where every superhero movies was a billion dollar merchandising machine, it would have gathered a lot more traction, as it is, it's sort of arrives too late to really catch on. There is a mid credits scene that's well worth watching, if only for a glimpse of what could have been - as it's unlikely it will ever come to anything now. Shame.

Venom: Let There Be Carnage

Big, dumb fun
I have to confess that I've forgotten a lot of what went on in the original film. In fact, I think that's the point - it was pretty forgettable, but not in a bad way. I quite like superhero films and it ticked every box, without being that memorable (and having a particularly dark final battle). I guess 'Venom: Let There Be Carnage' is more of the same.

Tom Hardy is, as you'd probably expect if you've seen him in anything else, great value for money as the protagonist, journalist Eddie Brock, who's been given a juicy story to write, courtesy of an imprisoned serial killer, played by Woody Harrelson. Unfortunately, during a visit Woody takes a bite - literally - out of Hardy, transferring a little bit of the 'symbiote' alien that lives within the mild-mannered journalist. So, you're left with the never ending trope of an antagonist with similar powers to the hero.

I think a lot of die-hard Venom fans (of which I'm not) lamented this as a wasted opportunity, as they were expecting Venom and Carnage (Harrelson's symbiote) to go head to head throughout most of the movie. As it turned out they only real go toe to toe in the final showdown. The bulk of the film is spent with Tom Hardy and Venom bickering between themselves as to whether they should embrace a life of crime-fighting, or try and suppress it. This is actually quite fun, but if you've tuned in to see a royal rumble and get given a sit-com, then you're going to be a bit disappointed.

I quite enjoyed 'Venom: Let There Be Carnage' for all its flaws. Hardy and Harrelson are both heavyweight enough to make the film at least enjoyable, if not that memorable.

The Irishman

Epic. In various ways
The first thing you probably need to know about Netflix's film 'The Irishman' is that it's roughly 3 hours and 30 minutes long. I guess for that reason it's better that it can only be found on a streaming service - that way if you're not in the mood for sitting down for that long, you can sort of cut it up into 'episodes' and come back to it whenever you're ready.

Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci have a habit of teaming up with director, Martin Scorsese for these type of epic gangster movies. And this time round they're joined by fellow acting legend, Al Pacino. Now, 'The Irishman' may not be on quite the same level as the ever-awesome 'Goodfellas,' but if you like that sort of movie you're in for a real treat here.

It's based on a book about a real life hitman, working in the Jimmy Hoffa era of American politics (or should I say criminal underworld? The two certainly go hand in hand). So, if you can cope with the runtime and enjoy the - now typical - Scorsese/DeNiro combo, then you're going to be in for a real treat here, especially with Al Pacino thrown in there for good measure.

The only problem - which certainly is a minor nit-pick - is that the film is set over many decade; this involves the actors having to look different ages along the way. To achieve this the producers have gone with 'de-aging software' to make the cast seem younger. Now, the problem isn't with the way the film looks. Yes, sometimes you can tell a character's face looks just that little bit too smooth, but on the whole the look isn't bad. The problem comes when the actor has to move. Sometimes they have to do something vaguely physical and that's when you can see it's really an old man shuffling around on set with a younger version of himself overlaid from the neck upwards. But, like I say, minor inconvenience. Apart from that, the film is very solid.

I onde dager

I think all marriages must go through this
I didn't know what to expect from this one - apparently it's one of Norway's first exclusives to Netflix and, if this is anything to go by, I hope they release many more besides. It's the blackest of black comedies, filled with betrayal, murder and backstabbing (sometimes literally) where a middle class husband and wife decides to get away from it all and take a trip to a deserted cabin for some alone time. However, neither suspects that the other has secret plans to murder them and live young, free and single once more.

Now, I'm sure you'll have guessed that neither succeeds right off the bat, as this would then end up being one hell of a short movie. As it is, it clocks in at nearly two hours. So the two warring spouses come up across numerous foes along the way, namely an escaped band of sadistic criminals who will do anything to avoid re-cacpture.

There are no major action scenes here, but it certainly is a tense little number and it should leave you guessing as to HOW the couple manages to survive and what happens to them during the story.


Not bad... for a human
By now my Netflix watchlist was looking pretty sparse. I'd suffered through their collection of 'original' horror and sci-fi content and got bored of the politic messages it was trying to stuff down my throat. However, then I came across 'Archive' and was actually pleasantly surprised. The main character was a man and actually seemed pretty competent about his subject field, which was creating robots in a secret lab, far away from civilisation at the behest of a sinister company.

He's already created some sentient robots, but he doesn't want to expose them yet to the money men for fear of his creations being taken from him. However, his end goal is really to move his dead wife's consciousness across from its computer storage terminal into a really state of the art robot who you could barely tell the difference if it was standing among humans.

