Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Brief synopsis: successful blues singer, Ma Rainey (Viola Davis), heads north to Chicago to meet up with her band to make a recording of some of her songs. One of her band, Levee (Chadwick Boseman) causes a rift with his ambition and passion.

Is it any good?: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is a little too stagey and more of a collection of monologues than a coherent story or film. From a play written by August Wilson, the screenplay by Ruben Santiago-Hudson does nothing to disguise the stage play roots. 

With good performances from everybody on show and standout performances from Davis and Boseman in his final film, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is a watchable film but not a must watch film. 

Spoiler territory: in a tent, down south in America, 1927, black people come from all around to see blues singer Ma Rainey perform. The tent is packed out and Ma Rainey is performing to great acclaim in front of an appreciative crowd. 

With emancipation having happened in the north, black people had begun to migrate in numbers in search of work and a new life. Ma Rainey’s reputation and fame continued to grow down south, her and the band playing in bigger venues. 

At one of the shows, her trumpeter, Levee, steps into the spotlight, add-libbing a solo. A little while later, the band arrive in Chicago. They are there for a recordIng session at Sturdyvant’s (Jonny Coyne) Hot Rhythm studio. 

Ma’s manager, Irving (Jeremy Shamos), is at the studio preparing for their arrival. Sturdyvant is not especially happy about the upcoming arrival of Ma. He finds her difficult. 

Three of the band arrive. Cutler (Coleman Domingo), Toledo (Glynn Turman) and Slow Drag (Michael Potts) and are greeted by Irving. He wants to know where Ma is. She has not arrived yet.

Levee is not there either. On the streets of Illinois, Levee is admiring a pair of shoes. The band settle into the studio and get ready to rehearse.

Levee arrives. He bought the shoes and makes a show of putting them on. It is hot in Chicago. Levee goes to open a door but finds it locked. He does not remember it being locked the last time he was there and remarks on how everything has changed. 

Toledo tells him things always change. Levee, a young abrasive trumpet player, starts to tell the rest of the band that he is going to have his own band. 

Cutler, who is the de facto leader of the band, tells him that they are an accompaniment band. They play Ma’s music, how she wants it. Levee tells them he has a new, more upbeat arrangement for one of her songs. Cutler says they cannot do his arrangement. Irving comes into the room.

He is looking for Ma. Cutler tells him she has not arrived yet. He asks about the arrangement. Irving tells him they are going with Levee’s arrangement. 

In town, Ma is seeing a different kind of black people to the ones she is used to down south. She walks around a tea house with her nephew, Sylvester (Dusan Brown) and niece, Dussie Mae (Taylour Paige). The black people watch Ma and her charges as though they were curiosities. Ma returns to her car. 

Back in the studio space, the band are ribbing Toledo about his old shoes. Levee starts dancing. Toledo cautions them against only looking for fun as black people suffer the world over. They start talking religion. Levee insists that he has no time for God. 

Outside the studio, Ma as arrived but Sylvester has had an accident with another car. Irving comes out of the studio to find Ma arguing with a policeman. Irving nervously intervenes and smooths things over. Inside the studio, an irritable Ma has Irving scurrying around for a fan. 

Dussie, an attractive girl, uses her looks to curry favour with her aunt and asks for new shoes. Ma tells her she will get her some new things. She tells Sylvester he will get some things to. 

He is also going to do a bit on the recording. Music is playing; Levee’s version of Ma’s Black Bottom. Ma asks Irving about it. He tells her that people want to hear a more upbeat sound. Ma is not changing her arrangement. She will sing the song how she originally wrote it. 

She tells Irving to take Sylvester to meet the band and tell them that he is doing the intro to the recording. She decides to go and introduce him herself. She also tells Cutler that they are doing the song to her arrangement with Sylvester doing the intro. Levee tries to protest but Ma is having none of it. 

Ma leaves and a frustrated Levee voices his frustrations. Cutler tells Sylvester the opening he needs to say and asks him to repeat it back to him. Sylvester begins to speak and the band realises he has a stutter. Levee laughs, asking how Cutler plans to sort out the intro. Sturdyvant comes down to the studio. 

Levee approaches him with some of his songs. Sturdyvant takes the songs and leaves. The rest of the band laugh at Levee’s subservient attitude towards Sturdyvant. 

Levee takes offence and tells them he acts how he needs to around white people to get what he needs. He tells them that he learned how to do so from his father who he had seen smile in the faces of the men who sexually assaulted his mother and then return at a later date to try and exact revenge on them. 

Cutler tells Irving that Sylvester cannot do the part. As the band rehearse, Ma sees Levee eyeing Dussie. She tells Cutler to warn him. They get ready to record and Ma wants Sylvester to do his part first.

Irving tells her he cannot do it. Ma insists on him getting a microphone and doing the part. Sturdyvant tries to complain about the cost and she reminds him that she makes more money for him than all his other acts put together. 

There is another hiccup. Irving did not get any Coke. Ma stops the session and sends Slow Drag and Sylvester out to get some. Ma speaks to Cutler, unhappy about having to fight to get Sylvester on the record as she obviously knows the boy has a stutter. Dussie goes to find Levee and flirts with him. 

Ma explains to Cutler that she understands that the only reason Sturdyvant or any white people put up with her, is because of her voice and she makes them money. 

That includes her manager Irving. Levee continues to charm Dussie, telling her he is going to form his own band. The two get frisky. Ma and Cutler speak about the blues and the meaning of the music to black people. 

Slow Drag and Sylvester return with the Cokes. Levee and Dussie’s union is interrupted as he needs to return to the recording. Sylvester, unsurprisingly, struggles to get the intro out. 

He nails it after multiple takes and the band strike up, Ma singing the song perfectly in one take. Unfortunately, Sylvester’s microphone’s wire is frayed and they did not get the recording. 

A frustrated Ma leaves the studio. She is going home. Irving begs her to stay. He will sort everything out in fifteen minutes. Ma stays. The band takes a break. Cutler tells Levee he needs to leave Dussie alone. Levee lies, saying he only ever asked her her name. Toledo tells him that he understands how he could become foolish over a woman. 

Cutler tells Levee that his roving eye is going to get him fired. Levee argues with the rest of the band about their acceptance of their lot in life and how he plans to be respected by white people. Cutler tells the group about a black reverend who had been forced to dance at gunpoint and ridiculed for his belief in God. 

Levee challenges Cutler, asking where was God when that man needed help. He tells Cutler that God hates black people. Cutler punches him and the two scuffle. 

The other band members separate them. Levee pulls a knife and goes for Cutler. Cutler manages to avoid getting stabbed. An angry Levee asks God where he was when his mother was calling out for his help.

They return to the recording room. They record the track perfectly. Ma asks Levee why he felt the need to embellish. He tells her he likes to add his own flavour. It quickly escalates to an argument and Ma fires him. 

An angry Levee leaves the recording room, returning to the rehearsal room. Upstairs, Irving tells Ma that Sturdyvant does not want to pay Sylvester. She tells him to get the boy’s pay. Sturdyvant quickly comes around to Ma’s way of thinking and pays Sylvester. 

He needs Ma to sign the music release forms. Ma leaves, Irving chasing after her asking her to sign the forms. She tells him to send them to her home. She warns Irving that she will record elsewhere in future if there are any more hiccups. 

The band get ready to leave and Sturdyvant pays them. Levee speaks to Sturdyvant, asking if he can get a recording session. Sturdyvant tells him he will buy the songs but does not want to record them. They do not sound right. Levee’s argument to convince him otherwise falls on deaf ears. 

A despondent Levee returns to the rehearsal room. Toledo accidentally steps on his new shoes. He apologises. Levee is riled up and wants a more fulsome explanation for the transgression. Toledo dismisses him, packing up his things and turning to leave. Levee stabs him in the back, killing him. 

Ma is being driven home, unaware of what has happened back at the studio. Levee cradles the dead Toledo. An all-white band record a version of Black Bottom. The End. 

Final thoughts: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is most notable for being Chadwick Boseman’s final film. Directed by George C Wolfe, it does flow nicely and looks great. 

Regrettably, as a Boseman’s last film, it is not a masterwork. Boseman is excellent in it and, if anything, it is almost sadder to see that his obvious talent was extinguished so prematurely. 

Viola Davis matches Boseman with a captivating performance as the bigger than life Ma Rainey. Such is the power of her performance it will have you looking into the real-life Rainey. 

As I alluded to earlier, the film is too obviously based on a stage play, the screenplay putting the monologue style of stage work to the fore. 

The story is centred around the recording studio but seems a little truncated, the whole story not told. Though the original August Wilson play was written in 1984, it is set in the twenties and, as such, reflects the black sensibilities of that time. 

The outlook is quite bleak and needy, with even the successful Rainey knowing that her acceptance is only because of her voice. 

The appropriation of black music by whites is not new and still happens to this day and is the underlying theme of the film. There is also a veiled dig at the blind faith shown in a Christian god that has never favoured black people. 

At ninety-four minutes long, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is not a long film and whizzes through its runtime fairly quickly but suffers a little from having too much story to tell in its runtime. As I wrote earlier, the film is not bad but it is not great either. 

Is it worth watching? For the performances of not just Boseman and Davis, but the whole cast, yes. As an enjoyable ninety-minute-plus film it is not a must-see.

The 2nd

Brief Synopsis: a group of mercenaries are tasked with kidnapping a senator’s daughter as she leaves college for the Christmas holidays. Their plans are interrupted when a green beret, the father of one of the daughter’s friends, realises that something is not right and intervenes. 

Is it any good?: The 2nd is a pretty dumb title for a very dumb film. The story is Die Hard meets Zero Dark Thirty, with some double-cross nonsense thrown in to make it more convoluted. The acting is uniformly terrible and the script even worse. One to give a miss. 

Spoiler territory: green berets, a domestic terrorist, Hansen Cross (Anthony Oh), sporting the classic Middle Eastern looks with an added scowl, is contacted and told that his target is senator Jeffers (William Katt). He is to make it messy, so I’m guessing a big bomb. As a crowd protest outside the senator’s office building, inside Jeffers is informed that a Delta team is coming to extract him.

