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Review: Wish Upon

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In Wish Upon, Clare (Joey King),a teenager who is struggling during her time at school, discovers a mysterious and magical box that grants her seven wishes, but at a deadly price.

Despite an intriguing premise that reminds us to be careful what we wish for, the only thing you’ll be wishing is for Wish Upon to end. It offers plenty of teen frights and easy jump scares, but the failure to deliver resonating frights makes Wish Upon a mediocre and forgettable experience.

Wish Upon is mostly predictable and cliched. Clare’s wishes refrain from being anything other than selfish desires, painting her as a stereotypical teenager whose only wants are those of love, popularity and revenge. She is characterised in the most basic sense and reduced to an idea, rather than a reflection of teenhood. Surely, fifteen year-olds crave more than the undying love of the hottest boy in school and a quick fix to be rich? Alas, Clare’s wishes are basic and expected, constructed only to allow for her downfall.

Neither the frights or the plot are particularly memorable with the blend of Final Destination‘s dread and a more general sense of supernatural foreboding. The moments of terror are built around the ominous consequences of Clare’s wishes, but are executed with very little creativity. A voyeuristic POV shot will follow the box’s victims during their final moments, before an ominous fate takes control and leads them to their doom. There is a certain amount of tension during these moments – as with Final Destination‘s entertaining take on an unstoppable Death – but, that feeling of familiarity prevents any ground-breaking fear.

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Much in the way that John R. Leonetti‘s previous spooky endeavour Annabelle was hindered, there is very little energy behind the film’s events. An injection of vigour is desperately needed, but Wish Upon maintains an unsatisfying level of deflation. There is no urgency felt when Clare realises she has made huge errors with her wishes and that feeling of predictability rears its head when you remember that these mistakes will be impossible to undo.

For all its predictability and overwhelming sense of “been there, done that”, Wish Upon is more than watchable. Sure, it doesn’t offer much that’s new, but Joey King manages to hold the film together with her gutsy and energetic performance – even if the film around her almost falls into a dreary abyss. As a flawed combination of Final Destination, The Butterfly Effect and Drag Me to Hell, Wish Upon is an averagely entertaining teen scream.

Wish Upon is out on 28th July.

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Review: Spider-Man: Homecoming

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In 2002, Evil Dead director Sam Raimi weaved a web of movies for Tobey Maguire’s fresh-faced nerd Peter Parker turned superhero Spider-Man. Spawning one of the best comic book sequels of all time with Spider-Man 2, and a disastrous third outing (with the best crotch based dancing) in Spider-Man 3, we’d all needed a regeneration for the creepy-crawly hero.

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CinemaKiller Chords

Review: It Comes at Night

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It Comes at Night is a work of taut, paranoiac angst, agonizingly tearing open an unsettling fissure at the heart of modern societal fears, as it explores the limits of humanity through the collision of empathy against the darkest survival instincts of the nuclear family.

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Cinema

Review: MINDHORN

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There are roles that actors inhabit that stay with them for the whole of their career, no matter how far they try to break free. For Daniel Radcliffe, no farting corpse could blow away the spell of Harry Potter and Patrick Stewart will always be Picard. Iconic roles will always be beneficial in some ways and detrimental in others, and many will never see the success of their allusive performance.

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CinemaReviews

Review: THE BELKO EXPERIMENT

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When an isolated corporate building is mysteriously put under lock-down, a sinister voice on the intercom announces that the employees must kill each other or be killed themselves. The Belko Experiment is Battle Royale in an office block and it’s an absolutely and unabashedly brilliant, bloody time.

The concept alone is immediately appealing, especially for those of us that spend our 9-5s in an office, praying for something exciting to happen. Anything. But, what if that something meant killing your co-workers and fighting an impossible fight for survival where there can only be one winner? I’ll pass. After watching The Belko Experiment’s bold and twisted social experiment you may find yourself strangely relieved that your day was a little bit boring.

The Belko Experiment is a riot for genre fans and those like their horror relentlessly violent and gory. Expect creative kills and murder galore as the characters are whittled down from a few hundred to very few during the film’s modest 89 minute run time. The deaths are captured in frequent glorious slow-motion to a soundtrack that escalates the intensity, but injects The Belko Experiment with a generous dose of fun to remind us that this isn’t really to be taken seriously.

