blog

'The silence' movie review

the silence poster.jpg
When the world is under attack from terrifying creatures who hunt their human prey by sound, 16-year old Ally Andrews (Kiernan Shipka), who lost her hearing at 13, and her family seek refuge in a remote haven.
— imdb

Recently netflix have been doing more and more original content. With varying degrees of success, some better than others but all, at least, with an emphasis on content that you wouldn’t see a major movie studio investing money, especially not in this climate of comic book movie overkill. Its a least refreshing to see a studio investing in other material that isn’t cartoony comic book superhero extravaganza. An adult orientated adventure where there could be genuine stakes and not a falseness primed on the possibility of a ‘reboot’ if they don’t hit the ‘right demographic’.

In truth, their brave decisions don’t always work out. And this is the case with ‘The Silence’. An intriguing premise that actually pre-dates the far superior ‘A quiet place’. Some have said that netflix have copied a format that worked when in reality they were working from a book by Tim Lebbon called ‘the silence’ Released in 2015. So it begs the question of who was copying who here. The setup almost identical even down to a girl who is deaf and a family in jeopardy from blind creatures that hunt by hearing alone.

Without trying to spoil anything I will say that there are some effective scenes namely one where a car is parked on a side road. But the main problem here seems to be the fact that Director John R. Leonetti hasn’t embraced the material. A potential for scares and tension that ‘ A quiet place’ mastered. It didn’t help that the creatures in ‘The silence’ where a type of hybrid bat that wasn’t set up in a frightening way. They seemed far too simple to kill. Setting aside the obvious plot holes or the fact that we didn’t really get to know the main protagonists aside from their limited family dynamic, the plot just didn’t really engage.

The start had potential and they could have gone in a number of different directions (I haven’t read the book so I can’t say whether this closely mirrors the plot of the source material) instead taking it down a tired path that held very little tension. With, at times, some very shoddy CGI creatures and potential setup that didn’t result in a satisfying conclusion we have a feature film that has potential but falls flat and lifeless.

The ending where they meet a group of religious fanatics, again had potential but how that concludes was just as unsatisfying and worst still irritating because it just.. well ends on a weird abrupt note. Three or so minutes later and we have an epilogue that feels rushed and out of place. Either they ran out of money or the screenwriter had sequel squarely in his mind. Either way potential ruined. There could have been hints of ‘The road’, a harsh climate where having a family is dangerous in itself.

But that isn’t the case we are instead delivered a type of B movie with quite large plot holes. Not that ‘A quiet place’ didn’t have plot holes either, it did. There was just enough ingenuity and tension to suspend your disbelief so you could get on board with the story. It also help immensely that you actually got to know the family in the movie. In this, the criminally under utilised Stanley Tucci is hand cuffed into a nothing role where he is given very little bar a few minor scenes to play with.

In the end ‘The Silence’ is a pale photocopy of ‘A quiet place’ where the original stands head and shoulders above it in execution. Which is a shame really as the story had potential.

** out of *****

Hereditery movie review

Hereditary movie poster - imdb

Hereditary movie poster - imdb

After the family matriarch passes away, a grieving family is haunted by tragic and disturbing occurrences, and begin to unravel dark secrets.
— imdb

**Warning there will be spoilers**

From the very first opening minute there is a creepy atmosphere to the psychological horror 'Hereditary'. We are introduced to Annie played with great conviction by Toni Collette who is just about to bury her mother. We get the distinct feeling that Annie didn't particularly see eye to eye with her and is struggling to grieve for her loss.

Through the course of this we get introduced to her slightly strained family. With her put upon husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne) and her estranged son Peter (Alex Wolff) and Strange daughter Charlie (The underutilised Milly Shapiro). The creepy conotations build slowly - this movie is definitely a slow burn so if you like your horror fast paced it might not be for you - where we witness Annie creating life like miniature dioramas replete with tiny people and furniture. A production design that is used again and again in both setting and cinematography. At times it appears the characters are living in a real life doll house and we are viewing them first hand. Its a clever and weird device.

