Grave Encounters (2011)

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Day 20 of 31

Grave Encounters – (Horror, Supernatural, Found footage,  2011) (18) D: Colin Minihan, Stuart Ortiz and others  P: Shawn Angelski, Michael Karlin and others C: ben Wilkinson, Sean Rogerson, Ashleigh Gryko, Merwin Mondesir. 1h 32m. USA.

Grave Encounters

One of the most easily accessible and favourite found footage horrors, that is literally spread very thickly over YouTube in video’s claiming to have real ghost footage, so I feel like I’ve done myself a disservice by not watching this sooner because it now plays out like a YouTube best ghost clips real and at various points throughout the movie I was in full dejavu mode. Still it’s an uneasy yet engaging supernatural movie. Written and directed by the Vicious Brothers and premiering in 2011, it strives to and succeeded to deliver a few new haunts to the found footage genre.

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JOKER: Movie Review

Written by Tyrone Bruinsma

Joker (2019 film) poster.jpg

Okay, the entire controversy over this film is kind of stupid. It’s not a filmmaker’s responsibility to worry about the psychotic potential murderers out there. We shouldn’t police art because someone who doesn’t value human life wants to project their own twist ideology onto it. Catcher in the Rye didn’t say “Murder John Lennon”,  Taxi Driver didn’t say “Murder a Politician” and The Dark Knight Rises didn’t say “Murder Innocent People”. And films/media are allowed to depict and explore horrible characters.
Taxi Driver, In a Lonely Place, Goodfellas, A Clockwork Orange, Breaking Bad, There Will Be Blood, Nightcrawler, Avengers: Infinity War, Maniac, Silence of the Lambs, Dracula and more ALL made lead characters with human sides out of horrible people. I’d argue it’s better to explore evil characters than lionise characters like James Bond (because those movies make it clear he’s good but let him get away with some very unethical things).
Also depiction does not equal glorification (otherwise, how can you criticise?) and this is NOT a children’s film. We clear? Okay.

DC Comics after the poor responses to Batman v Superman, Suicide Squad and Justice League (though I liked the former 2) has been making moves to have a more unique catalogue. Aquaman was a fun, colourful and pulpy Flash Gordon style film, Shazam! was an 80’s/90’s superhero films for kids with enough edge, Birds of Prey looks like a fun and junkie crime film with mostly women, Wonder Woman 1984 looks like…I don’t know what that’s gonna be, but I’ll bet it’s great. And of course Joker, a one-shot (probably) dark, else world’s DC story in which DC can explore new versions of classic characters without ties to its pre-existing continuity. To be honest, I rather like the idea that DC will have multiple universes as to feel different to the tightly controlled MCU.

And despite all the controversy that didn’t pop until…I don’t know, political commentators ran out of things to complain with Disney supposedly controlling everything or It: Chapter 2’s overly loved villain being a villain-Joker is amazing. I know Todd Philips has been being somewhat childish in the press in stating “Joker is how you sneak a real film into the superhero Hollywood system” as a dismissive “Marvel superhero films suck” statement, but Joker is great and more so that it’s a big studio film actually making a film this depressing, violent and uncomfortable out of their popular license. Let’s not mince words people, The Joker is one of the defining on screen villains to rival Darth Vader, Hannibal Lecter and Hans Gruber. So seeing a version without explosions, Batman or trying to be a Deadpool style comedy is refreshing. This might be one of the most shocking mainstream studio films that people will see, feeling akin to Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu’s The Revenant, Gore Verbinski’s A Cure for Wellness or Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan.

Speaking of Darren Aronofsky, if there’s one other filmmaker that Joker takes influence from besides Martin Scorsese (namely Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy), it’s Aronofsky. Scenes, environments and scenarios feel pulled straight out of Pi and Requiem for a Dream-with the vibe of the film feeling like the Batman Year One film Aronofsky almost made. The film doesn’t feel like any other superhero film, it’s directed for discomfort and exaggerated realism. The camera work and score create a sense of distancing from Joaquin Phoenix’s Arthur/Joker as we’re afraid to get too close to this man.

And it needs to be made clear, Joaquin Phoenix is amazing here. I’m not gonna argue “who is the best Joker” between Jack Nicolson, Mark Hamill or Heath Ledger with Phoenix. All give their own unique spin and it works. Phoenix’s Joker obviously pulls from the depressing/one bad day side in The Killing Joke, but it takes elements we take for granted about the Joker and gives them true meaning. It makes his laugh little more than a sad, pathetic cry in response to abuse. His clowning nature comes from the mentality of making people smile. Even his use of violence came from a place of just wanting to protect himself. These of course humanise, but don’t glorify or endorse him. It’s clear that before the movie starts, he’s not ok. He’s already been in a mental establishment, is on WAY too many drugs and has a bad life. Unfortunately, he’s pushed by society and seeks no ‘real’ help for himself.

