November 13, 2019

Review Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (2015)

#ScoutsGuideToTheZombieApocalypse (2015): 7/10

Scouts Guide stars Tye Sheridan (‘Ready Player One’), Logan Miller (‘Love, Simon’) and newcomer Joey Morgan as three long-time school friends who are also part of a scouts club, a club two of the friends wish to distance themselves from in order to appeal to the opposite sex. It’s a plot idea that is very relatable to any school kid of a similar age, or anyone who has been through school, complete with those awkward conversations with the girls you really desire the most.

The opening scene of the film really sets the tone for the film, with a really quite hilarious rendition of ‘Black Widow’ by the school janitor, played by Blake Anderson (‘Game Over, Man’). In fact, the film has a spring in its step throughout, and doesn’t get bogged down in intricate details of where the zombie virus originated from or how it has made its way into a local laboratory. It just gets stuck in with some good old fashioned fun. Think ‘Superbad’ meets ‘Shaun Of The Dead’.

All three of the friends bring something to the table, with the chemistry working well as a collective unit; they really feel like friends. A side story develops involving one of the gang looking to muster up the courage to speak to a girl he’s liked for some time. Unfortunately on this occasion, that girl is also his friend’s sister! Much like ‘Shaun Of The Dead’, Scouts Guide also boasts a bangin’ soundtrack. Add some outrageous tongue-in-cheek guts and gore to boot, and you’ve got yourself a very entertaining zombie flick with a slight twist on previous efforts.

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November 11, 2019

Review Fighting with My Family (2019)

#FightingWithMyFamily (2019): 6/10

Fighting With My Family dramatises the true story of Saraya Bevis aka WWE’s Paige, a girl from a wrestling family and modest background whose early life consists of entertaining the local people of Norwich in the family-run wrestling business World Association of Wrestling along with dad Ricky (Nick Frost, ‘Shaun Of The Dead’), mum Julia (Lena Headey, ‘Game Of Thrones’), and brother Zak (Jack Lowden, ‘Dunkirk’).

Merchant’s collaborations with Ricky Gervais such as ‘The Office’ and ‘Extras’ were nothing short of brilliant; and yet, for the most part, Fighting With My Family feels puzzlingly underwhelming. Perhaps it’s down to the rather formulaic story and overall plot, as Saraya gets her shot at the WWE and struggles on a gruelling NXT training programme with next-to-no support around her. This is a dramatisation of true events, so it was inevitable that the story would take this route in one form or another.

The film is still an enjoyable and thought-provoking watch though, from intriguing developments at home as Saraya’s brother Zak tries to cope with his rejection from the WWE, to inspirational support given to local kids by Zak down at the World Association of Wrestling base. For wrestling fans, there are sequences of real grappling entertainment from both WAW and WWE events, and we get a taster of a full-blown “Rock” monologue which will deliver more than a thrill for avid WWE fans of the “Attitude” era. And of course, it’s Stephen Merchant, so there are plenty of laughs to be had, in particular from funny man Nick Frost.

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November 09, 2019

Review Captain Marvel (2019)

#CaptainMarvel (2019): 7/10

Brie Larson (‘Room’, ‘The Glass Castle’) stars as Carol Denvers alongside a younger Nick Fury, once again played by Samuel L Jackson, with the film delving into Captain Marvel’s origins, her intergalactic rise among powerful alien race the Kree, and the war between the Kree and shapeshifting enemy the Skrulls.

There is a lot to like about Captain Marvel. Larson and Jackson’s “buddy cop” relationship blossoms from the get-go and only becomes more enjoyable when complimented by the introduction of Goose the cat, who proves to be a real scene-stealer. Fury looks splendidly young thanks to some neat CGI tweaks, with both eyes intact. There are even attempts to rekindle fond memories of the 90’s with some playful nods to Blockbuster Video and CD-ROM’s, although efforts to go some way to replicating the success of the ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy’ soundtrack don’t quite have the desired impact.

The film does take some time to really get going, with the main focus in the early stages on the backgrounds of the warring Kree and Skrulls, the Skrulls in particular showing glimpses of what they could potentially offer the MCU going forward (for further reading, see Marvel’s “Secret Invasion” Comic), Ben Mendelsohn proving an excellent foil in the leading Skrull role. The real meat of the action comes on and around Earth, although some of the scenes are difficult to follow at times.

Captain Marvel is an enjoyable watch, of that there is no doubt, but almost feels like a backwards step when compared with other recent MCU entries, and more on the level of an earlier Phase. An origin story this late in the day between two of the biggest films in the MCU so far also makes it feel like a setup for ‘Endgame’. Still, it’ll be interesting to see what Brie Larson brings to the table and how she interacts with the rest of the team as the concluding part of Phase Three plays out.

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November 06, 2019

Review Widows (2018)

#Widows (2018): 8/10

Based on the novel of the same name by Lynda La Plante, who also wrote the excellent ‘Gone Girl’, Widows follows four recently widowed women and the fallout as a result of a heist by their husbands gone wrong. Steve McQueen (‘12 Years A Slave’, ‘Shame’) utilises an impressive array of big names and talent, with some top performances on show.

Unlike ‘Ocean’s Eight’, which just felt like a playful heist with no serious repercussions, Widows is gripping and feels gritty and real right from the off, despite its lengthy running time and slow plot development, which may discourage some. Daniel Kaluuya is menacingly unnerving as sinister gangster Jatemme Manning, one half of the Manning brothers, who intimates with just a look; a surprise but welcome departure from previous roles. Viola Davis is Veronica, a widow who looks to her fellow widows for help carrying out her late husband’s next job for a final pay-off after being tracked down by the people her husband stole from. Perhaps the most satisfying performance comes from Elizabeth Debicki, who really takes us on her journey of self-discovery.

Widows really draws you in and keeps hold with great drama and some well executed set pieces and uniquely shot scenes. A film that is emotionally intense, dark and violent throughout.

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November 05, 2019

Review Ben Is Back (2018)

#BenIsBack (2019): 7/10

Ben Is Back was written and directed by Peter Hedges (‘About A Boy’, ‘Dan In Real Life’), a stars real life son Lucas Hedges (‘Lady Bird’, ‘Manchester By The Sea’) as Ben, a recovering drug addict who returns to his family home unannounced, and given a 24 hour period to prove claims he is ready to rediscover the outside world.

Ben’s young step siblings are just as overjoyed as their mum to see him return on the eve of Christmas. On the other side though are the sceptical stepfather (Courtney B Vance) and sister (Kathryn Newton), who aren’t convinced Ben is there for the right reasons, and has left rehab too early, which only makes us the viewer scrutinise his actions throughout the film even more.

Julia Roberts sells the piece; a sparkling performance of a mother’s unconditional love in the face of almost unwinnable circumstances. Despite her reservations and measures she takes to ensure Ben doesn’t relapse, Holly is never ready to give up on him, even when he appears a lost cause. Hedges gives a brilliantly subtle performance also, remorseful of past actions which have hurt his family but struggling with the unbearable itch bubbling under the surface in the present. Ben also makes it clear to his mother that addicts aren’t to be trusted, a statement that only fuels our suspicions. All in all, it’s a bleak insight into the devastating effects of drug addiction on the user and their family.

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