• Film reviews

    #611 – Them (2021)

    Them (2021)

    Film review #611

    Director: Ignacio Maiso

    SYNOPSIS: Humans live the same moments in their lives over and over again. A few manage to break free of the loop and become “them” who watch over the humans. Daniel becomes one of them, and wants to wake up his wife too, but problems arise when he tries to do so…

    THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: Them is a 2021 film. Every so often you come across a film that is so devoid of any redeemable qualities you struggle to even call it a film. This is one of them. The story seems to be about how humans live in a state of repeating the same events in their lives. Sometimes, humans “wake up” and become “them,” who watch over the humans. There’s…not really much else to the film. The fundamental problem with this film is that absolutely explained or explored. Obviously, it’s okay if film’s leave things open for interpretation, but there has to be some worldbuilding, rationale, rules…anything by which events unfold. here we get absolutely nothing. If the writers had any kind of vision or reason behind what is going on, it in no way translates to the screen. I felt like maybe there was an attempt at being a mix of Wings of Desire and The Matrix, but there’s so little to go on that it no way reaches that kind of level where you can leave things open to interpretation, because there’s nothing built up to interpret.

    The main core of the story I suppose is centred around Daniel, who “wakes up” from his human existence. He wants to also wake up his wife, but this is considered dangerous, also the fact that it’s maybe not his wife at all, just a repeated dream that different people live through, including him. Again, it’s very complicated, and the shift between it being personal and impersonal doesn’t really create conflict, it just muddies an already incoherent story. Given that this is a human story at its core, the acting is anything but: nearly every scene is just dialogue of people standing around talking, but the performances are so inhuman. I don’t think this is just because of bad acting, but it seems to be directed this way? Every single character; human, them, or otherwise, engages in dialogue by leaving a three-second pause between responding, and I simply cannot fathom what for. Maybe you could argue that ‘them’ would speak this way since they are not human, but the human character’s themselves do it too, and makes them seem just a bit weird. There’s a character who wants to bring down the whole ‘them’ organisation and tries to recruit Daniel, but again, we never see anything they do, what their aims are, or how they want to go about it: it’s all just dialogue that is eventually just talked away. The supervisor of ‘them’ also gives nothing away, and just asks for reports from his assistant, which are likewise devoid of significance.

    I suppose if you want to defend the decisions of this film, it was made during the Covid-19 pandemic, so you can imagine there’s no crowds or big gatherings, but surely there could have been more than just every scene being just two people talking with awkward pauses between every line of dialogue. The film on the whole is simply a bewildering void of any kind of cinematic content, that is unable to establish any kind of characters or worldbuilding. Again, it feels like someone watched Wings of Desire, blended it with The Matrix, and barely understanding what either of them were about, threw together some rough ideas that go nowhere, and with the depth of a piece of paper. Redundant viewing that is simply a waste of time.

  • Film reviews

    #603 – Super Apartment Wife (2021)

    Super Apartment Wife (2021)

    Film review #603

    Director: Anna Nagasaki

    SYNOPSIS: A yakuza boss needs to divert attention away from his mistress, Anna, as his wife is becoming increasingly suspicious of him. She is ordered to move in with newcomer Sho Nagasaki, and pretend to be his partner. However, the relationship becomes complicated when the yakuza boss has to engineer their “break up,” as well as the small matter of Anna being the daughter of an evil God who wants to wipe out humanity…

    THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: Super Apartment Wife is a 2021 sci-fi film. Starring, written, and directed by Anna Nagasaki, the plot concerns a yakuza boss who needs to hide his mistress from his suspicious wife. They plan for a newbie, Sho Nagasaki, to pretend to be her partner, and have her move in with him to try and fool the private detective the boss’s wife has hired. A simple enough plot, which I’m sure has the potential for some comedy or typical romance stuff, but there’s no real sense of what the film should be: I think it’s mostly meant to be taken seriously, but the stunted and sparse dialogue from the main characters makes it difficult to get to grips with what they are thinking. The whole film seems to have very little idea what it is doing, with Nagasaki never having written, directed, or starred in a film (her background is as an influencer). I think there’s a germ of an idea in here somewhere, but it fails to blossom in any way.