The film is almost a self prophecy for Joker to wear the dark cruelty and humor of the world. Society’s biased system broke and mocked him for being broken and so he lashes out. While not intending to be a political idol, Joker’s desire of being a comedian in the story is always about exposing the truths of society and making us laugh at them.

The question over Joker’s moral/political stance is a complex and nuanced answer. Joker shows the issues with systematic, classist oppression and also what happens when we decide to not help ourselves. The world of the Joker is that of a world built by the rich, to mock the poor. But Joker doesn’t seek to rise above, be a positive symbol or change things…he’s so mental broken that his lashing out almost justifies the system he hates. It’s a really unique dynamic for any film, let alone a mainstream comic book adaptation to question. One that says it’s not just everyone or just an individual – it’s a feedback loop.

Ultimately, I loved the film’s dark angle in exploring and examining these subjects. I think people need to not view it as a black or white film, but one that you discuss for hours to try and understand.

On the base level: its performances by the supporting cast (especially Zazie Beets and Robert De Niro) are great, the storytelling is well done, its score is really chilling, the cinematography and colours by Lawrence Sher (The Hangover, Godzilla: King of the Monsters) is excellent and it overall was a film I loved.

There’s a few connections to the extended DC universe in that Thomas Wayne is a prominent character and Bruce shows up for two scenes (in a plot point I think was a dig at films like Spectre) and only the second instance being rather egregious, but does show the feedback loop theme what would make Arthur into Joker and Bruce into Batman. There’s also (possibly) a reference to The Ratcatcher, but I don’t think so.

The main dislike is while the final scene is effective and disturbing, I wish the film had ended in the prior scene.

My main talking point about the film’s willingness to go violent, go disturbing in terms of a more mainstream film. I’m used to it from the niche, off-beat genre entries…but it’s so shocking coming from a studio feature with this much money and licensing involved. It’s not Deadpool levels of gore, but it’s the restraint kept mostly throughout that gives the punches their impact.

I highly recommend seeking this out.

AD ASTRA: Movie Review

Written by Tyrone Bruinsma

Ad Astra - film poster.jpg

For the record: Ad Astra refers to the phrase “Per aspera ad astra” which means “Through hardships to the stars”. Thus making As Astra = To the Stars. Just in case you wanted to know the meaning of the title.

Anyway, Ad Astra is the latest big budget studio space movie in a fairly successful modern string with the likes of Gravity, Interstellar, The Martian, the Alien prequels, Life and Passengers. This time it’s Brad Pitt as an astronaut sent to save the world by finding his possibly dead astronaut father near Neptune who went missing on a research vessel involving anti-matter. Despite all the space and sci-fi material, the story is about an emotionally damaged man with father issues seeking revolution. You could take this narrative and do it as a cowboy trying to find his father in a desert or a scientist finding their parent in a missing jungle. It’s just the space setting allows for a sense of true loneliness, which is important in letting Brad Pitt be a one man show.

Actually, quick aside. Can we stop with all the “daddy issues” or “I need to find my father” plots? I know it doesn’t hurt this film, but it’s frustrating that almost every film is a character having fatherly hang ups. In this story, it’s handled well and nuanced and how you actually deal with morally grey father figures…but when it’s almost every story-it’s boring. I don’t know if every writer/filmmaker in Hollywood has daddy issues, or issues with their children or is it the same cliché being pulled out. Because it’s the plot element that killed Pirates of the Caribbean 5 and the Tomb Raider reboot. It manages to be nuanced enough here, but I REALLY want the story element to go away until more interesting things can be said.

Back to the film.

The number one thing about Ad Astra is it’s probably the best looking film this year that isn’t rendering giant monsters. James Gray has had a mostly Luke-warm track record in films like We Own the Night and The Lost City of Z, but here proves to be worthy of modern storytelling and technical masters. Of course, a lot of the heavy lifting is done by recent Christopher Nolan cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema (Let the Right One In, The Fighter, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Her, Interstellar, Spectre, Dunkirk) who turns in a unique looking and gorgeous visual spectacle. I’m hard-pressed to fully know what was CGI and what were practical effects. The film feels real in the same way 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Martian did, making it a great experience.

The acting’s great across the board with Brad Pitt trying Matt Damon for the “I can be alone in space and be amazing” award. I’m sure there’ll be Oscar buzz for him and the film towards the end of the year and it’s deserved. Just be aware that most of the film is told in monologue from the Terrence Mallick school of narration. The rest of the cast feel mostly like extended cameos, but Tommy lee Jones, Donald Sutherland and especially Ruth Negga do well with the material.

