Category Archives: Reviews

Potted Film Review: Rambo – Last Blood (2019)

Rambo_-_Last_Blood_official_theatrical_posterStarring: Sylvester Stallone, Paz Vega, Sergio Peris-Mencheta

The biggest problem with the latest (and hopefully the last) installment in the Rambo franchise is that it isn’t really a Rambo movie at all. Sure, Stallone is in the title role, and he gets to enjoy plenty of gratuitous violence, but with his short, neatly styled hair, he doesn’t even look like the John J. of old. I would argue that this may have worked better if you take the title character out of the story and just make it a generic revenge tale… because that is kinda what it is. In fact, now that I think about it, this would have been more appropriate for the next Expendables movie.

At under 90 minutes Last Blood is a relatively short ride, the first half of which is far superior… which says a lot because the revenge part (the part of the movie you’re really meant to get into) happens in the second half. Yeah, I understand Rambo’s motivation to do what he does, and the blood being spilled when he does it is pretty fun, but this script does not need to have him in it, and it feels a little weird that he is.

Ironically, if you’re a completist then you need to see this as (hopefully) a button on the series, but for the casual action fan there are far better offerings out there. It pains me, but I can’t recommend this as the fifth Rambo movie, and ultimately that’s how I have to view it. Somewhere along the line Stallone lost the essence of the character, and the guy on screen here is only superficially the same person, to the point where I am almost convinced that Rambo was just shoehorned into the plot to add a little cache to the production.

Not Recommended (as a Rambo movie) ⇓

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Night Shift #3 – Night Surf…

619i-4slsfl645695221..jpgWord count – 3,200

Night Surf is set in a post-apocalyptic world, and centres around a few young characters who have made a life for themselves on a beach. I know, the post-apocalyptic landscape is one of those genre tropes that every horror writer has to go through at some point. Yes, even me.

We find out that most of the global population has been wiped out by a particularly aggressive strain of flu, and we meet a handful of the teenagers who are left behind as a result of their immunity to the virus. And we don’t really get much else, but that’s all right.

This is an easy read, at least partly because it doesn’t try to do anything outside its wheelhouse. As with many of King’s earlier stories, it is very thin on plot and depth, but in a strange way it is refreshing to read something from him that is this… sparse. It’s short, so there is simply no space to get crazy with any extraneous details.

This is another one I can say yes to, and the best story in Night Shift so far.

Recommended ⇑

Potted Film Review: Super 8 (2011)

super8587783329.jpgStarring: Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning, Kyle Chandler

Spielberg, kids, aliens. Back in the eighties that was a three-pronged recipe for blockbuster success. A couple of decades later, and although Spielberg may have fallen from his lofty perch, his name continues to hold cache, and he still knows how to produce a compelling tale.

The kids in Super 8 may not be as entertaining, and the story here may not be as effectively told as anything from Spielberg’s heyday, but it’s still a pretty good yarn… just not as good as it could have been. 

There’s a fantastically realised train crash to set things up, but other than that, Super 8 is not particularly memorable. 

Recommended (slightly) ⇑

Night Shift #2 – Graveyard Shift…

619i-4slsfl645695221..jpgWord count – 6,100

Although Graveyard Shift certainly feels like an early King story it does have several touchstones that would go on to become hallmarks of his longer and more lauded works – the quick, back and forth dialogue, the grisly descriptions, and the creatures hiding in the darkness.

Not only that, but the style and production of the writing here instantly makes this a more successful excursion than Jerusalem’s Lot, the story that began Night Shift. It’s much shorter as well. Here, King tells the story and gets out… something he does not do as often as he probably should.

Yes, Graveyard Shift is little more than a basic tale of mutated killer rats surviving in the depths of a textile mill – there really isn’t any more to it than that – but when this was originally published King was barely twenty-three years old, so I’ll cut him some slack for the crudity of the writing and the under-developed characters, because I know that he will go on to improve greatly on both of these things.

A much better entry to the collection, and one that I am happy to give the thumbs up to.

Recommended ⇑

Night Shift #1 – Jerusalem’s Lot…

619i-4slsfl645695221..jpgWord count – 12,900

Jerusalem’s Lot is the fairly lengthy short story that kicks off Stephen King’s first collection of short stories, Night Shift, and I’ll say it right now – it’s not one of his best.

It’s designed as a prequel to his second novel, ‘Salem’s Lot, which I barely remember reading all those years ago, but as such this piece suffers because I can’t help but feel as though I’m not getting the whole story here. It’s like going to a restaurant, having a starter, and then walking out before the main course arrives.

Having said that, if ‘Salem’s Lot was written in the same manner as this (and it isn’t), I’d probably not want the entire meal anyway, because Jerusalem’s Lot is told in an epistolary format (as a series of letters). This certainly can be interesting and suspenseful if done correctly and in the right hands, and if King had more experience under his belt when he wrote it, this would have been a lot better, but as it is, this story drags, making you feel every word written on the page.

If you’re coming to this collection looking for King’s strengths, you best dig a little deeper into the book, because you won’t find it here.

Not Recommended ⇓

 

The Short(er) Works of Stephen King…

In an effort to write good short stories I’m going to look towards one of the masters, Stephen King – a guy who has written a fair number of them.

Over the coming months I will be reading and offering my opinion about every short story King has had published in the six collections that are out there: Night Shift (1978), Skeleton Crew (1985), Nightmares & Dreamscapes (1993), Everything’s Eventual (2002), Just After Sunset (2008), and The Bazaar of Bad Dreams (2015).

That’s over 100 stories – some of which I have either forgotten since I came across them many years ago, or not read in the first place. I know not all of them will be good, but I’m sure every one will give me something to say.

… and hopefully I can get it done before he comes out with another anthology.

Potted Film Review: Skyscraper (2018)

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Neve Campbell, Chin Hanskyscraper-poster-600x9502100222201.jpg

What’s it all about?
The Rock is Will, an FBI operative who loses his leg below the knee and has a prosthetic attachment for the remainder of the movie. A decade later and he is a security consultant for the world’s taest skyscraper, which is in Hong Kong.

A group of terrorists break in to the building and start a fire in order to take control of the situation, but as luck would have it, Will’s children are now stranded and it is up to him to save the day and take down the bad guys…

…which he does about an hour later courtesy of a lot of not-so-special effects, some awful stunt work, and one particularly ludicrous moment where my suspension of disbelief was taken beyond breaking point. Yes, you can see it in that poster.

Watching it with the kids…
Yeah, go on. This is family friendly entertainment… although I use that term loosely.

Verdict…
I went in to this one with high hopes. The Rock is a very charismatic performer, so at least it has him going for it, right? Well… no. This is very much in the mould of Die Hard, although I feel dirty even making that comparison because Skyscraper has none of the action, stunts, heart, soul, humour, or pathos of that classic. It’s a one-legged imitation.

It pains me to say so, but this is a poor Dwayne Johnson movie, and one I will never go back to.

Not Recommended