Madagascar (2005) RE-view #NetflixReview #Madagascar

… neurotic weed (voiced by an American Jew), and the fat chunky one (voiced by a black person) … racist

Madagascar is a fish-out-of-water tale of a group of zoo animal friends — hippo, giraffe, zebra and, err, lion (they’re from a zoo, they don’t know any better!) — who find themselves stranded on a distant island (no prizes for guessing which one). Can they survive in the wild, and will the jungle threaten to break their relationship as their true animal natures begin to assert themselves? Well, it’s a kids’ film, so no surprises.

Madagascar is a charming film with some lovable albeit unoriginal characters: cool leader (voiced by a white, all-American guy), wise-cracking donkey sorry zebra sidekick voiced by a leading black American stand-up, neurotic weed (voiced by an American Jew), and the fat chunky one (voiced by a black person). Oh, and there’s Sacha Baron Cohen doing a possibly racist generic foreigner voice, again.

But we can’t judge this 2005 flick by today’s somewhat different social mores. The fact that Ross Geller, Sorry David Schwimmer, is part of the leading cast should date this film considerably (no prizes for guessing which of our foursome he is — and no offence to Schwimmer, he is a genuinely talented performer, but let’s be honest — he hasn’t exactly been flush for film roles in the last decade or so, has he?). So how is it as a film?

It’s good. It’s still good. The characters have a balanced relationship between them. There are some great set pieces. There’s the whole emotional journey thing. There’s a friendship hanging in the balance. There’s the odd cultural reference; not too many to charge the writers with laziness, as most of the gags are gags are not “I-know-what-he-is-referencing-!-lol” so-called gags which blight much of the world of comedy these days.

Is it inferior to Ice Age and Shrek? Well, yes. It always was. But it’s a good way to waste ninety minutes.

© 2022 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Write Your Own M. Knight Shyamalan Screenplay: The Ingredients #Shyamalan @MNightShyamalan

The ingredients of a Shyamalan movie … summed up in short-attention-span-friendly bullet points

Writing this review made me reflect on M. Knight Shyamalan, who I’m a big fan of, and the ebb and flow of his career. Is he an “auteur”? And what does that word mean other than that the user is a film student? There certainly is a distinctive Shyamalan style which flows through and connects all his work: Sixth Sense, The Village, Stuart Little. But what are the ingredients of a Shyamalan movie? Here I’ve summed it up in short-attention-span-friendly bullet points.

  • Religious / Spiritual motif or thread (The Devil, Signs)
  • Protagonist who is mentally damaged from a previous tragedy, usually the death of a loved one (Signs, Sixth Sense)
  • A character who explains stuff / walking expositor, often to do with the religious motif or mythology underpinning the film (Unbreakable, Signs, The Village, The Happening, The Last Airbender, The Visit, The Devil)
  • Some wooden or flabby dialogue (see previous bullet point)
  • Self-indulgent Hitchcockesque cameo from the man, the legend himself: Shyamalan (Lady in the Water, Old)
  • Super double twist ending, with cheese (Sixth Sense, The Village)
  • Big Concept (the wind, err, kills? The Happening; people age quickly: Old; you cannot be injured: Unbreakable)
  • Pennsylvania, Philadelphia (Unbreakable, Glass)
  • Colour symbolism, especially red (The Village, Stuart Little (no, but seriously though))
  • Medical disorder or sickness (blindness in The Village, various in the Unbreakable trilogy)
  • Sci-fi or fantasy setting or element to a horror-thriller movie (Signs, The Happening)

Of course, there are visual touches, too. These include seeing stuff in a reflection and shots that linger. But this post is about his writing. That all being said, can you come up with the next Shyamalan flick, paint-by-numbers style?

© 2022 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Stop Ruining Game of Thrones for Me!!!!! [SPOILERS…ish]

This article originally appeared in 2015

game-of-thrones-logo

I sent the following letter to the Metro newspaper (London, UK) on Thursday.

Thank you, Metro, for COMPLETELY RUINING the latest episode of Game of Thrones for me. The large headline and picture (21 May, p23) gave the plot away without me even having to read the article.

I work 15 hour shifts and Game of Thrones is my one crumb of pleasure. I haven’t been able to catch up yet this week due to my long hours.

So, once again, THANKS.

