Movies: Death Wish (2018) Review

April 9, 2018

I’m the sort of person who falls asleep watching TV if it’s after 8pm, so to go to the cinema for a 9pm showing of Death Wish seemed like a bad idea.

Unfortunately that was the only chance there was to see it, as it’s only shown at that time, but I love the original, so needs must.

So one can of Red Bull later and I was in my seat for a movie that realistically wasn’t going to start until near enough 9.30pm. I crossed my fingers and hoped I stayed awake.

And I did. Yay!

Now when you consider that I’ve fallen asleep in quite a few movies shown at much earlier times, like Rogue One, Doctor Strange and others, then that’s no mean feat, and a credit to Death Wish.

Don’t get me wrong though, I’m not going to tell you this is the greatest movie of our time, because it’s not. In fact, it’s a pretty ordinary remake of the original, and a plot we’ve seen rehashed many times over the years in other movies. Essentially it’s about a man who becomes a vigilante following personal loss, and a perceived sense of injustice in how the police have dealt with that loss.

I like that basic plot. It’s fun. It’s what my girlfriend describes as a ‘Boys Film’ (note: this is the first movie I’ve seen at the cinema without her in over two years because she had no intention of coming). It has a man killing bad guys in darkly humorous ways and it doesn’t last too long; what’s not to like?

Bruce Willis – while no Charles Bronson – is good, and Dean Norris essentially plays Hank from Breaking Bad again, which is cool.

If you like that sort of thing too, then you’ll also enjoy it.

Just don’t expect a masterpiece…

Or anything quite as hammy as when Charles Bronson killed The Giggler.

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TV Review: Colditz (1972-1974)

April 1, 2018

Over by the self-service checkout area at Sainsburys last Christmas was a selection of classic TV boxed sets, including the likes of The Saint, Danger Man and Survivors. I suggested for a Christmas present from my parents that they just choose one at random that I hadn’t seen, and hoped for the best that I’d enjoy it.

They got me the 1972-1974 British drama, Colditz.

And I loved it.

It was obviously a show I had heard of, but my knowledge of the plot only extended as far as it being about British POWs held in an ‘escape-proof’ castle.

But there’s a lot more to it than that.

Yes, there are lots of escape attempts, but it’s mainly about the relationships between the prisoners and also between the prisoners and their German captors. And it’s the latter relationship that I found the most engrossing.

I think it’s fair to say that by and large, the Germans in WW2 dramas and movies are presented as the evil enemy, and yet in Colditz – based as it is on the experiences of those who were in the POW camp at the time – this isn’t the case. Coming under the jurisdiction of the Wehrmacht rather than the SS or Gestapo, it’s run by mostly honourable people – Germans of the Old School – who are at pains to ensure that their prisoners are treated fairly and within the terms of the Geneva Convention. Yes, in the second season the writers include the entirely fictional boo-hiss villain, Major Mohn for the purposes of added drama, but it’s the likes of the Kommandant (played by the king of 1970s BBC drama, Bernard Hepton) and his chief of security, Ullman (Hans Meyer) who are the ones that reflect the type of German who ran the camp. In fact, I found myself rooting for them thanks to their restraint in the face of being constantly tested by British officers often acting like children.

With solid acting all the way through, and a cast – both regular and guest – of fine actors that you’ll probably recognise, Colditz is the sort of drama that you just don’t seem to get anymore. It’s slow building, it has episodes based around one-off guest characters (and the finest example of that is the jaw-droppingly good Tweedledum, about an officer who pretends to everyone around him that he has gone mad in a bid to be sent back to England on compassionate grounds), and the entire quality of the show rests on the strength of the acting and writing.

It certainly made me invest in it emotionally and come away from the final episode wanting to learn more about the realities of the way the camp was run.

I would offer Colditz my highest recommendation. In an era of throwaway NetFlix shows that are often pretty dull, this is one of the finest dramas I’ve watched in a long, long time.


Movies: Unsane Review (or “Apparently This Movie Can Be Summed Up In 85 Words”)

March 31, 2018

 

As a test study for how easy it is to make a movie on the cheap using a skeleton crew and an iPhone for a camera, Unsane is a great success.

As an entertaining movie, not so much.

It’s not bad, but without spoiling it, the mystery at the very heart of the story is solved very early and then the remainder just becomes a bit flat.

Also, the trailer spoiled too much of the plot as well. I hate that.

Wow…that review was quick.


Movies: When We First Met Review

March 26, 2018

Remember my review of Happy Death Day? The one where I said I loved the Groundhog Day concept?

Well When We First Met is based on the same idea.

