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Review : ‘X-Men Dark Phoenix’

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This is the story of one of the X-Men’s most beloved characters, Jean Grey, as she evolves into the iconic Dark Phoenix. During a life-threatening rescue mission in space, Jean is hit by a cosmic force that transforms her into one of the most powerful mutants of all. Wrestling with this increasingly unstable power as well as her own personal demons, Jean spirals out of control, tearing the X-Men family apart and threatening to destroy the very fabric of our planet.

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Review : ‘Scoob’

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Don’t be fooled by the animation in “Scoob”, the nostalgia of anything “Scooby-Doo” related will likely have the adults of all generations lining up for this one. The “Scooby-Doo” franchise dates back to 1969, with cartoons, remakes, live-action films, and TV series’. Enter “Scoob”, the modern day cartoon of great dane Scooby-Doo and his trusty human BFF Shaggy.

Frank Welker returns to voice Scooby, the only member of the original cast reprising his role, and Will Forte voices Shaggy. They are accompanied by their mystery-solving crew Velma (Gina Rodriguez), Daphne (Amanda Seyfried), and Fred (Zac Efron).

“Scoob” begins with the origin story of Scooby-Doo meeting Shaggy, before jumping ahead a decade where the Mystery Inc. gang decide to enter business with Simon Cowell (voiced by himself). Shaggy and Scoob are seen as the weak links of the game, and are kicked out by Cowell, so head off to the bowling alley together. After being attacked by robots, the two get transported up to the ship of superhero Blue Falcon (Mark Wahlberg) and his crew, before working out that Scooby being pursued by the nightmare that is Dick Dastardly (Jason Isaacs).

“Scoob” is littered with references to the 21st century, truly modernising it for all audiences. Your 10-year old won’t need to know the backstory of Scooby-Doo to appreciate a joke like “You have to pay for Netflix?!?” And of course the grown ups will get a laugh, with Fred being called a “poor man’s Hemsworth”, and Cowell making the most appropriate observation of 2020, requesting hand sanitiser with his diner meal.

As clever as it is, there is the element of mystery-solving absent, which is what made “Scooby-Doo” so special and unique in the first place. The gang spend the time chasing down the bad guy, which has become a tired concept for animated films, so some mystery solving was certainly missing from “Scoob”. It becomes more like a tale of friendship – which is cute, but nothing we haven’t seen before.

It’s a shame, also, that we couldn’t get any more of the original cast back for “Scoob”. I can’t think of a reason why the well-loved Matthew Lilliard couldn’t voice Shaggy, but I also don’t cast for films so I’ll stay right out of that one.

That’s not to discount the move; as a whole, “Scoob” is a clever and humourous film, with a heartwarming story in amongst the bad-guy chaos. In this crazy times we just need a smile and/or a laugh – and “Scoob” will certainly deliver! Get comfy on the couch and enjoy the adorable animated baby Scoob, and some wise-cracks that are surprisingly relevant to the world in its current state.

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‘The Platform’ is a Disturbing Reflection of Humanity

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Alexandra Masangkay in The Platform. Courtesy of Netflix.

Hey there, fellow horror geeks and monsterphiles! Prometheus here, signing on for the first time on behalf of Scare Magazine! Some of you may know me from Aint It Cool News. Those who do, know that horror is my passion, so it’s an honor to discuss it here with you all!

Let’s talk about “The Platform,” a Netflix film written by David Desola and Pedro Rivero. Directed by Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia, and starring Ivan Massagué, Zorion Eguileor, along with Antonia San Juan, this is not your average horror film. I’ll give you a brief rundown. Slight spoilers to follow.

A man wakes up in a prison-like building, nicknamed “The Pit.”. This prison has floors stacked upon floors, each one with two inmates to a room, or cell. In the middle of each room, is a square hole. A decadent feast of food is sent down on a platform once a day, from top to bottom, and only stops at each floor for a few minutes. There’d be plenty of food if only people would ration, but of course, by the time the platform reaches the lower floors, there’s nothing left. As you can imagine, this causes the people on the lower floors to starve or make some tough decisions, including betrayal and cannibalism in order to survive, while the people on the floors above engorge themselves.

