It (2017)

The 2017 adaptation of Stephen King’s book and a film from 1990. ‘It’ is the creepy clown film; the one clown film that everyone knows about; the clown and the red balloon. Set in the summer of 1989, children have started disappearing in the town of Derry. One group of friends band together with one commonality, they are all the victims of a bully. ‘It’ isn’t just about the horrors of a clown, there are a lot of villains in this film – parents and bullies. These villains seem to be more powerful to execute horror in the film than the actual clown in my opinion.

The film is very character driven; driven by what the characters are going to do lead by one boy’s drive to find his missing brother. I have to admit some characters do seem to have an irrelevance in the film, they’re there but there isn’t really any reason to why they are there. Maybe it’s just to make up the numbers. Anyway, this young group take it upon themselves to defeat the ugliness creeping round in the sewers while multiple children are still being taken and fears are exposed in front of their eyes.

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The main three, Bill (Jaeden Martell), Beverly (Sophia Lillis) and Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor), are great characters. You definitely feel the emotions of these characters and predominantly they hold a lot of the horror as you fear for their lives. Bill’s missing brother plotline is heart-breaking, to the point where his speeches and desperate need to find little Georgie was heart-wrenching, nearly bringing me to tears. Beverly is an interesting character – where the children are all supposed to be 13, she definitely does seem years older, and I’m really not sure whether that was incidental or on purpose. When Beverly goes home you discover her home life is one tragic and soul-destroying, where you just pray she’ll find safety and solace. Finally, Ben is a character most victimised by the bullies of the school, where they result in extreme violence against the poor boy and you really feel his fear bursting through the screen.

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‘It’ is an incredibly long film – it feels longer than it actually is. There are moments of horror, but because it is solely revolved around the characters, there are a lot of gaps where the clown is neither present nor lingering, so the horror tends to drift away at these moments. I also thought the jump scares would be scarier than they actually were. When it came down to it, I do believe the other villains of the film were scarier than Pennywise the clown – maybe that’s because they are real and could be true in society, compared to a clown that opens it mouth up into a thousand teeth or morphs into different beings. It is a good film and obviously has kept its legendary name throughout literature history, it probably will still be the best well-known clown film. Nevertheless, it wasn’t as good as I thought it’s been hyped up to be. I thought more tension would echo throughout the film constantly rather than being so blocked. The horror wasn’t as up there as I would have presumed. Nonetheless, I don’t think I would like Pennywise knocking around my town any time soon.

Fractured (2019)

This mystery thriller follows a family of three on their return home from Thanksgiving with the in-laws. However, they never quite make it home when an accident occurs at a pit stop construction site. Instead, they spend their next few hours at the nearest hospital, Kirkbride Regional Hospital, where six-year-old Peri Monroe (Lucy Capri) will be treated for her perhaps fractured arm. As a precaution the young child is sent with her mother, Joanne (‘American Horror Story’s Lily Rabe), to get a scan. The father, Ray (Sam Worthington), waits in agony for his family to return, but when hours pass, he becomes impatient. However, the two have seemed to have gone missing from the hospital leaving the father desperate to find his family once again.

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This is a very good mystery thriller. You’re never really certain of what is going on until the very end. You think one thing, then doubt hits, then you second guess, thinking an opposite extreme, to return to the original thought to again think ‘hmm maybe not’. It is a constant circle of ‘what is happening?’. You do become very absorbed into this mystery, trying to read into every hint on screen to discover what is going on. You may think you know the ending of the whole film and fully get it correct during the film, but you’ll back down on your thoughts as you hesitate becoming uncertain over everything.

The acting is very good, particularly as the main character, Ray Monroe. His character becomes very believable on screen as you see his agony and desperation with his confusion and determination. More plots seem to unravel on screen as the film continues, making the film only more intriguing. You do become very captivated by the mystery. Every character does seem very eerie.

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‘Fractured’ follows a classic old-styled thriller. It’s a simple plot with unnerving potential. The only issue with these sorts of films is that once you’ve seen it once, it becomes difficult to watch again knowing the ending. Although saying this, I did watch it twice and it still held some potential, it just didn’t feel the same as I knew what was going on; instead I tended to read more into the clues and watch some parts of the film that I hadn’t noticed before. After two, I would say that I wouldn’t watch again: there’s only so many times you can watch something when you know the surprise ending. Nevertheless, I would recommend this mystery thriller. It does become very intriguing and everything escalates more and more, the reminder of being in a hospital and the potential of damaged minds is in constant play. Where do you think his family could have gone in this sinister hospital?

Abominable (2019)

I do love an animation – anyone that says that animations are only for children don’t know anything. In China, young Yi (Chloe Bennet) spends her life very busy during her Summer holidays, until she finds a yeti on her roof – yep, a yeti.

