Tuesday 29 March 2022

REVIEW: Moonfall (2022) - Starring Halle Berry, Patrick Wilson & John Bradley

Review by Jon Donnis
Seems like forever since I have seen a decent end of the world type film, so I have been looking forward to Moonfall from the moment it was announced.

Co-written, directed, and produced by the King of the disaster movies Roland Emmerich, just having his name attached to this film you know it will be good, but having his name attached to so much of the film, then it needs to be really good. 

The film starts in 2011, Astronauts Brian Harper played by the always excellent Patrick Wilson and Jocinda Fowler played by the ageless Halle Berry, (How is she 55?) are on a mission to repair a satellite, Astronauts Harper and Marcus are on a spacewalk when suddenly a strange black swarm attacks their craft, Harper manages to get back into the craft, but Marcus is killed by the swarm. Harper takes control of the craft and gets him and Fowler back to Earth safely.

After an investigation, NASA dismiss Harper's description of what happened, and human error is blamed for the disaster. Harper finds himself out of a job when Fowler fails to back him up in the investigation.

We fast forward 10 years into the future, and we get to meet conspiracy theorist K.C. Houseman, played by the brilliant John Bradley. He believes that the moon is a megastructure, created by aliens.

The Houseman character brings the comedy to the film, the lighthearted moments, and he gets all the best lines.

 One day after getting time on a research telescope, he discovers that the Moon's orbit is off, and the moon is falling to earth. Of course, no one believes him, he tracks down Harper and tries to convince him, but he too doesn't listen. (Hey people, in the real world reading this right now, conspiracy theorists have been right about so much the past few years, if anything this film is a great lesson to perhaps once in a while listen to them).

NASA also detects the issue with the moon, just as Houseman goes public with his findings. NASA sends a crew to investigate, but just like 10 years earlier, the swarm appears, but this time kills them all.

Now that is as much as I really want to spoil as it really is worth watching.

From this point going forward the film is mainly about the Harper and Fowler characters joining forces with Houseman, and trying to save the world.

This is your typical kind of disaster film, we have seen it before many times, whether it is films with asteroids hurtling to earth, or Tsunamis, Earthquakes, aliens and so on, so the main thrust of the film is nothing original. But it is done so well, and with likeable main characters that you won't really care.

There are the usual subplots of family members on Earth trying to reach higher ground, or bunkers etc, but I really didn't care about any of them, but I did care about the 3 main characters. 

It is so hard to have 3 main characters all being really likeable, but Moonfall really pulls it off.

Although the general aspects of the films we have seen before, the specific plot is quite original, and towards the end of the film when you get the big explanation, it is told really well, it is not rushed, and everything basically makes sense.

If you like a good disaster film, you just can't go wrong with Moonfall. For what is an independently produced film, it has a HUGE budget and that really shows.

The Good
Really well-made disaster film, ticks all the boxes that you could ever want in such a film, despite the ridiculous plot.

The Bad
At 2 hours long it felt a little long, and could easily have been cut to 90 minutes without losing any of the character of the film.

Over the top, ridiculous, silly, and physics be damned. I LOVED IT. Probably my favourite disaster film in years.

I score Moonfall a moon shattering 9/10

At Cinemas Now!

Pre-Order the Home Release at https://amzn.to/3NprGv4

Monday 28 March 2022

REVIEW: Stoker Hills (2022) - Starring David Gridley, Vince Hill-Bedford and Steffani Brass

Review by Jon Donnis
From director Benjamin Louis come Stoker Hills, a horror film about three college students, Ryan (David Gridley), Jake (Vince Hill-Bedford) and Erica (Steffani Brass) who as part of their college degree decide to make a horror movie set in their small town of Stoker Hills. But before they even get going, Erica is thrown in a car and kidnapped, Ryan and Jake chase after them, but they escape.

While exploring a forest nearby, they find an old seemingly abandoned building, inside they come across mutilated bodies and medical equipment.

We see much of this action through the "found film" they were using at the time. But this isn't all Blair Witch self-filmed horror, we cross to the detectives who are examining the film, we switch between the detectives investing and the tapes themselves as the film progresses. Will the detectives find the kids in time? Who is the kidnapper? Watch the film and find out.

