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We All Float Down Here

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Dara O Briain once stated in one of his shows that nostalgia is basically, “heroin for old people…. Oh the good old days.” I know what you’re thinking, what has this got to do with, if anything, the new version of Stepehen King’s IT? Well dear reader if you will allow me to indulge for a bit, I will explain. When news broke of this reboot in 2009, I was actually quite happy. Calm down Tim Curry fans, chill the beans. I saw the original miniseries years and years ago. It terrified me, mostly because of Tim Curry truth be told. The minisereis riveted me to the spot and I lost sleep for at least a fortnight. But I re-watched it upon hearing the reboot idea and well meh. The first half of the series stands up but it loses direction for the second half and that ending? Jesus. Woeful. So how does the remake stand up?

Well to be totally honest it blows the original out of the greywater (see what I did there?). The film has been moved out of the 1950’s and is shot into the 80’s, more specifically 1989. One of the many reasons I adored this movie. There are posters of Gremlins, Beetlejuice adorning the kid’s walls and the local movie theatre is showing Batman and later on that faithful summer, rather tellingly A Nightmare On Elm Street Part 5: Dream Warriors.

The posters on the walls belong to the kids central to the plot. Bill, Richie, Ben, Mike, Eddie, Stan and Bev, or as they affectionately call themselves, The Losers Club. These kids are dealing with a lot, and awful lot. That awkward phase that most of us went through, unsure of where you stand in life but comforted by familiar faces and generally having solid friendships. They have to deal with parents that either won’t accept what is happening in the town of Derry, Maine. That is the disappearance of a lot of kids and the suspected cause, the terror that is Pennywise The Dancing Clown (a phenomenal Bill Skasgard, who is absolutely amazing and brings a terrifying clown to life).

They also have to deal with the terror of the high school bully, in this case there are four and are led by your average local sociopath, Henry Bowers, seriously that boy ain’t right! And this is the heart of the story. These kids have a lot to deal with in their everyday lives, terrible adults who should know better, adolescence, puberty, bullies and the clown. Now let’s clear something up here. IT is not Pennywise, there that had to be sorted. It is merely the form the entity, or Bob Gray takes as it is primal fear and very alluring to young kids and even bigger kids! It is merely a face of fear that moulds to fit a person’s particular fear.

Things I Loved about this film:

The Losers Club. Seriously the kids in this movie were all amazing and their chemistry was off the charts. Their adventure over the course of the summer made me laugh and cry. They were the heart and soul of this movie.

Skasgard, Holy Christ, his contorting eyes, his voice, his costume his general existence. Terrifying.

The nostalgia. This movie is a mix of The Goonies and Poltergeist

The effects. I am aware that there was CG used but it looked seamless and was terrifying.

The last fifteen to twenty minutes. No spoilers here but be prepared to cry.

Things I Did Not Love:

We have to wait nearly two years for Part Two!!!! Blast it!!

No all joking aside, go see this movie. It is one of the best King adaptations ever. Loads of heart, scares were not plentiful but I’m glad for that. Modern horrors are mostly rubbish and full of cheesy jump scares which renders the film useless. The cast are phenomenal and you will leave feeling things other than abject fear!

 

4.5 / 5

 

 

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Written by thepanch

September 11, 2017 at 12:51 pm

The Man Comes Around (Spoiler Free!)

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When news of Logan first emerged I was both excited and sceptical as apart from his inclusion in all the X-Men movies, Wolverine has been treated woefully and underappreciated in his solo outings. His solo movies have been a mismatch of horribly inaccurate back stories, disappointing action and one can only assume, studio pandering. They never really showed a movie audience the sheer veracity and anger that eats Wolverine alive. As the man has said himself, he is “the best at what he does, but what I do isn’t very nice.” And what is he exactly? He is an animal, a violent, feral beast that is trying to piece together his life, history and find his place in this world. None of this was depicted well in the past big screen adaptations but fear not James Mangold and Hugh Jackman have addressed these issues and so much more in the absolutely wonderful Logan.

