Lost in Space Season Three (2021)

loasts3Attentive readers will likely recall my glowing reviews of the surprisingly good Season One and Season Two of the Lost in Space reboot.  Season Three is the end of the series (kudos to Netflix for letting the show run its course and not cut it short like they have done the recent Cowboy Bebop) so I guess the question is, did they stick the landing?

Well, that’s a tricky one really. There is some weird expectation -maybe its just a general narrative thing, maybe its a Game of Thrones thing- that a series finale has to be some big epic event, a grand conclusion to leave fans buzzing. Its the way they mostly went with Lost in Space, and I’ll be honest, I could have been forgiven during the last two episodes for  thinking I was watching a Marvel movie: infact, it DID occur to me a few times. There are some big climactic moments, particularly during what amounts to a huge battle between good and bad robots across a desolate battlefield of fire and smoke and destruction, where it looked like something from the climax Avengers: Endgame, complete with ‘hero shots’ of human characters posing in essentially slow-motion moments, that felt very ‘Marvel movie’. And sure, for a television show to even approximate that is achievement in itself, even if it is a show made with what I imagine is an inflated Netflix budget. But was that good for the show?

It just made me question why the showrunners felt the need to go large like that, to go so epic. Personally I see so much CGI spectacle now, it quickly gets boring no matter how well its executed, its just a distraction from what should be more genuine drama. There’s a sense that its just a ticking of boxes- bigger explosions, crazier stunts, noisier music- that ruins so many blockbuster movies now. Blockbuster movies used to be a term referring to movies that had crowds queuing around city blocks, like in the glory days of Jaws or Star Wars in the 1970s, but these days its seems to be describing films as loud and noisy as a city block collapsing in an explosion, and its something increasingly infecting television shows all the time too. One of the most depressing things about Star Trek: Discovery (thank goodness I won’t be seeing that show’s latest season since Netflix dropped it) is how much it felt it needed bigger and bigger spectacle, at the expense of actual ideas (or rather it excused its lack of ideas and good writing by blindsiding viewers with flashy vacuous visuals).

To be sure, season three of Lost in Space is visually amazing, as the show always has been. Its production design -sets, costumes, hardware- has always been top-notch, and I’d argue its visual effects have been some of the very best I’ve ever seen on a television show. Its always been a very cinematic series, very strong indeed. But I also think that, some irritating character arcs aside, the series was at its best with regards its characters, especially the dynamic between the young Will Robinson (Maxwell Jenkins) and the Robot, which is something one would certainly expect from a Lost in Space show and one of the reasons this reboot has been so enjoyable. While that isn’t entirely lost in this series conclusion I think it did lose its way, fell out of focus as the show became distracted by trying to become a big Marvel movie. 

Which is why I had mixed feelings as regards season three. It certainly had its moments and the finale largely worked, minus some major plot-holes that irritated me no end which I guess I was supposed to ignore amongst all the CGI and noise. Maybe I should be prepared for more of the same, maybe its just how things are done now. I hear a live-action Blade Runner series is in the works… must say that makes me more than a little nervous, but perhaps much of this is just symptomatic of increasingly poor writing/box-ticking and maybe studio expectations. 

Just because you can do something, visually with all the tools film-makers have now, doesn’t mean one necessarily should- I think that’s a lesson taught us by George Lucas and his Star Wars special editions back in the late 1990s, but here we are and it still hasn’t been heeded. Character-based drama always wins out, but that relies upon a sophistication of writing seemingly lost to the current generation. An army of Replicants, a series of Spinner-Car chases… is that what Blade Runner in future incarnations is destined to become? Likewise an army of Aliens rampaging the Earth in a mooted Alien series, no doubt. Perhaps Lost in Space got away lightly after all.

Last Week

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                                              Great Scott! Those Mattes!

