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Reviews

The Outpost
(2020)

How you feel about this film is will depend on how you feel about the US's role in Afghanistan
How you feel about this film is will depend on how you feel about the US's role in Afghanistan.

Many nations down through history have tried to invade and hold this country but none no matter how militarily powerful, have succeeded. The US's role is, to date, following the same trajectory as everyone else. Swelling, at one point, to over 100,000 men plus more from NATO, its now down to a few thousand.

Unlike the Soviets, the US were not invited, they invaded after the Sept 11 2001 attacks in the US. This is shown clearly in this film. The locals view the US presence unsurprisingly, as unwelcome. What's also obvious and this many or may not be this the intention of this action drama is the callousness of the US towards the locals.

Its cynical stuff aimed at pacifying and buying out the local population who, again unsurprisingly, milk this for all its worth. They have not intention of selling out and who can blame them.

Some of the characters in this film as really unlikable. The cold hearted officer, who shoots a dog out of what amounts to expediency, is one example. That said, he's hardly alone. Its quite alright when locals get killed (100,000 have been to date). When one of the US soldiers get taken down,by contrast, its a tragedy, with mournful music as an accompaniment and lots of soul searching.

Acting wise this is solid if cliched fare. The soldiers are your classic US gun ho types, with lots of juvenile or cynical one liners to boot. Their counterparts are never really rounded out as people and are more an alien other.

Action wise its on the money and gruesomely convincing.

All in all, not a bad film but not one that makes the US's role in Afghanistan appear any less unsavoury.

6/10

Gosti
(2019)

Lacks the hardcore scares you might expect....
"Gosti" is a Russian horror flick that's not awful but does have a very conspicuous, shortcoming.

The most obvious weakness in this film, is its really not that scary. That's no small flaw in a film built firmly on the notion of frightening the audience. It lacks that sense of creeping, mounting horror and fails to balance that deficit, with jump scares. Indeed, I only jumped once in the whole film.

So what you are left with is more an interesting tale of lost love and haunting, with a mildly devilish twist. Its well acted and the special effects are reasonable, if unremarkable.

In summary, this is a an OK watch. Its not dull but I do suspect it will disappoint those looking for hardcore scares.

5/10.

Barbarians
(2020)

Awesome.....
Its rare to find a series as perfect as "Barbarians".

Its based on historical fact, with not surprisingly, its own capably rendered back story. It breaths life into Germanic military hero Arminius and his defining victory, the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest. A battle which is perceived by many historians, to be the Roman Empires greatest defeat. A defeat that contributed to the eventual fall of the Western Roman empire, several hundred years later.

Its so very well done. From imbuing the Roman's with Latin, as a spoken language, through to detailed sets, weapons and costumes. The story flows well too. its not entirely in keeping with the history but its close enough.

Cinematic's and direction are top shelf. Atmosphere, dynamics of weather, lighting and choreographed fight scenes and battles, are fantastic.

It appears too, that they might be looking to make a series of this tale. The writers have set up a dynamic of growth and future conflict in the story, that extends beyond the final battle. I for one hope they do.

10/10 from me.

Kalashnikov
(2020)

A fascinating insight into the world of weapons design....
I'm going to start by addressing some of the comments from reviewers who claim Hugo Schmeiser, a German weapons expert, designed the AK47. A few facts. Schmeiser was not overly co-operative with the Soviets. Moreover, they did not appear to think a great deal of his work. He received a pay cut and was effectively demoted to lesser roles. Functionally, the weapons he designed and the AK-47 designed by Kalashnikov are vastly different, too.

Comments also seem to suggest Kalashnikov had no talent. If so how did he rise through the ranks from obscurity with little education, in an empire as vast as the Soviet Union? Why are not one but many of his weapons designs so famous? If he had no inherent talent how is it his son Victor also designed well known military weapons, most notably the PP-19 Bizon, also still in use today? Hardly likely, if there was no talent to be inherited. Surely?

So lets move on to the film. Its a fascinating insight into the world of weapons design through the life of Soviet weapons designer Mikhail Kalashnikov. Its well acted, directed and has a certain passion I had not expected to find in a film about arms manufacture.

Its clear the reasons Kalashnikov strove to develop weapons were driven by a need to protect his country, not profit from death. A point much emphasised in this film. Indeed, Kalashnikov himself wrote of his "spiritual pain" in latter life when he saw how his famous creation, the AK-47, was used around the world.

What's particularly remarkable about Kalashnikov is the fact this inventor, in his early years, started off with a very basic education. He rose to prominence through hard work and the merit of his designs. A fact that is made clear in the film as he competed, with often better educated, weapons designers.