If this at all sounds familiar, it should. It’s an analogy for human greed, selfishness, and corporate capitalism. It’s a painful, brutal analysis of humanity. While the people on the upper floors chowed down, fully aware of the hungry people on the floors below, I couldn’t help but think of our current toilette paper crisis. Things get a little hairy, and people leave nothing for others. That’s us, humans, for you. We suck, and this film throws it in our face.

Ivan Massagué gives a brilliant performance as Goreng, our main protagonist, backed by a supporting cast that all hold their own. The story isn’t entirely unique, but it’s well-paced and does a good job keeping you invested. I wouldn’t call “The Platform” scary, but it’s disturbing as Hell. There are some pretty graphic scenes, and the special effects are damn realistic. Those with weak stomachs, be warned.

I’ve seen a few reviews calling this film one of the best horrors of 2020, and while I think that might be a bit of a stretch, it’s definitely worth a watch! Just try not to feel too bad about yourself after, and the next time you hit the store, maybe you leave some TP for the rest of us!

“The Platform” is out now on Netflix!

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Review : ‘The Invisible Man’

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As most people in the film biz know – whether you’re a writer, producer, filmmaker, or even the overworked barista that brings Al Pacino his latte – if you’re not completely satisfied with something,  best to toss it and start again.

While you can understand Universal’s determination to build a movie universe from their stable of film fiends – The Mummy, Frankenstein, Dracula and so on – what with Hollywood’s current woody for adjoining films, you can also understand why audiences stayed away from the first entry in the proposed series, “The Mummy” (2017).

All concept and credit block, the poorly-crafted dud was universally loathed by both critics and cinema-goers, not only resulting in one of the biggest box-office flounders of but derailing all future plans for the ‘universe’.

While Jason Blum, head chef of Blumhouse (the company behind the “Paranormal Activity” and “Insidious” franchises), also occasionally makes the mistake of putting concept over creativity (see “Truth or Dare” and “Fantasy Island”), by-and-large his successes outweigh the misfires. What Blum is generally good at is coming up with modestly-priced, story-driven horror films that offer young, gifted filmmakers the chance to do something genuinely unique – and in many times, very scary.

Who better to apply a band-aid to Universe’s meekly wounded movie monster catalogue!?

Blumhouse’s “The Invisible Man” is a much different film than the one Universal originally commissioned a few years back – with Johnny Depp in the lead – and likely, a much better one too.

Not in any way shape or form connected to any other movie monster offering, the stencil here is an old school, creepishly-entertaining stand-alone that revels in its wondrous practical effects (there’s some gems here!) and the expertise of horror vet Leigh Whannell (the co-creator of the “Saw” franchise.)

Our “Invisible Man” here isn’t the traditional ghoul-for-hire hero, but an

abusive, controlling – and thought dead – scientist (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) who is out to make partner Cecilia’s (Elisabeth Moss) life pure hell for leaving him.

When Cecilia starts to suspect a deadly unseen force is stalking her, revelling in its effortless ability to scare the bejesus out of her, her new housemates and sister assume she’s mentally unraveling. It’s up to Cecilia to prove that her ex is still… out there.

Whannell’s film is tight, refreshingly grounded and for the most part -some might find some of its beats similar to Paul Verhoeven’s “Hollow Man” – very original.

By taking a classic character and bringing him into the modern-day, complete with new motives and morals, the Australian filmmaker gives us one of the freshest interpretations of the movie monster since those early “Scooby Doo!” cartoons.

If Whannell and Blum are the captains, then star Elisabeth Moss is the anchor — and boy does she lodge it in beautifully. Not only does the TV staple offer up a realistic and commanding turn as the film’s distraught damsel, but added layers to the performance capture a victim of domestic abuse. It’s a timely turn and one that will speaks volumes beyond the walls of horror.

