Monday, 23 May 2022

REVIEW: Choose or Die (2022) Starring Iola Evans and Asa Butterfield

Review by Jon Donnis
Iola Evans stars as Kayla, a college dropout working as a cleaner who is drawn into the nightmarish world of CURS>R, an 80s style text video game that can affect reality. I have the feeling that I have seen a film with a near identical plot line to this before?

The film starts with Hal (Eddie Marsan), a collector of old video games, who is clearly neglecting his family, he gets his hands on a copy of an old text based, interactive computer game called CURS>R. (That was the original name of the film by the way). 


Hal starts up the game assuming it will be another classic 80s adventure game, but before you know it, objects around him in the real world are starting to interact with what is happening in the game, before you know it the lights have gone out and his wife has cut out the tongue of his teenage son.

We quickly fast forward a few months and to college student Kayla, she is working as a cleaner to help pay for her studies, she also collects new and old technology which she gives to her geeky friend Isaac played by Asa Butterfield, in exchange he helps teach her computer coding which she can use in her college classes.


Kayla's homelife is tough, her mother Thea (played by Corrie legend Angela Griffin) is a drug addict suffering with mental health issues, as well as abuse from her landlord Lance, (Ryan Gage) who has forced her into prostitution to pay for the rent.

After visiting Isaac after work, Kayla discovers the CURS>R game in his apartment, along with a phone number offering a $125k prize. She calls the number and receives a recorded message from the Terror Director (voiced by horror icon Robert Englund) telling her if she has completed the game, to insert the number code after the tone to win the money. Intrigued by the offer, Kayla accepts the challenge, thinking it will be easy money, and arranges a deal with Isaac to share the prize.


Kayla starts playing the game in a café that evening and before you know it, the game is affecting reality and the waitress is eating broken glass. Kayla makes a binary choice in the game, that then affects reality and if you make the right choice, you complete the level, but that usually ends up with someone else suffering.

What follows is a decent little horror film, roughly 80 minutes, so easy to digest. An early scene sees Kayla on the phone to her mother while playing the game, we as the viewer are only seeing Kayla and the 80s style graphics on a CRT TV screen, yet as the Kayla is trying to help her mother escape from a monster, it really surprised me how invested I found myself in the scene, despite visually only seeing the text based game, really well produced scene which I thought deserved a special mention.

Although the film is rather predictable, and as I said I feel like I have seen something very similar before, I thought overall the film was well made, and delivered pretty much what it promised. With a nice twist at the end of sorts.


The Good
The film is the perfect length, I thought Iola Evans and Asa Butterfield played their parts very well. And the growing tension in certain scenes was really well done.

The Bad
Angela Griffin despite being the second most famous actor in the film is no more than a cameo, which is just a misuse of her talent. I would have also liked to have seen Robert Englund given a more physical role.

Overall
I do like my low budget, Indie Horror films, and this one, ticks all the right boxes. I actually grew up on those 1980s text based adventure games, so I think people from my generation will appreciate the story more than say someone under 40.

Choose or Die is a decent horror film which deserves your attention. Give it a shot, it is only 80 minutes after all.

I score Choose or Die a solid 8/10


Sunday, 22 May 2022

REVIEW: Dark Cloud (2022) - Starring Alexys Gabrielle, Emily Atack and Hugo Armstrong

Review by Jon Donnis
Before you get too excited, although the lovely Emily Atack is in this film, it is only her voice, which was perhaps a smart decision for her as it meant she could get her job done in a single day from a studio.


Chloe (Alexys Gabrielle) has volunteered to try a new rehabilitation process after suffering an accident, this seems to involve moving into a house that is controlled by an AI called AIDA (Emily Atack).


AIDA, runs everything in the "smart-house" and is given the job of keeping Chloe safe and helping her rehabilitation. Chloe becomes friends with AIDA, but AIDA starts to think for itself, I am sure there was a movie in the 1980s that warned about all of this! If only we had listened, well they never listened in this film, and of course the AI becomes self-aware and the inevitable happens.