Well there goes another week in the mad tumble towards what some people are still hoping will turn out to be Christmas. Regular readers may have noticed a wee drop in the number of reviews being posted lately- its partly because I’ve been turning my attention to watching television shows this month, which obviously take more time to watch than a movie does. This week, though, much of my time has been taken up with other distractions, including watching Back to the Future and its sequel, the imaginatively titled Back to the Future Part II which have just been released on 4K UHD (I’ll likely get around to the third entry sometime today). Visually these films are rather more problematic than some catalogue releases on 4K UHD, which I gather is partly down to the filmstock used at the time and the optical effects, which is a particular problem with the second entry. I remember watching the film at the cinema and being wowed by those visual effects, particularly the flying cars (at the time seeming much more sophisticated than the flying car sequences in Blade Runner) and the clever split screen techniques. Watching them on this 4K presentation, some shots still impress but goodness some are pretty terrible, really: in some places the optical effects leave the flying cars looking like smudgy animation and at other moments almost pasted on like cut-outs. I don’t know if its a degradation of the original elements, or an inevitable consequence of 4K resolution and HDR making mattes etc much more problematic, but some of that once so impressive stuff looks fairly dire now and quite distracting. If anything, it makes those flying car sequences in Blade Runner all the more impressive as they seem to hold up much better (probably a case of the more simple shots being easier to realise back then, or the digital trickery that was applied to the restoration for the Final Cut).

I do have to wonder though about how this film originally looked in the cinema, my memories of it- were we so much more forgiving? Or is it something to do with how we watch films now on these 4K panels. Back when I saw the film it was blown up on a huge cinema screen, and yet still seemed to hold up better than now on my unforgiving OLED- or is it really just how I’m remembering it? Was my old VHS copy, say, simply much more low-resolution, low-contrast and therefore much more forgiving itself, too?

Fortunately the films themselves remain quite fun and endearingly old-fashioned- once all blockbusters were made this way; there’s a sense of innocence to them that was possibly cynically calculated for all I know, but nostalgia certainly clouds over some of the bad points. In some ways Part Two seems eerily prescient- the middle section looking rather uncannily Trumpworld- I’ll never see those alternate 1985 sequences the same way as I used to.

But thinking of how the films effects turned out some thirty years later on 4K UHD, and how problematic these BTTF films have been on home video over the years (some purists reckon the Blu-rays were unwatchable), made me think about home video and owning films. I remember a time when owning a film was impossible, frankly, and a time when expensive early VHS tapes were sold (I recall seeing a copy of Jaws in a cardboard slipcase for sale for something like £76 in a posh department store in 1982). Eventually films could be found more cheaply, early examples being the Cinema Club range I remember seeing in Woolworths. One of the latter included 2001: A Space Odyssey, a copy of which I had for Christmas one year.

But of course it wasn’t really a case of owning the movie, not properly. That copy of 2001 I had was on a pan and scan, horribly fuzzy VHS- if Kubrick himself ever had the misfortune to watch a copy I’m sure he would have been mortified. Which makes me wonder how film-makers re-watch their films and what they really think of some of the home video editions over the years, but that’s really another conversation entirely.

So anyway, it wasn’t really owning a copy of the film properly- more like owning a second-rate approximation of 2001. One could argue that of all the formats, the only version where I came really close to owning a genuine proper copy of Kubrick’s epic is the 4K UHD released late last year, which looks utterly gorgeous and certainly far superior to how those Back to the Future films look in 4K. Which is where filmstocks used over the years, and how certain prestige films were shot over the decades, complicate matters (Vertigo, for instance, is a revelation in 4K UHD).

Some great, classic films, some of which are my favourites, have been released on 4K UHD over the past few years, surely the last home video format we’ll ever be asked to buy, and which some of us are fortunate to watch on pretty large, sophisticated 4K panels. Returning to that £76 copy of Jaws I looked at in that department store so many years ago, I’m pretty confident it looked bloody horrible compared to the excellent 4K UHD disc of the film that came out earlier this year. Are we REALLY owning definitive copies of our favourite films now, ironically at the end of physical media?

Jaws 4K UHD

jaws4kYou never know until you actually sit down to watch it, but every fan can relax, this is great. Another substantial 4K edition of a classic movie: Jaws looks fabulous in this new 4K release. Details are amazing, right down to the fabric on the clothes and textures on objects, and the HDR adds a vibrancy and depth to the image that is almost startling. Best of all, while grain is evident, it doesn’t degenerate into mosquito noise on my OLED as it tends to at times during other 4K editions of some classic films. I doubt the film looked anything near as good as this as when I saw it at the ABC in town back in 1976, or over the years since on VHS, DVD, Blu-ray etc… yeah, this is one of THOSE films that we just crave in whatever new format comes along. Well, I’m certain this is the last time.

