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The Round Up #25 - March 2024

Hello again Buffs, I hope March was a cinematic treat and you all saw something incredible that makes all the other crap you have to sit through worthwhile. On the site you'll find a breakdown of the Oscars 2024 and a handful of featured reviews. Most played this month is something I have been playing practically on a loop lately, but missed it the first time around. So I'm playing catchup. Anyhow, see below. Hope you have a great April and enjoy the Easter festivities if that's you're thing. See you at the end of the month. Steve xxx





Nimona (2023) ****

Knowing next to nothing of the comic book upon which this is based, I had a blast with this, which was surprising as I tire of animation quite easily unless it is innovative and imaginative and this is both. The style is slick and defined, falling somewhere between Cloudy and Arcane in its presentation, with a great script which amplifies the often delightful visuals, taking its audience on an eventful ride of excitement and tragedy. Much, much better than expected. Recommended.


El Conde (2023)**.5

Visually impressive but the story is really lost on me, largely due to my own ignorance of the subject matter which starts with real-life ugly then lurches haphazardly into actual fantasy-evil with a script that is delivered perhaps better than it really deserves. By the conclusion I was actually (still cheerfully) lost, even though even I knew it was Thatcher narrating, so three cheers for the voice-acting too.


Okja (2017)****

Heartfelt advertisement for the Animal Liberation Front, it would seem, with a super-pig as flag-waver for vegans worldwide. As poignant as it is tragic, there is still tons of joy to be had from the story of the Korean girl who goes to New York with her prize-winning pork product in waiting. Horribly sad and yet uplifting like few other films in the last decade have had the nerve to attempt, this is worth a viewing simply for the message itself. That fact that its delivered very well indeed is a bonus.


They Called Him Mostly Harmless (2024)**

Dead body is found in a tent in the woods. Amateur sleuths on the internet go a bit bonkers to find out who it is. It is very difficult to identify the body. Then they do. Talking heads of the people closely (and not so closely) involved in the discovery of who he was and what really happened. People on the internet are really very enthusiastic about this kind of thing, apparently. The furore blissfully went over my head.


The Re-Education of Molly Singer (2023)**

Not seeing much love (or hate for that matter) for this comedy starring the effervescent Britt Robertson, a lawyer who has to go back to school to help her boss' son be more sociable. It has an air of both No Hard Feelings without the sexual innuendo and Jump Street without the drugs. 'Wouldn't it be funny if...' has been done better and the lack of eyeballs on it suggests, quite rightly, that there is nobody raving about it. Forgettable fluff, but just about bearable and raises an occasional smile.


The Inventor (2023)**

An occasionally charming and obviously passionate animated story of Leonardo da Vinci's endlessly creative inventiveness which appears to be quite British in it's telling, starring the voice talents of Stephen Fry, Daisy Ridley, Matt Berry and Marion Cotillard. An interest in the man himself may allow you to overlook the stop-motion puppetry done so much better more recently by the likes of Del Toro, but this is a little dry and so is some of the voice talent involved. You'll know when you hear it. A curiosity for the curious, but lends itself to children more than adults.


Strange Way of Life (2023)**.5

Didnt realise this was only half an hour long when I started it. Seems a little bit criminal to put these two together and not fully utilise them, but from what we were actually offered, this wasn't too bad. The script was a bit too flouncy and the story a little hurried and you wonder which part of left field this came out from.Performances were fine, as you would expect from our two leads but overall, just a bit perplexing.


Road House (2024)***

Firstly, whilst arguably and accidentally entertaining, the world of cinema needs Conor McGregor like a fish needs a bicycle. I had much more fun with this than I really should have, and it raised more than a few chuckles, even when it probably shouldn't. The whole thing reeks of movies from the early nineties, less sophisticated than maybe what you're used to, but no less fun for that fact. It's not the least bit subtle but still hoplessly likeable and a very easy watch, taking its lead from the Patrick Swayze project of the same name. Good old-fashioned cinema pulp, really. Jake's chest delivers a great performance. Also, it has a great soundtrack which gets a star on its own.


Constellation (2024) (TV)***

You can pretty much guarantee these days that if Apple is behind a streaming sci-fi series, you can bet it will be a head-scratcher and Constellation is no exception. Eight episodes to frazzle your noggin with is a given, starring Noomi Rapace as the woman who comes back from an extended stay on the ISS to find that things aren't quite what they seem or as they should be. Little differences, to be sure, but enough of them to make her question her reality. A winding, swirling story which jumps back and forth at almost every scene will make you as keen to find out what the hell is going on as much as the poor family involved. Slightly too complicated and all over the place for the more casual viewer, but worth the effort even if it falls just short of great.


3 Body Problem (2024) (TV) *****

Honestly, extended science fiction is rarely done this well and Netflix should be appauded for this effort. I slag them off all the time, so it's only right to praise them when due. Adapted from the novel of the same name from Liu Cixin, this is fantasy on a grand scale, concerning the unravelling of a story of multi-dimensions, alien invasion, alternate realities and cultural espionage. The performances from all are excellent and it is just screaming for a second season. I binged the entire thing in one sitting on the day it became available, such was my anticipation to be enveloped, and I really was. Excellent stuff, recommended for sci-fi thriller lovers everywhere.


