FRED Watch Episode 21: The Death of Stalin (2017)

SATIRISING STALIN!

Gaumont / Main Journey / Quad Productions / France 3 Cinema / La Cie Cinématographique / Panache Productions / AFPI / eOne Films / Gaumont

Phillip introduces Wayne to the black comedy The Death of Stalin (2017) for this month’s FRED Watch.

The boys both have history degrees under their belts and love a good comedy, but do the two genres meld well enough to successfully satirise Stalin?

 

Listen to their review here:

 

Check out the trailer:

Starring: Steve Buscemi, Simon Russell Beale, Paddy Considine, Rupert Friend, Jason Isaacs, Olga Kurylenko, Michael Palin, Andrea Riseborough, Paul Chahidi, Dermot Crowley, Adrian McLoughlin, Paul Whitehouse, Jeffrey Tambor.

Director: Armando Iannucci | Producers: Yann Zenou, Laurent Zeitoun, Nicolas Duval Adassovsky, Kevin Loader | Writers: Armando Iannucci, David Schneider, Ian Martin (based on La Mort de Staline by Fabien Nury and Thierry Robin) | Music: Chris Willis | Cinematographer: Zac Nicholson | Editor: Peter Lambert

 

Available: DVD and stan.

Let us know what you thought of this film in the comments!

 

You’ve just experienced FRED Watch.

 

RELATED PODCAST: FRED Watch ANZAC DAY 2018 Special: All Quiet on the Western Front (1979) ⬇️

 

RELATED PODCAST: FRED Watch ANZAC DAY 2019 Special: Horrible Histories: Frightful First World War (2014) ⬇️


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Beta Test #21: Plants Vs. Zombies

Beta Test

Ok so cat’s out of the bag, I have absolutely played this before. Can you blame me for visiting an old classic? I swear I used to be so good at this game I was going to start a walk through YouTube channel for it before that sort of thing was cool (yes yes, I live in South Melbourne, I drink coffee from a theatre run co-op, and buy overpriced groceries from urban hippies, I know I’m pretentious, shut up).

*Brains*

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The zombies are coming! I’m Bethany Griffiths, and this is Beta Test. A game review platform where I, a crazy plant lady, choose one game a month to go ham on until either I get better or get wrecked. All in the hopes that I can provide you with a completely (un)biased review. 

Fringe season is upon us! Yes oh yes is the central hub of weird arts slamming into my face quicker than a pea shooter on acid. The colour, the lights, finding out you’re seeing a live porn act brought to you solely through mime! Priceless. And while some may be performing in plays, arts, or tributes to lost creative souls past present and future, Ya girl is staying in to play video games. By choice? No. Does it ease the slow agonising slip into the nether vortex of self hate from lack of expression, and guided interest? Yes, Yes it does. (Who needs friends to put on shows with. Wasn’t like I wanted to do it anyway. Be a part of a team. Feel a sense of belonging. Taste victory instead of three day old coffee, and Coles doughnuts. Psh, I’m fine)

But though I may look like the shell of my former self, this zombie girl is bouncing right back into it, and by into it, I mean games. Obviously. Let’s play Plants Vs Zombies shall we?

*Brains*

Plants Vs Zombies, Developed by PopCap Games, and distributed via Origin is a third person shooter, that styles itself like a classic capture the flag game. The main goal is to protect your house (and brains) from the zombies in the neighbouring cemetery (who want brains). Defeat them and you move through the ranks to beat the biggest zombie of them all (and no, I don’t mean me. Please put down your hands). Fail and you’ll get brain gutted by hoards of rampaging souls, set to feast on the most intelligent thing in the area (again, not me). 

What I have always loved about Plants Vs Zombies is its open ended nature. You have a small amount of plants to protect your lawn, but before long you amass a whole almanac. I’ve had so much fun this month putting together the craziest lawns to get rid of my zombie problems. From using only explosive plants, to making a whole lawn of spikes, the possibilities truly are endless, and I am so happy that none of the initial joy I had from this has changed.