Fantastic movie, mind. In my opinion its Spielberg’s best, by some margin. Maybe it was the adversity of the nightmarish shoot he had, filming this back in 1974 (well documented over the years in documentaries that appear on this disc- indeed, special features ported onto the actual 4K disc, we’re truly spoilt with this one). There does seem some pattern in film history with directors producing their best work in the face of great trial, which makes me wonder if they unconsciously coast somewhat when everything goes swimmingly (sic). Not that any of them would admit to that, but maybe some thrive under pressure, and its certainly true that Spielberg, forced to look at other ways of approaching the shark attacks when Bruce proved to be a troublesome star, improved the film no end by adopting a rather Hitchcock-like method. At the same time, it allowed the character actors to do their best and truly shine, avoiding them being overshadowed by any monster effects. There’s a sense of reality to the film that grounds it, regardless of the rather ridiculous premise.

Jaws 4K: This looks better

jaws4kb…not so sure its five quid better, but yeah, I quite like this new steelbook design for the 4K edition of Jaws. I suppose they couldn’t do any worse than the standard edition design (the slip of which may be a lenticular cover, too, which may explain the design). So anyway, here’s me with a perfectly fine (gorgeous, even) Blu-ray steelbook and I’m being tempted by this edition. Its Jaws, afterall, but bad enough triple-dipping from DVD to Blu-ray to 4K UHD but then adding insult to injury by double-dipping steelbooks? What is the world coming to? Oh well, this would be the last time, right?

Jaws 4K coming….

I appreciate its a First-World problem and all that, with everything going on in the world today, but the recent news of an upcoming 4K disc of Jaws was mitigated somewhat by the decidedly dodgy packaging artwork currently being shown. I suppose individual tastes will vary, but I’m not a fan of this new box-art at all. Maybe its a problem with these ‘older’ releases that have already been released across so many formats over the decades, an inevitable need for the studio to freshen things up or differentiate/highlight a new release with new artwork and design? Whatever, being a purist I really prefer using original poster artwork, although that’s something typified now more by third-party catalogue releases (Indicator, take a bow) than first-party studio releases. The 4K releases of Die Hard, CE3K, Alien, Superman: The Movie… none of them, nor many others besides, were graced with their original theatrical artwork. In this case I think I’ll be transferring the 4K disc to my Jaws steelbook pictured above alongside the planned 4K art (I expect the second Blu-ray disc with the docs etc will be the same anyway).

I know what you’re thinking. You can’t tell the difference. I should get a life. Bah humbug, I’m surrounded by fools.

On this day, a year ago… IT.

That title almost sounds scary, doesn’t it? Curious that it refers to a horror film that wasn’t scary, but that’s how the cookie crumbles sometimes. I am often shocked, browsing through past posts, when the whim takes me to look back exactly a year, and I suddenly see reviews of films and think, ‘a year ago? Already?!!’ It can be quite brutal, the passing of time- or certainly the tricks time seems to play on us. For instance, today, a year ago, is when I posted my review of IT. I cannot believe it has been a year already. Mind, I did read a little while ago that IT Chapter Two (because the novel was split into two movies) is due soon, in September I think. Which should be two years since the first film was released (as I ruefully recall it making a mint and then BR2049 failed to muster the same excitement the following month).

Which brings up the harsh realisation that BR2049, which I always seem to think of as still a ‘new’ or even recent film, is actually nearing its second anniversary….

But anyhow, returning to IT– I wasn’t particularly impressed by it (when a horror film isn’t at all scary, then it’s doing something wrong in my book) but the film was extremely popular indeed with the public and I wonder if they will return to cinemas in droves to watch the second half. It has been two years, afterall, even if it may not feel like two years. It’ll be interesting to see what happens, comparing the first films box office and the second films, as Villeneuve’s Dune project will be emulating this with its own part one/part two, with the first film coming in December 2020. I suspect the gap between the two Dune films will be longer than two years, simply due to the scale of the project, but I suppose you never know these days, with so much post-production occurring during filming- the old preproduction/production(shooting)/post production being so blurred now.

I’m not suggesting two years is too long, but will the public still think IT is sufficient part of the cultural zeitgeist that Chapter Two  will be a must-watch at cinemas? I can’t say I’m particularly enthused enough to even catch up with it on (eventual) home video release, as that first film was more than enough for me but as patently shown on this blog before, I’m not exactly in tune with the mass public. Maybe people are really excited.

