Review- ‘Upgrade’ (2018)

Review- ‘Upgrade’ (2018)

Following a mugging in which his wife was killed and he was made a quadriplegic, Grey Trace has an AI chip installed into his neck that makes his seemingly super-human. He then goes after the bad guys who killed his wife and left him for dead.

I knew nothing about this movie but just knew that it was critically acclaimed (Thank you, Rotten Tomatoes) and so rocked up to the screening. I was amazed! This film is fantastic.

Yes, leading actor Logan Marshall-Green looks like Tom Hardy’s twin. Yes, the film’s plot seems eerily close to the storyline of Hardy’s upcoming Venom. Upgrade is a great film and will quite possibly be in my list of the year’s best films.

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The action sequences are terrific and theres more of a passing nod to a comic book type vision for the film’s look and feel. Check out the bar that Grey goes to to try to find his wife’s killers.

But there’s also emotional depth here. This is especially seen in the scenes where Grey tries to adopt to life in a wheelchair with his mother taking over the small tasks of everyday life that he could do before the mugging. The scene in which he bursts into tears at his own newly discovered inability is unexpected but very welcome in a futuristic action movie like this. It provides extra layers to a movie that in lesser hands would be more generic fare. He is later seen trying to take an overdose.

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Tom Hardy Logan Marshall-Green

Whilst there is gritty action and heartbreaking emotional depth to the film there is also laugh out loud humour also. Check out the scene where Grey fights an adversary with STEM in control for the first time. Marshall-Green’s comic timing is impeccable.

Some of the action sequences end gorily- in fact, very gorily. There was more than one occasion during the screening in which audience members where audibly grossed out at special effects that seem to be straight out of a video nasty. And if you’re a gorehound like me thats a great thing.

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In fact, one gore scene reminded me of the left sequence from Drive. There are faint echoes of many other films within Upgrade (including The Matrix, 2001, Scanners, Blade Runner and it’s sequel, Westworld… Hell, it even reminded me of Knight Rider. Yes, it’s that good!) but you never get the feeling that Upgrade if ripping off these ideas and blending them together, hoping the audiences and critics won’t notice. Upgrade feels fresh, original and innovative- because it is.

An amazing film- don’t miss it.

4/5 out of 5.

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Review- ‘Searching’ (2018)

Review- ‘Searching’ (2018)

A girl goes missing. Or has she been abducted? Her father digs deeper to try and find his daughter.

A film that takes place either through words, pictures and footage on instant messenger, FaceTime or social media. The telling of the story through these mediums feels innovative to begin with but grates by the end of the movie.

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Great performances all round, an ending that feels a bit forced and rushed though.

But I’m not going to criticise a horror movie that strives for innovation and originality. Even though this movie doesn’t hit all of it’s targets it deserves applause.

2/5 out of 5

Review- ‘The Meg’ (2018)

Review- ‘The Meg’ (2018)

Theres ‘good bad’ and theres ‘bad bad’. This is definitely ‘bad bad’.

The Megalodon was a huge shark thought to be extinct. A research expedition into deeper levels of the ocean finds that ol’ Meg is still alive. Megsy then decides to move away from these deeper ocean depths and invade the shallower depths of the sea which the expedition came from in search of human chow.

This film contains the worst CGI since Escape From LA which just reinforces to me that this was made to make money and for no other reason. John Carpenter’s film at least had the excuse of being made when CGI as we know it was in it’s infancy.

The CGI in The Meg was so bad that a scene that should have contained a huge jump scare looked so fake and artificial just before said scare that you just knew something was going to happen. And it did. And zero forks were given.

This film also contains some of the worst most stereotypical and generic characters that I’ve ever seen- the cutesy little girl (far too irritating for her own good and deserves to become shark fodder), the edgy female scientist (tattoos, Lara Croft hair, probably a lesbian) the comedic black character (he makes Jovial Jemima look restrained. Time to send back your NAACP membership card, Page Kennedy).

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Edgy. And stereotypical.

Rainn Wilson has a face for radio, not for film. ”Why has he been cast in such a role?” I thought whilst watching this cinematic abortion. Then it hit me. His brash billionaire character who is in part responsible for bringing The Meg into our waters seems to be based on Elon Musk- someone else with a face for radio and a personality just as rancid.

