Archives for category: Film Reviews

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Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Aftershock is a disaster/horror film fixated on the savage “every group for themselves” survival mentality as violent tremors threaten everybody’s lives. Well in theory, anyway. In execution it is a fumbled and misguided mess that not even the infamous Harvey Weinstein could snake-oil pitch.

The film follows Gringo (Writer-producer-actor Eli Roth) and his vacationing visit to Chile to meet up with some buddies. We get an obnoxiously unnecessary long look into their lives as they attempt to pick up chicks and check out the nightclub scene, one of which is accessed via gondola to an underground area. During some extrinsic dialogue, some friends fight, Zach Galifianakis’ twin texts a picture of his junk, two of the women argue about abortion, and immediately afterwards some vicious tremors hit.

Aftershock succeeds in depicting carnage whether you’re shamelessly laughing at the extras getting killed (the overly large sound system comes crumbling down squishing people like ants) in the background or taken aback at more traumatizing subtle shots like a dead baby in the backseat of a crashed vehicle. The carnage is often tonally inconsistent going from one of the most hilarious death scenes in recent memory (a maid is climbing a ladder underground that leads to street level, sticks her head out, and makes a priceless wide circular confused facial expression as a semi-truck traveling at high velocity lops her head off) to jarring and exploitative uncomfortable rape scenes that really don’t belong since the narrative fails as presenting whatever message it is presenting.

The sheer frantic mayhem however is the only saving grace. For 30 minutes prior to the aftershock the film halfheartedly attempts giving its characters a range of complexity. Eli Roth is divorced with a daughter, his friend Pollo is a smug rich jerk, the female sisters are often quarreling about lifestyles, and more. I know why it is there but sorry Eli Roth, placing your horrifically acted characters in Trollface apparel is not going to win people over. Nobody will care about these characters even during exploitative rape scenes.

The acting is exceptionally poor all around causing all the shrieking and crying to inevitably grate your ears transcending into a cacophony of loud noises that accompany the destruction. The characters are rote and stupid but what’s really surprising is how the tremors are seemingly strung along on a marionette to harm major characters whenever the plot needs progression. In other words these characters are doomed from the start by one huge plot vessel. Why not have the tremors attack the gangsters and other rioters? A far more entertaining and planned film would utilize its concept as a threat to all.

The plot itself is typical horror fare featuring the insufferably generic survivors frequently dying every few minutes. It is full of lame tropes (smug rich guy turns into a hero for no reason other than the plot says so) and stupid decisions. There’s an extremely stupendously irritating scene where one of our “heroes” takes almost an entire minute of creeping towards a sexual assaulter slowly before burying an axe in his chest. Last time I checked, people want help swiftly while being raped, not super-dramatic stagnated heroic theatrics.

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Towards the ending there is one of the most inexplicably ridiculous and pointless plot twists in ages. You will feel flabbergasted as you bury one hand over your face shaking it disapprovingly in disbelief. At the very least though Aftershock builds to a crowd pleasing ending (provide the crowd or anyone in general sticks around for this long) that rolls the credits after an amusing final scene that I imagine everyone wants to see once they become aware of the surrounding environment. The film remembers what it has been promising and coasting too as it delivers an uproariously fitting final scene that is the films only act of brilliance.

Verdict: Aftershock is full of clich s, gratuitous gore, terrible acting, and unintentionally amusing death sequences. The movie ultimately misses the mark on effectively depicting a collapsed society during impending doom but it is moderately entertaining for horror aficionados with a desire to witness a graphic and plentiful body count.

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Aftershock was released limited theatrically in May but is available now on Blu-Ray

The post Aftershock Review appeared first on WhatCulture!.

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Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

The second instalment of the Percy Jackson series, based on the hugely successful book franchise by Ricky Riordan, picks things back up in the Camp Half-Blood, where the descendants of Greek gods tackle vicious assault exercises that would surely put paid to a meek mortal.

Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) is a bland sort of name, and a bland sort of individual, and neither returning accomplices Grover (Brandon T. Jackson) or Anabetha (Alexandra Daddario) have much to contribute in the way of colourful characterisations. So it’s a delight to see hapless Cyclops half-brother Tyson (Douglas Smith) thrown into the mix, as well as needlessly belligerent camp rival Clarisse (Leven Rambin), whose consistent bullying of Percy comes across more amusing than testing. These young upstarts are flanked by older actors in Anthony Head’s Chiron, activities director and resident centaur, and fellow Whedonite Nathan Fillion as Hermes, god of messengers, a welcome gust of comic relief and, vitally, charisma. (“‘Hercules Busts Heads? It’s the greatest TV show ever made… so, of course, it was cancelled.”)

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The kids are sent across the Bermuda Triangle in search of a magical Golden Fleece that will heal the barrier between their world and that of the beings who seek their demise. Even with the subtitle Sea of Monsters, there aren’t really any nautical nasties plaguing Percy and his young friends, with the exception of the crashing waves and the Bond villain boat owned by good-kid-turned-bad Luke Castellan (Jake Abel), reprising his angst-ridden antagonist role from the first film. The only real monster encountered in these stormy seas is, strangely enough, barely glimpsed: a humongous defender of the seas, whose spine, resembling dozens of shark fins, is the only visible limb of the behemoth before our heroes slip into its stomach. Indeed, most of the computer-animated beasts are actually to be found on land, including a flame-breathing mechanical bull, a flesh-eating Cyclops, and the big baddy of them all, Kronos.

The film regards its characters as little more than enablers for the multitude of moral lessons it wishes to impart on younger viewers. It can be all too easy for the viewer to lose track of how many lessons they’re intended to take away, but the actors nevertheless remind us at every turn. Do not discriminate against somebody based on their appearance. Believe in yourself. Do not be a slave to destiny. Or, alternatively, accept your fate. Whichever works.

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Even with these agreeable sentiments floating around, there’s an unquestionably sinister stench in the air. The film seems to enjoy playing tricks on its viewers, as it takes the tension derived from drawing protagonists within a whisker’s distance of their demise, and drives it toward the logical conclusion of assumed fatalities. Across the course of the film, almost every character dies – or appears to die – and subsequently returns back to life. Some of these resurrections vary from miracles one could spot a mile off, to legitimately clever swerves, to cheap justifications. But what they all have in common is a desperate compulsion to trick the audience into emotional immersion through the easiest route possible – death – and then switch the rules at the very last minute.

Granted, the film is based on concrete source material, set midway through a multi-book franchise that daren’t sacrifice its key characters just yet (though much has been changed in the adaptation process), but the handy escapes routinely smack of convenience, and therefore the stakes decrease with each successive set-piece. These are, for better or worse, invincible archetypes of fantasy cinema, and their irrefutable destiny is to succeed with little to no battle scars.

For a kid’s fantasy film, this is probably to be expected. But even the younger ones may tire of the routine dispensing of threats – despite the loudness, and the 3D trickery that sends the waves careening into their eyeballs.

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Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters is released in US and UK cinemas this Friday

The post Percy Jackson: Sea Of Monsters Review appeared first on WhatCulture!.

Springsteen & I

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

There is something truly unique about the connection between Bruce Springsteen and his fans. Many artists have a loyal fan base that go to multiple shows and sing every word but only Bruce fans convene and are ready for a religious experience. Bruce is their preacher and the show leads them through songs about their lives; the good and the bad, their loves, losses and faith. Many say it seems when he sings that song that means the most to them, it is like they are the only person he is performing for amongst a sea of thousands. Strangers sing, dance and cry together. People of all ages become connected by the bond of music. It is no surprise that hundreds wait in line for hours, sometimes days before a show just to get as close to the stage as possible. For 40 years Bruce has been leading these fans through concerts lasting three hours plus night after night. His shows are a tribal, passionate communion which captures the essence of what it is to live. ‘Springsteen & I’ is a love letter told by all those who fans in their own words.

