The Anomaly

In 2009 Noel Clark won the Orange Rising Star Award at the Baftas, that recognises new acting talent in the industry (previous winners include James McAvoy, Eva Green and Tom Hardy). As well an actor he is also a writer and director, duties he pulls on his latest movie The Anomaly. But can Clark’s ambition produce a great movie?

Set in the near future Ryan (Noel Clark) wakes up in the back of a van with a young boy who has been kidnapped. As he tries to escape with the boy he finds himself blacking out after 10 minutes. When he wakes up again he is somewhere else. From there on he has to figure out what is happening to him as his mind switches on and off in ten minute intervals.

I admire Clark’s ambition. I like the fact he doesn’t restrict himself to one genre and tries to dip his toes into as many diverse projects as possible. His previous two films as a director was Adulthood, a gritty British drama, and 4,3,2,1 (co-directed by Mark Davis) was a female centred heist movie, while as a writer he made Fast Girls, a drama about girls competing for the world championship . After starring in Dr Who nearly 10 years as sidekick Mickey, The Anomaly sees Clark delve into sci-fi territory again with mixed results. Its starts off strong with Ryan waking up in the van and throws the audience straight into the action as he (and us) try to figure out what is going on.But as the film continues the story becomes less interesting and more pedestrian.

There are also several irritating moments in the movie. The action scenes are shown in slow-mo which is annoying from the first fight and does not improve as the movie goes on. The villains continuously make stupid mistakes which stretch credibility considering they are meant to be the masterminds of a massive conspiracy.

I hate to say it but I think Clark has miscast himself in the main role. Maybe he should have focused more on the script and directing rather than spread himself thinly across all three areas. He’s capable of much better on all levels so hopefully this is just a one off. Ian Somerhalder is fun as an otherwise one note bad guy. There’s mild interest in seeing the older Hemsworth brother Luke (brother of course to Chris and Liam) but he’s not left with much to do. It’s also unfortunate that the only notable female role Dana (Alexis Knapp) is also a pretty worthless one as a prostitute/damsel in distress for Ryan to save. Yawn!

There are interesting ideas and I like the fact that Clark is trying to do something different rather than another Kidulthood/Adulthood rip off.Hopefully this is just a sidestep in an an otherwise varied and interesting career

Rating 2.5/5 – triple threat Clark may have spread himself too thin but its an interesting misfire


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Why Are The Golden Globes So Genre Blind?

Perhaps being a Sci-fi/fantasy fan I should be used to it by now, but I still get annoyed when my favourite genre shows continuously get ignored come award season. The Golden Globes 2015 have just announced their nominations and once again a number of sci-fi Tv shows and actors are snubbed.
It’s hard to believe that none of the excellent cast of Game of Thrones have been nominated for acting gongs. It has one of the best casts on television and yet no one has been recognised for their performances. Peter Dinklage is always great as Tyrion Lannister but it’s widely acknowledged that his performance in the fifth season was particularly outstanding. He should be the front-runner of the awards not cruelly snubbed.
Then there’s The Walking Dead, a consistently great show with a brilliant cast and ratings that keep getting better each year, but again no nominations for Best Drama series or for its cast. It is a clever, dark show with complicated characters, moral dilemmas and zombie gore-what more can you want from a show!
Actress Tatiana Maslany got a well deserved nomination last year for her role(s) in Orphan Black but this year -zilch. This is despite the fact she plays even more roles than before and still has the uncanny ability to make me forget that all these characters are being played by the same person. She’s amazing. But will she ever get the awards she deserves? It seems doubtful.
It seems the mainstream industry awards still see sci-fi/fantasy as something unworthy of accolades when in fact they bring us some of the best tv shows of recent years. Maybe perceptions are slowly changing. Game of Thrones is still nominated for Best Drama series and in the mini-series category American Horror Story: Freakshow got nominated alongside acting nods for Jessica Lange and Kathy Bates.
Tell me what you think. Should sci-fi/fantasy shows get more recognition from the main award shows or is it better they stay on the outside away from the ‘serious’ dramas and comedies? Should The Walking Dead join Game of Thrones in Best Drama series? Or should there be a best sci-fi/fantasy category to go alongside the ones for Drama and Comedy? Let me know what you think in the comments below.