Strong performances from David Gridley, Vince Hill-Bedford and Steffani Brass who carry the film, which is clearly on the lower budget side of Hollywood. And although the film is pretty standard fair, there is a nice twist at the end, which you would expect from any half decent horror.

Now unfortunately for the person I was watching the film with, I spoiled the ending completely by accident pretty early on, when I called the twist. Now I am not saying it is obvious, as it is not, but I do have a knack of spotting twists way before they are revealed. I spoiled The Sixth Sense at the cinema for the entire group I was with. So, my advice is if you watch this film with others, make a deal before it starts for everyone to be quiet.

One complaint with the film is the name, why on earth would you put the word "Stoker" in the title, and not have a film about Vampires? Was this done on purpose? Who knows, just seems a bit silly to me.

Worth noting a nice touch that when you are watching the found footage, it is full screen, and then when you are watching the detectives investigating or any other part of the film you have the black bars top and bottom of the screen.

The Good
A fun horror film, with a fun twist. Great performances from the 3 main characters, and always good to see Horror icon and Candyman star Tony Todd with a smallish part in the film.

The Bad
I kind of ruined the film for myself by guessing the twist way too early. Totally my own fault for watching way too many films over the years.

Definitely worth a watch on a Saturday night, not the scariest horror film you will ever see, but one you will find yourself enjoying.

I score Stoker Hills a solid 8/10

Wednesday 23 March 2022

REVIEW: Jackass Forever (2022) - Starring Johnny Knoxville, Danger Ehren, Steve-O, Dave England, Chris Pontius, Wee Man and Preston Lacy

Review by Jon Donnis
The opening scene of this film is possibly the most insane thing you have ever seen. When I say they have a REAL Godzilla sized penis destroying a city, I am being completely serious!

Now unless you have been living under a rock for the past 22 years, Jackass is simply described as adult, slapstick, comedy sketches.

Jackass Forever is the 4th film in the franchise, and sees all your favourite Jackass stars return with the exception of Ryan Dunn who sadly died in a car accident in 2011.

Johnny Knoxville is the captain and his crew include Danger Ehren, Steve-O, Dave England, Chris Pontius, Wee Man and Preston Lacy, and joining them are a number of new crew mates and a few celebrities too.

Some of the stunts include Johnny Knoxville recreating an old stunt he once did, with an angry bull charging him, which does end up with a trip to the hospital. Steve - O has a Queen Bee attached to his penis, Wee Man being tied naked to the floor, with pieces of meat laid on him and a vulture set free, Ehren gets punched, hit, struck and kicked in the nuts, and Preston has his balls used as a punching bag. Are you starting to see a common thread here?

Although there is a lot of nudity and painful stunts involving the testicles, there are also bike jumps, people being fired out of cannons, Rachel Wolfson has a scorpion sting her face, people locked in rooms in the dark with a rattlesnake, a literal bear gets to lick honey off one of them too.

The film is quite simply 90 minutes of the most disgusting, painful, cringy stunts you can imagine.

If you have seen any TV episode of Jackass, or any of the previous movies before, then you know exactly what to expect, and yes they raise the bar every time.

This is not the kind of humour for serious people, this is childish, silly, adult humour, and I do think it is harder to watch for men, since the majority of the cast are men, and boy do they suffer.

The Good
This is Jackass, and it delivers exactly what you expect.

The Bad
We need more women in the Jackass gang, why only one woman! Clearly women aren't as brave, or should that be stupid as men!

This will not be for everyone, but I really can't imagine anyone watching this who isn't familiar with the format.

I enjoy Jackass, and this movie ticks all the boxes.

I score Jackass Forever a solid 9/10

Monday 21 March 2022

REVIEW: Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022) Stars Sarah Yarkin, Elsie Fisher and Mark Burnham as Leatherface

Review by Jon Donnis
I am a big fan of your classic slasher films from the 80s, the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre was a bit before my time, and I never really got into the franchise, I was more of a Friday the 13th fan. Well, we have a new Texas Chainsaw Massacre, this one is a direct sequel to the original 1974 film, and the 9th film in the franchise. I thought I would check out this new version to see what all the fuss is about.

