Category Archives: 3/5

“Choose or Die” (2022) #100WordReview #NetflixReview

Think “Horror Jumanji”

After starting up a previously undiscovered survival horror video game from the mid-80s, “Curs<r”, a young programmer’s world is torn apart as the game unleashes real world horror. Think “Horror Jumanji” or “Ring + Saw”.

Choose or Die is the feature debut from British director Toby Meakins, and stars young and old British talent such as Iola Evans, Asa Butterfield, Eddie Marsan and, err, Robert England Englund (well, he did go to RADA).

The film is tense, genuinely horrifying, and one of the trials is truly disturbing. It’s a bit different, but nothing revolutionary. There are some weaknesses in the plot and acting.

A strong and enjoyable horror flick.

3/5

© 2022 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa RE-view #NetflixReview #Madagascar

literally Lion King retold … but Shrekified

check out the RE-view of Madagascar here

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa picks up where Madagascar left off: with our cadre of lovable animal friends trying to escape Madagascar where they were washed up in the original film, Robinson Crusoe style. In a penguin-piloted plane back to New York — what could go wrong? Well, a lot — surprisingly. Short story shorter: they crash land in Africa.

Madagascar 2 takes the charm and the likable characters of the first movie but rounds them out by giving a deep backstory to our fully three dimensional characters (ahem). Yes, we find out the origins of our main protagonist Alex the Lion. Madagascar 2 also bounces along fine, but I couldn’t help but feel that in order to avoid totally rehashing the plot of the first movie as so often happens in light-hearted comedies (Family Affair 1 and 2, Harold and Kumar 1 and 2, Ace Ventura 1 and 2, and so on), the writers decided to shamefacedly go down the plagiarism route: this story is literally Lion King retold with the Madagascar characters but pushed in a slightly Shrekified direction.

There’s the odd cultural reference, as in Madagascar, but thankfully these are few and far between. The jokes are actually jokes, not references.

Unoriginal it may be, and definitely the inferior Dreamworks computer animated franchise of the noughties (Shrek is the undoubted king whose sheen has not been dimmed by the passing of time), it is none-the-less entertaining. Likable characters, a simple story well-told, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa is an entertaining way to waste ninety minutes (yeah, it’s a waste — you’re not learning anything here, and there’s nothing philosophical to unwrap).

3/5

© 2022 Bryan A. J. Parry

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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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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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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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Film Review “The Nameless” a.k.a. “Los Sin Nombre” (1999) #NetflixReview #FilmReview #150WordReview

… still worth a watch.

Several years after a six year old girl is brutally murdered, her mother receives a mysterious phone call from a woman claiming to be none other than her daughter. With the help of a retired policeman and a journalist, our mother struggles to find the truth in the face of grave danger from a mysterious force.

Los Sin Nombre, based on Ramsey Campbell’s 1981 novel The Nameless, is a disturbing psychological thriller horror mystery. It’s dark, broody and grimy. It’s not clear until much later on in the film what actually is going on with her daughter and who this mysterious caller is. When the reveal comes, it’s a bit of a let-down as the back story isn’t fully worked out on screen. None-the-less, the first two thirds of the film make this still worth a watch.

A notable and praise-worthy film with a disappointing ending that hobbles it.

3/5

© 2021-2022 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Film Review “Hypnotic” (2021) #NetflixReview #100WordReview

entertaining bit of brain bubblegum

A young woman overcoming a broken relationship begins seeing a renowned psychotherapist. However, when he cracks open a can of hypnotism in their intense sessions, things go dangerously off the rails.

The publicity photos and tag line (“His wish is her command”) essentially give away the story. However, the moment we lay eyes upon our hypnotherapist, we know what’s going to happen; his motives are transparent, his sliminess obvious.

This is an entertaining and capably acted flick. It’s no classic, though. A nice light entertaining bit of brain bubblegum.

3/5

© 2022 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Film Review “A Classic Horror Story” (2021) #NetflixReview #150WordReview

Should be called A Classic Horror Story Medley

Strangers carpooling together across Italy get stranded in the woods and stalked by an evil presence and must fight tooth and nail to get out in one piece. As one of our characters remarks, “It’s like the set-up of a classic horror movie.”

A Classic Horror Movie, ironically, won’t go down as a classic horror movie. Indeed, it doesn’t even have the storyline of a classic horror movie. It does feel eerily familiar, however, with hints of Evil Dead, Saw, and Cabin in the Woods thrown in. The spooky house in the woods (another classic horror trope) was well-designed and very unsettling. What the movie sometimes lacks in acting it makes up for in atmos.

A suspenseful and gruesome flick with a wonderful post-credits sequence which is just perfect. However, it thinks it’s a bit cleverer than it actually is. Should be called A Classic Horror Story Medley.

3/5

© 2021-2022 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Film Review “Things Heard and Seen” (2021) #NetflixReview

the ghost story … goes nowhere [and] was pointless.

After an artist relocates with her husband and young child to a dream house for the dream price (familiar set-up?), she slowly begins to realise that both the house and her husband have a dark side.

Part ghost story, part psychological drama of the my-husband-isn’t-who-I-thought-he-was kind, Things Heard and Seen thrillingly portrays the descent into darkness, or rather the slow reveal, of Catherine’s (Amanda Seyfried) husband George (James Norton). I felt sickened and horrified as the truth depth of George’s deception slowly unfurled. All the actors were wonderful.

The story itself is compelling, but there are just too many loose ends to make this film the four star flick it seemed it was going to be. Apparently, the novel which the movie is based on, All Things Cease to Appear by Elizabeth Brundage, does indeed develop these threads. For example, there are characters like Eddie and Cole Vayle (Alex Neustaedter and Jack Gore) or Willis (Natalia Dyer) who seem like they should be developed and central characters, but who just kind of go nowhere. What was the point of any of these characters, frankly? And the worst thing was the ghost story angle; it literally goes nowhere. It really was pointless and, ultimately, a distracting waste of time.

This leads on to the fundamental issue with the film. Whilst screenwriters Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulchini give it a decent go, they seem to be a little unclear as to what kind of movie they’re trying to make. Is it a domestic drama, or is it a ghost film? Or is it both? Clarity on this point would have sharpened up the movie and helped identify which of these loose ends to develop and which to cut.

None-the-less, a very entertaining film which lets itself down.

3/5

© 2021 Bryan A. J. Parry

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