Tag Archives: Review

a-ha: The Movie (Thomas Robsahm/Aslaug Holm, 2021)

American YouTube reviewer Todd in the Shadows has a regular series called One Hit Wonderland in which he takes a look “at bands and artists known for only one song”; exploring their history before and after the big hit. His first video in this series was on Norwegian synth-pop group a-ha’s ‘Take On Me’, in which he fully acknowledges that a-ha’s members are absolutely not true one hit wonders just because ‘Take On Me’ was their only enduring hit in the United States.

The band has reportedly sold over 55 million records worldwide. They’re among the best-selling Scandinavian acts ever. A 1991 gig at the Rock in Rio festival earned them a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for drawing the largest paying rock concert attendance (198,000). They still fill stadiums. They did a James Bond theme.

But Todd’s criteria for inclusion isn’t entirely inaccurate. It’s not controversial to call ‘Take On Me’ one of the best pop songs of the 1980s, while the accompanying music video by director Steve Barron justifiably remains a titan of the form. No matter the sales figures of subsequent singles and albums, ‘Take On Me’ inarguably defines a-ha’s legacy…

Full review for Little White Lies

Firestarter (Keith Thomas, 2022)

During filming of The Thing in 1981, Universal offered John Carpenter the gig to direct a movie version of Stephen King’s novel Firestarter, about a pyrokinetic girl on the run from a secret government agency with her also super-powered father. After The Thing underperformed financially, Universal dropped Carpenter, replacing him with Mark L. Lester for the perhaps overly faithful 1984 adaptation that King reportedly hated.

Carpenter got his own swing at King for another studio with Christine. And four decades on, he’s now involved with a new take on the one that got away. His score for the 2022 Firestarter, co-written with Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies, is by far the best part of director Keith Thomas’ adaptation of a text that no one can quite seem to crack…

Full review for SciFiNow

Men (Alex Garland, 2022)

Alex Garland’s Men shares DNA with David Bruckner’s recent Rebecca Hall-led The Night House. Both see widowed women navigating an isolated haunted house, each also concerned with the fallout of a husband’s suicide, that trauma weaved into the thematic underpinning.

But while Hall’s character is plagued in her own home, Men’s Harper (Jessie Buckley) is on a solo vacation in the English countryside. Another crucial difference: The Night House’s instigating suicide is presented as sudden, but in Men, Harper both witnesses husband James’ (Paapa Essiedu) apparent jump from their building and is explicitly told he’ll take his own life if they divorce, in an explosive flashback confrontation involving assault – where cinematographer Rob Hardy lights their apartment in appropriately fiery hues…

Full review for SciFiNow

The Northman (Robert Eggers, 2022)

With The Witch and The Lighthouse, writer-director Robert Eggers emerged as a distinctive voice in American independent film. They are surrealistic nightmares set in America of centuries past, in which small groups try surviving encroaching supernatural threats that may well be hallucinations encouraged by harsh surroundings. Their environments are brought to life with an exquisite sense of historical detail and period-accurate language.

In light of this, that Eggers’ third feature, The Northman, is a big studio-backed, sprawling Europe-set epic that can plausibly, and not inaccurately, be marketed as an action movie might raise red flags for those concerned his voice could be lost – budget-wise, it’s closer to a Morbius than The Witch. But praise the Norse gods, for not only is The Northman an exhilarating revenge saga that outdoes most modern blockbusters when it comes to action sequence staging and immersive sound design, but Eggers’ penchant for the strange remains fully intact…

Full review for SciFiNow

The Outfit (Graham Moore, 2022)

Seven years after winning a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for The Imitation Game, writer Graham Moore follows up that biopic with an original, largely effective thriller. Co-written with Johnathan McClain, The Outfit is also Moore’s feature-directing debut…

Full review for Little White Lies

Fresh (Mimi Cave, 2022)

The feature directorial debut of Mimi Cave, a veteran of shorts and music videos, Fresh presents certain challenges when it comes to discussing it in the form of a traditional review. The Searchlight Pictures pickup from Sundance 2022 starts off in one lane before veering down a road certain viewers may not be comfortable engaging with or be expecting…

Full review for VODzilla.co

Hellbender (John Adams/Zelda Adams/Toby Poser, 2021)

Based in a secluded, privately-owned mountainous area, American teen Izzy (Zelda Adams) lives with her mother (Toby Poser), but has no contact with the outside world. Having left civilisation when she was five, Izzy is told she has a serious health condition that means human interaction is a massive risk. Only Mother can venture out for supplies. Secretive Mother is Izzy’s only confidante, with whom she has a rock band called Hellbender, whose music no one else will hear. But Izzy is 16 now and craves friends. What Izzy doesn’t realise is that a disease isn’t necessarily the reason she needs to be kept away from others…

Full review for SciFiNow

Munich: The Edge of War (Christian Schwochow, 2021)

A tricky aspect of films based on real-life historical events with globally-impactful consequences is maintaining any tension when the viewer already knows the outcome. In some cases, the protagonists we’re following are those thwarted, such as in Valkyrie, a dramatisation of the failed 20 July 1944 plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler.

Adapted by playwright Ben Power from a Robert Harris novel, Munich: The Edge of War faces a similar challenge with tension. Similarly to Valkyrie, it depicts an attempted termination of Hitler’s power, though here before World War Two started. In 1938, British PM Neville Chamberlain (Jeremy Irons) is eager to find a peaceful resolution to Hitler’s proposed invasion of Czechoslovakia…

Full review for Little White Lies

Army of Thieves (Matthias Schweighöfer, 2021)

A non-horror prequel to a horror movie, where zombies are relegated to news reports and dreams, Army of Thieves is a film where the logic behind its existence is ultimately more interesting to think about than anything presented on screen. That said, this spinoff of Army of the Dead is somewhat fascinating as an example of playing in the Zack Snyder sandbox without the same stylistic imprint…

Full review for SciFiNow