About badlydrawnben

Ben Fenlon. Podcaster and film reviewer for the Supernerds UK Podcast.

Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

Blade Runner 2049 achieves the impossible. It’s a sequel to a film that never needed one, which manages not only to live up to its predecessor but in some ways improve on it.

Harrison Ford reprises his role as Deckard, with Ryan Gosling stepping into the lead role as new Blade Runner, K. Gosling is impressive as always and Ford manages his best performance since about 1997 or whenever it was Six Days, Seven Nights came out. Erstwhile Joker, Jared Leto puts in a solid turn as Niander Wallace, nefarious science guy, however the milky eyes and Japanese clothing showing Leto’s grasp of subtlety is still not quite there. The women in the film are all essentially plot devices, which I’m sure is a socio-politcal commentary on post apocalyptic sexism but just comes across as a bit lazy I suppose. That said, Robin Wright is bad ass, Mackenzie Davis is really good and Ana De Armas is INCREDIBLE as Joi. 

Cards on the table here. If you didn’t like Blade Runner, you’re not gonna like 2049. I was worried initially that a mega budget sequel to a niche movie (that initially flopped) would be a terrible idea. I love Blade Runner, the original, well the director’s cut. Or is that the Final Cut? Anyway. It’s a phenomenonal piece of work, but it’s the cinematic equivalent of a tone poem. It’s not a full of snappy dialogue or cool scenes. It’s sparse, dark and miserable and 2049 is exactly  the same but longer.  

Directed by Denis Villeneuve hot off the one-two punch of Sicario and Arrival, 2049 is an epic dystopian sci-fi tackling once again the themes of life, creation and death. I don’t think 2049 is as deep as it thinks it is, but it’s certainly a very good movie, especially complemented by Roger Deakins amazing cinematography. 

I’m going to completely avoid any story details, knowing as little as possible is definitely the best way to approach. Granted this makes it harder to explain why you should see the movie, but Blade Runner 2049 is an experience that shouldn’t be ruined. Especially for fans of the original, I can’t stress that enough. 

The score by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch is well suited, big droning synths creating  powerful walls of sound, I’m disappointed in myself for not seeing it in IMAX, where I’m sure I’d have been obliterated by the sheer volume. There was another composer working on the film, Villeneuve’s regular collaborator Johann Johannson, who left because the director wanted something closer to Vangelis’ score from the first film. I’d be very interested in hearing the discarded score, fingers crossed for a John Murphy style bootleg  release down the line!

 I can’t really drag this out without ruining scenes, performances or Easter eggs. If you like Blade Runner, this is going to be your jam. If you don’t, well Kingsman 2 and IT are still out and they’re both great too. For me, Blade Runner 2049 is one of the best films of the year, something nostalgic yet blazing it’s own trail into the future. I’m excited for Blade Runner 2079 already.
9/10





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A Cure For Wellness (2017)

One of 2017’s first big flops, Gore Verbinski’s A Cure For Wellness is a curious thing. I missed it in the cinema, despite really wanting to catch it, it wasn’t on for very long and was pummelled by critics and audiences. Finally today I managed to get around to it and was rather shocked by what I found.

I expected an early 2000’s style, trashy horror thriller, admittedly which I do enjoy,  but what I got was something very different. A long, ponderous movie, beautifully shot and enveloped in Benjamin Wallfisch’s stunning score, A Cure For Wellness is actually closer to something by Hitchock. The stunning scenery of Switzerland complimenting the terror. 

Story-wise I found it very similar to Dracula, just without Vampires. Dane DeHaan’s emotionally damaged Lockhart is caught up in some shady business deals. His employers offer to offload the blame on their CEO Pembroke who has run away to a mysterious health clinic in the Swiss Alps. Once in Switzerland, Lockhart finds the clinic is very strange, like a reverse Shutter Island, everyone is sedate and happy. The creepy  Dr Volmer (Jason Isaacs) is far too nice and Hannah (Mia Goth) is the only other young person in the clinic and she is distant, detached and definitely hiding something. One horrible car crash later, Lockhart is trapped in the clinic, no closer to getting Pembroke home and a new mystery unravelling around him.

