Incarnate (Review)

It’s a premise that demands a swiftly cancelled TV show; Dr Ember (Aaron Eckhart) is a wheelchair bound non-denominational exorcist who – with jaws firmly clenched – leads a small team of alterna-types as they rid various unfortunates of their unwanted spirits.

It’s a tough gig with (you would think) a limited client base, and let’s not ponder how a team of four makes enough scratch to exist, let alone fund such operations.

Actually let’s not ponder muchly at all.

Ember and co pursue a lead that takes them to 11 year old Cameron and his single mum, a woman understandably distraught but still maintaining sufficient awareness to be skeptical of claims that these dishevelled beatniks make of being able to ‘hack into’ her young son’s brain.

But ultimately he is possessed by a demon. Sometimes you have to go the extra mile.

After ‘incepting’ (only the first of many stolen ideas) Ember swiftly recognises clues that suggest this is no ordinary supernatural squatter. So begins a cat and mouse game through a child’s mind, with two determined interlopers vying for control.

Incarnate is a messy gumbo of stolen ideas (Inception, Flatliners, The First Power, Fallen), only without the ability to work them into something effective. Instead, like Fallen, the film discards each flimsy concept as it disintegrates, moving swiftly to another purloined moment.

The only nanoseconds to grab your attention are also predictable, namely the possessee acting strangely due to the influence of the possessor. Young Cameron speaks in an unnaturally deep voice. He speaks in tongues. He moves about in impossible ways. He can influence others. These are all cool cinematic concepts but not for a second are they original. That the film would expect us to be stunned is akin to handing someone a can of Coke and being grumpy when they aren’t blown away by the flavour explosion…

Final Rating – 5 / 10. Incarnate isn’t the Satan’s spawn the above might make it appear to be, but it’s far from worthiness.

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Now You See Me 2 (Review)

It has only been a couple years since Now You See Me was released, and like the title inadvertently suggested the film had already departed my memory banks. So a quick, spoiler free, reminder; four magicians with various specialties joined to become magic (and major crime committing) gang called The Four Horseman, becoming a global sensation in the process.

Woody Harrelson plays a hypnotist, Dave Franco a pickpocket, Isla Fisher is/was an expert at sleight of hand, and Jesse Eisenberg is the mastermind and showman behind the whole operation.

Well they’re still around, though the one played by Isla Fisher is now played by Lizzy Caplan, and Mark Ruffalo is the FBI agent still on their tail.

Since the initial shenanigans another global sensation has arisen in the form of a man who has invented a computer program that changes lives, only it is suspected by those in the know, that this new program is poised to extract personal information from the unknowing public and use it for more nefarious purposes.

The Four Horsemen must once again saddle up.

With so many magicians and so many sleeves, there are a great many rabbits to be summoned from seemingly nowhere. Too many, and this film jumps the shark early. It wasn’t the eccentric billionaire magic uber fan played by Daniel Radcliffe that tipped the scales, probably Woody Harrelson’s heretofore never mentioned identical twin that convinced me that this trick wasn’t worth becoming enveloped in.

Though the film believes it has us under its spell already, and takes incredible liberties in pretending that the horses not onscreen is really spun gold.

The film ‘thinks’ it boasts two pivotal sequences that illustrate our heroes’ abilities, though one is a pathetic and amateurish CGI dominated scene that tracks a card that must not be spotted, and the other relies on the old ‘hey they’re amazing!’ insta-crowd reaction to suggest the drab goings on are in fact astounding and worthy of going viral.

The first film was harmless and ultimately forgettable. It was not worthy of a sequel but here we are. This one sucks. First because we already knew the trick, second, because it wasn’t that good to begin with.

The fact that a mostly A grade cast sleepwalks through this pay check is evident early, but that won’t make you feel any better for being duped again by The Four Horsemen of Mediocrity.