The film opens with a visibly older Logan working as an Uber driver and generally looking like a beaten down man. After a fantastically violent interaction with some wannabe thieves, he takes off and goes to pick up fares in his battered limousine. Why is he working as a driver? Well it’s been ten years since the Westchester incident and both Logan and Charles Xavier (a wonderfully frail yet still classy Patrick Stewart) are on the run and trying to keep low profiles with the help of Caliban (a heavily made up, yet still recognisable Stephen Merchant). They are all hiding out on the Mexican border. But Logan is soon spotted by a woman at a funeral. He ignores her and says he “can’t help her”.

The woman is desperate for his help as she is aware of the existence of a little girl (Dafne Keen is absolutely amazing here). She needs help and quickly as she is being pursued by The Reavers. A band of vicious mercenaries led by a wonderful Boyd Holbrook as the cyber armed boss man, Pierce. Not to give anything away, but Pierce is pretty desperate to get this little girl back. And this is where the movie picks up and settles into the awesome road western tone as Logan reluctantly straps on his boots and agrees to help transport the little girl and Xavier to a safe haven.

In a tonal shift from traditional superhero fare, the movie takes it’s time telling the story and lets the human emotion and struggle win out. Don’t get me wrong, there are perfectly portioned and timed action scenes. All of which are feral and violent just like the movie’s title! But they all seem natural and unforced in their placement. And when they kick in, they don’t leave much to the imagination! But the trek to the safe haven is the main plot point which takes you on a rollercoaster of emotion and hits hard when it peaks.

When the film was over, I was actually tired. There was so much to take in, not in terms of overblown effects and loud noises. A lot of emotion and genuine grief at what had happened. I felt like I had watched a lost Clint Eastwood or John Wayne movie about a lone gunslinger that is forced to throw on his gun belt one more time and do what’s right.  Except with uber-violence, visibly more swearing and mutants (well not as much as previous X-Men movies, but as I said I can’t say too much!). Extremely sad that Jackman is hanging up his claws but there was no better way to send him off! Anyway, enough from me, get out and go see this awesome Mutant Western. And bring tissues, lots of tissues!!

5/5

 

Written by thepanch

March 7, 2017 at 12:31 pm

Back In Black…. And Yellow

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76 years. 76 years of Batman punching bad guys, brooding, having shitloads of cool gadgets and general bad-assery. It is hard to find a figure that had endured as long in popular culture as The Dark Knight. We’re all very familiar with the story by now. Young child, Bruce Wayne accompanies his parents, Thomas and Martha Wayne to a screening of  The Mask of Zorro. They leave the theater and are gunned down by one of Gotham’s many criminals. The young Bruce vows to clean up his city and trains to become the ever present, ever vigilant silent guardian of Gotham CityBatman. And now he’s back in cinemas, in Lego form!

I’m going to put this out there. This is, in my humble opinion, the best Batman movie since The Dark Knight. The movie opens in hilarious fashion with Batman (a hilarious  Will Arnett) narrating what we can see, “Black. All good, serious films start with black. And music, ominous, scary music…..” “This movie is brought to you by DC. The house that Batman built. You heard me Superman, come at me bro!!” There’s your tone for the whole movie. An affectionate, self referential addition to the Batman franchise.

There is so much to love in this movie. As mentioned already, Will Arnett nails the role of our big eared, narcissistic hero. And this is the crux of the story, and essentially the heart at the core of the movie. Batman is a loner, a strong entity that feels he can get by on his own without anyone’s help. The movie joyously sends up the much used image of Batman being a brooding, quiet loner and a gruff hero, ultimately a man’s man who just does what he has to do. Preferably on his own.

