Tuesday 29 August 2023

REVIEW: The Boogeyman (2023) Starring Sophie Thatcher, Chris Messina, Vivien Lyra Blair, and David Dastmalchian

Review by Jon Donnis
The Boogeyman, directed by Rob Savage and based on Stephen King's 1973 short story of the same name, presents a chilling tale of family trauma and supernatural terror. While the film may not fully capture the depth of its source material, it does a good job creating a haunting atmosphere and has strong performances all round from the cast.

The story revolves around the Harper family, particularly the two sisters, Sadie (Sophie Thatcher) and Sawyer (Vivien Lyra Blair), along with their therapist father, Will (Chris Messina). Struggling to cope with the sudden loss of their mother, the family's world becomes even darker when a disturbed man named Lester Billings (David Dastmalchian) enters their lives. The encounter sets off a series of unsettling events, as the family becomes entangled in the deadly grip of an evil entity known as "The Boogeyman."

The film succeeds in creating an expertly calibrated atmosphere of dread. The visual style is memorable, with haunting imagery that lingers even after the credits roll. The performances, particularly those of the young cast members, contribute significantly to the film's effectiveness. Sophie Thatcher as Sadie and Vivien Lyra Blair as Sawyer manage to convey a convincing mix of vulnerability and determination, anchoring the audience's emotional investment.

However, The Boogeyman does stumble in some areas. While the buildup of tension is masterfully executed, the payoff sometimes falls short. Director Rob Savage leans on jump scares and a thunderous score to deliver frights, occasionally relying on these conventional tactics rather than pushing the boundaries of the genre. The film walks the line between being effectively spooky and slipping into generic horror territory.

Additionally, the story's potential to delve deeper into the psychological trauma of the characters is left somewhat unexplored. The audience is given glimpses of the family's emotional struggle, but there's room for a more profound exploration of grief and its impact on their relationships.

In the end, The Boogeyman is a commendable attempt at bringing a classic horror story to life on the screen. While it might not fully realize the potential of its source material, it manages to deliver a satisfactory level of fright and suspense. With its memorable visuals and committed performances, it's a movie that will leave you checking the dark corners of your room. Just be prepared for a few bumps in the night that might feel a tad formulaic.

As far as supernatural horror films go, The Boogeyman earns its place as an intriguing addition to the genre. With some refinements in its storytelling and a willingness to experiment beyond the expected scares, it could have truly excelled. For now, it's a spine-tingling ride that leaves you pondering what might have been lurking under your bed all along.

I score The Boogeyman a solid 7/10

Out now

Monday 28 August 2023

REVIEW: Minore (2023) from acclaimed director and visual effects maestro Konstantinos Koutsoliotas

Review By Jon Donnis
"Minore," from acclaimed director and visual effects maestro Konstantinos Koutsoliotas, is a true marvel in the realm of horror cinema. Drawing on his expertise from collaborations on iconic films like "Cabinet of Curiosities," "1917," and "Guardians of The Galaxy," Koutsoliotas delivers an authentically Greek masterpiece that seamlessly weaves terror, folklore, and spectacular effects into a nightmarish tapestry. I say authentic, as I am Greek, so you can trust me on that.

The film introduces us to sailor William, portrayed by the talented Davide Tucci, who sets foot on the shores of Greece with a mysterious purpose. Amidst the vibrant tavernas and lively locals, he forms a connection with Aliki (Daphne Alexander), a trained dancer who is reluctantly working as a waitress in the bustling town. Their pursuit of Teacher whose real name is Nikodimos (Meletis Georgiadis), a master of the bouzouki, becomes intertwined with an eerie mist that heralds the invasion of otherworldly monsters.

As the town plunges into chaos, the film transitions from romantic intrigue, a man searching for the father he never knew, could it be Teacher?, to a fight for survival. William and Aliki, joined by an eclectic group of locals, including the charismatic bar owner Pantelis (Christos Callow), must stand against the horrific creatures that emerge from the depths. What follows is an epic battle, encompassing everyone from musicians to tourists, as they unite to preserve their way of life.

The Good:
At the forefront of "Minore" lies its undeniable strengths. The horror special effects are nothing short of "magnificent fun", capturing the Lovecraftian essence of monstrous beings that creep out of the abyss. The tentacles, a recurring motif, are a testament to Koutsoliotas' prowess in creating eerie visuals that both awe and terrify. The creatures, with their weird eyes and multiple tentacles, evoke a deep-seated unease, adding an unforgettable layer to the film's atmosphere. Might also make you think twice the next time you sit down for calamari.

