Film: The Evil Within [2017]

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Frederick Koehler as Dennis Peterson

I’m calling this an exploitation film. Why you ask? The answer may be long my friend. Again – I say it’s exploitative. And incredibly obscene and offensive. Parents of special needs children would find his film distressing. The main character Dennis suffers from a learning disability [I use this word with caution]. He also suffers from what I would consider mental illness. Befriended by a ‘demon’ he embarks on a downward spiral of killing starting off with animals and culminating with those closest to him. So here might be the problem – some might consider this film casts a certain negative stereotype on those folk in society that are vulnerable enough as it is. However, I’m not sure the late Andrew Getty [director] even thought about such a thing. I get the feeling he just wanted to make a really scary horror flick. And that it is not. For sure this is a B grade movie around the edges. But to give it some credit there is the revered Michael Berryman as that ‘creature’. And the makeup/FX dept did a good job with him. Then there is the acting by Frederick Koehler as the ‘simple’ Dennis – which is really, really good. In fact, so good I sometimes forgot this film was an amateur, self funded, self indulgent flick by a rich kid. At times I was enjoying a deft horror piece and I rate Koehler highly. But every time we left Fred and Berryman the film showed up it’s flaws. The supporting cast of actors were crap. The cinematography outside the dreams-capes was amateur. And a few to many one liners were cringe inducing [but not in a classic B horror way]. I digress. Does the film warrant spending your leisure money on an outing at the cinema? Nope. No way. Whilst not the worst it is still a piece of rubbish overall. It will be distressing to a large portion of the population. Remember I said it was exploitative? If educators and parents get wind of this movie I see protests and petitions for it to be banned. And most certainly an R18 label attached. Patricia Bartlet might even come back from the dead to do battle.

This is my second film at the New Zealand International Film Festival. Heading to my third helping this evening.NZIFF

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Michael Berryman as The Demon

Film: Super Dark Times

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Charlie Tahan as Josh

Do parents the world over know what their teenage boys are up to? Probably not. Teens can be feral. They make poor choices. Things can get out of control quickly. They stay stom. Bad shit happens then gets worse and worse. Boys get jealous over girls and rivalries erupt. Super Dark Times directed by Kevin Phillips is a journey into the warped mines of a group of four boys. It’s a disturbing coming of age film which reminds us how bad decisions have lingering effects. It’s well written and I take my hat off to the Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski writing team. The entire cast can also take a bow – this was so well acted. I’ll single out a few stand outs though: Owen Campbell as Zach, Charlie Tahan as Josh, and finally Max Talisman as Darryl. These three young men have bright futures on the big screen. All their performances in this film are worthy of awards. They were utterly convincing as teenage freaks. Their portrayals hit a raw nerve with me as I reminisce back to my own younger days which were in the same era as this film is set. How I made it through to adulthood is a miracle. In fact how any young man survives high school is a tribute to Providence for sure. Super Dark Times is my first film at the New Zealand International Film Festival and I’m looking forward to the next one tonight. [Great film line up by the way]. Go here for the schedule and latest updates: NZIFF

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New Zealand International Film Festival – Check out the amazing line up.

 

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Elizabeth Cappuccino as Allison and Owen Campbell as Zach :: Super Dark Times

TV: I’m Dying Up Here

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RJ Cyler , Michael Angarano , Clark Duke 

At first I wondered if this Showtime comedy offering was killing me. But I’m pleased to say I’m still alive and now three episodes in I’m really enjoying it. Centered around ‘Goldie’s’ comedy club, the series explores the life and work of a group of comics in LA in the early 70s. While some of the stand up routines on Goldie’s stage aren’t all that funny, the situation comedy in between is enough to make me snort into my drink. I’ve looked after comedians in real life and have always found them to be a fragile bunch. Comedy is after all a confidence game and it doesn’t take much for a joker to start down that slippery slope of self doubt. I’ve had to coach, counsel and cajole comedians onto stages. Going as far as to get one funny man to get back out there after an interval – he thought people weren’t laughing hard enough at his jokes in the first half. So I watch this TV series with a level of understanding and appreciation for the script and the boys and girls delivering their one-liners. If you haven’t seen I’m Dying Up Here by David Flebotte, I urge you to track it down and strap yourself in. It’s a good one.

Film: The Wizard of Lies

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Robert De Niro is Bernard Madoff & Michelle Pfeiffer is Ruth Madoff

This HBO film speaks to a number of things. Greed, fraud, tragedy, and not least the thousands of victims at the hands of Bernie Madoff’s record setting Ponzie scheme. Based on Diana Henriques book, this Barry Levinson directed made for TV film is riveting. The inevitable question of whether ‘Ruth’ played by Michelle Pfeiffer was complicit is explored. As are the roles of the two sons. We’ll never fully know but my own personal feeling is they turned a blind eye. They would have seen the tell tale signs but chose to believe in an alternate reality. And what are we to make of Mr De Nero and his portrayal of Bernie? Robert never disappoints. His acting is sublime and he was a perfect casting move. Gawd – didn’t the hair and makeup dept do a good job? A dead ringer if ever there was one! So long story short – I highly recommend this flick and will be heading out to get Henriques book as well.

