CASTLEVANIA s03

Still the best videogame adaptation of any sort, and this latest season sees gory, bloody action tempered by an expansion of the cast, new mysteries and a deeper exploration of personalities following the climax of season two.

Perhaps slower and more contemplative than the preceding seasons, there’s a lot of work being put into building out the world and the lore towards… well, it’s not entirely clear yet, but I’m looking forward to seeing where it’s going.

If you’ve been enjoying this so far you should find plenty to like here. It’s great. Absolutely not for kids.

Recommended.

UNDERWATER (2020)

Great cast, great production design… but ultimately it’s a pretty by-the-numbers wannabe creature feature which feels stuck together at a disjointed pace in a way that sacrifices any tension or tone for predictable jump scares and expositional dialogue.

Not outright bad in any regard, just kinda middling and doesn’t flex as much on an interesting premise as it could have.

Has some cool moments but mostly it’s just okay.

THE INVISIBLE MAN (2020)

It’s great!

Paranoid, economical, and leaning on a stellar lead performance from Elisabeth Moss and some really creative camerawork to sell what is essentially an absence, but also a very distinct presence. The camera lingers and follows what isn’t there, behaving as though empty space is being filmed with someone inhabiting and moving through it.

Fantastically executed, if this is the direction they’re moving with the classic Universal monsters then I’m all for it.

Recommended, don’t watch the trailer first.

COLOR OUT OF SPACE (2019)

There’s something inherently difficult in translating this specific short story to the screen, given that the titular “colour out of space” is supposed to be indescribable by nature and film is an inherently visual medium.

Still, there’s some interesting work done with colour grades and some really neat glitch-style VFX that do a fine job of translating cosmic horror in a creative way, even if the story is a little choppy and doesn’t flow together as well as it should, especially in the back half when the body horror gets turned up and things get stomach-churningly weird. It’s clumsy and clunky at times but pretty forgivable because it’s trying. Surprisingly understated from Nicolas Cage too, which is neither criticism nor compliment especially — he could have gone bigger but did it really need it?

There are some really unsetting images on display right alongside some ethereally beautiful ones and more than one homage to the big daddy of Lovecraftian films, THE THING. And it gets points for swinging out in a creative direction moreso than I was expecting.

Mostly good, if a little lacklustre overall but genre fans will find a lot to like here.

KINGDOM: s02 (2020)

Zombie plague + feudal Korea + beautiful cinematography + devious political machinations = an absolute winner following a similarly great first season.

Lots of twists and turns, great choreography and characters. It’s on Netflix now.

Highly recommended.

THE SNOWMAN (2017)

Did they forget to add real credits at the start or did the graphic design place just give up?

Did they spend all their budget on these banging scenic wide shots and that one big swanky party scene?

Why is this character named Harry Hole? Is it a translation error?

Why does Michael Fassbender always look dead? Is it alcoholism or bad grading?

Why does Harry continue to live in his apartment when the walls have been torn out to spray for toxic mold and not replaced?

How is the killer already in his car when we already know he was following way behind this woman?

Why are there random white flashes in scenes?

Why do we see scenes from nine years in the past even though nobody in the present was there to remember them?

Why do only two people in the film smoke when they keep cutting to cigarette butts at crime scenes (which nobody ever finds or comments on)? Why does The Great Detective never see them right there?

Why is it suddenly daytime? Why is it suddenly nighttime? Why is it suddenly daytime? Why is it suddenly nighttime?

Why do they say the killer only strikes when it snows when we’ve seen that it wasn’t?

Why is half the dialogue recorded in voiceover or badly dubbed in? Is this a prank?

Why does Chloe Sevigny just suddenly have a twin? Why did they need a snow truck to drop Harry off when we already saw that the house is literally 10ft from where he just was? How did he know to look in the tank and how did the killer get in/out?

Why doesn’t Magnus get a promotion? He literally has every bit of useful plot information immediately ready as soon as someone asks for it. Is it because he has to wait to be told to give people crucial information?

Why do neither of the detectives working on this case know the same information?

Why does everyone in Norway except for two third-tier supporting characters speak with a proper British accent?

What is his relationship to his ex-girlfriend’s son? Why do they hang out? Is he just using him for his cell phone? WHY DOESN’T THIS POLICE DETECTIVE OWN A CELL PHONE? Why is he having police matters forwarded to a minor’s phone?

WHY SNOWMEN? Like, they ALSO show up at every crime scene but nobody ever makes any connections. IT’S THE NAME OF THE FILM AND THIS NEVER GETS EXPLAINED.

Why coffee beans? We the audience know why, but nobody else ever once comes close to even noticing them.