This film might knock them dead at the magician’s conference, as it is probably how they see their impact in their minds, but it is just another bunch of hankies masquerading as doves.

Final Rating – 5.5 / 10. The biggest magic trick was conjuring a sequel out of nothing. You gotta know when to hold em and know when to fold em…

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The Seventh Sign (Review)

thesevensignA river bleeds. The fish boil. A desert city freezes over.

Small but undeniably weird things are happening the world over. Seemingly unrelated, but are they?

Half a world away Russell (Michael Beihn) and Abby (Demi Moore) await the birth of their first child, after a history of painful complications and unfortunate experiences.

With the new arrival imminent money is tight. Russ and Abby decide to let out a vacant room. The mysterious David Banner (Jurgen Prochnow) appears one stormy night to apply for the vacancy. In the weeks that follow he hovers in the shadows, broody and enigmatic, always armed with a frankly ominous aside.

As religious types look forlornly at an increasingly broken world, Abby’s once routine pregnancy becomes increasingly difficult. The couple look for possible reasons and solutions, but to no avail. This is nothing that doctors have seen previously.

And elsewhere on the planet something bizarre and portentous takes place, and David Banner casually provides another reference to a disaster that could precede the end of the world.

This is Demi’s film and she shines in the period before she decided it was easier to take off her clothes than to give an actual acting performance. Here though she isn’t asked to do much more than mimic the audience, namely appearing confused and worried for her unborn child.

There was a brief but worthwhile era of cheap films with theological and / or paranormal themes in the 80s. The Seventh Sign doesn’t reach the (modest) heights of The First Power or The Prophecy, but it serves well enough as a reasonable Rosemary’s Baby via The Exorcist facsimile.

Final Rating – 6.5 / 10. As far as films about the potential coming of the Antichrist go, this is another one.

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Underworld 5: Blood Wars (Review)

You know the awkward moments when someone takes a joke that wasn’t funny in the first place, way too far?

The Underworld franchise was never meant to be funny – and its wilful absence of humour is an issue in itself – but the second these po-faced S&M rocking cosplayers started crapping on about the centuries long vampire vs werewolves feud aaaagaaain, the joke was already tedious.

It’s long past that. Looooong.

Underworld 5 (seriously, 5. Name two others. I dare you) opens with Selene (poor Kate Beckinsale riding the dissipating wave that is her career) once again running solo. She has no allies, no friends, no family and no reason to still be here.

Atop this is the realisation that both lycan (the werewolf aka) and vampire hunt her, while simultaneously seeking her daughter Eve, who is said to hold the key to winning this never ending war. Twenty minutes in and I was praying intently that they would find her and put an end to all this.

This is politics and backstabbery with a plot that makes as much sense as a Kanye West concert rant. Consider that in a battle between lycan and vampire – both species renowned for their fang-work – almost every battle has them firing guns at each other. Magic guns (or something) yes; but guns. That’s like boxers deciding battles with games of Scrabble.

So many lengthy plot describing scenes. So much tedium.

How could something with a plot so stupid, made by people who stole ideas from the Blade trilogy and production ideas from Game of Thrones, be so serious?

Only a few years ago I pondered whether Underworld was more meritorious than the (also execrable) Resident Evil franchise. Somehow I saw Underworld coming out on top, but I see it now as a stalemate. I mean at least Resident Evil knew when to stop. Eventually. Apparently there’s another one of Selene’s stories on the way!

There must be a niche audience for this. Even with the reusing of costumes, sets and Blade 2 plots, made in low budget Eastern Europe, surely the filmmakers realise people must feel the need to buy tickets. How does putting Beckinsale on a poster firing guns work? I mean Beckinsale has zero box office draw beyond this film series, and there hasn’t been a good film in this franchise yet.

At least in some of the earlier films you could pretend to enjoy the action sequences. Well maybe you could in #4, the only film in the series that threatened to entertain, and the only reason I got fooled into watching this… this… sadness.

