View Post

Zach’s Ceremony

Review, Theatrical, This Week Leave a Comment

In this engaging and affecting documentary, filmmaker Aaron Petersen captures the pre- teenage and teenage years of a young Indigenous Australian boy named Zach Doomadgee, following him from ages ten to sixteen. Zach was born in Sydney but has deep ties to the Waanyi, Garawa and Ganggalida people of Far North Queensland, amongst whom his father Alec was raised. Zach is culturally dislocated, self-described as “not black, not white…sort of in the middle”, he struggles to connect to his cultural heritage. It’s this schism in Zach’s identity which makes for an often-profound meditation on cultural identity in Australia, as well as examining the inherent prejudices within our indigenous and white societies.

Zach’s father Alec dispenses tough love; he is supportive but also strict. Alec trains Zach to box, Zach also hunts, fishes and plays sport. Despite his father preparing him for manhood, Zach is bullied at his school for being dark skinned, while simultaneously being seen by his Far North Queensland ancestral community as being ‘too white’. This only increases his teenage angst and sense of alienation. When Zach is ultimately sent by Alec to his ancestral lands in Queensland to take part in his initiation, the audience is taken inside a rite-of-passage rarely, if ever, captured by outsiders.

Petersen proves himself a deft hand in the documentary form. This is moving stuff; it treats its subject matter with patience and empathy and it introduces the audience to a relatively unseen side of the modern-day experience of First Australians. Go see it.


Check out our interview with the director and subjects of the film.

View Post


Home, Review Leave a Comment


Sometimes even reviewers struggle to know how to best begin describing a new film. But in the first ten minutes of Onur Tukel’s revenge “comedy” Catfight, quite a few words spring effortlessly to mind:


– and/but worst of all for a comedy:

Not funny.

Because the ten-minute mark is also instructive when you add up how many laughs have been generated in the opening scenes of Catfight – and the total comes to a thudding fat zero.

Unfortunately, things don’t improve. Even if you allow that the film is not so much a comedy as a mordant satire about a self-serving America set in the very near future (another Middle East war takes place, largely off camera), for satire to work it needs to have some intelligence and spirit. In Catfight’s case, whatever caustic subtext was intended is obliterated by yawn-lazy writing and godawful characters doing appalling things to each other, over and over again.

Dipsomaniac, rich and spoiled, Veronica (Sandra Oh), lives in upmarket Soho with her war-racketeering husband, Stanley (Damian Young) and their strangely (given his toxic parents) soulful and creatively talented teenage son, Amid (Justin Ahdoot). Veronica’s former college friend-cum-nemesis, Ashley (Anne Heche) is a struggling artist in a lesbian relationship with Lisa (a weirdly cast Alicia Silverstone).

After bumping into each other at a party to celebrate Stanley winning a big defence contract, Veronica and Lisa – working as a lowly caterer at the event – reignite their college hatred and suddenly start brawling in the stairwell with a ferocity that leaves one of the women in a coma for two years.

This is the first of four brutal encounters that extend across several two-year intervals as the women continue to clash at different points of their lives and their luck. The structure of Catfight is basically Rich Girl, Poor Girl with the plot propelled forward via a series of reversals of fortune, where one of the feuding females gains supremacy for a short time only to have the situation switcherooed down the track.

The violence the women mete out to each other is gratuitous and gory. And it’s not just physical violence: one of the women taunts the other about losing a baby. If the film is aiming to make a bold, futuristic feminist statement, it is confusingly anti-women.

Veronica’s husband actually wins the war contract for “debris disposal”.

That’s exactly what this film needs.

Catfight is a real dog.

View Post

A Man Called Ove

Review, Theatrical, This Week Leave a Comment

Hannes Holm’s Swedish comedy drama beautifully explores the life of the neighbourhood’s resident old grump, Ove (Rolf Lassgard). The film was a major critical success in Europe and was the winner of Best European Comedy at the 2016 European Film Awards. It also made a fantastic impression on Hollywood and was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film and Best Makeup and Hairstyling (primarily for Lassgard’s transformation) at the 2017 Academy Awards.

59 years old and widowed, Ove is cynical, antisocial and impatiently wishes to reunite with his deceased wife. Just as he is about to attempt suicide, he is interrupted by the sound of his new neighbours, pregnant Persian immigrant Parvaneh (Bahar Pars), her Swedish husband and two young daughters. While they start as yet another annoying disturbance to Ove’s regimented suburban life, they become next-to-kin friends who bring light into his life which he had already given up on.