    If you think the plot is already quite odd, then we haven’t even addressed the really weird stuff yet: it turns out that Anna is the daughter of “Darkness of Love” (it’s hard to translate the Japanese name), who is basically evil God, who wants to destroy humanity and replace them with more interesting species or something. Stranger still, it is implied this God (who looks like he belongs in The Matrix) is the Christian God, as he talks about creating Adam and Eve and whatnot. He visits Anna and reveals who he is, and tries to tempt her to embrace her evil powers and destroy humanity. We get there’s something special about her earlier because of these odd flashbacks of her Mother telling her not to get emotionally involved and accidentally unleash her demon powers or whatever, and there’s also this odd scene at a dentist as a flashback, which I can’t remotely fathom why it is in there or what it is meant to signify. So anyway, Anna eventually is consumed by her evil powers as she thinks Sho is seeing another woman, who is actually part of the yakuza boss’s plan to break up the couple so his wife doesn’t get suspicious, and this other woman is actually one of God’s other children, and maybe the yakuza boss’s wife is too? Honestly, I got completely lost at this point, as the film turns into this battle for the Earth at it’s climax, and everyone duking it out with God-like powers, and the yakuza trying to shoot them. The whole experience is just so surreal and chaotic I’m still at a lost of how to process it. Fortunately (?) the film does have a happy ending, as Anna and Sho have a kid and live happily ever after or something, but again, this just doesn’t really follow on from the madness that ensues at the climax; it’s just a bunch of half-cooked ideas thrown together with barely any structure to make them stick.

    What makes this film feel truly amateur is the production and effects: a lot of the film looks like it was set on a stage at a local theatre, or an industrial estate just around the corner. The CGI is all very basic 3D models, and the greenscreen effects are clearly not done right, as they bleed into the actors constantly, The whole film (if this even counts as a film) is a half-baked mess of ideas, with zero chemistry between the characters to create any sense of romance or drama, and a bizarre angle concerning an evil God wanting to wipe out humanity that adds a completely different level of incomprehensibility. It clearly has no budget and a severe lack of expertise, so you can’t be too hard on the end product based on what it was working with, but there are some things which would have been easily improved. I can see what it’s trying to do, but every step it takes towards it is misplaced and ends up somewhere completely different. Probably worth a watch only if you really want to indulge in something completely insane and devoid of sense.

  • Film reviews

    #591 – Covid-21: Lethal Virus (2021)

    Covid-21: Lethal Virus (2021)

    Film review #591

    Director: Daniel Hernández Torrado

    SYNOPSIS: After a new strain of Covid turns most people into zombies, a biochemist is travelling to a laboratory to work on a cure when her convoy is attacked by zombies. She runs into a lone survivor, who begrudgingly accompanies her, and the two have to survive the harsh countryside overrun with zombies…

    THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: Covid-21: Lethal Virus is a 2021 zombie film. It is also (perhaps unsurprisingly) part of a host of covid-zombie movies that appeared around this time. The film revolves around a typical zombie plot (with a covid twist): the melting of polar ice has released an ancient super strain of covid that turns people into zombies. Following on from that statement which should never be uttered, we have the typical post-apocalypse world where the survivors have to avoid becoming undead themselves. Into this unoriginal setup we have a biochemist named Allyson, who is being escorted to a secret lab where she will be able to develop a cure. Unfortunately, her convoy is attacked by zombies, and because no one in this film has ever seen a zombie film before, the convoy is overrun and Allyson has to make it to the lab on her own. Well, until she runs into Scott, an angry loner who sort of accompanies her to argue all the way. The story consists mostly of this bickering and occasionally hacking away at some zombies, without any real direction or development. There’s nothing original or interesting about this post-apocalyptic world, and it’s all been done before in better films. The use of “covid” as part of the premise is irrelevant, as this “super strain” is only mentioned off-hand in dialogue once, and was probably only put in to promote the film.

    The characters are all dull and unlikable: apart from Allyson and Scott and their distinct lack of any chemistry, there’s also two random soldier guys who are walking through the woods too, whose little side-story has no real purpose other than to shove some more action scenes in, I suppose. But again, the lack of any originality makes it uninteresting. All of this is supplemented by some poor acting and flat deliveries, and there are points where the actors clearly mess up their lines. The little twist at the end doesn’t really add much when the characters always feel disposable and without purpose anyway.