Its a curio, almost, in this age of binge-watching seasons of tv over a weekend, for people to return to the bad old analogue days of waiting years for a film to come out. When I was a teenager, three years between Star Wars films felt like forever. These days it’s like three years passes by so quickly, it’s as if I’m sitting in George Pal’s Time Machine and everything is just racing past- and I don’t think it’s simply just me getting older, I think it’s partly how the world is now. Films come and go now, here today, forgotten tomorrow, replaced by the next blockbuster- there is simply so much content. In the old days, a film like Jaws seemed to hang around in the mainstream culture seemingly for years, films now seem to be more disposable. Which is ironic, as thanks to streaming and discs, it could be argued they stick around longer now, but you know, what teenager cares a hoot about Avatar now? Or even the Matrix films?  But maybe in a funny way, that helps films like IT, and waiting two years for the second entry- these days, two years doesn’t feel like anytime at all.

Afterall, I still can’t quite believe its been a whole year since I saw that first one.

Party like it’s 1989: Always

always2Always is a film out of time. It felt out of time in 1989, and it feels only more so now. There’s a sense of witnessing a cinematic folly throughout. Its a self-indulgent Spielberg, a misguided ode to Hollywood of old, films that threw up escapist fairytales, the dream theatres of old providing escape from the harsh real world. Films still do that now, and they did in 1989, but not like Always. Always wears the mark of being ‘old-fashioned’ and sweetly sentimental like some kind of badge of honour.

Which is not to suggest there’s nothing to like here. Always looks gorgeous – breathtakingly so at times- with some absolutely phenomenal cinematography by Mikael Salomon, who incredibly also had The Abyss out in the same year. There’s something larger than life, something rather exaggerated about it which suits its old Hollywood sensibility.  I used to have the film on VHS, which really struggled with the vivid colours of the fires etc, but on Blu-ray the film really shines, indeed quite often while watching it I commented how beautiful it looked. There’s fine grain and the detail is quite exceptional in places, there’s a real sense of depth to the image. The film features some incredible real-world pyrotechnics and some really quite remarkable visual effects and miniatures.  The film also has some really fine performances in front of the camera too, with some moments that might raise the hairs on the back of your neck, they are that good: Richard Dreyfuss, Holly Hunter, John Goodman, Audrey Hepburn, it’s quite a cast, and sometimes they really shine.

Of course, Always feels like an old movie because its based on one- its a remake of a Spencer Tracy 1943 film, A Guy Named Joe, which I’ve never seen. Its set during the Second World War in which Tracy’s war-pilot is killed in action is sent back down to Earth to guide a rookie pilot who meets (and falls for) the dead pilots love. Always transplants the story to 1989 and aerial forest fire-fighters, but always struggles to suspend audience disbelief. The characters seldom feel like real people, they always seem like characters from old movies.

When I first saw Always, back in 1989, it was during a matinee  one midweek afternoon and the screen was deserted- I may even have been on my own. I remember I was at a pretty low point in my life back then, and sometimes it’s important to qualify what we think of films by explaining the connections we made with them originally. I saw Always around the time that I first saw The Prisoner of Second Avenue, and both films are poignant reminders for me of that time, place, mood. Prisoner is a far better movie, but thirty years later both films are like old companions and feel important to me. Always seemed a little special because it has Richard Dreyfuss in the starring role, and he had starred in a few of my favourite movies growing up (Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind). At the time I was unaware of his personal issues and it seemed such a rarity, seeing him in a film again, that I was rooting for him and the movie.  

always1Always doesn’t really work- its an ill-judged film in many ways and its ending in particular feels oddly rushed and awkward, almost like its a tacked-on ending as bad as the theatrical cut of Blade Runner had in 1982. I would imagine its just being faithful to the 1943 original, but even if it worked in A Guy Named Joe, maybe Spielberg should have felt the need to revise it, because it just feels wrong. Holly Hunter walks over to Brad (the less said the better) Johnson and Dreyfuss’s ghost shrugs and walks off into the worst matte shot in the whole film. The edits feel too tight, the visuals rough, the timing of the music doesn’t seem to match… I don’t know. Its probably not a reshoot but it feels like one.  In spite of that I rather enjoyed the film, almost reluctantly swept up by its old Hollywood charm and sentiment. And the music. I loved the music. Its one of my favourite scores by John Williams: the maestro in romantic, sentimental mode with nods to his Americana sweep of Superman: The Movie.

