Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile


Viewed – 06 December 2019. Online-rental

Any movie attempting to tell the true story of notorious serial killer Ted Bundy is a daunting prospect. From what I’ve heard, he was an incredibly prolific, charismatic and manipulative psychopath who did some of the cruelest and most depraved serial murders in American history. So when I heard former High School Musical actor Zac Efron was taking on the role, I must admit … I was intrigued.

Focusing on Bundy’s relationship with Elizabeth Kendall (Lilly Collins) this is told mostly from her point of view. A similar approach to that Tom Hardy Krays movie from a few years back. However such an approach means we don’t really get to explore what made Ted who he was, and for the most part the accusations and subsequent manhunt come off as ill-fitting to the man we see Efron portraying. The various murders are not recreated and told only in news footage or Police chatter, so a sense of the sheer horrendous nature of the crimes is glossed over. In an attempt to give some depth to Bundy and Liz’s struggling relationship, a plot thread involving the book ‘Papillon’ is introduced and from all recorded testimonies this inclusion is pure fiction, and the documented telephone confession he apparently gave to Liz whilst on the run, is removed entirely in favour of a rather weak sort-of confession scene towards the end. Such inaccuracies to the real life events left me wondering what director Joe Berlinger‘s intentions were, considering he also delivered a documentary called The Ted Bundy Tapes to Netflix prior to this movie’s release.

However Zac Efron is still very good as Bundy and proves charming, like the real person, as well as occasionally creepy. Yet the stand out here is Collins who delivers a very convincing portrayal of a woman who refused to admit shes was going out with a monster. Overall though, this was far too lightweight considering the subject and mostly a missed opportunity.

Verdict: 2.5 /5

The Irishman


Viewed – 28 November 2019. Netflix

There’s a moment early on in Martin Scorsese‘s 3hr + epic when Robert DeNiro meets with Joe Pesci‘s mobster. Could I hear The Godfather theme playing gently in the background? If so, nice nod to a genre you helped immortalise Scorsese.

I was hyped for this. A crime drama with some of the biggest names in crime dramas reuniting for the first time in years? Where do I sign? Based on true events, DeNiro plays Frank Sheeran, a mob hitman who gradually rises up the ladder, going from blue collar worker to petty thief to mob enforcer to right hand man of infamous politician Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino). At the same time his story is told by an elderly Frank in a nursing home. One of the much talked about things with this movie was the ageing and especially de-ageing technology used to showcase various characters during different timelines. It’s clever stuff if not entirely successful and did take a bit of getting used to – especially when a (I’m guessing) 40-something Frank still carries himself like an awkward older guy at times, lacking the stature of the same actor in say Heat or Goodfellas. It’s a technology that I’m afraid struggles to hide the fact this movie should probably have been made years ago.

DeNiro is still great though and goes through a plethora of emotions to portray Frank, someone who’s not your everyday mob villain but a family man and a human being. In the closing scenes especially, portraying an elderly man with lots of memories and regrets, I’ll admit I came close to shedding a tear. It’s the ending that elevates this into the realms of potential ‘classic’ even if some sections in the middle revolving around Hoffa’s political dealings dragged and well, got a bit boring. Al Pacino is far from disappointing though, but I can’t say I was all that taken by the man he was portraying. On the other hand, Joe Pesci’s mobster is great and made me wish this guy still made movies and proved much more layered than the usual psycho routine he’s famous for.

It’s also a bit too long. The Jimmy Hoffa stuff, admittedly important to the story could have been trimmed down, and some scenes are drawn out. However this isn’t a zippy, snappy gangster movie but a thoughtful story of one man’s life, and for that it mostly succeeds. Martin Scorsese gives the movie a classy feel, with eye catching camera work, his trusted great choices in music and a great attention to detail. Overall, a must for fans of crime movies and for anyone wanting to see these screen legends deliver the goods one more time.

Verdict: 4 /5

Spider-Man: Far From Home


Viewed – 12 November 2019. Online rental

In the wake of the events of Avengers: Endgame, Peter Parker / Spider-Man (Tom Holland) is on a school trip in Europe when a series of elemental beasts begin to attack various cities. When a hero from another dimension appears to battle them, Parker feels obliged to offer his help, aided by new tech left to him by the (spoiler) late Tony Stark.