Plants Vs Zombies boasts a wide variety of choices in terms of modifiers, some purchasable, some attained through goals. From rakes, to vacuums, and pool cleaners, I always felt supported in my conquest. The rush of getting the next big thing is never so far away that you lose interest. In fact with the culmination of all the varieties of levels, to the different terrains, and atmospheres, I was never put in a position where I felt like the game was a chore. That’s rare. 

What’s more, the game keeps on giving. Once you beat the main boss there is a randomise modifier that you can take to give you your plants for the set to come. It’s so much harder to complete the second time around, and that makes the fun greater. With every challenge, you feel like you’ve cracked a puzzle. I love that PopCap has continued to garner the same essence as it had as it’s early incarnation from the 2000’s. 

The art style is simple. Hard outlines with blocked colour. You’d be forgiven for thinking it was a sequel to a flash animation. Indeed, the cartoonish nature of the game makes me think back to the early days of YouTube and internet culture, where games like Mummy Maze, Kitten Cannon, and Chatterbot were all the rage, with Cactuar and Tonberry, and Mr.Weebl’s stuff topping my 10 year old charts. Plants Vs. Zombies brings back a good time for me.

So it should too. We’ve come such a long way in the video game world, I love that I’m able to see some of the things that got me into the game-o-sphere still hold water. (you don’t know how disappointed I am with every ‘3-D’ game of the early 2000’s. Is it a blob of flesh going *mab mab mab*? No, that’s the protagonist – Jimmy Neutron; Boy Genius)

From the beginning I have loved Plants Vs Zombies. It takes everything early Bethany loved and held true to it’s bearings. A+

Because of the timeless fun I always have, I give this game:

4/5 Flower Pots for style
2/5 Flower Pots for plot
5/5 Flower Pots for easiness
5/5 Flower Pots for Bright colour and graphics

So, my dudes! I’ve been Bethany Griffiths, and this has been a Crazy back van salesman Beta Test. A game review platform where I either got better or got wrecked. All in the hopes that I can provide you with a completely unbiased review. If you have a game that you want me to give my two cents on, Please let me know!

Until next time,

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A Podcast Called FRED #84: Convention Wish Lists

Kendall, Fulya, and Wayne deliver the latest in nerdy news and geeky goodness in the pop culture podcast that refuses to behave—it’s A Podcast Called FRED!

 

Nerdy News includes:

  • Robert Downey Jr. reportedly returning as Tony Stark for Black Widow;
  • Margot Robbie’s production company LuckyChap in pre-production on Tank Girl reboot;
  • Face/Off reboot/remake in the works
  • and so much more!

Trailer Park discussions:

  • Doctor Sleep
  • Watchmen
  • Like a Boss

Quickie Review:

  • The Farewell

Popcorn Culture:

  • This week, the team discuss who they would love to see and meet at a convention—featuring responses from you!

 

Check out A Podcast Called FRED #84 ⬇️

Remember to let us know your response to the Popcorn Culture question so you can be featured in the next episode of A Podcast Called FRED!

 

PREVIOUS EPISODE: A Podcast Called FRED #83 ⬇️


FRED Watch Quickie Film Review: Iron Man Three (2013)

THIRD TIME’S THE CHARM!

I’m a Wayne Stellini and welcome to FRED Watch, where we review everything from the mainstream to the obscure. Today’s film is Iron Man Three

Marvel Studios / Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Suffering from a severe case of insomnia and post traumatic stress disorder, billionaire Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) obsesses over coming up with new prototypes for the Iron Man suit. But when a mad man known only as the Mandarin stages an attack on the Chinese Theater in Los Angeles, Stark suits up to battle forces far more sinister than he first imagined…

With two stories and a central role in Marvel’s The Avengers (2012) under his belt, dry-humoured billionaire Tony Stark is, by now, a fairly established comic book movie character. Because of this, Iron Man Three is all the better for jumping straight into the action without sacrificing the interpersonal relationships between the main characters we have come to know. (However, this also means that the title hero’s previous escapades are required viewing.)