“The Invisible Man” isn’t just one of the best films in recent times, it’s a new horror classic.

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Review : ‘Birds of Prey’

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… more like “the emancipation of the DCEU”.

Though it doesn’t out and out bowdlerize ties with David Ayer’s poorly received 2016 super-villain team-up flick “Suicide Squad”, “Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)” (hereby referred to simply as “Birds of Prey” going forward) also doesn’t do a lot to concede a link with Margot Robbie’s first go-round as Harley Quinn. Yes, there’s a throwaway reference here and there, but by and large, Warner Bros and director Cathy Yan go out of their way to make sure the film plays more of an establishing entry for “Mr J”’s ex and less of a spin-off.

Based on the DC Comics team Birds of Prey (if you’re not a comic reader, an early will definitely ring a bell), but throwing potty-mouthed firecracker Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) into the cocktail to get the bubbles frothing, the poppy, unrestrained vision of Wan sees The Joker’s ex-girlfriend – their break-up established in a lengthy prologue – going head-to-head with a maniacal mobster (Ewan McGregor, clearly having a blast). Suggesting she’ll have help taking him down later on, it’s also quickly established that several others also refused membership to the ‘Black Mask’ fan club – the rogue’s driver and burlesque singer Dinah Lance (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), crossbow-wielding vigilante Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and GCPD Detective Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez).

Much like Ms Quinn’s favorite bite, an egg sandwich, Yan’s film is big, cheesy, a little messy at times and encompasses a little too much fat, but it’s also delicious and bursting with colour.

Visually, the film is eye-gasmic, with Yan filling each frame with an abundance of vibrant colour and splashing it around like a white goods retailer having a liquidation clearance.

The palette matches the peppy and welcomingly over-the-top action sequences — with the production’s surfeit of stuntmen, stuntwomen and fighter co-ordinators really earning their cut here, serving up some of the most anxiously fun and striking stunts since the likes of the classic Shaw Bros’ Kung Fu films.

And while Christina Hodson’s script has issues – there’s a little too much flashing back, with Harley too often rewinding the clock to catch us up to speed; some of the main characters definitely aren’t as fleshed out as much as Robbie’s title character is, either- it’s a perfectly serviceable template, with its main strengths being its cheeky, light tone and how accessible it is for those that might’ve missed “Suicide Squad”.

Though aptly supported by a talented cast, the glue here is Robbie – also a producer on the film – who takes the sexy, sly vixen she originated in one forgettable film and adds welcome new layers. Now, she’s not just a lethal lady, she’s a lethal lady with brains, strength, self-respect and, as even she’s surprised to discover, a heart.

After a few false starts, the DCEU seems to have found its footing by letting talented, visionary filmmakers not only do their own thing but create a genre hodgepodge – with “Aquaman”, “Wonder Woman”, “Shazam”, “Joker” and now “Birds of Prey” all serving up equal amounts superhero action with tongue-in-cheek humour. Like Marvel, they’ve finally caught on that superhero movies should be fun.

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Review : ‘Twin Peaks From Z to A’

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David Lynch and Mark Frost’s ‘’Twin Peaks’’ never got the reception it deserved upon it’s initial airing – it was too ambiguous and anomalous to gain the kind of wide audience approval it so long desired – but if the amount of different DVD and Blu-ray sets, merchandise and unyielding fan events are anything to go by, the short-lived series ultimately garnered quite a fat fanbase.

With a cast of familiar faces – Kyle MacLachlan, Piper Laurie, Russ Tamblyn, and Sherilyn Fenn, to name but a few – and some none-too-shabby names behind the camera too (did you know Diane Keaton directed an episode? What about Jake and Maggie’s dad, Caleb Deschanel – he was a staple!?), ‘’Twin Peaks’’ is part murder mystery- part small town peculiarity. Attribute the mesh to the opposing tonal styles of Frost (‘’Hill Street Blues’’) and the slightly more eccentric Lynch (‘’Blue Velvet’’), who revels in his own dark artistry, who blended their singular visions for what’s truly an amazing mish-mash of genres.