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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

The end is near for The Hunger Games movies. But like all franchises these days the concluding book has to be split across two films. But is there enough material to spread over two movies?

Katniss is now in District 13 but she is still suffering from her experiences in the Hunger Games and her guilt over Peeta being left behind and under the Capitol’s control. But with District 12 having been destroyed and the other Districts looking to riot against the Capitol, Katniss is needed to become the symbol of the rebellion so they can win the war against President Snow. But is Katniss up to the task?

Splitting the final Hunger Games books could be seen as a purely cynical move, and while the obvious motivation is clearly all about the money, that doesn’t mean its a terrible idea. When I heard that Mockingjay was to become two movies I actually liked that idea (and I’m normally not a fan of such thing – I’m looking at you The Hobbit movies). This way I get to see more of the characters I like and it allows all the subplots to get fully developed.

So the main themes around Part 1 is about propaganda and perception. To win a war you don’t just need to fight in battles but you need to win the hearts of the people, or in the case of the villainous Snow frighten them into submission. I liked that the film showed how both sides use the media to get the public’s support and both are not afraid of using teenagers to their own ends. Katniss and Peeta are both being used  as puppets of the two Presidents, although they both aren’t as easy to control as they’d hope.

It’s almost redundant at this point to go on about how great Jennifer Lawrence is as Katniss but I’m going to anyway. Everyone’s favourite moody teenager is back (not that she doesn’t have reason to be sullen), and while she may not be in the arena anymore, the games are still being played, even if they are more political in nature they are still as dangerous. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that Katniss is only about 17 and yet so much expectation is on her shoulder. Lawrence perfectly captures the trauma that Katniss has been through due to her experiences and how that is affecting her behaviour and decisions. She is trying to do right by everyone-Peeta, Penam, President Coil- however she doesn’t know what the consequences of her actions will be or how others will retaliate.

So there’s a lot of heavy scenes and political manipulation. Thank god for Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) and Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) to bring some much-needed light relief. But they are not just there for comedy as they provide Katniss with support and reassurance that she so desperately needs, and they actually do care about her wellbeing too. Out of the new characters Natalie Dormer is striking as Cressida the director of Katniss’ propaganda films, and  Julianne Moore’s gives District 13’s President Coin makes the cold and calculating more interesting than she could have been. With so much going on that does mean some characters are neglected a bit such as Finnick but at least  Sam Clafin makes the most of the few scenes he’s in and he has much better chemistry with Katniss than she does with either of her supposed live interests Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) or Gale (Liam Hemsworth).

Being the first of two movies does of course have its drawbacks, including a lack of a proper ending to the movie. Also without the tension of the arena there’s not as much action in this movie compared to the previous instalments. At least after the build up during this movie, Mockingjay part 2 should give us the more than enough action when the Capitol is finally stormed by Katniss and co.

Rating 4.5/5 -while it’s not as action-packed as The Hunger Games: Catching Fire it’s still as gripping and smart as ever with Jennifer Lawrence once again on spectacular form


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The Walking Dead Season 5 Mid-Season Review

With the mid-season finale having just aired at few days ago, now seems the perfect time to reflect on what’s happened so far in The Walking Dead Season 5. The first three episodes were fantastic, especially the season premiere “No Sanctuary”. With the whole cast split from each other for most of season 4 it was great to have the majority of the characters back together again. Even if they were stuck in a particularly dire situation having been led into a trap by a group of people offering sanctuary for all. Rick had declared in the season 4 finale that “They’re screwing with the wrong people,” but it was Carol who ended up showing the people at Terminus why they should not mess with them.

