Film: Happy Death Day

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Jessica Rothe as Theresa “Tree” Gelbmanption

Have you seen or know of the film ‘Groundhog Day’ starring Bill Murray? Well, Happy Death Day staring Jessica Rothe is the horror version. In the same way you can’t escape the Ground Hog-Death Day comparison, Jessica’s character cannot escape the deranged killer that murder’s her day after day after day. She does her best to alter the course of a seemingly infinite loop she is trapped in. And in the interests of not spoiling the plot I’ll stop at this point. It could be I’m not that smart, but I honestly did not pick the ending. Blumhouse Productions and Scott Lobdell out witted me. Several times I thought I knew how this story was developing. I even grabbed my jacket waiting for the closing credits as I thought the film was done and dusted. And I mouthed a quiet WTF… The film is clever. Not gory, but suspenseful with some deft acting and a tidy screen play. I say go see this one at the cinema everybody. We’re in October and Halloween is around the corner. ‘Tis the month for horror flicks. You will enjoy Happy Death Day.

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TV: The Deuce

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Maggie Gyllenhaal as ‘Candy’ sporting that wild blonde wig.

God fearing folk should keep clear of The Deuce. Although I bet, back in the day plenty folk from all walks of life ventured down to 42nd street and it’s environs. For all the channel surfers out there – make sure you track down this wonderful series set in the red light district of NYC in the 70s. Arguably, James Franco is the star what with his playing twin brothers Vincent Martino and Frankie Martino. But it’s really the girls on the street that make the series what it is. Maggie Gyllenhaal is a stellar actress and she gives a powerful and convincing performance as street hustler Candy. But a hats off to all the cast – everyone is just so good! From the pimps to the prostitutes. The mobsters to the wastrels. It’s such a convincing portrayal of street life. The screen play is excellent – good pacing and careful attention to detail. Don’t worry – it does not glamorize the porn industry. Any morals crusaders will be satisfied with this tawdry affair and Patricia Bartlett will not need to come back from the dead to challenge the censor. The Deuce clearly shows the degrading and dehumanizing reality of the adult entertainment industry. It’s gross. But here’s the rub – creators George Pelecanos and David Simon in their determination to tell a warts and all story have inadvertently created a dark masterpiece. I predict awards for their efforts. Expect The Deuce to win Emmys.

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James Franco and James Franco

Film: The Mountain Between Us

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Kate Winslet as Alex Martin and Idris Elba as Dr. Ben Bass.

If you’re a hopeless romantic then go to The Mountain Between Us. If you are looking for a gritty survival film, pack your gear and head to an actual mountain and make your own movie. My date and I were firmly split on this flick. I actually liked it. Helps I’m a fan of Kate and Idris. I liked the sappy,  over-sentimental feel of the screen play. It’s really good. A Mills and Boon type story set in the mountains. There’s nothing wrong with this. But my partner wanted something a little more adventurous. She wanted a tragedy of epic proportions and this film does not come anywhere close to this. Yes, the plane crashes in the mountains. They starve. They almost get eaten themselves. They fight each other over the best course of action and ultimately the ‘mountain between’ them is broken down into a mole hill. [Chuckle]. I’m gonna stop here. I’m not gonna tell you what to do with this film. See at cinema or wait for TV? Your call my friend. The mountains are calling though…  Perhaps I’ll track down a copy of the novel this film is based on and find a quiet cabin in the woods.

Film: Flatliners [2017]

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Ellen Page as Dr. Courtney Holmes

Well, I watched the Flatliners remake and it was a bit flat at times but not totally without life. And that’s where I should probably end, with a one liner. But let me push on. They brought back Kiefer Sutherland, albeit it, in a cameo role as a grumpy old doctor at the teaching hospital. Not much else to say about that. Was he supposed to give the film some cred? Waste of time. Can you believe I haven’t seen the original? Maybe that’s a good thing and therefore I’m not sullied. So there will be no comparisons here. As I said earlier – Flatliners is not totally without some life to it. The cast are actually all pretty good. I like Ellen Page and Diego Luna in particular. The basic idea behind the story is actually quite interesting and one would think it shouldn’t be too hard to create a horror masterpiece. But it just all falls down in the screen play dept. Think about this – what would David Lynch [Twin Peaks] have done with it? That’s right – imagine it. Imagine the possibilities and how this film could have been taken to the next level with a better writer, director and overall production. What a slam! But it’s true. The Flatliners remake is not the worse film. And it was OK overall. But listen to me now – wait for it to come to DVD or TV. It’s not worth shelling out your dough for a ticket to the cinema. Unless you’re like me who has already seen everything else and it has been raining for the last five days with no sign of let up.