As well as being depressed about his wife, Ove is also fired from his job after working diligently for 42 years. You can feel his frustration as the two stupid men in their twenties remind him of the increasing digitalisation of the workforce, showing no respect for their hard working senior. Ove, who had felt useless and left behind by the world, discovers his power to significantly help his new friends. As the story progresses, we learn about Ove’s past, his experience with death, tragedy and loss as well as his dance with romance and well-earned achievements. As he opens up, the grumpy old man exterior does little to hide his big heart, his distinctly Swedish and charming wit and love for others.

Ove’s character and outlook on life is very similar to that of Jep Gambardella in Paolo Sorrentino’s Italian art drama, The Great Beauty. In a sense, you could say that The Great Beauty is a reversal of A Man Called Ove as Jep must find distance in order to find himself while Ove needs to reconnect with people in order to do the same. Both contain the same melancholy undertones of death and the hopes of new life and discovery.

A Man Called Ove triumphantly highlights the spontaneity of life. While it may cause pain, you must not give up as great happiness can be found just around the corner, across the road or next door. It inspires us all to keep living on and striving forward. While our pasts are precious and must never be forgotten, it is important to remember that those events are behind us and new opportunities await us in the future.

View Post

Their Finest

Review, Theatrical Leave a Comment

With London emptied of men now fighting in the Second World War, Mrs. Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton) lands herself a job writing copy for propaganda films that need “a woman’s touch”. Her natural flair quickly gets her noticed by dashing movie producer and screenwriter Tom Buckley (Sam Claflin), whose path would never have crossed hers in peacetime. With the country’s morale at stake, Catrin, Buckley and a colourful crew including withering star, Ambrose Hilliard (Bill Nighy), work furiously to make a film that will warm the hearts of the nation and restore faith in British national pride. As bombs are dropping all around them, Catrin discovers there is as much drama, comedy and passion behind the camera as there is onscreen.

Based on the novel Their Finest Hour by Lissa Evans, Their Finest is almost explicitly tailor-made for mums and grans – painfully so, in fact. It’s got all the trappings you’d expect: vintage glamour and decorum a la ‘40s London, love triangles, conservative British-chortling humour, the war, and of course – what cinematic love ballad would be complete without the seaside?

The film starts out quite patchy. It’s hazy, ambiguous, not to mention there is no discernible narrative among the many moving but unconnected sub-plots. But what starts out as a very tenuous story gets stitched together rather nicely as you move through it, ultimately becoming a cute example of meta screenwriting.

But the whole ‘movie within a movie’ thing is only successful through the magic combo of director Lone Scherfig (Italian For Beginners, An Education), and cinematographer Sebastian Blenkov (Miss Sloane).

Here, the pair have designed a reality so layered and sapped-up with lovey-dovey, hubba-hubba sub-text that you’re able to look past the predictability of first-time screenwriter Gabby Chiappe’s adaptation and simply get taken with the tide of romance and nostalgia. It’s impossible not to. Your cynicism will be tested – resistance is futile.

Gemma Arterton is understated yet forceful in her role as Mrs. Catrin Cole, and as such perfectly embodies the swelling rage and frustration of talented women in patriarchal wartime England. Likewise, Sam Claflin is nothing less than charming as the Mr. Darcy-type; rising to the challenge of showing he has range beyond The Hunger Games, and in fact may even have confirmed that he would be better suited to more dramatically skewed roles. Fans of Bill Nighy will not be disappointed with his spectacular, witty-as-ever performance as a fading star struggling to keep his grip on fame. Regrettably however, as a supporting role, his talents – as usual – go typically under-utilised and you find yourself wishing he had a lot more screen time.

All things considered Their Finest relies too much on Harlequin Romance tropes and is for the most part, predictable. But we can forgive because of the filmmakers’ acute and clever awareness of it being so. It’s an endearing quality that successfully disarms your inner judgmental cynic (you know, the one that makes you want to rip your eyeballs out at every stolen glance and wistful stare) – allowing you to actually enjoy something so sickeningly romantic and starry-eyed. Mothers Day is coming up – take mum, gran and maybe even aunty Kath – it’s right up their alley for sure.

