Recent Releases – Monsters: Dark Continent

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Following the events of Monsters, ‘Infected Zones’ have now spread worldwide. Four close friends and new Army recruits are drafted for duty in the Middle-East – The main focus of their mission is predominantly human but they are instructed to take down any creatures that get in the way.

I’ll be honest, I haven’t seen the first one but judging by the marketing for Monsters: Dark Continent, I knew this would be more of a standalone feature and less of a sequel; but I still expected to see something of a similar ilk. Considering what I’ve read and heard about Monsters, I get the feeling that Gareth Edwards’ main focus was to create an atmospheric apocalyptic sci-fi movie through subtle brief glimpses of the creatures. That sounds interesting to me; and is something that encourages me to watch it.

Similarly, this movie had me intrigued prior to watching it; but unfortunately it didn’t take long for my excitement to completely deplete. On the poster, one source claims how the movie is “Hurt Locker vs Cloverfield“. M:DC doesn’t come close to having the level of character development for either of those movies. It all just seems completely rushed and you often find yourself questioning why you’re supposed to care for these characters. There’s also no creative subtlety whatsoever when it comes to the ‘monsters’ in this movie either. It seems odd to incorporate them visually but when they seem to play almost no part in the plot; it all feels very contrived.

I wish I had watched the original instead of wasting my time with this. It’s not that M:DC was terrible, it just felt like a very average uninteresting war movie with some large creatures crawling about in the background. In the end, it had me asking one of the most devastating questions to ask from a viewer’s perspective: “What was the point in all of that?”

2 Infected Zones out of 5

by Simon Garganera Price

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Recent Releases – Unfriended

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Whilst a group of high school students are together in a Skype meeting, they are joined by an anonymous account that begins to test their bond. Treacherous events occur as this mysterious hacker claims to be of a childhood friend who committed suicide a year ago.

Me and a friend went in to this movie expecting to watch a lump of cinematic trash; thinking we’d be laughing our proverbial tits off to how bad it might have been. Oh, how wrong we were! It’s not that it turned out to be a masterpiece but it was far more genuinely terrifying than we ever imagined. It’s cleverly structured in the sense that it contains a good share of jump scares; but also builds a gradually unsettling atmosphere. It also features a fair amount of shocking imagery that I, personally, wasn’t ready for. And this is one of the reasons I really appreciate it because it dares to take the film where a lot of others fail to go.

The quality of acting has a lot to be desired but considering how cleverly structured and well thought out the structure of the film is – it’s barely noticeable (at times). An interesting satirical spin on the usual found-footage/handy cam films of today; but I wouldn’t go as far as agree with praises of innovation. Yes, it does bring something new to the table but in my opinion it will be the start of a sub-genre at best… but then again, who knows??? We might well be looking at the new face of horror films.

3 and a Half Blenders out of 5

by Simon Garganera Price

Recent Releases – Avengers: Age of Ultron

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When, Ultron, a malfunctioning advanced security system built by Tony Stark wants to eradicate the inhabitants it was initially programmed to protect, The Avengers must reassemble to protect the human race.

I aim to keep this as short and sweet as possible as it’s always best to avoid spoilers; but even more so given the excitement most will have going into this much-anticipated sequel. Now a regular pattern, blockbuster franchise sequels usually end up surpassing the original as cream of the crop. Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi, The Dark Knight, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers… and now (although we’re yet to see the third installment of the trilogy), I would comfortably place Avengers: Age of Ultron amongst those behemoths. I’m sure Avengers: Infinity War will prove to be just as much a classic; but, for me, there will always be a certain magical charm attached to the second film. I like to view it in a way that the first movie tosses the ball in the air, the second film hits it for a home run, then the third movie cheers the hitter round the field (I have no knowledge of baseball so I apologise if I’ve just made a mockery of the games rules).

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The first film was brilliant, bringing all of our favourite superheroes to the screen, leaving most of us in awe with bright larger-than-life characters, impressive action sequences, and basic but triumphant storytelling. The sequel brings much of the same… and then some. You really get the sense that everyone involved in this movie has really hit their stride; most notably Joss Whedon. You have to give this man credit as one of the most talented blockbuster directors out there today. He really excels at getting the most out of a large ensemble cast and he’s proved it once again with Age of Ultron. I eagerly anticipate what he has next up his sleeve once he returns from his much deserved rest from the filmmaking game (but hopefully not for too long).

As a fan of Marvel in general, I may be a little biased when reviewing this movie but I can’t help but feel this will stand the test as one of the true classics of blockbuster films. I’m not surprised to see this make a killing at the box office, as the promotion leading up to its release has been spot on; and it hasn’t disappointed in my opinion. Although it comes in just under two and a half hours long, it completely flew by. Even if you’re not a fan of Marvel, I recommend watching this on the basis of pure cinema entertainment alone.