There has been a bomb threat. Jeffers, who is about to be interview by an attractive journalist (Reisa Miller), is eager to voice his pro-gun views to the journalist and goes ahead with the interview, even as his aide advises against it. Vic Davis (Ryan Phillippe) and Kyle (Tank Jones), the Delta unit, are on their way to pick up Jeffers. 

They flip a coin to decide who gets to pull him out of his interview. Vic wins and goes and gets the senator. On the news, it is being reported that Jeffers’ office has had a bomb threat against it. It is also reported that the CIA director, Phillips’ (Richard Burgi), daughter died in a bomb attack. He is pro-gun. 

Jeffers is with Vic and Kyle. He wants to know what is going on. Vic tells him that he is on a list of already dead politicians. Jeffers gets a call on his mobile. Vic screams at him that they are trying to track him. Why they did not secure his phone beforehand is not a question that is addressed. 

A car crashes into them. Vic tells the senator to stay behind him as multiple masked men start to shoot at them. The mask seems to make them especially stupid as most of them shoot at Vic, Kyle, the senator and the other agents who were backing them up, in full view. Maybe the mask makes them bulletproof? They do not and, even with most of the agents being terrible shots, they end up dead. 

Kyle gets captured by Cross, who is wearing a suicide vest. It does not look good for Kyle. He is a black guy and – though I don’t like to play the race card – is expendable to both the plot and follows the rules of film where the black guy dies first. He is also the sidekick of the hero, so…

Kyle, dumb hunk that he is, tells Vic to shoot Cross. Cross tells him to lower his gun. Vic listens to Cross and lowers his gun. Why? Does he really think the psychopath with the suicide vest is not going to kill Kyle? Cross points his gun at Vic. Kyle, a hero to the end, detonates Cross’ vest. They both die. 

Sometime later, Vic is going to pick up his son, Shawn (Jack Griffo), from college, so as they can spend some time together. As he packs up some gear, he drops his phone and it breaks like its 1990, immediately failing to work. His significant other, Olivia (Samaire Armstrong), comes to see him off and tell him to bond with his son.

She lost her mother at a young age, so she knows how he feels. So there is that. Vic tells her not to forget to lock the doors when she is in the house. Strange but okay…

At college, Shawn is fencing with Erin Walton (Lexi Simonsen). She wins the bout and a bet the two of them had. Shawn asks Charlie (Patrick McLain), to pay Erin. He will pay him back. Later, Erin asks Shawn when he is getting picked up. He tells her that his dad is running late. What about her? She tells him that her father is too busy with the gun-control issue and is sending a driver. 

Neal (Jacob Grodnik) comes into the gymnasium and tells all the students that they need to leave by five. Neal catches up with Erin and Shawn again and reminds them they need to leave by five. Erin tells him that she is not getting picked up until six. Neal tells her he will make an exception for her. Shawn has to leave by five. 

Vic has been slowed by traffic and is running late. At the college, Rogers (Kia Mousavi), campus security, stops Erin’s driver. He does not recognise him so he needs to check his license. The driver shoots him. Rogers, who is not going down like a punk, sounds the alarm. In the college building, Charlie asks Shawn to make sure that everybody has left the campus. 

He was meant to do it but he has to catch a flight. Erin is the only person who has not left. Shawn is reluctant to seem too pushy, as he obviously likes Erin. Charlie reminds him that he owes him. Shawn agrees to finish the check. Charlie tells him to give the list to Neal when he has finished. What could Neal be doing? 

Rogers sounding of the alarm has brought the cavalry. Driver (Casper Van Dien) waits with a cane. He is told to put the cane down. He obliges. One of the campus cops approaches him and asks who he is. Driver is not a man who likes to answer questions it seems and immediately thrust a hand into the campus cop’s throat. That will teach him not to get to close. He shoots his three colleagues and then kills him. A bit over an overreaction but it shows he is a bad man. On the campus, Shawn goes and checks on Erin to see how long she is going to take. 

Outside, Driver and a crew of five, half of whom, for no good reason, are dressed in disguise, look to capture Erin. Vic arrives at the campus. He is met by a guard – one of the crew, so that makes seven – he lets him in. He informs Driver that Vic is coming. He should not be any trouble he is there to pick up his son. Never seen Die Hard then. 

Shawn and Erin leave the campus building. Vic meets Shawn and the driver comes and takes Erin’s bag. Erin tells the driver that she has forgotten her laptop and goes back into the building. Shawn tells her he will wait until she has left as he promised Charlie he would make sure everyone had left. Erin mentions that the driver is not her usual one. 

Father and son have a stilted conversation as they wait for Erin to come back. Shawn covers his motorcycle, which just happens to be right outside of the campus. A suspicious Vic notes the crew members standing around, watching. He tells Shawn to get in the car. He is going to get Erin. Vic asks Erin to call her father, Justice Walton (Randy Charach), and check if he changed the driver. 

One of Driver’s crew, who is tracking all the electronics from a van, cuts the call just as she asks about the driver. Erin had already got the answer. He did not change the driver. Driver tells the girl in the van to cut the lights. It is not even dark, so the move makes no sense but they do it anyway. 

Vic, he’s a green beret you know, tells Erin to get down. Because that is what one does in a power cut. He checks out of the window. The crew are not doing anything differently from what they were doing before. Maybe the driver is eco-friendly. Shawn decides to go and look for his dad and Erin. 

One of the crew, posing as a cleaner, knocks on Erin’s dorm door. Driver tells the crew to move in and extract the target. This is serious. He has gone full military speak. In the van, the electrics girl is manipulating a satellite to find Erin. Yes, she is. Driver tells the rest of the crew that Vic and Shawn are expendable. Surprised they asked. 

Paula (Nicole Reddinger), is watching the building with a sniper rifle. In the building, Vic is telling Erin to stay close. Driver calls Erin. He quickly realises that she knows he is not there to help her. He tells her to put Vic on the phone. Driver tells him all the usual bollocks; surrounded, no way out, all communications on lockdown. Vic is unfazed. He is Delta! 

Driver gives him five minutes to bring Erin out. There is an hour of runtime left in the film so…anyhoo, Shawn comes across the fake cleaner. He asks him if he has seen Vic. They both go into the lift. The fake cleaner tries to kill him. Shawn, who was raised by a green beret, fights the professional mercenary. 

They fall out of the lift and Vic beats the mercenary unconscious. Director Phillips goes to visit Walton. He tells him that he has his daughter and he wants him to support some changes in amendments. Back in the college, Vic wants to get to a phone. He leaves Erin and Shawn. He gives Shawn a gun. 

Jade (Jennifer Wenger), the electrics girl, tells one of the team that they are in the lift, heading for the ground. The big lump, Rodriguez (Esteban Cueto) is fooled by the ‘old phones in the lift ruse’ and is overpowered and taken hostage by Vic. Jade calls the driver into the van. She has found out that Vic is a highly decorated green beret.

Driver tells his team, recounting, for all listening, including the kids, his violent and impressive military achievements. Shawn is shocked to find out his father has quite the body count on his resumé. Erin notices that Shawn is bleeding and insist on tending his wounds. 

Meanwhile, Vic has got to the phone and found that communications go no further than the van. Rodriguez takes the opportunity of Vic’s distraction to attack him. After getting thrown around by the much bigger Rodriguez, Vic hits him with a weights plate and kills him. 

As Erin dresses Shawn’s wounds, he tells her about his miserable upbringing and how his mum died, killed in revenge for one of his dad’s missions and how it made Vic pull away from him. Yawn. The fake cleaner, who wants to kill Vic because of the beating he took, goes after the kids. He beats on Shawn a bit and is about to Strangle Erin but is stopped as Shawn points a gun at him. 

Phillips threatens Walton. I’m still not sure if he is pro or anti-guns, it is all very unclear. Erin and Shawn hide in a closet. Jade and her magical satellite, see Vic on the side of the building. The driver tells Paula to shoot him. She cannot see him properly. Driver sends Krieg (Christopher Troy) and Rose (Kelina Rutherford) to get him. 

Paula has a shot and takes it. She tells Driver that he is down. Driver tells Krieg to confirm he is dead. Erin decides to sacrifice herself to save Shawn. She will give herself up. Vic fights Rose and Krieg. He stabs Rose and slaps Krieg with a plank. Erin runs into a security guard. He is part of the crew – there is a lot of them, I have lost count. He punches her to the ground. Shawn, who was following after her, points a gun at the fake guard. 

The guard, seeing how scared Shawn is, warns of the possible insertion to his posterior the gun is likely to make if he does not shoot him. Vic comes around the corner and obliges, shooting the guard dead. Another person turns up. It is Neal. He does not know what is going on. Vic asks if he knows another way out of the building.

Yes, there is a service tunnel. They believe him even though this is the most obvious and blatant, snake-in-the-grass double-cross in cinema, and he tells them there is an old service elevator. They go to the elevator. Vic is holding off another gunman – I have really lost count – and Neal and Erin get in the lift. Shawn goes back to help his dad, leaving Neal to take Erin. The fool! 

Neal delivers Erin to Driver and Jade. Neal asks Driver for payment. He is not a man who has watched a lot of films, obviously, and does realise what happens to rats like him! Driver beats him to death with his cane. 

Driver tells Jade to take care of the rest. So she puts a bomb in the lift and sends it back up. Boom! Driver sends a video of the captive Erin to Walton. Walton messages Phillips to tell him he has done as he asked. Okay…

Vic gets himself and Shawn out of the rubble. Driver is putting Erin in the car as Shawn and Vic get to the exit. Shawn runs to go and save Erin, even as Vic warns him there is a sniper. As Shawn shoots at Driver, Paula trains her gun on him. Somehow, Vic manages to get across the road to where Paula is perched and gets into fisticuffs with her. Paula puts up a far better fight than her two colleagues did earlier almost besting Vic. He knocks her out. 

Driver and the remaining crew leave, taking Erin. Vic jumps onto the roof of the van. Yes, he does. Shawn gets on his bike – the one conveniently parked outside the campus – and gives chase. Vic climbs into the van and throws Paula out, not very gentlemanly at all. 