I wasn’t the biggest fan of the last few Spider-Man movies but do think Holland is perfectly cast. This time around he teams up with Jake Gylkenhaal‘s Mysterio, who proves a very interesting character even if an actor of his calibre is hardly ‘stretched’. Samuel L Jackson‘s Nick Fury is also a welcome return after his absence from other movies. The story is generally teen angst complicated by an inconvenient new threat, and the shadow of Tony Stark / Iron-Man looms once again which for me spoilt the last movie. However here at least Spidy gets to do his own thing and we are treated to some great set-pieces with some very imaginative moments revolving around Mysterio’s illusion powers.

At the end of the day this hardly breaks the mould for a Spider-Man or Marvel movie and lacks the depth of a Captain America or Avengers – but when it’s all this entertaining … does that really matter? Not ‘amazing’ then, but still the best Spidy outing in quite a while.

Verdict: 3.5 /5

Doctor Sleep


Viewed – 06 November 2019

I consider The Shining one of the best movies ever made, so this follow-up, based on Stephen King’s own best seller was something I never knew I wanted. King famously hated director Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 adaptation and so this movie interestingly brings King’s sequel to life as well as heavily referencing Kubrick’s movie.

Ewan McGregor plays Dan Torrance, the grown up version of that kid in the original, who has battled his ‘shining’ affliction to see the dead, with alcohol. However when a young girl named Abra begins communicating with him through her own psychic gift, Dan is drawn into a battle against a mysterious group of travellers (lead by Rebecca Ferguson) who pray on those that shine.

The way characters, separated for miles connect and come together during the story was what drew me into this. The movie uses imaginative ways of making the various locations and characters feel connected and only builds and gets more creative the closer they get to one another. The story also fleshes our the ‘shining’ ability as well as further exploring characters and moments from the first movie with spot-on re-creations and occasionally uncanny look-a-likes. Rebecca Ferguson is dangerously sexy as Rose The Hat and McGregor is also very good, even if he’s often outshined by Kyliegh Curran as Abra.

Although I’d have liked the movie to be less the supernatural drama it is and more a full-on horror, the story was (mostly) involving enough to make up for a lack of genuine frights. Director Mike Flanagan (Gerald’s Game) uses many creative visual flourishes to make what on paper could get a bit silly – highly entertaining and I found myself invested in Dan and Abra’s plight. This is how you do a sequel to such a legendary movie … build on a great concept yet take nothing away from the original.

Verdict: 4 /5

3 From Hell


Viewed – 02 November 2019 online-rental

Rocker turned director Rob Zombie has over the years carved out his own sub-genre that despite strong influences from grind house shockers like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Last House on the Left, delivers a style that’s all his own. It can be an acquired taste that’s for sure, and not much has changed since 2005’s The Devil’s Rejects that this is a direct follow up to. With a clear tip of the hat to Natural Born Killers, in the years since their incarceration, the Firefly gang have become celebrities. After one of them escapes, a violent home invasion ensues to convince a Prison warden to help crazy as-a-loon Baby Firefly (Sherry Moon Zombie) escape also.

Zombie’s direction attempts to add style and panache to a movie that’s neck deep in sleaze and grime. It’s characters carry a self-importance that doesn’t make them glamorous, but simply pompous, and with the lack of interesting adversaries, including a none existent police presence, there’s a distinct lack of tension or drama throughout.

If you’re here to find out if this delivers the required violence and gore then yeah, there’s several nasty scenes including a throat slit, stabbings and a (unconvincing) face removal – but almost all is watered down by what appears to be crappy CGI blood. Bill Mosely is the stand out as Otis, and Sherry Moon is equal parts entertaining and annoying – so the acting’s a mixed bag also. The under-use of Sid Haig (who recently passed away) as nutty clown Captain Spaulding is disappointing but in a movie this half-arsed, perhaps it wouldn’t have been his finest swan-song. For die hard Zombie fans only.

Verdict: 2.5 /5