50 years have passed since the original mass murders of the mid 1970s, Melody (played by Sarah Yarkin) her sister Lila (Played by Elsie Fisher), Dante (Played by Jacob Latimore) and his girlfriend Ruth (Played by Nell Hudson) have travelled to Harlow, a town in Texas, they plan to auction off old properties, so that the area can be modernised with new businesses, and turn what is a somewhat abandoned town, into a new trendy place to live.

One of the first places they go to look at is an old orphanage, the orphanage is supposed to be empty, but they find out that an old woman called Ginny (Alice Krige) is living there, they point out to her that the house has been sold and she shouldn't be there, but Ginny claims to have proof she is still the owner, a towering figure appears in silhouette at the top of the stairs, while an argument breaks out between Ginny and our protagonists. Ginny collapses with a heart attack, the police arrive, and say they will take her to hospital, the man comes downstairs to help, the police say that he is "her boy" as he picks her up and puts her in the ambulance (Police wagon).

On the way to the hospital Ginny dies, as soon as she dies the man goes berserk, kills the cops, and then cuts off Ginny's face and put's it over his own. Yes, you guessed it; the man is Leatherface.

And now it is time for your typical killing spree. Different methods of killing people, all done in horrific and gruesome manners, until eventually Leatherface gets hold of a Chainsaw.

This is your typical slasher, the story is threadbare, the characters are all very cliché, everything is predictable, and we even get a little post credits scene. Leatherface is sadly not that scary, and there is a lack of tension in any of the build ups to the kills.

The effects used are convincing, the "kills" are all varied, the film is relatively short, just about 80 minutes. It is pretty fair to say that this film is not going to bring any new fans to the genre or the franchise. After watching, I feel no interest to go back and watch any of the other films. I think for me the problem is that Leatherface is not particularly impressive. He is not supernatural, he is not immortal as far as I can tell, he is just a big strong serial killer, and when you have enjoyed Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees, Leatherface just pales in comparison. I put him in the same spot as Michael Myers. Just not very impressive. 

The Good
As a slasher film it ticks all the boxes, and delivers on what it promises. 

The Bad
Doesn't offer anything new to the genre. No one liners, no original kills. There is nothing here you won't have seen before in any other slasher film.

Leatherface others nothing special in this as a character, he is easily replaceable, you couldn't say that about Freddy Krueger or Jason could you?

If you are a huge fan of the genre, then I am sure you will enjoy this, it is a short film, and as I said ticks all the boxes for horror fans.

I score Texas Chainsaw Massacre an unfortunate 5/10
Out now on Netflix
Or you can watch the original at https://amzn.to/37PxopS

Sunday 20 March 2022

REVIEW: The Desperate Hour (2022) - Starring Naomi Watts

Review by Jon Donnis
Naomi Watts stars as Amy in what is nearly a one-woman film. Directed by Phillip Noyce, The Desperate Hour tells the story of Amy, a mother mourning the death of her Husband. She lives with her kids, a daughter and teenage son Noah, played by Colton Gobbo. Her son is depressed, for obvious reasons, and the film starts off with her trying to get him out of bed to go to school. 

Amy goes on her morning jog, as she is jogging, she is also answering calls, replying to texts, and so on. As she is jogging, a number of police cars pass her on the road, she thinks nothing of it until she gets an emergency alert on her phone.

There is an emergency at the school, someone has a gun and is holding people hostage. Amy is in the middle of the woods, and desperate to know if her kids are ok, her daughter is in elementary school and is ok, but she does not know if her son got to school, after some detective work, she finds out that his truck is there, so he is at the high school, where the situation is unfolding. Is he alive? Is he involved? What is going on?

Amy is desperate to get to the school, but she is a long way out, she calls a taxi but will take a while to get to her, so she keeps on jogging.

Other than the first 5 minutes, about the first hour of the film is centred on the Amy character running alone in the woods, trying to get to the school, but also desperately trying to find out the details of what is going on. Naomi Watts is really excellent, and the fear that any parent might have in such a situation, is conveyed well by Watts, in what is a strong performance.