MacLachlan is special Agent Dale Cooper, a new fixture in small town Twin Peaks to investigate a murder. Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) has been found “dead, wrapped in plastic”, and it’s up to Cooper and his colleagues at the local Sheriff Department to unravel the mystery and identity of her killer. Of course, it’s not all-smooth sailing as Coop discovers something more sinister, darker, more unthinkable could be behind the murder of the Prom Queen. Cue the dwarves that talk backwards, giants with magical rings, and one-armed men.

Season One is sensational – oddly engaging with breathtaking visuals and a beautiful palette; it never runs out of steam. For a show to be able to make you laugh, make you scream, make you cry and make you do a wacky dance (The Leland Shuffle) all in the space of a 42-minute episode… that’s pretty special. Season Two is also worthy, but with the identity of Laura Palmer’s killer outed so early on in it….it seemed to struggle to come up with storylines just as intriguing as that one. More David Lynch (he was too busy making “Wild at Heart” at the time) and less ‘Blackie’, and ABC mightn’t have had to swing the axe.

Showtime welcomingly resurrected the series in 20 – causing audible hysteria amongst that large fanbase. The response to the short-lived ‘event series’ “Twin Peaks : The Return” – which brought many cast members back, notably MacLachlan’s ‘Coop’ – was mixed, to say the least, but David Lynch fans went gaga for it. As much as Frost put his stamp on the revival, co-writing the episodes with his long-time colleague and friend, the obscure, non-linear and quite simply, ‘artistic’ approach to the story confused the occasional viewer. “The Return”, some might say, also lacked the fun ‘soapy’ elements of the original series- and likely only because this was a much darker, more complex plot.

For the first time, has packaged the three seasons, as well as the feature film “Twin Peaks : Fire Walk With Me” in the one, handy box-set. Two of the episodes on hand, the original pilot and the legendary ‘episode 8’ of “Twin Peaks : The Return” are here in 4K for the first time.

The cubed “Twin Peaks : From Z to A” offering, which unfolds to make a mini ‘Red Room’,  features a plethora of extras, as well as images from the show.

The extras from the previous “Twin Peaks” releases have all been ported over but there’s also some newly-crafted bonuses fans won’t have seen before – lengthy featurettes about each episode of “The Return”, a 90-minute conversation with MacLachlan and Lee about the legacy of the series, interview with Kimmy Robertson and Harry Goaz, the full ‘Roadhouse performances’ from the recent Showtime revival and some other bits that, quite simply, make this the first must-have Blu-ray offering for 2020.

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Review : ‘The Gentlemen’

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Like a quarter-glass of sun-scorched Jack, Guy Ritchie’s return to the gangster realm is a tasty offering – but it’s likely not something you’ll want a second drop of later.

Matthew McConaughey – the lone yank in an otherwise all-Brit production – plays the expatriate whose become wealthy from a mull empire in London. When word leaks that he’s ready to retire, friends and foes come out of the woodwork to cross and scheme him – hoping they’ll end up with his fortune. Hugh Grant plays seemingly smart, poised reporter who thinks he’s unravelled it all and serves as the film’s narrator.

Less to do with the fairly derivative plot, and more to do with the superb performances of its ensemble (with Matthew McConaughey and a reenergised Hugh Grant the MVPs), “The Gentlemen” is a vibrant, fun distraction that rests on its talent and wit to hold the audience’s attention for the duration of its near 2-hour runtime. And it does. Will you be revisiting this one as much as you did those well-worn VHS and DVD copies of “Snatch” and “Lock, Stock & Smoking Barrels”? Sure, if you’re an amnesiac who has only just woken up after slumbering through the late ‘90s comedic crime caper fad.

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Review : ‘Jumanji : The Next Level’

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Let’s acknowledge that Jake Kasden missed a prime opportunity to continue with a Guns n Roses theme and name this sequel something like “Jumanji: Paradise City”, but I guess “The Next Level” makes more sense than a pathetic pun.With that out of the way, let’s talk about “The Next Level”, which acts as the third film in the “Jumanji” franchise – with 1995’s “Jumanji” acknowledged as the original (and the best).

