PREVIEW: November 2021

October 2021 has been a busy month, with content published daily as part of The Second Annual October Scare Fest, and then some (a.k.a. the publication of post 1,300 on this blog and getting 20% of the way through my ongoing 60-part-series of Apprentice posts, amongst other things)!

Within the next few days, I will have posted reviews for Dune, Last Night in Soho and Antlers. In November I will be seeing a number of new releases, including Eternals, Spencer, Cry Macho, Mothering Sunday, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, King Richard, Encanto and House of Gucci. I will endeavour to get up reviews for all of these films, as well as some more content – including further progress on my Apprentice series.

Thank you as always for visiting this blog, and for the month ahead I wish you Happy Reading, but most importantly good health!

The Second Annual October Scare Fest

Throughout October 2021, I have done The Second Annual October Scare Fest on this blog! What did that look like? Well, every day of the month I did a post about something that was in some way related to horror, scares or the macabre! Some of the things I wrote about were most definitely horror, whereas others were absolutely not, but nevertheless had creepy or sinister elements, had chilling premises or concepts, had unsettling qualities or moments. Hence it was the “October Scare Fest”, not the “October Horror Fest”.

Below is the full list of posts, in order of publication:

  1. FILM REVIEW: I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997, Jim Gillespie)
  2. TELEVISION REVIEW: Over There (2005)
  3. LITERATURE REVIEW: Cujo (Stephen King, 1981)
  4. VIDEO GAME REVIEW: Left 4 Dead (2008, Valve South)
  5. FILM REVIEW: Hellraiser (1987, Clive Barker)
  6. LITERATURE REVIEW: Gerald’s Game (Stephen King, 1992)
  7. FILM REVIEW: Sorority Row (2009, Stewart Hendler)
  8. FILM REVIEW: I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998, Danny Cannon)
  9. TELEVISION REVIEW: The Mist (2017)
  10. FILM REVIEW: Hungerford (2014, Drew Casson)
  11. FILM REVIEW: Batman: The Long Halloween – Part One (2021, Chris Palmer)
  12. FILM REVIEW: Batman: The Long Halloween – Part Two (2021, Chris Palmer)
  13. FILM REVIEW: Friday the 13th Part II (2021, Steve Miner)
  14. FILM REVIEW: The Addams Family 2 (2021, Greg Tiernan/Conrad Vernon)
  15. FILM REVIEW: Deadly Cuts (2021, Rachel Carey)
  16. Top 5 Creepiest Pokémon Episodes
  17. FILM REVIEW: Halloween Kills (2021, David Gordon Green)
  18. FILM REVIEW: The Ghost Goes West (1935, René Clair)
  19. Top 5 Darkest Episodes of Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends
  20. FILM REVIEW: Venom: Let There Be Carnage (2021, Andy Serkis)
  21. FILM REVIEW: Muppets Haunted Mansion (2021, Kirk R. Thatcher)
  22. FILM REVIEW: Scooby-Doo and the Witch’s Ghost (1999, Jim Stenstrum)
  23. FILM REVIEW: The Last Duel (2021, Ridley Scott)
  24. FILM REVIEW: Willy’s Wonderland (2021, Kevin Lewis)
  25. FILM REVIEW: King Kong (1933, Merian C. Cooper/Ernest B. Shoedsack)
  26. FILM REVIEW: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013, Francis Lawrence)
  27. FILM REVIEW: Ghostbusters (1984, Ivan Reitman)
  28. FILM REVIEW: 28 Days Later (2002, Danny Boyle)
  29. FILM REVIEW: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003, Gore Verbinski)
  30. FILM REVIEW: Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004, Brad Silberling)
  31. FILM REVIEW: Halloween II (1981, Rick Rosenthal)

I had a fantastic time doing this, and look forward to doing it again in October 2022!

FILM: Happy Halloween, Scooby-Doo! (2020, Maxwell Atoms)

NOTE: This is Post 1,300 on this blog. Thirteen-hundred posts into blogging here, and I have loved every minute of it.