The Joker (Zach Galifianakis) tries to take over Gotham. And as is his wont, Batman shows up and puts a stop to his plan. In a glorious showdown, our two leads meet after a huge battle (of which there are many, which all utilize the wonder of building Lego to achieve master builds) and Joker decries Batman for being his “number one enemy” and that “he needs him, because we need each other.” Batman responds in typical bravado, “I don’t have a number one enemy. I fight a lot of villians, I like to fight around.” Joker is morally offended and upset and does not get the validation he needs. So he surrenders freely and this leaves Batman at a loose end and needing to focus on more important things.

Mainly the orphan, Dick Grayson (a charming turn by Michael Cera) who Bruce Wayne unwittingly adopts and invites himself to become Robin. This is where the movie hits a small dip. Overall the story is quite heartening and ultimately it shows a character grow while all the time not changing dramatically. And ultimately sends out a message of the importance of family and indeed friendship. A strong 40 minutes, a weak twenty and then a lovely bright finish.

There are numerous references to the Batman franchise. Visually, aurally and there are lovely nods to the different actors who played The Dark Knight. This movie is aimed at kids but it is an adult’s movie. Very clever, bright and loud and as a love letter to the franchise, it is a valuable addition. And if you’ve forgotten, a character in the movie reminds us, well me specifically how much Batman means to people, when he roars lovingly, “Hey, Batman. I love you more than my kids!”

4.5 / 5

 

Written by thepanch

February 6, 2017 at 3:12 pm

More Of The Same

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Trainspotting had a phenomenal effect on me when I first saw it. Being from a small town, it depicted the sadness that can hang over any small town anywhere in the world. The lifeless eyes, the shuffling to work, the gut -wrenching and soul cleansing humour, the sadness, the social life and the glibness with which death is met when it turns it’s ugly head. However that is where the familiarity ended as I was wildly unaware of the horrors of hardcore drug and substance abuse that can take hold of those, and indeed in later years our very own small town’s inhabitants. The film made me laugh, cry and staunchly opposed to injecting anything into my blood. Powerful imagery and good story telling that resonated then to a problem that was not as widespread as it is now. A sad indictment of modern society and the hopelessness that can engulf some poor soul. That being said it got me thinking of  last friday’s release of T2 Trainspotting and that much lauded and often derided creature that is the motion picture sequel.

If you think about it the sequel can be traced back to a time before movies even existed and we were rocking around with just TB, plague and the printed word for entertainment and company. And further to that point, you could say that the idea of the sequel started with the bible. Now, you couldn’t publish a sequel to the bible to be fair. Unless it featured a ninja Jesus and some dinosaurs…. That could be awesome….. That would be awesome. Take my money, just take it.

But no, serious now. Books were the first victims of the sequel. Gulliver’s Travels (written by one of our own, Jonathan Swift… Up the Parish). Now this book was written in 1726 but the publishers of the novel rushed out many sequels and follow ups in quick succession. I’ve never read them but would you want to? The disappointment possibility is just too risky and would ruin the story. Oh no wait, that was done already by Jack Black. That film was the drizzling shits.

Motion picture sequels can be traced back as far as the insanely good and personal favorites of mine, the Universal movie monsters. Dracula, Frankenstein being the prime examples. The originals are stone cold classics, the follow ups? Lighthearted and harmless but ultimately shite in the bucket and a quick way to plough more money into the franchise and ultimately into the studio. Dolla, dolla, bill y’all!!

The 1970’s saw some questionable sequels and the arrival of the numbered sequel. Studios were bigger, audiences were bigger and the names were big enough to warrant simply putting the same title out with an adjoining 2 or 3 after it. Most notable inclusions being titles such as The Godfather II, The French Connection 2 and the sequel to the first commercial “blockbuster”Jaws, a film so popular and critically acclaimed that some executive got a pay day for coming up with Jaws 2. If you haven’t seen it, don’t rush out and buy it. Buy some nice cake with the money, less chance of being upset.