Each character that appears gets chance to tell a story, Teacher who sets an empty table for his late wife, a grandmother who dreams of her past, an so on.

Furthermore, "Minore" embraces its Greek roots with unparalleled authenticity. The movie perfectly captures the essence of a small coastal town, its people, music, and traditions. The bouzouki melodies and rebetiko soundtrack imbue the film with an unmistakable local flavour, creating an immersive experience that transports the audience to the heart of Greece, and personally takes me back to many a night sat in such places.

In many ways a lot of this film is more about the local Greeks, and if you stopped watching before the monsters turn up, the film would be decent in its own right.

A special shout out to the grandmother character, she is epic, and the scene with a therapist had me laughing out loud, I wont spoil it, but it was horror comedy at its best!

The Bad:
While "Minore" excels in its visual storytelling, some instances of dodgy CGI do surface. However, these minor shortcomings are easily overshadowed by the film's grandeur and narrative prowess.

"Minore" is a cinematic marvel that effortlessly combines Greek authenticity, some really fun visual effects, and a haunting musical score. Koutsoliotas' deft direction transports viewers into a realm where the ordinary collides with the extraordinary, resulting in a blood-soaked tapestry of fantasy, folklore, and dark humour. Despite minor CGI hiccups, "Minore" stands tall as a unique and mesmerizing monster movie that pays homage to its heritage while carving its own niche in the horror genre. With its nightmarish creatures, gallant battles, and echoes of Greek tradition, "Minore" is an experience that should not be missed by fans of horror and cinematic artistry alike, and although you might think I would be biased being Greek, trust me I will always be the biggest critic of any film that uses Greek culture, and I loved it.

I score Minore a very strong 9/10.

Keep an eye on the site for release information, coming soon!

Saturday 26 August 2023

REVIEW: Strays (2023) - Starring Will Ferrell and Jamie Foxx

"Strays," is a 2023 American comedy film directed by Josh Greenbaum, a riotous ride through the lives of some very unconventional furry friends. 

For those who revel in off-colour humour and are comfortable with a liberal dose of crude jokes and sexual innuendos, this film is an absolute must-see. (Watch the trailer below and you will understand instantly the type of film this is.)

The film's narrative revolves around Reggie, a naive Border Terrier, and his rocky relationship with his owner Doug, a drug addict with questionable motives. The story takes an unexpected turn when Reggie finds himself stranded and encounters a street-smart Boston Terrier named Bug. Joined by a cast of colourful canine characters, Reggie embarks on a journey that unveils the truth about his past and the mistreatment he endured.

The voice cast, led by Will Ferrell as Reggie, Jamie Foxx as Bug, and Isla Fisher as Maggie, delivers comedic brilliance that brings the dogs' personalities to life. The diversity of voices ensures each character is distinct and memorable.

The Good
"Strays" brings a unique blend of humour to the screen, weaving together the misadventures of a lovable but misguided Border Terrier named Reggie and his motley crew of fellow strays. The film's standout feature is its ingenious use of CGI to make the dogs talk, effortlessly bridging the gap between human dialogue and canine antics. The film's real dogs, impressively trained, contribute to the authenticity of their characters and lend a heartwarming touch to the story.

The Bad
While the film's humour hits home for many, it's worth noting that "Strays" doesn't hold back on the more distasteful and raunchy elements. The abundance of milking jokes, in particular, might leave some viewers wondering if they've milked that joke a bit too much. Additionally, the film's explicit jokes and sexual content could easily be a turn-off for those seeking a more family-friendly experience. Furthermore, the film's light-hearted approach to animal abuse might be unsettling for some, as it skirts a sensitive topic.

Final Thoughts
"Strays" is a bold and unapologetic comedy that caters to a specific audience willing to embrace its raunchy adult humour and absurd situations. With impressive CGI, skilled dog training, and an ensemble cast that infuses life into their canine counterparts, the film's quirks and charms make it an entertaining experience. Just be prepared for the wild ride of humour and vulgarity, as "Strays" dares to venture into territories that might make some viewers blush or cringe. If you're up for it, though, you're in for a hilariously memorable escapade with Reggie and his furry companions.