Of course the powers that be soon start taking an interest in his furtive activities and start sending their men to make housecalls. You could almost seen this as an updated version of 'Frankenstein' as the 'mad scientist' creates his 'monsters' that only he can truly love, much to the disgust of all those around him,

Performances are good and it's mainly just the two stars who hole it together (and one of them is technically 'dead' on screen!) and you can see the loss is weighing hard on the man as he desperately tries to build a body while he still has the resources to do so.

It doesn't sound like much and don't let the run time put you off, but it may take you sticking with it right until the end for you to fully appreciate all the hidden clues dotted throughout the film.

Army of the Dead

This is every zombie movie rolled into one
Alas, Zack Snyder, I knew him well. I'm a huge zombie fan and therefore loved George A Romero's 1979 classic 'Dawn of the Dead.' Naturally, I was sceptical when I heard it was being remade, but, to my surprise, Snyder handled it well. Plus his next few films were pretty good, too (I even enjoyed 'Man of Steel'). Therefore, I had high hopes when I heard he was returning to the genre and almost being given a free run with the story and production.

I knew 'Army of the Dead' was not in any way related to his 'Dawn of the Dead' remake, so I was ready for something new. What I got was an all-you-can-eat buffet of every aspect of a zombie movie ever put to film.

It was like the producers had thrown various cool zombie-related ideas into a hat and then chosen the best. However, they obviously thought ALL the ideas were the best and so decided to put every last one into the finished product.

You end up with sleeping zombies, dried out zombies who wake up in the rain, robot zombies (yes, seriously), slow zombies, fast zombies, martial artist zombies, zombie animals, zombie queens and kings and, of course, zombies in love.

Now, you'd think with all those elements the film should last about five hours or be more like a long-running TV series. However, most of those above are never really expanded upon, let, alone explained.

Meanwhile you have the overall plot of a team of mercenaries (most of which are stereotypes who you'll hate, others just criminals) who are trying to rob a vault in a Las Vegas hotel - even though the owner of the hotel has recruited them, making people wonder why he just didn't give them the key.

Naturally, the rest of America isn't too happy about having a city infested with flesh-eaters and have walled it off. Now they're going to nuke it and make sure there's a 'no fly zone' in place over the city. Of course this doesn't mean that people can't fly out, so as long as they get their hands on a chopper (which will somehow fit the bags and bags of money they've stolen, the US airforce will be fine with just letting them go.

It doesn't make sense. Nothing really makes much sense. Some zombies are practically indestructible... until they're needed to die - then they go down with just a head-shot. It's a mess and it's all over the place. One thing though - it is pretty well shot in places. But just when you get one good looking scene, it's kind of spoiled by Snyder's direction when he focuses in on one thing in shot leaving everything else blurred all around it.

Perhaps if you've never seen a zombie movie before this one might impress you. Or you're the most forgiving person when it comes to plot holes and things that just make you want to roll your eyes. If this was the only undead movie around it would be a blockbuster. As it is... George A Romero was making better (and more scary!) zombie films with a fraction of the budget fifty years ago in black and white. Probably best to stick to those (or one of the earlier seasons of 'The Walking Dead').

The Book of Eli

Enjoyable, if predictable
I know that a lot of people absolutely love this film and find it hard to say anything negative about it and I'm certainly not intended to slate it beyond all reason. However, I've watched it a few time (so it can't be that bad, right?) and always been left with a feeling that, although it's certainly good, judging by the heavyweights in the cast and overall budget, it just could have been much better still.

The ever-excellent Denzil Washington plays a loner who's surviving in one of those 'post apocalyptic worlds' that seem to be common in film and TV shows these days (think the desert-like setting from the 'Mad Max' movies). He's your typical no-nonsense badass who's been charged with the task of transporting the last copy of a book to a specific location (I'm not sure whether the exact book is supposed to be some sort of secret or not, therefore I won't mention it in case it's technically a 'spoiler,' but when I first watched it, I guessed what the book was pretty quickly). There is another 'plot point' that I certainly won't mention, as I definitely didn't see it coming - and, just for the record, found it a little 'implausible!'

However, life on the road is fraught with dangers - not just the random thugs wanting to either steal his weapons and water, but a local governor of a town (Gary Oldman) who knows about the book and wants it for himself in order to increase his power.

There's very little I can say about the film that's bad. Obviously, with Washington and Oldman as the leads you know you're in for some good performances. However, it just seemed like both actors could do so much better. Everyone's seen them give numerous great performances, but here they just seem like they're 'phoning it in' a bit. However, even an average performance from either of them still elevates the film from just another sci-fi survival film to something at least worth a bit of your time.