In terms of the story, some creative license has been taken. Especially in terms of his private life. He married in 1921 but this film suggests he was married a lot later.

Putting this aside, this film is well crafted, engrossing and utterly fascinating. This coming from a reviewer who is, by nature, a pacifist and opposed to war.

8/10 from me.

The Witches
(2020)

No turning this frog into a prince.....
No amount of Hollywood's jaded magic can turn this frog of a film into a prince.

The charm of the original film from 30 or so years ago is largely absent. What takes its place is contrived, preachy and generally horrible.

I loved the original film. Its one of the few pitched at kids I could happily watch again. This eyesore, by contrast, is best thrown into the witches cauldron and forgotten.

Only upside is decent acting, especially from the lead but really that's about it.

My advice keep an eye out for the original.

2/10.

Epidemiya
(2019)

The smartest post apocalyptic drama I have ever seen....
"To the Lake" is probably the smartest post apocalyptic drama I have encountered.

It's intricate plot twists and turns, are slickly woven into the fabric ordinary peoples lives. People faced with extraordinary circumstances. This is balanced by detailed character development and decent amounts of cleverly contrived, well paced, exposition.

The fact there are subtitles, hardly seems to matter. I had planned to go out but this series captured my attention so completely I watched it in one sitting.

Utterly engrossing, refreshingly original and simply put, "smart". Can't wait for season two.

10/10.

Tomiris
(2019)

Excellent
Lets start by looking at the historical context of this film. There's lot of reviewers disagreeing with the facts of this story. Herodotus's histories are the basis for what transpires in this film and in this context, the film "is mostly loyal to this history". Its worth noting Herodotus was born into the Persian empire. So what are the chances he would get away with misrepresenting the facts about a famous Persian King?

Two of three, known chroniclers I could find, say Cryrus the Great met an unnatural end in conflict but in different engagements. That said, given how long ago this happened, no one really knows for certain. I would say given Herodotus lived under Persian rule and was writing closer to the period in question than some other historians, choosing his history, is not unreasonable.

So, to the film itself. Its excellent. The scene is set convincingly, bringing Tomiris and other key characters to life. Almira Tursyn who plays Tomaris is one to watch. Her performance is heartfelt and appropriately imposing, as she overcomes adversity to lead her people. The performances of other cast members are equally polished.

Battle scenes are amazing too, with remarkable cinematography that reflect the stratagems and harsh realities of ancient combat. Its bloody stuff, where you get to see people cut down up close and personal.

In short, a really strong film about a historical period and people, I knew little about till now.

Comes highly recommended.

9/10.

Monster Problems
(2020)

Heartfelt post apocalyptic romp
"Love and Monsters" is the perfect match up of youthful romance and post apocalyptic, horror high jinks.

Its an easy going, self effacing, story of lost and found innocent love. Dylan O'Brien hands in a fabulous performance, as the love lorn sweetheart, trying to reconnect with his gal.

This all takes place in a new world where people have, in effect, moved down the food chain. This makes way for a host of crawling, carnivorous, creatures and lots of action and scares, as our hero faces trials and tribulations as he tries to rekindle what most matters to him.

In short, great writing, great acting, great direction, excellent pacing, touchingly heartfelt, in a way that resonates with anyone who has been in love.

9/10.

Helstrom
(2020)

Dull formulaic horror show.....
"Helstrom" is your usual dull formulaic horror show from the US.

There are a number of reasons I believe it doesn't work. The first is it neglects to offer a horror "pay off" each episode. Series in a similar vein that work, like the 90's classic "Poltergeist: Legacy", acknowledge that people expect a complete story each episode. Its aright to have a larger back story but there has to be a reward for 40-50 minutes of the viewers time. "Supernatural" gets this too and its a hit because of it.

Which brings up the second point. Its emotionally constipated, lecturing and up tight. "Supernatural" balances the darker aspects of the show with lighthearted humour. This ones far too sombre and busy being serious to be anything else. Its woke nonsense makes matters even worse. Using aggravating, provoking, sexist terms, like "mansplaining", which quickly and effectively alienated this male viewer.

Bland, predictable characterisations. The key characters are attractive, successful mavericks with a dark past. They are cool and trendy in their own way and any flaws they have, are easily explained away. Its such a dull, cliche laden, stereotype. There's no real depth or effort in characterisations that I can see. They are like retail clothing models, ultimately they all look alike.

A few saving graces include solid acting, reasonable settings and polished cinematography.