View Post

The Walking Dead S7 E15: Something They Need

Featured, Review, Television, This Week Leave a Comment

[SPOILER WARNING: Please don’t read unless you’ve seen the episode. I mean, come on, you know how this works]

In the aftermath of last week’s disappointing “The Other Side” – with its heavy emphasis on Operation Dipshit – The Walking Dead really needed a strong, focused episode to get us back on track. So is “Something They Need” something we needed? Kinda, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

This episode begins with an excellent cold open. A John Carpenter-esque synth score plays as we hear Tara (Alanna Masterson) tell Rick (Andrew Lincoln) about the Oceansiders and their sweet, sweet cache of weapons. On screen we see Rick and crew preparing to take the weapons, by force it seems, and a horde of slimy, barnacled zombies disgorging from a large, partially sunken boat. This is the kind of efficient, visual storytelling The Walking Dead really needs more of and the beach of barnacled biters is a strong image on which to segue into the opening titles.

Meanwhile at The Sanctuary, Sasha (Sonequa Martin) has been imprisoned in the same cell that played a temporary home to both Daryl and Eugene. Apparently we’re not going to see how she managed to get caught, and frankly the less said about her profoundly stupid plan the better. David (Martinez) pays Sasha a visit and within about a minute decides he’s going to rape her. He gets down to the trouser-dropping stage when Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) pops in and plays an actual savior for once. Negan, you see, draws the line at rape. Beating unarmed people to death with a baseball bat? Fine. Sexual assault? Not on his watch. Negan demonstrates this point by knifing “Rapey Davey” through the neck. He leaves the cooling corpse and bloody knife with Sasha, offering her a number of options – kill herself, try to kill Negan, kill Rapey Davey before he becomes “dead alive Rapey Davey” or let herself become zombie food. Not a great list of options but Negan makes the offer sound tempting, as he purrs to Sasha about her “beachball-sized lady nuts”.

Later, Eugene (Josh McDermitt) pops in to preach the gospel of Negan to Sasha. He actually does a pretty convincing job of explaining his own motivations for joining the Saviors but Sasha doesn’t want a bar of it. Eugene leaves and Rapey Davey’s dead eyes open…

Back at the Hilltop Gregory (Xander Berkeley) pays a visit to Maggie (Lauren Cohan) who is doing a spot of gardening outside the walls. Olive branches are extended but as Maggie continues to garden, Gregory seems to toy with the idea of stabbing her. He decides not to and then a zombie arrives. Gregory laughs off the idea of a pregnant lady helping him dispatch the walker, but then can’t seal the deal and backs off. Maggie stabs the zombie quickly and efficiently and even saves Greggers from a second ambulatory corpse. A group of Hilltop residents arrive just in time to see Gregory puking as Maggie calmly sheaths her weapon, offering a fairly heavy-handed visual juxtaposition. It’s clear the balance of power is shifting at the Hilltop.

Back at Oceanside, Tara attempts to reason with Natania (Deborah May) to get the weapons off the ladies without any bloodshed. Apparently she isn’t given much time to accomplish this because within a few minutes explosions are ringing out and Tara gets grabbed by the grumpy alpha nan.

The explosions were just to distract the Oceansiders, and Rick rather apologetically informs everyone he totes needs those weapons to wipe out the Saviors. Interestingly his words (and heavy ordinance) seem to convince most of the group, except Natania who holds Tara at gunpoint. It looks like Natania is about to cop a shot to the bonce from a tree-sniping Michonne (Danai Gurira) but the waterlogged zombies from the cold open arrive and everyone must band together, albeit briefly.

The salty sea corpses are dispatched in a delightful scene of efficient carnage and impressive special makeup effects and by the end of it everyone supports Team Rick. Everyone that is except Natania who has been knocked out by Cyndie (Sydney Park). It’s a little weird that everyone is so quickly onboard with Rick’s plan to nab the weapons, especially the more potentially fatal elements of it, but it succeeded so… yay?

Back at the Sanctuary Sasha has killed Rapey Davey and Negan all but tells her she’ll be used in some way to hurt Rick. Eugene visits later and Sasha desperately begs for a gun or a knife or some way she can kill herself. It’s a ruse, of course, Sasha wants another crack at killing Negan but Eugene obliges: providing her with the poison he concocted way back in “Hostiles and Calamities”. This was not what Sasha was hoping for and she’s left alone in her cell, wondering just what the hell she was thinking joining Operation Dipshit in the first place.