The film as a whole is short at about 80 minutes, so really does have to rely on Watts' performance to keep the view interested, and she does a good job with that. Also worth noting that the film all takes place in real time.

With such a serious subject, the film has to walk a fine line in the story it tells. And this film centres completely on the emotion of a mother. With so much of the film about her emotions, we don't really see anything of the actual hostage situation, other than a few facetime calls. So, understand this is not a film about a school shooting and hostage situation, but more the reaction of someone hearing about it, the helplessness, the second guessing, and the rollercoaster of emotion along the way.

Luckily in the UK we do not really have issues with school shootings, so I have no issues with the way the story is told, it is not personal to me, so I feel like I can enjoy the performance and story from more of an objective point of view. I can imagine that an American audience may feel differently about the film though.

The Good
A strong performance from Naomi Watts really carries what is a tough story to tell.

The Bad
I think if you are going to go down the route of making one character so important, then you have to go all the way. I wonder if the film could have been made with Watts literally being the only human you saw the whole film? A really tough objective to pull off, but I think one they should have tried, instead they went 90% of the way.

As suspense thrillers go, this does drag the viewer in, mainly through Naomi Watts performance.

I enjoyed the film, and felt the emotion was conveyed well.

I score The Desperate Hour a solid 8/10

Available in the UK on Sky Cinema.
And you can pre-order it at https://amzn.to/3KU6ISU

Saturday 19 March 2022

REVIEW: Hellbender (2022) Starring Zelda Adams, Toby Poser, Lulu Adams & John Adams

Review by Jon Donnis
In recent years Shudder has really stepped out of the shadows releasing one great horror film after another. Hellbender is the latest addition to the ever-growing catalog.

Zelda Adams plays 16-year-old Izzy, a young woman who lives a quiet existence on a mountain with her super protective mother (Toby Poser). She knows nothing outside of what her mother has taught her and is home schooled due to an auto-immune disease which leaves her open to infection.

Throw in the fact that Izzy and her mother are supernatural witches called Hellbenders, who live off of moss and seed cones, and reproduce asexually, and you have an interesting dynamic.

Izzy and her mom pass the time with their little private metal band, Izzy on Drums and her mom on Bass. They sing your typical metal songs about the end of the world, and killing people.

Izzy's mom has this great ability, she can go full Thanos and turn people to dust, as happens to a stranger (John Adams) who gets lost and comes across them.

One day lonely Izzy is exploring the mountains and comes across another teenage girl called Amber (Lulu Adams). She is the niece of the stranger who Izzy's mother turned to dust. Izzy is invited to a party and meets some other teenagers, as part of a game Izzy drinks a spirit with a worm in it. Now because Izzy is a witch, consuming any life form feeds her powers, which her mother has been supressing, hence the seed cones and moss.

Before you know it, Izzy is eating people, and growing in power. This is what happens when you stop being a vegan!

This is a really trippy horror film, made on a small budget, the actors are all related, and you can tell the film was made with love, despite the disturbing story.

The Good
Another decent horror film from Shudder, and if you are a fan of horror and want to see something a bit different, then Hellbender is one you should check out.

The Bad
The film can feel a bit disjointed at times.

I am a horror fan, and Shudder once again have delivered.
I score Hellbender a strong 8/10

Wednesday 16 March 2022

REVIEW: Supercool (2022) Stars Jake Short, Miles J. Harvey and Damon Wayans Jr.

Review by Jon Donnis
Been a while since I have seen a Teen based comedy. I remember the classics like Porky's or American Pie which still stir the memories today, Supercool at its base is a film about a virgin wanting to get laid, but unfortunately in the modern era you just can't make comedies like that anymore, so from the start Supercool is limited in where it can go. Saying that however it does have its moments.

The film stars Jake Short and Miles J Harvey as Neil and Gilbert, they have just started their senior year of high school, so I think that would be 17 or 18? Both Neil and Gilbert have high hopes and aspirations. 