Of course, this is Robert Downey, Jr.‘s show and he effortlessly manoeuvres through sentiment and battle with admirable confidence. The introduction of Ty Simpkins as wiz kid Harley Keener feels a little out of place at first, but the youngster’s rapport with Downey feels authentic and adds depth to Stark as our flawed hero.

Unsurprisingly, franchise regulars Gwyneth Paltrow and Don Cheadle are in fine form, and it is particularly pleasing to see them given more to do… especially in the visually impressive final act. Guy Pearce‘s inclusion as the intriguing villain of the piece as well as the mysterious (and, among purists, contentious) Mandarin suit the narrative well and are more engaging than Iron Man’s previous foe (an underwhelming Mickey Rourke as the underwritten Ivan Vanko.)

Despite being a little too long, Shane Black‘s caper, the seventh in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is not only the best of the Iron Man movies but is a fun, sharply edited, and entertaining pic in its own right. 4 / 5

 

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall, Ty Simpkins, Stéphanie Szostak, James Badge Dale, Jon Favreau, Ben Kingsley, Paul Bettany [voice], Ashley Hamilton, William Sadler, Miguel Ferrer, Adam Pally, Shaun Toub [cameo], Stan Lee [cameo], Dale Dickey, Wang Xueqi, Fan Bingbing [Chinese release only], Mark Ruffalo [uncredited cameo], Bill Maher [cameo], Joan Rivers [cameo], George Kotsiopoulos [cameo], Josh Elliott [cameo], Megan Henderson [cameo], Pat Kiernan [cameo], Thomas Roberts [cameo].

Director: Shane Black | Producer: Kevin Feige | Writers: by Shane Black, Drew Pearce (based on Iron Man by Stan Lee, Don Heck, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby) | Music: Brian Tyler | Cinematographer: John Toll | Editors: Jeffrey Ford, Peter S. Elliot

 

Available: Blu-ray and stan

Let us know what you thought of this film in the comments!

 

I’ve been a Wayne Stellini and you’ve just experienced FRED Watch.

 

RELATED VIDEO: Non-Scripted Ramblings #10: Countdown to Infinity War—Iron Man 3 ⬇️


A Podcast Called FRED #83: Film Scenes as Wall Art

Kendall and Fulya deliver the latest in nerdy news and geeky goodness in the pop culture podcast that refuses to behave—it’s A Podcast Called FRED!

 

Nerdy News includes:

  • Peter Capaldi joins The Suicide Squad
  • Ben Wheatley to direct Tomb Raider sequel;
  • First look at the final season of The Good Place;
  • and so much more!

Trailer Park discussions:

  • Bad Boys For Life
  • Jojo Rabbit
  • Black Christmas
  • Just Mercy
  • Gretel and Hansel

Quickie Reviews:

  • It: Chapter Two
  • Ophelia

Popcorn Culture:

  • This week, the team discuss what movie scene they would have on their wall—featuring responses from you!

 

Check out A Podcast Called FRED #83 ⬇️

Remember to let us know your response to the Popcorn Culture question so you can be featured in the next episode of A Podcast Called FRED!

 

PREVIOUS EPISODE: A Podcast Called FRED #82 ⬇️


FRED Watch Quickie Film Review: Marvel’s The Avengers (2012)

THE AVENGERS ASSEMBLE!

I’m a Wayne Stellini and welcome to FRED Watch, where we review everything from the mainstream to the obscure. Today’s film is Marvel’s The Avengers

Marvel Studios / Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Peacekeeping agency S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) assembles a team of superheroes to save the world when an unexpected enemy emerges as threat to global safety and security…

An assortment of origin pictures, beginning with 2008’s Iron Man, have all been leading to this superhero ensemble blockbuster… and fans won’t be disappointed. There’s plenty of action on hand here, which is particularly well done when the conflict is between the heroes themselves (Hulk vs. Thor is a highlight), mixed with enough heart and humour to make this a cut above most comic book adaptations.