2017’s “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” was a surprise hit, with Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black and Karen Gillan forming an excellent comedic foursome. “Jumanji: The Next Level” picks up 3 years following “Welcome to the Jungle”, with Spencer (Alex Wolff), Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain), Martha (Morgan Turner), and Bethany (Madison Iseman) having gone their separate ways in life – despite the bond they all formed in the game. Spencer in particular is struggling with his breakup from Martha, and he looks to the Jumanji game again to get him out of his slump – with his previous avatar Dr. Smolder Bravestone helping him cope with anxiety and social awkwardness.

When Fridge, Martha and Bethany realise Spencer’s absence from the real world, they head to his house and discover Jumanji has been pulled out of the trash and that they may have to re-enter the game to save Spencer.

Meanwhile, Spencer’s grandfather Eddie (Danny DeVito), who is staying at the family home recovering from surgery, has his own issues going on when old friend Milo (Danny Glover) shows up looking to rekindle their friendship.

When the three teens decide to head back into Jumanji, the broken game leaves Bethany behind, and sucks Milo and Eddie into the game as two of the avatars.

With Eddie as Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Johnson), Milo as Franklin “Mouse” Finbar (Hart), Fridge as Professor Sheldon “Shelly” Oberon (Jack Black) and Martha as Ruby Roundhouse (Gillan), the foursome have to get used to new avatars and work out where (and who) Spencer is. Of course with that comes a new challenge to complete, set again by Nigel Billingsley (Rhys Darby).

“The Next Level” is a decent follow-up to “Welcome to the Jungle”, bringing plenty of humour, which is largely thanks to Johnson, Hart and Black acting with the personalities of people completely different to them. It was the key appeal to the 2nd film, and is the reason you’ll laugh through this one. Key cast aside, DeVito is a standout, despite not being in the majority of the film – but every moment he is, he delivers a great performance, but you’d expect nothing less from DeVito. Similarly, Glover’s chemistry with DeVito is fabulous and they both play the old cranky men to perfection.

While amusing, “The Next Level” is not much more – the storyline is essentially the same as the first, just seeing Spencer address more of his real-life problems and looking for an easy escape from the real world. It’s not a story any of us are unfamiliar with, but if there’s a fourth “Jumanji”, Kasdan will have to shake things up a bit so it’s not just the same-old same-old.

Why should you see “The Next Level”? – it’s an easy 2 hours of laughs, and adventure, that will hopefully also remove you from the real-world – but with fewer ostriches and no lives lost during that time.

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Review : ‘Black Christmas’

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While it may seem superfluous to remake ‘70s horror classic “Black Christmas” again, and only 13 years since the last attempt, writer/director Sophie Takal successfully argues her reason to update with a template that’s heavy in welcome feminism and strangely more youth-appropriate than its predecessors.

Though originally shot as an R-rated film, but trimmed so it could be released as a PG-13, “Black Christmas” doesn’t lose anything on its way from college to junior high. Sure, these kids seem to have the cleanest mouths this side of Avonlea and the film conveniently cuts away when someone is about to be strangled, but the story and commentary remains intact. Furthermore, your 14-year-old daughter doesn’t have to have a fake I.D to treat herself to a fun, harmless and even moderately empowering holiday time-filler.
While Takal and April Wolfe’s story might be no more than the outline of Bob Clark’s original infused with David Nutter’s “Disturbing Behaviour” , the screenplay also has some strong and effective messages in there regarding female empowerment and inclusion. Taking its cue from the #metoo movement, the libretto is on fire when it’s pinching the male scum of the movie with the sharp, assured words of its female heroines.

We’re at Hawthorne College where, just as the campus starts quieting down for the holidays, sorority girls start being picked off by some sort of serial killer. It’s only when the stalker moves onto targeting Riley Stone (Imogen Poots) and her strong-willed pals that the tables are welcomingly turned.