The film starts with school kids on the school bus, suddenly a masked man with a gun gets on the bus and kidnaps Neil's crush Summer (Madison Davenport) and throws her in a van. What follows is a pretty awesome scene, with Neil and Gilbert taking control of the school bus, chasing after the kidnapper, and rescuing Summer, but it is all just in the imagination of Neil, who drew the scene in his notebook.

First day of school, and Neil throws up on his crush Summer, and all seems lost. But while sat on the roof with Gilbert later that night, he makes a wish to be "cool". 

Neil wakes up the next day with a new handsome face. At school he convinces Gilbert that he is really Neil, and what follows is lots of classic teen set pieces, an epic party, and Neil's 30-year-old neighbour Jimmy (Damon Wayans Jr.) all taking part in a night that no one will ever forget.

There are some genuine laugh out loud moments, plenty of cringe, and a predictable love story. It may be a bit tame by the standards of the great films of the 80s and 90s, but it is still decent.

The Good
A fun film, that is not offensive, but has a few adult moments, and a decent number of laughs.

The Bad
Compared to Porky's or American pie, and this film pales in comparison, very predictable.

For a paint by numbers, non-offensive teen comedy, it ticks all the boxes.
I doubt it will gain a cult like following, but it is still worth watching.

I score Supercool a fair 7/10

Tuesday 15 March 2022

REVIEW: Blacklight (2022) Starring Liam Neeson, Emmy Raver-Lampman, Taylor John Smith and Aidan Quinn

Review by Jon Donnis
The film starts with a political activist called Sofia Flores, (Played by Melanie Jarnson), she is talking to a group of people about women's quality, racism etc. Your typical liberal activist. Later in the day she is killed in a hit and run, near to her home.

That is the juice for this story. In comes Travis Block, (played by Liam Neeson), Travis is a Vietnam War veteran who works for the Director of the FBI Gabriel Robinson, (Played by Aidan Quinn). Block is something of a "fixer" for the FBI Director, his job is to rescue or recover undercover agents who have either been made, or find themselves in a difficult to escape position. 

Blocks latest job is to bring in Dusty Crane, (played by Taylor John Smith). Block would rather retire and spend more time with his family, but the FBI director needs him. 

Dusty Crane has contacted Mira Jones, (played by Emmy Raver-Lampman), Jones is a journalist, and she is told that Dusty has information about the death of the political activist Sofia Flores.

Crane doesn't want to be brought in by Block, and manages to escape, he arranges a new meeting with the journalist, Block follows covertly, and when he tries to grab him, Crane is shot dead.

Block meets with the journalist; she fills him in on a top-secret project that goes after innocent people, including Flores. Block now has to put everything together, and track down who is responsible and expose all involved.

At this point Liam Neeson goes full "Taken" and you have pretty much what you would expect in a film featuring Liam Neeson. Lots of gravelly talking and a certain set of skills, and you instantly get the feeling that this is all very familiar. However that is not always a bad thing, we all love Liam Neeson for Taken, and although he is kind of type cast in that kind of role, I really don't mind.

At times it does feel like Neeson is phoning it in, but he hasn't quite gone down the Bruce Willis route yet.

This is an action film, and there are some good set pieces and some good action scenes. Car chases, explosions etc. Perhaps a bit paint by numbers, but if that is what you are looking for, then this film ticks enough of the boxes to fulfil the needs of a Liam Neeson fan.

The Good
Decent story, good quality acting all round, and some fun action scenes.

The Bad
I felt the end lacked something big, whether that was a twist, or some shocking moment.
Also the trailer gives away a lot of the plot, so avoid it unless you dont mind knowing too much.

It is Liam Neeson, he has a set of skills, and you know the rest.
Simple, straight forward action film, that doesn't surprise, but doesn't disappoint either.

I score Blacklight a fair 7/10

Out in cinemas in the US now.
Coming soon in the UK - Pre-Order it at https://amzn.to/3tcUFdu

REVIEW: Last Survivors (2022) - Starring Drew Van Acker, Alicia Silverstone and Stephen Moyer


Review by Jon Donnis

I hadn't seen an Alicia Silverstone film in years, and this is the second film with her in it I have seen in 2 days!