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These magical creatures have been living in a world where their existence is unknown, but sadly this young yeti has been captured. In a manic quick escape from the get-go of the film beginning, he ends up in a busy city in China where he finds solace staring at a sign of Mount Everest – his home. Yi and two friends, Peng (Albert Tsai) and Jin (Tenzing Norgay Trainor), venture on a journey to return this yeti back to his home. Their bond between the teenagers and the yeti is wonderful, cute and hilarious.

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‘Abominable’ is a film riddled with meaning, just alike to so many other animations. This animation screams the meaning of family. But it doesn’t feel overdone, it’s perfect in its meaning. With a yeti that doesn’t speak but says so much at the same time and Yi having a complicated present, they find each other at the perfect time for this magical story.

All the meanwhile, the yeti is being hunted down and wanted into captivity once again. This seems to be another theme of the movie – a subtle hint to look after our animals, to look after our planet. In its own beautiful way, the yeti needs looking after, needs to stay in its home – but the film is adventurous and creative in its execution where this doesn’t feel forced.

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This film is magical and wonderful. Is it going to break film history? Probably not. But it is still an enjoyable film in all of its magic and comedy. The yeti is adorable and lovable. The film did make me giggle, sometimes in its random bizarreness, others in its actual hilarity. The adventure is loving and full of meaning with the perfect amount of comedy.

Criminal: Germany (2019)

The third country in ‘Criminal’ I jumped to was Germany.

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The first suspect is Jochen. Asked to come in under false pretences, Jochen becomes extremely defensive when the police discover a body has been dug up from 1991 and their prime suspect is nonother than Jochen himself. Nearly 30 years prior is returned to memory as the detectives try to uncover who killed this buried man. This episode is a very interesting case, accusations are thrown around and Jochen becomes masked in defensive yet revealing tales. It’s an intriguing and fascinating beginning to the suspects in Germany, while more is discovered about the detectives in this interrogation room.

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Episode two explores the suspect of Yilmaz. After Yilmaz’s wife fell down the stairs, the detectives suspect there is more to the story than a simple fall. With an expensive lawyer on his side, all Yilmaz does is sit in silence as his lawyer speaks for him to the detective’s irritation. This episode is very one-sided with the suspect suspended in silence as the detective talks at him. Truly a great episode this one, heart-breaking in its raw reality of victims.

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Lastly, suspect number three is Claudia. From straight off, this woman seems rich in criminality and that is clarified when we discover this suspect is already a convicted murderer and kidnapper of six young girls. This episode is one of the best in the series, I believe. It ends the Germany series off exceptionally with a grand end. The episode is heart-wrenching and desperate, full of tension and risk throughout. There is a strong claustrophobic feel in this interrogation room, especially when you forget about everyone else around and the focus is only drawn on the interviewee and the criminal. This episode also holds a sense of urgency as detectives are desperate in finding one of the victims never found yet murdered and buried twenty years prior. But Claudia won’t give up this information without something in return.

In Germany, ‘Criminal’ is a great series. These suspects are all so unique and are executed phenomenally well. Every episode holds its own merit and adds up to a brilliant series.

Criminal: Spain (2019)

The second country and series segment of three in ‘Criminal’ to be explored, travels to Spain.

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To kick off the interviews in Spain is Isabel. A woman who seems all too happy to talk about what she wants to talk about, but rather confused when the real questions start to get asked. This episode shows a darker side of the detectives – something that hasn’t yet been seen amongst the UK. The detectives, well mostly one, go to extreme measures to finally get the truth out of this woman something quite harsh in my opinion. A dislike is easily placed onto the lap of one detective from the audience, which takes away from the tension of the interrogations.

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Secondly in Spain: Carmen. Carmen’s response is predominantly “I don’t know” or “I can’t remember”. Therefore, the interviewees spend their time trying to crack through her nervous, scared shell. This episode holds a lot of emotion and deep meanings, even when truths are revealed there is more in the story until the very end. It’s a heart-breaking story that I didn’t see coming, really making the audience feel for the suspect as a victim herself. I personally think this episode is the best in Spain.

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The final is Carmelo. Following a darker element in the police, this episode seems to explore the desperation and tension between the detectives instead. A lie is built at the beginning of the episode, it doesn’t seem right straight away from the police, nevertheless they run with the lie to pin down a criminal they’ve been chasing for years. This episode is very much revolving around corruption and irritation of doing the job wrong from the chief inspector. This series seems to reflect a darker side to interrogation rooms, a manipulation that isn’t enjoyed to be watched – rather different from the UK series, Spain seems to reflect more of corruption on both sides of the table. This made it hard to watch and gives a difficulty in liking the characters, instead more sorrow is put onto the suspects and the tables have completely turned.

The United Kingdom definitely tops this series so far! Sadly, Spain wasn’t as nearly as good as the UK series.

