What we're watching and playing this week
The Hole in the Ground (18)
As a suitably eerie setting for horror movies, we’d long considered Ireland to have been a relatively untapped resource. With its misty glens, rugged coastline and array of abandoned castles, it certainly has an air of mystery about it.
It seems filmmakers have finally cottoned on to our idea and Lee Cronin’s fine debut follows the lead of recent efforts such as Don’t Leave Home, The Hallow and Beyond The Woods. In fact the plot of The Hole in the Ground follows a similarly spooky path to the latter, with a large sinkhole in a forest appearing to play a large part in a proliferation of paranormal activity in this part of rural Ireland.
After Sarah O’Neill (Seána Kerslake) tells her young son Chris (James Quinn Markey) to steer clear of said abyss, he disappears, his distraught mum finding his favourite toy at The Hole’s edge. Although Chris appears to return home relatively unscathed, it soon becomes clear all is not right as he starts displaying some highly unusual characteristics, not least displays of superhuman strength.
Kerslake is brilliant as the understandably frazzled Sarah, who begins to doubt whether Chris is actually her son or has been replaced by an imposter during his dalliance with said sinkhole.
She’s not alone in that belief but Noreen Brady (played with real menace by Kati Outinen) is the only one who subscribes to her theory, and she’s hardly a bona fide ally considering she murdered her own son. Scary and compelling stuff.
In cinemas March 14
Better Start Running (18)
Brett Simon’s indie road-trip flick clearly had enough in its script to entice the likes of Jeremy Irons, Mario Bello and Jane Seymour into signing up. But while the premise of Better Start Running is solid enough, the action rather meanders as shopworkers Stephanie (Analeigh Tipton) and Harley (Alex Sharp) go on the run with his grandad (Irons) and free spirit Fitz Paradise (Edi Gathegi) after she kills her boss as he tries to assault her.
In cinemas March 14
Captain Marvel (PG13)
Even if you’re not a huge fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (come on, really?) this, the 21st instalment of it can’t fail to grab your attention, not least because it’s the first to be led by a female superhero.
Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (Mississippi Grind), who are also on co-writing duties with Geneva Robertson-Dworet and Jac Schaeffer, this spring blockbuster stars the brilliant Brie Larson as the leather-clad fighter pilot with superhuman strength.
Set in 1995, the retro-nostalgia element is evident right from the off as Marvel (aka Carol Danvers) is blown out of the sky and lands in a Blockbuster Video store. Suffering a severe bout of memory loss, the Starforce pilot’s recollections of her past on Earth are triggered by a series of flashbacks.
With the help of Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury (sans the eye patch and with 25 years digitally taken off him), she begins to piece her own story back together before complete carnage breaks loose as our planet is caught in the crossfire of two sworn galactic enemies, the Kree and The Skrulls. The latter will be making their MCU debut, bringing their dastardly and deadly shape-shifting skills with them.
Larson looks very at home in such an important role, the Oscar winner’s intensive gym sessions having clearly paid off.
So ignore all those internet trolls trying to besmirch this film’s reputation with their pitiful, sexist diatribes, Captain Marvel is going to be absolutely massive.
In cinemas March 7
What starts of as an innocent-looking piece about a young girl whose mourning for her dead mother is quelled a little by her befriending a French piano teacher soon turns into a twisted, stalker horror (well, we wouldn’t be plugging it otherwise). Isabelle Huppert stars as the sadistic ivory tickler Greta, who’s determined to force Chloë Grace Moretz’s Frances to let her play mum by any means.
In cinemas March 7.
Trials and Tribulations
We’ll be brutally honest, we haven’t watched much homegrown TV since the arrival of Netflix to the region. It’s not through a lack of trying – more to do with the overwhelming amount of shows we now have at our fingertips.
However, when we heard Netflix had picked up Image Nation Abu Dhabi’s legal drama Justice, it went straight to the top of the Must-Watch List.
Set in Abu Dhabi and with a cast of mostly Emirati talent, the series follows the trials and tribulations of Farah, a young legal eagle fresh from graduating from law school over in the US.
The daughter of an experienced and hugely respected lawyer Hassan, Farah is torn between keeping her hugely protective father happy and joining his big-hitting law firm or striking out on her own.
After taking her first case (a hit-and-run killing) and discovering her dad’s plans to keep her under his watchful eye by hiring the office she’d had her heart set on, Farah is allowed to go her own way and seek justice not only for her clients but also for herself, in the male-dominated courtrooms of our capital.