Mark Ruffalo replaces the overall superior Edward Norton as the temperamental Hulk, but the actor makes the role his own and does so confidently. Of course, Robert Downey Jr. is in his natural element as the fast-talking Tony Stark/Iron Man; his statistical quip about male performance is a masterstroke of ingenious comedy writing and delivery. Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth are in perfect form as fish out of water Captain America and Thor respectively, and it is quite a joy to watch the former lead the pack. It is also great to see Samuel L. Jackson given more to do this time around as Nick Fury, even if the actor does not stray too far from his usual one-note performance style, and Clark Gregg’s Phil Coulson is always a welcome inclusion. Needless to say, Tom Hiddleston is so much fun as Loki and is the most perfect villain to sit in the centre of the ensuing chaos.

But the true heart of the film sits with Scarlett Johansson and Jeremy Renner as Black Widow and Hawkeye. As individuals, each performer is a scene-stealer and together, there is an undeniable chemistry that is rarely seen in superhero flicks. In a film (and, let’s face it, genre) that is pumping with testosterone, it is incredibly refreshing to see Johansson given so much to do and implement it flawlessly. Renner is equally strong and sensitive, and it is a testament to writer/director Joss Whedon’s skillfully constructed and executed script that Black Widow and Hawkeye are the most fleshed out and interesting characters here.

Admittedly, with so much going on and an assortment of characters with strong and clashing personalities in the mix, there is always the risk of overbearing convolution. But Whedon is a remarkably talented creative and keeps things well under control. However, Marvel’s The Avengers would have benefited from some taut trimming. The extensive climactic fight sequence in Manhattan is not only too long but feels a little too over-the-top, even for a comic book narrative, with an unnecessarily excessive amount of carnage.

Overall, it is pleasing to see that each hero (and the villains, for that matter) gets their own piece of the action. Although not flawless, this genuine crowd-pleaser is a fine example of why we go to the movies. 4½ / 5

 

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Clark Gregg, Cobie Smulders, Stellan Skarsgård, Samuel L. Jackson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Maximiliano Hernández, Paul Bettany [voice], Alexis Denisof, Damion Poitier, Powers Boothe, Jenny Agutter, Stan Lee [cameo], Harry Dean Stanton [cameo], Jerzy Skolimowski, Enver Gjokaj.

Director: Joss Whedon | Producer: Kevin Feige | Writer: by Joss Whedon; Story: Zak Penn, Joss Whedon (based on The Avengers by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby) | Music: Alan Silvestri | Cinematographer: Seamus McGarvey | Editors: Jeffrey Ford, Lisa Lassek

 

Available: Blu-ray and stan

Let us know what you thought of this film in the comments!

 

I’ve been a Wayne Stellini and you’ve just experienced FRED Watch.

 

RELATED VIDEO: Non-Scripted Ramblings #9: Countdown to Infinity War—The Avengers ⬇️


FRED Watch Quickie Film Review: Ice Age (2002)

ICE ICE BABY!

I’m a Fulya Kantarmaci and welcome to FRED Watch, where we review everything from the mainstream to the obscure. Today’s film is Ice Age

Blue Sky Studios / 20th Century Fox Animation / 20th Century Fox

A woolly mammoth, a sloth, and a sabretoothed tiger save a human baby and have to reunite him with his tribe. An adventure of epicly cold proportions where these three animals have no choice but to work together. Oh, did I mention a sabretoothed squirrel causes an avalanche?

Ladies, gentlemen, and all other mammals, welcome to the ice age! Except, instead of migrating down south where it will be warmer, how about we travel north? No? Well, I guess we won’t be following Manny (Ray Romano) then because he would rather go north than south it seems (and we don’t know why). Following this big mammoth is a clumsy sloth named Sid (John Leguizamo), who was left behind by his family and the rest of the animals. Manny makes it clear to Sid that he wants to be left alone. Sid doesn’t understand the concept of being alone so he sticks by Manny anyway.