Criminal: United Kingdom (2019)

Following on from the review of the new series ‘Criminal’, here is the first country with the first three suspects.

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To begin with let’s start with the United Kingdom. Our first suspect, Edgar – played by the remarkable David Tennant. To kick this series off, this episode is a superb one to start with. This episode holds so much tension even when there are such little words spoken. Words such as “no comment” are left hanging in the room. David Tennant is brilliant in his role, particularly in his ability to hold an audience still for the duration of the episode. Edgar’s episode is one twisted and perverse in the criminal activity. The programme has a powerful execution to feel all the emotions of this poor victim as you should rightfully be disturbed by what happened to her. As the police have found her dead, the interview progresses with Edgar as the prime suspect. Although, whether they were correct in the arrest brings intrigue throughout the episode as stories come alive as you feel you can see what is being said although what remains is just the simplicity of a story being told.

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Second episode brings an emotional tale from Stacey (Hayley Atwell). This episode may have been more predictable in its ending; however, it was still amazing through its duration. This portrayal of Stacey is so brilliantly full of emotion that again you find you become drawn into her stories and the interview process. Stacey’s one to talk, with her defensive attitude she’s quick to tell a story. But she quickly becomes flooded with emotion when truths are exposed amongst the lies. Her sister’s boyfriend has been found poisoned and a case has been opened to find the attempted murderer leaving Stacey in the spotlight.

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To end the interviews in the United Kingdom is Jay. This third and final episode in the UK is one again that holds a lot of silence. Except there is a sense of urgency throughout this episode which lingers and only increases until the very end. There’s a missing truck and what the truck potentially contains is people. Whether they survive remains solely on whether the truck can be found. Of course, it’s not just as easy as asking and locating, especially when the suspect doesn’t quite understand the urgency in the matter. This episode follows closely with the risk of the suspect, differing from the other two previous.

Criminal (2019 – )

This television programme is split into four different named titles, however under the same creator, Jim Field Smith, and follow the same set-up. This anthology series is based in four different countries: United Kingdom, Spain, Germany and France. In each country and individual programme as such, there are three episodes. In each episode is one suspect; one suspect in an interview room under interrogation of a group of detectives (obviously all different detectives in each of the countries). Together across four countries, the series will mount up to twelve episodes each exploring a different criminal case and interviewing a range of suspects.

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Overall, across the series there are standout moments. The cinematography and camera shots are outstanding. Every episode is shot in a simple interview room with an adjoining observation room where other detectives are listening in on the process. We don’t venture out into the real world, but rather remain in the interview room hanging onto every word in hope to find truth. Creating a claustrophobic series trapped in one room with detectives and suspects. Every episode has had me hooked and stuck in silence and stillness. It truly is a phenomenal programme delving into minds of different suspects. The simplicity of small conversations between colleagues or ornaments around the room, even though sparse, tell such a powerful story in this programme which is so clever in its effortlessness – we learn a lot with little said.

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The episodes set in Spain, Germany and France are dubbed over in English. It takes a while to get used to the voice not matching lips moving – for me it was hard to watch to begin with. Regardless, the story lines and characters are still so interesting, it doesn’t take anything away from the series.

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In my opinion, it’s easy to say that the United Kingdom and Germany are the better series by far. Spain and France seem to lack the superb casting and intrigue of the interrogations, there seems to be an avoidance of the interrogations and a move towards the detectives, which comes irritating and unnecessary when the interviews of suspects are more of what the audience can be drawn into. The United Kingdom and Germany seemed to have mastered the balance between the two, also having the more interesting cases where the audience are absorbed into the claustrophobic interrogation room.


Click on each individual link to read the reviews of each series in more detail:

‘Criminal: United Kingdom’

‘Criminal: Spain’

‘Criminal: Germany’

‘Criminal: France’

Joker (2019)

Now I’m a huge fan of Heath Ledger as the best Joker ever to hit the screen. And within The Dark Knight Trilogy, I believe that Heath Ledger is still phenomenal as Batman’s greatest nemesis (‘The Dark Knight’ review here). Nevertheless, in this background story Joaquin Phoenix as the Joker is outstanding. He becomes the character in a multitude of ways. His look is haunting, his laughter echoes in the silent cinema room, his silence makes you sit still. I found myself frozen in my seat, unnerved by what this Joker by succumb to, waiting for the final snap.

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Pinpointing the actual plot of the film comes down to two words: character development. The film is what it says on the tin, it is about the Joker through and through. His life, his development, his road to violence. The whole film is full of tension. Arthur Fleck, aka the Joker, is incredibly unnerving. The unpredictability of this character is haunting. Although at the same time, there is a victimisation of the villain – he’s been rejected from society, horrifically beaten and abandoned. It’s heart-breaking at times with a condition that seems to get him worse into trouble, you feel for Arthur as he’s ridiculed and misunderstood. The background story with this mother only deepens throughout the film and adds to Arthur’s misery as he discovers more about himself. This story was inviting to be discovered and draws you in to find out more.