Perhaps the greatest trick the franchise ever pulled was convincing 1% of the population that it had a reason to exist?

Final Rating – 4.5 / 10. A series about mythical fanged beasties with zero bite.

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The Vigilante Diaries (Review)

Ok here’s how dumb this film is; the title is ‘The Vigilante Diaries’, and the film is broken down into chapters that the filmmakers helpfully label as ‘journal entries’.

Wait, shouldn’t they be ‘diary ent-?…’

Ah forget it.

The Vigilante is a guy.

Think Kick-Ass, then think Super, then think Watchmen, then skoll an entire bottle of scotch and bash your forehead against a wall. Whatever you’re capable of retaining, that’s the Vigilante.

Despite that the Vigilante is well liked by all bad criminals, because he kills them and their friends. But he isn’t a lone wolf, more a pack leader, as various DIY superheroes – all with awkward AKA’s – congregate around him, jabbering inanely while Vigilante preens and primps himself on the tallest rock.

When crime gangs of various nationalities threaten… something… probably national security or cute puppies or something in between, our group of muscleheads must don their Gears of War style outfits and prepare a series of God-awful quips, so as to lay waste to the bad guys.

Think of the worst bits of Taken 2 and 3, then the team bonding sequences in Suicide Squad, before recalling how pathetic Smoking Aces was… actually The Vigilante Diaries fits right in with all of these, only with a couple moments that Pulp Fiction should sue for, and a randomly cute Asian chick every 20 minutes or so.

Oh, and Jason Mews is here, which I could have opened the review with to save you having to read 400 words to find out this film sucks.

Most of all, before you settle on crap like this; THINK!

Final Rating – 5 / 10. Like The Mutant Chronicles, The Vigilante Diaries has a stupidly pompous title. And like The Mutant Chronicles, it sets up a sequel that will never come.

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Trespass (Review)

trespassTrespass is more evidence that director Walter Hill often had times when he opted to make ‘something’ rather than waiting for the ‘right thing’.

A paint by numbers siege tale that finds two off duty firemen Vince (Bill Paxton) and Dom (William Sadler) in possession of a literal treasure map that takes them to a run down slum building in the ghetto, on the hunt for long lost gold, Trespass clearly delineates the ‘good vs bad’, but can’t do much beyond having them yell at each other through a wall.
The ‘bad’ in this case is a gang of ‘urban threats’ (black guys) who have the poor timing to waste some sucker punk in front of Vince and Dom.

*sigh* Now we must kill these white fools too.

And that’s about the extent of things. Dom and Vince want out,  King James (Ice T) and his crew (Ice Cube among them) can’t afford to let them out.

It’s the same premise as last year’s far superior Green Room, which made practically the same film, only with far more flair and impact.

This is not nearly as creative. In fact a sure sign of its banality is when the best bit is clearly the aggressive rap song that plays over the credits. When the thing that wakes you up takes place after the story is complete, that’s not good folks.

Final Rating – 6 / 10. With Walter Hill it seems you must sift through the good and the bad, this falls somewhere in between.

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Hacksaw Ridge (Review)

Stop me if you’ve heard this before; a story of courage that permits Mel Gibson to indulge in his most violent sequences, the kind of grotesque imagery that he undoubtedly sees in his dreams that find him waking in an aroused state?

Braveheart right? No. Surely Apocalypto? Did The Passion of the Christ have a sequel?

Ladies and gents, welcome to Hacksaw Ridge.

(And damn it Mel, you’ve done it again.)

Andrew Garfield plays Desmond Doss, a man of sincere religious principle who abhors violence but nonetheless wants to stand up for his country in World War 2.

After enlisting Doss finds his fellow soldiers and superiors highly dubious of his courage and commitment, what with his avowing not to carry or use a weapon of any kind. They give him the worst jobs and when that doesn’t work, the worst beatings, yet still Doss moves forward, fuelled by the strength of his admittedly contradictory convictions.