What is the deal with the entirety of Val Kilmer’s plotline? Why do we see something that nobody in the rest of the movie knows happened?

Are we in the middle of this? The start? Near the end? There’s been zero signposting of progress in either the killer case or the plot.

Why are the police just leaving a crime scene to be eaten by birds?

Is lying down on top of someone whose house you just broke into and who just attacked you because you broke into their house really the best way to resolve this situation?

Why does nobody ever follow up on JK Simmons? He’s literally the last person to see a victim alive after taking her photo with his phone IN PUBLIC WITH WITNESSES and then gives her his room card. HOW DID THE KILLER GET IN THE ROOM? How does nobody notice Rebecca Ferguson’s giant recording device? You can see it across the room! How did the killer find and move her gun when she was in the room the whole time? When/where did she get changed?

Who was the girl who had her boobs out for JK Simmons? She didn’t seem happy about it but then she just shows up again opening doors for people and then that entire plotline gets dropped. Who is she? IS SHE OK?? Why was Rebecca Ferguson even following her in the first place?

How does Harry know where to go to find his not-family? How does the razor-wire gun work and why does that exist? Why do none of the letters in the trailers show up in the film?

How did Harry not see the killer standing in the middle of a frozen lake in daytime not forty paces away? Is it because he’s just slightly out of shot? Why did the ice suddenly break when Harry was standing right there not a minute before?

How does Harry always only have half a cigarette even when he didn’t have a lit one two cuts earlier?

Is this meant to be a parody and something (a lot of things) got lost in the edit? It’s two hours long! What did they cut?? Besides all the resolutions to all the plot threads, that is.

How did they get this cast in this film?

And then why does the movie just… end?

Can someone give me whatever this cost to make?

ATERRADOS (“Terrified”) — 2017

Super effective at creating a sense of dread as a group of specialists investigate a rash of supernatural occurrences in a small Buenos Aires neighbourhood that begin to seep and bleed from house to house.

Full of unsettling imagery and well executed horror tropes, even if it ultimately isn’t really sure how to best drive the terror home in the final act — it all feels very plausible until it suddenly doesn’t, partially due to some mishandled digital effects and a few little holes in the script.

Still, there’s some imaginative camerawork and genuinely creepy moments. If you’re a horror fan at all this Argentinian film is overall well worth giving a spin.

ROCKETMAN (2019)

I’ve really never been one much for biopics, finding that the restrictions of condensing a person’s lifetime down to a relatable 90-120min slice with a clear through-line and character arc tends to oversimplify what it is to be a person, even a great and notable one.

So I come out the other side of Elton John’s story feeling that Taron Egerton’s performance deserved more attention than it got and that the method of interweaving music and theatricality into a musician’s life story was creatively handled and well produced, but that what makes someone who they are is harder to quantify than with a handful of scenes, quick sketches of a time and a place punctuated by abstracted narrative music videos. These were/are real people who all lead rich and complex lives, and so much is lost in the simplification to a product. Life is still going on for them. Elton is even due in town on his farewell tour fairly soon.

The best “biopic” is still WALK HARD: THE DEWEY COX STORY – a parody of the genre that plainly states the story beats of this type of film so bluntly that it necessitates a more creative angle from anyone hoping to do it seriously, much like how CABIN IN THE WOODS so thoroughly satirised the horror genre that filmmakers had to think twice about their own approach.

I digress.

If you’re a fan of his music and are intrigued a little more by the life behind it then there is certainly plenty to love about ROCKETMAN. Egerton was hand-picked for the role and truly does great things with it, going so far as to learn to sing in brilliant mimickry of one of the all time rock’n’roll greats. It’s very straightforward, but that’s not a bad thing.

Absolutely watch this over the trainwreck that was BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY.

BIRDS OF PREY (2020)

A movie with an identity crisis: trying at once to step away from the pre-existing DCU while at the same time still allowing itself to be shaped by it in all the wrong ways.

I don’t really care a whole lot for the sort of post-production face-tattoo neon-edgelord style that SUICIDE SQUAD had going on, and I really feel like this was a pretense deserving of a few more polish and tighten passes on the script and some snappier direction more akin to a SCOTT PILGRIM or a DEADPOOL than the fairly middling thing that’s happening here.

The titular “Birds of Prey” don’t even really enter into it until the last part of the final act for some fairly stagey action sequences and it never really coheres into the sort of character piece it wants to be. Everyone except Harley (Robbie, who looks like she’s having a blast) is just sort of “in the movie” for the most part.

There’s some good stunts and the performances hit all the notes but it’s cut together in a way that feels like an afterthought rather than an intention.

Low mid-tier DCU, not the worst, but felt (like Harley herself) to be too defined by the shadow it’s trying to escape from under.