Monday, 5 June 2023

The Infernal Machine (2022)

This mystery thriller has been created by relative newbie director/writer Andrew Hunt which takes the 
viewer on a roundabout trip in the company of the lead character (as he tries to unravel what on earth is going on) whilst revealing a few things of his own into the mix as we go! Confused already? Get used to it!

The story is about an English professor (Bruce Cogburn) who, some years ago, had a job teaching in America before striking oil and making himself fame and fortune from a book sale. We join the action some years later in around 1981, with flashbacks to the teaching days, where he’s living a reclusive lifestyle, refusing to connect with his fans or the public - not even having a phone and living in the dusty, dry middle of nowhere.

He starts getting letters, to his PO Box address, from a particular fan (William DuKent) asking him for his opinion on his work, writing a book. The fan starts to hound the professor, who starts to head rapidly into a booze-fuelled decline because of it. The fan leaves a phone number, so Cogburn eventually tries, politely at first, to engage with DuKent but is only able to leave his messages via an answering machine. DuKent doesn’t relent and pushes Cogburn, who descends further and further into apparent mental ill-health over it.

The book was called The Infernal Machine and it had been alleged that it had been written with all sorts of hidden code and instructions regarding terrorist acts, some of which had been linked to the Knoxville Massacre in which Dwight Tufford opened fire from a tower, killing 13 people. The Tufford character does make an appearance in the film, but it’s not hugely significant to the plot really. The film is based on a story by Louis Kornfeld by the way, not any basis of truth.

That’s about all I can tell you about the plot really, as to continue would give away parts of the mystery which you’ll want to see unfold. It does get horribly complicated en route, however, so keep on your toes! There are periods where the story is dragged out too much - and other times when it felt like more could have been made of the unfolding. In fact, it might have done well as a mini-series to explore further the back-stories of some of the characters who do indeed end up being central to the plot.

It’s a bit of a one-man show in many ways as Guy Pearce (Memento, L.A. Confidential, Mare of Easttown) plays Cogburn beautifully. Convincing and engrossed in his role, we feel his character’s decline, anxiety, frustration and plight. Most around him are making up the numbers, but do a decent-enough job.

The setting is mostly that dusty, dry landscape of hot American outback which makes for some interesting imagery. Some of the editing seems to be a bit severe in places (adding to the theory of a better mini-series) but generally the direction tries hard to keep the audience with just enough information at any one time to keep track. Just.

Anyway, it’s an interesting film for sure, as it turns out, a great idea, thoughtful mystery/thriller and good character study - it just feels like it loses itself here and there with perhaps a slightly too-complex plot, crammed in at times, stretched at others - perhaps a pacing issue. But do watch it for Guy Pearce’s performance.

Thursday, 1 June 2023

PodHubUK Podcasts for the Month of May 2023

...a roundup of our month of podcasting. Links to the team, communities and podcast homes on the net at the foot, so scroll down!

Projector Room
Episode 137 - The Diplomat's Blood
Wednesday 3rd May
Back again for our fortnightly roundup of all things film, cinema and TV, so why not join Gareth, Allan and I for a bumper-length episode! All sorts on offer as usual with appreciations of Walter Matthau, Barry Humphries, Japanese animation as we Pump Up The Volume with Peter Pan and what's Coming Soon.

Whatever Works
Episode 185 - AI-Generated Mash-Up!
Wednesday 3rd May
Aidan and I are back with another roundup of Whatever Works in our lives and yours! Plenty of fun as usual and everything imaginable between sanders and multitools, grip-tape and soap, even a little Twinkly Flex!

Phones Sho
w Chat
Episode 747 - Folding Now for Three Solid Years
Saturday 6th May
This week Steve and I welcome YouTuber Michael Fisher back for a chat for an hour during which we discover that he is 100% committed to folding/flipping devices with pretty much no space left for anything less able! So our theme continues and remains Samsung-heavy, the formidable folders! We throw in some thoughts too, but this week is very much about Mr Mobile!

Phones Sho
w Chat
Episode 748 - Rarities and Reviews
Saturday 13th May
Ben Wood joins Steve and I this week as we chat phones for an hour. Loads of interesting stuff as always from Ben, a bit of what's gone, a bit of what's now, a bit of what's to come - and some pearls thrown in for good measure, including April's Photo of the Month!

Tech Addicts Podcast
Magic Vs The Pixel Fold
Sunday 14th May
Gareth and I are back after our 3-week break on the trail of all things tech that's crossed our paths again. This time we natter (like everyone else in the world) about folding devices, but also gaming devices, new phones, updated phones, laptops, desktops, tablets, a bunch of Chrome stuff and oodles more - in our longest show ever (peppered with lunches, fumblings and countdowns)!

Projector Room
Episode 138 - Evil Dead Beef
Wednesday 17th May
The gang is back again with another look into film, cinema and TV. Why not join Allan, Gareth and I as we focus on the work of Juliette Lewis, check out what's coming soon, deal with a Beef Invasion and with Two Weeks to Live, we consider The Mother and what makes A Good Person.