No one believes in Doss. Not abusive sergeant Howell (Vince Vaughn), not dismissive Captain Glover (Sam Worthington), certainly not any of his fellow soldiers who want and deserve a man who will have their back in battle. They doubt he will even be useful as a medic. Openly and often.

Bruised but undeterred, Doss sticks to his (no) guns all the way to the titular Hacksaw Ridge, which begins with a sheer cliff face that must be ascended before even the risk of Japanese rifle fire and artillery threaten to shred these brave men to shreds arrives.
6 times they have tried and failed. Doss and his company arrive on the eve of the seventh assault.

Despite victory being unlikely, the US forces continue to try to take this vital location, with success bringing easier access to avenues of further attack.

The cast is uniformly effective, with Garfield being the obvious centrepiece, adding to an increasingly varied resume that goes well beyond the ill fated webslinging. But it is the battle sequences which are the stars here. And now, director Gibson gets to indulge his inner demons.

The conflict scenes are predictably bloody and intense, a noisy din of explosions and pulverised flesh. While I have previously suggested that such films be released periodically to remind us of the horror of war, I can’t help but feel that Gibson derives some perverse form of satisfaction from eviscerating these hordes of historical brave young men.

Still he does it well.

Throughout the battle and especially in the blood drenched aftermath, Doss must find a way to contribute, and he does, as the filmed testaments that close the film inform us, this was a true story of courage against the nightmare backdrop of war.

Final Rating – 7.5 / 10. Mel Gibson will undoubtedly take a lot of baggage with him into the afterlife, but he is leaving a few worthy films behind at least.

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A Most Violent Year (Review)

New York City. Circa 1980. A city experiencing its highest crime rate on record (hence the title).

Abel (Oscar Isaac) and Anna Morales (Jessica Chastain) run a heating supply delivery business, one that they are striving to build a niche in an aggressive and thou competitive market.

They are both headstrong and determined to succeed, with three young daughters to raise.

Abel and his lawyer Andrew Walsh (Albert Brooks) have identified a property purchase that they feel will provide them with a competitive advantage, but with the finances already strained and the banks reluctant to extend further credit, they must consider private financing at high interest and higher stakes.

Exacerbating the tension is the sudden onset of truck-jackings of their oil delivery vehicles, which cost them profit, product and trust from their staff.

The police are little help and their competitors see little reason to intervene seeing as they stand to profit from Abel’s loss. Abel refuses to resort to violence of his own for fear of risking his license to continue in business.

Pressure mounts from all sides, but Abel and Anna only grow more determined to make things work.

Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain ensure that you ride every bump and endure the rising tension alongside them. You feel the pressure and ponder the implications of each new conundrum that confronts them.

It doesn’t sound riveting, but for the most part it is.

Sometimes to be original one must take some risks. The risk A Most Violent Year takes is to be misunderstood as a ‘boring’ film.

But writing this film off as boring would be missing the point. Perhaps the title will mislead those wanting gore, shootouts and explosions, because this film doesn’t overflow with those things, but this is a character driven drama about a young couple during a pivotal time for their business enterprise.

If that doesn’t tempt you – and to be fair it didn’t tempt me for a couple years since this was released – then you’ll continue missing out on a well crafted and meritorious film. Still, if big explosions etc are your only ‘thing’, that fact alone shouldn’t bother you. Maybe stop reading here and go drop some Mentos into a bottle of Coke.

Final Rating – 7.5 / 10. A most violent year? According to stats. A most interesting year? Mostly. A most competent (if not always compelling) film? Yes.

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Blair Witch 2016 (Review)

It must have been hard to justify a remake/reboot whatever of Blair Witch, the first 90s viral property that took a single idea and spun straw into box office gold.

