Evil Dead Review

The Plot

A group of teenagers gather together in a desolate cabin in the woods to help their friend overcome her drug addiction. But, when a hidden basement containing a deadly book is found, a bloodbath soon begins.

The Good

Usually, when Hollywood dares to touch the legacy of cult classics in the form of the dreaded remake; it doesn’t go all too well. However when the writer/director, lead actor and producer of the original are all producing said remake as in this case, it’s a blessing.

Evil Dead is everything fans of the first will hope for, and serves well as an introduction to newcomers. The blood, guts and gore are all turned up to eleven in true Sam Raimi style along with lovely nods to the film that started it all, which will have old fans giggling in glee and new ones witnessing in wonder. And it seems that the franchise is on its way to resurrection, with a sequel already planned and a continuation of the original series in the works. With this will surely come the rise of a new fan base along with the resurrection of the old one.

With a ninety minute runtime, the film gets into the swing of things quite quickly, with dismembered body parts being thrown around the screen like there’s no tomorrow. It also seems that there’s no limit to the amount of blood that can be used in one film. This is definitely not one for the squeamish…

The Bad

Anyone who’s seen the original won’t be very surprised with the remake. Although there are some changes, most notably the added back story of a drug addicts intervention, it’s really nothing you won’t have seen before. The script doesn’t seem to want to dwell too much on character and story building and instead tries to get that part over as soon as possible in order to get to what sells.

The demon possessions and jump scares seem to go on and on, making a ninety minute film seem more like two hours. Just as you think the film is slowing down to the end credits, all of a sudden it will speed right back up again.

And of course, as seems to happen with most films these days, scenes which might have sold the film to you in the trailer don’t actually make the final cut.

The Ugly Truth

Evil Dead is definitely one for the fans. A great throwback to a horror which defined a generation and will forever live in film censor’s memories. Whilst there are no real risks taken in the remake, it will at least leave you wanting to go back and watch the originals again. As well as hopefully make newcomers want to give the originals a try for the first time.

Check out our video Interviews below with Director Fede Alvarez and beautiful star Jane Levy:

Oblivion Review

The Plot:

In the aftermath of an apocalyptic nuclear war against alien invaders the Earth has become an inhospitable wasteland. Humanity has taken refuge on the distant Moon of Titan, leaving behind machines to salvage what’s left of the planet’s precious natural resources. Jack Harper is one of the few humans left behind to protect those machines from the remnant of the defeated alien army. With just weeks left until his mission is completed he finds himself increasingly haunted by strange dreams and unanswered questions. What he discovers in the wreckage of a crashed spaceship might change everything.

The Good:

Oblivion is an ambitious and intelligent science fiction film developed over 8 years by Writer and Director Joseph Konsinski. It’s refreshing given that Hollywood studios so often see the genre simply as an excuse to distract from a bad plot and worse acting with excessive CGI. Much like his directorial debut TRON Legacy, Konsinski again tries to balance action with complex philosophical ideas, this time with more convincing success.

Like Konsinski’s  TRON reboot, Oblivion is also very visually compelling. The vast post-apocalyptic landscape provided by the untouched wilds of real life Iceland is bleakly beautiful. It’s a fantastic backdrop and an emotive canvas that helps set the melancholic tone of the story. It also conveys an immediate sense of epic scale and significance. Given the film’s minimalist cast, that grandeur is a particularly valuable asset.

The natural wonders of Iceland’s primordial wastelands are complimented very well by laudable special effects. Incorporating the weather-beaten ruins of destroyed skyscrapers and recognisable landmarks into this alien landscape makes it convincingly apocalyptic. Likewise the advanced technology of this distant future has a believably elegant simplicity. From Harper’s home among the clouds to the spacecraft he pilots and the battle drones he repairs, it all looks and feels real. It’s a very successful combination of tactile practical effects and intricate CGI.

Ignoring special effects and scenery, Tom Cruise remains one of Hollywood’s most dependable leading men. His consistently intense and understated performances have allowed him to be successfully heroic for decades; in spite of his distracting superstar status and tendency to play implausibly invincible secret agents. Oblivion clearly plays to his strengths in a way that suggests the project was perhaps deliberately crafted with that goal in mind. He has ample opportunity to expertly display his talents for stoic determination in the face of danger.

Andrea Riseborough, Olga Kurylenko and Morgan Freeman also provide solid support for Cruise, to keep the film from ever becoming a one man show. Rising starlet Riseborough in particular delivers a superb display as Harper’s possessive mission partner Victoria.

The Bad:

Either by accident or deliberate homage many elements of Oblivion are borrowed piecemeal from classic sci-fi films and novels. Oblivion clearly fuses old favourites like Planet of the Apes and Total Recall with more recent films like Moon and Wall-E. This may mean that despite its obvious intentions to be thought provoking and original, Oblivion might feel oddly familiar and a little predictable for hardened genre fans.

Ironically at the same time those hoping for the uncomplicated explosive spectacle of Independence Day or Transformers may find Oblivion’s slow pace and meditative tone less instantly satisfying.