The movie is quite atmospheric and tension slowly builds. At first you aren't sure where the movie is going, building up the supernatural elements slowly. Only when Charlie is horrifically decapitated by her brother Peter by accident - a scene that's brilliantly handled - does the movie show any real momentum. From here there is some terrific scenes with Annie as her downward spiral where it is heavily implied that she had a breakdown of some sort and has never quite recovered all of her mental capacity. In one shocking revelation she admits to her son Peter that she never wanted him as a child in fact she tried to abort him on numerous occasions but failed primarily because her overbearing mother wanted him and not her herself.

As tensions rise and the family unit deteriorates old secrets rise to the surface and home truths that are pushed from the surface come back to haunt you and that trust that was once there suddenly evaporates and you can never really get it back. To say any more would spoil the movie.

I would say that Hereditory is two thirds of a great movie with the final third the least satisfying. When you learn the 'truth' of why the supernatural occurrences are happening it deteriorates ever so slightly into parody. Not to say that its bad, its not it just didn't have the same level of tension and the final reveal is a little bit on the silly side which might raise a few titters more than shock.

But still there is much to be enjoyed about Hereditary if, of course, you enjoy slow burning psychological horror. From a purely performance stand point Toni Collette is terrific and gives a powerful performance. All in all I quite enjoyed 'Hereditary' while not perfect it is worth watching.

**** out of *****  

Solo: A Star wars story movie review

Solo-A-Star-Wars-small.jpg
During an adventure into the criminal underworld, Han Solo meets his future copilot Chewbacca and encounters Lando Calrissian years before joining the Rebellion.
— imdb

With a short turnaround now a mere 6 months between the last Star Wars movie we get Solo: A star wars story. Having mostly enjoyed Rogue one I thought at least the spin off stories would perhaps be an entertaining diversion albeit not particularly necessary. It was true for 'Rogue one' and the same sentiment applies to a certain degree with 'Solo' as well. It's an entertaining diversion which answers certain questions that fans may or may not have had.

The movie follows the young plucky 'Han Solo' from a young age right up to just before he makes contact with the rebellion. The movie flies at a cracking pace never leaving you time to think about anything. For the first 45 minutes I would say that the movie is actually quite good, bar a few scenes that came across a little flat and lifeless. To be fair considering the alleged mess that the movie was in before Ron Howard assumed Director duties, he has managed to create a cohesive story that holds together quite well. With a reported 70% reshoot we do, at least, seem to get what Ron Howard intended. And to be fair you couldn't really see where the issues might have been. 

This is not to say that Solo: A Star Wars story is perfect. It's not. There are a number of areas that I thought were a little flat. At times the dialogue exchanges lacked polish and crackle. It also lacked a little in action and jeopardy. The finale is a prime example of this: at no point did I feel any jeopardy for Solo. Which is a big problem with these stand alone 'Star Wars' stories we already essentially know the outcome. So the only interest that remains is how the character gets there. Which, depending upon your viewpoint, could either be interesting or two hours and fifteen minutes of boredom.

The early reports from set seemed to paint a very bad picture of Alden Ehrenreich who plays Han Solo. But for the most part I think he actually plays the part quite well and I buy him in the role. Despite positive reviews of Donald Glover who plays Lando Calrissian I felt at times he veered into a slight parody rather than authenticity. That's not to say his acting is bad, it's not. I feel its down to the change in tone of the character giving him a more campy edge that wasn't present before. I believe this is also what has certain Star Wars fans up in arms. After a bombardment of questions to writer Johnathan Kasdan over twitter he intimated that Lando is now pan sexual. There is clearly a hint that Lando holds more than friendship in mind with L3-37 (Played by Phoebe Waller-Bridge) indeed at one point L3-37 infers that they would be more if only she wasn't a robot.