As Astra isn’t a “fun” watch, but it’s one of those emotional and engaging dramatic adventure flicks. Starts out like Gravity, goes into 2001, then goes into stuff I’m not gonna spoil. But the closest thing to this film is the 2002 Steven Soderbergh remake of Solaris starring George Clooney in that they’re both big sci-fi movies about humanity and emotional issues with a solo winning performance.

I highly recommend this if you’re ok with a slower paced, emotionally focused sci-fi adventure than an adrenaline thrill ride.

Short Film Review: CONFESSION [By Lark Lee]

Written by Tyrone Bruinsma

Image may contain: one or more people and text

Last night I had the privilege of being invited to a private screening to see a directorial effort by  Lark Lee (Goldstone, Harrow), a Korean-Australian actress who has been consistently working for several years and recently been making a push towards directing and writing. Frankly the level of creative growth has been awe inspiring to see, she’s clearly learned working under directors like Ivan Sen and Catriona McKenzie in developing an incredibly strong visual and directorial voice unique to her. All I can say is I’m excited to see where she’ll go as an actor, director or writer in the near future as Australia’s push for female voices in the industry and variety in content is the open door she needs to show her talent.

Now, Confession is basically a prank version of your typical short film. The classic set up of a man talking to a therapist about murders he’s committed is told through visual language that any audience could be fooled into believing they were watching a straight forward thriller. I mean the opening sequence has a similar feel to Christopher Nolan’s famous short film Doodlebug, so for a moment thanks to the visual language and Joey Vieira’s  powerful performance-I bought into it as a thriller (forgetting I was expecting the joke). That’s actually one of the best elements of this film, Lark’s use of visual language, plus Vieira’s performance-makes the film look and feel like your typical dramatic thriller. But Lark’s use of timing, direction and writing for comedic effect is on point. Calls to mind the skills of directors like Shane Black, Joel and Ethan Coen or David F Sandberg. It’s really impressive stuff.

Speaking of the performers-Joey Vieira (Dora and the Lost City of Gold, San Andreas) is a powerhouse performance here. Like I said, half of the joke in making this dramatic thriller comedic is his acting. The film’s dramatic execution basically represent the point of view of his character of Mr Grey. It’s why the film works so well as a short, one subversive joke of the thriller genre-executed to as close to perfect as you’re going to get. Seriously, if Joey isn’t given a major role in an upcoming blockbuster-I’ll be disappointed. The other performances are stellar, Lark giving herself a smaller role-but still having all the grace and comedic timing required for this film. Then there’s Marika Marosszeky (Freudian Slip), who is just hilarious in film as the therapist Dr Kym. Lark’s direction of her actors brings Marika’s comedic ability perfect, making her basically the audience surrogate as we laugh along with her.

It’s also just a well made film from direction, cinematography, colour grading, sound design, music, production design and even some snazzy credits.

Confession isn’t a big film or an ambitious film, but like some of the best shorts-it aims to do one thing very well as a comedic take on the thriller genre, while being a showcase for some great directing and acting.

It’s currently doing the rounds at Film Festivals, so check the Facebook page ( when it’s screening. If you can’t make the screening-check it out upon it’s online release. The actors all deserve to continue in growing their presence in the industry and Lark Lee I hope will become a prominent voice in cinema.



Written by Tyrone Bruinsma

Fast & Furious Presents Hobbs & Shaw - theatrical poster.jpg

In 2001: The Fast and Furious was released. The film was little more than a Point Break clone with surfing replaced for street racing. And somehow-over the course of 18 years: the series would evolve into a save the world ensemble story and become the 10th highest grossing film franchise of all time. Now, it’s got a spin-off and this movie…is pretty awesome fun.

Hobbs and Shaw basically takes the two recent, popular and bankable stars of the prior films-Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham respectively, and just makes them go up against another save the world plot. It’s be like if the Han Solo Star Wars film happened immediately after Return of the Jedi instead of waiting 30 years. Both lead actors are really fun and charming, having extremely great chemistry that gives me hope in this as an ever lasting side series. Meanwhile, Vanessa Kirby who showed up recently as the daughter to Max from Mission Impossible in Mission Impossible Fallout turns in a really strong performance-while also just being badass. And while all the side characters and cameos are fun, I’m mostly a fan of Idris Elba as the main villain. He’s a cybernetically enhanced super soldier (aka “Black Superman”) who identifies as a villain and wants to help save the world still. To me, this is a show of:
1. Idris Elba being a great actor
2. A great villain character who isn’t cartoonish or glorified
3. His potential in James Gunn’s Suicide Squad film
4. Hope for a Black Superman in the DC movies

Now, I could tell you the plot…but the plot is much like the Mission Impossible movies, they don’t matter. The plot exists to create conflict, action and teach characters some lessons. Whoever complains about the plot…clearly isn’t the right audience for this. This film feels more like an 80’s action film, the plot only exists to get our big awesome leads to do big awesome action scenes. Think Commando or Predator or The Running Man, we’re not there for an interesting plot-but for Arnold Schwarzenegger to do awesome stuff.