He fights the fake cleaner again after the other occupant, Babcock (Gene Freeman), gets accidentally shot. The van crashes into a parked car and there is an explosion. That causes Shawn to lose control of his bike. He is uninjured but not for long. Driver shoots him through the shoulder and takes him hostage because…I do not know. 

At the location where Philips is meeting Walton, Driver arrives with the two kids. Vic gets an automatic rifle from the van and flags down Walton. He is there to help. The sign he has written in blood is enough to convince Walton. 

Back in the warehouse – it’s always a warehouse – Phillips is feeling bossy and tells Jade to drown Erin. They should get rid of Shawn as well. Walton arrives at the warehouse. He starts to run. The car blows up and Vic comes out shooting. Vic goes into the warehouse and kills multiple henchmen, all of whom are terrible shots and make no effort not to get shot themselves. 

He comes face to face with Driver. They fight. Shawn manages to overpower his captive. Out on the pier – Erin’s supposed to get drowned remember – Jade and Erin end up fencing. Shawn fights another henchman and stabs him in the neck. He grabs his gun. Vic is looking for an elusive Driver in the warehouse. 

Erin, it turns out, is not a great fencer and is overcome by Jade. Jade decides she is going to kill her with the sabre. As she is about to stab her, Shawn shoots her dead. Walton finds his daughter and Shawn on the pier. Vic and Driver keep fighting. Driver gets blown out of the window. 

Out on the pier, Phillips is about to shoot Walton. Vic comes out and tells him he has three seconds to change his mind. Phillips leaves. Back in his apartment, Phillips is met by a severely burnt Driver. Driver kills him. 

The next day, Shawn is in the hospital recovering. Vic sits by his bed. Erin comes to see him and Vic leaves the two kids alone. As Vic goes into the hospital reception, he is confronted by a man. He looks around and notes that several people are converging on him. Another man drags Olivia into the reception. Vic kicks one of the assailants in the face. The end. 

Final thoughts: The 2nd is hokum and nonsense. The story is convoluted and muddle and the acting is poor from just about everybody on show. Admittedly, the script is wretched and the actors are working with terrible material. Written by Eric Bromberg, James Bromberg and Paul Taegel, with direction by Brian Skiba, The 2nd is a real chore to watch. 

The film’s runtime is only ninety-three minutes but it feels much longer, the lacklustre fight scenes and poor camera work make it almost painful to watch. I suffered the film twice and I am still not sure whether they were for or against the second amendment, the amendment that gives the film its, frankly, stupid title. 

The 2nd is an action film with underwhelming action sequences and a story that goes nowhere. What is even more galling about the action sequences is that there are a lot of them and none of them are good or particularly memorable. 

The 2nd is not good and not worth an hour and a half of anybody’s time. That they left scope for a sequel is hubris in the extreme. Avoid.

Midnight at the Magnolia – review (Netflix)

Brief synopsis: a couple of local radio host, who also happen to be long time best friends, get notoriety for their relationship advice on their morning show. A flippant conversation, on-air, about their trepidation when introducing prospective partners to their families has their boss suggesting they should introduce their partners to their families live on air.

A larger corporation is prepared to syndicate them countrywide if they do so. They agree to the task but a spanner is thrown in the works when both are dumped before New Year’s Eve. They decide to fake a relationship between the two of them to fulfil their dream of getting syndicated across the country. 

Is it any good?: Midnight at the Magnolia is a sweet rom-com that works even though it is quite predictable. The two leads, Natalie Hall and Evan Williams are great. Their chemistry is excellent and the script is above average for a Netflix festive film. An enjoyable eighty-seven minutes.

Spoiler territory: Maggie Quinn (Natalie Hall) is smartly dressed, ready for work early in the morning. Jack Russo (Evan Williams) is shocked out of his slumber by his alarm clock. Maggie eats her breakfast and leaves for work, arriving comfortably early for the morning show she hosts with Jack, Windy City Wake-Up. 

Their boss, Deb (Alison Brooks) asks her where Jack is. Maggie tells her he will be there. She is not worried. The show is about to go live. Deb counts Maggie in for the morning introduction, as Maggie speaks to Chicago, Jack rushes in and joins the show. 

It is Boxing Day and Maggie and Jack’s radio banter denotes that the two are longtime friends. They get on to the subject of their prospective partners. Maggie asks Jack if he is bringing his latest girlfriend to meet his parents. Jack says he is not. He asks her if she is bringing Seb (Sean Williams). Maggie replies in the negative. 

After the show, Deb tells them that not only was their talk of introducing their partners to their families a hit, it got them noticed by a bigger network who are thinking of taking them countrywide. Seb comes to meet Maggie for lunch. He tells her that he felt like they were making fun of him and Jack’s girlfriend, their closeness making him feel excluded. 

Jack and Maggie’s fathers’ jointly own the Magnolia restaurant and jazz club. The two go to a family dinner and are warmly greeted by Jack’s father, Martin (Martin Gordin Shore) and Maggie’s dad, Steve (Steve Cumyn). Jack’s mum, Bev (Susan Hamann) comes and joins the party. Maggie’s sister Amanda (Victoria Maria) her husband, Matt (Matthew Stefiuk) and their son Cody (Dane O’Connor). 

Jack and Maggie tell the family the news about their impending syndication, everybody is happy. At the dinner, Martin is reluctant to speak about the bar’s business much to Jack’s surprise. He asks him about it after dinner. He tells him that the bar is not as popular as it once was. 

The next morning, after their show, Deb comes and tells them that the broadcaster wants to take them nationally with a show on New Year’s Eve. They also want them to introduce their prospective partners live on air. Both are initially reluctant but the thought of going national persuades them. Jack thinks that they should do it at the Magnolia to help boost sales for the venue. 

They go and tell their fathers. Having told their fathers, they decide that they need to tell their partners. Maggie tries to get through to Seb, leaving him messages. He calls her back and breaks up with her. There is a knock at her door. It is Jack. His girlfriend broke up with him as well. Worried about the upcoming syndication opportunity, Jack suggests that they pretend to be together. 

After some convincing, Maggie reluctantly agrees. To try and convince Deb, the two decide that they should be caught kissing. As they are kissing, Jack’s parents walk in and see them. After a bit of confusion, Jack’s parents surprise them both, ecstatic that they have got together. They find that all of the family is happy that the two of them are together, having believed that they should have always gotten together. 

Alone in Jack’s apartment, the two recall when he sang a song and how captivated she had been by his performance. The next day, Deb tells them that they have been invited to a cocktail party by the Judd Crawford (Peter Michael Dillon), the boss of the syndication. She also tells them that their new union is going to be live-streamed. 

Jack and Maggie go to the local coffee shop. Maggie sees Seb with another woman and is hurt at the thought that he has replaced her so quickly. Jack takes Maggie sleigh riding to cheer her up. Maggie sees her sister in the bar. Amanda tells her that she can see that Maggie is smitten, having always loved Jack. The New Year’s Eve party sells out in an hour. 

Jack and Maggie go to the cocktail party. Whilst talking to Judd, they are surprised to find out that he is expecting a midnight kiss live on air. After the cocktail party, they go to the bar and reminisce. They arrange a dinner at Maggie’s apartment to commemorate the anniversary of her mother’s death. They talk about broken hearts, with Jack admitting that Bianca Bell (Hannah Gordon) broke his heart in high school. 

Maggie says she had her heart broken once but does not tell him who it was. As they walk home, Maggie tells Jack that she has never had a midnight kiss. Jack says they should practice but the blaring of a car horn dissuades them. 

The next day at the bar, an anxious Steve is waiting for Jack. When he arrives he takes him outside and gives him Maggie’s mother’s ring. Jack is thrown by the gesture and leaves, telling Maggie he is not feeling well. On his way home, Jack runs into Bianca. They go for a drink and a catch-up. 

Bianca tells Jack that Maggie was heartbroken when he did not take her to the prom. She also tells him that she broke up with him because he loved Maggie. Jack denies loving Maggie. He realises that he has forgotten his dinner with Maggie and rushes over to try and make it up to her. Maggie is not happy and admits that she feels he always puts her second. 

Maggie goes to see her dad. She asks him how he knew that her mother was the one. He tells her that she had a fear of spiders but when she heard him falling in the attic, she ran through cobwebs to get to him. Maggie is not sure that Jack would run through cobwebs for her. 

It is New year’s Eve and they are doing their morning show. Maggie is still angry at Jack. Maggie goes out for coffee and bumps into Seb. Jack sees them together in the coffee shop and realises he does not want to lose her. He goes to see his dad for advice. 

At the party, Jack sees Judd and is told that he is thinking of giving them separate shows. Jack, taken aback, asks if Maggie knows about the idea. Judd tells him that she does and seemed open to it. As midnight approaches, Jack tells the live stream and the listeners that they are not getting together with their prospective partners or, as their families and bosses believe, one another. 

Maggie admits that their relationship is a sham and they only got together for the sake of their career. She leaves the stage. Jack tells the live stream that he loves Maggie and does not want his own show. He sings a song that he wrote for her and they get together for real and kiss at midnight. 

A year later, Jack proposes to her with the ring Steve gave him. Maggie accepts. The end. 

Final thoughts: Midnight at the Magnolia is a delightful rom-com written by Carley Smale and directed by Max McGuire. Hall and Williams are perfectly cast as life long best friends who dance around their love for one another. Williams is particularly good as the clueless Jack, oblivious to that fact that his best friend is in love with him. 

All the cast play their parts perfectly well, something that really helps the central pairing seem more believable. The pacing of the film is good and it whizzes through its eighty-seven-minute runtime. 

Being a post-Christmas film, with the plot running up to a New Year’s Eve party, the film is slightly festive, being set in winter, without any mention of Christmas. The script is more amusing through its character interaction rather than any pithy witticisms in the writing but it all flows very naturally. 

Midnight at the Magnolia is a nice film to while away eighty-seven minutes. Sweet. 

The Paramedic – (Netflix) review

Brief synopsis: a narcissistic paramedic, who is struggling to have a child with his partner, life is changed when he is in a tragic traffic accident that results in him ending up in a wheelchair. Jealously and paranoia see him acting in a most dangerous and unpredictable fashion. 