Phones Show Chat
Episode 749 - Android 14
Friday 19th May
Malcolm Bryant joins Steve Litchfield and I this week and delivers a very interesting overview of what's coming in Android 14 alongside a masterclass in becoming an App Developer! Plus a bunch of other stuff from us, deliberating between phones/OS/features as always - and never really deciding! Plenty of fodder left to get us to Show 1000..!

Whatever Works
Episode 186 - Jolly Jingleless Japes!
Wednesday 24th May
Aidan has gallivanted off with his bucket'n'spade so in his absence, I've roped in Steve, Ian Barton and Chris Kelly to consider Whatever Works in our lives and yours, too! And what a selection - from Histoacryl to Tacknet, Bells to beer, Presto to pumps and even Willen to Woburn!

Phones Show Chat
Episode 750 - Notes and To-dos
Saturday 27th May
Steve and I are three-quarters done now(!) and for our (kind of) landmark episode we're joined by Chris Kelly and catch up with him on what gear/apps he's using and his thoughts going forward. Plenty more too with a Samsung Soiree, Storage with Sony and even a Screen Shine Summary! Available in all the usual places, so do join us!

Tech Addicts Podcast
Project Q and Lightly Researched News
Sunday 28th May
Gareth and I are back 
again, woefully underprepared, as we muddle through what we think we understand is going on in our wonderful world of tech! This time it's Beijing Bans, Samsung Sensors, Shorts, Side-panels and Samples, OnePlus and Oppo Airing Pads and much more! So do tune in - it's unskippable (unlike YouTube's ads)! Available in all the usual places.

Projector Room
Episode 139 - Blood, Air and Gold
Wednesday 31st May
Gareth, Allan and I are back again with our fortnightly roundup of all things film, cinema and TV. Bit of a long one this time, so take it in stages! All sorts of goodies though with our thoughts on Black Knight in Private Screening, Jeff Fahey as our Themed Treat, some interesting picks in The Main Feature, plenty to look forward to Coming Soon and sadly too much in The Final Curtain. Do lend us your ear though and hopefully you'll enjoy.

The Podcasts
PodHubUK - Phones Show Chat - The Phones Show - Whatever Works - Chewing Gum for the Ears - Projector Room - Tech Addicts

Monday, 15 May 2023

A Good Person (2023)

I think we all know by now that Florence Pugh can do no wrong and here she is again, stealing the show in a virtual double-header with Morgan Freeman. The film is a creation of comedy actor-turned-writer/director Zach Braff and what a splendid job he has done with a beautifully crafted and moving story.

Having suggested that it's a two-header, I have to back-track a little and admit that the whole cast have done fine jobs in their roles, but most of the screen time has been engulfed by Pugh and Morgan. Florence Pugh (Don't Worry Darling, Midsommer, The Wonder) plays Allison who is about to be married to Nathan (Chinaza Urch), to whom she is deeply committed and in love. Soul Mates stuff. There's a tragic accident while she's driving a car, she wakes up in a hospital bed to find out all about it - and we leap forward a year.

There were two passengers in the accident - Nathan's sister and brother-in-law - and as we pick up the story with Allison living with her mum, it's clear that Nathan and her are no long an item. Morgan Freeman (Transcendence, Se7en, Outbreak) plays Nathan's dad, Daniel, who is an ex-soldier and long-term police officer with a drink problem. Drink problems and addiction becomes the theme of this film. Allison, a year on, is addicted to prescription pain-killers and will do pretty much anything to get them, once the doctor stops prescribing.

Grandad Daniel is living with Ryan (Celeste O'Connor) the 16 year-old niece of Nathan - now with no mum. Daniel is not making a very good job of it, but he is making a good job of keeping his drinking in check, with the help of local AA/NA group - which he is attending one day when Allison turns up to start her recovery. Daniel privately holds her responsible for the death of his daughter, but faces his greatest challenge now that she's turned up, forgiving her and keeping himself on the straight and narrow - whilst also trying to regain the trust of son Nathan, with whom he has had a difficult past.

Daniel and Allison, over time, form an unlikely bond/friendship which has its ups and downs, good and bad, challenging and smooth. The chemistry between the two of them works really well on screen and we're treated to a masterclass in acting. As I said earlier, the pair of them steal the show with phenomenally powerful performances, gut-wrenching scene after gripping emotional sequence. It would take a cold-hearted viewer not to shed a tear at the very least. But it's not soppy and holds its line with intelligence and class in terms of acting, storytelling and direction.

We now enter the meat of the film which is very much about harrowing grief, loss, recovery, relationships, abuse through alcohol, forgiveness, hopelessness, addiction, helplessness, guilt and regret. Although a central part of the production is about addiction, it's also very much about lives destroyed by events - to some degree outside of the control of the characters. The film tries to inject some humour, too, but even then - the audience sees it through the eyes of the characters' destruction.

