Category Archives: TV / Movie reviews

My reviews of the latest TV shows or movies.

My top 10 films to watch this Halloween

Summer is gone, and that means the beast called winter is fast approaching. First though, Halloween is thrust upon us. Although here in the U.K it’s not as huge as it stateside, we still embrace it, and so i decided to put together a list of my favourite movies to watch this Halloween ranked in reverse order from 10 to 1. This is a list of my personal choices and the reasons why i love them. Disagree or want to list your own top 10? Leave a comment and let me know! So, Let’s kick things off with no 10 on my list of Halloween movies:

 

10: PARANORMAL ACTIVITY

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Say what you like about the so so sequels, but for me the first in this franchise was surprisingly effective at using the whole found footage idea. Tense and filled with suspense, it came at a time when found footage films were relatively new and, dare i say, original. If you haven’t seen it already, there was also an alternate ending shot for the film which i think is better than the one used in the theatrical cut, but even now a few years on, this is still well worthy of a watch this Halloween.

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9: SHAUN OF THE DEAD

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Cornetto! Shaun of the Dead is still one of my favourite ever movies. If i happen to catch it on TV, I’ll still watch it. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost steal the show as a couple of hapless working class people caught up in the middle of the zombie apocalypse. This is a funny film, and in my opinion the best of the Pegg/Frost Cornetto trilogy of movies (the others being HOT FUZZ and THE WORLD’S END). A great supporting cast help drive the film along as Pegg and Frost go from one blunder to another. It has comedy, zombies, blood and a couple of surprisingly touching moments. If you want something a bit lighter amid the horror this Halloween, this one is for you.

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8: CABIN IN THE WOODS

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Another one which has more laughs than scares. This film takes every cliché in horror and puts a clever twist on it that makes it an incredibly fun watch. This is mindless fun but fun nonetheless. Another one to disengage the brain and watch without taking it too seriously.

 

 

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7: JAWS

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Still one my favourite movies of all time, Jaws in a masterclass in building drama and tension. Showing how sometimes less is more, the film still stands up well today, particularly the recent Blu Ray restoration which looks stunning. I’m sure you’ve all seen this one multiple times, and Halloween is as good a time as any to dust off the DVD (or aforementioned Blu Ray) and give it another watch.  Also consider checking out the book. there are some key differences between the two versions which give a very different experience.

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6: POLTERGEIST

poltergeistForget the recent awful remake. I’m talking about the original film which scared me to death as a kid. There is one particular scene with a toy clown which, after seeing as a child scarred me for life and made me afraid of them ever since. If you’ve only seen the recent remake, you NEED to check out this original version. It succeeds everywhere the new one fails and still delivers a creepy experience years later. Perfect Halloween viewing.

 

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5: 28 DAYS LATER

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Halfway through the list and we come to one of my favourite zombie films. 28 Days Later was a bit of a sleeper hit when it was released, and with its fast moving zombies and stellar british cast, you won’t go far wrong with this one. not only is this the story of the apocalypse, but also has a lot to say about the brutality of man and how even in the face of disaster there are worse things out there than the undead.

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4: THE SHINING

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Number four on the list is Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. This is another film that i remember watching when i was younger and it scaring me. I recently watched it again when it was remastered for Blu Ray (like Jaws, with breathtaking results) and found it to be just as creepy now as it was then. The sense of foreboding and isolation is captured perfectly as the overlook hotel slowly begins to change Jack Torrance from loving husband and father to something much worse. another perfect Halloween watch.

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3: CREEPSHOW

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Anyone who knows me knows i LOVE a good horror anthology, both in written form or visual, and Creepshow is one of my favourites. it was a close call between this and the Twilight Zone movie, but i still have a soft spot for this one so it got the nod (just). I remember having a grainy VHS copy of this back in the day and having no clue that Stephen King not only wrote it, but starred in it too. (check out his super hammy performance in The lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill). Every story in this is a hit for fans of the genre.

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2: TRICK R TREAT

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I couldn’t decide for a long time between the number one and two spot. In the end, i placed Trick R Treat at number two. Another anthology of individual stories told non chronologically (Cheap plug: much like the coming reissue of my story collection, Dark Corners available on Halloween and available now to pre order HERE). Each story is brilliantly clever in their own right. You will see scenes from other tales from different perspectives and angles as we jump around the timeline of Halloween night revealing horror after horror. GO BUY IT!

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1: HALLOWEEN

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What else could top the list but the john Carpenter classic? Shot on a miniscule budget, Halloween is a masterclass in horror. The fact that our monster (the iconic Michael Myers) stalks around in daylight instead of solely jumping out of the shadows like many other films of the era gives it an edge. Then of course there is the musical score. Everyone gets goosebumps at that, surely? The sign of a good film is in how well it ages and Halloween is just as frightening today no matter how many times you may have already seen it.