There are other good names on the cast list - everyone from Mila Kunis to Malcolm McDowell pop up and are all perfectly functional for their role. I guess that's a word I'd use to describe 'The Book of Eli' - functional. Despite it's stellar cast list and epic setting, it just comes across to me as another 'Mad Max-esque' movie. It's certainly not bad and if you're interested in that type of film then I'm sure most people won't feel that they've wasted their time watching it.

Demon Wind

Gets better towards the end
I really wanted to like this film. I'm a big fan of cheesy horror films (and in particular cheesy eighties horror films - yes, technically this one came out in 1990, but it has one hell of an '80s vibe!'). The plot is nothing new, in fact, since the (far superior) 'Evil Dead' films, a handful of friends heading out to a remote dwelling, before being attacked by supernatural forces.

There's an opening segment set in the past where a husband and wife are murdered by demons, before flashing forward to present day and a young couple, the boyfriend of which is descended from the initial victims. They're off to find out what happened and they seem to have invited half their address book along for the ride.

On the way, you get the typical 'creepy locals' who warn them away from their intended destination. However, in true horror movie style, they ignore such foreboding words and go to a deserted farmhouse anyway. The cast are nothing special. You won't have heard of any of them and they're pretty generic, i.e. You, dumb and oversexed. There was one guy who stuck out - he reminded me of a young Benedict Cumberbatch who, instead of just being another cardboard cut-out, was effectively a ninja who indulged in magic!

It was a pretty hard watch for the first two thirds as not an awful lot happens. Yes, it does pick up in the final act when heads (literally!) start to roll. There's a decent amount of gore and the practical effects are nice and bl00dy - effectively better than 90% of CGI effects released today!

It was one of those films that didn't seem to know what tone it wanted to be. It starts off really serious, like it's trying to be really scary. Then, only a few scenes later, you get wise-cracking gags and silliness. Next, we're back to trying to be really dramatic again. Off-putting in my opinion.

It's okay enough. It could have been better. The final act was fun, but - for me - one of the most odd things about it was the fact that the film-makers clearly only had the one single sound effect for whenever someone gets hit, or knocked over. Seriously, listen out for it. It happens no matter who gets hit, whatever they fall on and generally whenever someone bumps into something else.

Panic Room

Tight little thriller
I do like films that are basically set in a single location and hardly need any special effects, fancy sets or intricate action set-pieces to work. They're a hard trick to pull off. They risk either being called 'cheap,' or simply 'boring' because they don't really go anywhere. Luckily, 'Panic Room' is an example of a good little film that doesn't need action, special effects, or multiple locations to be tense and engaging. Of course casting Jodie Foster in the lead never hurts either.

She plays a single mother who moves into a large New York apartment with her teenage daughter (a near unrecognisable Kristen Stewart). Unsurprisingly, this building comes complete with a small, secure 'panic room' which can be used should a trio of burglars ever break into your house late one night. Guess what happens when they move in?

Yes, three men (including Forest Whitaker and Jared Leto) break in, forcing Foster and Stewart) to take refuge in the titular location and do their best to launch some sort of 'counter offensive' from there.

Now, I know most people will just ask, 'Why doesn't she then call the police?' Well, the film's script does a decent enough job of explaining why no 'obvious' option is available to her from then on, so - in terms of the movie's plot - it does all make sense and you don't have to suspend your disbelief too much to appreciate it.

The whole film takes place within the apartment (which, sometimes does come across as more of a 'mansion' due to its size than any flat that I've ever been in!) and, despite the set's size, it still gives off a nicely claustrophobic atmosphere. All performances are good here (but then you'd probably expect that from the talent on the cast list) and the film is still as good today as it ever was.

If you're looking for a decent little thriller to watch this will certainly kill an hour and a half and you won't feel like you've wasted your time. Interestingly, it's also directed by a well-known (and highly competent) director - David Fincher - yet somehow, in my opinion, it never really felt like part of his body of work. Still good though.

Nick of Time

Great fun nineties thriller
I know it's kind of hard to see Johnny Depp as anything else than a smooth-talking pirate captain (and that's even before his star power has waned slightly!), but - believe it or not - once upon a time, he was a fresh-faced young lad who wouldn't look out of place in your average boyband.

In the 'Nick of Time' he plays a loving father of a young girl who, while taking her to a new city via train, gets accosted by a couple of rogue security agents who hold his child hostage in exchange for him assassinating a political target.

Okay, so the premise is a little far-fetched and you may be asking yourself, 'Why doesn't he just go to the authorities?' the moment he gets the chance. However, the script actually does a good job of filling in all these types of 'plot holes' courtesy of one Christopher Walken. He's the main villain, hell-bent on getting Depp to do his dirty work - and he's at his most sleazy and intimidating here. It's almost like Depp is playing the 'straight man' to Walken's hissing viper of a man and Walken is on top form here.