Film: Blade Runner 2049

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Ryan Gosling as K [Joe] Harrison Ford as Rick Deckard

If you’re a ‘millennial’ I know the chances of you liking this re-boot of the 1982 classic is pretty low. If you’re a nerdy Dad then you’ll be trying to drag your teenager along for a bit of SciFi bonding time, but I’m here to tell you to stop. Your kids won’t ‘get it’. Hey Moms and Dad’s – you just take yourselves to the film and be delighted with a sequel that captures the spirit of the earlier flick perfectly. You will not be disappointed – it’s still neo-noir perfection. There’s plenty of rain. It’s dark a lot of the time. That is until they leave LA and head into the radioactive wasteland, for example. Ryan Gosling as ‘K’ is brilliant. It’s a pity Ford wasn’t more prominent in the story but I’m in a forgiving mood. You would have heard of people talking up the ‘slow-burner’ aspect of the story. And that’s quite correct. It is slow but that’s not a bad thing. The source material that is the novel called ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’ is deep. The ’82 film has been the subject of courses on campus grounds around the world. Blade Runner is all about big philosophical ideas, even bigger questions about what it means to be human and some cool gadgetry along the way. I want my flying cars, holo-decks, AI and an off-world pass. Yep – earth is so fucked up there aren’t even trees left. Get me off Earth immediately so I too can see ‘…attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion….C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time… like tears in rain…’. Stop stop! So what’s my verdict overall? See it on the big screen people. It’s really good. Don’t force your kids to come along. Once they’re a bit older, say at Uni, they’ll find the film and it’ll end up being a classic like the original.

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Blade Runner 2049

TV: Get Shorty

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Ray Romano as Rick Moreweather and Chris O’Dowd as Miles Daly

This series has all the things I like. Hollywood, the making of films, the mob, casinos in the desert, and importantly, Ray Romano. I’m not gonna lie – Ray is the only reason I tuned in initially. And I have fallen in love with this greasy, filthy story of money laundering from the underbelly of Nevada to the glitz of LA. Mr O’Dowd as Miles is touting an ill gotten screen play around film producers and studio lots.  Known as the ‘Admiral’s Mistress’. And there are plenty of Hollywood insider jokes and film industry slime tossed about in the process. I’m hooked on this creation by Davey Holmes. But I need to get off my chest a little something – I wasn’t that keen on the casting of Chris O’Dowd – at first. I found his on screen work a little irritating. Please don’t be upset with me. The further I get into the story the more I’m willing to give him a free pass as he grows into the role. One again, don’t hate me, but the lead role might have been better going to Sean Bridgers. He’s just…a greater actor. Sean totally nails his supporting role and in fact outshines everyone on set. Enough of this before my rant consumes me. I rate Get Shorty highly and it gets a thumbs up. Give it a go. You’ll like it. It’s farken funny.

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Sean Bridgers [right] outshines everyone in Get Shorty.

Film: The Changeover

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Timothy Spall as Carmody Braque and Erana James as Laura Chant

How lucky was I to go to the preview screening and Director’s Q&A last night! Very spoilt I was! I’m very lucky to be in the heart of the film making community in New Zealand so am able to keep my fingers on the pulse. And this film by husband and wife directing team Miranda Harcourt and Stuart McKenzie certainly raised my heartbeat with its quirky supernatural horror/love story. I don’t want to cast any shade but I’m gonna pause a moment and talk about the book it’s based on. I hated the novel. To be fair it is young adults fiction and I’m not the target audience. But the book was a chore to get through and I only finished it because it’s my practice to read the source material before I view the film. And I’m going to put my neck on the line and say Stuart’s screen play is better than the novel. Please don’t burn me at the stake! But it’s true! While the book was a bore, the film is really, really good. Although the film adaptation only had a modest budget, it attracted some big name actors including Timothy Spall and Nicholas Galitzine. A testament to the high standing Miranda and Stuart have in the film community. The soundtrack is to die for. A mix of local music and songs from abroad, this film hummed along with energy and life. Music fans will want to seek out the full track list for sure. The Changeover is about witches and demons. It’s filmed in quake ravaged Christchurch. Erana James as Laura Chant battles to save her little brother’s soul from the evil Carmody. She gets help from a local coven but ultimately has to reach inside herself for the answers to her life and the nightmarish scenario she is trapped in. The FX are great and I pay homage to Park Road Post for it’s work. Cinematographer Andrew Stroud is a legend. The look and feel is perfect – a dark, moody, pan-perfect atmosphere is achieved with aplomb. I have no qualms recommending this film to you all. It’s broad cinematic release in New Zealand is today. Looking forward to it hitting the international exhibition market in short order. Verdict: must see on the big screen.

