Film Review – Black Christmas

Posted in Uncategorized on December 13, 2019 by Reel Review Roundup

Black Christmas (M)

Directed by: Sofia Takal

Starring: Imogen Poots, Cary Elwes, Lily Donoghue

Three and a half stars

Review by: Julian Wright


The classic, and often overlooked, original teen stalk and slash horror film Black Christmas (1974) gets a redux for a woke audience in the “Me Too” era after the disastrously messy 2006 remake.

It is just days until Christmas and the Hawthorne College campus population is thinning with most of the faculty and students leaving to be with their families for the holidays.

The timing seems perfect for a blood-thirsty stalker to start bumping off vulnerable sorority girls without anyone noticing their absence.

Except timid but intuitive and protective Riley (Imogen Poots) does notice; a couple of her BFF’s who were supposed to leave for vacation have not reached their destinations, and Riley becomes deeply suspicious and worried for their safety.

Is she being overly sensitive, or are the college frat boys playing a cruel prank as an act of revenge after Riley’s allegations that one of the jocks date raped her?

The authorities are no help with her newfound concern and are treating her with the same dismissive attitude they did when she made the rape allegations, so Riley and a handful of her remaining friends must band together and fight to survive.

Film Title: Black Christmas

This modern horror film makes no secret that it is for the “Me Too” era and Has Something To Say with a very potent Message.

At times the metaphors are forced (one character likens the sisterhood to ants – then later proceeds to spell out why) and the Me Too discourse overly obvious (“Did you just ‘not all men’ me?!”) – it certainly side-steps subtlety and could very well be dated much sooner than it should.

However, this “hot topic” is otherwise cleverly woven into the slasher setting, elevating familiar horror genre material and adding meat to the bones of a well-worn scenario.

This version looks at why it is always women in peril in these films, and in life, suggesting that toxic masculinity is consciously and deliberately passed down through generations of men who are trained to maintain dominance over women.

The set up also allows more depth for our “final girl” – Riley is not motivated by simply intuition or a gut feeling; she has experienced directly the violence men can do to women and has reason to be wary when her friends don’t answer their phone.

The twist, heavily suggested in the spoiler heavy trailer, is hokey, but an interesting metaphor for how toxic masculinity and the hunger for power is passed on through generations of men, and it also gives a deeper meaning to the title.

It is easy to nit-pick the occasional sledgehammer deliver of a Message via clunky dialogue, but Black Christmas’ biggest flaw is the lack of violence shown.

It is understood this was filmed to be a gory slasher, but edited down at the last minute to remove the blood and guts to reach a wider audience. However the impact of a film exploring the violence that men do to women is severely dulled when we don’t even see the physical impacts.

Not only that, the chills are drastically reduced – a shame when much effort has been made to create a suspenseful experience. there is just no pay-off.

For its faults and missteps, Black Christmas is thought provoking and takes a decent stab at tackling some really tough issues, and for the most part, does it in as realistic fashion as possible.



Film Review – The Addams Family

Posted in Uncategorized on December 3, 2019 by Reel Review Roundup

The Addams Family (PG)

Directed by: Greg Tiernan, Conrad Vernon

Starring: Oscar Isaac, Charlize Theron, Chloe Grace Moretz

Three and a half stars

Review by: Julian Wright


The kooky, spooky, ooky Addams family gets the origins treatment and a new adventure in an animated feature film with a top notch cast.

After being run out of town on their wedding night by picketing bigots, the wonderfully weird and delightfully dark Gomez (Oscar Isaac) and Morticia (Charlize Theron) retreat to a gloomy abandoned asylum and make it their humble abode.

Several years later, a cookie cutter housing estate develops at the bottom of the hill, which causes friction between the Addams’ and the new residents.

Meanwhile, overly bubbly reality star and resident Margaux Needler (Allison Janney) tries to get rid of the macabre family as her daughter Parker (Elsie Fisher) befriends Wednesday (Chloe Grace Moretz) and begins to take on gothic features.


Having been absent from screens for a while now, it was fun to see the Addams Family resurrected, with the macabre humour always good for giggle for anyone who has a dark sense of humour.

The cast is terrific, with Isaac’s perfectly animated as Gomez and Moretz appropriately glum as Wednesday. It is only Theron as Morticia who confuses with a strange accent and inflections that don’t make much sense.

The pace occasionally dips between the amusing gags, both verbal and visual, which may cause younger ones to become restless.

This new story plays it safe and doesn’t do much in the way of bringing the family into a modern era, side-stepping political and social commentary, other than a message to be yourself.

A nice message, to be sure, but there might have been ab it more for the grown ups to sink their teeth into had it touched on more current topics.