I score Strays a solid 8/10

Out now in cinemas. And on digital soon at https://apple.co/3ssWBkh

Friday 25 August 2023

REVIEW: Mob Land (2023) - Starring John Travolta and Stephen Dorff

Review By Jon Donnis
"Mob Land," starring John Travolta as Sheriff Davis, offers a suspenseful ride into the heart of a small town plagued by addiction and criminal schemes. The film excels in delivering unpredictable twists and turns that keep viewers on the edge of their seats, making it an engaging and heart-pounding action thriller.

Travolta's portrayal of Sheriff Davis brings depth to the character of a man nearing retirement, grappling with personal health issues while trying to maintain law and order in a town overwhelmed by challenges. His genuine interest in the young mechanic Shelby, played by Shiloh Fernandez, adds a human touch to the narrative, creating a relatable anchor for the audience.

The film takes an intriguing turn when Shelby, drawn into a misguided criminal plan concocted by his reckless uncle Trey (Kevin Dillon), becomes entangled in a violent sequence of events. The unexpected shift in the plot adds a layer of intensity to the story, showcasing the consequences of seemingly easy money. Stephen Dorff's portrayal of Clayton, the revenge-seeking enforcer from the New Orleans mafia, is a standout performance. Dorff's character is given the best lines, enhancing the eerie atmosphere of the film and leaving a memorable impression.

However, one of the film's drawbacks lies in the dialog for John Travolta's character. At times, the lines provided for Sheriff Davis feel weak and fail to capture the essence of the character. Instead, it is Dorff's Clayton who shines with his sinister and compelling dialogues, elevating the tension of the scenes he's in.

As the story unfolds, "Mob Land" delves into the dark underbelly of crime, with Clayton's involvement leading to a series of gruesome murders. The film effectively portrays the spiral of events that transform Shelby from a simple mechanic to Clayton's reluctant assistant in these brutal acts. The menacing presence of Clayton, brought to life by Stephen Dorff's performance, adds a layer of fear and unease that grips the audience until the very end.

In conclusion, "Mob Land" delivers an engaging and suspenseful experience with its unpredictable plot twists and heart-pounding action. John Travolta's portrayal of Sheriff Davis, while occasionally hindered by weaker dialogues, still adds emotional weight to the narrative. The film's standout performance comes from Stephen Dorff, whose portrayal of Clayton injects the story with a chilling intensity. For fans of gritty thrillers with a touch of the unexpected, "Mob Land" is a movie worth watching, earning a solid rating of 7.5/10.

Out Now on Digital at

Thursday 24 August 2023

REVIEW: The List (2023) - Starring Halston Sage and Christian Navarro

Review by Jon Donnis
"The List" delivers a delightful blend of cheeky humour, romance, and self-discovery that keeps the audience entertained from start to finish. Led by the charismatic duo of Halston Sage and Christian Navarro, director Melissa Miller Costanzo crafts a light-hearted and engaging romantic comedy that hits all the right notes.

Halston Sage shines as Abby, a bride-to-be whose fairy tale engagement takes an unexpected turn when she discovers her fiancé's tryst with a celebrity from his "free pass" list. Faced with heartache and a desire for distraction, Abby teams up with her vivacious best friend Chloe (played with comedic flair by Chrissie Fit) to embark on a comical quest of her own. The mission? Pursuing her own list of celebrity crushes, including the hunky action star Mac West (Rich Morrow), the suave Sexiest Man Alive Cooper Grant (Gregg Sulkin), and the enigmatic Grammy-winning rapper Avon (Will Peltz).

The film takes a refreshing approach by placing Abby in the heart of Los Angeles, guided by her friend Sam (portrayed by Shelley Hennig), a savvy talent agent who pulls out all the stops to connect Abby with her celebrity idols. As Abby navigates the glitzy world of stardom, she encounters a series of laugh-out-loud situations that keep the film's comedic momentum flowing.

"The List" thrives on its humourous moments, seamlessly blending witty dialogue with physical comedy. The chemistry between the characters, particularly Abby and Chloe, adds an endearing layer to the story, making their escapades in pursuit of fame and romance both relatable and hilarious.

Director Melissa Miller Costanzo, known for her work on "All These Small Moments," maintains a breezy and engaging pace that allows the characters' dynamics to shine. The writing by Rob Lederer and Steve Vitolo, veterans of successful TV comedies like "Black-ish," "Crowded," and "Hot in Cleveland," inject the film with quick wit and comedic surprises that keep the audience hooked.