Jason Statham is a great action hero. That is until he opens his mouth and undoes all of his good work. I have a theory- the more dialogue Statham has to deliver in a film, the worse the film is.

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Jason Statham with his mouth closed. Hooray!

We get the obligatory scene of Jason just out of the shower and only wearing a towel. So what. A Google search for such fare is cheaper and more painfree than watching this movie.

There are also some of the most awkward ‘comedy’ moments that I’ve ever seen. Lines that aren’t funny and have never been funny being delivered completely ineptly.

The film also changes gear and intent about two thirds of the way through. From being a suspense filled horror film (which it utterly fails at) the film then thinks it can master the ‘Sharknado’ sub-genre of ‘oh so camp, tongue in cheek’ horror movies (it can’t even master this- some feat).

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A Jaws reference. And another reminder that you could be watching Spielberg’s masterpiece instead of ‘The Meg’.

The Meg feels like a really anaemic, formulaic and boring straight to video movie from the early 90’s that has had millions thrown at it and given a theatrical release. It’s out of time and out of place. A bit like the megalodon really.

1 out of 5

The Day John Waters Taught Me Film

The Day John Waters Taught Me Film

On 8th November 2013 John Waters performed his one-man show at Liverpool Philharmonic and was on top form. I attended this show and had a whale of a time. There was a signing session after the show and the line to get stuff signed was HUGE.

But not many people knew that there was to be a very special event the next day. Mr Waters was to teach the Film Studies class at John Moores University. There would be a screening of one of his favourite films, Boom! and then he would talk about it. This event was private and not open to the public- but I managed to blag tickets.

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A pic I took just before the event was due to begin

As soon as I saw Waters walk in I thought I was dreaming- I was sharing the same oxygen as The Filth Elder.

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The Prince of Puke in da house

We then watched the movie Boom! And I can see why it’s one of Waters’ favourites. It’s fucking insane. Midget guards, Noel Coward and some of the best lines of dialogue in any film (An example- Liz Taylor’s character at one point says to no one in particular- ‘Hot sun, cool breeze, white horse on the sea, and a big shot of vitamin B in me!’)

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The insanity is off the scale. Boom! is a masterpiece.

After the film Waters spoke about the making of the film, why he likes it and how it has influenced his own work. He then opened up the discussion to us so that we could all talk about it.

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”Anyway- the singing anus…”

We then talked about film in general and specifically his films. It was amazing. We could ask him anything. I’d be here all day if I tried to recall all of the anecdotes but I’ll tell you one. Waters was asked about the song he wrote for Serial Mom that L7 (called ‘Camel Lips’ in the film) called Strait Jacket. He said that he still  received sizeable royalties from PRS because he wrote the song. He then said that if that was the case imagine what it must be like to be Madonna and the royalties she must receive!

This was such an amazing event and I felt so privileged to be there.

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The Master with an audience of jealous perverts. I’m so glad a photo exists of myself in the audience at the same event as The Sultan of Sleaze.

Review- Hereditary (2018)

Review- Hereditary (2018)

I was looking forward to this movie. Someone who had seen it in the States said that it was ‘grim’. Another said that it ‘stayed with you long after you’ve finished watching it’.

Having watched the movie I can now say that it is grim. But not in a good way. It’s the most pretensious, overly dramatic and ultimately vapid film I think I’ve ever seen.

In fact it reminds me of when I was at university studying film analysis. There was a drama department within the arts faculty. You just knew that the small minority of quiet and introspective drama students would go far whilst you got the feeling that those who were loud, strutting and attention seeking weren’t interested in acting at all but only in being centre stage. At the end of the year the drama students had to write and stage their own production which they would also act in.

Hereditary felt like the kind of end of year production that one of the extroverted dramatists would have produced if it had then been picked up by a film production company and allowed to pollute cinema screens worldwide. Hysterics are ramped up to the max whilst tension and depth, y’know the things that good horror should hinge on are nowhere to be seen. In fact, the only tension I experienced were by a couple near me who insisted on talking during the film. And they left halfway through. I was gutted and felt like running after them to try to persuade them to come back in.