Bryan Parry

Click here for the photo they posted. The headline was “‘Disgusting’ rape scene is attacked by Thrones fans”. Doesn’t take an absolute genius to put two and two together.

Grrr.

Las Elegidas ‘The Chosen Ones’ (2015) #NetflixReview #100wordreview

disturbing

Las Elegidas (‘The Chosen Ones’) follows a fourteen year old who gets kidnapped into sexual slavery by her boyfriend who is himself under the duress of his people-trafficking older brother and father. The boyfriend begs his father but is presented with a stark choice: his girlfriend will be released if he finds another girl to fill her space. So we spend half the film with him seducing another girl, ultimately successfully. His girlfriend is changed forever, however, and is “released” but only to live with the family and under their supervision at all times.

The film was moving. The sex scenes were disturbingly shot, but featured no actual sex. But this made it all the more disturbing as the sex is in our minds.

However, the film ends rather abruptly. Just as a plotline develops about one of the patrons of the brothel being an undercover would-be liberator of the girls, credits roll.

3/5

© 2020, 2022 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Netflix Film Review “Perdida” (2018) #150WordReview #NetflixReview

totally falls apart, our main players [are] totally incapable

A policeman carries around the pain of the mysterious and unsolved disappearance of her best friend from years before when they were on a teenage night out together. But when she finally decides to reopen the case and investigate it herself, she soon finds herself in danger.

Perdida is a mystery crime thriller with some interesting twists and turns, although you can see one of the main twists coming a mile away. Sadly, the just-about-passable acting totally falls apart, our main players totally incapable of even trying to react normally at several crucial moments; indeed, there is no reaction at all at emotional pay-offs. This weird disjunction between what is happening and the performance of the actors is vaguely confusing and certainly ruins the film’s high points.

A good story, some bizarre acting.

3/5

© 2020, 2022 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Best Star Trek Series? #StarTrek #BestStarTrekSeries

this post was originally published in 2018, hence the lack of in-text reference to Star Trek: Picard

It’s truly the Great Aunty Edith of the Star Trek family

I’m a big Star Trek fan. So I’ve been massively excited by the new Star Trek TV series, Discovery,  and couldn’t wait to see the first episode on Netflix! Will it be a hit or a flop? Only time will tell, though most of my non-Trek friends are surprised to hear there’s a new series. Either way, it raises the question: which Star Trek series is best?

The Original Series (1966-1969)

Okay, so I grew up in the 80s and 90s. Therefore, this show was always hopelessly dated for me. I like the themes, and I am thankful it gave us the Trek franchise, and yes, some of the films featuring the original cast were pretty good. But sorry: the series is naff and painful. It’s truly the Great Aunty Edith of the Star Trek family; there’s no doubting the depth of affection for her, we just don’t want to ever see her again because she is an out-of-date embarrassment.

The Next Generation (1987-1994)

So this is what got me into Trek. I saw my first episode around 1995. To today’s kids, this must look as naff and dated at the original series looked to me when I was a kid (The Original Series was 25-ish years old when I got into The Next Generation, and The Next Generation is now about 25 years old itself). Asides from the early episodes which were very campy and involved soon to be jettisoned stuff like Troy’s bizarre accent and Picard’s peculiar Frenchness, the series was fairly solid with a lot of great episodes.

Deep Space Nine (1993-1999)

For me, this is the best Trek by far. It’s where the franchise decided to bravely seek out new worlds that Star Trek could go. It straddles the old world of rose-tinted optimism and 22 episode seasons of random adventures, and the new post-Battlestar Galactica world of tense, tightly plotted, ten episode seasons, where the world is shades of grey, not a simple good versus evil. From the start of the Dominion War arc, DS9 also foresaw the tight central plot arc and went to dark places not explored before or since in Trek.

Voyager (1995-2001)

Too much, too soon. Next Gen was just winding up, and DS9 had barely begun let alone found its groove. Voyager would have benefitted from a couple of extra years development. Yes, the concept was good: a squabbling crew thrown together on a Federation starship hurled roughly 70 years from home. A female captain was much appreciated. And the show features one of my favourite Trek characters of all time: the Doctor, who was the Emergency Medical Holographic backup program which was forced to run full-time when the actual doctor got killed. A great spin on the non-human coming to terms with and trying to become human (see Data in Next Gen, Odo in DS9). Sadly, most characters were crap, and it took about four years to even get going.