I won't give away any of the outcomes of course, and there are one or two eventualities which I think could have been done differently, but that's not what this is really about. It's just so smart and incredibly well imagined, scripted, delivered and so very dramatic. You might have worked out by now that I'm hugely impressed! Pugh and Morgan are superb throughout and this has to be, so far in 2023, my Film of the Year. With 7 months to go, it could be usurped, but it's gonna' take some beating. Treat yourself.

Sunday, 7 May 2023

Black Crab (2022)

Continuing with my Noomi Rapace appreciation flow, my next stop was this Swedish post-apocalyptic yarn about a group of soldiers who are picked for a mission (because they are good ice-skaters) in the midst of an all-out war between two sides. They had to be good ice-skaters because it was the only way to deliver a potentially war-ending package to where it needs to be - over the ice-covered landscape of northern Europe.

We start off in the thick of chaos and violence in which Noomi's character, Edh, loses track of her daughter, with whom she's travelling in a car. People with guns are indiscriminately shooting anything that moves in the midst of a huge traffic jam. We then cut to a train, where Edh is plucked from a war-torn carriage and whisked off for the mission by the military. She's clearly not only a mother, but also a trained soldier. As well as a good ice-skater!

We then join the crack team, who are given the items in question, and sent off to skate to where it needs to go across that frozen sea. They are likely to be picked off by the enemy, so much travelling is done when it's dark and resting when light. You don't need to belong to Mensa to work out that the mysterious package is not quite all it seems and that the military are possibly covering some agenda up, so unknown to the team! Amongst the adventures en route, various members of the team suddenly become less like soldiers and more like free-thinking individuals, taking moral stands about war and the fete of humanity, forgetting that they're under orders.

Relatively inexperienced director/writer Adam Berg holds the reins here and provides us with a fairly decent thriller with some suspense, violence and action thrown in as we spend most of the time with the team, on a kind of road-trip. On ice! There's some lovely scenery on offer so the cinematographer was able to cash in and make that look fairly good when it wasn't night. Though even when it was, the use of lighting, especially on and through the ice, was nicely done). There's also set considerations, with crumbling cities and barren urban landscapes which looked convincing enough too.

Noomi Rapace (Stockholm, Lamb, The Secrets We Keep, You Won't Be Alone) leads the fairly capable-looking cast who are able to keep up - and in many instances, perform convincingly. So, plenty of people shooting other people, fighting, knifework, spurting blood, explosions and general Bond-style nastiness to thrill the action-seeking folk. Not very intellectually challenging throughout, though, so don't come looking for that! The final scenes feel very much like a Bond film! Noomi is the star of course and she does an excellent job though I don't think she needed to try very hard. She's an excellent actress and many people appreciate her talent, but this is a payday job!

It's an enjoyable ride for the best part of two hours and generally the time flies along. Don't try too hard to think about it all, just enjoy the thrills! It's subtitled, dubbed or whatever, so take your pick. Worth a look, for sure, even if nobody will be winning many awards.

Friday, 5 May 2023

You Won't Be Alone (2022)

In my quest to watch anything with Noomi Rapace in it, I came across this film and ended up rather enjoying it. However, it's a bit bizarre! If you thought Lamb (her film from 2021) was a bit odd, this surpasses it as probably the strangest film I've seen in the last couple of years! But hang on in there.

Putting Noomi's involvement into perspective, she's only actually in for about 15 minutes as she plays the part of one of the people whose bodies our central character jumps into, driven by a ruthless witch in 19th century Macedonia! And there I paint a sharp picture of the story one is getting into here! It's a story of witches and simple folk living in fear of such things in a village in the countryside, working together to feed themselves from the land, avoiding the plague and just surviving.

Apart from Noomi Rapace (Stockholm, Lamb, The Secrets We Keep) I haven't seen much of the other actors - Alice Englert (Beautiful Creatures) and Anamaria Marinca (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, Europa Report, Fury) being the two main leads. Everyone seems to be very engaged with what is going on though and performing very well. Director/writer Goran Stolevski comes from Macedonia, though seems to have lived most of his life in Australia. He holds things together pretty well and makes the most of things visually with some very nice leadership in terms of continuity, images, shooting, lighting and set.

The film is a horror really, but it's more shocking for the audience in terms of gore and the characters with supernatural powers making a bloody mess of much of what they come in contact with. Adult humans, animals, babies - nobody gets a pass and it is a little gruesome at times. There's also some nudity and sexual scenes thrown in just in case the aforementioned wasn't quite enough to get an X-rating!

Anyway, we join the story with a severely deformed-by-fire witch hustling in on a lady (minding her own business) who has just had a child. The witch tries to snatch it but mother swiftly takes action to prevent this - at least until the child is 16. In order to keep the witch's wrinkled hands off it, she puts her in a cavern and leaves her there, attending to her needs every few days bringing her supplies etc. For 16 years she sees nobody and has no socialisation of any sort. Mother is hoping the witch has forgotten, when her child is 16, or that she doesn't know where she hid her. But of course witches know everything and she rocks up for her reward as agreed.