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And so that’s my list. Not strictly the best films, but my favourites. Think something is wrong or have a different opinion? Leave a comment and let me know. List your favourites and why, I’d love to see what you recommend.

 

Movie review: Suicide Squad 

After a ton of unfavourable reviews from the critics I was curious to see just how this would play out and if I agreed with the general consensus that this was a ‘bad’ or ‘mess’ of a film. 

I didn’t. In fact, I enjoyed watching this for what it was. A fun popcorn film which fit nicely after the also slammed by critics Batman vs Superman (which incidentally I also quite enjoyed). A few minor niggles stopped this from being a must see for me, but there was still plenty to enjoy. 

Make no mistake, this is the DC version of the Avengers. The first half hour of the film introduces us to our core characters and sets the scene for what is to come. This is a great way to get to know about each character especially for those who may be unfamiliar with the comics or only vaguely aware of the history of the DC universe. When I first watched the trailer there were certain casting choices that I had doubts about, primarily Will Smith as Deadshot & Jared Leto  as The Joker. To my surprise, both played their roles well. It was good to see Smith play the villain, although he still manages to pull off the hero vibe with ease as his character is easy to like. 

Leto’s Joker was a similar story, his spin on the character wildly different from Heath Ledger’s take in the iconic The Dark Knight and all in a good way. Leto’s incarnation is a snarling beast, a dangerous yet mesmerising psychopath who pushes the crazy button harder than any other screen version of the character before. With his Tattoos, gold rings, flashy cars and garish suits, The Joker steals every scene he features in which in part is one of my niggles with the film. There just isn’t enough of him. Apart from the occasional brief appearance, most of the Joker storyline are small flashback scenes about his relationship with Harley Quinn (played superbly by Margot Robbie) and have little impact on the main storyline which itself is another thing I’m going to have a little moan about. 

The plot is thin to say the least, a basic setup to get the squad working together for the greater good to stop the evil Enchantress from destroying earth by making some kind of superweapon which is never seen or fully explained. Our heroes (or are they still villains?) dutifully go on a world saving mission and learn along the way that even bad guys have morals. 

Does any of that matter as far as enjoying the film goes? Not one bit. This is a fun, loud, action packed,  switch off the brain and enjoy kind of film which is clearly designed to set up more movies in the franchise (speaking of which, it’s advisable to watch Batman vs Superman before seeing this as there is a little plot crossover. I’ve added a link at the bottom of this review). If you are looking for a fun summer film that dosen’t require too much thinking, give this a go. Seen it already?  Leave a comment and let me know what you thought of it. 

Final score: 8/10

Definitely better than the poor reviews give it credit for. Go give it a watch. 

Get Batman vs Superman:Dawn of Justice from Amazon now

Amazon US customers click HERE 

Amazon UK customers click HERE 

TV REVIEW: The Walking Dead Season 6

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Please note there are Season 5 spoilers in this review and minor spoilers for season 6. please don’t read on if you haven’t seen the 5th series or don’t want to know the storyline for season 6. you have been warned! 🙂

 

The sixth season of the AMC hit show carried on it’s bleak journey as our survivors struggle to come to terms with living in the nearest thing to safety any of them have ever experienced. Rick and his people struggle to adapt from the savage lifestyle they had been forced to live, which came to a head in the season 5 finale when under instruction from Dianne, Rick kills habitual drunk, Pete.

The fallout from Rick’s actions and the cold brutality in which he went about them causes mistrust against the Alexandria community who are conflicted as to if Rick and his people belong there or on the other side of the wall. This struggle between Rick and his people trying to convince the people of Alexandria that such brutality is needed in the world as it is now and their lack of understanding due to being sheltered from the zombie apocalypse is a prevailing theme throughout the series.

Season six also introduces us to some new villains in the shape of a certain barbed wire wrapped baseball bat wielding maniac who will be familiar to those who have read the comics and we’ll get to shortly, and another group called the wolves. The wolves are essentially everything the people of Alexandria are not. They have lived in the conflict, desperate and clawing to survive, resorting to inhumane tactics in order to survive.

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The people of Alexandria find out first hand when the Wolves attack the town, army of walkers in tow and cause chaos, almost destroying everything the people had worked to build. These scenes are particularly brutal, and test Rick and his group in ways they had started to forget,  causing them to revert back to their savage nature from their time on the road. It is around this time, with the group once again split and in disarray that Daryl, Abraham and Sascha encounter a group in the road who call themselves the Saviors. The saviors tell the group that everything they own now belongs to Negan. Reluctant to hand over their possessions, Daryl and co dispatch the threat and return to Alexandria just in time to help.

The second half of the season picks up in the aftermath of the Alexandria attack as the town (now under the leadership of Rick) trying to repair the damage done by the wolves. During a supply run, rick and Daryl encounter a man called Jesus, who initially seems friendly then steals their supplies. Daryl and Rick track him down and learn that the man comes form a community called the Hilltop. he claims they have supplies and food, both of which are running low in the Alexandria community. Rick agrees to go with Jesus to  the Hilltop to negotiate a trade deal.