It’s about a man who goes back in time to relive a day three years earlier where he first meets the girl of his dreams at a party, in the hope of waking up again in the present to find himself in a loving relationship with her, rather than in the dreaded ‘Friend Zone’.

As far as I can see, it’s been panned by most critics for a number of reasons unrelated to the quality of the movie. One said it was about a man who got to relive a day over and over in the hope of sleeping with a girl he was infatuated with – which isn’t what it’s about – while another slated it for not being in the spirit of the modern cultural movement of empowerment.

Well, just like when I was asked to review a book that analysed Doctor Who from a homosexual point of view (apparently the sexual tension between the Doctor and the Brigadier was off the scale, which is something I personally never noticed) I don’t really grasp the mindset there. Call me shallow, but when I watch a TV show or a movie, I just like to take it on face value rather than holding it to any sort moral code or looking for subtext to fit in with how I wanted to view it. If I didn’t, I’d be the sort of person who couldn’t enjoy Big because it’s about an adult woman falling in love with a child, or I would say that Death Wish is unacceptable because Charles Bronson should rely upon the criminal justice system rather than take matters into his own hands.

I just didn’t see anything particularly untoward with the ‘morals’ of When We First Met.

If anything, the only problem is that Adam DeVine is an unlikeable arsehole.

But once I got past that, I enjoyed it. The plot appealed to me, it flowed well enough and it didn’t end as predictably as you might expect.

At times I chuckled, and at no point was I bored.

So it served its purpose.

No, it won’t win any Oscars, and no, I don’t think ‘serious’ people would enjoy it, but I did.

And I’d recommend if you have an evening free, you should watch it too.

Just don’t try to search for any inner truth when you do.


TV: Save Me Review

March 18, 2018

*Note: Because of the nature of this review, there are spoilers concerning the conclusion of the final episode. If you want a very brief non-spoiler point of view, I’ll say it’s worth watching but sags a little in the middle.

So anyway…

In a recent interview, Save Me writer and lead star Lennie James admitted that it was always the intention for the new Sky Atlantic show to have a second season; it was commissioned on that brief.

Alas that’s the way TV networks operate nowadays and the results are mixed. A show like Line of Duty can support a story told over multiple seasons because there’s a background plot that runs throughout, but each season focuses on a specific storyline or character. Meanwhile there are so many other examples – and Under the Dome is the one that immediately springs to mind – where you can just see that the story doesn’t have enough about it to justify another run, and yet it gets one because it makes financial sense for the network. It’s a case of financial reward over creative satisfaction.

Having polished off Save Me last night, I fear it falls in the second category.

This is a show about Nelly, a guy whose 13-year-old daughter – who he hasn’t seen for years – is kidnapped. Initially he’s suspected of being responsible, but it turns out pretty quickly that someone who was pretending to be him contacted her on the internet and lured her into a trap. Because of the very specific information about Nelly’s life used to by the kidnapper to attract her, Nelly realises that it must be someone he knows from his local pub who must be responsible, and takes on the burden of solving the crime.

Now if I was going to write that for maximum creative effect, it would be told from beginning to end in one go. Nelly would find the person responsible and then from there find Jody (the daughter) either alive or dead.

As it turns out, Nelly does work out the culprit and even gets as far as finding out where Jody’s being held captive by a local paedophile ring, but in the end he finds another girl instead.

It just seemed like such a flat ending.

Over the course of the six episodes, Save Me was mostly about Lenny and his relationships with characters around him, and it did a very good job of giving those characters a back-story and a potential motive for wanting to kidnap Jody. And though some of the characters were a bit odd – Jody’s mother played by Suranne Jones isn’t written as being particularly bothered about her kidnapping and is more interested in getting pissed and having sex with Lenny behind her partner’s back – they all get put under the microscope.

Now that we know who kidnapped her – even though the reveal came thanks the disappointing Terry Nation style trope of “Hold on a minute; the only way you’d know that piece of information is if you are the kidnapper” – and more to the point now that we know who didn’t kidnap her, those characters seem largely redundant going forward.

And there’s the problem. Save Me ends on a note of the viewer feeling short-changed by the ending, and concerned that to have the story resolved one way or the other, they’ll have to endure a second season that doesn’t appear to have the legs to make it worth watching.

That being said, if you want to live for the moment and enjoy it for what it is now, the first season is mostly an entertaining watch up until the ending, although it does slow down to a crawl in episode three.