I use the word inevitable very purposely, since this is an incredibly predictable film. It also seems to have been filmed in the dullest possible way, there is a total lack of colours in the film, which doesn't help keep your attention as the viewer.

The film is relatively short at 80 minutes, but really it could have been half that and not really lost anything. This is no more than an episode of The Outer Limits or The Twilight Zone, but stretched to 80 minutes.


The Good
The film starts off promisingly enough, and there is a story there to be told. Oh and the poster looks really cool.

The Bad
The film is rather dull, and by the time anything good happens, you may have lost interest. Plus why on earth would you hire Emily Atack (the most famous person in the film) and only use her voice?

Overall
Unoriginal story that drags at times, and sadly doesn't use the cast it has in a way they deserve.

I score Dark Cloud a poor 3/10. Just not very good.

Out on digital and DVD - https://amzn.to/3ahORZl


Saturday, 21 May 2022

REVIEW: Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022) - Starring Michelle Yeoh, Stephanie Hsu, Ke Huy Quan, Jenny Slate, Harry Shum Jr., James Hong and Jamie Lee Curtis

Review by Jon Donnis
First of all, what a great name for a film, how has no one thought of "Everything Everywhere All at Once" as a film title before?

Directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, collectively known as "Daniels", hence the "Film from Daniels" on the poster, the film is an absurd, crazy, multiverse genre, big-hearted, sci-fi action adventure. Michelle Yeoh stars as Evelyn Quan Wang, an unhappy and overwhelmed laundromat owner, who is facing an audit from the IRS and the threat of losing everything to the tax man. Evelyn is married to Waymond Wang, (Ke Huy Quan), he is a calm, patient, meek and goofy husband. And together they are trying to bring up their daughter Joy Wang played by Stephanie Hsu. You may also recognise James Hong as Gong Gong, Evelyn's demanding father, who has just arrived from China. James Hong has been in more films than I can think of, and at 93 years old, is an absolute legend in the business.


The film is separated into 3 parts, Everything, Everywhere and All at Once, hence the name of the film.

The family are being audited, so go to the IRS building for a meeting with Deirdre Beaubeirdra, played by Jamie Lee Curtis. While on the way to the meeting, in the elevator Waymond's body is taken over by another version of Waymond, this Waymond is known as Alpha Waymond, as he comes from the Alpha Universe.


Alpha Waymond explains that many universes exist since every choice made creates a new universe. The people of the Alphaverse, led by the now deceased Alpha Evelyn, developed "universe-jumping" technology that allows people to access the skills, memories, and bodies of their parallel universe counterparts by fulfilling specific conditions, this may involve giving yourself paper cuts before activating the jump, or tapping a surface, just weird things that need to be done first, and a few rather hilarious ones too which I won't spoil. Alpha Waymond explains that the multiverse is being threatened by Jobu Tupaki, formerly Alpha Joy (Evelyn's daughter). Her mind was splintered after Alpha Evelyn pushed her to extensively verse-jump, leading her mind to overload and fracture across the multiverse. Jobu Tupaki now experiences all universes at once and can verse-jump and manipulate matter at will. With her godlike power she has created a black hole-like "everything bagel" that can potentially destroy the multiverse.


Evelyn is given verse-jumping technology to fight Jobu Tupaki's verse-jumping minions, who begin converging in the IRS building. Evelyn learns of Waymond's plans to divorce her and discovers other lives where she made different choices and flourished, such as by becoming a kung fu master and movie star instead of leaving China with Waymond, who becomes a successful businessman. Alpha Waymond comes to believe that Evelyn, as the greatest failure of all Evelyns of the multiverse, has the untapped potential to defeat Jobu Tupaki.

Some of the different universes are hilarious, I wont spoil them all, but I will say you will probably start seeing memes about hot dog fingers. There is even a universe where life never evolved. Yes really.


What follows is a true masterpiece of cinema, visual effects that should be in a film with 5 times the budget. A mixture of Chinese language and English, the viewer is taken on one hell of a ride.