Bless him, Williams does his best to lift the film and his score actually works some magic in places, moments that are spellbinding in that way that Spielberg/Williams collaborations most often were. But I don’t know if its the film’s leaning towards source music -lots of songs in this film- but the score often feels relegated to the background, more than a typical Spielberg/Williams film and the film suffers from it, mainly resulting in a lack of identity or ‘voice’. I remember buying the soundtrack album at the time and it being, as typical of the time, half songs and half score, pretty much (I expect the vinyl version -yeah, this film is that old- literally was songs on side A, score on side B (actually I just looked, and it was songs plus two score tracks on side A, the remainder of score on side B)).  

Watching it again now, I’d love to hear Spielberg’s thoughts of this film, whether he was satisfied with it -hell, he possibly thought it was brilliant and everything he hoped it would be- or if he would like to have done things differently or regretted the ending or something. I’m not certain he has ever voiced his feelings about his films -he never does commentaries- but I’d be fascinated to know. Always is generally considered one of his misfires, and it clearly doesn’t really work the way he intended it to. It isn’t a bad film, but it just feels ‘off’. I’d love to know if Spielberg feels like he failed, or what he got wrong. Or if he adores it as a personal favourite and the hell with what everyone thinks.

So Always is this weird film. Some of it is really sophisticated, with gorgeous cinematography and lighting, great actors and fine production design, a lovely score, but it just doesn’t work, hampered mostly by a clunky script that possibly adheres too strongly to the original film its based on (I really should watch that film). Films that fail likely teach its creative teams a great deal -or at least I’d like to think so- and maybe Spielberg became a better director because of it. I have to admit, I quite enjoyed rewatching it, even though it is so out of time that the film seemed rather older than the thirty years it is.

 

The Meg

Round One:  Statham v. Megaladon- FIGHT!

So The Meg. I think I thought the trailers were a joke. This couldn’t possibly be actually real, could it? A Chinese/Hollywood co-production featuring a gigantic prehistoric shark in an increasingly personal feud with Jason Statham? A film that literally proves there’s yet more depths for the summer blockbuster to sink into.

I’m used to crazy dumb films. Hell, I only saw The Wandering Earth a few weeks ago. But here we are. Maybe the Chinese are trying to destroy film-making in general- not content with making Michael Bay cinematic hybrids of their own, they recruit Hollywood talent to join in with their unholy exercise to destroy Western Civilization through bad moviemaking (its funny, you’d just think they’d sit back and let Michael Bay just carry on himself).

So bad it’s fun. We’ve all thought it at some time or another watching blockbuster schlock. I’m not so sure how much fun is to be had with this though. Mind, it earned lots of dosh at the box office, proving that stupid loud films with implausible giant sharks with dubiously generic characters and awfully creaky plot twists are somehow incredibly popular with the popcorn crowd, to the tune of over $530 million. Its bizarre really, as this thing is so bad it seems more destined straight to video than the local cineplex, but hey, Screen One seems to be the new VHS bin. How else to explain it?

Well, for one thing, its extremely gentle. I think Jaws was gorier than this and Piranha probably had more scares. This is decidedly (some would suggest cynically) family-friendly material, very Dr Who even in how it dishes out its very fishy tale of a monster shark discovered in deeper depths than even Cameron’s The Abyss dared plunge into. Its also very Gerry Anderson, with all manner of shiny CGI submarine hardware utilised to excite the easily excitable. An aquatic Pacific Rim almost.

I await the sequel with something approaching terror.

 

 

 

Adrift (2018)

Adrift, based on a true story of a woman in 1983 surviving being set adrift at sea following a disastrous encounter with a hurricane, is competently made but suffers from being all too familiar. Which is odd enough, thinking about it, as it’s a remarkable enough story but it does seem like we’ve seen it before- most recently in films like All Is Lost or older films such as Castaway. Certainly in many ways this film is no worse than them, or other similar survival at sea thrillers. Its well made with a decent cast, great cinematography and effects. Its just a little unfortunate that it feels, well, so familiar.