Is it any good?: The Paramedic (El Practicante – in Spanish, original title), is a moderately entertaining chiller that is let down a little by being more atmosphere than execution. The acting is top class and the film looks beautiful and the story and editing are done in such a way not to insult the audience intelligence but, unfortunately, other elements of the film do not live up to the promise. 

Spoiler territory: arriving at the scene of a car crash, paramedics Ángel (Mario Casas) and Ricardo (Guillermo Pfening) tend quickly to the wounded and distressed. As Ángel helps a woman from the wreckage of her car, Ricardo goes to check on the passengers of the other car which is flipped on its roof. 

As other paramedics arrive to help, Ángel uses the confusion and activity to steal a pair of sunglasses from one of the cars in the crash. Later, Ángel is aggressively making love to his girlfriend, Vane (Déborah François), before she leaves for work. After she leaves, he goes and hides the sunglasses he took from the scene of the crash in a cupboard. 

Back at work, Ángel and Ricardo take a call. When they arrive at the address, they find an old woman in bed. Ricardo checks her pulse. She is already dead. He calls the coroner, leaving the room as he makes the call. Ángel goes through the woman’s valuables in the room. 

Later, Ángel meets Fermín (Raúl Jiminéz) and looks to sell the items he found in the room. He returns home and is in a foul mood after stepping in the mess created by their neighbour, Vicente’s (Celso Bagallo) dog. Vane tells him that her period has come, meaning she is not pregnant. He suggests she see a gynaecologist. Vane says the problem might not be with her. Ángel, his manhood wounded, says the problem could be psychological. 

He goes to see a doctor the next day. He finds out that he has a low sperm count and getting someone pregnant would be difficult for him. He does not tell Vane. Back at home, whilst Vane is in the shower, Ángel goes through her phone. 

At the hospital, Ángel gets drugs from Andrés (Pol Monen), a young doctor he knows. He and Ricardo go to another accident. They pick up an injured young man and Ricardo is driving as Ángel tends to the man. The man begins to convulse, distracting Ricardo. As Ángel tries to stabilise him, the ambulance gets hit by a truck. 

Ángel ends up wheelchair-bound. Their relationship already strained, Ángel’s condition pushes his jealously and paranoia to another level. As he tries to adapt to his need life, Ángel comes across a spy app that he can use to track Vane. The relationship continues to be strained. 

Ricardo comes to visit Ángel. Ángel is not happy to see him, feeling that it is his fault that he is in a wheelchair. Later, before Vane leave for work, Ángel asks her to go and get him some ice cream. Whilst she is out, he installs the spy app on her phone. 

He bumps into his neighbour, Vicente. Vicente is walking his dog. Ángel remarks how much the dog barks at night. Vicente tells him that he goes to see his sick wife in hospital at night and has to leave the dog alone. Later, in the evening, Vane is nervous as she tells Ángel about a possible work placement. 

Ángel wants to know what they will live on if she is earning less. He is not at all supportive of her pursuit of a veterinary career. Vane goes to work. He uses the spyware to watch her at work. During there night, Ángel is awoken by pain from his injuries. He tries to call Vane but the calls go to her voicemail. 

He finds some painkillers in the kitchen and takes a couple. He hides the rest of them. When Vane returns from work in the morning, he accuses her of leaving him without pain medication. She swears that there were painkillers in the kitchen. Later in the day, he threads needles into a raw piece of meat. 

Ángel goes to the park where Vicente walks his dog. He feeds the meat to the dog. Back in the apartment, Ángel listens in on a conversation Vane is having with a friend. She tells her friend how difficult her relationship is becoming and how she is not sure she can stand much more. Spurred by the conversation, Ángel tries to woo Vane and cooks a romantic dinner for them both. 

He tells her that he will support her dream of becoming a vet. They will also try even harder to have a baby. They make love. Afterwards, Ángel is in the shower and Vane hears his computer chiming. She goes and checks his screen and discovers the spyware. She packs her belongings and leaves. 

Some months later, Ángel decides to go and spy on Vane again. He waits outside of her workplace and sees Ricardo come to pick her up. He follows them and sees them go to a baby shop. They are having a baby. ÁNGEL goes to see Andres and gets some drugs. 

The next day, Ángel goes to meet Vane. He tells her she was right to leave him and intimates that he is going to end his life. She walks him back to his apartment. Retells her that he packed up her belongings and she can collect them. As she is distracted, looking for her things, he tranquillises her. 

Vane wakes up tied to a bed and gagged. Ángel puts on loud music to drown out her muffled cries. He goes and finds her mobile. She has multiple messages from Ricardo on it. He texts Ricardo a message from the phone telling him that she has left him. He throws the phone into a river. Back in the apartment, Ángel tells Vane he saw Ricardo and knows they are having a child. She begs him to release her and starts screaming again. He gags her and tranquillises her again. 

Vicente comes and complains about the music. Ángel gives him short shrift, telling him he had to put up with his dog for months. Vicente says he heard screaming from his apartment. Ángel lies, saying it was a prostitute. 

Ricardo seeks out Ángel. He tells him that Vane is missing and that they are together. Ángel tells him he has not seen her. Back with Vane, she finds that Ángel has given her an epidural making her legs stop working. Ángel receives a voicemail from a desperate Ricardo. He is going to call the police. 

During dinner, Vane smashes a bottle into Ángel’s head and tries to escape, screaming for help. He recovers and tranquillises her again but not before her screaming alerts Vicente. The neighbour comes looking for her. Forced to allow the persistent Vicente into his home, Ángel stabs him to death. He calls Fermin and pays him to get rid of the body. 

The police come to see Ángel. Ricardo has reported Vane missing and he used to live with her. Ángel tells them that she told him she was returning to France. Ángel had used Vane’s keys to go and kill Ricardo, making it look like a drug-related death. 

Ángel continues to plan a life with Vane and Ricardo’s baby, going so far as to tell her he will marry her when he trusts her. Vane gets hold of nail clippers whilst in the bathroom. Later in the night, Ángel goes to the pharmacy to get some medication for Vane, thinking she is sick. She takes the opportunity to escape her bonds using the nail clippers. 

Her legs still weakened from the drugs, she struggles to get out of the room he has her locked in, dragging her self to the door and using a screwdriver to break the lock. She gets out of the apartment and is making her way out when Ángel returns. Vane stumbles to the stairs and falls down them. Ángel goes after her, throw himself down the stairs. The two fight. She stabs him with the screwdriver and pushes him into the stairwell. He falls several storeys, to the ground. 

Sometime later, a tetraplegic Ángel is in a hospital. A heavily pregnant Vane comes to get him. She tells him, somewhat chillingly, that she is going to look after him. The end. 

Final thoughts: The Paramedic is an okay chiller mostly because of Casas’ central performance. He oozes unease throughout the entire film, an air of disdain for all around him never far from his face. François’ Vane is perfectly cast, a woman in the wrong relationship even before the accident pushes Ángel further into his neurosis. 

Written by David Desola, Héctor Hernández Vicens and Carles Torras, with Torras also on directing duties, The Paramedic does at least treat its viewers like adults. After the accident, we move straight to the difficulties of Ángel’s new reality. There are no scenes of him being told he is not going to walk again or discovering he has to give up his work. They are not necessary. 

Torras lets the actors do the work and they reward him with great performances. The strength of Cosas’ performance certainly helps with covering the script’s deficiencies and shortcomings, with some characters not given enough screen time to allow one to realise their necessity to the plot. 

The film does move quite quickly through its ninety-four-minute runtime and the sense of foreboding builds quite nicely as Ángel implements his mad plan. The only thing that lets the film down is the slightly psychological ending, with Vane deciding to become a sort of jailer/helper for the tetraplegic Ángel. It seemed, to me at least, as though she was setting herself up for a lifetime of punishment. With an impending birth as well to contend with. 

The Paramedic is, nonetheless, quite entertaining and well made. It worth a watch for the two central performances and the almost great story. 

Unknown Origins – (Netflix) review

Brief synopsis: An uptight detective finds his way of life and work challenged when his cosplay loving boss instructs him to work with a comic-loving son of a retiring detective to solve a series of gruesome murders that all relate to classic comic superhero origin stories. 

Is it any good?: Unknown Origins (Origenes Secretos – original Spanish title) is an enjoyable, quirky film that speeds through its ninety-six-minute runtime. The acting is good from all concerned and the story is interesting enough to keep one gripped to its conclusion. 

Spoiler territory: Police search a burning building for survivors. Police officer Javier (Álex Garcia) finds an old lady and hands her to a colleague. The woman tells him that her husband is still in the building. Javier tells his commander that there are still people in the building. His chief tells him that the building is unsafe and they should leave it to the fire department. Javier ignores his superior and heads back into the building. The fire engulfs him and he dies. 

Sometime later, Javier’s father, Cosme (Antonio Resines), who is a detective and close to retirement, knocks on the door of his other son, Jorge Elias (Brays Efe), as he leaves for work. He gets a call over the radio about an incident and heads out. 

Jorge stumbles out of bed. He is not a policeman. Jorge runs a comic book store and is a sci-fi and comic geek. At the incident location, Cosme meets the detective who is replacing him, David Valentin (Javier Rey). The two exchange greetings and head into a dark building where a body has been found. 

They find a muscular man on a workout bench, his head seemingly severed by the barbell falling on his neck. His skin is pallid and greying. David, on seeing and smelling the body, vomits. Whilst in a laundromat, he tells Cosme that his parents were killed when he was a boy but it had no bearing on his decision to become a policeman. 

With David cleaned up, the two men go to see Bruguera (Ernesto Alterio), the pathologist. He tells them that not only was the man killed but his skin was deliberately made to look grey. Before Bruguera can tell them anything else, their conversation is interrupted by a woman dressed in an anime costume. 

She wants to know why Cosme is there. David is confused and Bruguera amused. Cosme quickly explains to David that she is the boss, Norma (Verónica Echegui). Norma is not happy. She wants to know why the retired Cosme is looking into a case. David tries to intervene, saying he thinks Cosme’s experience would be helpful. Norma tells Cosme he needs to clean out his desk. She leaves. 