There is a LOT going on in this film. I mean, the synopsis above is basically just the first act. Verbinski’s non-linear structure and vague style keeps you guessing and hooked despite a two and a half hour runtime. Wellness is not a hard film to keep track of, but it’s constantly teasing reveals and pulling you along sterile corridors and dank old tunnels. The actual look of the film is incredible, reminiscent of Verbinski’s own The Ring mixed with Shutter Island. Just, y’know, without the terrifying ghost girl but with loads of eels instead. 

The only quibble I had was Dane DeHaan’s slightly wooden acting. He comes across as Keanu Reeves without the cool, but as the story progressed his bewilderment faded into despair and anger. 

I think in time, A Cure for Wellness will end up as a beloved cult classic. It’s got enough depth and mythology to warrant multiple viewings and certainly has the visual flair to hold up in future. The long runtime maybe off putting for some, but watching at home where pause buttons exist gives no excuses. Plus, the third act reveals are satisfying, which makes a difference. So many long, drawn out films splutter out an ending that doesn’t quite work, but Wellness sticks the landing. 
Give it a look, if you’re a fan of slow burning, creepy  horror especially. 

8/10

For Fans Of:

Crimson Peak

The Ring

Dracula (1992)

Shutter Island 

Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017)

I’m starting to think we don’t need James Bond any more. Taron Egerton’s Eggsy is the Bond for the millennial era, cheeky, cool and hard as nails. The Kingsman movies take the loving approach of a homage and crank up the crazy to 11. 

The Golden Circle is the second Kingsman film based on Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons comic books, directed again by Matthew Vaughan and scripted by him and Jane Goldman. This movie being an original tale, as there was only one comic book and they’ve already adapted that. 

The whole band is back together and clearly having a whale of a time making these films. It’s like the Roger Moore era of Bond but with swearing, ultra violence and a bit less sexism. 

The first Kingsman, way back in 2015 was a breath of fresh air. It seemed to come out of nowhere and blow everyone away.  A new franchise with unexpectedly fresh characters played by unusually cast actors. Who’d have expected Colin Firth to be a bad ass spy? 
So does the sequel live up to the first installment? Sort of. It’s not quite as good as the first, but it’s still a bloody good action romp. I think the reason these films both work so well is that the characters are incredibly well rounded. The world feels real and lived in, despite the crazy sci fi weapons and super villains. World building is a term thrown about a lot but the Kingsman universe really feels rich and open. 

This second film follows Eggsy and Merlin, picking up the pieces after the Kingsman organisation is destroyed by the lovely yet evil Poppy. A drug baron out to become world famous as a businesswoman. Because in 2017, being famous is the most important thing ever. Julianne Moore doesn’t get too much to do as Poppy, but the cast is huge and she gets some very memorable moments. Our surviving Kingsmen join forces with their American equivalent Statesman, of course, to try to save the world. Fairly simple stuff, but it’d all about the journey not the destination isn’t it!?

What I liked about this movie, as I did the first, was that it has a sort of sympathetic villain. Sure, Poppy is a homicidal killer, but she’s sweet and her ambitions aren’t too nefarious. Just like how Valentine wanted to kill people to save the planet. Sure, she’s a far fetched super villain with an ego the size of the earth and an obsession with Elton John. Her robot dogs being named Bennie and Jet and not allowed to harm Elton was a great touch. 

I loved seeing Colin Firth and Mark Strong back, with a nice cameo from Michael Gambon, the kingsman team full of great British actors. I won’t spoil Harry’s return but it’s not as daft as I was expecting. I’ll admit I was somewhat skeptical at the idea of an American team, but Statesman were fantastic and didn’t overstay their welcome or jump the shark. Halle Berry, Jeff Bridges and Channing Tatum were all superb but I really enjoyed Pedro Pascal as Whiskey. Dry humour and believably bad-ass. 

The real show stealer however, was Elton John. I’m not gonna ruin any of that, just enjoy it.

So. Kingsman: The Golden Circle. Not quite as original as the first one, but a bloody good action movie. Roll on chapter 3.