What truly elevates "The List" is its ability to strike a balance between comedy and heart. As Abby inches closer to her dreams of celebrity encounters, her path crosses with Jake (Christian Navarro), a local waiter with aspirations of his own. Navarro's portrayal of Jake adds depth and sincerity to the film, offering a grounded counterpoint to the glitzy world of celebrity pursuits.

While "The List" embraces some familiar rom-com tropes, it does so with a knowing wink and a fresh perspective. The film ultimately celebrates the journey of self-discovery, friendship, and the unexpected twists that life often throws our way.

In conclusion, "The List" earns its 7 out of 10 rating for its engaging blend of humour, romance, and genuine emotion. With a charming cast, well-timed comedic moments, and a touch of heart, the film showcases the power of laughter and connection in the face of life's surprises. It's a delightful escape into a world where dreams are pursued, love blossoms unexpectedly, and laughter prevails.

Out now on digital
Apple TV - https://apple.co/3qLLySK

Tuesday 22 August 2023

REVIEW: The Engineer (2023) - Starring Emile Hirsch

Review by Jon Donnis
"The Engineer," an action thriller written by the talented Kostas Kondilopoulos and directed by Danny A. Abeckaser, thrusts its audience into the heart of the turbulent political landscape of the 1990s Middle East. This gripping film, driven by intense performances and a harrowing plot, paints a vivid portrait of relentless determination in the face of danger and desperation.

Emile Hirsch takes on the role of Etan, a rugged expat whose unwavering commitment to completing a ruthless mission is both admirable and unnerving. Teaming up with Israel's security agency, Etan's relentless pursuit of the elusive Engineer is portrayed well, with Hirsch capturing the character's inner turmoil and strained relationships with his superiors and comrades.

Angel Bonanni delivers a captivating performance as Avi, a seasoned hitman and interrogator driven by personal vengeance. His portrayal adds depth to the story, giving viewers a glimpse into his tragic background and the violent methods he employs. Avi's turbulent journey from the shadows of political manipulation to a quest for retribution is both gritty and emotionally charged.

The film's plot navigates the treacherous waters of the early 1990s peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine, where a series of suicide bombings threaten to derail the fragile progress. As Etan and Avi tread different paths to apprehend the mastermind behind the attacks, the film intensifies its grip, exploring the two men's distinct approaches to achieving their shared goal. The narrative weaves together the brutality of their methods with the broader political landscape, crafting a tense atmosphere that keeps viewers on edge.

Prospective viewers with an affinity for Middle Eastern political thrillers and true-story-inspired action films, such as "Zero Dark Thirty," are likely to find "The Engineer" a compelling watch. The film excels in painting a gritty picture of the morally ambiguous world of espionage, where the line between right and wrong is blurred by necessity.

However, the film isn't without its shortcomings. Some viewers might find themselves longing for more suspense, as the tension occasionally wavers due to pacing choices and plot developments. Additionally, while the majority of the film is meticulously paced and developed, the last 30 minutes feel rushed, potentially leaving audiences wanting for a more satisfying conclusion to such an intricately built narrative.

In the grand scheme of things, "The Engineer" earns a solid score of 6 out of 10. While it may not reach the pinnacle of the genre, it undoubtedly offers a riveting cinematic experience for those who appreciate the intricate dance between politics and covert operations, as well as the sacrifices made in the name of justice. With its visceral performances and an unapologetically brutal depiction of pursuit, "The Engineer" stands as a commendable addition to the action thriller genre.

Out Now on Digital at https://apple.co/3E8SHiU

Sunday 20 August 2023

REVIEW: Blue Beetle (2023) - Starring Xolo Maridueña

Review by Jon Donnis
The film endeavours to soar with its impressive visual effects, seamlessly bringing to life the formidable armoured suit of the titular character. These visual spectacles, coupled with a competent soundtrack, contribute to an initial promise of an engaging cinematic experience.

However, beneath the surface lies a narrative riddled with discord. While the visual effects may shine, the choreography of action sequences often defaults to predictable CGI-laden skirmishes that lack the ingenuity necessary to truly captivate the audience.

A major stumbling block lies in the overt socio-political agenda that permeates the story, rendering it a veritable soapbox for "woke" messaging. The film's attempt to grapple with social issues and incorporate these themes into the characters' motivations often comes across as contrived and heavy-handed, overshadowing the underlying narrative.

Moreover, the film struggles with character depth and nuance. Almost every non-white character is depicted through the lens of victimhood, which curtails the opportunity for genuine character growth and complexity. Regrettably, this decision leads to a shallowness that hampers the film's emotional resonance.