There’s not a damsel in distress on display here. Instead, Takal populates the film with brainy, confident and powerful ladies — a stark contrast to most of the men of the movie, all seemingly alumni of “Revenge Of the Nerds” Tri-Lamb fraternity (In the actress cum filmmaker’s defense, there is a line in here that assures audiences all men aren’t pigs, but there’s not many on screen here who don’t seem to swim in mud).

Good to see the genre shining a spotlight on the lethal lady though, a position that up until last year’s “Halloween” reboot had been open since Kevin Williamson retired from writing teen slasher movies.

In addition to the timely commentary, Poots performance as the strong-willed and responsible Riley helps push the film from so-so horror territory to something significantly better. The versatile Brit serves up a credible turn that oozes likeability but also strength and, making her one of the more appealing horror heroines in recent years.

The supporting cast – including Cary Elwes as the slimy Professor – don’t get as much to do as the top-billed Poots, but they’re all still having a hoot here. Lily Donoghue and Aleyse Shannon, as Marty and Kris, respectively, are particularly fun.
While this film, and Glen Morgan’s 2006 remake, are clearly – and admirably – trying to add their own spin on the original ‘70s film, they might’ve actually done themselves more of a favor by being more faithful to it. And considering how faithful their work on the recent “Halloween” was, one expected Blumhouse might’ve attempted emulate the original Canadian classic more than it has. Where that film differs from the two remakes is in both the suspense and surprises department. The ‘74 film revels in its highly effective edge-of-the-seat thrills and jaw-dropping surprises; the updates simply roll with the punches – and ones we see coming a mile away.

Clark’s “Black Christmas” is still the shining star atop of the tree but Takal’s update is a welcome burst of tinsel just below it

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Review : ‘Doctor Sleep’

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More than a few properties have jumped aboard the belated sequel train in recent years, but it’s nice to see one stopping at the cinema station that has the right ticket.

An adaptation of the Stephen King novel that serves as a sequel to the author’s “The Shining”, “Doctor Sleep” transports patient passengers back to The Overlook hotel, the bloodiest accommodation in Colorado, previously run by Jack Torrance. Before our arrival though, we catch up with Torrance’s adult son ‘’Danny’’, as he struggles to put the pieces of his traumatic life back together 40 years after his father took an axe to a wooden door.

Flanagan’s smart, shrewd choices in the adaptation process get the film a seat in the premium passenger carriage. You see, while King’s ‘s book is equally appreciated, the 1980 film version of “The Shining”, directed by the inimitable Stanley Kubrick and starring Jack Nicholson as Torrance, is likely the better-known version of the story. As such, Flanagan – who previously adapted King’s “Gerald’s Game” for Netflix – has delicately delivered a film that serves as both a sequel to the film but also works as a follow-up to the book – for those, like King, who wanted to redrum Kubrick for his ‘loose’ adaptation of the source material.

From the production design, to the music, cameos from Shelley Duvall and Jack Nicholson look-a-likes, and astonishing recreations of the same of the most memorable moments from “The Shining”, “Doctor Sleep” is clearly set in the same world – but with some tonal differences, and surprising themes, to appease the King brigade.

Flanagan’s script encompasses something Kubrick’s film, however brilliant, lacked – warmth. This story, though superbly horrifying at the best of times (the ‘baseball’ scene will stay with you), manages to be quite an affecting and emotional time – blending heart and horror, something another recent King adaptation, “It Chapter Two” only faintly succeeded at.

Now in his forties, and yet still understandably haunted by the inhabitants and events of the Overlook Hotel, Dan Torrance (Ewan McGregor) finds solace in a New Hampshire town where he quick makes a couple of good friends and nabs himself a rewarding job at a nursing home. It’s there, where his remnant “shining” power provides a comfort to those dying. With the resident cat on hand to assist, Torrance earns the name ‘Doctor Sleep’.