The end results a show that looks polished and yet manages to deprive itself of the creative oxygen, that makes series cast in the same genre, a resounding success.

4/10.

Shortcut
(2020)

Functional horror.....
I'm at a loss to understand the negative reviews of "Shortcut'. Its not a horror masterpiece but its by no means a poor movie, either.

Personally, I'd characterise this one as a "functional horror". Its has all the right scare components, in all the right places, to offer the viewer a mildly chilling experience.

Its "Famous Five" vibe is interesting too, akin to film adaptations like "IT". The group dynamic works well and is backed by strong acting, from the predominantly youthful cast.

So in summary, watchable, a little scary, not overly original but competently done nonetheless.

6/10.

Orígenes secretos
(2020)

Spanish crime fighting cocktail that delivers....
"Unknown Origins" is a Spanish crime fighting cocktail with a "kick" and lots of "punch" that really delivers on all fronts.

This flick is perfect blend of unashamedly shlocky superhero stick and crime drama that just works. The clever cross over between the world of real crime fighting and the imagined world of crime fighting super hero's, draws this tale neatly into one very watchable package.

Acting is top notch, as are characterisations and story. The only downside is the speed at which dialogue is delivered, making it hard at times to keep up, if, like me, you need to read the subtitles (the film is in Spanish).

Nonetheless, its been a while since I've enjoyed a film this much.

Great stuff.

8/10.

The Walking Dead: World Beyond
(2020)

Famous Five does the zombie apocalypse
"The Walking Dead" gets a "Famous Five" style make over as the "team" of intrepid youths, face's off against a zombie apocalypse.

Well, actually its the fame-less four, in this fall flat teenie spin off. Its an instant failure, primarily because its entirely the wrong setting for this kind of coming of age, youth adventure drama.

The result is farcical in every sense. Glow in the dark, not so terrifying zombies, who shuffle and moan at the foot of a tree house, where the teenie team of four are playing Monopoly. Thankfully the "empties' as they are called are few and far between, so the youth wont get munched on, compliments of a giant tyre fire. Seriously, who writes this stuff?

Is there an upside? Well you could count quality production values, decent special effects, cinematography and reasonable acting. That said, these things should come with the territory, given this is a mainstream series.

In short, a bizarre mismatch, in every sense that matters.

2/10.

The Wolf of Snow Hollow
(2020)

Sinks under its own weight.....
Odd ball, quirky, opinionated....some of the terms I'd use to describe "The Wolf of Snow Hollow.

This film tries to create a subtly eccentric, strangely humorous vibe. Its expressed, in large part, through an odd ball Sheriff who, already carrying considerable personal baggage on his back, is suddenly tasked with solving a series of gruesome and bizarre murders. Indeed, the whole affair is presented as a "bloody comedy of errors". Regrettably, its consistent lack of well thought through ideas and contextual bridges, see's the whole thing slowly sink, under its own weight.

The films cause is not helped one bit by its rather opinionated attitude towards men either. Lazy, lacklustre, incompetent, reckless and uncaring. A few words that sum up the attitude towards the majority of male characters in this tale. One highlight is the Sheriff's horny daughter, sneaking out for a rendezvous with her boyfriend, in full knowledge of the curfew imposed by her father, the Sheriff, to keep people safe. She's then almost murdered by the killer but promptly blames her father for not caring, when he saves her. Its illogical nonsense like this, that further undermines this already conflicted effort.

By the end I was left feeling depressed, irritated and puzzled by this odd little film. The only real upside being the consistently solid acting from the cast and some moderately watchable, if predictable, horror sequences.

5/10.

Enola Holmes
(2020)

Oh the irony......
I'll start by saying this is not one for me. Its pitched squarely at teenage girls. My concern is the rather nasty underlying message about men, that's part of the baggage.

Classic one liners like "you are only a man if I tell you you're a man". There's plenty more besides, painting men as symbols of female oppression and ignorance. Even her name plays to this seudo feminist notion, Enola is "alone" backwards.

What's really ridiculous about all of this, is its railing against history. Using an anachronistic stick to beat out a message that's already been received in more enlightened, contemporary, times.

But then, in my opinion, this is what feminism has been reduced to in the Western media. A caricature, that has become more fashion than cause. There's no small irony too, that the only way this "pitching at windmills" can function is through the appropriation of an essentially masculine tale.

in short, this could have been a charming, likeable,quirky tale, that entertained. Acting is excellent, backed by a broad cast with strong credentials. Cinematography cant be faulted either, nor quality production values.