The technical and visual flair of The Belko Experiment is a welcome surprise, with brightly coloured lighting dousing the film in a hyper-real glaze to emphasise the film’s concern with the excessive and the extreme. As with a desire to show as many office-related kills as possible, The Belko Experiment wants its audience to have a good time more than anything. Much like director Greg McLean‘s darkly comic killer Mick Taylor (John Jarratt) from Wolf Creek  who walks the thin line between the horrific and the hilarious, there is a playfulness and a clear intention to be both funny and frightening at The Belko Experiment’s core. This ensures that film’s social commentary shines consistently bright, but never outweighs Belko’s drive to have a good time.

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Stripping away the film’s superficial outer layer that sees it painted as an exploitative bombardment of death and dismay, and there is fairly obvious but necessary exploration of moral issues and the difficulty of being faced with this office Battle Royale. The Belko Experiment can be read as an anti-corporation tale where the top dogs at the peak of the office food chain easily take charge, attempt to make the rules and demand everyone follows suit. Aside from the obvious villains on the other side of the intercom, it is the corporation’s most powerful that are painted most negatively. However, their representation is far from simple and I challenge anyone who doesn’t almost side with their attempt to “fairly” decide who should be killed first.

The Belko Experiments proves that an all-star cast doesn’t have to be saved for a cheesy rom-com or an A-lister action flick, with the recognisable faces of John Gallagher Jr, Michael Rooker, Melonie Diaz, Tony Goldwyn, John C. McGinley and co., making the film all the more unpredictable and shamelessly exciting. It’s easy fun watching the cast wreak havoc, desperately trying to stay alive, but all-the-while battling their own inner moral issues. Sure, some of them find the killing easier than the rest, but no one’s hands are free from blood in Belko.

Managing to balance humour, horror and necessary moral concerns, The Belko Experiment is smart, slick and furiously entertaining, benefiting from the strong cast that make it effortlessly enjoyable.

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Cinema

Review: RAW

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When a movie professes to “make people faint,” you have to take it with a pinch of salt. After all, PR and marketing leap on these words like a feverish young woman leaps on a succulent young man. They are buzzwords. “SHOCKING” it’ll read on the poster. “INFAMOUSLY DISGUSTING. YOU WON’T BELIEVE IT.” All the while, knowing that horror fans will line up in their hundreds to get a taste.

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REVIEW: Peelers

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From its synopsis, ‘A small town strip club owner must defend her bar, her strippers and her life when violent infected patrons show up on the final closing night and all hell breaks loose’, Peelers can only go one of two ways. It’s either the enjoyable exploitative horror flick with enough comedy and knowingness to subvert, entertain and delight horror fans; or, it will conform to all the pitfalls, tropes and tribulations that are inadvertently offensive, lame and what tear down the genre, creating wastes of time. This is, sadly, the latter.

Blue Jean (Wren Walker) is running the club for one last time. The lowbrow patrons are typically sleazy, but so are some of the staff, as illustrated by the barman. With Blue Jean’s son in trouble with the police, a looming levelling of the club, a new girl’s first night with a jealous ex and, of course, the violent virus that turns people into zombies from the 28 Days Later universe. With all of that, you can see it being completely typical with no fresh beats and stagnant, overdone tropes. To make the same things engaging again, you need good dialogue delivered by better actors. Neither of these are on display in Peelers.

What is the biggest disappointment of this entire 95-minute ordeal is that its writing is so trite, grotesque and insulting is that it makes you hate all the characters. Although, there is an argument to be made that the film is simulating real people in that off-putting way, but the goal of a film is empathy at any level. If the audience can’t empathise with them then they can’t connect, spectating instead of engaging. It creates resentment in Peelers. None of the characters are interesting nor are ones you support. People are painted with a cynical brush, perhaps for comedy, but if it is then it cannot be found outside of the creators.

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Then again, perhaps they don’t care about the characters either. People are killed off and the body count for a small club ‘going out of business’ is ridiculously high. Rural rent in a small town cannot be too hard to recover from when you have a club packed with patrons, described as regulars. Perhaps it’s the excessive number of staff. Maybe, if cynicism is what’s welcomed to this world, then they are all there as fodder for the virus to try to excite an unexciting story. Again, sadly, it feels like the latter.