This is undoubtable the film of the year, and will win all sorts of awards. We get short glimpses of the multiverse, some crazy, some downright absurd. This film will be compared to the new Doctor Strange film, but this film just does the whole genre so much better and more imaginative. If I was a Marvel exec watching this, I would be very pissed off, because Everything Everywhere All at Once is a better film. Simple as that.

The Good
What a ride. What an excellent imaginative film. Has something for everyone, and even some really cool Kung Fu scenes.

The Bad
There is a "fake" ending after about 90 minutes, and then the film carries on till about 2 hours 10. I thought the film overall was a little too long. I think a length between the fake ending and the real ending would have been better.

Overall
I loved this film, it is easily the superior "Multiverse" film of the year.

I score Everything Everywhere All at Once a nearly perfect 9.5/10

Watch it!
Out Now on Apple TV - https://apple.co/3MGlm1y
You can also pre-order the home entertainment release at - https://amzn.to/3GaVQiI

Friday, 20 May 2022

REVIEW: Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore - Starring Eddie Redmayne, Jude Law and Mads Mikkelsen

Review by Jon Donnis
I have never been a fan of the Harry Potter films, so not sure why I am reviewing what I believe is the 11th film in the J. K. Rowling's Wizarding World series, but here we are.

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore is the third of a trilogy of films, I don't think I saw the first 2, I may have but I see so many films, I have probably forgotten them.


In the time before the events of the Harry Potter films, there is another dark wizard who wants to take over. Isn't there always. Gellert Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelsen) gathers an army around him and it's up to magic zoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) to stop him. Professor Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) can no longer hold back and must intervene against Grindelwald's crimes, and a man he once called his friend. Together with a group of wizards and a brave Muggle, they go to war against the bad guy.

Now if you think this all sounds familiar, that is because it is, it is basically the same story as the previous films from what I can gather, but then if a franchise is making money, why not ring it dry.

The biggest problem with this film is that if you are not deeply familiar with the books and previous films, you will find it rather hard to know what the hell is going on, who is who, and what is what. I hear the name Scamander and I first think of an old ancient Greek God, and then I think of the bad guy from one of the old James Bond films!


Once the first part of the film is finished with, which I had no idea what was going on, things picked up when Newt gathered a group of people, and talked about them having to take on Grindelwald who has the ability to see the future, so they need to fight him using lots of ideas at the same time, as to create chaos. So, I understand this bit, group of good guys teaming up to take on the bad guy.

Grindelwald is also building up his power and hoping to rig an election, so he can become the wizarding-world leader, a bit like Joe Biden in the 2020 election, I guess.

There are fantastical creatures, (beasts), my favourite being a little stick insect thingy. There are stunning visual effects, CGI etc. And the acting is all of a level you would expect from the actors involved.


I have to be brutally honest, I struggled with this film, I found myself totally lost at points and wishing I had a Harry Potter dictionary on me to tell me what everything meant. As such it was hard for me to take in everything the film was trying to deliver. Although I could follow the main story, which is easy enough, it is all the added things that seemingly make these films so popular, and if you have not at the very least seen the first two films in this trilogy, you may find yourself lost as I did.

The Good
CGI etc is all brilliant, this is a big budget film and you can tell. The characters are likeable if confusing at times, and the basic story is understandable if totally unoriginal.

The Bad
You really need to be a fan of the franchise to get the most out of the film. This is not a film for newbies to the franchise.

Overall
This film was not for me, it was a bit like turning on a game between the Dallas Cowboys and the San Francisco 49ers, in the final quarter, and trying to understand what is going on when you have never seen a game of American Football in your life.

I am not gonna score the film, as it wouldn't be fair. I will say that if you are a fan of the franchise, go watch it I am sure you will love it.
If you are not a fan of the franchise, don't waste your time.

Wednesday, 18 May 2022

REVIEW: Monstrous (2022) - Starring Christina Ricci and Santino Barnard

Review By Jon Donnis
It has been a while since I have seen a Christina Ricci film, so long in fact I cant remember the last one, so with that I was looking forward to seeing Monstrous.