Because let’s get this straight, the movie is an AWESOME action ride. It’s fun, inventive, engaging and incredibly well done with plenty of variety in its action. Gunfights, brawls, chases, rescues and possibly one of the mad bad ass showdown in the rain fights since The Matrix Revolutions. That’s all thanks to David Leitch. Leitch is one of the two stuntmen turned director who helmed the original John Wick, but while Chad Stahelski stayed in the awesome John Wick world-David expanded. He did the awesome Atomic Blonde, the very good Deadpool 2 and his next film will be the Ubisoft video game movie The Division starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Jessica Chastain. Leitch knows how to shoot every action scene in this movie. Perfectly using wides, reversals, slow-motion, close ups and visual gags to create what might be the most Michael Bay film…that Bay never directed. So credit must also be paid to cinematographer Jonathan Sela, who went from directing John Moore trash like The Omen, Max Payne and A Good Day to Die Hard…to Transformers: The last Knight and Leitch’s other films-so clearly he was just missing better directors.

Speaking of visual comedy, this movie is just really REALLY funny. The dialogue has that 80’s movie punch, the action is less tragic and more hilarious and all the actors work well in that realm. While sometimes the main franchise gets very very serious, Hobbs and Shaw is probably the most enjoyable laugh out loud hilarious of the whole series.

And true to the whole Fast and Furious franchise, this movie talks about family. Not as cemented in the word usage, but in the dynamics, characterisations and emotions. It’s a film about how running from family can leave you somewhat cold and detached, how if repairs can be made-try. Don’t run from your problems, confront them and be proud of your heritage. I think it’s a pretty message.

So, if you’re not interested in any of the horror films or don’t wanna waste your money on an expensive remake with no other value, and just want a fun movie to enjoy-go for it.


Written by Tyrone Bruinsma

5. BLACKHAT [3 Way Shootout]
Blackhat poster.jpg
Most of you probably forgot this film existed. It’s ok, it was a box office bomb, mauled by critics and pulled from a bunch of regions-but I’m one of its supporters. It’s a Michael Mann neo noir thriller involving hackers, and if you’re a Michael Mann fan like I am-you’re familiar with his great action scenes in Last of the Mohicans, Heat, Collateral, Miami Vice and Public Enemies. Blackhat has only a few great sequences, one being the final showdown with knives and a sequence where Mann can make only two points of action exciting. But the best scene in the film is a 3 way shootout between the main heroes, the bad guys and Chinese police, with geography perfectly outlined and the sound kicked really well. There’s rising tension, weapons feel dangerous and the dread is palpable. If you didn’t see this film, watch at least this.

A graphic promotional film poster
Mission Impossible is a film series with amazing set pieces since the original’s Langley Heist. Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation has 3-the opening which is a masterwork of comedy, the entire second act finale with 3 set pieces in one, but it’s the Opera sequence that’s the best. It was the most difficult to pull off for the team, but the effort shows. The goal is clear, the geography handled perfectly, the stakes are high and the music playing in the opera keeps everything running perfectly. Tense, sexy, action packed and visually imaginative-it’s awesome.

3. THE REVENANT [Opening Battle]
The Revenant 2015 film poster.jpg
This film is one of the most thrilling experiences in cinema, combined with pure artistry. From the famous bear attack, to that horse chase and final knife fight-this movie hit the perfect mark for me with its opening sequence. A Native American ambush on pelt traders with clear geography (the foundation for any great set piece), brutal kills, excellent performances, a haunting tone and some of the best cinematography ever put to screen. Most of you have seen this one and know exactly what I’m talking about.

2. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD [War Boys V.S Buzzards]
The two protagonist point guns in different directions. The title is seen in the background.
This entire movie could count as an extended chase scene set piece, but I’m not gonna cheat. Every action scene in this movie is perfection, but to pick the best one-I’ll go from the sequence where the Russian Buzzards show up to when the Sandstorm is about to hit. That sequence shows us a ton of characterisation, world building, has some tension in that there’s the buzzards, Furiosa and her unaware war boys, and Immortan Joe’s war boys. It’s the first huge set piece of the best action film ever made, and it’s done perfectly. Cinematography, geography, pacing, violence, stunts, effects and score.