Enterprise (2001-2005)

Brilliant costume and set design, a real gritty and primitive edge, wonderful developments of the early Federation: earth is barely united, and the Vulcans are very much senior partners. Great characters, great acting. Yes, it also took a while to get going. Not helped by the name, “Enterprise” as opposed to “Star Trek: Enterprise”, even the program-makers realised their error and re-inserted the “Star Trek” branding in the fourth season. But by then the damage was done. Premature cancellation in season four makes this show a somewhat frustrating, what-could-have-been.

Discovery (2017-??)

Hardly fair to judge it on the first season alone. And Star Trek is notorious for slow-starting series which only gear up after a few seasons. None-the-less, Discovery has great design and some lovely characters. There were some shocking twists, yet never for the sake of it. I can’t say it was perfect. I think 7/10 is a fair rating. Never-the-less, this might be the best first season of a Trek ever.

In Summary

So which Star Trek series is the best?

© 2017-2018, 2022 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Film Review “Clinical” (2017) #NetflixReview

a bit lazy … [but] nonetheless riveting and tense

A psychiatrist, who suffered a violent attack by one of her disturbed patients, tries to piece her life back together by finding new meaning — helping a new patient, but he has his own dark history to contend with. But is this case too much too soon for our Dr. Jane Mathis?

Clinical has two stories running in parallel, that of the horrifying attack Dr. Jane Mathis (Vinessa Shaw) suffered at the hands of her patient Nora (India Eisley), and that of her current patient Alex (Kevin Rahm) who suffered horrific disfigurement during one awful night. This structure works well.

Dr. Jane Mathis’ boyfriend Miles isn’t particularly believably played by Aaron Stanford. Sure, Stanford has little screen time and few lines to work with, but I never bought into their relationship; Vinessa Shaw, for her part, gives a believable performance. In fact, Miles and best friend Clara (Sydney Tamiia Poitier) seem to be there just to make up the numbers, add tension, help plot points and just, because, ya know, we need to have a boyfriend and bestfriend in these type of films to be menaced by murder and / or actually murdered. A bit tacked-on and underdeveloped.

A little bit lazy in places — shrink who’s on drugs herself, lots of glasses of wine, etc. — and underdeveloped in others — why should we even care about the fates of her boyfriend and best friend? — this film is nonetheless riveting and tense throughout. The ultimate assessment of whether this film makes the cut or not really depends on your opinion of the two parallel storylines, that of Nora and Alex, and the interrelation between these plot threads. If you feel that the two threads work nicely together, then you’ll like this film; if you feel that the two threads have been stuck together, then you’ll feel a bit frustrated. As for me, I think it all works quite well.

Worth a watch, but no classic.

3/5

© 2021-2022 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Stargate SG1 Reboot? #StarGate #StarGateReboot

STARGATE REBOOT!!!

Are you a Star Trek or a Star Wars fan? Me, I always say Trek. And it’s true. But actually, my favourite Star of all is, and I am kind of embarrassed to say it: Gate. Yes, Stargate is my favourite Sci-fi franchise.

What I crave, in these imagination-blanched days of reboots, is a STARGATE REBOOT!!!

The concept: the Stargate franchise as it is, is in the old, pre-Battlestar Galactica reboot days. Twenty plus episodes, many filler eps, no real driving episode-to-episode narrative. So let’s modernise it and make it fit current TV norms.

  • Darker tone.
  • 10 episodes a season.
  • One continuous narrative throughout.
  • Reboot in an alternative universe style, so we don’t even need the same characters (but we can keep them if we want).
  • Keep it to the original Egyptian + Sumerian/Babylonian (c.3000BC) mythologies. Forget all this Greek and Norse rubbish that they used to pad the shows out with.

Here are some season idea outlines. This may not make any sense to you if you’re not a fan of the TV shows or the film.

Season 1: mostly follows the original 1994 StargÅte film. They discover the gate, try to crack the code, travel to Abydos, hide out, get in trouble, they make Ra leave Abydos (not destroyed as in the film?), “Tealc”-type character introduced in this season which happens in Episode 1 of Stargate: SG1 the series. Basically, series one is the discovery of the gate and the struggle against and removal of Ra from Abydos.