David gets called to the scene of another murder. The body is in armour but the man’s heart has been cut out. The victim, it turns out, was a weapons seller on the internet.there is the fragment of a comic book found near the victim.

Cosme is looking at photos from the first murder. Jorge sees one of the photos and remarks on how he looks like the Hulk. Cosme asks if the Hulk is not green. Jorge tells him that in early issues of the comic the Hulk had been grey. 

The next day, Norma forces Cosme to sign his retirement papers. Cosme sees photos from the scene of the armoured body on a board in Norma’s office. She tells him that the killer kept the body alive for hours after taking the heart out by attaching a mechanical contraption to the organs. 

Cosme takes the comic cutting. He returns to the scene of the first murder. He finds a piece of paper with the words ‘secret origins’ scrawled on it. He also finds part of an old comic. It is from the first Hulk comic.

David and Jorge ride in a lift to the same floor in the police precinct. David has a meeting with Norma and Cosme. As Cosme explains the connection between comic book character origin stories and the gruesome murders, David’s attention is split as he watches Jorge in an adjoining office. 

David is sceptical about the murders and comic book link. Norma explains that they are bringing in someone to help him as he has very little knowledge of comics. David sees Jorge taking something from the office and tackles him to the floor. Norma tells him the man he just tackled is his new partner. 

David and Jorge return to the second crime scene. Jorge points out that a fire axe that is in the display is wrong. The axe is given to Bruguera to analyse. David goes to Jorge’s comic store to buy some comics. He runs into Norma who is dressed, once again, like an anime character. David questions her recruitment of Jorge, especially as she seems to be as much of a geek as Jorge. 

Norma points out to him that she does not read comics and knows very little about them, preferring anime and films. An admonished David tries to belittle others in the store, scoffing at heir interest in the comics. Jorge points out to him that all of them hold very responsible and high paying jobs.

David returns to the precinct. Norma comes and tells him there is a suspect. She reminds him to pick up Jorge. At the location, the special operations team will not let them in. Norma turns up and shoots the door lock off. 

Inside the apartment, they find the suspect is the next victim. The man is burning to death as they enter the apartment. Jorge tells them it is the Human Torch origin story. Bruguera tells them the man boiled to death over many days. David asks Norma why can’t she let Cosme keep working. She tells him that he is dying of cancer. 

David goes Cosme and Jorge’s for lunch. David tells Jorge about the night his parents died. It sounds like the Batman origin story. Jorge asks him if he has looked into the case. David tells him he has not. He tells him to call Norma. They head to the records room and find David’s parents case. Amongst the evidence is a comic book title. It is the Batman origin story. 

The three start to collate comic book character origin stories. Jorge explains that to purchase the comics that the headlines came from would cost a small fortune. Whoever was committing the crimes had to be rich. Jorge tells them that there is only one person who could tell them who might have purchased the comics; Paco. They go and meet Paco (Leonardo Sbaraglia). 

Jorge makes a deal with Paco to get the name of the most likely suspect. Paco tells them that it is a man named Victor Vid. David drops Jorge home, telling him they will go to the suspects home the next day. He heads to the suspect’s address. 

Jorge, knowing that David is lying, calls Norma. David breaks into the Vid’s apartment after getting no response when knocking. 

Inside the apartment, David finds a wall with cuttings and comic references. He comes across Vid sitting in a chair, the shock of seeing him making him shoot. Hallucinogenic gas is released by the shots and David finds himself facing a masked man whose voice is distorted electronically. David sees insects crawling out of the man’s mask. The man identifies himself as Nóvaro and hits David with a crowbar. 

Norma arrives and shoots at Nóvaro. He sprays mace in her face and escapes. Later, Bruguera tells them that Vid had been dead for years. The killer had stolen his identity and embalmed him. He also tells them he has found traces of polonium-210. Norma is worried but David does not know why. 

Bruguera points out that internal affairs will take over once they find out polonium-210 is involved because it is so dangerous. David tells Norma he is going to see Cosme. Whilst at Cosme’s place, another murder happens. It is a recreation of the Spider-Man origin story. 

David goes to see Norma and Jorge. Jorge tells him that he thinks that Nóvaro wants David to become a superhero. Norma agrees. David thinks they are both crazy. He tells Jorge, in a pique of anger, that his father is dying. Jorge shows Cosme his brother’s suit from when he died. He bought it because he felt it depicted a hero. 

David goes to see Jorge. Jorge is not at the store, having gone out to buy pizza for the patrons. He has left a costume for David. David puts on the costume. Jorge returns to the store with pizza for all the cosplayers. He and David speak. David apologises for telling him about his father and tells him he needs him. Cosme works out who the murderer is. 

Nóvaro kidnaps Cosme. He calls David at the comic shop and tells him to meet him at the Madrid water plant. He tells him he will poison the water supply unless he comes alone. David tells the other two that he is heading to the water plant. Norma says she is coming with him. Jorge wants to go but they tell him he cannot. 

Jorge gives David his brother’s police protective gear to wear as a costume. David and Norma head to the water plant. Cosme’s kidnapper reveals himself. It is Bruguera. He kidnapped Cosme because he realised he had worked out who he was and he could also use him to help create the world’s first superhero. 

His plan was to force David to become that hero. David tricks Norma into getting out of the car and drives off, leaving her. He tells her he has to confront Nóvaro alone. Bruguera tells Cosme he never killed David’s parents but the story of them being shot in an alleyway after a concert was too good an opportunity to miss. he planted the comic book clipping in the evidence. 

David gets to the water plant. At the top, Bruguera is numbing his face with injections. He is convinced David will show up as a superhero. He tells Cosme he is going to kill him but has drugged him so as he will not be in pain. He wants to give David more of an incentive to take up the hero mantle. Bruguera dips his face in acid so he cannot be recognised. He puts a mask on.

David gets to the top and points his gun at Bruguera/Nóvaro. Bruguera threatens to kill Cosme if he does not put his gun down. David puts his gun down but Bruguera kills Cosme anyway. Burguesa and David fight. Bruguera, who had planned to die, falls into a vat of acid. After Cosme’s funeral, the three keep looking for clues of Nóvaro’s true identity. All they find is a lair with access to police files worldwide and a lot of money. David decides to become a superhero. The end. 

Final thoughts: Unknown Origins, written by Fernando Navarro and David Galán Galindo, with Galindo also on directing duties, is a pleasant enough film. The premise of taking superhero origin stories as the link between murders is a good and interesting one, along similar lines of Fincher’s darker serial killer film, Seven. 

Unlike Seven, Unknown Origins is not dark, with a lot of humour coming from the absurdity of the premise and the challenging of what is considered normal and right. Considering that Rey’s David is the main protagonist, his character is a little underwritten making it difficult to root for him as much as one should or want to. 

Echegui’s Norma and Efe’s Jorge are much stronger characters, adding depth and colour to proceedings. Even Resines’ Cosme is stronger than David. 

Galindo’s directing is competent and the film is nicely lensed. The makeup department and costume department can both take a bow, as both of those elements are top-notch in the film. 

In a film where, ultimately, the villain wins, Unknown Origins will not sit well with everyone. That being said, it is a good enough film to devote an hour and a half to. 

The Half Of It – review (Netflix)

Brief synopsis: a highly intelligent high school senior girl living in a small town with her father, makes extra money by writing the homework of other less accomplished students. When one student asks her to write a love letter, she finds herself in an unusual love triangle.

Is it any good?: The Half Of It is a lovely film and a beautiful observation of relationships. The central performances are first-rate and the pitch-perfect. The humour in the film works as a natural byproduct of the premise and a sparkling script. A delightful film.

Spoiler territory: Chinese-American high school senior, Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis), is a highly intelligent loner living in the small town of Squahamish. She lives with her father Edwin (Collin Chou) who moved to the town to work. To help him make ends meet, Ellie charges other students to write their homework.

As she hands out the papers during music class, Mr Flores (Enrique Murciano) addresses the class even as they pat scant attention, passing mobile messages between one another. As the class stand to sing, Ellie watches Aster (Alexxis Lemire), Mr Flores daughter. Aster is also the trophy girlfriend of popular hunk, Trig Carson (Wolfgang Novogratz).

Out on the playing field, Paul (Daniel Diemer), pauses as he hears Aster’s voice coming from the music room. His coach screams out to him and he starts back running. After the class, Ellie adds her name to the list of students performing in the talent show.

In her English class, Ellie’s prowess with her written work is such that even the teacher, Mrs Geselschap (Becky Ann Baker), allows her to do it, remarking that it is better than reading what the other students might have actually written. Mrs Geselschap tries to persuade Ellie to apply for a college outside of Squahamish. Ellie is reluctant to leave her father.

As she cycles home, Ellie is chased by Paul. He catches up to her and tells her he needs her to write something. Thinking he wants her to write his homework, she reels off her prices. Paul tells her he wants her to rewrite his love letter. To Aster. Ellie tells him it needs to be authentic and come from the heart so she does not want to write it.

Ellie sits with her father. The lights flicker. She asks him if he paid the electric bill. He tells her that he tried but they do not understand his accent. He focuses his attention back on the television, watching the closing scene from Casablanca. Ellie tells him she will call the electric company.

The next day, Ellie calls the electric company and spends most of the day trying to get through to the right department. Whilst walking along the school corridor, still waiting to get through to the electric company, she gets bounced by another student, her belongings ending up strewn all over the floor. As she picks her stuff up, Aster comes and helps her.

A stunned Ellie introduces herself. Aster smiles at her telling her that as she as they have been in the same class for four years, she knew who she was. The girls stand up and Aster hands her back her phone and leaves. Ellie gets through to the electric company. They tell her that her bill is three months overdue and if she does not pay fifty dollars by tomorrow she will be cut off.

Ellie sees Paul. She tells him that the letter will cost him fifty dollars. He agrees. They get to work on his letter. Paul tells Ellie that he loves Aster. She asks him if he has ever spoken to her, he has not. Ellie thinks he is silly. Paul points out to her that she has obviously never been in love. She is more determined to write the letter after that slight. She writes the letter

Paul tells Ellie that he got a reply. Aster’s letter gently points out the plagiarising of Wim Wenders. Paul asks why she cheated on the letter but Ellie assures him it is a good thing. She gets to writing another letter. The letter intrigues Aster enough for her to write back. Paul meets Ellie in the church and gives her the reply letter.