It seems a strange turn for Star Wars. Indeed with The last Jedi movie there was sexual politics involving men and women with a slightly sexist viewpoint - to the detriment of story and quality - just to fulfil some type of agenda. Which is a strange stance that Kathleen Kennedy has taken considering she is in charge of a franchise which champions the theme of 'Hope'. Under her stewardship the star Wars story lines seemed to have deteriorated with a noticeable decline in quality of writing usually sacrificing story for a political viewpoint rather than creating quality entertainment. 

But I digress, back to Solo I think it's an entertaining diversion that has some interesting aspects. Setting aside some weaker parts it at least tells a cohesive story unlike the predessor The last Jedi. But when push comes to shove the ending is a little underwhelming with the movie coming to a close with a whimper rather than a roar. Paul Bettany's Drydon Vos falling foul of the cliched evil villain mantle by simply being underwhelming and under written.

*** out of *****

'Phage' book review

Disclaimer:The auther sent me his book to read in exchange for a review* I have tried to review the book without giving away plot spoilers as best I could. However if you like to know very little of the plot of books then stop reading*

Phage is a techno-thriller by author and microbiologist Dr Mark Tamplin. Phage tells the story of Doctor Sam Townsend a microbiologist who is caught in the midst of a conspiracy to frame him for criminal acts against the state and the impending release of a biological weapon engineered by a sociopathic USDA microbiologist called Owen designed to strike at the heart of the food chain releasing a deadly mutant bacterium engineered to kill the unsuspecting American public. Set in modern day, it poses an intriguing question: what if someone where to target our food source for a weaponised biological attack?

Indeed this question is what I found the most intriguing in Tamplin's book. It is the heart of the story and what drives the narrative. In a world ravaged by war and uncertainty the one constant, to a certain degree, is the fact that we can put uncontaminated food on our plates. However, if this did happen what would we do to protect ourselves? Or could we even stop it if this actually happened?

In the setup we are given a brief introduction to the protagonist of the story Dr Sam Townsend, a man living with a past who is focused on a world of microbes when the outer world - the world of his own existence - is microscopic like the microbes he spends so much time investigating. One of the problems I have with the story is the fact that we never really get to know Sam and at times I felt his dialogue exchanges with certain Characters were a little contrived and unrealistic. As the hero of the piece I felt we really needed to know him in order to root for him, otherwise we are following a somewhat slender character that we cannot totally engage with. Perhaps that was the authors intention that he be as cold as the microbes he investigates and is holding back some more detail for what, I understand, is a planned trilogy of books involving the same character. To me its important that im along with the character for the ride and not a passive viewer. I want to know something of him and 'intuit' the rest as we go along. Character is king and informs the plot in my view.

Some Other small niggles were some subplot turns that took me out of the main storyline mostly involving the FBI and the search for Sam and his students that didn't play out realistically for me and took away from the main drive of the plot. The students dialogue exchanges, at times, felt unrealistic and didn't quite serve the plot for me. It seemed like one less character in these situations would make for a tighter, more streamlined plot and reading experience overall.

The Antagonist, professor Owen Potter was much more complex character, more deeply drawn and I could tell that Tamplin enjoyed writing his pieces. For me he was the most interesting character in the book. He was somewhat unpredictable with sociopathic tendencies and a bitter self aggrandizing attitude which combined spells disaster for anyone who crosses his path. His delusions about his mother where very reminiscent of Norman Bates, their relationship seemingly on a similar plane. His plot to contaminate food was frightening with potentially catastrophic effects on a world scale.

I Really enjoyed the opening of the book and found the build up, contamination and subsequent clean up explaining the technical scientific aspects of a 'phage' intriguing. It is very crichtonesque. I felt it got the balance right without overwhelming the reader. *On a personal note, I would probably have wanted more technical information as the subject matter itself fascinates me.

Overall, it is a fast paced thriller with a very interesting plot. If you enjoy science-based technical thrillers then I think you might enjoy reading 'Phage'. Putting aside certain plot and dialogue niggles overall it was an enjoyable read and I thank Mark Tamplin for reaching out and asking me to read his book.