Film Review – Knives Out

Posted in Uncategorized on November 27, 2019 by Reel Review Roundup

Knives Out (M)

Directed by: Rian Johnson

Starring: Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas

Four and a half stars

Review by: Julian Wright

Forget the old school candlestick and lead pipe in the stuffy old Library or Billiard Room, the familiar “whodunnit” gets a makeover in this witty murder/mystery while keeping fun nods to sleuthing traditions.

The morning after celebrating his 85th birthday with his entire family at his mansion, wealthy crime novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is found dead by his devoted nurse Marta (Ana de Armas).

The suspect list is lengthy, with everyone in the eccentric family having a potential motive to bump off the patriarch and claim his riches.

Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) is on the case, hired under mysterious circumstances, trying to put the clues together.

Blanc keeps a close eye on his suspects, including daughter and real estate mogul Linda (Jamie Lee Curtis), son and company CEO Walt (Michael Shannon), spoiled and unemployed grandson Ransom (Chris Evans) and lifestyle guru daughter-in-law Joni (Toni Collette), to name a few, and witnesses the dysfunctions unfold.

Writer/director Rian Johnson assembles a quick witted, clever script that juggles numerous characters, twists and gags and orchestrates them all beautifully into a hugely entertaining yarn.


He warmly acknowledges the traditional whodunnit tropes while giving it a fresh new take for a modern audience. His nods to board-game Clue and TV series Murder, She Wrote are icing on the cake.

Johnson’s appreciation for this genre shows and is infectious – he is having as much of a good time as his audience is.

The stellar cast – all of them work perfectly together – pull this off amazingly, each clearly defining their character (even the ones that get less screen time) and are on the same page as Johnson with the fun factor.

One minor hiccup is when Johnson introduces political undertones with sledgehammer delivery, his characters blurting out “woke” dialogue that just doesn’t feel as organic as everything else.

Johnson’s number one goal is to entertain, and that he does. You will be laughing, guessing and double guessing until the very end.

Film Review – Last Christmas

Posted in Uncategorized on November 10, 2019 by Reel Review Roundup

Last Christmas (M)

Directed by: Peter Feig

Starring: Emilia Clarke, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh, Emma Thompson

Three and a half stars

Review by: Julian Wright

Kate (Emilia Clarke) is a bit of a mess. She is in her mid-20’s, couch surfs, has no direction, lets all her friends down and has a prickly relationship with her family.

While (barely) working as an elf in a year ‘round Christmas store run by her sassy boss Santa (Michelle Yeoh), she meets the super charming, very put together, but a little mysterious Tom (Henry Golding).

They hang out a few times, there is a bit of banter and opposites begin to attract as the pair get romantically involved, but Tom has a secret straight out of a Nicholas Sparks novel.

Last Christmas follows the festive holiday season rom-com routine fairly closely, with a script co-written by Emma Thompson and with Bridesmaids, The Heat and Spy helmer Paul Feig behind it, this is a fun, frothy, and briskly paced charmer.


The irresistible cast elevates it, with Clarke an absolute charmer to rival Julia Roberts and Golding the handsome, sensitive eye-candy is her perfect match. But Yeoh and Emma Thompson (as Kate’s Yugoslavian mum) almost steal it from the central stars with their bright performances and terrific comedic timing.

The cheesy twist is treated like a ground-breaking shocker, but anyone paying close enough attention could probably pick it up fairly early on. The hints aren’t all that subtle.

Setting it all to George Michael’s music is a nice touch, but still a bit of a head scratching move. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but it’s there and it’s fine.

Last Christmas is a worthy addition to the list of films that get dusted off once a year for another spin during the festive season.

Film Review – Doctor Sleep

Posted in Uncategorized on November 10, 2019 by Reel Review Roundup

Doctor Sleep (MA)

Starring: Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Kyliegh Curran

Directed by: Mike Flanagan

Four and a half stars

Review by Julian Wright

Forty years after his terrifying experience at the Overlook Hotel, psychically gifted Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor) is a vagrant alcoholic, getting into bar fights and having messy nights fairly frequently.

He has suppressed his abilities, having learnt at an early age how to lock up in his mind the malevolent spectres that continued to haunt him even after he and his mother Wendy (Alex Essoe) moved to Florida.

While finally turning over a new leaf, Danny is drawn into battle with a group of people, the True Knot lead by sexy, hippie styled Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson), who prey and feed on the fear of people who share his gift (shining) – especially young kids.

When the group sets its psychic sights on particularly gifted Abra (Kyliegh Curran), who Danny has bonded with over their shared abilities, he must get back in touch with his shining and face his own demons while protecting his young friend.

Adapted from the belated Stephen King novel, directed and edited by Mike Flanagan (the 2010s answer to John Carpenter and Wes Craven with an impressive body of thrillers to his name) Doctor Sleep is a worthy follow up to classic The Shining.