A particularly concerning aspect is the depiction of white characters, who are uniformly painted as racist and intellectually deficient. This blanket portrayal perpetuates negative stereotypes and does a disservice to the potential for multi-dimensional characters that reflect a more diverse reality.

Adding to the film's challenges is its unwarranted protracted length, surpassing the two-hour mark. The narrative meanders through extended sequences that could have benefited from judicious editing, leaving the audience feeling fatigued and disconnected. In other words you will be checking your phone as you wait for the film to get to the point.

Turning to the plot itself, "Blue Beetle" follows the journey of Jaime Reyes (Xolo Maridueña), a recent college graduate, who unexpectedly acquires superpowers through an alien scarab that fuses to his body, granting him an armoured exoskeleton. This newfound power becomes both a blessing and a curse as Jaime navigates a complex web of personal struggles, family dynamics, and a world-threatening crisis. Amidst the chaos, he forms a deep bond with Jenny Kord (Bruna Marquezine), the daughter of the previous Blue Beetle, who aids him in unravelling the mysteries behind the scarab's origins and purpose.

The Good
Great visual effects
Decent soundtrack

The Bad
Film feels like it was written by a woke left wing artificial intelligence.
Generic CGI fight scenes.
Every non-white character uses victimhood as part of their character.
White people are depicted as racist and stupid.
Over 2 hours long, way too long.

Blue Beetle attempts to soar but is hampered by the "woke mind virus". While commendable in its visual prowess and auditory accompaniment, the film is weighed down by its overt political agenda, lacklustre action sequences, one-dimensional characterizations, and unnecessarily extended runtime. The narrative potential remains untapped, warranting a rating of 4 out of 10 as a reflection of the missed opportunities to craft a more well-rounded and captivating superhero tale.

Out now in cinemas, but perhaps one to wait for until it hits digital at https://apple.co/44kbBOB

Saturday 19 August 2023

REVIEW: The Monkey King (2023) - Starring Jimmy O. Yang and Bowen Yang

Review by Jon Donnis
"The Monkey King" is a 2023 animated family film directed by Anthony Stacchi that attempts to bring the classic Chinese folktale to a contemporary audience. While it has its share of pros, including well-voiced characters, a blend of classic and modern storytelling, moments of humour, and a lively energy, the film also stumbles in certain areas, resulting in a mixed cinematic experience.

One of the standout features of the movie is the voice cast, with notable performances from Jimmy O. Yang as the Monkey King and Jolie Hoang-Rappaport as Lin. The characters come to life through their voices, adding depth and charisma to the narrative. The film's soundtrack complements the action well and enhances the emotional moments.

The martial arts scenes in the film are well-choreographed and add an exciting dimension to the story. They capture the essence of the Monkey King's legendary prowess and add an element of thrill for both young and older audiences. The attempt to distil the complex centuries-old tale into a quirky folktale that appeals to children is commendable and does result in some enjoyable moments for the target audience.

However, "The Monkey King" struggles with several shortcomings that hinder its overall impact. The animation quality is inconsistent, with some scenes exhibiting poor visuals that detract from the immersive experience. DreamWorks Animation this aint! Additionally, the film's pacing can be overly frenetic at times, which might make it difficult for viewers to fully engage with the story and characters. 

While the film successfully infuses modern elements into the classic tale, it occasionally veers into generic territory. The utilization of the Monkey King's Chinese mythological background can feel superficial and might disappoint those looking for a deeper exploration of the source material.

The film manages to capture the charm of the original folktale and introduces it to a new generation through well-voiced characters, energetic scenes, and a touch of humour. However, the inconsistent animation quality and occasional lack of depth prevent it from reaching its full potential. Despite its flaws, the movie serves as a light-hearted family-friendly option for an afternoon of entertainment, though it might not leave a lasting impression.

I score "The Monkey King" a fair 6 out of 10.

Out now on Netflix at

Thursday 17 August 2023

REVIEW: Wonderwell (2023) - Starring Rita Ora and Carrie Fisher

Review by Jon Donnis
I suppose I should do an Oasis reference here, but I am guessing every other critic on the planet has already done it, so I will give it a miss.

"Wonderwell" is a heartwarming family film that delivers solid entertainment for all ages. While the storyline may not break new ground in terms of originality, it manages to captivate its audience with its charming characters, imaginative world and impressive visual effects.