On December 11th, 2002 Troy Belstair (Stephen Moyer) takes his son Jake (Drew Van Acker) to live in the woods near Chicago, we are in a post apocalyptic world, after World War 3 broke out, this is the safest place for them to live. Ever since the war Troy and Jake have lived in a wood cabin, they hunt for food, make their own spices and medicines.
All Jake knows of the outside world is what his father has told him, he has a secret tin box, inside he has books, magazines and a picture of a woman. His favourite book is The Swiss Family Robinson. Jake dreams of finding his own island and to start a family of his own.

Anyone who comes near to the self created area, Troy shoots dead, calls them outsiders, doesn't want Jake to ever even speak to an outsider. One day a person called Jeff Williams walks into their area, Troy take cares of the intruder, but gets injured in the process. The wound gets infected, and their medicines are no good, so has no choice but to send Jake to get some.
Once Jake leaves the area, he sees a woman living alone in her own cabin, Jake sneaks around, steals medicine and leaves, he decides not to kill Henrietta (Alicia Silverstone) despite her being an outsider. When Jake returns home, he tells his father that he killed the woman. Jake later returns to Henrietta's cabin to speak to her. He quickly falls for her, and she for him, Jake soon learns that the world outside the area he has lived in his whole life is not what he has been told. Was there even a World War? What happened to Jakes mother? Why did his father lie to him.

The film teases you early on with being a typical post apocalyptic survival film, but quickly turns into more of a psychological thriller.

Drew Van Acker is the main character in Last Survivors and gets the most screentime, followed by Stephen Moyer and Alicia Silverstone. And although the film can at times be slightly unbelievable, the reveals are done well, and Alicia Silverstone is excellent as the lonely older woman wanting to get away from her old life, and Drew Van Acker as the young man who falls in love, but knows nothing of the real world.
The Good
Really well filmed, a nicely built story, with a strong performance by Drew Van Acker.

The Bad
Although the premise of the film is good, there are a few points which could and should have been better, for example why do the Troy and Jake characters both have nice hair cuts if they are supposed to be living in a post apocalyptic world? Little things like that can take me out of a film.

The trailer will spoil the film in some ways, and it is hard to escape the truth of the story, but the story is strong enough regardless that I think the film is worth watching, despite the flaws. I score Last Survivors a fair 7/10

Out Now at https://amzn.to/34KfcwJ  

Sunday 13 March 2022

REVIEW: The Requin (2022) Starring Alicia Silverstone and James Tupper

Review by Jon Donnis
The Requin stars Alicia Silverstone as Jaelyn and James Tupper as Kyle, a married couple on a luxury holiday in Vietnam, they rent a cabin that floats on the water, we soon find out that Jaelyn recently lost a child in childbirth after she has a flashback upon seeing blood from Kyle's leg when he cuts it swimming.

Before you know it a Monsoon has hit the area, the fancy cabin breaks from the ropes holding it, and they start floating out to see, despite having a chance to climb on a rock relatively near to shore, they decide it is too dangerous with the waves, and stay on the cabin, which is now basically a raft. Day turns to Night turns to Day to Night, and they are stuck in the middle of the sea. Kyle has a broken leg, and blood has attracted sharks. And that is the basic premise of this thriller/horror film.

Alicia Silverstone is very screamy in this film, and James Tupper is the husband who can't do anything right.

The ending has a twist you will see a mile off too.

This is a low budget film, so you will have to put up with some dodgy special effects, as well as the continued stupidity of the two main characters.

The Requin quickly turns into one of those films that you find yourself commenting on as you watch. Usually to point out mistakes, things that makes no sense, idiotic decisions by the characters and so on. And that in itself can actually be quite fun.

The Good
Been a while since i have seen Alicia Silverstone in a film, so nice to see her. The ending despite the ridiculous nature is fun.

The Bad
For a film with a massive shark on the poster, it takes way too long for even the idea of sharks to be brought up. And the film takes itself way too seriously.

There have been what seems like endless films about sharks and people caught on rafts etc. And this is one of those films.
There is fun to be had with shouting at the screen.

I score The Requin a super generous 6/10, since I liked the silly ending, and I do like shouting at stupid people on screen.

Pre-Order from Amazon at https://amzn.to/3CEuDTC