There are many great characters on The Walking Dead, and a lot of them have gone on their own devastating personal journey since the show started. But arguably its Carol that has gone through the most changes. Think back to five years ag,o she was the timid, abused, mother stuck with a violent husband, and then see her in the season premiere almost singlehandedly saving the gang from the Terminus group-covered in Walker blood no less! I never would have thought that Carol would have been the last female survivor from Season 1. Nor would I have thought I would care about her that much. But since she lost her daughter Sophia, Carol is a changed woman, more damaged and determined to survive than before, although she is now struggling to deal with her previous actions “for the sake of the group”, that previously led her to be turned away by Rick in season 4. But her relationships with the group and in particular fan favourite Daryl show that there is still the old caring Carol in there.
So after a terrific season opener, the next two episodes (“Strangers” and “Four Walls and a Roof”) keep the momentum up as the group end up at the church of a cowardly priest and with the survivors from Terminus hot on their trail. Poor Bob gets bitten by a walker AND his leg cut off in the same episode, although it wasn’t a huge surprise that something bad was going to happen to Bob considering him and Sasha were being too happy and too sweet in their relationship. He may not have been one of my favourite characters but Bob was likeable enough and it was sad to see him go, although at least the gang got revenge for him and took out the Terminus people. Although some of the group look uneasy having to slaughter the Terminus lot, there wasn’t really a lot of choice when you’re up against murderous cannibals, even if they do have a sad back-story.
From episode four “Slabtown”, the show slows things down as we find out exactly what happened to Beth since she was taken away from Daryl in season 4. Having been “rescued” by a group of survivors at a Grady Memorial Hospital she now has to pay her way through hard labour if she wants to leave. However the system at Grady is slowly falling apart and Beth’s attempt at leaving ends in failure, although she does help her friend Noah escape. Still at least she manages to kill a pervy cop. The staff at Grady may think she’s weak but we know she’s not the same shy Beth that she was when we first saw her in season 2.
Although the slowing of the pace worked for “Slabtown”, it starts to really grate by episode five “Self Help”. I think I’m just a bit fed up of the group being split again, although at least Maggie and Glen are still together (for now). Although Tara is likeable I’m finding it hard to warm to Abraham, Eugene and Rosita. The ‘Get Eugene to Washington’ plot was starting to drag and become repetitive. Still with Eugene’s revelation that he’s a big fat liar and there is no cure for the Walker virus, at least we can move past that plot, once the others get over their understandable anger at being lied to just because Eugene knew no one would help him survive otherwise.
Episode Six “Consumed” doesn’t advance the plot that much (basically showing who was with Daryl at the end of “Four Roofs and a Wall” and how Carol ended up at Grady at the end of “Slabtown”). However it does feature a solo episode for Daryl and Carol so it’s not all bad. It’s good to see the two catch up more since they’ve been reunited and show off more badassery as they meet Noah, and eventually the three become allies. I also liked seeing flashback’s to Carol’s time way from the group-you could really feel the isolation of poor Carol. We also get treated to a nerve-wracking sequence when Daryl and Carol have to rock a van they’re stuck in off a ledge so they can get away from some walkers-see they are so badass!
Even though Carol is stuck at Grady with Beth at least the plot starts moving forward in “Crossed” with Daryl, Rick and the others preparing to rescue them. However the dilemma over whether to go for a peaceful resolution or all guns blazing causes some debate between the group. It’s interesting to see how much Rick has changed through the seasons. Normally he’s the one to trying to work out a peaceful solution but here he’s amazingly calm while describing how they should slit a guard’s throat to get in. It seems like all the events he’s gone through over the past five seasons have taken its toll and he’s becoming more ruthless (and more like his dead buddy Shane) every day. However he is still able to listen to Tyreese and Daryl pleas for a less bloody result, which shows that the old Rick is still there. The plot with Rick’s group is the more interesting strand of the episode. However it also has the most annoying part where Sasha’s grief makes her stupid by trusting the Grady hostage (also called Bob), turning her back on him, enabling him to knock her out. Doh!
In the second plotline, while Eugene is unconscious and Abraham inconsolable, it’s up to Glen, Maggie, Rosita and Tara to find water and keep the gang together. Seeing Rosita bond with Tara and Glenn while fishing and scavenging makes me warm to her character. And what Tara lacks in making up good acronyms (Team G.R.E.A.T.M was the best she could come up with-not that I could do any better) she makes up for in enthusiasm and effort. Her discovery of the yo-yo also brought a much-needed lighter moment to the episode. Maggie-whose been sidelined a lot this season at least has the idea to shelter Eugene and talk some sense into Abraham. The third strand features Michone and Carl staying behind at the church to look after baby Judith and trying to get father Gabriel to arm up for when they have to leave the church. Predictably though Gabriel just cowardly runs away leaving this storyline a bit of a bore.