The basic story is as follows

"A terrifying new horror awaits Laura (Christina Ricci) and her seven-year-old son Cody when they flee her abusive ex-husband and try to settle into a new life in an idyllic and remote lakeside farmhouse. Still traumatized, their physical and mental well-being are pushed to the limit as their fragile existence is threatened."


Although there are a couple of other characters in the film, this story mainly revolves around Laura (Christina Ricci) and her young son Cody (Santino Barnard), the film starts off with Cody in his bed, hiding under the sheets, your typical child hiding from imaginary monsters. We quickly change to Laura driving Cody to their new home.

As the film progresses we learn that Laura is seemingly escaping an abusive ex, and with Cody they can start fresh in a new town, new school for Cody, and a new life in a house by a lake.

Of course, things are never that simple, as soon enough it seems that there is a lake monster. Add Laura's ex getting her phone number and keep trying to ring, and you have two frightening issues to deal with.


Now at this point I don't want to say any more except for one thing, there is a twist in the film, now usually at this point I will tell you how I saw the twist coming and it ruined the film for me, HOWEVER, I never saw the twist coming. And that fact alone made this film ten times better for me.

Although the film in advertisements comes across as your typical horror film set by a lake, it does have extra layers, that I cant reveal for it would spoil the film, and I don't want to do that.

Christina Ricci puts in an excellent performance, and really delivers emotion that you the viewer can feel, and up the last scene, she grabs you as a viewer, and that is something very few actors have the ability to do.


The Good
Christina Ricci is excellent in this film, completely believable and portrays every emotion needed to sell the story.

The Bad
Some of the monster special effects could have been done better.

Overall
This is so much more than just a film with a monster in it, it is a horror/thriller with extra layers, and at just about 85 minutes it is a decent length that never dragged for me.

I really enjoyed this film, and made me want to watch it again.

I score Monstrous a very strong 8.5/10

Out Now on Apple TV - https://apple.co/3LteXoS


Monday, 16 May 2022

REVIEW: 9 Bullets (2022) Starring Lena Headey, Dean Scott Vazquez and Sam Worthington

Review by Jon Donnis
Written and Directed by Gigi Gaston, 9 Bullets is a film about Gypsy Moon (Lena Headey - Game of Thrones) is a novelist by day but when night falls she dances to earn her keep. However, when the family next door is brutally murdered Gypsy finds herself on the run from crime boss Jack (Sam Worthington - Avatar) and his thugs.

Finding herself as protector to a young boy and his dog, the only survivors of the brutal attack, Gypsy realises she is the only thing that stands between them and their survival in this truly edge-of-your seat thriller.


The film starts off with Gypsy off to perform her last gig as a burlesque dancer, she is also about to finish an autobiographical book that will soon be published.



While this is going on, we cut to a young boy Sam getting a call from his terrified father, he is told he needs to enact the emergency escape plan and grab an iPad with important information. Sam's father tells him to exit the house and meet him in their secret spot. Unfortunately, just as the father is reaching the meeting point, he and the rest of the family are murdered. The killers are looking for the iPad, while this is going on Sam is watching it all happen, along with his small dog from a distance. The killers leave and Sam goes to find his family murdered.


Sam finds his way home, and gets into Gypsy's house who is his neighbour. She has no choice but to look after the boy, and take him on a road trip to a guardian who is not interested in helping.

Now people are after Sam and the laptop, one of whom happens to be gypsy's ex.

What follows is a strange road trip, thriller, with some interesting side plots thrown in. For example, a woman who appears in the back of a stolen car, and then joins them on the road trip for a bit which adds a comedy tone to the film.


Add a gratuitous sex scene between Gypsy and Jack, and an ending that goes one way and then the complete opposite, and you have a rather unusual film.