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Maximum hysterics, no restraint

With Hereditary the film also seems to throw so many ideas into the pot that it really is a case of ‘Let’s throw all these ideas at the wall. Some are bound to stick!’ It didn’t work. In this age of remakes, sequels and reboots, especially within the horror genre, original and new ideas are paramount. It can still be done. Some critics and reviewers think this film might be the start of such a renaissance. It isn’t and I pity them.

I’m now going to watch Muriel’s Wedding- a genuine masterpiece that doesn’t squander Toni Collette’s considerable acting chops.

Hereditary is loud, hysterical, hyperactive and desperate for your attention. It’s clearly the James Corden of horror films.

1 out of 5

Lady Bird (2017)

Lady Bird (2017)

I actually went to see Lady Bird because the trailer was so good. Any film that uses ‘Days of Steam’ by John Cale instantly grabs my attention.

Lady Bird is a quirky film that makes me want to punch the air with delight. Thank Christ for all of the filmmakers who see things from a different perspective and dare to portray events by thinking outside of the box rather than just following the herd.

The lead character of Lady Bird is finishing up at school and waiting to go to college. The netherworld period of transition just before the bird leaves the comfort of the family nest is poignant, restless and full of conflicting emotions- a fact which doesn’t escape the filmmakers.

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There are gorgeous observations concerning family relationships and dynamics. One scene involves Lady Bird and her mother having a very serious and embittered argument in a thrift store. But this all ends abruptly on the discovery of a beautiful dress. Suddenly all resentments and grievances evaporate as mother and daughter bask in the glory of this maroon lace concoction.

Another thing about the film that I loved was the Catholic setting. It was refreshing that we have such a setting in a film and it isn’t full of cruelty and abuse (OK- maybe thats me as I’ve watched both Spotlight and Silent Night, Deadly Night recently). Watch out for the inspirational Mother Superior, the all too enthusiastic play director/wannabe football coach and the drama teacher. All great characters which compliment this unique film.

The entire cast are awe-inspiring. Saoirse Ronan owns the role of Lady Bird and is perfect. And its great to see Laurie Metcalfe on our screens again after years of watching Roseanne.

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Offbeat, innovative and original. Lady Bird deserves all of the praise its receiving at the moment.

4 out of 5

Review: ‘I, Tonya’ (2017)

Review: ‘I, Tonya’ (2017)

Like many people the only thing I knew about ice skater Tonya Harding before this film was the incident of violence that she inflicted upon Nancy Kerrigan. This film deals with Tonya’s upbringing and her life in general leading up to this point.

One striking feature of the film is that it well and truly breaks down the fourth wall with characters speaking to the audience and even disputing their version of events as the alleged events are being played out. Theres even one sequence in which Tonya’s mother admonishes the film’s screenwriters as she seems to have dried up in the film’s narrative.

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‘This didn’t happen!’- differing versions of events are played out and refuted directly to the audience

The film depicts the sheer insanity of the events that led up to the fateful encounter with Kerrigan but it never feels like this has been exaggerated or that it descends into farce. Theres an air of authenticity as we see the craziness and dysfunction unfurl before our bewildered eyes.

The setting of working class America also feels real, warts and all. The film depicts the obstacles to true success and the snobbery that Tonya has to endure and overcome. Theres an irony to the nouveau riche mothers, skaters and judges of ice skating looking down on Tonya for being cheap and trashy when all of the contestants are encouraged to look that way but without the actual poverty. The mainstream world of the sport doesn’t like the real thing but rather a contrived and affluent ‘faux’ version of it. It reminds me of a Dolly Parton quote- ‘It takes a lot of money to look this trashy’.

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The right kind of furs, the right kind of sequins- the trash aesthetic of the world of ice skating

But whilst many events in the film are hilarious and surreal, the incidents of domestic violence depicted are as harrowing and serious as they deserve to be. These sequences still disturb, as well they should.

There are amazing performances from the central three actors of Stan, Robbie and Jenney as Tonya’s mother- a force of nature who is great entertainment on the screen but would be a nightmare in real life.

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Mommie Dearest- Allison Janney as Tonya’s mother

A special mention is needed for the soundtrack- any film that features both Siouxsie and the Banshees and Fleetwood Mac is something very special indeed.

4 1/2 out of 5