The strength of the film’s supporting cast isn’t always exploited as much as it could be, mostly due to the film’s resilient focus on Tom Cruise’s central character. Morgan Freeman in particular feels underused in what almost amounts to an extended cameo. This might not help those who aren’t natural fans of Cruise’s trademark heroics, as a great deal of the film is carried on his furrowed brow.

The Ugly Truth:

Oblivion should please science fiction fans without alienating general blockbuster crowds. Whether you’re able to easily predict the film’s twisting narrative or left surprised and occasionally confused; regardless you can still enjoy the film’s action and memorable visuals.

In depth video interviews below with Tom Cruise, the cast and Director Joseph Konsinski:

Olympus Has Fallen Review

The Plot:

A disgraced secret service agent finds himself at the center of a terrorist takeover of the White House 18 months after he failed to save the First Lady during a freak car accident. With the FBI, Navy Seals and Homeland Security outgunned and outsmarted, the President and his young son are both taken hostage. Now one man is a nations only hope.

The Good:

Gerard Butler has been largely treading water for the past few years, in rom-coms like Playing for Keeps and P.S. I Love You. An easy way of keeping the actor well paid and consistently on screen. It’s been a while since his breakthrough performance as King Leonidis in the brutal graphic novel adaptation 300, but it’s good to see him back on form here as agent Mike Banning.

Apart from a few dodgy accent slips, it’s easy to see him as a high profile security guard who has a charismatic relationship with both the President and his son. He brings an everyman quality to this performance which makes him more convincing in the role. Butler is thankfully self-aware enough to recognize when he’s delivering a particularly cheesy line. A playful glimmer in his eyes let’s audience know he’s definitely in on the joke

Accompanying him in supporting roles are Angela Bassett (Secret Service Director Lynn Jacobs) and Morgan Freeman (Speaker Trumbull). Having actors of this understated caliber helps counterbalance the ridiculousness of some of the scenes and forces a sense of credibility into what we’re watching.

Rick Yune is perfectly cast  as the villain of the piece. Amidst all the chaos of the epic take over scene, the criminal mastermind is cool, calm and calculated. It’s almost sinister how relaxed he is, and you automatically think back to his Bond villain Zao in Die Another Day. You find yourself intrigued as to what happen will happen next with him. As an actor, Yune really does play the ‘less is more’ card very well.

The Bad:

Olympus Has Fallen is a guilty pleasure, unashamedly packed with patriotic cliché’s.  There’s far more American flag waving and triumphant exclamations of “God Bless America” than most international audience will appreciate. You almost feel a little bit naughty for enjoying the film in spite such obvious flaws. However, Olympus has Fallen is still a very enjoyable film.

Director Antoine Fuqua is best known for gritty police drama Training Day. That film proved to be an Oscar winning vehicle for Denzel Washington. Fans misguidedly expecting anything similar from Olympus Has Fallen will obviously be left disappointed, alhough Fuqua does certainly tackle the new action genre with uninhibited and violent enthusiasm.

The Ugly Truth:

Overall, the film is a combination of cheese, violence (in parts verging on ultra-violence) and an almost worrying example of the most protected building in the world being overtaken by terrorists. Despite lacking some of the gravitas of a classic action flick, it’s really worth a watch. The fight scenes are exciting and you almost fear for your own safety a little when the terrorist takeover begins. Apart from a few dodgy lines Olympus Has Fallen makes for an engaging and solid watch – definitely one for the boys though.

Red Carpet Video Interviews below with stars Gerard Butler & Aaron Eckhart and the European premiere in London:

The Lords of Salem Review

The Plot:

The Lords of Salem is the latest offering from Rob Zombie (Halloween, Halloween II). The writer, director, composer and rock music icon brings to screen a “chiller” film which follows the story of Heidi (Sheri Moon Zombie), a radio station DJ, who receives a wooden box containing a record given as “ a gift from the Lords.” Heidi listens to the ‘painful’ music, and eventually plays it on air during her show, which sends both herself and other ladies listening in Salem into a trance like state triggering flashbacks of the towns violent ‘witch riddled’ past.  Something is definitely afoot in this historic town, and as the film develops we find out whether Heidi is going mad, or if the Lords of Salem really are coming back to reek havoc and revenge on Salem.

The Good:

The film starts out in quite a compelling way. Expectations aren’t high as horror films in general are very subjective depending on how much you take to the genre, but within the first thirty minutes the film seems relatively accessible to all. We follow the central character Heidi – a recovering drug addict, with a minor level of local celebrity due to her position as a well known DJ as she sets the scene of her everyday life: sleeping, struggling to wake up at a decent hour, living in a managed apartment block and working in quite a cool job covering the late shift with two other DJ’s.

There’s a good level of intrigue into how the story is going to progress, and Sheri Moon Zombie holds her first leading lady role quite well. She represents a character who isn’t flawless, but not too damaged at the same time. She doesn’t dwell obviously on her previous past addictions, yet we are aware of it. She lives a relatively solitary life, yet is friendly to those around her and so you believe who she is, and why the story is centering around her.