I am however a HUGE Lena Headey fan, I loved her in Game of Thrones, but long before that I thought she was great in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. She is easily the stand out in this film, and her acting chops elevate the film to a level that without her it would have no chance of reaching.

This is a strange film to judge, as it was very different to what I was expecting, where as it is advertised as more of an "on the run" thriller, it is actually more of a story about how two unconnected people end up merging into a mother and son relationship, and the love that creates.


The Good
Lena Headey is outstanding, an excellent actress, and also quite the performer if you watch the burlesque scene at the start!

The Bad
The story gets lost a few times in the film, and the side plots seem a bit "stuck on with cello tape" if you know what I mean. I would have preferred if they had just been part of the main story from the start.

Overall
Anything with Lena Headey in it gets extra marks from me, a great performance, only dragged down by a confusing story.

I score 9 Bullets a solid 7/10
Out now on Apple TV - https://apple.co/3FOGobM
Pre-order from amazon at https://amzn.to/3wjJFN9


Sunday, 15 May 2022

REVIEW: Reign of Chaos (2022) - Starring Rebecca Finch, Rita Di Tuccio & Georgia Wood

Review by Jon Donnis
A low budget British Horror you say? Well I don't mind if I do Sir!

From Proportion Productions comes Reign of Chaos.

For centuries The evil God Chaos (Marc Seers) has been gaining power by infecting souls, "he escaped the realm of Chaos a void between Heaven and Earth, he defied the Gods of Ancient Greece, spreading diseases and blasphemous ideas of revolution, Olympus fell many centuries ago, as Zeus and his fellow gods faded like burnt stars, with no gods to wreak his vengeance upon, Chaos sought those crafted in Zeus's image, the humans." Now ignoring the timeline errors, which should be millennia and not centuries, the basic premise comes down to an evil plague set upon the human race, that turns people into "rabid creatures"


Only the descendants of Nike the ancient Greek goddess, (Nicole played by Rebecca Finch, Alina played by Rita Di Tuccio & Lindsay played by Georgia Wood) and not the shoe, can stop Chaos, and save the world. Chaos realises that he needs to destroy the Nike bloodline, to complete his total domination.


The three women are brought together and told they have the power to stop Chaos. Cue the training montages, and leather cat suits and the girls are ready to kick some ass.

Is the film a bit silly in parts? Yes!, is it campy as hell? Yes!, this is low Budget British horror as it should be.


The Good
A lot is done with a small budget, and will introduce many people to the three actresses who are either just getting going in the acting world, or are trying to climb up the ladder. Plus this film is British, and we need to support independent British film, especially in the horror genre.

The Bad
The film is campy, the plot is a bit silly to say the least.

Overall
If low budget, British horror is your thing, then this if the film for you. 

I score Reign of Chaos an understanding 7/10

Out now on Digital at https://amzn.to/3NxZ5mP

Saturday, 14 May 2022

REVIEW: Morbius (2022) - Starring Jared Leto & Matt Smith

Review By Jon Donnis
Morbius is the latest superhero film from Marvel, and based on the character from the comic books.

Now before this movie I had never actually heard of Morbius so I am coming to this as a total noob with no expectations or knowledge on the character at all.


Morbius is the third film in the Sony Spider-Man Universe (SSU), which basically means you will eventually get cross over of characters from various films with the Spider-man films being the centre point that connects everything else. With that said there is no Spider-man in this film before you get too excited, and other than the end credits scene, this does play as a stand-alone film, which is perfect for me.

Directed by Daniel Espinosa and written by Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless, it stars Jared Leto as Dr. Michael Morbius, alongside Matt Smith, Adria Arjona, Jared Harris, Al Madrigal, and Tyrese Gibson. 

The film starts off with Morbius landing in Costa Rica and going to a cave full of Vampire Bats, before you know it the story quickly shifts back to a children's hospital in Greece, a young 10-year-old boy called Michael Morbius meets a young boy called Lucien, he gives him the name Milo, (which means apple in Greek) they share a blood illness which instantly bonds them, as well as a wish to be healthy. 