Rating: ***1/2 out of 5

Below are a link to buy his book on Amazon.  

https://www.amazon.com/Phage-Mark-Tamplin-ebook/dp/B015AUR1YM/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1468344720&sr=1-1&keywords=phage

 

 

Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice Review

BvS logo

BvS logo

'Fearing that the actions of Superman are left unchecked, Batman takes on the Man of Steel, while the world wrestles with what kind of a hero it really needs.'

Synopsis: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) taken from Imdb.
— http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2975590/

A direct sequel of sorts to 'Man of steel', Zack Snyder is once again in the directors chair of this dark sober tale of fear, demi gods and angst.

In the current run of high profile comic book movies this venture from DC studios and Zack Snyder is a curious mix, often muddled, with both good and bad points.

It is a sober, dark and brooding affair where we once again witness the murder of Batman's Parents in a stylish opening introduction to his character. The titular role of Batman is given to Ben Affleck who plays the role in a very understated fashion. Hard boiled, brooding and angst ridden. One of the more interesting aspects of this incarnation of the character is the fact that he brands the perpetrators he brings to justice. It's strangely dark and nice touch but it is only very briefly touched on in the movie and never really spoken about. It had more potential to add layers to his character.

you can quite evidently see Christopher Nolans influence on the film. Some of the editing choices are clearly from the Nolan playbook. The skips in narration, slightly off kilter, abrupt style in the action sequences are undoubtedly Nolanesque. Its just a question wheter this hinders or helps the storyline.

I felt at times, it made the narrative a bit muddled, trying to add depth to the story that wasn't really there to begin with. If the story beats are broken down you can see the plot is really rather simple. Admittedly, I can see why you would want the epic approach given that its a tent pole summer blockbuster but at the same time I do wish that there was more substance. We never really crawl under the surface. So it feels very scant while attempting depth.

I liked Ben Affleck as Batman/Bruce Wayne, given the limited material he had to play with he gave the tortured soul of Batman life for the most part. However, I wasn't a fan of the batman voice which to me came across a little silly and unconvincing. Henry Cavill is once again short changed as Superman, left looking stern with no sense of humanity, humility or humour, the type of stoic hallmarks of superman in the original Richard Donner movies and it was sorely lacking. The biggest surprise was the casting of Jessie Eisenberg as Lex Luthar which was wholly misjudged seemingly acting in an entirely different movie to everyone else. At times his acting style was cringe worthy eliciting a snigger rather than intrigue or interest.

But was the movie any good? That's a good question. To be honest I'm torn. I have to admit that usually I'm not the biggest fan of Zack Snyder's approach to super hero movies generally. They tend to be too over the top for me. Taking 'Man of steel' as a point of reference, I felt the ending was just forty minutes of buildings getting blown apart and needless destruction. It felt more like a video game than a movie. This approach very quickly became boring and I began looking at the clock to see how much time was left to run - something I never do during a movie. Sometimes less is more.

With BVS the premise seemed very silly because ultimately where could you go? An indestructible Alien facing a human with a bat suit fetish seemed like a non-starter for interest. At times it does feel exactly like that. There is quite a lot of build up for a showdown that lasts for maybe five minutes of screen time. And how it concludes is rather abrupt and unintentionally silly. Its the kind of moment where you do a double take.

its not all bad though as the movie had some potential which was squandered under the weight of trying 'to fit it all in' including the obligatory intro to the upcoming Justice league movie. As a result the movie just feels too focused on plot and not on Character. Which is, admittedly, a dichotomy as the plot itself is simplistic. It is filled to the brim with subplots and bit players that don't really add much to the movie. Visually it is quite nicely shot in a hazy sepia tone colour palette and the effects are colourful and overblown, as you'd expect from a Superhero movie. The action for the most part is well done especially involving Batman and hand to hand combat.

 

upload.jpg

Ultimately though the movie felt muddled plotwise and I found it hard to keep my attention for the entirety of its running time. 

** out of 5