The witch then oversees the life of the girl (Biliana, Alice Englert) but they soon fall out as Biliana wants a normal life. She ain't going to get it though and via various gruesome and barbaric acts, she flits between various living creatures (one being Bosilka, Noomi Rapace) when they're either dead anyway or by killing them first! She then 'transforms' into their being (by removing their innards and putting them into herself) and tries to take over living their lives for them - usually with disastrous results as she has no idea how to behave socially or any other way, having been stuck in a cave all her life!

I think you get the idea. It's all fairly involved and you need to watch closely to keep up with what's going on, how things develop and to make sense of the outcome. I think I did - just about! Biliana has to learn things the hard way and through her adventures and misery, she does so. We get a snapshot of their world, too, full of male dominance leading to violence towards women generally, cultural superstition, the importance of family bonds, relationships and love. It feels very much like a fairy tale often, except the fairy seems missing and is replaced with witches! Think Merlin. Kind of. Or perhaps Rumpelstiltskin!

Finally, Biliana is trying hard to break away from the burned old witch and as we head towards the climax, showdown, a High Noon in the making, we find out if Biliana's good intentions and trapped existence conquers the evil of the old witch! Yes, it's that old good vs evil battle again! I'm sure that I've probably missed out on a lot of the metaphors and parallels which I should have picked up, so maybe I'll watch it again. It's subtitled/dubbed but actually there's not a huge amount of dialogue overall and I thought it was a very interesting film, a little slow in parts, but well worth seeking out and getting stuck into!

Monday, 1 May 2023

Last Sentinel (2023)

We're about 40 years into the future here and global warming has raised the level of the earth's water to such an extent that there's only two bits of land left - and the two 'countries' are at war. Inevitably! The setting for this film is a rig in the middle of the two, which is occupied and maintained by 4 military personnel on rotation, two years at a time.

We join the action as the 'monthly' storm is due, facilitating a potential haul of fish in their nets as they wait for their relief crew, now 3 months late and no word. There's very limited communication with the outside world (on some strangely outdated-looking equipment for the future) and the whole film is set onboard the knackered, old rig and a couple of vessels around it. The storm is raging and we get to see a few minutes of special effects as the huge waves head for the rig.

They seem to be in charge of some nuclear-bomb-looking device, which two of them have keys to activate, should the need arise. It's not really very clear what this is, what it's for or what they intend to do with it - and under what circumstances. There is a suggestion that this simply destroys what's left of the earth if detonated and so both sides in the war want it for themselves, presumably as a deterrent. Anyway, the crew have a procedure to follow under certain conditions and to detonate it. It seems that one of those conditions is simply not being able to communicate by radio with each other whilst investigating a boat floating past one day!

It's very slow, we get to know the four players (or at least we think we do) and as the film moves along it is indeed clear that all is not as it seems. People have hidden agendas, maybe not quite what the seem to be and there are twists and turns which come along to keep the audience on their toes. Or at least, not falling asleep! Director Tanel Toom (Truth and Justice) keeps thing chugging along (a bit faster might be better, at the expense of getting the audience feeling the isolation and boredom that the crew might feel) and does a decent enough job pulling together some good cinematography and the best he can from the actors.

Kate Bosworth (Barbarian, Superman Returns, Still Alice) plays the lead as Corporal Cassidy working under the command of Thomas Kretschmann (A Taxi Driver, Stalingrad, Valkyrie, U-571, The Pianist) as Sergeant Hendrichs. They are supposed to be in charge but as we will see, splinters (leading to some inconsistencies) do appear in the structure of that. The other two crew members are Privates. Lucien Laviscount (Coronation Street, Trollied) as Sullivan (who is having a fling with Cassidy on the quiet) and Martin McCann (The Survivalist, 71) as Baines. As I said, the acting is of a good standard, but it fails to lift this film much above the feeling of a B-Movie to be honest.

The purpose/message of the film I guess is a warning about climate change and what the world might end up being if we don't pull our socks up, but it's all pretty lame and shallow, slow-moving and fairly forgettable. Maybe they should have done what Amazon Studios did with The Rig and turned it into more of a TV series. Don't get me wrong - it's worth the watch, but it just ain't gripping as a storyline and the material everyone has to work with doesn't raise it above the routine. Focus on the acting, directing and visuals.

PodHubUK Podcasts for the Month of April 2023

...a roundup of our month of podcasting. Links to the team, communities and podcast homes on the net at the foot, so scroll down!

Phones Show Chat
Episode 742 - Essential Ecosystem
Saturday 1st April
Steve and I natter this week about the Fold4 again, me with the honeymoon over but he, still having a cracking time with his! I'm back on Pixel, Moto and Sony whilst he plays with his Apple stuff! Loads more, including a drop-in from Mark Ellis, the YouTuber.

Projector Room
Episode 135 - Winnie the Cocaine Bear!
Wednesday 5th April
The team is back again with another roundup of all things film, cinema and TV so why not join Gareth, Allan and I as we highlight the gems and filter the Fool's Gold! Dick Van Dyke takes centre-stage in Themed Treats, The Glory is in Private Screening, we have a bear-themed Main Feature and even a chance to break out a GameBoy!