1. SICARIO [Border Shootout]
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Despite the score and scale of the other films, Sicario was the one with the best set piece. It’s a film that has continued to grow on me from merely a very good film, to a soft masterpiece. And even with the opening raid and final “Dinner with the Devil’ scene, the border shootout was the ultimate scene of all 2015. First there’s the intense and insanely Hitchcockian build up of the retrieval mission, and only at the last minute does the ambush by the bad guys happen. And when it happens, it’s no Matrix lobby shootout or Saving Private Ryan massacre-it’s a continued stand off with executions. It plays more like a horror film with frightening jump scares thanks to  Denis Villeneuve’s direction, Roger Deakin’s cinematography and pitch perfect performances.


Written by Tyrone Bruinsma

5. THE NEON DEMON [The Eyeball]
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2016 wasn’t short on good horror sequences: Don’t Breathe (The twist), Blair Witch (The tunnel sequence) , Lights Out (The neon sign, The Void (The monster birth), Train to Busan (Most of the film), 10 Cloverfield Lane (The 3rd act) and The Shallows (The final confrontation) all had their moments-but The Neon Demon had the most disturbing moment of the year. This fairly subdued (for the first half at least) art house thriller quickly turns into a Giallo slasher for the last act and has some intense scenes of gore (with the narrative clearly being witchcraft) where upon one model who ate another model for her beauty pukes up an eyeball and dies…before another model eats that eyeball. It’s a really messed up, but fun scene in a movie with a few of those.

4. SHIN GODZILLA [Final Shot]
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This Godzilla is not exactly the equally to Legendary’s reboot in 2014 (mostly due to the political board meeting stuff) but it has a great opening, great sequences of Godzilla storming Japan and one absolutely amazing sequence where they almost one up the Godzilla laser breath scene from 2014 with a multiple laser light show. But the killer part has to be the last shot where the frozen and defeated Godzilla’s tail is revealed to be peeling dozens and theoretically hundreds/thousands of mini Godzilla beings. Like that frozen image is haunting and chilling and then the credits roll. Like, that is AWESOME! What a way to end a Godzilla film. Too bad they may not even follow up on this if reports are to be believed that Toho will instead try an MCU Godzilla-verse. But I hope they include this as the start. If not-hey, it was good.

Official poster shows the Avengers team factions which led by Iron Man and Captain America, confronting each other by looking each other, with the film's slogan above them, and the film's title, credits, and release date below them.
While I wasn’t as high on this film as many others were-I have to admit the Airport battle (and the final showdown) was really fun. While not visually engaging in colours or scope, it’s fun to see heroes we’ve seen for years or ones we’ve just met have this fun chatty brawl. All the powers clashing, the drama and humor balanced and the sound design letting hits play out is great. Everyone loves this scene, I’m no different-just wish more of the film was more awesome.

2. ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY [Darth Vader Hallway Fight]
Rogue One, A Star Wars Story poster.png
Rogue One was really fun. The opening was visually dynamic, the skirmish early on was fun, the entire third act battle was really fun…but come on-everyone knows the best scene is the most famous movie villain of all time shredding people left and right in that corridor. Darth Vader has been intimidating since frame one in A New Hope, but it would be a while before we saw him go full murder spree in a movie. The visuals, choreography and execution is one of the best and it ranks up there with some of the best Star Wars scenes like Han and Greedo, the battle of Hoth, the Vader and Luke Duel or Duels of Fate. It’s easily the most iconic action scene of the entire modern Star Wars franchise and it’s awesome.

1. BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE [Batman Warehouse Brawl]
The two titular heroes, Batman and Superman, are confronting each other, with the film's logo behind them, and the film's title, credits, release date and billing below.
Don’t care. Still love this freaking movie. Amazing scenes: the opening credits, Bruce in Metropolis, introduction to Batman, the Future vision, the Batmobile chase, the title fight and the brawl between Doomsday. But no, that Warehouse fight scene is still the best. Yes, it entirely exists because DC saw how popular their Arkham game franchise was. It’s still freaking awesome. The tense build up (with a Zack Snyder cameo as the first guy to get bagged), the relentless pacing, the multiple gadgets and fighting techniques used, plus that amazing score. It’s one of the best hand to hand fight scenes in recent memory that wasn’t CGI heavy, a John Wick film or The Raid movies. I love this movie, love that scene and it’s badass.