    The production as a whole feels very unprofessional, with horrid, shaky, close-up shots that make it difficult to follow what is going on (and to avoid paying for backgrounds and sets), the colours are all dull and washed out, and the lighting is haphazard and nonsensical. I know you can’t be too judgmental when it’s an obvious low budget film, but there’s still a lot more that could have been done with what they had. There’s nothing to recommend Covid 21: Lethal Virus in any way: it’s unoriginal, unprofessional, unstructured, and any enjoyment you might get out of it being a “bad” film is scuppered by it being just so incredibly dull. Avoid.

  • Film reviews

    #590 – 8-Bit Christmas (2021)

    8-Bit Christmas (2021)

    Film review #590

    Director: Michael Dowse

    SYNOPSIS: Jake Doyle is pestered for a mobile phone by his daughter. Visiting his parents for the Christmas holidays, Jake recounts a similar story from when he was young, when he was desperate for his parents to buy him the one thing he wanted more than anything…a “Nintendo”…

    THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: 8-Bit Christmas is a 2021 Christmas comedy film. As Jake Doyle’s daughter pesters him for a phone of her own for Christmas, Jake regales her with a story of his youth of a similar predicament he faced: growing up in the 1980’s, the one thing he wanted more than anything else…a “Nintendo” (or Nintendo Entertainment System). The film hails back to the films of that very era, riding a certain wave of nostalgia about the 1980s and a time when only a few privileged kids would own a “Nintendo” and be the most popular kids in school. The story is told through flashback with Jake narrating the story, and occasional cut backs to the present with Jake and his daughter playing on his Nintendo. While the beginning has quite a bit of narration that interrupts the smooth telling of the story, it does eventually settle into a more seamless rhythm. rather than organically introduce the cast, the narration does tell us about nearly every character, which is a bit distracting, but I suppose you don’t really need to establish the characters when they’re all playing very typical roles and personalities. Again, riding that certain wave of nostalgia, it is appealing to the fans of 80’s films that have all of these tropes and characters anyway, so you don’t need too much of an introduction. The problem with this is – as with a lot of movies that try and capture the feel of that time period – is that it is never going to move out of the shadow of those films, so you’re wondering why you would watch this instead of the other films it is paying homage to.

    The film is balanced between both appealing to younger audiences, but also those who grew up in the 1980’s and have children of their own. There’s a lack of specific references that would only appeal to particular demographics, so it’s intended as a more rounded picture that the whole family can enjoy, but I can’t help but feel it would have been better to lean more into the retro games aspect of it.

  • Film reviews

    #531 – The Gingerweed Man (2021)

    The Gingerweed Man (2021)

    Film review #531

    Director: Brooks Davis

    SYNOPSIS: The Gingerweed man has started a weed delivery service in the city, catering to all sorts of clientele. When he stumbles upon a living, super strain of weed, he finds himself having to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands and being used for evil…

    THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: The Gingerweed Man is a 2021 film and a spin-off of the Evil Bong film franchise. From the opening, we see that the Gingerweed Man has set up a weed delivery service with his partner Barbara, and delivers weed to all the wacky people around town. Meanwhile, a scientist has managed to create a living, super strain of weed powerful enough to save or destroy the world. The evil “Smokeahontas” hunts down the scientist, who manages to hide the super weed and subsequently falls into the hands of the Gingerweed Man. The film’s story is fairly easy to follow, although offers nothing really of any substance. As with the Evil Bong films from which it spawned, the film is only going to be entertaining if you are as high as a kite; the humour is crude most of the time, and apart from that, just doesn’t give anything entertaining to the viewer. Luckily, at just over fifty minutes long (spread over two chapters), it’s fairly quick and harmless, and the short runtime means it doesn’t waste time with extended dialogue or pointless things.

    One of the main problems with the film is that the main character, The Gingerweed Man, is not really interesting, and feels like a mish-mash of tropes: he dresses like a stoner, but talks like a posh Englishman with the accent to match. I’m just not sure how to situate the character, so it’s difficult to see where the comedy comes from. Smoke-ahontas as the villain doesn’t seem to really do anything other than to chase other characters, and “Buddy” as the super weed strain…thing is just an annoying high-pitched mascot thing which you will grow tired of quickly. 