Phones Show Chat
Episode 743 - A Duo of Smartphones
Saturday 8th April
Steve and I are joined this week by Scott Brady again as we natter for an hour about what he's been using, Duos, Pixels, Folds, Ultras, Pros and loads of other stuff too, including compact phones and an odd so-called upgrade from Moto!

Tech Addicts Podcast
Sunday 9th April
Gareth and I are here again offering your our weekend thoughts on all things tech as we tinker! Asus ROG Ally, Sega Nomad, Sony ZV-E1, Lenovo Legion, Pixel Tablet, Sony WF-C700N, Marshall, PlayStation Q, Data Frog, TikTok, Vivaldi and loads more!

Whatever Works
Episode 184 - Sock Stop Tater Tots!
Thursday 13th April
Aidan and I are back again to taunt you with another hour of chaos and fun as we consider Whatever Works in our lives and yours! Power and cats, Hobos and urine, Dungeons and Dragons, smokin' hot food and loads more besides. Pull up a Chaise Longue and break out the popcorn!

Phones Show Chat
Saturday 15th April
Steve and I are here this week with one of our Catch-Up editions with no guest as we clear the backlog of goodies! Loads of stuff with Duos, Pixels, Folds, Flips, ROG, Android Beta, Nearby Share, Geofencing and oodles more, so get stuck in!

Projector Room
Episode 136 - Vanishing Luck
Wednesday 19th April
Gareth, Allan and I are back again with our fortnightly roundup of our thoughts (and yours) on all things film, cinema and TV. Loads of goodies as usual from 1932 to 2024! Sigourney Weaver is our Themed Treat, we see How It Ends (or rather don't) in Private Screening, enjoy some great pic(k)s in The Main Feature and look forward to what's Coming Soon. All good stuff, available from all the usual places, so do join us for an hour. Or two!

Phones Show Chat
Episode 745 - A Samsung Special
Thursday 20th April
Steve and I are joined again by Mark Swidler and his brother Lee from Detroit. They're both big Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra users, so yes, that's the focus of this show. Great chat covering loads of stuff, so do tune in.

Tech Addicts Podcast
Sunday 23rd April
Gareth and I are joined by Ricky West this week again as we toss over this week's tech trinkets! New Pixels coming, we consider a clever ring and tongue-taps, plenty of gaming, NSFW art generation, Bionic Reading, Sega gets Angry over Birds and we fit in a visit to Bedrock!

Phones Show Chat
Episode 746 - Re-inspired by Hinges
Saturday 29th April
The Authenticated Episode! Jim Fowl is guest of honour this week as Steve and I chat with him about folding phones, new and old. We reminisce a while, look to the future some and dwell in the present even more.

Sunday, 30 April 2023

Blood (2022)

This is basically a vampire film, wrapped up in a family drama from Brad Anderson, previously responsible for Transsiberian and The Machinist. It struggles with identity along the way, confusing itself and the audience to some degree, but turns out to be certainly very interesting.

The family is made up of two households - mum (Jess) and dad (Patrick) splitting up because mum had previously been a junkie (for reasons the film never really goes into) and dad having started a new life with the family Nanny (Shelly). There's a girl (Tyler) and boy (Owen) being passed back and forward within a framework of legal access times and days.

The details of that last paragraph could well have made a stand alone film, family drama, in-fighting, difficult lawyer/client meetings, courtroom decisions about custody and so forth. There really was enough to work it like that - without making it into something of a Let The Right One In clone! Which is pretty much where it ends up.

The active part of the story involving vampirism is that the family's lovely cuddly dog heads off into the woods surrounding the new house that mum and kids have moved into, has an apparently strange experience out there (possibly involving a knackered old tree in the middle of a dried-up lake) and comes back a day or two later looking like a Cujo style monster-dog! He bites Owen. The dog is battered to death by mum - and Owen, whisked off to hospital.

Turns out, you guessed it, that Owen is now only interested in consuming blood, warm blood, human blood - preferably from living people (as it's warmer, presumably). However, much like in Let The Right One In, mum (and eventually daughter) work out what's going on and help Owen (blood is thicker than water!) to ensure that he ongoingly gets what he craves and needs to stay alive. Mind you, unlike Let The Right One In, he doesn't seem to have much of a problem with being out in sunlight! And that's about the bones of it really as we follow the family drama, interspersed with scenes relating to the goal of the nuclear family and some of the grizzly stuff that goes on in order to maintain the supply.

Michelle Monaghan (Black Site, Mission: Impossible) plays Jess very convincingly and is clearly the talent on show. The two kids aren't far behind, Finlay Wotjak-Hissong (The Banana Splits Movie, Land) and Skylar Morgan Jones. Skeet Ulrich (Scream) as angry dad doesn't have much to do and less so again, Nanny Danika Frederick. It's clearly a half-decent production though, so no low-budget cheapo horror/thriller like the recent Humpty Dumpty and Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey horror outings! It has some bite(!) and makes for good viewing. Slows down here and there when dealing with the family drama bits, but soon picks up again and back into the thick of it.