MacGuffins – Evolutionary Plot Devices

Written by Tyrone Bruinsma

Ok so if you’ve not seen this video, please do. Watched it? Ok, here’s why I don’t agree.

Quick summary: A MacGuffin is an object or plot element that is important to the plot and tension of the story, but largely interchangeable and unimportant to the audience. Alfred Hitchcock is the one who founded the original concept of this idea, where you build your actual story and the MacGuffin can be anything.

See, Nando seems to be on the right track that the definition of MacGuffins have changed from random useless statues in The Maltese Falcon or the sled in Citizen Kane…but suggesting that The Death Star Plans (A New Hope), The Ark of the Covenant (Indiana Jones) or The Tesseract (The Avengers) aren’t MacGuffins because they’re more important is…kind of wrong headed.

The main argument he has is Alfred Hitchcock established the rules of the MacGuffin…so what? Hitchcock established those rules in 1944 with Notorious, are we supposed to continue using the same filmmaking trope since then and never let it evolve? He argues George Lucas cannot redefine a MacGuffin because someone else established it, even thought Hitchcock doesn’t own the concept and all manner of films from genre to structure can evolve and be changed. George Lucas was a new age thinker of film and largely changed film history with Star Wars, saying that the main mostly responsible for making science fiction films the big blockbuster genre to be respected can’t have a different definition of a MacGuffin feels rather backwards.

Audiences fall out of trends and repeated occurrences, if every MacGuffin is the same: audiences catch on and it’s boring. In 2017’s Justice League, the Mother Boxes are MacGuffins by design of getting the story into motion and being the villain’s goal. They’re also extremely derivative of the Allspark from Transformers and the Tesseract from The Avengers, as they’re just grey boxes of power. They’re still MacGuffins.

Arguing for a different term doesn’t really change them. MacGuffins gaining importance was a way for filmmakers to have the audience feel like they were crucial or essential. Nando’s other argument that MacGuffins can’t have specific rules like The One Ring, because it stops them being vague is also rather pointless. Yes, Rosebud in Citizen Kane could’ve been anything (part of the point) and The Rabbit’s Foot in Mission Impossible 3 never being defined outside of a super deadly weapon is part of that film’s somewhat old school charm. However, their rules are just as flexible as the object. The One Ring could’ve been a mask or dagger or thing to be held/worn, its rules just as different.

To use non-film examples: let’s look at Ratchet and Clank 2 and Alien Isolation. In Ratchet and Clank 2: the heroes are asked with finding an experiment eventually named The Proto-Pet. The Proto-Pet is meant to be ones of those MacGuffins wherein the good guys unknowingly give it to the bad guys. The Proto-Pet’s only real  purpose is to be a danger: its design and dangerous rules being largely up to how the creators want to handle it. In Alien Isolation, Amanda Ripley is asked to come aboard a station with the flight recorder of her mother’s ship. It’s important early on until she finds the data is corrupted, and it only comes back towards the end when she finally hears the data. And this is where the purpose of a MacGuffin comes into play-its purpose as helping define the hero in the 3rd act of the classical structure.

For all the desire to separate true MacGuffins and their new incarnation, their explicit purpose of driving the story for a character’s arc has been lost. The Maltese Falcon is eventually supposed to make our hero detective more jaded that people would commit crimes over this little statue. The Ark of the Covenant helps Indiana gain more knowledge and insight about the archeology he often…well steals. And the Trident in Aquaman helps Arthur realise his true purpose as King, conflicting with his previous desires/beleifs as a loner.

A bad MacGuffin (like the Allspark) can have plot functions that make you question the plot and have no real impact on character. A good MacGuffin can be the eventual key to why a character by the end is who they are.

You can make all the arguments and discrepancies you want in a medium that has gone through evolutionary changes in every aspect, regarding one of the most basic plot elements in the world-MacGuffins are still MacGuffins.

Movie Review: CRAWL

Written by Tyrone Bruinsma


In 2006, High Tension director Alexandre Aja released the remake of Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes. It was easily one of the better post The Ring/Platinum Dunes remakes that was actually better than the original: replacing the exploitation pure original with a complete commentary on American culture. Though he’s largely been known for less than interesting films after with the remake of Mirrors and the pretty bad Piranha 3D (Horns being the only film of high quality since), he returns in full swing with a Sam Raimi produced original horror: the alligator creature feature Crawl.

I had a lot of fun with this movie, it feels like a culmination in Raimi taking elements from his Evil Dead remake, Don’t Breathe and applying them to a premise that feels designed to replicate 2016’s The Shallows. The result not being a masterpiece or beating the all time crocodilian horror classic Rogue, but a worthy entry into the sub-genre alongside Alligator, Lake Placid and Primeval.