Its a shame too, as no one actually minds the tale of Sherlock Holmes taking a novel female turn. Its the spiteful lecturing that I find unattractive, as I see do many other reviewers. Rightly so too, in my opinion.

5/10.

Utopia
(2020)

Lacks the crunch of the original from the UK....
How to describe the US remake of the UK series "Utopia"? Imagine taking a fresh crisp apple, dunking it in preservative, shrink wrapping it in plastic and putting it in garishly wrapped box with "fresh apples on the label.

For me, that's what the US production has done to the crisp, crunchy and altogether more tasty, UK original. Thus one has a plastic-iky commercial and somewhat cheesy vibe, that does not capture the full flavour of the original series.

Its slow too, as if they are uncertain how to approach the material. A problem that becomes ever more obvious as you reach the end of the first episode. In short, its a little boring.

Acting wise the standard is reasonable, as are general production values but these things on their own are certainly not enough to carry a series.

I will say, in fairness, the US is not the only one who makes these kind of mistakes. The UK has taken series from elsewhere and made a pigs ear of them too.

4/10 from this reviewer.

Agents of Chaos
(2020)

Sensationalist.....
Contradictory, inaccurate, vague and sensationalist. A few terms I'd use to describe "Agents of Chaos".

The reality is, if anyone undermined the US elections, its the US itself. Its electoral system is well known for being dysfunctional and open to corruption. Something we are already seeing, yet again, with the next set of elections coming along.

0/10.

The Babysitter: Killer Queen
(2020)

Almost as painful than going through puberty a second time....
I'm not really a fan of this kind of film but the first one was alright and I was bored, so I took a look.

As per usual these days male figures are either inadequate, irresponsible or stupid. Female characters "strong and empowered" or "mysterious and empowered".You get the idea. The pink background on the poster should have been enough to warn me off but well, silly me.

On the upside acting is reasonable, setting and cinematography fine, basic slasher story is alright.

In short, if you can look past the woke horse manure, its almost passable. Personally I found it a little insulting and irritating but hey, I'm just a man, what do I know.

4/10.

Brutus vs César
(2020)

Awful......
Aside from the fact this is unfunny there's the issue of yet more cultural misappropriation.

Apparently Vercingetorix, a Gallic tribal leader is suddenly black. That would be alright if he was a black man but he wasn't. Its absurd stuff that makes a mockery of historical fact and the cultural heritage that defines it. Back that up with a lame script that is not funny and you have this thing.

As someone with French ancestry I found this irritating , inaccurate and idiotic in equal parts.

1/10.

Ratched
(2020)

Hitchcock-ian facsimile....
"Ratched" is something of an unashamed Hitchcock-ian homage.

Regrettably, it looks more like a facsimile and a rather basic one, at that. It has the essentials down on atmosphere, music, dress sense and cinematography.

Characterisations are somewhat better rendered. There's strong acting talent on offer to be sure but the dialogue is a key point of failure.

This shortcoming can't be excused by saying its intelligent because, well, its not. Case in question a brief conversation during a job interview where the key character talks about her knowledge of blood work and then switches to scat and ejaculate. Apparently, this bit of nonsense makes her "smart" in the eyes of the rather submissive doctor, for no obvious reason.

It doesn't get any the better as the first episode unfolds, leaving you feeling like the main character has some odd variety of autism spectrum disorder. A bizarre role play with some bloke she has just met, doesn't help matters one bit.

In short everything looks "nice" but the scripting to me feels basic, deprived of depth and sophistication. Given what this series seems to be setting itself up to be, a warped thriller, that's no small deficit.

5/10.

Les misérables
(2019)

The failure of the French cultural experiment?
If I could take anything away from this film my impression, as is the case in of similar US films, is one of the real world problems associated with what politicians enthusiastically call, "multi cultural ism".

The disparate cultural groups in this film are so diverse in their views and outlook, in practical terms, they simply don't get along. This creates problems for them and of course, those trying to keep the peace between them. A peace that seemingly never lasts.

Its a well acted film, with sound production values and directing. My biggest issue with it, is it dragged on and when it finally made its point, it felt somewhat redundant. Is it highlighting the failure of the French cultural experiment? Or perhaps are we to feel sympathy with mixed communities? If so, whats the solution to the problem? Its not as if the French government have not sunken large sums of money into these communities to try to ensure equality, they certainly have. Can these people resolve their differences, if so, how?

Its questions that don't seem to have hopeful answers. Interesting effort but one that left me wondering if nations in fact have a "cultural identity" for real world, as well as more esoteric reasons

6/10.