Paul wants to texts her but Ellie says it is too soon. The letters continue back and forth. Aster drops one of the letters in English class, having been called by Trig to go and get something to eat. Ellie and Aster are in the bathroom as two girls in the stalls talk about Aster. They mention how poor Aster’s family is but that she is lucky because Trig’s family is wealthy. Aster leaves the bathroom.

Mrs Geselschap stops Ellie at the end of class and shows her the dropped love letter. She says that she now understands why half of her class are suddenly failing with their essays. Ellie taels her she will be back to business soon as she does not feel that the relationship will go on much longer. The exchange of letters continues.

The girls communicate through art as well, through graffiti on a town wall but never meeting, Aster believing the letters are from Paul. Paul is getting impatient and wants to meet up with Aster. He sends her an emoji-filled text. Ellie makes up something and sends a more erudite text to rescue the situation. Aster agrees to meet Paul.

Ellie tries to coach Paul on what to say during the date but he is confident that he will be fine. He is not, getting tongue-tied and nervous on meeting up with Aster. The next day, Ellie remarks how badly the date went. Paul is determined to push on with his pursuit of Aster. Ellie tells him they have nothing in common.

Some other high schoolers shout abuse at Ellie as they drive by. Paul defends her. Ellie decides that Paul needs to study for his next date with Aster and the two set out a schedule. They spy on Aster to find out her likes and dislikes. Paul is also trying to start his own food business and has invented, he believes, the taco sausage.

As they keep watching Aster, Paul says they need to eat. They go to his home but as it is too chaotic, they end up at Ellie’s house, watching films with her dad. The two hang out together, Paul getting to know Ellie better and her story.

Ellie is struggling with her feelings for the Aster she is writing to in the letters, especially as Aster believes it is Paul writing the letters. Ellie and Paul continue to hang out together. Aster texts Ellie, thinking she is Paul, late at night.

Ellie asks Paul what he likes about Aster. Paul tells her that she likes that she is pretty and smells nice and is nice to everyone. Ellie says what she likes and Paul is embarrassed by his simplistic take on love. Ellie assures him that he puts more effort into love than anyone she has ever seen, except for her father.

Paul tries his taco sausage recipe out on Ellie and her dad. They both love it. The two friends watch the end of a romantic film and Ellie remarks how it is silly for the male lover to be running after the train. Later, when Paul is at work, he hears Ellie singing, practising for the talent show. Paul goes on a second date. It is going as badly as the first one.

Ellie sends Aster a text and saves there date. The next day, Ellie and Paul go shopping for her talent show outfit. He tells her that he kissed Aster. Ellie wants to know how he knew to kiss her. He tells her he just did. They go to the talent show. Trig proves his popularity by performing a rock number. Ellie follows on after him and is having a difficult time until Paul hands her a guitar and tells her to do her own song.

Ellie’s song proves popular and she finds herself slightly popular, getting invited to a senior prom party. She goes to the party and drinks too much. Paul looks after her taking her to his house to sleep off her drunkenness. Aster comes to Paul’s house to see him and sees Ellie in Paul’s bedroom. Ellie tells her she was only there to help him with a project.

Aster ends up hanging out with Ellie and taking her to a secret lagoon she knows about. The two girls bond. Aster asks if she should marry Trig, as that seems to be the sensible thing to do. Ellie does not know. Paul, meanwhile, is cooking with Ellie’s dad. Aster drops Ellie home and goes to see Paul. He tells her he has got a game at the weekend so won’t be able to see her.

Both the girls go to the game and Paul, playing in the notoriously terrible school football team, becomes a hero as he scores a touchdown. After the game, Paul tries to kiss Ellie and Aster sees them. Ellie, who stops Paul, tries to explain to a retreating Aster. Paul realises that Ellie has feelings for Aster. Ellie runs into Trig as she goes home. Trig, never low on confidence, is convinced that she is in love with him.

Ellie is morose. Paul googles what are the signs of gayness. Paul goes to sees Ellie father. He asks Paul if they broke up, worried about her sadness. Paul tells him that he, Edwin, does not see her. He explains, in Mandarin, to a confused Paul, that his wife’s death broke him. He also admits that he does not want Ellie to change.

At church, Trig proposes to Aster in front of the town’s congregation. Ellie, much to everyone’s surprise, protest. Paul stands up and apologises cryptically to Ellie and Aster. Ellie confesses she has been hiding something, her words only making sense to Aster, who realises that she was the author of the letters.

Aster leaves the church, slapping Paul as she leaves. Ellie returns home. Her father tells her she is going to college. The next day, Ellie goes to see Aster. Aster tells her she is going to art school. Ellie apologises. Aster says that perhaps if she was different. Ellie tells her she could never be different. Aster wishes her luck in Iowa. Ellie comes back and kisses her.

Paul sees Ellie off on the train to college. He runs after the train as it pulls off his laughter bringing tears to her eyes. The end.

The Half Of It is a lovely film that manages to be both modern and nostalgic. It is nostalgic in its setting of high school love and angst but manages to be modern with its elements of LBGTQ references and leanings whilst utilising elements of that most popular of love stories, Cyrano De Bergerac.

What is nice about writer/director Alice Wu’s film is she does not force the LBGTQ aspect of the film. Nor is it front and centre and so does not overwhelm proceedings. The film is about love and feelings and the truth behind them. What is most surprising about Wu’s film is that it is only her second film. The Half Of It is a wonderfully accomplished film with great performances from all of the actors, especially the two central performances from Leah Lewis and Daniel Diemer. Everyone in the film is perfectly cast and Wu brilliantly separates Lemire’s Aster from the other girls in the school by making her the only brunette.

The film has a good soundtrack and whizzes through its one hundred and four-minute runtime. Wu’s shot selection is good, using different angles and depths to convey moods. There are no unnecessary or wasted shots in the film, with each scene pushing on to the next.

It is Wu’s script that is the real star though with every actor having a very distinct voice even Ellie’s reticent father. The Half Of It is one of the better films I have seen on Netflix this year and is definitely worth a look during this lockdown we find ourselves in. A joy.

Dangerous Lies – review (Netflix)

Brief synopsis: A young married couple are struggling to make ends meet. The wife gets a job working for an eccentric old man and persuades the man to employ her husband to work in the gardens. When the old man dies unexpectedly, he leaves all of his worldly goods to the woman. The couple’s relationship comes under strain as they try to come to terms with their new circumstances.

Is it any good?: with a title like Dangerous Lies this film was was never going to be a masterpiece and so it proves. With a convoluted plot and a laborious, bumbling build-up, Dangerous Lies is a bit of a chore to watch.

Spoiler territory: Katie (Camila Mendes) works in Smile diner supporting both her and her husband, Adam (Jessie T Usher), as he studies. The plan is for him to find a job once he graduates so as she can return to school. As Katie works late shifts, Jessie picks up from the diner most nights. On one such night, the two return to the diner, after Katie’s break, to find that it is being robbed.

Adam, even as Katie protests not wanting him to get involved, decides to intervene. He grabs a heavy frying pan and sneaks up on the assailant, Ray Gaskin (Sean Owen Roberts), and bashes him on the head, preventing the robbery. Gaskin gets arrested. On the same night, a diamond heist has also happened.

Four months later and Katie is working as a caregiver for an elderly man, Leonard (Elliot Gould). Leonard like Katie and happily chats to her as she brings him his daily medication. Back at home, Katie is telling Adam about how stressed she is feeling due to their financial situation. She also feels that Adam is not taking their situation seriously enough.

Katie tells Adam that, even four months on, she is still unhappy about him having intervened during the diner robbery, scared that she was going to lose him. She goes for a drive and ends up at Leonard’s house. He finds her on the porch, having heard footsteps and invites her in. She tells him about her financial woes. He asks her why she never mentioned it before but she tells him that it is not his problem. She asks him if Adam can do some work for him.

The next day, Adam joins her at the house, coming to work on the gardens. There is a knock at the door later in the day and Katie goes and answers it. Mickey Hayden (Cam Gigandet) is at the door. He tells her he is an estate agent and he has clients who have fallen in love with the house. Katie tells him that she doubts the house is for sale but takes his card anyway.

The couple keep working, hoping to clear their debts and even looking for a medical school for Katie to attend. Katie’s employer, George Calvern (Michael P Northey), comes to check up on her. She tells Adam that he has to stay out of sight as Calvern would not condone a husband and wife working together.

Later in the day, Leonard gives Katie her wage by cheque. She and Adam go to the bank to deposit the cheque. Katie is reluctant to do so when she sees that Leonard has given her seven thousand dollars. Adam persuades her to pay the cheque into the account and discuss it with Leonard the next day. From another car, Hayden is watching them.

Adam asks about Leonard. Katie tells him that he has no one, no relatives or spouse. They return to the house the next day and Katie goes to give Leonard his medication. Not finding him in his bedroom, she goes up to the attic, knowing that he likes to listen to music up there. She finds him dead in his chair.

Katie tells Adam and he comes and checks him. He finds a key next to the body. It opens a trunk that is in the attic. He finds various newspaper clippings and photographs of a young Leonard with a woman. The clippings seem to indicate that Leonard had not perhaps been truthful when talking about his life. Katie wants to call the police.

Adam pulls up the shelf and finds the rest of the trunk is full of money. He and Katie discuss what to do. Katie wants to report everything to the police, Adam persuades her that they would just make the money disappear. They call the police.

Detective Chesler (Sasha Alexander) interview the couple. She asks about their working relationship with Leonard and how long they have worked there. She asks about Leonard’s health. Katie tells the detective that Leonard wanted to be cremated. The next morning, Katie goes to see Calvern to get herself listed for work again. Adam asks her why is she going to see him, thinking about the money, she tells him that is what they both should be doing.

Adam sees that they still have the keys to Leonard’s house. Katie is told by Calvern that she cannot work whilst she is under investigation. Adam gets a call from an interview he went to. Though it went well, he did not get selected for a second interview. He returns to the house and counts the money.