One of the film's notable aspects is its inclusion of the late Carrie Fisher, who graces the screen with her final presence in what is sadly a small role. Her appearance, alongside popstar Rita Ora, adds a touch of nostalgia and interest to the long-awaited fantasy film.

At its core, "Wonderwell" follows the journey of Violet (Kiera Milward), a young girl with an insatiable curiosity that sets her apart from her family, and who believes she is a witch. The film kicks off in Italy, where Violet's yearning for familial closeness leads her to bake cookies infused with a magical spell of togetherness. As the story unfolds, her sister Savannah (Nell Tiger Free) becomes the chosen face of a renowned fashion mogul, Jana (Rita Ora). The film interweaves these narratives, showcasing the challenges and aspirations of both Violet and Savannah.

The film takes an enchanting turn when Violet discovers a well of wonders in a mystical forest. A chance encounter with Hazel (Carrie Fisher) opens up a world of magic and self-discovery for Violet. The two worlds collide when Violet inadvertently switches places with her counterpart from the alternate reality. The stakes are set, as Violet must return to her own world before the next sunrise, or be trapped in this new reality forever.

While the plot might not offer groundbreaking originality, it excels in delivering a wholesome family experience. The characters' journey of growth and understanding is heartening to witness, and the film's lush visuals and magical settings capture the imagination. Young viewers, in particular, will find themselves drawn to the relatable themes of self-discovery and the power of family bonds. At just over 90 minutes it is also not too long.

The Good
Great visual effects and a nice story makes this easy viewing. Despite passing away a while ago, it is nice to see Carrie Fisher is what became her final film. I just wish she had a larger role in the story.

The Bad
There are some issues with pacing, and I fear that younger children might get bored.

Wonderwell earns its stripes as a commendable family-friendly film. It might not revolutionize the genre, but it succeeds in delivering an endearing story that should resonate with audiences of all ages. With the late Carrie Fisher's final onscreen appearance and a dash of enchantment, the film weaves a charming tapestry of magic, self-discovery, and the importance of familial connections.

 The film earns a respectable 6 out of 10 for its efforts in creating an enjoyable viewing experience.

Out Now on Digital

Tuesday 15 August 2023

REVIEW: Heart of Stone (2023) Starring Gal Gadot

Review by Jon Donnis
"Heart of Stone," directed by Tom Harper and written by Greg Rucka and Allison Schroeder, is a 2023 American spy action thriller that attempts to captivate with its espionage intrigue and action-packed sequences. Distributed by Netflix, this film follows the footsteps of classic spy franchises like James Bond and Mission Impossible, while giving it a fresh twist by placing the always entertaining Gal Gadot in the lead role as Rachel Stone, a skilled operative on a mission that blurs the line between loyalty and revenge.

The film opens in the stunning Italian Alps, where an MI6 team embarks on a high-stakes operation to extract a potential asset. The plot takes unexpected turns as Stone, portrayed convincingly by Gal Gadot, reveals her true affiliations as a member of Charter, a covert organization with its own secrets and agendas. This revelation sets the stage for a series of thrilling encounters that lead the audience on a roller-coaster ride of espionage and danger.

The casting choices bring depth and charisma to the characters. Jamie Dornan's portrayal of Parker, a double agent with a personal vendetta, adds layers to the narrative, while Alia Bhatt shines as Keya Dhawan, a young savant hacker entangled in the web of espionage. The ensemble cast, including Sophie Okonedo, Jing Lusi, and more, each contribute to the film's dynamic energy.

"Heart of Stone" is not without its flaws, however. While the narrative successfully blends elements of traditional spy thrillers with a modern twist, there are instances where the plot feels somewhat convoluted. The film could have benefited from a tighter focus on character motivations and development, particularly in the case of Parker's backstory and his motivation for revenge.

The action sequences are undeniably a highlight of the film. From the intense ski lodge showdown to the high-stakes showdowns involving the Heart (the core of the AI system used by the Charter to guide their operations), the film keeps viewers at the edge of their seats. Tom Harper's direction skilfully maintains a fast pace and a visually engaging atmosphere.

Comparisons to James Bond are inevitable, given the genre and themes. "Heart of Stone" borrows the charm of the classic spy films while embracing a more modern sensibility, empowered by Gal Gadot's strong presence as the lead, and proof once again that a film can have a strong female lead, without the need for it to "go woke". The film's espionage elements, combined with the underlying themes of trust and betrayal, contribute to its overall appeal.