One point of curiosity was how there were no reviews out before I saw it. Generally critics are allowed to see and release film reviews a week or few days early. But when a studio doesn’t: it means either they’re worried about negative press and won’t allow early screenings (bad press in of itself) or don’t care. Luckily it’s the latter as Crawl is a lean, mean, alligator fueled machine.

The premise has swimmer Haley (Kaya Scodelario from Moon, Clash of the Titans, Pirates of the Caribbean 5) attempting to recuse her father Dave (Barry Pepper from Saving Private Ryan, The Green Mile and 25th Hour) from a hurricane in Florida (this was filmed in Bulgaria). The plot is contained, simple and has the usual monster/creature film ideal of the danger allowing characters to overcome their demons and grow. It’s very solid stuff with Aja’s direction feeling very much akin to how Fede Alvarez handled Don’t Breathe-elevating through near Hitchcockian film techniques. The execution and tension of the horror works well with giving the audience sometimes more or less information than the characters for perfect effect. The cinematography by Maxime Alexandre is top notch: bringing back all their skills from High Tension, The Hills Have Eyes, Maniac, Annabelle Creation and Shazam! The score is also really good at amping up the tension, feeling very akin to Rogue too. The production team also did a great job with the main house and practical effects making me believe the environment is real and even the mostly CGI alligators work well.

Now to the stars of the film: the gators. While Pepper and Scodelario do great work as the leads with emotional beats, the animals are why I came to see. Now I’m aware of the main issue with many killer animal films is that they’ve this underlying concept that “man must kill beast to grow”, which I’ve always disliked even though I love the films. Truth be told, I’ve preferred most films being about the animals killing people than the other way around. I know in reality sharks and crocodilians don’t deserve to die and aren’t ravenous human munchers (though they do reason the alligator hostility decently in this film). I love sharks and crocodilians and are aware Alligators are amongst the most passive of the genus. So yes, I enjoy the film with them as the ravenous monsters-doesn’t mean I want them to die in real life.

That being said, the scares, kills, gore and depiction of the animals are amazing. The film makes them CGI, but act as realistically as possible: slow and clumsy on land, agile ambush predators in the water. The kills and sequences around them are the pure brutal money shots that show why this film is rated high than most in its genre would be. Only a few instances like a gator not bursting out of the water irked me, seeing as how that’s a crocodilian’s primary attack method. There was only ever one other bothersome moment that’s a minor plot hole. This film pretty much pays off every element it introduces…but one magically disappears and an older one is used in its place instead. Granted, even if it was there-the following sequence would’ve rendered it pointless too. It’s just the only major nitpick.

I say if you’re a horror/monster fan aching for something good after stuff like Annabelle Comes Home, or you’ve been waiting years for another good killer crocodilian film-just go see this.


Written by Tyrone Bruinsma

So Disney’s remake of Aladdin was successful at over 800 Million. With The Lion King, a Maleficent sequel, Mulan, 100 Dalmatians and The Little Mermaid gearing up-I thought I’d take a look at other Disney animations not fully slated to be remade and how I’d make them.

The Black Cauldron poster.jpg
A film that almost killed Disney back in the day due to an executive shift, over budget production and it not being Disney’s typical output-I doubt Disney will remake it. But I think it could make a good remake in live action and with modern visual effects.

Primary notes of change: (Please note I’ve no idea of how the books work)
-Explore more of the kingdom and world during the story (Even the way King Arthur: Legend of the Sword did this would be handy)
-Give the Horned King more motivation, character and origin
-Lose a few subplots like the fairies.
-Main change however would be for the lead character to be Princess Eilonwy.

Reason being is that Taran is a really boring protagonist, Eilonwy feels like she has more interesting things going on as a Princess of another kingdom and would give us a different perspective allowing for my agency on here part. I’d also make it a darker film consistently and have it tonally similar to the Pirates of the Caribbean films or even King Arthur Legend of the Sword.

Princess Eilonwy: Sofia Boutella
The Horned King: Andy Serkis
Taran: Louis Ashbourne Serkis
Gurgi: John Mulaney
Creeper: Kevin Hart
Fflewddur: Sting
3 Witches: Helen Mirren, Viola Davis, Melissa McCarthy

Auteur/Aesthetic input: those dragons are getting a lot my mileage and importance, most monster stuff and some epic army battles.