The Seven Darks (2024) *.5

Budget-lite, this weighs in at just over the hour and would have been prime fodder for Spooktober this year had I known what it was when I turned it on. Not big on acting chops, but this is clearly made with passion, even if it lacks much in the way of script, legitimate cohesive narrative or real tension of any kind.


The Belko Experiment (2016)**

Having tried to sit through this at the time without any real patience for it, I thought I'd have another stab. Most notable for the fact that it is written by James Gunn and a cast of recognisable talent that either had already done better things, or went on to, this is an interesting if violently farcical social experiment, featuring an office in Bogota filled almost entirely with what appear to be dispensible middle-class white Americans, tasked with the unsavoury job of killing each other in order to survive. Darkly comic more than brimming with tension and thrills, it's visceral enough to satiate the gore hounds, but it rarely aims higher.


The Great Escaper (2023)***

Perhaps Michael Caine thought this would be a fitting end to his career on screen. I would disagree to be honest and still imagined he had at least one more real cinematic scream in him. Not so much choice for the late Glenda Jackson, who also makes her final bow here. A poignant tale of one man's journey to do something important while he still can. There have been more than a handful of these types of movies in the past few years and they all of course tug on the heartstrings if you have been raised on their previous exploits. This is perfectly fine and has both value and merit, but if anything this struggles to find its audience. I imagine your Grandparents would be in actual raptures.


Stopmotion (2023)**.5

The moral behind Stopmotion is likely to be never to take yourself too seriously. There is something to be said for creativity and obsession, but hand in hand, they rarely make for comfortable bedfellows. In the same way that if you look at any word for too long, it starts to look wrong for some inexplicable reason. Shudder are already known for cherry-picking the most unique and promising projects and the same is true here, piquing our maybe more darkly curious side. Like dolls, I find stop-motion animation creepy at the best of times, so it will surprise no-one that this more overt ode exists. More creeps than jumps, this displays just the right amount of raw mental gristle to keep you wary.


Suncoast (2024)***

Nico Parker won me over if I'm honest. After seeing the trailer months ago, I imagined that by the end of watching it, I would be extolling the talents (again) of Woody Harrelson, but this coming-of-age drama lended itself to an unusually effective story of a young girls' struggles with a dying brother and a mother that barely shows her the time of day at a time in her life she might expect nurturing. The performances are all very strong, even if I would have liked more from Woody, but a somewhat manic Laura Linney makes up for it.


Box Metaphor (2023) *

Pitched as a hybrid of Cube and Escape From Alcatraz, this is something of a curiosity. The bonkers premise does not endear itself to the viewer, who will be most likely watching incredulously, even to begin with, but the plot really doesn't make more sense the more you watch it. It just becomes more unbelievable. Personally, I had more than a handful of issues with the story, the script, the incarceration and potential liberation involved and my patience waned all too quickly, but I endured it regardless. Someone went to the trouble, after all. I only had to watch it. More fool me, as this was a perpetual trial, much like the imprisoned featured here. Still, we are where we choose to be, apparently. I'd rather be watching Barbie and that's not something I have been able to say for some time.


Violated! (1975) **.5

A restored 2K version, thought lost for fifty years, the is Giallo-esque, concerning a masked rapist terrorising Hollywood women that spends just enough time with the exposition surrounding female empowerment and the shortcomings of the legal system in regard to convictions, a problem still experienced today, in order for it not to come across as blatantly exploitative. Actually better than expected, although it may be seen today as naive, simplistic and obvious.


Hunger (2009)*.5

Quick heads-up. This is not the Steve McQueen/Michael Fassbender movie you're looking for, but rather the less well-known story of five strangers waking up in a dungeon with no idea how they got there, or how to get out. Sounds like another Saw or Cube maybe, but let's not get ideas above its station. And it follows the same bewildered desperation as both of those titles, but the similarities end there, with little engagement for the viewer who is unlikely to be filled with hope for people they have just been introduced to and still know little or nothing about them. Essentially, in a movie where nothing really happens, you'd better make your characters rounded. As torture, many franchises have made wads of cash doing the same thing much better.


Imaginary (2024)*.5

Despite the already commonplace evil plaything vibe, this is neither comically funny akin to Chuckie or actually creepy like M3GAN or Annabelle. It doesn't hit any of the right notes, yet still relies on the tired and tested tropes of lazy horror writing that rarely scares and lacks any real tension. This hacks off the hardened viewer who, if they were honest, might have been kicking themselves for 'falling for that again', despite the intitial trailer-led hype. Forgettable, unimaginative tosh that you will forget you have watched, possibly before you've finished it.


The Conference (2023)**

Run-of-the-mill Swedish slasher about a group of colleagues sent on a team-bonding weekend that, as you might imagine, ends up as something much more fatal. Think of every slasher you've ever seen and you're pretty much on the right track as this mimics all of them at some point. Lacks originality and the dubbed acting leaves a little too much to be desired. The slashing element is regularly fun and edited more inventively than you might expect. Bloody, brutal and gooey at times, but lacks any real tension.

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