 

Film: Sexy Beast [2000]

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Actor Ray Winstone is Gary “Gal” Dove in Sexy Beast

The heist movie you never saw but should. Sexy Beast flew somewhat under the radar on release which is a shame. Not your average crime drama – it is an intimate psychotic thriller in two parts. There is the retired safe cracker ‘Gal’ in his Spanish love nest who’s wonderful new life gets disrupted by an unwelcome visitor from his past. Cue the wonderful Ben Kingsley as crazy Don. Kingsley delivers one of the best nut-case performances of all times. The lines in his sections of script are for the ages. Then Part 2 sees the film shift to London. But you’ll need to see the film to find out what happens. I want to go back to Kingsley – arguably the star of this flick. What a visceral performance. I’m sure he tapped deep into his dark self and to give ‘Don’ a certain realism that reminded me of some so called wise guys I have known. Yes; I have known hard dudes that lost their marbles long ago. Anyways, look for this film on Rialto. Or if you still have a video store in your neighborhood – it is well worth the effort to hunt down this movie. And here is a pic of Ben as Don in a scene talking to himself:

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Ben Kingsley as psycho Don Logan

Book: The Gunslinger

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The Dark Tower Book 1 :: The Gunslinger

The movie is coming so I needed to sneak in a little reading. I have not read a King book I didn’t like. And this is no exception. Relatively short by Stephen King’s standards, it still had enough in it to be satisfying. Fans of his ‘horror’ work may not have given this fantasy offering a go. Now is the time. He always wanted to write a ‘Western’ and along with an acknowledged love of Tolkien he seems have to melded a few different genres here. I was skeptical at first but now I’ve completed book 1 I’m heading out to get ‘The Drawing of the Three’ – book 2. So what’s the Gunslinger about? Well, look at it like this – a quest of sorts in a parallel universe where the central figure is a cowboy/lawman called Roland. He pursues ‘The Man in Black’ who is his main adversary. And there is a link to present day earth in our universe. Yes it’s weird – but in a good way. Just trust me on this one. You will like it. And I have high hopes for the film.

Film: Dunkirk [2017]

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Harry Styles left – Cillian Murphy right

This film is special but not for the usual reasons. In fact it is not a movie in the usual sense. There is no real plot to speak of. Hardly any dialogue. The screen play is not ‘normal’. So what is it? It’s the kind of thing I might expect to see in a museum’s multi media display in the WW2 exhibit in order to give people a sense of what it was like to be in this theater of war. And this is the crux of the matter – it really is an assault on the senses and does give a cinematic experience the likes I have not seen before. It is non stop action. And what elevates it to the next level is the soundscape. If you are luckily enough to have a hometown cinema with the latest audio technology you will understand what I mean. The film is not gory. It does not need to be. It is the sound effects and score which fuck people up. The opening sequence with the ‘rhythmic heart beat’ – slowly building as the tension rises. One feels a lump rising in the throat. Faster and faster it gets. And this is why I love this flick. I hope it wins big in technical categories at the Oscars. Some acting faces you will recognize include Harry Styles [One Direction]; Cillian Murphy [Peaky Blinders], and a personal favorite of mine – Tom Hardy. Now folk – you be wondering whether to spend your dough on this film. YES! This film only really works on the big screen. It must be seen to be believed. And I hope you appreciate the audio. Highly recommended. Director: Christopher Nolan.

Film: Baby Driver

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Ansel Elgort is Baby

Boy racers, petrol heads and fans of a heist film; roll up – roll up! Be amazed with some nifty car chase choreography! And dazzled with some first shooter video game style killing. And question whether you can suspend disbelief when you see Jon Hamm playing a character that is not Don Draper [Mad Men]. I’m being a cheeky shit. While not exactly a ‘non-stop action genre’ flick; it comes dangerously close at times. And I was worried. But perhaps I was over thinking things. Ultimately while I’m not the target market for this film, writer/director Edgar Wright has put together a tight car chase movie that will please young men the world over. It works. In fact it works quite well. Helped a lot by actor Ansel Elgort who plays a fragile young man pressed into an underworld he struggles to free himself from. I liked Kevin Spacey as ‘Doc’ – the mysterious bank robber king pin. And Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers is pressed into service himself – as himself! So casting was overall quite good. Now, whats the verdict? Under 30s will love it. Over 40s will hate it. Whilst not my first choice on a Saturday night at the cinema, I respect it. It’s a quality presentation so well done Edgar and team. There will surely be a sequel.

TV: Twin Peaks 2017

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Kyle MacLachlan

That weirdo show we grew to love in 1990 is back! And thus begins my efforts to try and figure out what the hell is going on. To say Twin Peaks is surreal is an understatement. OMG. Oh my gawd. This re-boot is oddly enough really good. Putting my neck on the line here – it’s actually way better than the original. Much more scary. With a healthy dose of gore. It has the look and feel of a supernatural horror more so than the first time around. But even the 1990s version was a bit ‘metaphysical’ especially near the end of its cycle. Kyle MacLachlan is really good as Cooper again – of course – he owns the role after all. I still like ‘Hawke’. But if there was a downside, it’s the others that are being trotted out. I’ve been excited to see the old hands at first. But mostly to see whether they have aged well. After that I’d be happy to see the old characters disappear and allow a new crop of actors to take charge. And there are plenty of fresh faces on parade. Am I being unkind to the likes of Dana Ashbrook AKA Bobby Briggs? Maybe. And how can I justify my earlier statement that the new show is better than original?I think it could be a really good screen play and some tight writing I’m picking up on. The dreamscapes are cooler. And I like MacLachlan. And I find myself strangely addicted 3 episodes in. Desperately wanting to know what the hell is going on. Poor Cooper.

TV: All Round to Mrs Brown’s

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Pamela Anderson & Brendan O’Carroll

I like Pamela Anderson and I like Mrs Brown but not together in the new show – All Round To Mrs Brown’s. I don’t give a shit about celebrities. I just want Agnes, Buster, Winnie and the usual cast of characters. I want my sitcom back! This latest offering is stilted. It’s awkward as feck. Come’on Brendan – get those creative juices running again. Get writing. Get back to that vulgar and bawdy humor we love so much from our favorite Irish nan. And get rid of those desperate has been’s that are touring the talk show circuit.