Finally our conquering heroes, now armed to the teeth, arrive back at Alexandria. They are greeted by Rosita (Christian Serratos) who informs them they have a visitor cooling his heels in their cell. It’s Dwight (Austin Amelio) who tells the gang he wishes to defect and help kill Negan. Rick pulls out his shiny .357 Magnum (aka The Overcompensator) and tells Dwight to get on his knees.

The episode ends with our heroes ready to take on Negan, now with weapons and even perhaps a new ally. “Something They Need” is an enjoyable enough episode with some great-looking zombies and decent tension, but it doesn’t feel like the second last entry before Negan’s reign is ended. In fact I think us Walking Dead fans are just going to have to accept that the Rick vs Negan storyline will probably be dragged on for at least half a season too long. So basically Governor 2.0.

Of course I might be wrong. Perhaps next week’s finale will wrap everything up beautifully but it seems unlikely. Either way I’ll see you back here in seven days.


View Post

Dance Academy: The Movie

Review, Theatrical, This Week Leave a Comment

After three seasons on the ABC, the hugely popular Dance Academy makes the leap to the big screen, getting pretty much the whole gang back together for what is either one final hurrah or the first in a new, expanded franchise, depending on how you like at it (and how the numbers look hen all is said and done).

Picking up some 18 months after the end of series three, Dance Academy: The Movie sees Tara (Xenia Goodwin) trying to put her life back together following her all-but-career-ending spinal injury. Working as a waitress at the Opera House keeps her on the periphery of the performing world, but she knows she needs to be in the thick of it. After a failed audition for Ballet Company director Madeline Moncur (Miranda Otto), Tara takes to the road to find herself, heading first to New York City to reconnect with Kat (Alicia Banit), now a popular children’s show host, then to Texas to spend time with mentor Lucinda (Tara Morice) and old friend and fellow dancer Ben (Thomas Lacey), who is battling cancer. The pair begin developing their own routines and are determined to showcase their talents in NYC, but an opportunity to rejoin Moncur’s company means Tara must decide once and for what she really wants.

Eschewing the usual “follow your dreams” narrative, Dance Academy makes the astute observation that the dreams of our youth are not necessarily what’s best for us in maturity – the central drama isn’t whether Tara will get back on stage, but whether she really wants to, which lends the proceedings some welcome emotional complexity. This subtext never overwhelms the story, though; on the surface, Dance Academy remains a bright, bubbly and energetic affair. TV veteran director Jeffrey Walker keeps things moving along at a decent clip, and the deft script by series creator Samantha Strauss manages to juggle a large cast effectively.

It’s still essentially a teen drama, mind you, and your mileage will of course be affected by how much import you place on the travails of the young, attractive and insanely talented. Dance Academy is definitely in the upper echelon of the genre though, and if you’re a 40-something with fond memories of, say, Degrassi High, then this will certainly push a lot of the same buttons. Dance Academy fans will already be on board for the feature-length continuing adventures of Tara and company, but newcomers will have a good time, too.

View Post

A Silent Voice

Review, Theatrical, This Week Leave a Comment

Naoko Yamada’s A Silent Voice reminds us that anime is not simply a genre of action-packed fighting robots or giggling school girls within absurd tales, but a rich and vibrant cinematic form unto itself. A Silent Voice deals with issues of isolation, bullying and stereotyping as it depicts the evolving relationship between Shoya, the school bully and protagonist, and Shoko, a deaf girl who moves to his school, following them from their youth and into their late adolescence. At times it is poignant and emotional, and at others, it seems to miss the mark completely.

Since the ‘90s. respect and admiration has matured for anime, particularly those produced in Japan, due to the critical and commercial success of films such as Grave of the Fireflies, Ghost in the Shell and Princess Mononoke. These films are beautiful character studies, told against stunningly drawn backdrops, as they navigate the human experience with thoughtfulness and nuance. As A Silent Voice progresses further along its overly long runtime, however, it is the latter camp where the film begins to stumble most. Although, full credit should be given to its art department which renders each frame colourful, exuberant and bursting with life.