It's got lots of inconsistencies in the story - for one thing, we never really find out about the tree and what the mystery is surrounding the origins of all this - and Jess, who is a nurse, gets involved in some very dubious practices at work in order to feed-the-need (perhaps displaying some of the previously not covered addictive/obsessive tendencies) but I won't spoil that eye-opening stuff here! But OK - it's a story! It's certainly not fun - I don't remember a single laugh from any of the characters in the whole runtime, getting on for two hours - more like dark and menacing, by intent at least.

The direction was good, cinematography engaging with lots of scenery shots in and above the woods, inside and out of buildings - good use of light and shadow to add creep and suspense here and there. It's certainly worth watching, especially for the three main performances. And don't switch off too quickly at the end as there's a post-credits final scene!

Saturday, 22 April 2023

Gold (2022)

This is an interesting film focusing on survival-against-nature (human and otherwise) set in the outback of Australia somewhere (we think, right-hand drive truck, though accents seem to be American) in the near future. It's a two-man show, pretty much and one of the actors is also the writer/director, Anthony Hayes.

The story starts with an apparent drifter, looking for work, and finds it - but needs Anthony Hayes' character to get him there. A days-on-end drive in a beaten-up, just about working, truck is needed. The drifter is not interested in entering into any dialogue or friendship with the driver and the journey is hard work for both of them. It gets hotter and hotter, the air conditioning in the truck doesn't work properly and you can feel the arid atmosphere in the car, between them, and in the climate they have to endure.

When they make camp for the night, the driver, who seems to be more knowledgeable about survival in these conditions, warns about the wild dogs which will try to attack and eat humans (or anything that is alive), particularly during the night, if they are not vigilant. Fires are set while they sleep to keep the risk at bay.

Someway into the journey, whilst the driver is tinkering with the truck, our drifter finds a huge lump of yellow-looking metal in the ground. The driver confirms that it is, indeed, gold. They do a jig! The drifter won't need a job after all! Trouble is that it's so huge, they can't shift it out of the ground, try as they do by digging, dragging and using the truck's power to try and wrench it out. None of us know how big it is, but clearly it's huge.

They take stock of the situation and decide that one of them needs to stay there to 'guard' their treasure whilst the other goes and gets a digging machine to get it out. The driver says that he is used to these conditions, so he will stay. The drifter disagrees and so they swap roles. The driver goes off for the truck and the drifter stays on guard.

We stay with the drifter throughout the days it ends up taking the driver to get to where he needs to go, get the truck and come back. In the meantime, the drifter is running out of water, food and sandstorms wreck his encampment amongst other difficulties. A series of mini survival adventures. And so that's where the rest of the film is played out. Watching the drifter get sicker and drier and more dehydrated whilst he awaits the return of the driver and truck.

He is far too far from civilisation to change his mind and start off on foot - and even so, the driver assures him that he's coming (via a satellite phone he's left with the drifter). At one point he is approached by a travelling desert woman, or two, and works hard to refuse her help and not reveal the gold or it's location - with traumatic outcomes.

Zac Efron plays the drifter and as time goes on, he looks more and more battered by the climate, flies, dogs and the events which occur. He is made up to look dreadful, but presumably in keeping with how somebody in that situation would end up appearing. Most of the film is actually a one-man show and he pulls it off very well. He's engaging and convincing in what he has been asked to portray.

There are some twists and turns to enjoy in this very capable, if slow-burning (in more than one meaning) thriller. It is slow, with dialogue limited, in order to help the audience get a little feeling of how the experience was for him - so you need to be alright with that. There are tragic events and surprising outcomes with messages about trust, the darker side of human nature, greed (of course) and the price of taking risks with one's life for money. I thought it was well worth sticking with and ended up enjoying it very much. Recommended.

Monday, 10 April 2023

Luck (2022)

This is a charming film from Skydance Animation (largely staffed by ex-Disney artists, it seems), perfect for kids and family entertainment with lovely animation, characters, voices and an interesting storyline. My only real complaint is that it's about 15 minutes too long.

It's a story about good luck and bad luck and how that is managed for humans by the creatures in charge of it over at the Land of Luck! Leprechauns, unicorns, dragons and many other beings do their best to ensure that the flow of luck, good and bad, gets to the humans on earth in order to keep the equilibrium.

Sam was an orphan and we join the tale as she faces her last day at the Home for Girls in New York and has to make her way in the world, now 18, with a new bedsit, job and learning schedule. She's unlucky. She never got assigned a Forever Family in all the years there and everything she does or touches, goes wrong! She's determined though that little orphan Hazel will not end up the same as her, so heads off to change her luck - and pass it onto her.

Which she seems to do by bumping into a talking black cat who floats around between earth and the Land of Luck! Sam finds a 'penny' on the ground and reels off the old saying 'find a penny, pick it up, all day long you'll have good luck'. Which then forms the infrastructure that the Land of Luck (kind of) works on! Anyway, she loses it - then has to rely on the black cat to get her to the Land of Luck in order to get another.

