Thursday, 28 August 2014

Dancing with a Dead Horse Review



Small town America gets handed a mirror and a chance to have a good long hard look at itself in Danielle Devor’s crime teen thriller Dancing with a Dead Horse. 

Teenager Jason Miller gets blamed for the murder of a fellow student when he discovers a body in the toilets at his high school. Things then turn sinister when he finds a doll horse made from the victim’s skin and hair in his locker. 

From there the story focuses on Jason’s attempts to carry on with life as normally as possible while his family try to clear his name. Yet more students start to end up dead; those he knows well and classmates he has only ever spoken to a handful of times. Fear begins to set into the small town before eventually giving away to hysteria.

Dancing with a Dead Horse is a slow story that gradually builds to a thrilling climax. I do not usually go for slow burners but the pacing of the story is brilliant, giving enough to the reader to keep them interested while not showing too much of its hand in one go.

On a wider social level the story draws attention to the darker side of small town life. Small towns and villages where everyone knows their neighbour can be great places to live. There tends to be a community spirit that cities lack. On the flip side, however, rumours, finger-pointing and paranoia run rife when something out of the ordinary happens in many such places. The theme is well explored and leaves an impression. 

The characters, especially Jason, are complex and believable. I found the reactions of Jason and his family to different situations - some of which were very difficult for them to handle - realistic. 

It gets 8/10.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Movie Review: The Colony



We head back to the cinema this week for a look at little known Canadian science-fiction film, The Colony. 

Set in the future, humanity has gone to ground after the world is engulfed in a new ice age. They survive in bunkers dotted across the land. The Colony is set in Colony 7. After receiving a distress message from another colony and no reply to their return transmissions, Sam (played by Kevin Zegers) convinces leader Briggs, (Lawrence Fishburne) that they should investigate. But once they arrive at the radio silent Colony 5, they find that all the occupants are dead. 

Following a hasty getaway from a tribe of cannibals, they head back to Colony 7, only to discover they are being pursued. Sam does make it back but none of his fellow occupants believe him, especially not deputy leader, Mason (Bill Paxton). Sam and the others must then defend the colony against the blood thirsty cannibals. 

I never heard about this film until it was aired on Netflix which I found strange considering it had two big stars in it. But some research online explained the reason why - it’s limited release. I am not sure why this film was shown in so few cinemas, given that it’s actually quite good. 

Yes, it has its problems like silly plot holes and a lot of recycled ideas used in other films. That aside, the action is intense and the atmosphere is very dark in places. The blood and gore effects are also very well done considering this was a low budget project. 

The Colony gets 6/10.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Movie Review: How to Train your Dragon 2



How to Train your Dragon was without a doubt one of the most popular movies of 2010. The animated flick was an adaptation of Cressida Cowell bestselling children’s book series of the same name. 

A lot of other reviewers have claimed the new film, How to Train your Dragon 2, is just as good - of not better - than the first. I’ll be the first to break cover here and say that I disagree. That said, it is still a good film and a lot of fun. The animation has stepped up in quality between this and the previous movie, there are a lot of jokes and the dragon fights are really good to watch. 

My problem with the film in my view is the first hour. Unlike the previous film not much happens. It is very dialogue heavy and I appreciate the writers were trying to build character development, but why? There was very little in the first film except for Hiccup and Astrid. So why would this film need it? 

Also for a few minutes the film seems to forget it’s a Dreamworks movie and pretends it’s a Disney one with an awkward musical number sung by Hiccup’s parents. There is no build up to it and there are no other songs in the rest of the movie. So again, why was it there? This movie is also riddled with cheesy lines and bad Holywood style hero speeches. There is one part of the film where it is justified but the rest of it is just cringe worthy. 

It gets 7/10.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Book Review: Deadly Secrets


If you’re looking for a slow burning romance, Deadly Secrets will be right up your beach (yes it includes a seaside like all good romance novels need). The book is about a young woman, Helena, who returns to the Mediterranean island of her birth after years spent in England. Helena returns to find answers to her father’s death years before. 

But a strange series of encounters and events convinces her that there was more to his death than simply being lost at sea. While trying to get to the bottom of things, Helena has to deal with the love-tug relationship she develops with housemate Dimitris. 

There is a small paranormal element in this story but it is heavily outweighed by the love story - so not something to worry about if you’re not a fan of the fantasy genre. 

The characters are well written and well rounded, making them very believable. The settings are also beautifully described and it’s easy to get lost imagining the landscape. My only critique with Deadly Secrets is that it is sometimes a bit on the slow side. 

Friday, 4 July 2014

Tripping the Light Fantastic: Tron Legacy Movie Review



This week we’re stepping back in time to the 80s - an era of weird haircuts, even weirder fashions and ambiguous boy bands. It is also the decade when science-fiction classic Tron was made. Regardless of your feelings about the movie or whether you were young or old when you watched it - most of us remember the film because of its unusual neon visuals and if nothing else - the light bikes. 

Skip forward twenty eight years and Disney finally decided to make a sequel. I know this movie came out four years ago so it’s not new. However, when it was released I had no intention of seeing it because I thought it would be just another pointless sequel that seems to be all the rage this millennium.
I finally saw it this week and I must admit it’s actually pretty good - especially considering it’s a Disney film. However, that’s not to say it’s not without its flaws. 

The movie begins twenty years after the original in modern day. Kevin Flynn - the hero in the original Tron - has been missing for all that time. His son Sam Flynn accidently finds a way into the cyber world of the original film when he visits his dad’s arcade. Discovering his presence, Kevin Flynn’s doppelganger - Clu - tries to kill him. After escaping, Sam is reunited with his father (played by Jeff Bridges) who explains that Clu - the program he created - has gone rogue and taken over. 

Are you all still following? Good. To make things even more confusing Clu looks just like Kevin…or how he did 20 years ago. Clu wants Kevin’s disc (remember those?) as it contains all his knowledge on how he built the cyber world and how to leave it. The rest of the film is spent by Sam, Kevin and a program called Quorra trying to escape back to the real world.

If you managed to read through all of the above without falling asleep you get a medal. It is a little confusing - especially with two characters looking the same. Considering this is meant to be a kid’s film and I was confused, god knows how children find understanding it. There is also a tonne of other confusing plot points which I haven’t gone into thrown on top of that. 

Visually though Tron Legacy is a beautiful. I think this is what the original would have looked like if the production team had access to the same quality of CGI. The light bikes also make a glorious return early on and there are other vehicles thrown in later on. Where the graphics do fail is on Clu’s face. The animator’s attempt to make Jeff Bridges look younger just doesn’t quite work. His face just doesn’t move correctly and it’s just downright creepy. 

Also another gripe I have with this movie is Tron. He’s almost not in it. You see him get killed in a flashback an hour into the movie only to learn later he is in fact still alive…just to see him die a couple of minutes later. Why was the movie named after a character who is barely in it? I know it’s to do with franchising but come on. It’s like titling a book: The Queen, then spending three hundred pages talking about the history of sea fish. 

Also there are a lot of dumb plot holes which could have easily been rectified if the time had been put in during editing…or reading the script for the second time. 

Tron Legacy gets 6/10.