The Good
Some great action scenes, all very Bond-esque, the gadgets, the overall feel of the film is fantastic.

Gadot once again proving she is the number one female action star in the world right now.

The Bad
The film lacks originality, you won't necessarily see anything new. At just over 2 hours it is way too long, if this film was 90 minutes, it would be almost nonstop action, which I kind of like.

"Heart of Stone" is an action-packed thrill ride that combines classic spy tropes with a fresh perspective. While it doesn't fully escape some genre clichés and occasional narrative confusion, its strong cast, gripping action sequences, and the charismatic Gal Gadot make it a worthwhile watch. With a bit more refinement in storytelling, it could have achieved an even higher rating. Nonetheless, for fans of spy thrillers looking for an adrenaline rush, "Heart of Stone" offers an entertaining adventure that holds its own in the genre.

I score Heart of Stone a very decent 7/10

Monday 14 August 2023

REVIEW: The Collective (2023) - Starring Lucas Till, Ruby Rose, Mercedes Varnado, Paul Ben-Victor, Tyrese Gibson and Don Johnson

Review by Jon Donnis
"The Collective," directed by Tom DeNucci and penned by Jason James and Matthew Rogers, takes audiences on a journey into the morally complex world of a righteous assassin organization determined to dismantle an impervious human trafficking ring operated by formidable billionaires. While the film follows a formulaic pattern common to direct-to-video thrillers, it manages to deliver moments of intrigue and action that should keep you engaged.

The story revolves around a group of skilled assassins, known as The Collective, led by the authoritative Liam (Don Johnson). Their mission: to eliminate the seemingly untouchable individuals who profit from heinous crimes. The plot introduces Sam (Lucas Till), a rookie assassin whose skills are put to the test through a cleverly staged mission. As Sam is reluctantly assigned to a desk job, he quickly yearns for more meaningful action. His desire to contribute actively to the cause propels him into a dangerous investigation involving the elusive human trafficker Miro Lindell (Paul Ben-Victor), aided by enforcers Daisy (Ruby Rose) and Nikita (Mercedes "Sasha Banks" Varnado).

Despite adhering to a conventional narrative template, "The Collective" offers glimpses into the characters' minds and motivations. Sam's analytical approach (which was instantly remind you of his previous acting role of MacGyver), is showcased well in a scene where he discusses an assassination mission with Hugo (Tyrese Gibson), providing insight into his strategic thinking. While the film treads the familiar path of a novice stepping up and defying orders to achieve justice, it does manage to add depth to its protagonist's development.

The cast, including familiar names like, Ruby Rose, and Don Johnson, contributes to the film's watchability, always nice to see recognisable faces. Till's portrayal of Sam exhibits a mix of determination and vulnerability, effectively driving the character's evolution. Ruby Rose's Daisy exudes an enigmatic toughness, while Don Johnson brings a seasoned gravitas to Liam's leadership role. Mercedes Varnado's portrayal of Nikita offers a refreshing departure from her wrestling persona, though it could have been explored more.

Where "The Collective" falters is in its reliance on well-worn tropes. The hero's journey from desk duty to field action is predictable, and the plot offers few genuine surprises. The film's climactic showdown lacks the ingenuity and tension necessary to make it truly memorable. While the partnership between Sam and Hugo adds an interesting dynamic, it ultimately adheres to expected mentor-mentee dynamics.

In spite of these shortcomings, "The Collective" manages to salvage itself through sporadic bursts of action and character-driven intrigue. The film's pacing keeps audiences engaged, and its thematic exploration of vigilante justice and morality adds a layer of depth to the proceedings. While not groundbreaking, the movie serves as a competent entry into the action thriller genre.

The Good
I really like Lucas Till in this role; he has proven he can carry the lead in an action setting plenty of times in the MacGyver TV series, and this film lets him showcase his acting chops in a movie setting.

The action scenes are all well done, everything looks sharp, well directed etc. 

The Bad
I've already mentioned that this is pretty much a clichéd action film, very paint by numbers, nothing really original, or particularly memorable about the film. I see it very much as one of those films you will find on demand in a few years and forget you have already seen it.

Although the film isn't very original, it is still an enjoyable action thriller. The strong cast with some recognisable faces really helps here. 

I score The Collective a solid 7.5/10

Out now on digital, check it out on Apple TV at https://apple.co/45wbSiB