Stuart’s Entertainment Review (The Detectorists, Peaky Blinders, Manhunt Unabomber etc)

February 12, 2018

A roundup of some of the shows I’ve been watching lately…

The Detectorists

Because this is considered a ‘gentle’ comedy, I made the mistake of thinking that it was something akin to Last of the Summer Wine. In actual fact, this show is probably the best BBC sitcom in a long, long time. It’s not what I would consider hilarious, but it has its moments. The main thing though is that the characters are likeable and relatable and the story across all three seasons is one you can invest in.

It’s feel good and charmingly British.

Peaky Blinders

Perhaps less charmingly British, but British nevertheless is Peaky Blinders.

Packed with big name actors and some absolutely brilliant performances, it’s entertaining and gritty throughout.

It’s not exactly the most original of plotlines – a family rise to prominence in a historical setting – but that setting is a good one, and the story does progress as the show goes on.

I also liked how it used modern music instead of stuff that perhaps might have seemed more fitting to the era.

Manhunt: Unabomber

What I like about this show is that it’s an apparently mostly accurate retelling of a genuine FBI case, so while it’s not the most exciting show you’ll ever see, it is at least informative and interesting.

Running for only 8 episodes, it doesn’t outstay its welcome, but if I had any criticism, it would be that the time hopping, non-linear nature of it seemed unnecessary.

The Good Place

I thought I’d written a review of The Good Place after I watched season 1 on NetFlix last year, but apparently not. And I’m glad I didn’t because I probably would have said I thought it was a bit light and no more than average. I kept watching though and just finished off the second season this evening, and I’ve got to seriously recommend it.

It’s not a laugh out loud comedy – indeed I don’t really remember ever doing that while watching it – but what it is is clever. It makes you think while still being fun.

And unlike so many other shows there’s genuine development, not only of characters, but of plot; the show is now in a completely different place (no pun intended) than it was at the start.

Like I say, I’d recommend it highly. It’s well worth your time.

Lovesick

Previously known as Scrotal Recall on Channel 4, this show was bought by Netflix and renamed as something that perhaps has more marketability.

I’d never seen it before Saturday, but I’m hooked now and have binge watched it over the last couple of days.

It’s a bit derivative of How I Met Your Mother (the leads may as well be called Ted and Barney) but it has that more adult, British twist to it in terms of the language and the style of humour.

More than the other two comedies in this list it’ll make you chuckle, but it also has a story that’s decent enough to sustain it.

Riverdale

Watched the first episode but it didn’t grab me. I think Pretty Little Liars has filled my ‘Teen Drama for BFFs’ quota for the next wee while.

Danger Man

A much older show, but I’ve recently started watching the 1960s Patrick McGoohan ITC show.

For when it was made it does seem high budget, and though the episodes tend to resolve far quicker than they should, it’s a decent watch.

Of course, knowing me as you do, dear readers, part of the fun is identifying the actors who have appeared in Doctor Who at one point or another.

Let’s just say when Patrick Troughton showed up with his Salamander voice on, I was pretty thrilled.


Movies: The Cloverfield Paradox Review (or “Pish”)

February 6, 2018

This should have been a review of I, Tonya, but I’ve come to accept that I just can’t go to the cinema after 8pm anymore without falling asleep.

So instead, we decided to stay in and watch The Cloverfield Paradox; that way if I fell asleep on the couch at least I could rewind bits.

And that’s exactly what happened because despite taking a couple of caffeine pills to keep me going, I did fall asleep. The pills did nothing…nothing!!

The thing is though, part of the reason I fell asleep was because this movie was pish. If it had been exciting, it would have kept my attention, but alas it didn’t.

So what was wrong with it?

Well, think of it like this…

Imagine a really good episode of Doctor Who. No matter what way you swing it, part of what makes it a good episode is because of The Doctor. There are other things going on, but the writing and performance of the lead character will add something to it. Without him, it wouldn’t be as entertaining.

Now imagine a poor episode of Doctor Who. Even in this example at least you’d have the acting and performance of someone like David Tennant or Peter Capaldi to provide a little chink of light,

Finally, imagine a poor episode of Doctor Who without The Doctor, and then imagine that episode running for three times the length.

It gives you a cold shudder doesn’t it?

Well that’s what The Cloverfield Paradox was like. A poorly thought out, lazily written yawn fest on a space station that tried to be clever but failed to capture my imagination, and based on other reviews I just skimmed, everyone else’s too.

It took me about half an hour to even realise what was going on, and then once I did get up to speed, I just wasn’t impressed. It was dull ‘And Then There Were None’ stuff that seemed to exist solely to build to a ‘shocking’ twist that unnecessarily tied it in to the other Cloverfield films.

And that’s in spite of it having a stellar cast and what looked like a decent budget.

That all counts for nothing if the story doesn’t cut the mustard.

And this story did not.

You should avoid it, because like I say, it’s pish.