5 Hulkbusters out of 5

by Simon Garganera Price

Recent Releases – Good Kill

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US Air Force Drone pilot, Tommy Egan (Ethan Hawke) begins to question the ethics of his job when assigned to controversial missions against the Taliban.

I read somewhere that Good Kill is like a gamers version of Top Gun – That statement alone gave me the worst expectation of the film’s style and genre as it’s less of a fighter jet action movie and more of a really interesting thought-provoking drama. The character study aspect really helps to underline the physical and mental toll an individual is under when fighting for their own country – but what is most interesting is the perspective of a former F-16 ace turned drone pilot for the mockingly titled US Chair Force. Having a man question the excitement and moralistic nature of the technological transition highlights many war based issues (not just for the US but for any country with the use of drones).

Moments in the film where a series of escalating controversial orders are made toward Tommy and his partners show them dealing with immense amounts of pressure on an intense level. The tension can really be felt by the audience as you follow his journey as a drone pilot – but it’s not without its imperfections of plot construction. There appears to be unclear direction in terms of his emotional issues. He is under duress from his job because of the questionable orders he has to follow but when in moments of self-reflection it’s as a result of not being able to fly the “good ol fashion way” in which he would still have to follow contentious instructions. To me the message feels a little misguided.

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Ethan Hawke has really found his feet as of late and it’s great to see him in films where he gets to really demonstrate his dramatic ability. He suits this role and he excels with these type of performances – I think he’s a truly underrated performer and I hope to see him in similar movies in the future (I would like to see less of him in scare-mongering horror films although he adds a much-needed touch of class to them.)

As mentioned before, if it’s a gun-toting jet movie you’re after then look elsewhere but if you want to see an intelligent drama that will have you questioning the dawning of technological advancement in military weaponry then set your sights on Good Kill.

3 and a half Bottles of Vodka out of 5

by Simon Garganera Price

Recent Releases – John Wick

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John Wick (Keanu Reeves) sets out to take revenge on the reckless mobsters who killed his dog, the last thing that reminded him of his dead wife. Unbeknownst to the gangsters, they’ve just brought one of the most ruthless legendary hitmen out of retirement and he’s not going to stop until he gets his retribution.

To be honest there’s not a lot to say about this film other than it’s a wildly stylish, all-out action flick. At times it greatly entertains but in other places, probably because the plot is so incredibly basic, I found myself drifting off from time to time. The fight choreography is very impressive and I think it was whilst watching this that I noticed how film and television currently base a lot of fight sequences on a style innovated by The Raid. An extremely gritty and raw style of brawling opposed to the very gracious kung fu mode of battle we got from 90’s action culture.

Quite easily Keanu’s best movie to date and a perfect example of how to best utilise his talent – and that’s by making his character a mysterious man of few words but lots of action. Let’s hope we see more of this type of film from him in the future and less of 47 Ronin or Man of Tai Chi. I wouldn’t go as far as agreeing with most critics by saying this is his return to form but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.

3 and a half Baba Yaga out of 5

by Simon Garganera Price

Recent Releases – Fast & Furious 7

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After the events of Fast & Furious 6, Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) seeks to take revenge upon Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his gang for the harm caused to his younger brother, Owen (Luke Evans).

Let’s make things clear from the off that this film is all about action and non-stop thrills with not much else happening in other departments… but that’s fine because this franchise knows exactly what it’s best at – and oh shit does it accentuate the positives!?! There are moments of extremely over-the-top cheesy soap opera drama, poor dialogue, and lazy plot structure but it’s so brief, you hardly even notice it. Having not seen F&F 6, I was slightly apprehensive that I may be a little out of the loop but it really didn’t matter as you know from the get-go that this is a plain and simple old fashioned revenge story with a ton of action practically all the way through.

The franchise has come along way since it’s Racer X/Japanese Street racing culture influenced days. It began as an extension of Street racing culture which not only inspired a lot of viewers to partake in troublesome activities but seemed limited to a niche market. However, since the installment of Fast & Furious in 2009, we’ve seen a very successful all-round action packed franchise. Which is exactly why Furious 7 excels as it not only gives the audience what they want but also what they expect. In that regard, you have to give James Wan a lot of credit as it must have been difficult taking on the mantle left by Justin Lin – This master of horror has shown everyone that he’s not a one-trick-pony.