Happy Halloween, Scooby-Doo! is a direct-to-DVD spin-off film from Scooby-Doo and Guess Who? After stopping Arkham Asylum escapee Jonathan Crane (Dwight Schultz) from wreaking terror upon Crystal Cove, Mystery, Inc. decide to celebrate Halloween. However, when Shaggy (Matthew Lillard) and Scooby-Doo (Frank Welker) are out trick-or-treating, they see toxic chemicals cause pumpkins to mutate and come to life. As these terrifying jackal-lanterns begin wreaking all manner of mayhem and destruction, Mystery, Inc. team up with Elvira (Cassandra Peterson), local resident Mike (Bumper Robinson) and his daughter Michelle (Kamali Minter), and Bill Nye (voicing himself) and all manner of fantastic gadgetry which he has made for them. However, no matter how hard they try, the jackal-lanterns seem to be an unstoppable force – can Mystery, Inc. work out how to stop them once and for all?


  • A well animated film with very expressive character designs that make the jackal-lanterns look rather menacing indeed, and good use of a darker colour palette with suitably subdued colours.
  • A fast-paced film with a great sense of energy, which is most apparent in an all-out Mad Max: Fury Road style chase sequence that provides some rather exciting moments indeed.


  • Mystery, Inc. ultimately become supporting players in their own film as copious amounts of screen time are dedicated to Elvira – over whom director/screenwriter Maxwell Atoms fanboys via Daphne (Grey Griffin) fangirling over her – and Bill Nye and his gadgetry, the novelty factor and gags centred upon whom/which grow very tiresome rather quickly.
  • The narrative’s flow becomes rather disjointed and the dialogue rather contrived in the efforts to shoehorn in as much fawning over Elvira and Bill Nye as possible, whilst the final reveal is altogether very underwhelming.
  • Ultimately there is just too much homage not only to Elvira and Bill Nye, but also a plethora of other Warner Bros.’ IPs for this film to be a Scooby-Doo story in its own right, which feels rather insulting to such an iconic franchise.

VERDICT: 4/10 

FILM: Halloween II (1981, Rick Rosenthal)

Welcome to this, the thirty-first instalment in The Second Annual October Scare Fest!

The top of the poster reads "HALLOWEEN II" and just under those words is the phrase "ALL NEW". To the bottom right of those words, taking up the centre of the poster, is an orange pumpkin seemingly morphed into the shape of a human skull. A tagline below this reads "From The People Who Brought You 'HALLOWEEN' ... More Of The Night He Came Home" At the bottom of the poster is a billing of the movie's cast and crew.

Slasher sequel Halloween II was distributed by Universal. Picking up exactly where the original film ended, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is rushed to hospital after nearly being killed by Michael Myers (Dick Warlock), who remains at large. His long-term psychiatrist Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance) helps co-ordinate the Police hunt but, having seen Michael survive 6 bullets to the chest, Loomis comes to see that the serial killer may not be truly human. It is a race against time to find and stop Myers though, as he heads on a hunt for Laurie due to a long-buried connection between the pair, and will kill anyone in his path.


  • Although less plausible than that of the original due to the notion that Michael is not quite a human threat, this is a very logical follow-on to the original with some very shocking and intense moments (helmed well by Rick Rosenthal), and an interesting twist revelation. Furthermore, Halloween night is a chilling scenario in which to be hunting a masked serial killer for obvious reasons.
  • Despite having a budget more than 8 times that of the original, Halloween II for the most part does not feel more lavish or expensive, due to the good use of point-of-view shots and simple, realistic settings. Plus John Carpenter is once again in charge of the score, and it is a spine-tingling one.
  • An altogether good cast, with Donald Pleasance reprising the role of Dr. Loomis with a good sense of nervous energy and raw intensity, and Jamie Lee Curtis once again excelling in her most iconic role.