Rob Zombie also eases the audience in to Salem’s dark history with flashbacks to a group of women (The Lords) practicing demonic rituals back in 1692, and provides the link from history to the modern day story by showing these women ultimately casting a curse over Salem and the descendants of the Judge condemning them to death. These flashbacks appear periodically throughout the film, helping the story move along, however feel more and more surreal as time passes.

Throughout the film you realize that Heidi herself is directly affected by the history of Salem, and particularly when she hears the music from this record that she cannot help but play again and again. It’s interesting to see her natural human inquisitive nature to this strange gift and how the symptoms she experiences force her to question her sanity and well-being and puts her own history with drug addiction back in the forefront of both her own mind and that of those around her who care about her. This slow demise keeps the audience engaged and inquisitive enough to keep watching the film, but unfortunately, it’s at this point that Rob Zombie decides to inject his own movie “rock n roll”, which sadly makes the film much more problematic than it actually needs to be.

The Bad:

One of the great problems, of The Lords of Salem is its spiraling tumble into absolute absurdism. You know it’s never a good sign when the audience burst out laughing during a horror/thriller movie. The two just don’t normally go together, but sadly was the case during the Lords of Salem. As the ‘Lords’ get closer and closer to returning to Salem and completing the curse, the characters that come with them get more and more bizarre. The landlady of Heidi’s apartment block seems initially as a sweet and caring aid, but with the appearance of her “multi-accented” sisters, they almost become a comedic trio, full of stereotypes reading palms, tea leaves and minds….

The flashbacks also become more absurd and begin using every demonic reference in the book – previous devil spawn incantations, burning witches on pyres, goats, upside down crosses phallic symbols and references and lots of unnecessary nakedness. The problem here is that although these are obviously referenced in history books or occult resources, they don’t all need to be featured in one film and certainly not for the sake of being featured. Time and time again the audience found themselves looking around at each other as a lot of this didn’t make sense. The grand finale of The Lords of Salem felt very likened to the LSD scene in the musical Hair. It featured lots of oversized characters that just seemed to have been raised from the pits of hell for no real reason other than to provide an eclectic setting to finish the film, which frankly left the majority of the audience baffled.

The Ugly Truth:

Overall, if you’re after something surreal then maybe The Lords of Salem is one for you. It doesn’t build tension enough to feel like a true horror/thriller film or provide enough believable reference to make you feel that given the history this film could be based on any sort of fact – or made to look like that. It’s not a hard watch and it certainly will keep you guessing, but whether that is guessing in a good way or bad way remains to be seen.

The Winslow Boy Theatre Review

Theatre goers, its a travesty that seats are being left empty for The Winslow Boy at The Old Vic. Having entered the theatre and not knowing what to expect, audiences of all walks of life will find themselves in fits of laughter during the comedic first half and welling up at some of its most poignant moments further in.

The Winslow Boy is the story of an Edwardian British household, who’s head, the father – Arthur Winslow, fights for the justice of his thirteen year old son who is accused of stealing a postal order whilst away at Naval College. Putting the rest of his family at risk in terms or reputation, money and lifestyle, it shows that even in the most trivial of circumstances which could easily be brushed under the carpet, one must fight for what is right and just, even if it means losing everything.

If carried out at the correct pace, and it was demonstrated so excellently here, then The Winslow Boy and indeed other Terrence Rattigan plays can be a delight. This roller coster of emotions plays out excellently here, with every character keeping their ‘stiff upper lip’ whilst fully aware of the consequences they face individually and as a family. Henry Goodman as Arthur Winslow is an excellent leader of this pack. Although riddled with gout and suffering arthritis, his sharp tongue and affectionate charisma towards his family and indeed the audience makes him a loveable central figure we can all relate to.

Naomi Frederick who plays Arthur’s daughter Catherine, demonstrates a strong yet relatable character, reminding us clearly and passionately of the struggles women faced in society at that time – her work with the suffragettes is regarded as pointless and with no sense of hope – she deals with the criticism of her standing with grace and dignity and Frederick manages balance a large array of emotions with effortless ease, making her a character with so many levels that the audience find her a joy to watch.

All the actors in this production provide sterling performances, however, another standout worthy of mention is Charlie Rowe, the Winslow boy himself. It’s clear to see that this young actor has a bright future ahead of him. He treads the boards of the Old Vic with ease and experience beyond his years, with particular examples of excellence being his emotional reaction to Sir Robert Morton’s interrogation where  audience members feel so uncomfortable in their seats that they almost want to leap out of your seat and protect the poor boy.

Terrance Rattigan plays are full of fast paced, easy to listen conversations with subtle comedies about them which allow audiences of different generations to relate to and enjoy. For a cast to deliver this as it should be is no easy task, and this cast in particular should be applauded for their efforts and supported for all their hard work. The Winslow Boy is an infectious play which gets under your skin, and makes you think about the characters and their circumstances long after the curtain has fallen. It has an effect on its audience with its relatable nature and charismatic character charms. Well worth a watch, and worthy of all the rave reviews it’s been receiving.