So the sequel is nothing new to be honest, I am just hoping to myself that T2 Trainspotting won’t disappoint. I am not expecting wonders, but I expect a decent film and a genuine sense of story, character and the heart that lay within the dark bowels of the first film. At least they called it T2 Trainspotting and not Trainspotting 2 : More Drugs, No Trains. Here’s hoping!!!!

 

Written by thepanch

January 30, 2017 at 9:00 pm

Sherlocked

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Before we go any further, let me assure you this review is chocked FULL OF SPOILERS!! I’ve tried doing it without spoilers, but the sheer awesomeness of this episode is impossible to fully explain without SPOILERS!!! So with that in mind, here’s what I thought of Sherlock: The Final Problem!

The opening scene, (not the pre-credit sequence with the little girl on the plane) filled me with so much giddiness and joy I cannot describe it using mere words. Mycroft Holmes (Mark Gattiss finally getting a chance to shine!) is at home and in a rare glimpse of humanity is watching his favourite movie while enjoying a good whiskey. The film cuts out and is interspersed with cryptic messages and he hears noises and voices. Cue a glorious sequence of horror tinged interruptions, clowns, small girls with pig tails. But it is all a massive ruse by “brother mine”, Sherlock Holmes.

Sherlock is not best pleased that Mycroft has been hiding the existence of their younger sister, Eurus (a phenomenal Sian Brooke). Now to be fair to the older sibling, he did it to protect not only his brother but the world in general as Eurus is gifted, and indeed so gifted she could destroy the known world in a matter of minutes. When asked how good she is, Mycroft matter of factly states that she is“the type of person that was on Twitter for an hour and stopped two terrorist attacks. She’s that good.”

The show kicks off in a literally explosive manner as while in 221B Baker Street, Sherlock, Mycroft and the long suffering Dr. John Watson are querying what to do about Eurus and to try and find out what is truth and what is not. A drone bearing an eerie rendition of a childhood verse finds its way up the stairs and the drone contains a grenade using a motion sensor. Any movement and its Bye Bye Birdie. The boys decide to wait until Mrs. Hudson is out of harm’s way before acting. And this is the first of many emotional decisions that are made over the course of the show.

Drone grenade explodes and our boys trek out to Sherringford, a prison in the middle of the sea. Like Alcatraz meets Arkham Asylum. We finally see Eurus in her true form, long haired, wide eyed and down a long corridor behind reinforced “glass”, shades of Silence Of The Lambs. She gets inside Sherlock’s head and we are treated to flashbacks of the three Holmes children. Then the action picks up.

Through other flashbacks, we are given one more glorious glimpse of James Moriarty (a scene stealing, Andrew Scott.) And it is incredibly hard to hate any man that turns up in a chopper to the strains of I Want To Break Free. The cinema audience were very appreciative and met his appearance with rapturous applause. He is here to see Eurus, for a short but pivotal five minutes “completely unsupervised” as a special treat from Mycroft. And the seeds of The Reichenbach Fall, and indeed the whole Sherlock saga are sewn. A wonderful example of long term story-telling and masterful writing.

Eurus puts the three boys into various moral quandaries which threaten the lives of both innocent and guilty people. The result of these tests still result in death but one in particular stands out. Sherlock has to convince Molly Hooper to say “I love you” in order to save her life, he succeeds and it turns out that her life was never in danger, Eurus just wanted to mess with him. A wonderful scene and opens so many worms.

It all leads up to Sherlock finally finding out what happened to his beloved childhood pet, Redbeard. The action and the maze of tests leads the consulting detective back to his childhood home, Musgrave. And it is here we discover that Eurus was behind all of it, the girl on the plane was just a metaphor for her fear and isolation and the little girl’s voice was her pleading with her brother for attention. Redbeard was actually a childhood friend who was left to die in a nearby well in a fit of jealousy by Eurus. And everything comes full circle.