8/10

For Fans Of:

Kick Ass

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery

Skyfall

Moonraker

mother! (2017)

Darren Aronofsky has made possibly the most polarising film of the decade. Mixing psychological horror with heavy handed religious allegories as well as being a satire of fame, mother!  is in my opinion one of the best films of the year. However it is certainly not for everyone, thoroughly dividing audiences and critics alike . I’m going to be discussing the plot frankly and in detail including the ending, so please go and see the film before reading! 

FULL SPOILERS AHEAD  


Written and directed by Aronofsky, mother!  has a phenomenonal cast, led by Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem. Their nameless characters reside in a large, curiously shaped house, currently being renovated solely by Lawrence after a fire destroyed it. The chemistry between the two leads is why the film works, if their relationship doesn’t click, the film would simply fall flat. Our leads are a couple, living together alone in a large house in the middle of nowhere. Bardem a writer struggling with his creativity, Lawrence the muse, rebuilding and renovating the house they live in. 

Unexpectedly,  Ed Harris arrives, followed soon after by a mesmerising  Michelle Pfeiffer, a married couple with temptation issues. Outstaying their welcome and acting like they own the place, their two sons arrive soon thereafter, one jealously bludgeoning the other to death. 

It was at this point that I realised one of the influences of the film, which feels odd to write. Darren Aronofsky has essentially retold the bible as a horror movie. Harris and Pfeiffer are Adam and Eve. The sons, played by real life brothers Domhnall and Brian Gleeson: Cain and Abel. Making Bardem’s character God and Lawrence being mother earth. 

Not long after this, Lawrence falls pregnant and Bardem’s new work inspires a legion of new fans and followers, with the tone and style of the film changing as a result. This is Aronofsky’s New Testament section of the film, very different from the first half, complete with a visceral, graphic version of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and a literal take on communion. A warzone of body parts and gore with some of the heaviest and disturbing scenes I’ve ever seen in a mainstream Hollywood movie, that will certainly stick with me for quite a while. 

It’s clear to me that Aronofsky is not just retelling the Bible. That would be an insult to the layers and depths that mother! goes to. Coming across at times like a stage play, the basic setting of this bare house enables us to truly digest the performances and story. I feel and I’m sure I’m not alone on this, that the movie is also a comment on the creative process as well as the cost of fame. In fact, you could ignore all the Biblical references and just view the movie as an allegory of the creative process and it would still be a resounding success. Artists of any kind will know the pains and labours of creating something so personal and then letting it go into the world to be criticised, lauded and for people to feel a connection with it, feeling ownership and entitlement of your work.  Then of course to attempt to start again and repeat the whole process. As Bardem’s Him says near the end, nothing is ever enough. 

I found the cinematography highly original and wholly oppressive, every scene is either of Lawrence’s face, over her shoulder or from her perspective. This really builds a claustrophobic feel, generating an anxious feel and confusing the audience as to the geography of the house. Sometimes feeling that rooms change floors or corridors lead elsewhere. The set design, while bare and bleak, suits the feel of the film. The touches like a bleeding floor and the David Lynch style dreamy shots of something biological within the house starting to turn to ash are the icing on a very bizarre cake. 

You can definitely see the influences of the likes of Polanski and Von Trier as well as riffs on his own earlier work , but mother! never really feels derivative, instead existing in its own grim little bubble. 

Since leaving the cinema and mulling it over, I’ve changed my review score three times. A captivating, visceral and concise piece of art, mother! is certainly an acquired taste,  but will also be talked about for years to come. 
9/10

For Fans Of:

Martyrs

Antichrist

Mulholland Drive

Rosemary’s Baby

The Top 10 NEW Characters in Twin Peaks: The ReturnĀ 

While you’re still processing that ending, let’s have a look back at some of the new additions to the Twin Peaks lore. Obviously this list will include spoilers for all three seasons so don’t carry on if you’ve not yet seen the whole thing! 

When a new season of Twin Peaks was announced, I think a lot of us would admit that we were mainly just excited to see all of our favourite characters returning. Sadly some didn’t make it back for The Return , which I’ve covered here.  