Whilst in the house, he hears footsteps. He goes to check out the noise and gets knocked unconscious. He is woken by his phone, Katie calling. She meets at the house and is not too happy that the is there. Did he see who attacked him? No, he was hit from behind. He tells her there is nearly one hundred grand in the trunk.

They take the money and put it in a safety deposit box in the bank. They return to the car. They are still being watched by Hayden. Katie gets a call from the detective. They go to the station to see her. She asks the same questions she asked before, asking about Leonard’s relatives and wishes. She asks again if she is sure Leonard wanted to be cremated. Katie says yes. She tells the detective that they will take care of the funeral expense.

They are the only people at his funeral. At the funeral, she is approached by Julia (Jamie Chung). Julia tells her that she is Leonard’s attorney. She goes back to the house with Adam and Katie and tells them about Leonard’s will. Leonard left everything to Katie. Julia tells Katie that she needs an attorney but Leonard had paid her retainer already so she would be happy to help her navigate the will.

As she leaves, Julia is seen out by Katie. Julia questions whether both Katie and Adam will be on the same page when it comes to money. At dinner, Adam wants to spend money, wanting to go on holiday and be flash. Katie cautions against frivolousness, wanting to clear their debts. Adam wants to get a new car.

Having inherited Leonard’s house, they prepare to move in. Adam wants to leave all of their old possessions behind, happy to just buy new ones. Adam gets a call. Someone wants to talk to him about the diner incident. Adam goes to the police station and is seen by Chelser. She tells him that no one from the station called but the man who did the robbery, Gaskin, got killed in prison.

Hayden tries to persuade Katie to sell the house again, knowing that Leonard is dead. She kicks him off of the property. She discusses the meeting with Hayden with Adam. He says he is just after his commission. Katie goes to the bathroom and sees that Adam has purchased a new watch and it looks expensive. He tells her it is a cheap rip-off because his old watch stopped.

Chelser goes to the diner where the incident happened. She goes and sees Katie and Adam at their old place. They are preparing to move into Leonard’s. Chelser wants to speak to Adam but as he is not there, she asks Katie about the incident in the diner. She asks how often Adam picked her up from work. A few times a week she tells the detective.

Julia drops Katie home and Adam wants to know what they were talking about. Katie tells him that she wanted to see her. They disagree about information sharing as Katie did not know that he had spoken to Chelser. Adam apologises and tells her he thinks he is being followed. She asks him if he went to the bank. He did. She tells him about Hayden coming to visit. They both think he probably knows about the money.

Chelser investigates Adam and Katie. Katie wants to find out if the money could be problematic having been warned by Julia that they could lose everything if they are found to have done some wrongdoing. Chelser goes and sees Calvern. He did not know that Adam was working at the house. She shows him a copy of the cheque Katie received from Leonard.

In the house, Katie is in the garage. In the attic of the garage, she finds a corpse and a bag full of diamonds. She tells Adam. Katie thinks that it is the old gardener. They find diamonds on him. Calvern comes to the house but Katie turns him away. In the evening, Katie checks over the record she kept of Leonard’s medication. One of the bottles is empty.

Adam wants to keep the diamonds and get rid of the body. Katie wants to call the police. Adam stops her. What will they do about the money? Katie does not care about the money or the house. Adam does not want to be poor again. He tells her he will take care of the body. Later in the night, Adam catches Calvern sneaking into the house. He scares him causing him to fall down the stairs and die.

Chelser thinks that Adam is tricking Katie and that Gaskin, the robber, worked in the college Adam went. Katie goes to see Julia. She talks over her concerns and Chelser’s intimations. Katie goes to the bank. All the money is gone. She tells Julia that they found diamonds. Julia tells her that Adam is probably going to disappear and leave Katie to deal with the fallout. She returns home and finds Adam packing.

Chelser is called to the body that Adam dumped. He is identified as the former gardener at Leonard’s house, which is why Chelser is told about him. Adam tells Katie he checked up on Hayden. He is not a real estate agent, he is an ex-con and his last job was a diamond heist. He had an accomplice on the job, the corpse they found.

Katie wants to call the police but Adam thinks they should just run. He goes to change his clothes and tells her to get her things. Katie calls Julia and tells her that Adam is home but her call is interrupted by Hayden. He wants the diamonds. She does not know where the diamonds are. He tells her to call Adam. He takes her as a hostage as Adam emerges with a gun. Hayden discards Katie and shoots Adam who falls to the ground. As he goes to check he is dead, Adam shoots him dead.

Katie runs over to a dying Adam. He tells her that the diamonds are in the garden. Julia turns up at the house. She tells Julia they need to find the diamonds. Katie tells Julia that Hayden killed Leonard with an overdose. Julia talks too much, revealing more than she should know and Katie realises that she is after the diamonds.

Katie tells her she does not know where the diamonds are as Adam hid them. Julia goes to kill Katie but is stopped by Chelser. She tries to shoot Chelser and is killed. Four months later, a pregnant Katie is gardening. Chelser comes to see her. She tells her the case is closed and Adam’s name has been kept out of it. Chelser asks about the diamonds. Katie tells her she has no idea where they are. The detective leaves. Katie switches on the garden sprinklers and the diamonds sparkle in the dirt. The end.

Dangerous Lies – a lazy, uninspired, title for a film – is rubbish. It looks quite nice and the acting is good enough with literally every actor on show having been in far better fare but it is not good. The story is confusing and plodding, none of the red herrings work or makes sense, the timeline does not even line up.

Mendes’ Katie is set up as the moral compass of the film but, because she is in love, makes stupid decisions. Usher’s Adam’s love of money is another red herring, as is Gould’s Leonard’s mysterious past which is never explained beyond a few old newspaper clippings.

Alexander’s detective Chelser spends all her time trying to prove the married couple are dodgy but then decides it is just Adam who is dodgy. What the initial failed robbery has to do with the rest of the film is anybody’s guess, though they shoehorn in a weak connection somehow.

The fact that Adam risked his life to save a diner but then turns into a greedy idiot the moment he sees money just did not add up. Northey’s Calvern dies just to increase the body count and Chung’s Julia goes full Scooby Do exposition at the end as she explains the whole convoluted mess.

Written by David Golden and directed by Michael Scott, Dangerous Lies is so poor that it feels way longer than its ninety-six-minute runtime. Golden’s script has no surprises or originality. The story takes almost an hour to get going and by then one is beyond caring.

The film looks nice and is competently directed except for the overwrought music choice which is constantly foreboding and adds nothing to the near absent atmosphere. Dangerous Lies is an hour and a half of your life that you will not get back. Give it a miss.

Coffee and Kareem – review (Netflix)

Brief synopsis: when an urban black kid finds out his mother is sleeping with a white cop, he hatches a plan to have the cop beaten up. When he goes to the place where he is told he can find some people to do the job, he witnesses a murder, he is forced to go on the run with the same cop. As well as the drug gang, the two find out they are also up against corrupt cops.

Is it any good?: A film with the imaginative title of Coffee and Kareem was never likely to be a masterpiece in cinema, a fact reflected by its paltry five-point score on IMDB. That being said, the film does have some mirth-some moments and is not completely terrible. A hit and miss comedy.

Spoiler territory: police officer James Coffee (Ed Helms) is waiting outside of the house as twelve-year-old Kareem (Terence Little Gardenhigh) gets on to the school bus. Coffee gets out of the car and goes into the house. He is seeing Kareem’s mother, Vanessa (Taraji P. Henson). As the two get amorous, Kareem glimpses them having sex.

At school, Kareem is telling his friend, Dominic (Chance Hurstfiled) about seeing his mother having sex with a policeman. A white policeman. Dominic tells him that his mum sleeping with a policeman could ruin his fledgeling rap career. Kareem agrees that’s why he paid another kid he knows twenty dollars so he could find Orlando Johnson (RonReaco Lee), a local gangster/rapper, who he plans to get to put a beatdown on Coffee.

Detective Watts (Betty Gilpin) is leading a team on a drug raid. They burst into a house where Johnson and some of his guys are stashing drugs. They storm the house and Johnson gets arrested. Coffee is taking him to be arraigned and he escapes. The escape is all over the news and Coffee is an embarrassment to the department.

Coffee, whilst making a formal complaint against Watts for bullying, is told by the captain, Hill (David Alan Grier), that he is, due to his mishap, now on traffic duty. Vanessa tells a colleague, Sharon (Arielle Tuliao), that Kareem has asked her to let James pick him up from school. Sharon says it will be a good chance for them to bond. Vanessa calls James and asks him to pick up Kareem. Coffee, against his better judgement, agrees to pick the boy up.

Coffee picks up Kareem who, even as he is getting into the car, proves to be problematic. Kareem precedes to ask inappropriate questions. He asks Coffee to take him to a friends house and directs him to a very sketchy neighbourhood. He tells him to wait in the car while he goes and speaks to his friend. Coffee waits.

In a closed gym, Kareem comes across Johnson and two of his crew, Dee (William ‘Big Sleep’ Stewart) and Rodney (Andrew Batchelor). Johnson is questioning a bloodied policeman, Steve Choi (Terry Chen), whose ear has been cut off by Dee. Johnson notices Kareem. He asks why is he there. Kareem tells him that he was told to ask for Rodney. Rodney tells his crew that he is trying to recruit younger people.

Kareem starts to tell Johnson that he wants a cop hurt. Coffee is oblivious of the goings-on in the gym. Choi starts to plead for his life and he also tells Johnson that he is going to get cut out of the deal. Dee, irritated by Choi’s whining, puts six bullets in him, killing him. Kareem’s phone, which was in his breast pocket, records the whole incident.

Outside, Coffee hears the gunshots and scrambles out of his car. He tries to sneak into the gym but Johnson and his crew hear him. Johnson and Coffee exchange words but Dee starts shooting and Kareem runs. He drops his phone as he and Coffee run. In the alley behind the gym, Coffee breaks a car window and opens the boot. He and Kareem hide in the boot.