We then enter the middle of the film and stay there, mostly, as Sam tries to hide the fact that she's a human and passes herself off as a giant leprechaun from Latvia! The Land of Luck is a virtual machine, with all the cute creatures doing their bit towards the common goal - a bit like Willie Wonka's Chocolate Factory or the Magical Workshop at the North Pole in Santa Claus: The Movie. You get the idea. So, the adventure begins, ducking and diving between good luck and bad luck, trying hard to do the right thing and rescuing each other from perilous situations and events. It's all good fun, but just goes on too long!

Sam is delightfully voiced by Eva Noblezada, Bob the cat by Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead, The World's End, Guest House Paradiso) playing with accents, Babe the dragon by Jane Fonda (Barbarella, 9 to 5, Klute) and the Captain by Whoopy Goldberg (Ghost, Sister Act, Star Trek). They all do a fine job and add to the magic, fantasy and fun of the whole outing.

Those looking for a 'message' from the film won't have to think much - how luck influences our lives, how people can overcome not having it - or worse having the bad stuff - how, by maintaining a positive attitude you can overcome life's challenges, lucky or not, the importance of friendships and loyalty, altruism - and how we can rise above obstacles in our way, regardless. The usual 'Disney' kind of heart-warming, fluffy stuff you'd expect! It's a reasonable enough film, pretty well put together with, of course, an unfeasible storyline, but it's sure to charm the sock off little blighters on many Boxing Days to come, who will be glued to the screen.

Sunday, 9 April 2023

The Vanishing (2018)

The mystery of the Flannan Isles is a fascinating one, as are most mysteries! Three lighthouse keepers, a century ago, disappeared. No explanation ever discovered, only clues as to what was left behind. Obviously, as there nobody left to tell the story, this drama is just that - a creation by story writers and chain of events that might have happened. I guess any one of us could cook up a story of our own on this basis, but here, I think, it's been done pretty well - making for an often tense thriller.

If you want to read the background to the actual incident, there's a deep-dive over at Wikipedia, well worth a visit. The writers here have made this one into a tale of greed, theft, regret, violence, revenge, mental illness and opportunity. The opportunity being that the three of them stumble over something very valuable which washes up ashore on their wind-swept, storm-battered rock. The initial negotiations between them are very much about what they are going to do about it, how they could keep it and not be uncovered, establishing the seniority and pecking-order between them for us. We've seen this before of course, in excellent films like Shallow Grave (1994), Fargo (1996), A Simple Plan (1998), No Country for Old Men (2007) and many more. The audience initially feels the euphoria of good fortune with the characters which often turns to reality orientation followed by anxiety, paranoia, mistrust and danger amongst friends in these films.

We get a brief background of the characters prior to the action and the first quarter of the film is rather slow because of that. Getting a feel for the isolation of the job, the people left behind for their 6-week stint and the financial strife that most families in the community endure, often not having enough to feed themselves. We find out about disasters and trauma in the lives of the three and how events have made them what they are - and where they have ended up.

Thomas, James and Donald are played admirably by Peter Mullan (Ozark, Tyrannosaur), Gerard Butler (Plane, Hunter Killer, Greenland) and Connor Swindells (Barbarians), each turning in convincing performances, stretching the actors for our benefit. Director Kristoffer Nyholm (Taboo) keeps things tight for most of the film with occasional forays into scenic appreciation - with a lovely isolated, atmospheric set - and everyday drama too. The middle section of the film is where the action happens and the introduction of a couple more characters, played with equal conviction by Ólafur Darri Ólafsson (Entrapped) and Søren Malling (Men and Chicken).

These new characters bring trouble to our trio and we witness a series of unsavoury scenes in which much unpleasantness is dished out with shocking outcomes. These events lay the groundwork for the remaining quarter of the film as we observe first hand the impact on the people who remain. The bleak trauma of the events has a big impact on them all, with tragic consequences, bring the story writers' idea together - as to how the real-world mystery may have come about.

There were some clues left behind, some of which feature in the film and become weaved into the tale, but much meandering and freehand is also employed for dramatic effect. Still, this idea is as good as any and I really enjoyed this film, story and take on what really might have happened in amongst this mystery. Highly recommended.

Monday, 3 April 2023

Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey (2023)

This low-budget thriller/horror is really quite a scream! It would be easy to criticise it and throw it straight into Flop of the Fortnight, but for what it is, it's a bit of a hoot. And what it is, is another of those Friday night, after the pub films, which everyone with a few beers in them will half-watch, then pay attention to the occasional nudity, gore and violence!

Don't get me wrong, the acting is terrible, the handheld camerawork lousy and the story is incredibly similar to the previously mentioned Curse of Humpty Dumpty 2 - in fact, I'm completely convinced that it's the same set, same forest location, same props and even same caravans! So much so, that I'm looking through for common actors or crew - and sure enough, half the cast is the same! They probably made them at the same time!