Steel Rain 2
(2020)

In every sense a work of fiction.
Steel Rain 2 is in every sense, a work of fiction.

This film is a moderately entertaining, political action drama. It comes equipped with a basic sense of humour but its core premise is wishful thinking.Taking the far fetched position of North Korea genuinely bowing down to the US and disarming its nukes.

The US has proven repeatedly, to be a bad faith negotiator and North Korea is propped up by China. Both of the latter, know they have more to loose than gain, by giving the US what it wants.

As far as entertainment goes, its watchable but its political message is pure fantasy and a rather immature one, at that.

5/10.

Mulan
(2020)

Very much by the numbers Disney fare but worthwhile nonetheless......
"Mulan" has seen a recent Chinese release as well this Western release, by Disney. The Chinese film is probably closer to the harsh realities that underline the sentiment that defines the tale. It's grim, there's lots of self sacrifice, death and blood.

That said,that's not Disney's core market (at least that's my understanding) and this film reflects that fact. I'll add i don't hate the Disney film. I know there have been a lot of negative reviews but what needs to be kept in mind is the typical "audience" for Disney films. Families, younger viewers, so its not going to be as violent or adult orientated as other versions of this story.

What it does do well is competently tell Mulan's tale in a very watchable manner. Yes its got the usual Disney bright, cheerfulness but its not overdone and the core message of sacrifice for family is front and centre.

The action scenes are polished done, the cinamatic's outstanding and the acting is well above average too.

So for those who want a serious, mature take on the story of Mulan, no this film may not be for you (track down the Chinese film instead). For families, younger viewers and general audiences this film is very accessible and I, for one, enjoyed it.

In fact, to be honest its the first film from Disney, I've enjoyed unreservedly in quite a while.

7/10.

Freaks: You're One of Us
(2020)

A mature take on the superhuman genre
German flick "Freaks" on first inspection is not substantively different from many other productions, cast in a similar vein.

Where it does depart is its treatment of the subject matter, which is substantially more down to earth than its counterparts. This is a tale about ordinary people who happen to have extraordinary abilities and how this impacts on them, as people. It lacks the grit and cynical grandiosity, not to mention the gratuitous violence, you might typically expect.

I found this treatment refreshing. Its thoughtful and heartfelt and I feel, offers more depth of character development.

Certainly, it has its moments of exposition driven action but that said, this is a quieter film, that may not appeal to super hero action addicts.

I enjoyed Freaks . Its has a maturity of treatment that you don't often see in the superhuman genre.

7/10.

Z
(2019)

"Drop Dead Fred" from hell.....
"Z" is a not half bad little horror flick from Canada.

The best way I can describe it is a "Drop Dead Fred" 1991 "Boogeyman" 2005 mash up. Or put another way, the imaginary friend from hell.

Much of what takes place, at first feels psychological but that notion is soon dismissed, as things take a very real turn for the worse.

The atmosphere established in one rooted in family with a child like quality that soon darkens. Family harmony is transformed into violence, menace, terror and a hint of madness. its handled well with solid production values backed by decent acting.

There are at least two scare opportunities, I noted, that could have been developed a little further had extra time been taken to consider what makes horror "tick".

That said, I feel there's a lot more to like here than not. Its creative, subtle and eerily spooky. No small thing in a film world filled with beige knock offs, of knock off's.

7/10 from me.

Raised by Wolves
(2020)

Profalactics from outer space?
Not sure what to make of this. Two androids, who look a little disconcertingly like shrink wrapped profalactic's, land in a phallic looking spaceship, that promptly falls down a hole but don't worry, "its retrievable".

On first inspection I had wondered if this was a comedy in the same vein as "Earth Girls Are Easy" from 1988. Then they threw in babies who had been plopped in containers in what looks like gelatin? Hmmm, maybe a dash of Monty Python in there, somewhere?

Well apparently its not a comedy but it is one weird series. So weird in fact, I'm having one hell of a time getting into it.

There's a few obvious plot holes that don't track either. They have the technology to travel to another planet and incubate life but don't have even the basics of medicine or lab technology to help the children when they get sick? Nor even elementary technology to track them (even we have tracking chip technology) and ensure their safety in a new, hostile environment? All the while describing themselves as technocrats? It simply does not add up.

In short, decent science fiction, for me at least, works because there's an air of familiarity and plausibility about it. "Raised by Wolves" simply doesn't spark that recognition. For that reason, it feels dis-associative, and outlandishly unconvincing.

I'll persist and see where it goes but thus far, its not winning me over.

5/10.

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