It must have been hard to find someone to rework the plot about young documentary makers searching for the legendary Blair Witch that was said to be haunting the woods near a small town. But they managed it, and here we have a bunch of young documentary makers searching for the young documentary makers who went missing some twenty years ago when searching for the legendary Blair Witch that was said to be haunting the woods near a small town.

It must have been hard to find the right director. Someone who could elevate this beyond a series of toddler craft level omens, confusing forest trails and late night strolls in pitch darkness. But they managed, get ready for more omens, trails and strolls.

It must have been hard to find actors who could bring something new to their performances and not simply replicate the exhaustion, uncertainty and ultimately blind panic of the original trio. But by jingo they did it, with all new trudging, yelling, sniping and screaming.

Well surely it must have been hard to come up with new scares?


Just more cracks in the darkness? Just more cursing at faulty equipment? Just more running aimlessly and glimpsing movement in the bushes?


It would seem that the only new thing Blair Witch 2016 brings to the table is the tech. They use a drone, GPS and go-pros. Of course one of these help in any meaningful way, as anyone who has seen the Paranormal Activity films would already know.

But BW 2016 isn’t about introducing new things. It’s about reintroducing old things. Legendary things. Things of yore.

It must have been hard justifying a remake that brings nothing new to the table. So hard to try to justify a low budget film with no name actors that rides the coattails of the film that was dollar for dollar the most profitable of all time (it made a quarter BILLION dollars!). So hard to bring credibility to a project when knowing that it only needs a small audience of people too young for the original film to pony up their allowance to be scared in new (and entirely the exact same) ways.

Yep. Real hard.

In saying that, anyone who saw the first film should know that – however unmeritorious this all seems – it’s pretty easy to generate a few scares from innocent people running terrified into the night. Just remember; continued silence = unnerving, and; constant noise = annoying.

Too often this film forgets the former and settles for the latter, but as far as entry level horror goes, well there’s plenty of that nowadays, and still not much reason for this.

Final Rating – 6 / 10. Once more into the dark woods my friends. Let us stumble and scream once more. Filming all the way.

And invariably again in 2018.

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Velvet Goldmine (Review)

velvet_goldmine_ver2At the dawning of a new decade (the 70s) and a new age in music Brian Slade is the Nu King, a flamboyant eccentric who dons non-gender specific attire and sings ultra sexual songs full of innuendo and accompanied by much writhing and suggestion on stage and in the music videos.

This is his story, as investigated and told by meek reporter Arthur Stewart (Christian Bale).

Like Michael Jackson and Prince in the 80s, Madonna and every female singer in the 90s, and Taylor Swift vs everyone in modern times, Brian Slade has a rival *slash* nemesis *slash* muse in Curt Wild (Ewan McGregor), a fearless trailblazer and glam pioneer known for his outrageous behaviour and unforgettable performances. His live concert histrionics are undoubtedly central to whether you will find this film memorable or not.

Frankly I didn’t. The film wooges along like a two hour dream sequence, with Brian and Curt occasionally coming into each other’s trajectory, and miscellaneous agents, girlfriends, wives and boyfriends providing sporadic friction and tension.

I found Velvet Goldmine to be like many famous people’s accounts. Of the 70s; overlong, hard to recall and full of people trying like crazy to stand out, but ultimately all blurring together into one mildly disappointing amalgam of drab humanity.

For a decade I passed over Velvet Goldmine under the assumption that – while it might indeed be very good – it likely wasn’t my thing. I never fawned over Bowie, Culture Club or any of the vaguely androgynous stars of the 70s and 80s, and biopics of characters I don’t find all that interesting rarely wow me.

Now, having watched the film, I can say not only am I still not besotted with the glam era that this film portrays, but that the film itself isn’t nearly as excellent as it was made out to be.

Final Rating – 6.3 / 10. In Glam, the more outrageous you are, the more famous you become, Velvet Goldmine ultimately succumbs to this misguided way of thinking, but it takes more than some frilly outfits and boys kissing to make a masterpiece.

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