A lot of horror/dark films this week but also a few different things. I’ll start with the one I liked the most, No Offence Series 1. This British cop procedural isn’t quite as funny as expected, but I liked it. I expected it to be a bit less serous than it is although it does have some jokes and isn’t a straight forward cop show. It is from the creator of the UK version of Shameless so I expected it to be similar to the US version of that show. Each episode seems to have one smaller case, but all 8 episodes have one case connecting them all, the abduction and murder of girls with Down’s Syndrome. I did figure there would be more to the story especially when the case seemed to be wrapping up in episode 6 or so, but I can admit I guessed the wrong person. I’d have to rewatch it to see what clues I missed, but the show definitely leads you in one direction that isn’t true. There are a lot of characters that certainly distract you from figuring it out so I think that’s smart. There really isn’t anything important about one cop sleeping with her partner’s father or another hooking up with a nurse on coke, but it takes you off figuring out who the bad guy is. Both lead actresses (Joanna Scanlan and Elaine Cassidy) are good and the season ends on sort of a cliffhanger I can see going one way or another so I hope Series 2 comes my way shortly. Assuming there is a second series.
Next is Marrowbone which is sort of like The Lodgers. Four siblings and their mother move to America to escape a family secret. They hide out from the rest of the world only picking up supplies when needed. A death leads them to even more exclusion besides one local (played by Anya Taylor-Joy). But a lawyer wants money from them and their family secret is causing problems again. I’ll be honest, after watching this I rewatched the first 20 minutes or so right afterwards because I felt like I missed something. I don’t think I actually did, it just didn’t add up. It’s hard to explain without giving away the twist though. The setting works. The acting is good. The story I question. When you have to rewatch something right afterwards, something clearly doesn’t make sense. The young cast works with people you’re recognize from Stranger Things, Captain Fantastic and Split, I just wish the story made more sense to me. It does make sense I guess, the film just seemed to take a big turn out of nowhere and I think it hurt itself because of it.
Third is Dead Shack, which is a slasher flick starring Lauren Holly. It’s sort of a mix of zombies and cabin in the woods storytelling with a family going into the woods for a vacation and the kids seeing a neighbor killing people with zombies. Nothing about it is all that original. The acting isn’t great. The story is what you expect but there is some good gore in it. Holly’s pet zombies eat people impressively. There’s guns and cars and all kinds of weapons. When it comes to low-budget/no one has ever heard of films like this, I don’t expect a ton of originality so give me good kills and overall this worked because of it. The “killer” isn’t the typical type you expect and they even reference that in the movie and why no one knows what’s happening in the woods. There are some good practical effects and make up and the film won’t “wow” a general movie going audience, but horror fans should find something to enjoy out of it.
Sticking with the horror theme, next is Flora. I give it some points for originality, at least with the time period it takes place in. You don’t see too many horror type films based in the 1920’s. An expedition of Ivy League university botanists enter an uncharted forest on the North American frontier where they soon find no sign of life, no animals, no bugs, none of the people who were supposed to be there. They soon must fight for survival when they realize it’s an organism around them causing all the issues. My issues with the film are the actors and the audio. Despite the wardrobe, none of the actors looked era appropriate. They seemed too attractive to me. Then there’s the audio. It seemed like it had English dubbing but I couldn’t find anywhere that said it wasn’t in English. Something about the audio with the dialogue seemed off. But the story was decent and the setting was cool. Maybe a grittier look and better audio I might have liked it more, but you might not have the same issues with it that I did.
Next is Bye Bye Germany. I thought this might have been a spoof, but it’s more a dark comedy/drama. Survivors of the Holocaust set up a company selling linens to raise money to leave Germany. The leader of the group has a secret from his time in the concentration camps and is under investigation by the US. Now I thought it was sort of a spoof like The Producers because these men take advantage of both Jewish survivors and native Germans. They claim their linens are from Paris and lie about who they are claiming to be a friend of a fallen soldier, friends to a dead man, etc. The acting is good and the production value is very good. The costuming and set design are spot on for the time period and you’re never quite sure who is on the up and up. Not a bad flick for a movie I wasn’t familiar with.
Next we have Elena of Avalor: Realm of the Jacquins. I’m not exactly the target audience for this, I’m a grown man without children, but I can understand why kids will like it. It’s from Disney and has a Coco and Tangled vibe to it. It’s very colorful and has funny creatures and characters. There is music and adventure and everything you expect in a young child’s show. Crown Princess Elena is the latest Disney Princess for kids to root for. For adults, there’s a great voice cast you’ll be figuring out and you won’t feel too bad letting your kids watch it. This comes with 10 bonus shorts as well so there’s a lot to entertain your children.
Blackmark is also out this week, but it should be called Blandmark because it’s as generic as it comes. It’s allegedly based on true events, but it’s so monotone and uninspired I didn’t research how accurate it is. The lead is as bland as they come. He’s a basic looking spy type, decent looking, decent build, blonde hair, but nothing about him stands out. The action is bad and by the books. There’s post production muzzle flash added to the gun shots. For a movie about a hacked Soviet missile and the events leading up to the JFK assassination, it is super boring. It’s a by-the-numbers straight-to-DVD type action/spy flick that is really forgettable.
Following that is Alien Code, and despite its generic title, isn’t too bad. The underrated Kyle Gallner plays a cryptographer hired by an organization to figure out a message in a satellite that might be from the future. Having a past and not much money, he does it for the paycheck, but soon figures out there’s much more going on. There appears to be Watchers like in Fringe and the government might know more than they are letting on. Ultimately I don’t if it makes a lick of sense and it tries to get deep at the end talking about non-linear time and how human existence is repetitive, but Gallner is good and it held my attention throughout. It’s better than a SyFy Channel flick, but I can see why it wasn’t a blockbuster at the theater as well. Fans of Gallner should like it.
Next is WWI – The War to End All Wars. This 7 hour+ collection features rare footage and interviews throughout 10 parts. It feels super personal more than just a straight forward documentary. You’re getting first hand accounts and actual battle footage which gives you a feel of being there. I’m a big history/military buff so stuff like this is right in my wheelhouse. You get footage of the first air battles. You see battles in Russia. It’s a pretty fascinating and educational look with personal stories. If you like history, especially military/war, this one is for you.
Last we have Happy Endings The Complete Series. The show is one I never watched when it aired. It’s like New Girl, a show I never thought I would like so I never watched it when it was on TV. It’s also like New Girl in that, I actually liked it by the time I watched it. Sure it’s just Friends for today’s generation, but I liked Friends and overall I liked this cast. I’ve been a fan of Elisha Cuthbert since her 24 days so I liked her in this. I liked most of the others as well. Damon Wayans Jr. was in the pilot of New Girl and left that show to be on this (he would rejoin New Girl for a bit after this show ended). This show isn’t exactly groundbreaking TV, but I’m ok with that. It’s a comedy, just make me laugh and overall it did. There are some seasons that were better than others, but that’s all TV shows. If you were a fan of the show, this is a great way to get the whole series in one set. I liked it for the most part especially for a show I originally ignored.