Then we reach the mid-season finale “Coda”. Despite the death of the hostage who ran away from Sasha, Rick and co are still able to make the exchange work. It was all so close to perfect. The two remaining hostages were exchanged with Beth and Carol and everyone was going to go their separate ways. Then Dawn, the leader of Grady, demanded Noah (who Beth had previously helped escape and lead Rick and co to Grady) stay behind. Although Rick and the others tried to stop it, Noah accepted his fate and prepared to go back to Grady. Beth had finally had enough though and as she stabbed Dawn with a pair of scissors Dawn instinctively shot Beth in the head. I knew someone had to die (my money was on Carol), and while it wasn’t the most shocking death, the speed at which it happened and the devastation on both sides faces-including Dawn as she realised what she had done- gave Beth’s death more of an impact than it may have had otherwise. It was even more emotional considering Team G.R.E.A.T.M (maybe it will catch on) reunited with Michone and the others at the church leaving Maggie thinking her sister was being rescued. Cue the camera lingering on poor Maggie as Daryl (poor Daryl!) carried her lifeless sister’s body out of Grady.

So where does this leave the group after all this? The group are reunited but there is no cure and one of their youngest members have been killed. It’s a brutal way to end the mid-season but Beth’s departure will at least provide a lot of emotional material for the group (especially Maggie and Daryl) to deal with for the rest of the series.
Highlight of the season: I’m going to be a big softie and say the moment in the season premiere “No Sanctuary” when Rick reunites with his baby duaghter Judith after thinking she was dead for half of season 4. Good things hardly ever happen in The Walking Dead so I’m going to enjoy them while they last.
Lowlight of the season-Episode 5 “Self Help” was not as engaging as the other episodes of season 5

Let me know what you thought of Season 5 in the comments below.


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The Quiet Ones

The term loosely based on a true story should be banned at the cinema! Especially when it comes to a horror movie. They might as well just say 98% of this movie is completely made up!

So…loosely based on the 1972  Phillip experiment, College Professor Coupland  (Jared Harris) attempts to create a poltergeist using the negative energy of a disturbed young girl named Jane (Olivia Cooke). With the help of his students and a young cameraman Brian (Sam Clafin)- hired to film the experiments, Coupland intends to prove his theory that supernatural occurences are caused by human energy. However things soon take a sinister turn.

At first I thought this would be a supernatural British horror film that would deliver on tension, thrills and screams. The build up starts out well as we watch the experiment become more and more inhumane and Jane starts to become more fragile and disturbed as events go on. However by the last act the movie descends into a standard sub-par horror movie. People continue to do stupid things and push Jane to her limit despite the fact that something will obviously go wrong. It wouldn’t so matter so much if the film’s climax fulfilled on its earlier promise but it ends up falling flat. The revelations to whats happening with Jane are uninspired and while Olivia Cooke is both sympathetic and creepy as Jane the students are flat cardboard characters and Clafin’s character is too wet to be of any interest. Harris at least goes into full on ham mode as the determined Professor which is entertaining at times.

It’s a shame the film fails to live up to its potential as it was an interesting idea but it just doesn’t live up to its premise.

Rating 2/5 – a tense build up descends into horror clichés and a dull denouement


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There’s nothing like a hatred of Maggie Thatcher to bring people together! And lots of people, particularly in the 80s did not have a good word to say about her. Pride attempts to tell the story of two groups of people who made a stand against Thatcher. But does this make for a good movie?