Anyway, back to the film and we get a 5 minute background summary animation to set up the plot - Christopher Robin has deeply offended Pooh, Eeyore (who gets eaten by the rest of them), Piglet and Rabbit by abandoning them having previously fed them in the forest (and they are starving). They seek revenge for this on any humans who happen along.

And guess what? Five 17 year-old teen girls happen along. They need to 'get away from it all' so plan a cabin holiday with no mobile phones allowed! And so the grizzly violence begins as one-by-one the teens, between some brief nudity and bikini titillation scenes, end up dead in all sorts of gory and bloody ways! Some of it is actually quite well imagined and executed - most of it not!

The creatures, at the outset agree never to talk again, so that saves them having to work out voices, though Piglet's squeal is hilarious! The costumes, not so, I'm afraid (just like Humpty Dumpty). All very silly and looking like pantomime (man in a suit with mask).

The message, if it needs one, is about broken promises. If you make a promise, keep it. If you don't, you'll get your comeuppance - and going by this, everyone around you! So yes, have a beer, fire it up and enjoy - for what it is! And good for them, making a fast-buck from very little. Probably a bunch of students!

Saturday, 1 April 2023

PodHubUK Podcasts for the Month of March 2023

...a roundup of our month of podcasting. Links to the team, communities and podcast homes on the net at the foot, so scroll down!

Whatever Works
Episode 181 - The Sexagenarian!
Friday 3rd March
Aidan and I are back again to pound your eardrums with a probable potpourri of pentinculated planktitudes! Hope you enjoy our blend of claptrap again as we discover Whatever Works for us and you! Ninja kitchen gear, TikTok Vices going both ways(!), clever clocks, Otoscopes and much more! How could you miss the fun?!

Phones Show Chat
Episode 738 - Cracking Open a Fold
Saturday 4th March
Another two-header this week as Steve and I launch headlong into our first real look at a Samsung Galaxy Fold. I compare with my Flip3 whilst Steve compares too - his Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max with the Sony Xperia 1 Mk.IV. Loads of other stuff too, so do dive in!

Projector Room
Episode 133 - Living in Slumberland
Wednesday 8th March
Gareth, Allan and I are back again for our fortnightly roundup of all things film, cinema and TV. This time we take a Fall doing Jui Jitsu, visit Hangar 18 with Robert Vaughn, go to a screening at the Empire of Light and hang out Where the Spies Are! Plus loads more, as always!

Phones Show Chat
Episode 739 - Chipset Masterclass
Saturday 11th March
This week Steve and I welcome back the ever-popular Mike Warner, so we get all techy, nerdy and geeky with all sorts of under the bonnet goodies in mobile - cracking stuff. Plenty more too for mere mortals, as always! It's a bit long, so forget the coffee - make up a flask!

Tech Addicts Podcast
Sunday 12th March
Gareth and I are here again this weekend with yet another trail through tech! This time we look forward to new Pixels, reflect on MWC, think about the Razr and Rizr, go 2400nits, 300W Charging, learn more about PWAs, iSIMs and even CryoFlux! Loads more, as always, so do join us!

Whatever Works
Episode 182 - A Load of Balls!
Friday 17th March
Ailin' Aidan and I are back again with another of our fortnightly roundups of Whatever Works for us and you! This time we Inhale and Purify, go Boxing Bamboo, play Extreme Golf with Gareth and even have time to lust over Lanterns and Lights! Plus loads more as always!

Phones Show Chat
Episode 740 - A Z Fold4 for Mum?!
Saturday 18th March
Steve  and I are back with another weekly roundup of what we're up to with phones and related gear! This time we're joined by PSC first-timer Irfan Ali, hear about his path through mobile and what he uses now. I'm still transfixed by the Fold4 and Steve tinkers with the Flip4 too!

Projector Room
Episode 134 - The Last of Us
Thursday 23rd March
Gareth, Allan and I are back again to once more natter about all things film, cinema and TV. As Wiseguys, we screen Luther, are treated with Rutger Hauer, Flop out with a Nymph - and with more coming soon! Loads more as always, so do join us!

Phones Show Chat
Saturday 25th March
Steve and I welcome back Ian Furlong of CoolSmartPhone to natter for an hour about what he's up to and trying out. Lots covered, heavily Samsung with Folds and Flips but also a sprinkling of Magic too!

Tech Addicts Podcast
Sunday 26th March
Gareth and I are back for another fortnightly roundup of stuff in tech that's caught our eyes. This time it's loads of Rugged Tablets, Retroid Gaming, aCropalypse confusion and one of us at least becomes a SuperFan! Loads more as always, so do join us.

Whatever Works
Episode 183 - Ping Aidan's Bell!
Thursday 30th March
Here we are again then, Aidan and I with a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down! Loads of stuff as always, from Tesco Robots to UFOs, Quad Locks to Time Projection, Contemplation to Grating with Good Grips and oodles more! Just come and dive in for an hour to cheer up your day.

The Infernal Machine (2022)

This mystery thriller has been created by relative newbie director/writer Andrew Hunt which takes the  viewer on a roundabout trip in the co...