Later, we find out that tigers attacked the humans’ camp in which a mother was separated from and had to run in a different direction in order to save her baby son’s life. Jumping down a waterfall, she is swept away and manages to hold onto a rock, and comes across Manny and Sid. She pushes her tightly-wrapped baby towards Manny with her last bit of strength and Manny holds onto him. The moment Sid and Manny look up, the mother has disappeared into the water—queue sad music.

One of the tigers from the pack that attacked the humans is named Diego (Denis Leary). After failing to capture the baby as stated in a revenge plot by the pack leader Soto (Goran Višnjić), Diego is sent off to find and retrieve the baby as punishment. He finds the baby in the possession of Manny and Sid, so he cooks up a plan to set them up. Diego convinces them he can help track down the humans better and quicker than either of them. Little do Manny and Sid know, they were about to face some serious problems.

This film is a lot of fun and has a lot of heart in it as well. Following these mammals through their adventure always brings a smile to my face. The cast is amazing and I couldn’t have picked it better myself! Romano really brings Manny to life with, as director Chris Wedge describes, a voice that is ‘deep and slow in delivery, but also with a sarcastic wit behind it.’ Leguizamo is hilarious as Sid! His comedic timing is awesome and the character always manages to make me laugh during the slapstick and physical humour scenes.

Leary’s take on Diego is also great! His voice sounds like it belongs to a sabertoothed tiger with a hint of sincerity which isn’t something you’d expect from the character. And let’s not forget Scrat; a sabertoothed squirrel that just wants to hide his acorn. Although Scrat doesn’t speak during the film, he almost steals the show. Director Wedge voices this little naïve animal and it’s literally just screams, sighs, and other squirrel-like sound effects. It’s funny to see how Scrat begins and then ends the film.

I highly recommend watching Ice Age with friends and family. The kids will love it as well! And remember, beware of the taek-won-dodos! 4½ / 5

 

Starring: Ray Romano, Denis Leary, John Leguizamo, Chris Wedge, Goran Višnjić, Jack Black, Diedrich Bader, Alan Tudyk, Cedric the Entertainer, Stephen Root, Jane Krakowski, Lorri Bagley, Tara Strong.

Director: Chris Wedge | Writers: Michael Berg, Michael J. Wilson, Peter Ackerman; Story: Michael J. Wilson | Producer: Lori Forte | Music: David Newman | Editor: John Carnochan

 

Available: DVD.

Let us know what you thought of this film in the comments!

 

I’ve been a Fulya Kantarmaci and you’ve just experienced FRED Watch.

A Podcast Called FRED #82: Sony Squashes Spider-Man

Kendall, Fulya, and Wayne deliver the latest in nerdy news and geeky goodness in the pop culture podcast that refuses to behave—it’s A Podcast Called FRED!

 

Nerdy News includes:

  • Andy Muschietti to direct The Flash;
  • Obi-Wan series to take place eighth years after Revenge of the Sith;
  • Anthony Michael Hall to play Tommy Doyle in Halloween Kills;
  • and so much more!

Trailer Park discussions:

  • The Aeronauts
  • Terminator: Dark Fate
  • Joker

Quickie Reviews:

  • Weathering With You
  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Popcorn Culture:

  • This week, the team discuss Spider-Man’s exit from the Marvel Cinematic Universe—featuring responses from you!

 

Check out A Podcast Called FRED #82 ⬇️

Remember to let us know your response to the Popcorn Culture question so you can be featured in the next episode of A Podcast Called FRED!

 

PREVIOUS EPISODE: A Podcast Called FRED #81 ⬇️


FRED Watch Quickie Film Review: Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

AN AWESOME AVENGER!

I’m a Wayne Stellini and welcome to FRED Watch, where we review everything from the mainstream to the obscure. Today’s film is Captain America: The First Avenger

Marvel Studios / Paramount Pictures

Having been deemed as unfit for military service due to multiple medical conditions, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) volunteers for a top secret ‘Super Soldier’ project that turns him into the brawny Captain America.