Using the technique of the fascinating ‘Life In Day’ documentary, director Baillie Walsh and Ridley Scott’s production company Scott Free have curated the entire film from archive performances and fan-submitted footage that was collected after making a call for clips of people talking about what Bruce means to them. Without careful management this could have been an irritating film about super fans but having directed music documentaries for INXS and Oasis, Walsh was able to avoid most of the potential pitfalls a film like this could have faced. Of course there is a lot of hero worship but there are also a lot of stories that are not about Bruce and are more about the experiences fans have had in their own lives.

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This is not a documentary about Springsteen the man and that is what makes this such a special film. This is a story about people. The Elvis impersonator who was pulled onto the stage to sing ‘All Shook Up’, the female truck driver, the obsessive mother who refuses to let her children listen to anything but Bruce in the car, the busker from Copenhagen who performed with Bruce after meeting him in the street and, of course, one of the many girls that gets to go on stage for ‘Dancing In The Dark’ to recreate that Courtney Cox moment. Amongst a dozen stories the one contributor who stood out more than any other was the devoted husband who suffered his wife’s obsession with Bruce. When asked if there was one thing he could say to Bruce he said he would ask him to play shorter shows. The continuation of his story in the epilogue is one of the most amusing parts of the film.

To the uninitiated this film may be a little too much but with so many powerful performances interspersed between the home videos it would be hard to imagine that they would not enjoy the film even if its evangelism isn’t enough to convert them.

Springsteen & I is honest and emotional. It has the same kind of passion for its subject as Shane Meadows’ recent Stone Roses film ‘Made Of Stone.’ The film itself is a little under 80 minutes and never drags or dwells too long on one story. The main film finished with a brilliant montage of ‘Born To Run’ using performances from the 1970’s right up to present and then came a sensational 40 minutes from the infamous Hard Rock Calling show from 2012 where Sir Paul McCartney joined Bruce and the E Street Band onstage only for the organisers to cut the power. Here the sound is glorious from the beautiful stripped-down version of ‘Thunder Road’ that opened the show that night to ‘Twist and Shout’ at the climax. Many people sat in the cinema around me struggled to resist the urge standing and singing along.

Finally, a short epilogue showed the man himself taking part in a meet and greet with a number of the key contributors to the film. Even in those brief moments Bruce was warm and generous. It was clear why these people are so devoted and grateful to him. In the end, this is a love letter for fans and by fans and on that level is succeeds. If you enjoy music documentaries it is well worth watching but if you are a fan it is essential. For me I knew it had been a success as soon as I left the cinema. I looked across to the train station and for a brief moment I considered hopping down to Cardiff for the concert the following night.

Springsteen & I is out now in UK cinemas.

The post Springsteen & I Review appeared first on WhatCulture!.

alpha papa review

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

It’s been a busy couple of years for Alan Partridge, who despite being fictional is enjoying a career renaissance that most regional disc-jockeys can only dream of. He’s written a bestselling memoir, embarked on a nationwide book tour of East Anglia and fronted a soul-searching documentary for Sky Atlantic, all the while continuing to pour ‘radio gravy’ into the ears of listeners right across the North Norfolk area. As if that wasn’t enough, he’s now ‘top daddy’ in a new movie from ‘the French dudes’ at StudioCanal and his hated former paymasters at the BBC.

Alpha Papa is a siege drama that Partridge might pitch as ‘Jason Statham meets Roger Moore on a Dog Day Afternoon in Norwich City Centre (plus the A140 to Cromer) for the Mail Online comments-section generation, but without the gay agenda (of Dog Day Afternoon, not Jason Statham meeting Roger Moore on the A140, don’t go looking for subtexts that simply aren’t there)’. He might also be pleased with the result, as the masterstroke of this nimble leap to the big screen for Steve Coogan’s ever-evolving comic creation is that it’s on Alan’s side. He doesn’t necessarily win, or even redeem himself, but for the first time in 21 years Coogan affords his alter ego a sliver of dignity and, touchingly, contentment.