    The Gingerweed Man could have been a chance to try something new after all the Evil Bong movies which are essentially all the same. Of course, being made by Full Moon Entertainment, it was never going to push things in an innovative or original way, but it is at least a bit different (in that it actually has some sort of plot). The film is shot decently, and there’s more than two different sets, so that’s a win. Overall though, I think it’s safe to say that The Gingerweed Man isn’t really anything worthwhile, unless you’re so high you’re detached from reality.

  • Film reviews

    #470 – Evangelion 3.0 + 1.0 Thrice Upon a Time

    Evangelion: 3.0 + 1.0 Thrice Upon a Time (2021)

    Film review #470

    Directors: Hideaki Anno, Kazuya Tsurumaki, Katsuichi Nakayama, Mahiro Maeda

    SYNOPSIS: Following the aversion of the fourth impact, the Eva pilots are left wandering the ruins of Tokyo-3 defeated and deflated, until they are picked up by familiar faces that take them to a settlement where people are surviving in the world that has been left behind by the pilots actions. They do their best to fit into this new world, but they know that their fight is not over, and the final battle to save humanity is edging closer…

    THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: Evangelion 3.0 + 1.0 Thrice Upon a Time is a 2021 Japanese animated film, and the fourth and final film in the Rebuild of Evangelion film series. The film starts out with a battle in Paris, where WILLE are attempting to restore the city to a habitable condition. They succeed, and the focus switches to the three protagonists who we saw at the end of the previous film, wandering the ruins of Tokyo-3 without purpose as their EVAs have been destroyed. They are rescued and taken to a small settlement where they meet some of their old school friends, who have now grown up, while they remain the same age due to a side effect of being EVA pilots. The first part of the film is set in this settlement as the three try to come to terms with what has happened and being around other people. It’s slow paced, but gives ample time to focus on each of the characters individually and their own personal journeys. Although the characters have been psychologically explored in the previous films, it still feels rewarding to do it again, and as this is the final film, provide some closure for their own individual journeys. The themes of finding your place in the world amongst others, and taking responsibility for your actions are fairly clear, and drive the character’s journeys and their individual responses. The plot structure of dedicating the first half of the film to this more slow-paced exploration and the latter half focusing on the action and lore is a good balance, and stops one interrupting the flow of the other. If you’re watching this film, it is probably not your first experience with the franchise, but if it is, you’re definitely not going to be able to keep track of everything that’s happening (this is also true if you’re a die hard fan, but in that case, you’re somewhat expecting not to get everything right away and that some things are open to interpretation).

    The latter half of the film is when the action kicks in and the stakes get raised to infinity. The film manages to push itself even further than the TV series and End of Evangelion (The alternate telling of the TV version ending). All of the new elements that were added over the film series are addressed and resolved (apart from those which are intentionally left ambiguous). It even manages to incorporate the events of the TV series as somewhat canon. As such, it is a satisfying conclusion to the series that gives the characters the ability to look forward to the future. The action scenes constantly pile more and more things into them as it gets quite over-the-top, but again, it’s what you come to expect from the series. The characters don’t offer much in the way of surprise, but one or two of them get a small change or development that rounds off their characters, which is nice.

    Accompanying the film is the usual over-the-top orchestral soundtrack and visuals that encompass the entire planet. The animation is pretty smooth, but the CG looks a bit unconvincing in some parts; I’m not sure if some corners had to be cut due to the pandemic, but for the most part, it still looks pretty good and consistent with the other films. With a runtime of over two and a half hours, the film feels like it says all it needs to say and do. Overall, Evangelion 3.0 + 1.0 is a satisfying ending to the series that takes its time to tie up its loose ends and give answers to questions that fans have been asking for over twenty years, while still retaining some ambiguity and open-endedness that is a trademark of the series. It definitely feels like there were no constraints with regards to budget or runtime, so the story that Hideaki Anno wanted to tell is told in its entirety. Some small and minor bumps in the animation don’t really hinder the film’s message and execution, and as such it is a solid ending to the film series. It’s definitely not a point to jump into the franchise, but the film series as a whole tells the story of Evangelion in the form I think it was meant to be experienced.