Funny, though, when watching films like this- I keep thinking about Jaws, about how difficult that film was to get made, the logistical and technical challenges of filming out at sea, and how well films manage it now. I wouldn’t suggest it was anything easy, I guess it can still prove to be a nightmare, and at least in something like this they weren’t contending with a giant mechanical shark. All the same though, the underwater photography is particularly fine here and the effects work involved in the wide expanses of sea and the storm sequences is all very impressive.

Its a shame the film doesn’t fully engage. Its effective enough, but not really enthralling or as tense as it might have been. Perhaps it is the films structure that undermines it, the post-storm wreck and ensuing crisis being broken up into flashbacks that establish the characters and their past. A more conventional chronological set-up might have been better; might have encouraged our empathy more, but I suppose the way its done is an attempt to encourage a sense of mystery and interest and ensure the central ‘twist’ works (although I guessed it before it came).

Death Wish (2018)

death1Another remake, and this time a remake of a decidedly exploitative 1974 thriller, I probably shouldn’t have been surprised that this was as bad as they come. What did surprise me, though, was some of the talent involved in this- so much so that this movie felt more of a betrayal to filmgoers than I could believe.

We’ll start for what passes for a script, written by Joe Carnahan. That’s the guy behind such films as Narc and The Grey (a great film, that one) although considering he was also behind the A-Team movie reboot, perhaps this particular project shouldn’t surprise me afterall. This is purely by-the-numbers gun glorification, that uniquely American myth that owning guns is a noble thing and killing bad guys is what every righteous cowboy sorry civilian should aspire to do if only they had the guts to Do The Right Thing. Its every lunatic’s God-given right to own a gun, it seems. And every cop is so inherently stupid we can’t trust them to police the streets and serve justice. Seriously, the detectives here are greedy, lazy and so idiotic they can’t see whats infront of their faces- thank God for Bruce.

Ah, Bruce. That’s Bruce Willis, not the shark from Jaws, although that rubber shark was more impressive and sincere an actor than the one Willis is now. I don’t know what happened to Willis- he was so good years ago but he’s just appalling these days, phoning in performances that are frankly embarrassing. Its infuriating, because I watched him again in Die Hard only a few weeks ago and he’s so good in that- funny and charming and wiseass and cool, but with a streak of vulnerability too. Twelve Monkeys, he was just brilliant in that. These days he’s a cardboard smirk, and that’s about it.  That word raises up in my head again- betrayal; betrayal in this case of any fans he had left and anyone who pays to see a movie because it stars him. Off the top of my head I can’t name another actor who has gone so far south of the reservation as he has. Clearly he signed up for this film for two things- the pay cheque and a cynical ploy to launch another action franchise as Liam Neeson did with the similarly-themed Taken films and all the Taken clones Neeson cashed in on afterwards.

The rest of the cast- this thing has a pretty great cast; Vincent D’Onofrio,  Elisabeth Shue (now there’s an actress who deserved a better career), Dean Norris (so great in Breaking Bad, so awful here although he’s practically playing The Same Goddam Part), Stephen McHattie (so great in Watchmen, here he’s relegated to a (perhaps merciful) several-second cameo) are wasted, the film dragged down by the Black Hole of Willis’ charisma, sucking the very life out of every scene he’s in.  Its like some kind of irresistible life-sucking force of nature draining every other actors talent, it’s almost scary ruthless it is.

Surprisingly even Eli Roth, the exploitation-enfant terrible that he is, is unable to maintain any energy in this film- there’s a bit of commentary on social media and radio talk-show debates as people argue whether our hero (‘The Grim Reaper’ no less) is  a hero or villain, but otherwise Roth’s main contribution seems to be some moments of very graphic gore during the action stuff.

Watching this film I often had to wonder, is this film really this bad or is it some kind of arch-commentary of modern action flicks and right-wing politics? Willis plays Dr. Paul Kersey a top surgeon in Chicago’s A&E department (you’d think it’d be easier to just let the scum die on his operating table). It becomes almost hilarious when on his every vengeance spree he goes down to his Bat Cave (Hospital basement) to clothe himself in the abandoned hoodies of (presumably) dead patients, which always seem to fit him like some inevitable superhero costume (“no longer the Smirking Reaper, he becomes The Grim Reaper, scourge of the criminals!’).  Nah, this film isn’t clever or sophisticated enough to carry the arch-commentary excuse.

Utter nonsense and truly dire, definitely one to avoid because life is Just Too Short.