  • The film has gratuitous gore and nudity (the former of which was done in reshoots), in what seems an unnecessary attempt to appease fans of lesser slashers like Friday the 13th.
  • An inconsistent style and tone, the film often being quite farcical in a contrived manner, and this is most apparent in some of the killings – particularly that of Ben Tramer (Jack Verbois).
  • Despite being such a central character, Laurie Strode is very noticeably sidelined, and the climax feels like a somewhat heavy-handed attempt to atone for this.


FILM: Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004, Brad Silberling)

Welcome to this, the thirtieth instalment in The Second Annual October Scare Fest!

A Series Of Unfortunate Events poster.jpg

Adapted from the first three books in Lemony Snicket’s series of gothic absurdist books, this film was distributed by DreamWorks. After their parents perish in a fire, Violet (Emily Browning), Klaus (Liam Aiken) and Sunny Baudelaire (Kara and Shelby Hoffman) are sent to live with distant relative Count Olaf (Jim Carrey), who turns out to be a sadistic man who hopes to get his hands on their enormous inheritance. Once his unsuitability to be their guardian is realised, they are sent to live with other distant relations, but he always has a way of tracking them down, and the Baudelaire orphans may just learn the hard way just how dangerous Olaf truly is.


  • A concise narrative which features some quirky humour (predominantly in the verbal gags), yet also deals well with serious topics such as death, grief and anxiety, and director Brad Silberling crafts suspense well in a number of scenes.
  • Jim Carrey approaches the role of Count Olaf with real flare and larger-than-life energy, whilst the younger cast members prove themselves to be natural talents, with Emily Browning and Liam Aiken conveying the children’s emotions very well.
  • The film boasts detailed production design and costume designs which play a key role in giving this film a gothic aesthetic, and are utilised well alongside some good practical effects in some of the more perilous scenes.
  • Every single formalist style shot by Emmanuel Lubezki had quite a cold visual quality to convey the sombre nature of the narrative, and he also utilises shadows and low artificial lighting well.


  • The episodic narrative is quite rushed and the constraints of a 105-minute-runtime on an adaptation of three novels are very much felt, and some key characters get sidelined.
  • Jim Carrey’s Count Olaf does dominate just a little too much, whilst other big name cast members such as Billy Connolly and Meryl Streep are underutilised.
  • Some of the humour is larger-than-life, over-the-top slapstick through which Count Olaf becomes almost a cartoon character. Whilst the franchise was always been absurdist, it felt grounded, whereas this humour does not.


FILM: The French Dispatch of the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun (2021, Wes Anderson)

"Theatrical release poster": A group of about 50 people.

Generally abbreviated to The French Dispatch, this comedy-drama anthology film is distributed by Searchlight Pictures, following its premiere at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival. When its long-term editor Arthur Howitzer Jr. (Bill Murray) dies suddenly, newspaper The French Dispatch is only able to publish one final issue before closing for business, as per the wishes expressed in his will. The staff decide to make the final issue a compilation of three of the finest long-form pieces from their history, and each of these three stories is depicted to make up a narrative segment of this anthology film – The Concrete Masterpiece by J.K.L. Berensen (Tilda Swinton), Revisions to a Manifesto by Lucinda Krementz (Frances McDormand), and The Private Dining Room of the Police Commissioner by Roebuck Wright (Jeffrey Wright).


  • A love letter to journalism which provides a clever, subtle satire on the impact of art and the media, through concise and focused direction and screenwriting Wes Anderson makes each segment a compelling narrative in its own right, and even incorporates a brilliant hand-drawn animation.
  • Although each of the three narrative segments have noticeably different subject-matters, they all have the same excellent balance between comedy and drama, and all boast the same quirky form of dry humour, which is consistently very funny to watch.
  • A regular Wes Anderson collaborator, cinematographer Robert Yeoman frames everything magnificently and captures all of the gorgeous details of the quirky production designs, the final piece being another highly successful exercise in formalism.
  • An all-star cast featuring a plethora of past Wes Anderson collaborators and some first-timers, everyone is on top form but the standouts are Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Benicio del Toro, Adrien Brody, Léa Seydoux, Frances McDormand, Timothée Chalamet and Jeffrey Wright.