Hospital director Dr. Emil Nicholas (Jared Harris) arranges for Michael Morbius to attend medical school in New York after realising he is a gifted child,  Dr. Emil Nicholas tells Morbius that he will focus on caring for Milo.

Fast forward 25 ears and Mobius is now a scientist who has been working on synthetic blood, Martine Bancroft (Adria Arjona) a colleague of Morbius finds out that he has been secretly capturing vampire bats from Costa Rica (hence the opening scene in the film), and has been trying to find a way to splice the bats DNA with his own as a way to cure his blood condition, which has left him struggling to walk and living in bad health.


Morbius gets private funding to continue his experiments, although they are illegal so he outfits a private ship, and journeys to international water.

He manages to create a cure for his condition, but in doing so it turns himself into a living vampire. He kills the ship's crew and drains them of their blood, when his bloodlust subsides and he regains control, he is horrified at what he has done. Back in New York he realises he can use the synthetic blood to feed his blood lust, he conducts more experiments on himself and develops his newly found powers.


A returning Milo (Matt Smith) steals the cure, becomes a vampire himself, but decides to take a darker route, and thus we have our hero and our villain, and the film is set up nicely.

I enjoyed Morbius, as an origin story it is well told, it gets to the point pretty quickly, without losing any of the explanation of the characters. It acts as a stand alone film, so even if you have never seen a Marvel film before, you can still watch and enjoy this, so this film will appeal to not only Marvel fans but also to fans of Vampire films.

It is not overly gory, but does carry a 15 certificate which I thought was fair.


The Good
Very well told origin story that doesn't mess about, and gets to the action quick. Great visual effects, convincing transformations, and a decent set up for a sequel or future films featuring our main character.

The Bad
I was slightly confused by the end credits scene, which I won't spoil. At first I thought it was someone else, but then realised that that was DC and this is Marvel.
My other complaint is that the two boys were from Greece, yet there was no real "Greekness" to the film, as children they had posh English accents, even the Doctor was English. It almost seemed pointless to have the story of these characters begin in Greece, and then not do anything with that.

Overall
One of the better Marvel films of recent times, I really enjoyed it, and was nice to see a Vampire film set within the Marvel/Sony Universe.

I score Morbius a solid 9/10

Morbius is in UK Cinemas now, and you can pre-order it at https://amzn.to/37O8Q0S

Friday, 13 May 2022

REVIEW: Infinite Storm (2022) - Starring Naomi Watts & Billy Howle

Review By Jon Donnis
Infinite Storm is based on the very real story of Pam Bales.

Pam Bales (Naomi Watts) is a search and rescue volunteer, one morning she goes on a hike up Mount Washington, almost without warning a storm sets in. After a few stumbles, and a fall, she gets on her way but then sees footprints in the snow, the footprints are from basic trainers, so she realises that someone unprepared is nearby.


She sees a man in the snow, almost frozen, and dressed completely inappropriately for mountain hiking, she realises he is alive, and quickly gets to work to warm him up, and redress him in better clothes. He isn't very friendly, and doesn't seem to want to volunteer much information about himself, Pam decides to call him John. John is played by Billy Howle.


What follows is a trek to safety down the mountain, and the various obstacles they need to overcome.


This is a strange film, for the first 30 minutes there is very little dialog, and the film moves quite slowly, but when the character of Pam finds John, things pick up.

As we go on, we get some flashbacks that reveal more from Pam's history, and the final scene, is an emotional one, that bookends the film nicely.


The Good
A very emotional ending, and straightforward story mean that you don't need to do much work as a viewer. 

The Bad
The way the story is told, there is perhaps not enough development of the characters, which can perhaps leave the viewer cold, when reacting to certain events in the film.

Overall
A straightforward story, with beautiful scenery, and a strong performance by Naomi Watts. A bit more character development would have been nice.

I score Infinite Storm a fair 7/10
Out now on Apple TV - https://apple.co/3Nb0SOj
Pre-order on DVD at https://amzn.to/3FM0fYQ