The opening scenes of A Silent Voice see Shoya years after his days as a bully. He is selling off his possessions to pay back his mother for some unknown reason and then climbs onto a bridge, readying to take a final leap of absolution. The sequence barely needs a line of dialogue to make you feel the pain Shoya is in. And when the film cuts back to Shoya’s primary school days, it maintains this momentum as Shoya lashes out at the defenceless Shoko. For Shoko, being the new girl would be hard enough, but being deaf turns her into a moving target for the merciless Shoya. The opening scene and Shoya’s ruthless and unending torment of Shoko highlight the journey he is yet to undergo. This period makes up about half of the film’s runtime and is where it understands its characters best, as Shoya simply craves the easy attention that bullying brings him and Shoko is stoic in her attempts to keep her cool in spite of her overwhelming circumstances. And when Shoko does lash out, you feel sympathy for both these characters in how much they struggle to perform their predetermined roles.

Eventually, Shoko’s mother catches onto the bullying when her daughter’s eighth pair of hearing aids goes missing, and when the teachers press the students, despite many having been willing participants in the bullying, both actively and passively, they turn on Shoya, revealing that his actions haven’t been building him friends, but goons who only followed him because of his perceived strength. Shoko is taken out of the school and Shoya is left without any real friends. When the film skips ahead, however, the momentum dies early on. We catch up with the opening scene and, instead of taking the jump, Shoya meets with Shoko and they make up. Why? The film doesn’t seem so sure. It is about here where the film starts forcing story and character choices rather than building them in a natural way. The catharsis between Shoya and Shoko seems forced, and there is still half of the film to go.

Some of the most jarring moments include Shoya’s mother threating to burn the money he gave her unless he promises to not kill himself. Not the most maternal or thoughtful of approaches towards depression, especially considering the scene ends up being comedic. Yet it somehow works, and Shoya goes on with his life. Then to demonstrate Shoya’s newfound isolation, literally big, purple crosses are placed over the faces of his fellow students for the remainder of the film. It is as if A Silent Voice does not know where the tension should come from if Shoya and Shoko are at peace, so the film manufactures it. The crosses, in particular, are the death of nuance in this film. There is much better symbolism here, such as the ripples of the fish that Shoya and Shoko feed together representing the ripple effect their actions have on each other’s lives.

Part of the problem is that this 127-minute long film could probably be told in a neat and tidy 90 minutes, and it would not have to string out towards a disappointing ending. A Silent Voice should be applauded for tackling rarely touched-upon subject matter, but, in the end, that simply isn’t enough to save it.

View Post

Power Rangers

Review, Theatrical 2 Comments

Power Rangers does exactly what it’s intended to do, take a long-running, multi-generational lo-fi kids TV show and splash it onto the big screen with a new cast, broader story, and far bigger budget (reported at $100+ million, and with no big-salaried stars). For its target audience, Power Rangers delivers in spades, and as a stand-alone film for the newcomer, it actually manages to engage for the most part.

The majority of the running time is spent setting up the premise and building the mythology and simultaneously strengthening the characters and their relationships. The heroes are five young misfits, dealing with teen issues like bullying, being true to yourself and to others, controlling your emotions, even their sexuality as has been famously reported; quite clunkily handled but still admirable for a studio (Lionsgate) superhero picture.

Refreshing in its diverse casting, unafraid to give girls the most heroic moments, and with a villain for the ages played deliciously by a barely recognisable Elizabeth Banks, if nothing else, Power Rangers is clever in its construction.

The style of the film is set up meticulously in the early scenes by director Dean Israelite (Project Almanac), particularly a spectacular opening car chase. The score by Brian Tyler is a highlight, especially his use of the now-popular John Carpenter-esque synth. Unfortunately, the final scenes smell of budgetary restraints or a rushed completion date, with the showdown battle confusing to follow; speaking of budget, whatever a certain donut company paid to be a part of the film, they got a bargain! These shortcomings will certainly not put off the film’s target audience who are treated with Easter eggs aplenty and a new generation of superheroes to inspire them.

View Post


Review, Theatrical Leave a Comment

To call 1987’s Aria a curio would be generous, which makes the film’s upcoming screenings at Melbourne’s Cinema Nova a tasty mystery indeed. That’s not to say that the film is bad – it’s far, far, far from it – but just that it’s been largely forgotten, and rarely discussed in the thirty years since its theatrical release. It’s a fate suffered by many anthology films, most of which are wildly inconsistent in tone and artistic achievement – think Four Rooms, Paris Je T’Aime, The ABC’s Of Death, Creepshow, New York Stories, or any number of others. In terms of premise, however, Aria is one of the most daring and unusual anthologies to ever pass quickly from view.