  • Whilst a love letter to journalism, there is not really a specific theme linking all of the articles and, by proxy, the three segments of the narrative, meaning the film is resultantly a tad disjointed.
  • In one of the segments the aspect-ratio does briefly change partway through to signify a flashback and, whilst the imagery is classic Wes Anderson formalism, this change does prove distracting.


FILM: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003, Gore Verbinski)

Welcome to this, the twenty-ninth instalment in The Second Annual October Scare Fest!

Pirates of the Caribbean - The Curse of the Black Pearl.png

Distributed by Disney, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl is the first of multiple films to be inspired by the Disneyland ride. Set in the late-1720s, Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) is kidnapped by the crew of the pirate ship The Black Pearl, and she deceives Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) into believing that she is a Turner, which ensures her survival as they need a Turner to break the curse that was bestowed upon them many years earlier. The curse makes them immortals that cannot be killed, and who become undead skeletons in the moonlight. Determined to save her, best friend and love interest Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) teams up with the Pearl‘s former Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), and together they assemble a crew to pursue the Pearl across the Caribbean.


  • A well paced and very engaging narrative with a fun sense of adventure, very humorous gags, a good sense of mystery, well-choreographed action and a lot of character focus.
  • A solid cast, with Geoffrey Rush being an altogether sinister antagonist, but the most memorable of all is Johnny Depp in his now iconic role, which he plays with real flare and camp energy.
  • Highly detailed and very creative production design and costume designs give the film a sense of period authenticity, and aid the visual effects in giving the Pearl‘s crew a very chilling and sinister visual style when they turn in the moonlight.
  • The visual effects (a good mix of practical and CGI) aid the fight scenes well, whilst the swashbuckling is very well co-ordinated
  • Cinematographer Dariusz Wolski’s strong work shines most in his night-time shots, which have a chilling visual quality to them.


  • Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley do not have a good chemistry with each other.
  • The prologue is too brief, whilst several later scenes in the film do feel somewhat rushed.


FILM: Raya and the Last Dragon (2021, Don Hall/Carlos López Estrada)

Promotional release poster of Raya and the Last Dragon depicting Raya and Sisu along with other people in Kumandra

Raya and the Last Dragon is the 59th feature-length animation from Walt Disney Animation Studios. When the five warring factions of Kumandra accidentally shatter the magic Dragon Gem, an evil force called the Druun – which turns to stone anyone it touches – is awakened. Warrior Princess Raya (Kelly Marie Tran) locates the long-lost water dragon Sisu (Awkwafina), and together they travel across the factions of Kumandra to find the five pieces of the Dragon Gem, so that they can reassemble it, banish the Druun once and for all, and restore those who have been turned to stone.


  • A fast-paced and concise narrative which gives Kumandra a good backstory and well-realised lore, has a strong sense of adventure and boasts a good message about the importance of overcoming your differences with others in order to achieve necessary and positive outcomes.
  • Whilst supporting characters tend to take a backseat, there is a lot of focus on Raya (who is unlike any other Disney Princess) and Sisu’s bond, which evolves well over the course of the film and has a lot of heart, with the voice performances of Kelly Marie Tran and Awkwafina being the most memorable.
  • A gorgeously animated film which boasts a rich colour palette and very finely detailed designs that are rich in texture and creative flare, whilst the animation also makes the characters very expressive (especially Sisu).
  • As well as being beautifully animated, the action scenes are magnificently choreographed and unlike any others done in Disney animations, evoking some of the fabulous action cinema from countries such as Japan, Hong Kong and Indonesia.