All Arthur wants is to fulfil his mother’s given nickname of ‘Happy’. He wants to give people joy and laughter, to put smiles on people’s faces. But with a multitude of psychological problems, he finds it’s not as easy as he has always believed. His nickname becomes ironic in his hatred of life and misery of everything. His uncontrollable laughter becomes a result of ignorance and hate. His mask is his clown and he becomes the clown to set the crazy world right but into deeper chaos.

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There is a connection to the Wayne family. However, this was something I didn’t want to be obsessively covered and happily it wasn’t. The nod to the family and little Bruce Wayne is enough to keep the film separate from all the other franchises and adds development into both families. If it went any further I believe the ‘Joker’ would become a film retelling a story already told – fortunately they knew their limits to make the film different but still having a nod to Batman which you can read into as much as you wish and not have it forced upon you.

As a stand-alone film, ‘Joker’ could continue as a phenomenal film. Add anything to it and I’m worried it’ll lose all meaning and be lost amongst a mass once again. I may have missed the comedy that others laughed at, but I was lost in the psychological thriller and drama of this character we know so little of. The film has given a deeper meaning to the reasons behind, but an unnerving, unknown understanding to his happy ending. There’s a clear snap but the audience can understand why, even though his violence is extreme and shocking, it was a society that has been leading him that way for too long and he’s finally found his meaning to life. Perverse and deep in meaning, ‘Joker’ is definitely a psychological thrilling drama trying to come to grips with this complex character as a victim and as a villain brought as one. Additionally, I will always welcome Robert De Niro to my screen.

Jessica Jones (Season Three)

Since Disney owns Marvel and Disney have declared all that they own must come off Netflix; the end of the Netflix Marvel combos have been brought to a sudden, unwanted end: ‘Daredevil’, ‘Luke Cage’, ‘The Defenders’, ‘The Punisher’ and lastly, but not at all least, ‘Jessica Jones’. Our favourite badass superhero, who never asked for her strength but lies in the underbelly of New York in her PI skulking taking on villains creeping in the darkness. If you’ve never seen any ‘Jessica Jones’ find my review on the first series here. This review will contain spoilers of season one and two. Of course, none from season three though.

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As the last Netflix-Marvel hero standing, ‘Jessica Jones’ final series arrives in 2019. Sadly, I can’t say it begins off well. Since the debacle of Trish’s (Rachael Taylor) decision to kill her best friend’s mother at the end of season two, her and Jessica Jones’ (Krysten Ritter) relationship couldn’t be in a worse state. Trish is extremely irritating at the start of this series, even when they bring an episode from her perspective, it doesn’t work, she’s not likable whatsoever. However, when the plot finally kicks in (you do have to fight through the first few episodes), it starts getting good extremely quickly. We’ve found a psycho murderer in New York and Jessica takes it upon herself to defeat him when it becomes personal rapidly. She’s joined by a stranger met in the bar, a character who you increasingly like, but throughout the series there’s an intensification of doubt and potential dislike to his complex character.

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One thing after the other, Jessica gets no rest as she’s forced into becoming the hero whether she likes it or not. She’s created a reputation she’s known now. However, she’s still here with her witty comebacks, her blunt personality and her obsessive turn to alcohol. The build on Jessica’s character should be loved in this series as they spend a lot of time developing her character – she’s just as lovable and brilliant as always.

The trailer tells a tale of Gregory Sallinger, a maniac serial killer, but there’s so much more to it than just one villain. We delve deeper into the characters we know so well by now. Introducing new ones, while furthering the originals. Every character has a subsequent plot which eventually tie together but not unnaturally so more cleverly done. There’s twists and turns, but ultimately just a great plot from start (ignoring the first crappy episodes) to finish. Things aren’t easy for Jessica, this isn’t a villain with powers but rather just an ordinary human, but somehow becomes one of the hardest villains to defeat. Particularly when manipulation of the media is an easy target.

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Finally, the cinematography is another standout element. The unique camera angles and the creating of the scene as the underbelly of New York is explored excellently by the camera skills and directing of each episode. Just another reason ‘Jessica Jones’ is different from the flowery essence of other Marvel films or television programmes compared to this gritty style. You feel every emotion throughout the episodes. It is truly well done – again, ignoring the first few episodes because they are boring, but I understand why they were needed in the build-up of the series.

If this is fully the final season we’ll ever see of Jessica Jones, I would be happy in how this season ended. It ends in a harmony in a full circle from season one through to season three. Even a reminder of the voice that controlled Jessica the most returns. A conclusive ending leaving Jessica Jones as the last Netflix-Marvel superhero standing is just right.