A mysterious dvd turns up to Dr. Watson’s home, containing the title, Miss You. Holmes and Watson watch it and it is Mary Watson. She serves as a recap of what happened since the arrest of Eurus, her subsequent incarceration and where the rest of the characters wind up. In the ending monologue she describes “her boys” beautifully. “A junkie detective who solves crimes to get high and the doctor who never came home from the war.”

Part horror, part thriller with some killer lines and great performances all round. Not quite sure if it is all over and we will never see 221B Baker Street again. But if it was indeed goodbye and goodnight, it was a wonderful send off.

Written by thepanch

January 16, 2017 at 12:01 pm

Ctrl+Alt+Death

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Being stalked is I would imagine not an overly pleasant experience. Thankfully an experience that I have virtually no association with. So imagine how much worse it would be to be stalked by a dead girl? Well that is exactly what happens to poor Laura Woodson in the recently released cyber-thriller Friend Request. A film that has a fantastic premise, but alas much like other modern horrors does not live up to its trailer hype and delves into familiar overdone territory in the third act.

Laura is lovely, attractive, cultured, educated and most importantly popular. A fact that brings her to the attention of new strange student Ma Rina (one quick grumble, why is anyone in modern teen/horror films that expresses artistic talent or individuality a mopey, whiny prick?? Anyway, I digress….) So Ma Rina attaches to Laura, much like a gloomy window hanger or sad caterpillar, a friend request is sent and then shit starts to unravel. Overbearing Ma Rina bombards our heroine with posts, messages and other pleasantries. A birthday celebration lands Laura into trouble and Ma Rina takes it badly. So badly, she hangs herself and records the act for posterity.

Laura feels suitably although to be fair unjustly guilty. But the fun is only starting. All her friends receive a post notification. A video. The video of Ma Rina in her last act on earth. Then the friend requests come. Laura is hounded and berated by most of her online friends but she cannot delete her account or her friendship with her now deceased classmate. And this was one of my favourite elements of the movie.

As a society we are chained to not only our phones but our dependence on faceless interactions with people we hardly know or met on a night out. The young (and disgustingly attractive) characters in this film are treated subsequently and all meet grisly deaths. An almost kind act of redemption from beyond the grave and there is no way stop any of it. This is where my second favourite element of the movie. Each death is framed and shot in a nod to other movie deaths. In no particular order, The Exorcist (1 & 3), A Nightmare on Elm Street, Ringu, The Eye and The Omen are all referenced.

The last act does the film a disservice. I won’t spoil it but the writers chicken out and revert to lazy back story which can be seen halfway through the film. The explanation of the killings and why they were done serves a purpose but it feels flat and uninspired, in the same way the Paranormal Activity series of films relies on the same explanation for every other world experience.

Overall, Friend Request is an above average modern horror film. The premise is incredibly entertaining, the actors are passable and served by a half decent script. The deaths are ridiculously entertaining and the film only loses steam as it drags to its third act. Recommended!!

 

3.5 / 5

Written by thepanch

April 26, 2016 at 8:27 pm

Batman Vs Superman

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First of all, I need to get this out of the way. Upon my first viewing I wanted to call this review Batman Vs Superman: Yawn of Justice. I know right, I’m so whimsical. But I felt I needed to watch it again, so I did! And I rethought my initial knee jerk reaction and gave it another deserved chance. This film has been quite undeservedly derided universally. Now I can see why but it is a bit unfair. It’s going to be hard to convince you otherwise if you already hate it and to be honest, I’m not going to try. The best way to approach this is the simplest approach, what was good and what was bad. Right, the good.

Batman fights Superman. If like me you’ve been waiting for this since your teens it delivers and then some. But Zack Snyder makes you wait, oh he makes you wait. It is worth it to be fair. The fight borrows heavily aesthetically and in terms of action from The Dark Knight Returns. The heavily advertised metal suit Bats sports, the use of kryptonite and Superman’s inability to see through lead based products with a craftily deployed smoke bomb. The fight is everything I hoped for. Two titans kicking the living tar out of each other.