In 1984, England, noting the similarities between the way Margaret Thatcher and the police treated the miners and gay people, Mark Ashton a young gay man, decides to form the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM) support group and raise money for the miners. The miners though aren’t so willing to accept money from them except for one small Welsh community in Onllwyn. Spurred on by this unlikely alliance LGSM are determined to keep on helping the miners, although they face discrimination and hostility in their attempts to do so.

I didn’t know anything about the LGSM before this film, so personally I found this movie to be interesting and engaging on a number of levels. It’s also one of those British Comedy/period drama that Britain does well in. Just get an established set of British actors, a bit of class division politics, prejudice and some ‘hilarious’ misunderstandings. Sometimes this can mean the film has an overly familiar amount of tropes and clichés seen in these movies. However its one that is told well, with a fantastic British cast (new and familiar) playing both members of LGSM and the community members of Onllwyn. Ben Schnetzer is particularly good as the determined Mark, and he is ably supported by the rest of the cast which includes Paddy Considine and Bill Nighly.

It manages to pull at my heart-strings more than once and sensitively handles the struggles that both the gay community and the miners felt at the time. I may have even had a little tear in my eye near the end. Most of the time the film manages to keep a fine line between emotional and sentimental although the moment when the ladies of Onllwyn spontaneously stand up one by one and start singing is a bit too twee for my taste.

I for one found the jokes about Thatcher to be hilarious, however for die-hard Tories (that’s the Conservative party for anyone outside the UK), the constant Thatcher baiting may be off-putting. I was brought up in a Labour household so I’ve heard much worse!

Rating 4/5 – a funny, heartwarming film with a great British cast


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No, not a solo movie for X-Men‘s teleporting blue mutant Nightcrawler. This dark thriller stars Jake Gyllenhaal, who lost 20 pounds to play the role of the sociopathic lead. But will the dramatic weight loss alongside the dramatic material equal a successful movie?

Lou (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a driven but disturbed young man living in LA. Looking for work he one night stumbles upon a car crash where he sees freelance film crews trying to get shots of the crash to sell to the TV stations. Lou instantly becomes inspired to do the same. But as Lou goes to extreme lengths to get better footage, his actions become increasing dangerous to those around him.

Pulling double duties on this film, Dan Gilroy’s direction and script are fantastic. Whether its Lou interacting in conversation by reciting lines learned from online business school or the frantic camera work as Lou tries to get the best shot of a devastating accident, it all works perfectly to capture the essence of Lou and his disturbed behaviour. Everything feels off about this guy. Because of this Gyllenhaal doesn’t have to resort to what other actors may do and give Lou ticks and quirks to show his abnormalities. It’s creepy enough just watching Lou smile as he tries to flirt (in his mind) with Rene Russo’s news director Nina. Gyllenhaal is mesmerizing as the sociopathic Lou. It’s probably the first time I’ve found Gyllenhaal to be completely repellent in a movie (which is exactly how Lou should be). There is no redeeming qualities to Lou but he is a fascinating character to watch.

Although Gilroy and Gyllenhaal work shines the most in this movie there’s also a great supporting role for Russo. There are some wonderful scenes throughout the movie between Lou and Nina that shows the power changes in their relationship. Both are exploiting crime scenes for their own personal gain and when you think Nina may show outrage at some of the footage Lou brings to her, her only concern is how to get it pass the censors. Bill Paxton, as a fellow ‘nightcrawler’ and Riz Ahmed as Lou’s desperate homeless assistant Rick also get strong moments in the movie as they interact with Lou and try not to get caught in the cross fire of his actions.

It’s hard to find fault with this movie but I will say that, unsurprisingly, it’s not exactly a feel-good movie. There’s hardly any likeable characters, and some viewers may find some of the crime scene footage upsetting (in particular one sequence which sees Lou entering the scene of a home invasion). But if you do want to give it a shot then  Nightcrawler may offer you a compelling and thought-provoking look into the dark corners of the media and human behaviour.

Rating 4.5/5 – dark and thrilling with a stand out performance from Jake Gyllenhaal


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