Friday, 27 June 2014

TV SERIES REVIEW: THE FOLLOWING SEASON 2




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TV is not what it used to be and the level of violence allowed on the small screen has increased dramatically. But THE FOLLOWING takes us on a whole different gory level with bodies piling up by the dozen with each new episode.

But there’s another creepy thing about THE FOLLOWING. It is how normal it treats the killers. In a way it is soap opera for psychopaths. It is not trying to understand them, but instead offering us a daily routine of the crazies. They befriend each other, fall in love and break up, go shopping and cook dinner - all just like us “the normal” people.

For those who had not seen the first season the premise is a simple one - a good cop Ryan Hardy is trying to catch charismatic leader of the serial killers cult - Joe Carol (names Hardy and Carol are of course references to the classic literature).

Joe Carol had died in the end of the first season and the biggest twist this year around is to introduce us to a new threat. Is Joe’s cult still alive? And Joe himself? Did he fake his death?

The answer would be an eminent spoiler, and the unexpected twists are all that THE FOLLOWING is about. Sometimes it even feels it is trying too hard and a single episode seems to be so overloaded with cutting, slashing and betrayals that it seems pushing the envelope even for those who abandoned their hopes to see something believable on screen.

But there’s one thing THE FOLLOWING does well - it’s entertaining. It will definitely give you your weekly fix of adrenalin wether you are hardcore horror fan as myself or a novice to the genre. The key episodes were written by the creator of the series Kevin Williamson himself (the man behind the SCREAM franchise). The man’s writing is good, however he does recycle the characters from his previous works - the ambitions journo Carrie Cooke is Gail Weathers from SCREAM reincarnated.

The series feature many “women in peril” episodes, put female protagonists and villains in THE FOLLOWING are strong fighters and can stand up for themselves at any time. The showdown between the two female leads closer to the end of the show is an absolute highlight and worth the time spent with them.


When so many shows coming up and being cancelled this year THE FOLLOWING had a weak start, but have build up if not to something new, but genuinely exciting.  It is inevitable that with the closure of so many story arcs in season two the third season will have to do something truly original to carry on, but will the fans want a big change? With Kevin Williamson writing the opening episode I trust no one will be disappointed.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

MOVIE REVIEW: TRANSFORMERS - AGE OF EXTINCTION



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Cade Yager is a mechanic and an inventor who lives on a Texas’ farm with his teenage daughter. When he buys an old truck he discovers that he, in fact, got himself a transformer - Optimus Prime. His decision to keep it a secret triggers series of events that put him and his family in harms way and right in the middle of an ancient battle between Autobots and a new mysterious threat.

It is not a surprise that AGE OF EXTINCTION is a slick, exciting and beautifully executed production. What comes as a surprise is, that apart from some lousy dialogue (“I love you dad”  “Thank you for saving me” etc, blah blah), it has an decent script that brought some fresh ideas to the story. The visuals and battle scenes in the film took as much thinking and inventing as the plot itself  and successfully so - a forty something minutes finale in Hong Kong is inspired.

The other difference of this instalment from its predecessors is that its very brutal. Transformers die in the most horrible circumstances, loosing limbs and bleeding oil and experiments on them is a nod to a modern genocide.

The villains also get what they deserve and for the first time Autobots openly fight (and kill!) humans.

Mark Walberg puts on his Indiana Jones boots - chasing artefacts, running on the roofs, shooting, fighting, falling  and is exceptionally inventive at survival.
 
Nicole Peltz does a decent job as damsel in distress, but also kicks ass when it is required.
 
Stenley Tucci is superb as eccentric billionaire who keeps his bad attitude and manages to remain likable against odds. But Kelsey Grammer is a rather flat villain, easy to hate but redundant in the film with a handful of monster figures.

The story slightly touches on the issues of imperfection of the world and how some mistakes can bring good as well as damage, but AGE OF EXTINCTION is not a thinking person’s movie. It’s an inventive fantastic feast for the eye and if I am allowed to draw this comparison - leaving the theatre I felt the same way as when I saw JAMES CAMERON’s TRUE LIE for the first time.


AGE OF EXTINCTION designed to be viewed multiple times - there’s only so much a human eye can catch, and is a definite instant action classic.

Monday, 16 June 2014

MSFF MOVIE REVIEW: SEPTIMO (7TH FLOOR)


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Roberto is a criminal lawyer who is estranged from his wife. He is worried about his kids leaving to Spain with their mother, but his fears are going to multiply when the children suddenly disappear while running down the stairs somewhere between the 7th and the ground floor. What had happened? Is one of the residents involved or is it someone from Roberto's work tries to settle the score? The claustrophobic paranoia insures.