Meantime, a tribe of despicable life-suckers known as The True Knot – led by the bewitching Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson) – travel the highways searching for children they can snatch, torture and steal the ‘steam’ (the ‘shining’ produce) from. Like the vampire’s lust for blood, this ‘steam’ is a must-have pick-me-up for the clan.

When Dan meets young Abra Stone (Kyliegh Curran), who shares the same spectacular gift, he also learns she’s being hunted by the steam-chasing clan…. and makes it his mission to protect the girl from a dark fate.

While the always-solid McGregor and young newcomer Curran offer likeability in their roles, giving the audience a team to root for, the wonderful Rebeca Ferguson offers up a wickedly nasty piece in her Rose the Hat. Unarguably one of the standout performances in a film this year, the “Mission Impossible” and “Greatest Showman” alum crafts one of the most mesmerising villains in recent horror cinema, near single-handedly stealing the picture.

Rose’s clan (which includes “Twin Peaks” alum Carel Struycken) don’t get as much to do as their dastardly driven leader, but at 2-and-a-half hours already, the film might’ve been taxing the audience if it had jostled for some extra backstory and screen time for the secondary rogues.

Atmospheric, grandiose and welcomingly creepy, the film compels not with a swift, punchy pace but with an unsettling slow boil that terminates in a heart-pumping, typically-Torrance finale.
Visually speculator, immaculately performed and accessible by fans and non-fans of Kubrick’s film, “Doctor Sleep” is a shining example of a sequel done right.

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Review : ‘Terminator : Dark Fate’

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There’s been a few attempts at a “Terminator 3” (this is the fourth), so to avoid confusion, this is the one in which a loveable robot, an elderly woman and an augmented soldier learn how to work together to save humanity. Also – not a comedy.

After discovering that Terminator films were non-starters without Sarah Connor (“Terminator: Rise of the Machines”), in the dystopian future (“Terminator: Salvation”) or with time travel shenanigans (“Terminator: Genisys”), it was back to the drawing board. Add a new complexity – audiences aren’t impressed by special effects any more – and it makes sense there was only one move left: begging Linda Hamilton to come back.

If this film had directly followed “T2” we would be crying lack of originality, but after the trilogy to nowhere that was the last three films, “Dark Fate” serves its purpose as a palate cleanser. And it’s so good to have the heart of the first two films, Sarah Connor, back.

With a seriousness that reflects the original “Terminator” more than the sometimes fun “T2” (surprising since this outing is directed by “Deadpool’s” Tim Miller), “Terminator: Dark Fate” has echoes of “The Force Awakens” in its willingness to copy plot beat for plot beat from its founding film. There is an updated trio of target, hero, villain, and set pieces that look familiar but are slightly different (factories instead of nightclubs, detention centres instead of police stations). Some effort is made to update for the modern times, but if the big reveals were supposed to be surprising, they weren’t. Honestly, the most surprising reveal is that Schwarzenegger’s Terminator is now called Carl. And what a great Carl he is. We know his presence alone doesn’t make a great Terminator film, but we also know it would not be a great Terminator film without him.

The new additions of target (Natalia Reyes), hero (Mackenzie Davis) and villain (Gabriel Luna) all make a mark, particularly Mackenzie Davis as the volunteer hero from the future. It’s (still) rare that the characters with the most screen time are women, and you can tell care has been taken to explore their dynamic. These are women who approach problems differently but who all add value.

The problem with mixing the old with the new is that the emotional core gets diluted. Where “T2” had a boy, his mother and their robot saviour, here the connections between the characters aren’t so strong, and the final showdown suffers for it.

“Terminator: Dark Fate” will be an interesting test as to how much love is left for the Terminator franchise. James Cameron has showed he cares enough about its survival to contribute to the story for the first time since “T2”, but not enough to write or direct it. The result has shown there is still life in it, but also that the only versions that have really worked have followed the simple chase format. And there is a limit on how much that format can sustain a universe when that universe isn’t “Fast and the Furious”.

The end of this film allows for new territory, but they better get it right, as surely there isn’t enough credits in the bank for another four attempts at the next chapter.

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