Depp's on screen daughter doesn't get much screen time and that's no bad thing. Kids in adult films can be hit or miss and, although she doesn't seem too bad, I doubt she could handle too much attention in centre stage.

The other character worth mentioning is played by Charles S Dutton (whatever happened to him?) as a well-meaning, but slightly reluctant, shoe shiner who may just be able to offer Depp a hand. He's a nice touch to the film and adds more than just an 'escape route' for depth, but someone to play off.

Overall, I'd give 'Nick of Time' a go. Yes, I'm sure you'll think that no matter how tight the writing is, there are still one or two times you'll have to suspend your disbelief in order to get maximum enjoyment out of this film. It's still a lot of fun. It's a tight, tense little thriller with a great cast and, although no surprises in the long run, is just great fun to watch.

Natural Born Killers

Probably not as controversial as you've heard
Back in the nineties, and Quentin Tarantino's name was the epitome of 'cool' and 'hip' film-making, the prospect of another of his films coming out (after both the much hyped 'Reservoir Dogs' and 'Pulp Fiction') was almost too much to handle. Yes, there were many who pointed out that - technically - 'Natural Born Killers' was not actually one of his films were he did all the writing, producing and directing, but, as it has his name attached, none of us cared.

Then it got banned. Apparently, it was too violent for the general public and its depiction of serial killers randomly executing innocent people would turn us easily-influenced viewers into the monsters we saw onscreen. All it really did was make us want to watch it even more.

Back then we were forced to watch it on, er, 'less official' means which certainly could never live up to the experience of seeing it on the big screen, or even on your own TV (properly). Therefore, everyone enjoyed it - despite it being blurred, juddery and a terrible picture. No one dared say anything other than it was a 'masterpiece.'

Luckily, these days, 'Natural Born Killers' is available to buy on most good DVD sellers online and you can see it in all its glory (albeit on the small screen). Plus, without the 'mythos' surrounding its release, you can relax, sit back and actually watch it with a little more of a neutral head on. Yes, it's still a good film, but probably not one you'd watch often.

Two killers: Mickey (Woody Harrelson) and Malory (Juliette Lewis) go on a killing spree and that's about it. Yes, there are plenty of people who see the story as some type of satirical take on the American way of life and try to read 'deeper' meaning into the story. It's one of those films that probably hard to truly recommend. Yes, there's plenty of grotesque and uncalled for violence. And, rather than Tarantino directing, Oliver Stone takes the chair and gives us one hell of a psychedelic trippy ride, using every directing trick in the book in order to give the feeling that you've been taking every illegal drug possible before you sat down to watch.

There's plenty of famous faces on the cast list, not just the main two, but expect Tommy Lee Jones and Robert Downey Jr also chewing up the scenery, really giving us 'cartoonish' impersonations of cold-hearted - yet supposedly good - characters.

Is it a masterpiece? Well, it's definitely not your normal 'Classic Hollywood' film. If you're in the mood for something very different to everything else that's on Netflix these days then it will certainly make you think Just make sure you have a strong stomach when it comes to excessive violence, swearing and generally bad people getting away with things.


Still holds up
The nineties had its fair share of great action movies, such as 'The Rock, Speed' and 'Armageddon' and, although 1994's 'Leon' doesn't really contain half as much action, or nearly a quarter of the destruction and special effects of the others, it's as if it sits in some sort of 'Marvel-style' 'shared universe' of movies.

Luc Besson directs Jean Reno as the titular 'Leon' - a loner-hitman, living in New York, happily earning his money by *ahem* 'removing' people from circulation. His life is straightforward (if a little violent) enough, until a gang murders the family in the next apartment and he's forced to look after the only survivor - a young girl called Mathilda (Natalie Portman). The two of them form an unlikely bond and he even feels protective enough towards her to confide in her as to the true nature of his profession and maybe 'teach her the tools' of his trade.

The premise is sound enough to warrant a watch, but 'Leon' is one of those rare films where every performance is just so perfect that it can't be flawed. Although, as great as its two leads are, it's Gary Oldman as the villain who steals every scene with his delightfully manic performance.

Like I say, there's not half as much action or high-octane energy in 'Leon' when you compare it to other 'action' films. It's more centred on tension and the drama of each character and their slow transformations from interacting with each other.

Perhaps the only small 'criticism' (notice the quote marks?) is that certain scenes do somehow feel a little 'uncomfortable' to watch. These normally focus around the young girl's 'feelings' towards her adult mentor, but then I'm guessing the script is supposed to show the awkwardness that a relationship like this can cause.

However, that doesn't detract from the fact that 'Leon' is still as watchable today as it was back then and it's become a well-deserved classic in its own right since its release all those years ago.

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