Aria finds ten edgy, iconoclastic, absolutely top-tier directors – Robert Altman, Bruce Beresford, Bill Bryden, Jean-Luc Godard, Derek Jarman, Franc Roddam, Nicolas Roeg, Ken Russell, Charles Sturridge, Julien Temple – each providing their own idiosyncratic visuals for a selection of operatic arias from the likes of Verdi, Puccini, Vivaldi, Wagner and more. Running from five to fourteen minutes, and with barely any dialogue, the films are, not surprisingly, mixed.

Some of the most interesting directors (Nicolas Roeg’s Theresa Russell-starring redux of the 1931 assassination attempt on King Zog of Albania is, to put it indelicately, utterly stupid; while Godard’s gym-set provocation piece is tawdry and artless) offer up the worst efforts, while the wildest amongst them (Derek Jarman provides a burnished look at a long ago relationship, while Ken Russell finds a strange beauty in a car accident and its aftermath) are found in curiously meditative moods.

There are, however, obvious highlights. A noted master of ensemble casts, the late, great Robert Altman assembles one of his biggest and weirdest ever, as his camera slithers through the audience during a recreation of the 1734 opening night performance of Jean-Philippe Rameau’s “Abaris ou les Boréades” at Paris’ Théâtre Le Ranelagh. With the crowd filled with a garish, baroque selection of oddballs that would do Fellini proud, it’s an eye-popping effort from Altman; with no dialogue to deal with, the renowned talk-master is given a rare opportunity to work in purely visually terms, and the results are astounding.

Even better is the piece from Franc Roddam (who directed The Who’s Quadrophenia, and the cruelly underrated 1983 drama, The Lords Of Discipline, and is now an executive producer on TV’s MasterChef in the UK!), which boasts the first ever screen appearance of the now sadly retired Bridget Fonda. The lithe, beautiful, charismatic young actress sizzles opposite James Mathers as a young couple who unite for a Las Vegas sex-and-death trip that now feels very much of its time, but which also recalls classic American road movies like Zabriskie Point and Two-Lane Blacktop. All set to “Liebestod” from Tristan und Isolde, it is unquestionably the high point of this patchy but ultimately fascinating anthology film which is well worthy of re-investigation.

View Post


Review, Theatrical, This Week 1 Comment

In the new science fiction thriller, Life, a team of scientists on board the International Space Station must weigh their own lives against that of everyone on earth when a single-celled organism recovered from the surface of Mars proves to be more formidable and more voracious than anticipated.

There’s an elephant in the room whenever someone attempts to do this kind of first contact narrative, and it rhymes with “balien”. Well, let’s get that out of the way now: Life ain’t no Alien, and journeyman director Daniel Espinosa is no Ridley Scott. Life, is however, better than any number of films that mine the same vein, although the bar is pretty low: Supernova, Species, Event Horizon, and so on. Perhaps the best adjective to deploy here would be “functional” – the film sets up its scenario quickly and effectively, establishes rules that it continues to play by throughout the running time, and only occasionally withholds information for the sake of surprise.

Really, it’s a procedural science fiction story, harking back to Golden Age literary works by the likes of Robert Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke, in which a team of competent heroes struggle against some kind of exotic threat with only their intelligence and their slide rules standing between them and oblivion. The slide rules have been updated here, but the basic concept is the same.

Unfortunately, the characters here are as thin as those of the jut-jawed scientists that populate those pulp classics, too; certainly none are as indelible as the crew of the Nostromo (look, it casts a long shadow, okay?). Gyllenhaal’s long-serving astronaut doesn’t like people much, Ferguson’s CDC liaison is by-the-books, Hiroyuki Sanada’s guy has a pregnant wife back on Earth, and Ryan Reynolds’ engineer is played by Ryan Reynolds. It’s hard to actually care for any of these cardboard cut-outs, which is surprising considering the calibre of the cast, and that is the film’s biggest failure.

We do get a pretty cool Martian monster, though, albeit one lacking somewhat in personality. The squidlike thing is a truly alien creation, acting not out of malice but running on a strong survival instinct that makes sense in the context of the film. It’s nowhere near as iconic as some of the truly memorable antagonists of yore -expect no tee shirts or action figures here – but it does a serviceable job.

Really, your reaction to Life is probably down to where this kind of genre effort sits with you. It’s a solid SF thriller that never manages to elevate itself into the realms of the truly memorable. Genre fans will probably be entertained, but don’t go expecting to have your hair blown back.