Season 2: where SG1 starts but darker. Abydos in chaos as they can’t rule themselves, politically dark, Ra going to return, many people want him, Abydonians realise the gate can take them to other worlds and how to do it, earth starts to lose interest in Abydos, team kills Ra. In short: The Return of Ra.

Season 3: fall out on earth of destroying Ra and disobeying orders, politics, another system lord (but not “Apophis”) takes over Abydos, we hear invasion launched against earth, desperately search worlds for weapons and technology or allies to fight goa’uld, by end of season ships enter our solar system. In short: the Empire Strikes Back

Season 4: Not sure. But I reckon: we destroy Goa’uld ship, suspiciously easily; actually, Goa’uld ship was a ruse to distract as goa’uld symbiotes are landed on earth and a facility is set up on earth secretly so the goa’uld can take over several world leaders and government to act as a fifth column to pave way for actual invasion. Perhaps this becomes clear by last episode. In short: The First Wave.

Season 5: … you probably have given up reading this by now, so I’ll call this fangasm to an end.

© 2020-2022 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Netflix Film Reviews “Lost Girls” (2020) #150WordReview #NetflixReview

will surely haunt you

Lost Girls is based on the disturbing true case of the Long Island Serial Killer, where upwards of 16 young ladies, all sex workers, were murdered and buried in a field behind a gated community. The killer has yet to be identified. The film focuses on the story of Shannan Gilbert whose disappearance and subsequent police search led to the gruesome discovery of this string of dead bodies.

Nobody wanted to listen, but Shannon’s mother, Mari (Amy Ryan), was tenacious and made it happen. Deeply flawed individuals. Amazing acting even from those with very few lines. The casting was fantastic.

The obligatory credits sequence where we see the real people involved was particularly grisly and gruesome, especially when the fate of the surviving members of the family is revealed.

I don’t want to overegg this sell. Just watch the film. Fans of crime, thriller, documentary, and true stories will all love this deeply disturbing tale that will surely haunt you weeks later.

4/5

© 2020, 2022 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Netflix Film Review: “Fatal Deceit” a.k.a. “Gaslit” (2019)

read the 150 word review of Fatal Deceit / Gaslit here

… like something from Garth Merenghi’s Dark Place

Olivia’s (Zoe McLellan) world is turned upside down when, following the death of her estranged husband in a car accident, her teenage daughter goes missing while on a camping trip with the neighbours. But when her neighbours deny taking her on the trip, or even having met or seen any “daughter” in Zoe’s house, ever, Zoe’s whole world, and mind, rapidly unravel. Has someone taken her daughter? Does she even have a daughter?

Fatal Deceit a.k.a. Gaslit (2019) is nothing new. The whole have-they-taken-her-kid-or-does-she-even-have-a-kid thing has been done many times before. None-the-less, the basic storyline was entertaining and capably written by Writer-Director Colin Edward Lawrence and co-writer Erin Murphy West. One of the key plot points was, however, clumsily and blatantly telegraphed quite early on, consequently much of the suspense which was otherwise rather well developed was slightly deflated. And the general release title, Gaslit, has to be the biggest spoiler-title since “Return of the King”.

The direction was — interesting. Some of it was unusual but worked, other shots were like something from Garth Merenghi’s Dark Place: a bizarre, TV movie parody, almost. But the hit and miles wide direction was nothing compared to the acting.

Zoe McLellan is a decent television actor. She seems to know what her range is, and she works to push her abilities. Yet despite being an admirable second-rate TV / small screen actor, she was made to look like an Oscar contender such was the truly abysmal work from her castmates. Daughter Hannah (Stevie Lynn Jones) gave an early and shockingly bad turn which actually caused me to turn the movie off. I took a breather, had a think, and plowed back on. But it was that shocking. The rest of the cast do no better: husband Layne, Matthew Pohlkamp, the neighbour Mary, Stephanie Charles, the friend Bruce, Chris Dougherty: all were poor. Only supporting character Jack, Mike Erwin, gave a half-decent go. It’s no exaggeration to say that Zoe McLellan might wish to use this movie as her new demo reel such is the gulf between her performance and that of her castmates: an average turn/performance has been made to seem quite impressive, just as eggy bread looks like haute cuisine next to a dog’s dinner.

This movie is basically trash. A TV movie for the insomniac. But it’s trash with some redeeming features.

2/5

© 2021-2022 Bryan A. J. Parry

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