This article will cover my picks for the Top 10 NEW Characters. David Lynch and Mark Frost have worked their magic again to bring us some more wonderful and strange characters, who would have fit right in, back in the original series. Well except maybe Chad. 

If you like this list, or if you think I’ve missed anyone or I’m totally wrong, leave me a comment below or find me on twitter

One last thing, my podcast did an interview with David Patrick Kelly, who played Jerry Horne in both the original and new series. He talks about the Return, the original series, working with David Lynch on Wild At Heart and even gives us an exclusive musical performance of the Twin Peaks theme. Apple users can find it here on iTunes. It’s available here for everybody else!

Let’s Rock! 

Chad 

Just kidding, fuck Chad. 

10. Freddie Sykes


After a small appearance in episode 2, Freddie, James’ British colleague appeared again in episode 14, delivering a long monologue describing how he was taken into a portal, encountered The Fireman and was gifted a green gardening glove, giving him the power of a piledriver. Played by newcomer and YouTube star Jake Wardle, Freddie was instantly embraced by the audience. The following episode, Freddie showed off the power of his enchanted glove and teed himself up for a role in the finale, as everyone headed towards the Twin Peaks sheriff station. Here, Freddie played an important role in the defeat of Mr C and BOB, fulfilling his destiny in the process. 

9. Bill Hastings 

The erstwhile Shaggy, Matthew Lillard gave the performance of his career as schoolteacher Bill Hastings. Dragged into the whole mess of Lodges and Demons and Tulpas, Bill is wrongly jailed for murdering his secret girlfriend, double crossed by wife, who herself ends up murdered by Mr C . Bill’s scene with Agent Tammy Preston in the interrogation room will surely go down as one of Peaks’ greatest ever scenes. I’ll certainly never think of Scuba Diving the same way.  Sadly, poor Bill got his head crushed by a sneaky Woodsman, which was a shame as the poor chap had been through enough! Lillard is due a career renaissance after his appearance here, showing his acting chops are more than worthy of a big time comeback. 

8. Tammy Preston

 

Beautiful and poised, Crysta Bell as Agent Tammy Preston is a great addition to the Blue Rose Task force. With Jeffries, Cooper and Desmond all AWOL, Gordon Cole needed some new blood. Tammy is the audience surrogate in a lot of her scenes and I her interactions with Gordon and Albert are sometimes hilarious and sometimes intense . A regular Lynch collaborator, Bell is usually a musician, so while her acting may not be the best, she truly is part of the Blue Rose team and proves her worth by the season’s end. 

7. The Mitchum Brothers 

 Jim Belushi and Robert Knepper’s Vegas casino bosses went from terrifying villains to offbeat comedy heroes throughout The Return. Cemented as firm fan favourites in the episode where they took Cooper/Dougie out to kill him in the desert, the Mitchum’s bring a quirky sense of  fun to the show,  largely missing in the early stages of season 3. Belushi in particular standing out with a startling performance, reminding us all of why he was such a star in the 80’s and early 90’s.  

6. Richard Horne 

I suppose Twin Peaks The Return needed a psychopathic, abusive young criminal. The original has Leo Johnson after all. Filling that role this time out is Richard Horne, son of Audrey and apparently Mr C. We’re never privy to the exact details. 

Played by Eamon Farren, Richard is introduced as he brutally assaults a female patron of the Roadhouse. Then in the following episodes he manages to kill a child, attempt to murder the witness, bribe a cop, assault his own grandmother for money and go on the run. 

Luckily for the citizens of the Washington state town, Richard gets his comeuppance at the hands of his (possible) father. I’d have liked a bit more time with Richard or just a bit more of his backstory. 

5. Frank Truman 

Replacing a beloved character is not an easy job, so Lynch and Frost decided to bring in a new Sheriff instead of recasting Michael Ontkean’s Harry Truman. Robert Forster plays Frank Truman, Harry’s brother, and brings a level of gravitas to the show. 

We find out Frank had a son who died and is constantly berated by his wife, yet deals with everything with nothing less than class and patience. He feels like he has been part of the mythology all along, which is probably the highest compliment to a new character. 