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Erana James as Laura Chant

 

Film: Lawrence of Arabia -1962-

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Peter O’Toole as T. E. Lawrence and Omar Sharif as Sherif Ali

Everyone should see this film at some stage. It’s grand in every way and I can find no faults in this cinematic endeavor. An incredible source story, great actors, a wonderful screen play, terrific directing and the list goes on. It really is best seen on the big screen but failing that find the biggest TV you can. A young Peter O’Toole is almost too good looking for his role but it is a foppish English Officer, after all, that he is required to play. That his acting is remarkable is without question. Lawrence’s descent into blood lust and madness is compelling. The inevitable treachery of British Imperialism is disappointing – but unsurprising. I also want to mention Omar Sharif, the wonderful Egyptian actor. He sadly  passed away in 2015. One of my favorite character actors, he balances out this story as Sherif Ali who is a sort of ‘voice of reason’ and a check on Lawrence’s excesses. This film deserves more words than the small paragraph I’m knocking out here. But if you find yourself looking after your grand-kids on a cold winter’s day, bring out the toy soldiers, build a blanket fort, get this film playing and make an afternoon of it.

Film: Mother!

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Jennifer Lawrence as Mother

Oh yeah – this one is a beauty! Don’t be put of by the R18 rating. But if the ritual cannibalism doesn’t scare the crap out of you then the shitty house guests might. [I’ve had them so I completely empathize with ‘Mother’]. The critics are pretty much evenly split on this  psychological horror. I’m in the ‘I’m love’n it’ camp. It’s really good. Jennifer Lawrence is clearly the stand out but Javier Bardem is smokin hot as the poet. The pair of them work so well together in their ‘dance of death’. At times surreal, the story is wholesome American Gothic goodness and the character development excellent. My film partner had her eyes closed and even ears blocked at times but that’s possibly an over-reaction. You be the judge. Perhaps keep scaredy-cats away from it, for sure. But for Christ’s sake – keep your mother away from it. She’s not gonna like this one. And you don’t want to end up estranged and cut out of the will. But do make the effort. It’s worth it. Highly recommended. I need more films like this.

Film Review: Mother! With: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem,  Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer.

 

TV: Dear Murderer [New Zealand]

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Mark Mitchinson as Lawyer Mike Bungay

In New Zealand, Wellington in particular, Mike Bungay was a controversial figure in law circles. I remember in the 70s that he was also not well liked in public generally as many perceived he helped criminals walk free and that he had no regard for victims of crime. Folk hated his brash style. With a flair for hyperbole, he grated on nerves and was often accused of underhanded courtroom tactics. My personal view is he helped force the police to up their game. The police could not longer present sloppy detective work in a court room else they would be shredded by Bungay’s withering analysis. It was also well known in Wellington he loved his drink and that he was a man about town. This TV adaption explores this along with the courtroom battles. Like many children in war time Britain he had a less than ideal upbringing. He become street wise at an early age and these lessons in hard knocks made him a smart operator in the adversarial court system. Actor Mark Mitchinson plays the role perfectly. An excellent casting decision. In New Zealand this is must see TV at the moment. Highly recommend. It will bring back a flood of memories for criminals and lawyers alike. I note that some of Bungay’s clients will still be in jail today – will prison Governors up and down the country let their wards watch ‘Dear Murderer’ each Thursday? It’s on late so might be past prison curfew…and lock down…

TV Review: Dear Murderer. TVNZ TV1.