  • A tad derivative of Frozen and Moana, the narrative is somewhat episodic and can be a little rushed at times, affording less opportunity for Sisu (and by proxy Awkwafina) to have humorous moments, and the film could easily be fleshed out into a miniseries.
  • There are some creative decisions and narrative choices where the directors and screenwriters do play it safe, and as such some scenes (including the climax) do lack the emotional weight and resonance which they may otherwise have had.


Top 5 Tasks of The Celebrity Apprentice Season 2


Continuing my (sporadic) series of Apprentice posts in the (several month…) run-up to the long-awaited return for the UK Apprentice, it is now time to finish revisiting Season 2 of the American Celebrity Apprentice, under a far less controversial Donald Trump. Gosh, those were the days! Originally airing from March-May 2009, 16 celebrities entered to win money for the charities of their choice – they did 11 business related tasks, and at the end of each a minimum of $20,000 would be donated to the winning Project Manager’s charity. Of those 11, some naturally stood out more than others, being more interesting and (in some cases) entertaining. It is worth clarifying that these are my favourite tasks and, before writing on my Top 5, there are some which just missed out, so here are the…

Honourable Mentions

  • LifeLock (Task 7): the teams each had to create in-store promotional displays for the identity-theft protection company, and KOTU won because their display involved celebrity endorsement, and it was also great to see Joan Rivers and Clint Black overcome their differences.
  • Frozen Food (Task 9): both teams had to create a new meal for Schwan’s frozen food line. Although KOTU’s chicken dish was apparently delicious (looking at it made my mouth water), Athena won because they thought outside the box by making their meal gluten-free (this was 2009, when gluten-free options were far fewer)!

5) Cupcakes (Task 1)

Like with the first tasks on the original seasons of The Apprentice and The Celebrity Apprentice, this was a fairly simple food sales task, the one difference being that they had to make them from scratch. All of the women on Athena threw themselves into it, and Project Manager Joan Rivers proved herself to be a strong contender through her excellent leadership, as did Brande Roderick and Annie Duke through the phenomenal uses of their rolodexes! Whilst the men raised nearly $50,000, they were hampered by Andrew Dice Clay and Dennis Rodman taking a back seat due to not wanting to do something as feminine as making cupcakes – the former was fired, and it foreshadowed how the latter would regularly cause issues for KOTU.

4) Hotels (Task 5)

Both teams were tasked to work as hoteliers for The Regency, and the winning team would be determined by customer feedback. This was a very different type of grafting than anything that they had done before, with many of the celebrities commenting on how much it made them appreciate hoteliers as it was a much tougher role than they had realised. Dennis Rodman led KOTU to make amends and because he was serious about raising money for his charity. It started well…until Dennis had a drink, which led to him being incredibly friendly with some of the guests – it was amusing to see two guests stunned by the surreal-yet-enjoyable experience of him taking them out to dinner. KOTU still lost though, and the most heart-breaking scene in Apprentice history happened in the boardroom when everyone did an intervention with Dennis over his drinking, and the episode ultimately raised awareness about alcoholism.

3) ACN Event (Task 4)

Following a three-week long losing streak, the men of KOTU were determined to win, and no-one was more so than Project Manager Brian McKnight. In fact, he was so determined that he benched the disruptive and aggressive Dennis Rodman midway through the task (the first time anyone had ever managed to do that successfully with a problematic candidate)! Both teams had to produce a live event promoting ACN’s latest videophone (gosh, that is a step back in time!), complete with a video. Brian did an excellent job with the event, his career in the music industry massively coming through and the charismatic presentation overcame the lack of focus on the product. The women of Athena kicked off their presentation with essentially some Joan Rivers stand-up (as she had had a prior engagement, she had had to miss most of the task, ergo she did not do more), but their dreadful presentation meant that they were absolutely thrashed by KOTU. Still, it was worth watching their event just for some truly hilarious stand-up from Joan – gosh, she was wonderful!