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Fans of action films in general will be pleased to see this film not only for it’s high octane style but also for the cast. Martial arts hero Tony Jaa makes a typically electric gung-ho appearance, Kurt Russell is excellently mysterious and chirpy as the enigmatic Mr. Nobody, and fans of UFC will be pleased to see “the world’s most dangerous woman” Ronda Rousey kicking some ass. As a fan of WWE, I was hoping for a bit more of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in this movie but he still turned up with some pretty entertaining one-liners.

I felt Jason Statham was excellent and he fits in to the franchise with such ease (almost as if he was made for it). The usual gang were as good as you’d expect which leads me on to the most obvious issue, Paul Walker. The visual effects (and the help of his two brothers) used to substitute for missing shots of Walker are truly remarkable – for the simple reason that you really can’t tell that he was missing for most of the shooting. The film is a brilliant and wonderful tribute to the man that helped make this franchise become as successful as it has.

The kind of movie Michael Bay would be proud of but also one he’s incapable of making – (We all know it would end up being Pro-America.) If you’re a fan of the franchise, motor racing, scantily clad women, muscular men, explosions or just ridiculously silly pedal to the metal (sorry) action then this film is for you.

3 and a half Lykan Hypersports out of 5

by Simon Garganera Price

Recent Releases – The Voices

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Likeable and unassuming, Jerry lives on his own in an apartment above a Bowling Alley, with only his dog, Bosco, and his cat, Mr. Whiskers for company. Not all is as it seems though as he can hear his adorable pets talk, and unfortunately for Jerry, Mr. Whiskers has a manipulative desire for murder.

If there is a stronger case for a film to become an overnight cult classic this year other than The Voices, then I will be very surprised. It’s probably not going to do massively well in the mainstream but I can already see this film developing a small group of avid followers (including yours truly). The fact it stars Reynolds (an actor who divides a lot of opinion), features a lot of brutal and unsettling imagery, and quirks by the dozen leads me to believe this will enter the world of all things cult very soon. This is a wonderfully twisted black comedy that almost plays as a kind of psychedelic version of Psycho – Jerry has a lot of similarities to Norman Bates but The Voices delivers a much more flamboyant serial killer tale.

This is really up there as one of Reynolds’ finest performances. It’s great to see a trend forming of late where he’s starring in roles that require a certain dramatic nuance opposed to the usual comedic or serious action range we’ve seen from him in the past. This should pave the way for bigger and brighter things for the young Canadian as he deserves to be regarded as an excellent actor. I’m crossing my fingers we see a similar cinematic transformation to that of Matthew McConaughey’s career AKA “The McConaissance” – If you will, a “Reynoldssaince” (I’m coining it guys). I’m also hoping the much-anticipated Deadpool film catapults his career rather than crushes it… but that’s another discussion. It seems like he’s really found a great balance between his quirky comedic side and his more serious dramatic style of acting. But what really glows is his voiceover work for both Bosco and Mr. Whiskers.

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I would highly recommend watching this film on the basis of these two characters alone. If the loveable cuddly Bosco is the angel on Jerry’s shoulders then the vindictively devious Mr. Whiskers is without a doubt the devil of the partnership. This hell-cat will go down as one of the most colourfully evil creations in film history (Puss in Boots wouldn’t stand a chance one on one with this vindictive little monster.)

I hate to single out an actor or actress for a poor performance but Gemma Arterton is truly appalling in this movie. I hadn’t seen her in much prior to this but I had expected a lot more from her considering the buzz from her Tess of the D’Urbervilles stint and a string of big budget Hollywood films like Quantum of Solace and Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters… but such a disappointment. She gives the impression she’s playing a part in a west-end show giving a really hammy over-the-top caricature of a young English woman. It was so bad, that at one point, I actually expected Dick van Dyke to dance his way into shot and announce “You sound like yor from Landan!?”

The narrative structure and pacing of the film can feel a little bit inconsistent at times – not knowing whether it’s a dark comedy, horror, or romance (or able to find a balance between all three) which results in something of a rocky ride. At times we’re given a backdrop to Jerry’s character with the impression of further revelation but for some unknown reason it holds back and tries to take an ambiguous approach. It all feels a little confusing as to what the final product wants to be.

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That being said, this is still one of the most darkly funny and twisted movie’s I’ve seen for a long time and one I heavily suggest watching at the cinema. It also features one of the most infectious songs ever used in a film. A true rival to The Lego Movie‘s “Everything is Awesome” (Both songs will leave you doomed to singing them for weeks.) As I’ve mentioned before it’s not a film for everyone – especially those faint of heart but if you’re a fan of Ryan Reynolds, weird quirky comedy horror, or talking animals, puppets, and heads… then this film is for you.

3 and a half Tupperware Boxes out of 5

by Simon Garganera Price