The expedition crew stand together as a mysterious woman is floating in the background, surrounded by stone effigies and emitting brilliant white beams of light from a crystal necklace.
This cult favorite from the directors of Beauty and the Beast and Hunchback of Notre Dame was also a box office failure, but one of my personal favourites of Disney as the adventure story it is. It also suits live action very well, easily fitting alongside franchises like Indiana Jones and Pirates of the Caribbean

Primary changes:
-More background into the Atlantean past, their wars and technology
-Change the time period for a Cold War backdrop
-Get to Atlantis a bit faster and have the final climax remain there
-Main change is having the themes of war, technology and history repeating itself in reflecting the Atlantean’s war and the Cold War.

Reason for the theme/time change is because it gives the Atlanteans hiding their technology more weight, the Cold War element would mean there can be a successful double cross (especially if you, like me thought Helga would make a great Russian double agent).

Milo: Tom Holland
Kida: Letita Wright
Rourke: Ron Perlman
Whitmore: Patrick Stewart
Mole: Patton Oswalt
Helga: Elizabeth Olsen
Vinny: Ethan Hawke
Audrey: Dafne Keen
Sweet: Idris Elba
King of Atlantis: James Earl Jones
Cookie: Rain Wilson
Packard: Judi Dench

Auteur/Aesthetic input: The Leviathan fight will be a “T-Rex Paddock Attack” level of set piece with suspense and action-plus changing the Leviathan to a giant robot shark for fun. The giants at the end of the film would be more than shields, but I’m still keeping every gorgeous and mood piece moment intact.  


Treasure Planet poster.jpg
One of Disney’s biggest box office flops from the men behind The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Hercules, Princess and the Frog and Moana they’ve been planning since before The Little Mermaid. Treasure Planet is a fan favourite with a strong post 9/11 and Iraq War theme about people growing up in a world where parents might’ve stopped being around, along with being a fun and inventive sci-fi re-imagining of the classic novel.

-More action scenes/intensity to the scenes.
-Jim’s father would’ve died going to fight Pirates to fit the war takes parents theme and Jim have more of a grudge of Pirates to overcome.
-BEN The robot is completely removed, more presence of Captain Flint
-While I’m not sure about this change, I’ve thought what if Jim was genderbent? Just because the theme is not gender based and universal

Jim: Wyatt Russel (If genderbent as Jane: Matilda Lutz)
Silver: Michael Sheen
Dr Doppler: David Tennant
Cpt. Amelia: Tilda Swinton
Sarah (Jim’s Mother): Sally Field
Mr Arrow: Dave Bautista
Scroop: Lance Henriksen
Cpt. Flint: Michael Shannon

Auteur/Aesthetic input: I wont’ make any changes to the established rules, environment. I will however 100% give into the idea of space/sea monsters and have the Treasure Planet in question be like The Mysterious island with dangerous beasts. Plus I want more ship on ship battles.


Hercules (1997 film) poster.jpg
While not an absolute bomb, Hercules was mostly a favourite among people who grew up with it. Mostly I think Lindsay Ellis’s video on it explains the main problem with its structural “want vs give” dynamic.

-Hades is aware of Hercules from the start and doesn’t view him as a concern in the training montage, until Hercules easily beats his monsters-eventually using Megara as the successful tool in his belt.
-Hercules develops into a kind of jerk in the training montage thanks to Phil (because Phil’s idolisation of heroes and glory is toxic and he has to learn that) with Hercules softening around Megara. Fully completing the intended arc of learning what it means to be a true hero by the end.
-The final climax with the Titans is way more elaborate and longer.

-Hercules: Chris Pratt
-Megara: Selma Hayek
-Hades: Armie Hammer
-Phil: Peter Dinklage
-Zeus: Christoph Waltz
-Hera: CCH Pounder
-Pain: Nicolas Cage
-Panic: Tom Kenny

Auteur/Aesthetic input: By this point anyone who knows me or even from reading this can tell I love my monsters. So the Hydra scene and Titans will get more love and attention. I might even have The Gods turn into kaiju themselves for some Evangelion style action.


One of the moodiest, most mature of Disney animated films-this is a classic to me. Remaking this would be very difficult.

-Only one real change on my mind in making the ending have the tragic weight of the original novel. Only Phoebus would be alive to honor the memory of his best friend Quasimodo and his love Esmerelda in the message of justice and to not judge a book by its cover.

Quasimodo: Ben Whishaw 
Esmerelda: Mila Kunis 
Frollo: Michael Keaton 
Phoebus: Chris Evans 
Clopin: Oscar Isaac 
3 Gargoyles: John C Reily, Karl Urban, Queen Latifah 

Auteur/Aesthetic input: The original’s style I want to keep mostly intact (Especially Hellfire) but primarily draw more hellish imagery, gothic architecture, add some more of the French anti-inclusive background like borders and borrow heavily from classic cinema movements like French New Wave and Giallo films.