Initially used as the U.S. Army’s propaganda poster boy, Captain America battles the Red Skull (Hugo Weaving), leader of the evil HYDRA organisation…

Making his first big screen appearance since Albert Pyun’s 1990 critical and commercial disaster, Captain America is supported, this time around, by a massive budget, a crowd-pleasing franchise, and more significantly, a story that engages from the get-go.

The fifth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Joe Johnston’s Captain America: The First Avenger is a wonderful mix of heart and heroism. As the title character, Chris Evans is nothing short of perfect. Going from scrawny to brawny, Evans’s portrayal of Steven Rogers/Captain America is both sensitive and strong, depicting an assortment of adaptable traits that gives the character depth and meaning. Although the visual effects that convey the short and gaunt Rogers never truly convince (the proportions don’t always look or feel right), Evans captivates enough for us to see past what would have otherwise been a distracting flaw.

Supporting characters aren’t given as much attention or development, but so strong is the cast that there’s always something to relish of each key player. The underrated Hayley Atwell is quite lovely as Officer Peggy Carter, an obligatory love interest for Rogers who is more fleshed out than you would expect, while Hugo Weaving is always fun as the evil Red Skull. Tommy Lee Jones is unsurprisingly exceptional in the undemanding role of Colonel Chester Phillips, whose impeccable line delivery suitably belongs to an era of yesteryear: ‘You and I are gonna have a conversation later that you won’t enjoy,’ he scolds Carter at one point.

Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely’s screenplay doesn’t try to complicate the narrative with unnecessary subplots or convoluted details. It is brought to life through the collective efforts of a talented cast, Alan Silvestri wonderful score, and Jeffrey Ford and Robert Dalva’s taut editing under the skillful eye of a director with a confident vision that has you engaged right up until one of the greatest endings and reveals in contemporary comic book movies.

Though not really delivering anything we haven’t seen before, there’s no denying that Captain America: The First Avenger is a pretty awesome adventure picture. 4 / 5

Starring: Chris Evans, Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving, Hayley Atwell, Sebastian Stan, Dominic Cooper, Neal McDonough, Derek Luke, Stanley Tucci, Samuel L. Jackson, Kenneth Choi, Bruno Ricci, JJ Feild, Toby Jones, Richard Armitage, Lex Shrapnel, Michael Brandon, Natalie Dormer, Jenna Coleman, Laura Haddock, Stan Lee.

Director: Joe Johnston | Producer: Kevin Feige | Writers: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely (based on Captain America by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby) | Music: Alan Silvestri | Cinematographer: Shelly Johnson | Editors: Jeffrey Ford, Robert Dalva

 

Available: Blu-ray and stan

Let us know what you thought of this film in the comments!

 

I’ve been a Wayne Stellini and you’ve just experienced FRED Watch.

 

RELATED VIDEO: Non-Scripted Ramblings #8: Countdown to Infinity War—Captain America: The First Avenger ⬇️


FRED Watch Craptacular Special #1: The Room (2003)

ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT.

Wiseau-Films / Chloe Productions / TPW Films

It’s FRED Watch’s first-ever Craptacular Special!

Wayne introduces Phillip and special guests Fulya, Kendall, and Kirsten to Tommy Wiseau’s infamous cult classic about… um… Johnny and his best friend Mark… who is having an affair with Lisa… whose mother has breast cancer… who lectures Denny about drugs… on a rooftop… and there’s football tossing.

It time for our reviewers to enter The Room (2003).

Listen to their review here:

 

Check out the trailer here:

Starring: Tommy Wiseau, Greg Sestero, Juliette Danielle, Philip Haldiman, Carolyn Minnott, Robyn Paris, Scott Holmes, Dan Janjigian, Kyle Vogt, Greg Ellery.

Director: Tommy Wiseau [uncredited: Sandy Schklair]| Writer/Producer: Tommy Wiseau | Music: Mladen Milicevic | Cinematographer: Todd Barron | Editor: Eric Chase

 

In cinemas now.

 

Let us know what you thought of this film in the comments!

 

You’ve just experienced FRED Watch.