The amateur filmmaking in every production sense, on-screen and off, dampens already sodden material. Cinematography reeks of first time users with a Canon DSLR, made worse by full-on lighting and overexposed scenes that point out all budgetary restrictions. Worse than that is the acting, unfortunately. One-tone is an understatement. It points even further to an amateur at filmmaking rather than a professional production. Characters are indistinguishable, pointed out further by performances that have been mocked for years to come. Peelers is a missed opportunity for fun. What it maybe attempts is fun, but with unengaging, unmotivating characters and low-level production, all you have is violence masquerading as excitement. You won’t remember any scenes from Peelers, but you will remember the feeling of nothingness you had when watching it.

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Cinema

Review: GET OUT

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The best kind of horror has always been the films where real life expectations and experiences are subverted. They play on our day to day lives, twisting our reality into something perverse that cuts into the depths of our nightmares and embellishes it on the big screen.

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CinemaReviews

REVIEW: The Chamber

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Directed by first-time feature director Ben Parker, The Chamber follows three members of a Special Ops team and the pilot of a submersible craft who become trapped underwater during a secret recovery mission. What ensues is equally a battle of wits and determination as it is a classic fight for survival, but The Chamber is never quite as exciting or claustrophobic as its concept would suggest. Nonetheless, as an easy-to-watch thriller, The Chamber delivers enough thrills and edge-of-your-seat action to ensure you make it to its nail-biting end.

The Chamber is only 86 minutes long, but when almost 80 of those are spent in a claustrophobic submersible, you really begin to feel those minutes as they slowly tick by. And it’s not always a good thing. It’s great to feel the same suspense, paranoia and stress as the trapped characters, but it is the characters themselves that will truly begin to grate on your nerves. Edwards AKA Red (Charlotte Salt) who is the leader of the Special Ops team, is particularly aggravating. Her take-no-shit attitude would have been commendable if her accent wasn’t so terrible. You don’t have to know that Salt was born in Newcastle to sniff out her poor attempt at being American, but it sure does help.

The Chamber4Red is the leader of the Special Ops team and spends the majority of the film barking orders or back-chatting poor Mats (Johannes Kuhnke), the pilot. Writing a strong female character in your film is wonderful, but there is a difference between a woman who is strong-willed, smart and courageous and, simply, a bitch. Within the first 10 minutes I was eager for her to die or, at least, be taken down a peg or 20, but no such luck. She’s a woman after all and, of course, no real danger will come to her. Red becomes a character desperately thrown in to appeal to the feminist audience; a beacon for equality that shines no brighter than a flickering candle. Sure, she has a snappy temper, but she’ll need more than that if she is to be the Ripley of this submersible ship.

Aside from the annoyance caused by the film’s sole female character, the rest of The Chamber isn’t too bad. It’s certainly not perfect and there are a lot of moments that drag when we’re left to watch the crew fight like cats and dogs, but when The Chamber is at its best, it’s a gripping and unpredictable ride where the end is never quite certain. When you make it past the dwindling beginning to the ferocious finale you’ll appreciate the shift in pace, thanking the slower opening for shining a light on the film’s most exhilarating moments. The film improves as it goes on as the characters are at their wit’s end, truly struggling to survive as the submersible slowly fills with water after getting damaged. It is then that the tension effortlessly rises as we know it is only a matter of time before they drown. It’s a simple and sure way to ensure suspense, but it’s an effective one.

Parker manages to use the small space exceedingly well by shooting scenes up-close and personal, showing the characters’ confinement in simple shots that barely fit everyone in the frame. It’s a believably tiny space and when coupled with the film’s few heart-racing scenes, it’s impossible not to commend The Chamber‘s execution of top-notch action. Even if they are far and few between. Coupled with one character’s dwindling sanity and a few make-or-break moments, The Chamber‘s final half an hour is its strongest. There’s nothing truly memorable to ensure you’re thinking about this Chamber long after the credits role, but there are a couple of surprises in this solid, well-directed story of survival.

Despite never offering as much excitement as it could have, The Chamber makes ample use of its claustrophobic setting to deliver a short – but not always sweet – thrilling underwater adventure.

The Chamber will be released in cinemas on 10th March 2017, and on DVD, Blu-ray and digital download on 20th March 2017.

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REVIEW: The LEGO Batman Movie

Lego Batman Review

Batman has been through the ringer. He has had a countless amount of conceptions from the weird and the whacky to the brooding and emotional; bad films to great films; awful films to genius films. Batman has had some black days and sometimes, really dark grey days.

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