The owner of the car, Steve (Garfield Wilson), returns to see his car window broken. He is furious. Johnson calls his boss and tells them that Coffee has seen him. From the boot of the car, Coffee call Watts and tells her he has found Johnson and that they killed Choi. They both start shouting in the boot, making Steve stop the car. They steal Steve’s car.

Johnson and his crew drive past Steve. They ask him if he has seen Coffee and Kareem. He tells them that they went in the other direction. They drive off and leave him stranded as well. Coffee and Kareem return to Kareem’s home to pick up Vanessa. She does not know that they are being pursued by Johnson’s crew. As Vanessa tries to get an explanation as to why Coffee is wanted for abducting Kareem, Kareem sees Johnson and his crew pulling up outside the house.

Vanessa decides to call the police as Coffee argues with her. Kareem shoots her with a taser gun and they all leave. Coffee takes them to a motel that he and Vanessa have used before. They handcuff a still unconscious Vanessa to the toilet. A report comes over the news saying that Coffee is wanted for the murder of Choi as well.

Kareem makes Coffee promise not to see his mum again and to take him to a strip club. They go to find Kareem’s phone. A reward for Coffee apprehension is seen by the motel night man who calls the police. Kareem explains to Coffee what it takes to not be bullied. Be aggressive and gay. Really gay.

They find the location of his phone and Coffee tells Kareem that he is going in alone. He is caught as soon as he enters the building. Kareem, ignoring instructions, comes in and distracts the gunman. Coffee knocks him out. They move through the location, Kareem distracting and Coffee taking out henchmen. They find Johnson but Kareem is distracted by some women going to a changing room.

Coffee goes after Johnson and they end up fighting. Kareem comes and points a gun at them both. Coffee gets up and takes the gun. They take Johnson to another location and Coffee interrogates him about his operation. He tells them that all cops are dirty and he does not trust them.

Kareem vouches for Coffee’s character. Johnson tells him that Watts is behind everything. There is a big deal going down that same night at the Old Steel Mill. Vanessa wakes up and reads a note left by Kareem. Rodney and Dee have found her location and plan to kill her. She sees them coming.

Coffee takes Kareem to a strip club where he plans to meet captain Hill. Hill turns up and Watts is with him. Watts kicks everyone out of the strip club. Hill tells Coffee he is dirty. Watts shoots Hill. She wants more money for herself. Kareem runs and Watts goes after him after wounding Coffee and dragging him outside.

Kareem steals a police car and knocks over Watts. He and Coffee drive off. Watts finds Johnson in the trunk of another police car and they both pursue Coffee and Kareem. Coffee and Kareem manage to evade Watts and Johnson. They race over to the motel to save Vanessa. Vanessa, it turns out, does not need saving. Though Coffee and Kareem do not know that, as when they get to the motel, she is not there.

Coffee and Kareem argue and Vanessa comes to find Coffee berating her son. She tells them that she took care of Rodney and Dee. Angry with Coffee, she takes Kareem and leaves. Watts men grab Vanessa and Kareem. Coffee realises he will have to save them.

Coffee records a message telling the world about Watts and where he is going. He goes to the Old Steel Mill, having made a deal with Watts to exchange himself for Vanessa and Kareem. He gets to the mill. Watts is waiting and tells him to get out of the car. After a little back and forth, Coffee gets out of the car. He has two grenades in his hands.

Watts thinks he is bluffing and that the grenades are fake. She shoots him in the shoulder causing him to drop the grenades. The grenades now live, Coffee kick the grenade at Watts and her crew. They all scatter except Dee who gets blown up. Watts screams because the grenade also destroys some of her drugs.

Kareem and Vanessa escape from Watts during the confusion. She sends Johnson after them. He catches up with them but cannot kill them as he admits he is not a killer and never has been. Watts tries to do her drug deal with the Canadian drug lord. As the deal is going down the Detroit police turn up. The drug lord and his crew think they are being set up and shots fly. Watts crew fire back.

Watts is determined to get her money. She starts shooting everybody, even her people. Coffee tells Vanessa and Kareem to run whilst he and Johnson shoot at Watts’ people. They escape and Watts comes after Coffee and Johnson. She shoots at them and Coffee tells Johnson to leave. He and Watts fight. He hits Watts with the case filled with money and she is distracted and grabs for the money.

One of the Canadian drug people lets off a grenade blowing up the warehouse. A half-burnt Coffee staggers out. A fireman finds Watts and brings her out. She sees Coffee and tries to kill him. Vanessa shoots her dead. Kareem agrees to let Coffee see his mother. The end.

Coffee and Kareem is a hit and miss comedy that it is hard to know who it is aimed at. With Henson, the biggest name but still not finding the same sort of vehicle for her talents that Empire has been and Helm best remembered for his turns in The Hangover series, both are stars of vehicles that have been adult in their content and approach.

That the youngest member of the cast, Gardenhigh, should be the one to spout the most profanity is kind of half the fun but the title lends itself to something that one might think more child friendly. It is not. Shane Mack’s script is heavy on profanity with any sort of subtlety completely absent.

The story exists simply so as Gardenhigh’s Kareem can deliver insults. The story really is not up to much and truthfully it does not matter. The acting is good from all and played straight with the comedy elements working well when it comes to the verbal exchanges.

The comedy works less well when it comes to the visual comedy except for Henson’s Vanessa beating down Stewarts’ Dee and Batchelor’s Rodney. Directed by Michael Dowse, the film whizzes comfortably through its eighty-eight-minute runtime and is a brain in neutral experience.

Scoring a lowly five on IMDB, Coffee and Kareem is not going to go down in the pantheons of comedic classics but – unless you are bothered by excessive profanity from a child – is an easy watch and has a good few chuckles.

Deadcon – review (Netflix)

It is twenty-twenty and a new decade. My reviewing output has slowed of late due to a few factors – working a lot more. Christmas. Not visiting the cinema that much and, considering I generally review Netflix output, a paucity of anything that I found remotely interesting over the festive period on the streaming service.
I have watched a few things this year. The entire second season of Titans dropped and I blasted through that in a few days. Excellent. Also, the riveting Don’t F*** With Cats, a compelling three-part documentary about ordinary people tracking a psychopath after he films himself killing a cat. Though I occasionally review a season of a show, I tend to stick to films.
So, as we pass the halfway point of January, I am attempting to get back into suffering – sorry, watching – films on Netflix. To this end, I found myself watching a film that had garnered a very generous two point eight on IMDB. Deadcon is an abomination. It is seventy-eight minutes of staggering mediocrity.
The story, such as it is, begins with some god-awful scene set in 1984. John Althaus (Aaron Hendry) is holed up in his hotel room, begging his employers not to close down his computer project. He gets short shrift. He has come up with, pre-social media, a program to connect people through messaging, LinkRabbit. When a message from someone called Bobby (Judah Mackey) flashes up on his screen, John replies.
Fast forward to the present and several social media influencers are descending on ViewCon, a social media fan weekend. Ashley (Lauren Elisabeth) is a popular influencer at the event, as is Megan (Claudia Sulewski) and Mark Dohner, who plays himself. I am obviously in the wrong demographic for this film as I have no idea who Mark Dohner is. Think he is a real ‘social media influencer’.
Anyway, after a hotel room mix up, Ashley gets put in into room 2210a by the hotel manager, even as the reception staff tries to protest. The manager shoos him away. The room is refrigerator cold and looks as though it has not been redecorated since the eighties.
In the same hotel, Megan is having a clandestine meeting with another social media star, Dave, (Keith Machekanyanga), who comes to see if she has broken up with her boyfriend, Ricky. She leaves him alone in the room as she has to go to an event. At the event, Ashley is meeting and greeting her fans and taking pictures with them.
When she returns to her room, it is completely wrecked. Ashley confesses to a friend that she is seeing Dave. Ashley’s lights go out in the room. She calls reception to get the bulbs changed. The reception guy does not want to change the lights, refusing to enter the room. He gives her the bulbs. Ashley gets attacked by some invisible force.
Dave goes to see Megan again and ask her if he can film them getting amorous. She says no. He secretly films them anyway. The next day, a weird Ashley joins the convention. Her manager, Kara (Mimi Gianopulos) thinks she has been partying too much. Ashley does not have shoes on.
Megan is surprised by her boyfriend, Ricky (Lukas Gage). She immediately informs Dave that he has turned up. She leaves him in the hotel room and goes to a party. Dave is reviewing his secret filming and sees Bobby on the tape. He tries to contact Megan but her phone is in her bag.
Ricky, who is getting ready for the party, gets killed by a balloon cord. Dave investigates the little boy Bobby and finds out about John Althaus. He was suspected of kidnapping and killing several children back in 1984. He tries to contact Megan but she tells him they will talk tomorrow.
Dave goes to the hotel and tries to show Megan the film but the phone screen breaks. Megan is angry that he filmed them and refuses to leave with him. Megan falls asleep and Dave falls asleep in a chair, not wanting to leave her alone. They are both awakened by a sound. Bobby returns and they both see him. Megan gets snatched by an invisible force. Dave goes after her and is attacked by Ashley. Sometime later, the manager lets Lauren (Jordyn Yarker), another social media star into the suite. The end.
Deadcon is awful and I am being kind. The story is nonsense, it is unoriginal in both execution and premise, the acting is bad, the script is bad, it is all bad. Nothing in the film works with the complete vagueness of the story not helping at all. Bobby, who started as a name on a computer, turning out to be some random little homicidal child was stupid.
The film is seventy-eight minutes long but nobody dies until minute fifty-five and it is the completely pointless Ricky. His death also turns out to be the most gruesome in the film, the cord of a balloon garrotting him. That is as horrific as this ‘horror’ film gets. The rest of the ‘horror’ comprises of dark rooms and shadows and the damned kid appearing randomly.
Deadcon, written by Scotty Landes and directed by Caryn Waechter, is a project that I cannot understand how it got made. There is no way anyone reads the script for this and thinks it is going to work.

Somehow, one hundred thousand dollars was wasted on this tripe. Everything in this film is poor. The script is poor, the directing is poor, the sets are poor, the acting…you get my drift.
Do not watch this film. It is the first film I have watched this year and I already think it has made my top ten worst films of twenty-twenty. You have been warned.