Flanagan creates a follow-up that recreates the same atmosphere of dread as its predecessor and most importantly feels like it exists in the same universe, despite the time jump, new cast, characters and deeper exploration of the shining.


Much of what we see (much action takes place in the minds of the gifted characters) must have been tricky to translate to the screen and could have devolved into hilarious hokeyness, but Flanagan handles the expanded concepts with confidence and visual restraint and precision.

He offers nods to Stanley Kubrick’s style in his work, with echoes of music and camera movement from The Shining, but Flanagan has entirely different material to bring to life, so it never feels like a cheap rip-off.

While he has already proven his skills in frightening audiences’ multiple times already, the multi-talented director tackles his meatiest film yet, balancing a range of themes while still tightening the screws.

This is a lengthy film at 2.5 hours, but Flanagan’s ability to sustain a sense of dread, unease and danger throughout, and building to a satisfying climax, is impressive.

It also incredibly well acted – McGregor terrific as usual and Ferguson flexes new acting muscles, but Curran is particularly strong as the confident, world-weary young kid who has seen some horrific things.

There is plenty of meat on the bones of this creepy exploration of addiction, responsibility, mortality and redemption. Doctor Sleep is a horror film you can really take a shine to.

Film Review – Ready Or Not

Posted in Uncategorized on October 24, 2019 by Reel Review Roundup

Ready Or Not (MA)

Directed by: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett

Starring: Samara Weaving, Adam Brody, Andie MacDowell

Four stars

Review by: Julian Wright

Buckle in for the wildest game of hide and seek you are likely going to witness.

On the day of her wedding, Grace (Samara Weaving) who bumped around between foster homes growing up, is just thrilled to tie the knot to her loving fiance Alex Le Domas (Mark O’Brien) and finally become part of a real family – even if they are a bit eccentric.

The Le Domas’ clan are filthy rich, having made their wealth generations ago, and have since grown it, in the boardgame industry.

After the ceremony, a Le Domas family tradition is sprung on Grace: a game. The newest member of the family draws a card and they all play – no ifs, buts or exceptions.


But Grace draws the one card that hasn’t been drawn in 30 years: hide and seek. And the sinister rule is that one of the Le Domas’ has to kill her by dawn or they lose their fortune (I won’t spoil why – it’s wild!).

Grace is drawn into a life and death cat and mouse game in which most of the Le Domas’, armed with old school weapons like a crossbow, are hell bent on keeping tradition alive and their bank account healthy.

This cheeky, dark and twisted comedy/horror will appeal to anyone with a wicked sense of humour and a hankering for the occasional splatter of gore. There are clumsy accidental killings, deadpan one-liners, unpredictable revelations. And a young child gets sucker punched! This is a wild ride.

Additionally there is some biting social commentary aimed at the wealthy and how they maintain their riches woven into the tightly written script. This is not simply a gorefest with laughs.

Despite the set-up and violence, Ready Or Not is not a scary film per se, though anyone who was already iffy about in-laws may lose a night’s sleep after this one, but there are moments that will make your squirm, shriek and guffaw with laughter.


Film Review – Blinded By The Light

Posted in Uncategorized on October 24, 2019 by Reel Review Roundup

Blinded By The Light (M)

Directed by: Gurinder Chadha

Starring: Viveik Kalra, Hayley Atwell, Kulvinder Ghir

Three and a half stars

Review by: Julian Wright


Sidestepping the traditional biopic treatment, Bruce Springsteen gets his big screen homage in the way ABBA did with Mamma Mia! and The Beatles did with Yesterday, but this time, with a story that is inspired by the life of journalist Sarfraz Manzoor.

In a small working class town in England during 1987, gifted poet and lyricist teenager Javed (Viveik Kalra) lives with his traditional Pakistani family, facing racism from people in his neighbourhood and hoping to escape out of the dead end town.

Javed discovers and finds himself drawn to and inspired by the songs of blue collar rock legend Bruce Springsteen, pressing ahead with his own writing with the encouragement from his teacher Ms Clay (Hayley Atwell).

But Javed’s passion and actions clash with his financially struggling parents and their plans for him.

Blinded by the Light - Still 1

Strip The Boss’ music away and you have a fairly standard narrative – in fact we saw a character deal with an east/west culture clash/ torn between two worlds struggle earlier this month with Bangla.

All the plot points are familiar, but it is the themes are offer something fresh to digest. It is so nice to explore the far reaches and impact that art can have – a lovely sentiment that we can all relate to.

And it is all delivered with such heart and enthusiasm that it is impossible not to like it. And relative newcomer Kalra in the lead role certainly is charming to watch.

Anyone who is a fan of musical theatre or Bruce Springsteen is going to get an extra kick out Blinded By The Light.