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When they arrive at the hilltop, Rick and co find out that Jesus was telling the truth, and the Hilltop is well stocked with food and provisions. Rick learns that the Hilltop community are being extorted for food and supplies by the saviours, who threaten to attack if their demands are not met. Rick and his group agree to eliminate the saviours in exchange for a trade deal with the hilltop where they will share supplies going forward. This leads to an assault on a saviour compound, where Rick and his group brutally kill several people, sure that they have eliminated the threat until they learn that two of their own have been captured. This in turn leads towards the grand finale, where the saviours lead rick and his people towards a face to face confrontation with Negan himself (along with aforementioned barbed wire wrapped baseball bat) who tells them someone has to be punished for what they have done in what has to go down as one of the greatest and most intense end scenes for this show to date.

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There is a lot to like about this season of The Walking Dead. We get to see Carl coming of age after surviving a horrific and life threatening injury. We also get a superb episode dedicated to Morgan’s backstory titled ‘Here’s not Here,’ Which fills in the gap between what happened when Rick first met Morgan in series one to finding him delirious and insane back in the third season. Carol decides that she has seen enough of death and goes off alone, isolating herself from the group as she gives in to the chaos of the world around her. By far the most interesting aspect of season 6 is the start of the upcoming Negan story arc. In a series where Rick and his group have been the alpha, to see him at the end of season six broken, afraid and in tears shows that things have definitely changed. And then of course there is that final scene of the last episode which will no doubt infuriate as much as it captivates.

FINAL SCORE: 9 out of 10: Everything changes in this season and I can’t recommend it enough. go buy it!

The Walking Dead season 6 comes to DVD /  Blu ray on September 26th. You can pre order it now from Amazon below:

Amazon U.K: Pre order season 6 now (UK CUSTOMERS)

Amazon U.S: Pre order season 6 now (U.S Customers)

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Stranger Things SEASON 1 REVIEW

A homage to 80’s horror done right.

There has been quite a reaction to the new Netflix exclusive Stranger Things. It seems that every other post on Facebook was about somebody watching and raving about it, and so, as the credits roll on the final episode, I feel ready to give my verdict to go with the zillion others out there right now.If, like me you were a child of the 80’s, then you will immediately fall in love with the tone of this series right from the start. Everything from the set and costume design to the sinister synth tones of the opening title sequence takes the viewer back to the days of The Goonies, E.T, Eirie India and of course the Horror Movies of that era. There are no mobile phones or Pokemon Go here, but BMX bikes and the great outdoors.

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The plot centres around a young boy called Mike, who, after an evening playing dungeons and Dragons with his friends, cycles home. On the way, he encounters something in the woods which follows him home. The unseen entity follows Mike to the shed, where after a tense standoff he disappears into thin air. What follows is the search for Mike as things grow more and more strange and tense by the episode.  His friends Finn Wolfhard (Mike)  Caleb McLaughlin (Lucas)  and Gaten Mattarazzo (Dustin)  who are a Goonies like bunch if ever there was one, stumble across a young girl in the woods when out looking for Mike. she is shaven headed and confused, marked by a tattooed 11 on her wrist (played expertly and with haunting conviction by 12 year old Millie Brown) who seems to have strange mind bending powers not unlike a certain girl in a certain Stephen King novel.  The interplay between the kids is charming and often funny, which are moments offset by the traumatic breakdown of Mike’s mother, played with superb believability by Winona Ryder in what has to be one of her strongest career performances to date.

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As this is a spoiler free review, i don’t really want to go too deeply into the details of the plot (as it would spoil your enjoyment of watching. As the search for Will goes on and Mike and the rest of the kids get to know the mysterious Eleven, the supporting cast are left with plenty to do. David Harbour is the town sheriff, who finds that his simple case of a missing child has started to grow into something much more intricate and potentially deadly. Natalie Dyer’s performance as the quiet desperate to do get with the in crowd Nancy Wheeler is also worthy of note, as her struggle for acceptance and eventual involvement in the overall storyline weaves in and out of the main narrative before all of the separate threads come together for the finale and the mystery is finally revealed.

If 80’s nostalgia is your thing, and you are a fan of 80’s Spielberg of the movie adaptations of Stephen king, then this is definitely worth checking out. If not, check it out anyway, if only for the soundtrack. True, Stranger Things doesn’t tread any new ground, and there are many elements you have seen before, but in a world where people spend their days chasing pokemon and staring at their computer screens, it’s refreshing to go to a time when such things didn’t happen. Thankfully, Stranger Things has been renewed for a second season, and i for one will be watching.

Final score:

8/10

Well worth a watch and a wonderful homage to the 80’s. Recommended.