Interestingly Forster was cast as Harry in the original show before having to drop out, and gives us a look at what could have been. 

4. Wally Brando

 

When Michael Cera was cast, a lot of fans correctly guessed he was playing the grown up son of Lucy and Andy (or Dick Tremayne). I don’t think anyone truly had any idea just what that would bring us. Wally Brando’s short, bizarre appearance was pure distilled Twin Peaks. An intensely emotional moment, where Bobby Briggs, who is now Sheriff’s Deputy sees Laura Palmer’s picture. The tears fill his eyes and Angelo Badalamenti’s glorious Love Theme plays. We then go to Michael Cera in leathers sat on a motorbike. Genius.  Robert Forster’s straight faced reaction to Wally was almost as funny as Wally himself.  

An obvious Marlon Brando tribute, Wally had returned to visit his godfather, Harry S Truman, who we never see but learn is sick. 

May the road rise up to meet your wheels, always Wally. 

3. Janey-E Jones 

Regularl Lynch collaborator Naomi Watts being in The Return was a given. Showing up as the wife of Dougie Jones, one of Cooper’s doppelgangers, Janey-E was at first shrill and annoying, but after showing her bad-ass side quickly became a highlight of every episode she was in. Watts’s performance being stellar every week. The eventual reveal of her being Diane’s half sister was a shocker but sort of totally made sense. Did the E in Janey-E stand for Evans?  

2. Diane Evans 

The new cast member I was most excited to see in The Return was Laura Dern. Another Lynch muse, Dern appeared alongside Kyle McLachlan in Blue Velvet, leading me to hope she would be integral to the plot. Her casting as the mysterious Diane (yes, that Diane from Coop’s tape recorder) was a stroke of genius. Diane’s biting attitude, constantly saying “Fuck You” to everyone and secretly communicating with Mr C, kept us on the edge of our seats wondering what her motivations were all season.

The revelation of Diane as a Tulpa was pretty shocking, even though we knew something wasn’t right. Of course the real Diane returning to Coop was inevitable and the last two episodes certainly didn’t disappoint in that regard. 

1. Woodsmen 

Few things have been more terrifying in Twin Peaks than these creatures. A worthy successor to the sheer horror of BOB, a version of the Woodsmen originally showed up in the background of a scene in Fire Walk With Me, but it was Episode 8 of The Return where they really shone. 

“This is the water and this is the well. Drink full and descend. The horse is the white of the eyes, and dark within.”

We had a first glimpse of a Woodsman in the jail cell next to Bill Hastings, but they’ve made their presence felt a few times since. Creatures of abstract terror, relentless and not to be reasoned with, the Woodsmen are a truly unique and Lynchian villain, surely never to be topped? 

GOTTA LIGHT?

Thanks for the reading. Don’t forget to leave a message below if you have comments or criticisms of my choices! 

The Dark Tower (2017)

Stephen King’s epic fantasy series has had a long troubled road to the screen. Going through creative teams such as Abrams/ Lindelof and Ron Howard/ Brian Grazer, eventually landing at the trustworthy hands of Danish director Nikolaj Arcel and Akiva Goldsman. Yes. That Akiva Goldsman. Writer of Batman and Robin. 

Let that sink in. 

They trusted this huge, potential franchise to the guy who wrote all those ice puns and gave Batman a credit card with Forever as the expiry date. 

Tom Taylor plays Jake Chambers, a troubled young boy  having visions of a Gunslinger, Roland Deschain (Idris Elba)  and his battle against the Man in Black (Matthew McConnaughey). The Man in Black wants to destroy The Dark Tower, which protects the multiverse. We never really find out his motivation other than he’s a bit evil. 

Getting critically mauled on its release, I expected very little to enjoy, so imagine my surprise when it turned out to be a fairly enjoyable, sci-fi romp. Landing somewhere between Thor and Masters of the Universe, The Dark Tower is a kind of cheesey, entertaining fantasy/western/pulp/sci-fi film. It’s short, so wastes no time in getting the story going and rarely pauses for breath. It’s also a Stephen King greatest hits collection, with constant references to Shining and people who Shine as well as dropping hints to Cujo, IT and a few other King classics. 