Whereas the TV shows came to mock and humiliate with laser-guided precision, Alpha Papa is a broader and more affectionate portrait of the Partridge, here seen with a spring in his step. With his flowing salt-and-pepper locks, ‘chillaxed’ Top Gear-inspired wardrobe and low-wattage aura of local celebrity, this is a very different Alan to the petty pariah of ten years ago, when he ghosted through the Travel Taverns and petrol stations of the Norwich Inner Ring Road like a shade through the underworld.

If this film had materialized in 2003, when a cinematic Partridge was first mooted, it might easily have hinged on the DJ having a Network-style meltdown, the culmination of months spent living in a ‘static home’ and recovering from a hefty Toblerone addiction. Here, in the age of happy Alan, it’s grieving sad sack Pat Farrell who goes all Peter Finch with a shotgun. Presenter of North Norfolk Digital’s fogeyish ‘sleepy time’ slot, Pat (a dead-straight Colm Meaney) is fired when the channel sells out to a soulless corporate entity and rebrands itself Shape. He retaliates by turning the launch party into a hostage situation, and, as chief negotiator, Alan is thrust into the ring of a media circus that promises to turn him into a broadcasting hero.

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The ensuing farce is as brilliantly entertaining as you’d expect, with director Declan Lowney deftly balancing the tension of the siege against Coogan’s dense, machine-gun patter of instant-classic Partridgeisms. These encompass everything from a cow’s cervix and Jesus Christ 2.0 to Banged Up Abroad and the price of yesterday’s meat, and Coogan succeeds in dressing up the jokes as an uber-naturalistic stream of consciousness. It’s a magnificent performance that eschews the flakey-skin makeup and comb-over wigs of previous outings and mixes in traces of the ‘Steve Coogan’ character from Michael Winterbottom’s The Trip and other meta-comedies. As a result, Coogan (now 47 to Partridge’s 55) appears to merge with his monstrous creation like never before, toning down the middle-England caricature and unearthing the pathos of a middle-aged ‘wacky bloke’ whose life hasn’t turned out quite the way he thought it would.

Although riotously knockabout in places, Alpha Papa is careful to catch the undertow of melancholy that runs through all of Coogan’s best work. There are some gorgeously bleak panoramas of the Norfolk coastline and Cromer’s Victorian pier, the final destination of a low-speed car chase set to hand-clapping pop classic ‘You’re the Voice’ by John Farnham. As in the BBC TV series, tracks culled from Alan’s radio playlist are often used to excellent and unexpected effect: ‘Wichita Lineman’ underscores a nicely poignant exchange between Pat and Alan, while the big showstopper comes courtesy of Willie Nelson (sort of).

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Inevitably, this is Coogan’s show, and the writers (Coogan, Armando Iannucci, Peter Baynham and Neil and Rob Gibbons) know to keep scenes that don’t feature Alan to a minimum. Lowney nevertheless surrounds his star with a crack team of comic actors. It’s a particular joy to see Felicity Montagu reprise the role of Lynn, Alan’s saintly dogsbody, whose ever-so-slightly warped relationship with her boss becomes the motor of our hero’s semi-redemption. Although Alan gets to enjoy an office romance with the compellingly strange Angela (Monica Dolan), it’s suggested that, very deep down, he’s actually in love with the woman he pays to pick up his athlete’s foot powder from the chemist.

The best thing about Alpha Papa is that it’s really, properly funny. An Alan Partridge film was never going to be rubbish, but the ersatz DJ’s first taste of movie stardom exceeds all expectations as a comedy. With only one bum note (literally, during a gratuitous trouser-dropping routine), the finished product manages to retain the nuanced, downbeat minutiae of Coogan’s sitcom grotesque while at the same time reinventing him as a convincing big-screen anti-hero. It’s a triumph for both Coogan and Partridge, who, after all these years, has finally succeeded in having that last laugh.

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Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa is released in the UK on 7th August

The post Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa Review appeared first on WhatCulture!.

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