2) Detergent Advertising (Task 6)

The sixth task saw each team assigned to create and present a viral video for All laundry detergent, and for the first time this season, the teams were mixed genders (following the previous task there were 7 women left and only 4 men, so it needed doing!), and that in itself made it an interesting task as they had to work out new team dynamics. The dynamics made it the most interesting, as Clint Black and Joan Rivers massively clashed when (as Project Manager for the new KOTU) Clint refused to listen to her objections to his innuendo-heavy/male fantasy and her counter-suggestions, which foreshadowed how his stubbornness would cause issues on his teams for the rest of the season. Athena’s video had Jesse James being scrubbed clean by dwarves and used the politically incorrect term “midgets”…humour which totally missed the mark for the family-friendly brand. Due to the inappropriate videos there was no winner and one celebrity from each team was fired! It was a weirdly entertaining episode, and it proved beyond any shadow of a doubt that no amount of time around sets can guarantee expertise in creating even just a 30-second-video from scratch.

1) Jewellery Auction (Task 8)

After it became apparent that they disliked each other on the previous task, Joan Rivers and Annie Duke went head-to-head as opposing Project Managers. The task was to do an auction of jewellery from Ivanka Trump’s brand (some absolutely beautiful pieces!), with each team selecting 5 different pieces to model and sell. Melissa Rivers chose fantastically well for Athena, whilst Natalie Gulbis did not for KOTU. At Athena’s auction, Brande Roderick once again proved a key asset when one of her contacts made a huge bid, but nothing was as fascinating as watching Annie Duke play her poker buddies, which proved beyond any shadow of a doubt that she was not above playing people to win Celebrity Apprentice – it worked magnificently well! Whilst Clint Black fumbled KOTU’s auction in his role as host, Joan showed herself to be a team player by taking over and incorporating some very entertaining stand-up, whilst Herschel Walker’s contacts made some big bids. Between them the teams raised $245,000, and what was even more interesting was seeing Piers Morgan observe the whole task as a guest judge/boardroom advisor and make some very well articulated comments!

FILM: 28 Days Later (2002, Danny Boyle)

Welcome to this, the twenty-eighth instalment in The Second Annual October Scare Fest!

28 days later.jpg

Zombie horror film 28 Days Later was distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures. When Jim (Cillian Murphy) awakens from a coma, he is left horrified and disoriented to discover that (during his 28 days unconscious) the zombie apocalypse has happened and the streets of London are deserted by almost all but the undead. After crossing paths with fellow survivors Selena (Naomie Harris), Frank (Brendan Gleeson) and Hannah (Megan Burns), the four decide to stick together and drive to Manchester where there is a military base offering protection to survivors. However, their fellow humans may just be as great a threat to them as the zombie-hoards that they are trying to survive.


  • Director Danny Boyle crafts an excellent depiction of the zombie apocalypse, making very good choices (re. location and shooting-times) to ensure that harrowing imagery of a post-apocalypse London is captured, and also does a terrific job in ratcheting up the tension and the sense of threat that various foes pose to the central characters.
  • An excellent central cast, with all four throwing themselves into their roles with terrific intensity and some really raw emotion, whilst also having good chemistry with each other. Of the supporting cast, Christopher Eccleston’s authoritative performance as Major West is the most memorable.
  • Cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle’s use of shaky-cam works very well to convey the sense of a disorienting and unsettling experience and being caught within chaos, whilst he also makes excellent use of shadows and low artificial lighting.
  • The make-up department do an excellent job in creating the zombies, and they also use vast amounts of fake blood to make some vividly striking imagery and also craft some very vivid injury details (in zombie bites especially).


  • The fact that the narrative goes down the route of the soldiers posing a great threat to the survivors was ultimately very predictable, even if the specificity of their threat had some serious shock value.
  • The narrative is at times rather rushed, which robs some moments of the full amount of emotional weight that they could have had, and as a whole it does end quite abruptly.