Of course there are some faults. The plot is fairly basic, and quite messy in places, missing out some key details, leaving the audience to try and figure out things for themselves. Oh and McConnaughey sounds overdubbed and slightly louder than everyone else, maybe an Adam Sandler/Little Nicky situation requiring a re-recording. He’s…. not up to his usual standard by the way, sort of flat. I wanted crazy scenery chewing and didn’t get it. Elba is fantastic on the other hand. Deserved much more of a meaty role than he was given. Roland’s scenes on our Keystone Earth were hilarious, Elba’s deadpan delivery was impeccable.

The Dark Tower should have been the next Harry Potter series. Huge scale epic fantasy movies, filled with real stakes and humour. What we get is a canonical sequel to the books that is sort of a remix of the entire series. Now, I’ll admit I haven’t read TDT series yet, but it’s on my to read list. If anything the film has made me want to read them more than ever. 

6.5/10

For Fans of:



Thor 

Masters of The Universe 

Transformers

Christine 

Death Note (2017)

Shall we begin? 

Adapting an already beloved property is a difficult thing. Adam Wingard’s Death Note has been victim to accusations of whitewashing, being an unnecessary remake and pre-release bad press. Death Note is based on a legendary manga wich has been adapted into both and anime and some live  action films in Japan. Was any of this pre-criticism justified? 
NOPE!

I feel I need to get this out of the way up front, I’ve never seen the original anime or live action movies. My opinion is purely based on this new movie. Feel free to educate me in the comments or over on twitter

Netflix’s Death Note is actually pretty, pretty good. A dark, moody, nightmarish movie, lit in neon signs and police lights, Death Note takes us on a journey of conflicting emotions and difficult choices. 

Light Turner, played by Nat Wolff, has recently lost his mother. He’s disaffected and acting up in school. During an unexpected windstorm, Light comes across a book. A book that kills anybody who’s name is written within its pages. Along with the book comes Willem Dafoe’s Ryuk, a Death God, he’s eight feet tall and as creepy as he is hilarious. Light also gets involved with Mia (Margaret Qualley) who may have ulterior motives. It’s not long before Nat and Mia start killing people under the name KIRA and attract the attention of L (Lakeith Stanfield) who is one of the worlds foremost private investigators. 

I had no preconceptions of what a Death Note film should be like. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I am however a fan of director Adam Wingard, ever since seeing his contributions to the VHS movies. After seeing You’re Next, The Guest and Blair Witch it was apparent Wingard is a director to watch, so I did expect some of his stylistic trademarks to shine through. 

The pulsing electronic score provided by Oscar winner Atticus Ross and Leopold Ross perfectly compliments Wingard’s dark, rain-drenched, neon lit streets, giving everything a very 80’s feel. In fact, it comes across very John Carpenter in both tone and style, which is never a bad thing.

 
I do have some criticisms, the scriptwriters have crammed in an awful lot of story into a relatively short run time, which worked but at the expense of some character development. Both Light and Mia’s introductions were shorter than I’d have liked, missing out on some backstory, particularly about the death of Light’s mother and I’d have loved more scenes with L. 

Lakeith Stanfield as L was a particular highlight for me. An odd character, the world’s greatest detective, L comes across as Batman meets Sherlock Holmes and probably should have been made a bigger deal of in the story. I really like Stanfield, who could have been given more to do, but did great with what he had. I do hope Netflix commissions a sequel as I am not quite ready to be done with these characters. 

The special effects were great, Ryuk is shown sparingly but to great effect. His realistic (to an extent) design is incredible. Dafoe’s voice perfectly suiting this porcupine quilled demon. Ryuk is never overused and is probably the highlight of the film, each one of his appearances bringing dread and hilarity. 

Death Note is a lean, tight, supernatural thriller with plenty of twists and turns along the way. Packed with dark humour and some fantastic gore, it’s a blend of Peter Parker style “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility” and the karma killer of Final Destination. 

Death Note is now streaming on Netflix 
8/10

For Fans Of:
Final Destination 

The Craft 

The Ring

Chronicle