7th Floor is a thriller confined in a claustrophobic space of the apartment block with a promise of a great mystery. Unfortunately the great concept comes undone when when the script runs out of ideas half way through and presents the most plausible, and rather obvious ending. The things go from bad to worse when awkwardly (and unnecessary) we are being taken beyond the premises of the crime, which breaks the atmosphere and pushes the story where we did not want it to go.

Argentinian super stars Racardo Darin and Belen Rueda make a fine duo, especially because the story conflict revolves around their relationship. Will they be able to forget their quarrels when the lives of their children are at stake? Or will the tragedy will only open the old wounds?

The first forty five minutes of the film are very tense. We are plunged in every parent's nightmare, and even if you dot have children it is not hard to imagine what Ricardo is going through.But very soon it is obvious that, just like the characters of the movie, we are being played. Overloaded with suspects and red herrings the film is failing to hide who will benefit most from the kids sudden disappearance.

7th floor could have been a great little thriller if not for some bad writing decisions. But it is tense, short and focused. There are worst movies out there.Just remember - don't let you kids run downstairs unsupervised!

Sunday, 8 June 2014

MOVIE REVIEW: MEA CULPA



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Fred and Simon, detective partners, get into a serious car crash that leaves 3 people dead (including a child). Simon, who was behind the wheel, looses everything: his job, his family and his self respect. Six years later he is working for a private security company and things seem to look up a little,  when his teenage son becomes a witness to the mafia murder.  Believing that mafia does not leave loose ends Simon asks help from the one man he could always rely on. But Frank has his own secrets to keep. Will the two be able to reconcile their past and face a new imminent danger?

French director Fred Cavaye creates another adrenalin ride with two of his favourite actors Vincent Lindon and Gille Lelouche as the stars. Stand alone elements of the film are not original. In fact they can be called cliches, but assembled they make an edge of the seat experience that will keep you glued to the screen. Interesting element of MEA CULPA is how character development goes through visuals, rather than dialogue. The space tight brutal fight inside the van in a car park, right after the opening of the film, has no value to the story but to present the character of Frank in action.   MEA CULPA is filled with border improbable chasing scenes, characters escaping certain death in the last moments, but with a young child being a constant target from the killers make the film closer to a horror movie than to a cop thriller. The final showdown on a train where everything is at stake is raw and uncompromising. But while you could see the story resolution miles away it is still very satisfying.

The weakest point of the film are the villains, reduced to the faceless motorcycle riders and creepy killers for hire, but you will hate and fear them all the same. 

In an instant age where viewers attention span rarely lasts longer than 90 minutes this uncompromising French thriller well deserves its place under the sun. 

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

MOVIE REVIEW: EDGE OF TOMORROW



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Bill Cage is not a soldier, but through bad attitude and some bad luck he ends up in the middle of a decisive battle with an alien race that humans are about to lose. Killed moments after the landing on French shore, he wakes up twenty four hours prior to his death. Pretty soon it is clear that he is doomed to re-live the same day again and again. No one believes him, until he meets a war veteran, a woman everyone calls Full Metal Bitch. Together they are going to use Cage's ability to the battle advantage.

EDGE OF TOMORROW is based on the Japanese light novel ALL YOU NEED IS KILL by young independent author Hiroshi Sakurazaka. The book sums up what Japanese SCI-FI is about: action for thinking people and intense violence designed to highlight the even more intense human drama at its core. THE EDGE OF TOMORROW successfully manages to transpire it all to screen, adding an element of humour, that compliments, but doesn't dismiss the dark tone of the film.

The movies about time loops have one disadvantage - they struggle to find the probable explanation behind the happening. EDGE OF TOMORROW fabulously deals with the problem, making it original and satisfying.
Tom Cruise had an interesting character on his hands with opportunity to build him up from scratch. When we meet Cage in the first scene he is afraid of a paper cut and by the end he will defy the fear of death. Cruise manages to gradually change his looks through the film, as experiences of the battlefield turn him into a completely different beast.

But the real show stealer is Emily Blunt, who combines strength and fragility with ease. Her character is fierce and calculating at the same time, and it is interesting to watch her true feeling showing as if she lets Cage closer little by little.

The great achievement of the script that it is rather easy to understand for a film dealing with such a convoluted time travelling premise. The action scenes are a hallmark of what modern 3D and digital sound are capable of. During the movie I was worried that after so many set pieces the ending will be disappointing (a good example is Pacific Rim), but the final confrontation raises the stakes enough to make us worry and will end on a high note.

The Edge Of Tomorrow had been described as a typical American blockbuster, Groundhog Day with an Alien twist, but in fact, just like the original novel, it has conventional Japanese values at its core - good fortune on the battlefield, just like in life, is nothing without the skills obtained by a hard repetitive work.