Ben Affleck. Holy fuck! His hulking frame, shown in a glorious training montage, is impressive enough but his performance behind the beef and indeed the cowl is spectacular. His Batman is world weary, greying, physically and mentally broken. And gone beyond vigilante, I mean he flat out kills loads of guys in this movie! And there has been a lot of huzzah about this. I don’t feel any moral outrage about it, I don’t condone it but I understand the reasoning. He sees it as the only way to solve Gotham’s problem. Well, it’s either this or burning the whole place down, the place is a hole.

Henry Cavill. Sadly, like in the woeful Man of Steel, treated rather shabbily by an underwritten part and a hammy script. Anyone who knows me is well aware of my dislike of Superman, but he can be made interesting (see Death of Superman (graphic novel), the first two original Superman movies with the impeccable Christopher Reeve). There are glimpses of hope in this movie. Supes is struggling with the weight of being himself. Cavill does a great job but is let down by an underdeveloped arc.

Jesse Eisenberg. I wanted to hate this version of Lex Luthor. The trailers made me physically wince and shift uncomfortably in my seat, but he grew on me over the course of this film. His maniacal, and as the film moves forward completely mental plans are made all the more delicious by his unnerving jumpy nature. This guy really hates Superman and he goes to great lengths to try and stop him.

Gal Gadot. It’s pretty easy to shoehorn in a hot chick to play a well-loved, renowned superhero but with the casting of Gadot, the film does Wonder Woman a great justice. She was powerful, sexy and could hold her own with the two guys. I will gladly watch her in her inevitable solo outing! Which, in a rather ham fisted way, brings us to the bad elements of this movie.

Wonder Woman. Not Gadot. Or indeed the character in general, no it was more the way she was shoehorned in to be one of the reasons for Bats and Supes to forget their hatred and unite to fight a common foe. The last half hour is rushed as fuck. And an email attachment Bruce Wayne sends her instantly sets up the Justice League with tiny trailers for Aquaman, Cyborg, The Flash and indeed Wonder Woman. Now the whole rushed ending. Two things here.

Doomsday. I got it, I totally got it but come on that ridiculous CGI, the lasers and really bright flare. Completely ruined an otherwise great battle. And ultimately, he was only here so our heroes could team up. To be fair, Gadot can handle that Lasso of Truth like a boss and looks bad ass doing it. Could have done with less of this hulking CGI mess. Now another reason that the last half hour was ham fisted and lazy as. I got a hold of an exclusive deleted scene. Text only mind.

INT: ABANDONED WAREHOUSE. Batman stands triumphantly over Superman. He raises his arms up to bring down a kryptonite tipped spear into Superman’s chest. Just before he bring sit down, Superman wearily raises a hand.

Superman: “Wait.”

Batman looks at him, smirks and slowly brings his arms down to his side.

Batman: “Make it quick. This ends now!”

Superman: “Right on the count of three, say the first thing that comes into your head.” Batman: “What?”

Superman: “Say the first name that comes into your head.”

Both: “Martha!”

Batman: “What?”

Superman: “Did we just become super best friends?”

Batman: “I think we just did…. Shit.”

 This didn’t happen like this I admit but it was pretty close. I call bull shit, Zack Snyder!

Anyway, I enjoyed it more on the second viewing. Not a perfect film by any means but it is enjoyable. And serves as a nice taster for The Justice League and reportedly three solo Batman films starring Ben Affleck and hopefully in the guise of his ever present butler, Alfred Pennyworth the ever reliant Jeremy Irons. He was great in this film and did a great job as Pennyworth. If you haven’t seen it, I would recommend going to see it as it is a lot of fun but don’t expect any jokes.

2.5 / 5

 

 

Written by thepanch

April 3, 2016 at 10:52 am