Created by three-time Oscar nominee Walter Parkes (WarGames) and produced by Emmy Award winner William Finkelstein, Justice is the biggest budget Emirati TV series ever, according to Image Nation boss Michael Garin, who describes it as ‘LA Law meets Dallas in Abu Dhabi’. And with its slick opening credits (capturing scenes of everyday life and unmistakable landmarks of the capital), director Ahmed Khaled has clearly made a concious effort to make this a very obviously Emirati production.
His craft behind the camera is sometimes let down by those in front of it, with some of the acting by lesser characters coming across as a little wooden, their lines delivered as if they were going to explode if they didn’t get them out in time.
However, for all the obvious shortcomings of the rest of the cast, Fatima Al Taei is hugely convincing as Farah, a standout performance much needed to keep audiences wanting to come back for more.
For added authenticity, the producers got the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department on board, with Farah et al taking on real-life cases. Such realism along with the subjects the show hits upon should’ve been enough to make Justice a hit. It’s just a shame Al Taei is forced to carry much of the acting burden alone.
Available now on Netflix.
Nothing is at seems in this Netflix horror drama as Jack Morton (Jake Manley) bids to avenge the death of his mother by signing up to a cult harboured by his university. On his induction day, Jack asks chaperone Alyssa (Sarah Grey) about The Hermetic Order of the Blue Rose, which she dismisses with Trump-like bluster as ‘fake news’. An invitation letter later and Jack is thrust into a war between dark arts practitioners and werewolves.
Out now on Netflix
We love a bit of Greek mythology here at ShortList, but definitely not of the kind that leads you staying at a building site of a hotel that looks nothing like it did in the brochure. Siren is set in the equally idyllic-looking Bristol Cove, where legend has it mermaids once ruled the waves. Eline Powell’s Ryn Fisher sets tongues (and tails) wagging as a siren coming ashore in search
of her captured sister.
Begins March 15 on OSN Series HD
Back for a second series, Rowan Joffe’s cracking cop drama stars Tim Roth as fish-out-of-water London bobby Jim Worth, who’s desperate to leave his turbulent past behind him by starting a new life in a seemingly sleepy Canadian town. That past soon rears its ugly head after tragedy strikes, however, and Worth vows to take revenge on those who’ve crossed him and his family.
Available on Amazon Prime from March 7.
Kate Beckinsale takes the lead in this latest effort from director brothers Harry and Jack Williams (Liar and The Missing) playing (you guessed it) a widow, Georgia Wells, whose search for clues about her husband’s supposed plane crash death takes her into the wild heart of DR Congo. The Williams call this their ‘most ambitious and cinematic piece to date’, with Beckinsale ‘perfect’ for the starring role.
Available now on Amazon Prime.
Devil May Cry 5
When the soundtrack from the launch trailer of a hugely hyped game gets more views on YouTube than the trailer itself, it usually doesn’t look too good. But in Devil May Cry 5’s case, that banger of a song is why fans of Capcom’s iconic third-person action franchise are so excited – because that tune is what they’ll be stylishly slaying monsters to.
It’s been a whole 11 years since players got to kick, slash, pummel and shoot enemies in the slickest way possible back in Devil May Cry 4 (if you excuse the arguably good reboot), so fans have been itching to jump back in the boots of the Son of Sparda, Dante and relative newbie devil hunter, Nero. And with good reason, as each entry in the franchise delivers fast-paced battles thanks to a brilliant combat system that lets gamers play their way, slightly cheesy yet super-cool one-liners and an epic story.
Right, all caught up? Because DMC5 has added a lot to its crazy, over-the-top action. First off, Nero’s handy Devil Arm, the plot device for DMC4, has been literally ripped off, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be rooting on from the sidelines. He now has a mechanical Devil Breaker arm, which gives him a whole new range of moves to go along with his usual sword-and-gun combat. With over ten different types at his disposal, including the Punch Line that delivers superpowered flying haymakers to enemies, and the Overture which casts electrical hand-printed shockwaves to foes, getting that SSS rank achievement will be a cinch.
As for the star of the series, a rougher-looking Dante, don’t expect a lot of his moves to be changed – thankfully. Do expect a slew of new weapons at his disposal, including an actual motorbike that splits into dual wielding buzzsaws. Yup, the guys at Capcom are getting pretty creative. Finally, there’s V, a cane-wielding emo with a limp that brings a whole new style of gameplay. Unlike his acrobatic companions, V doesn’t exactly fight, but he does have three beasts to do the dirty work for him.
Kind of like Pokémon, except a lot swifter and deadlier. He doesn’t sound like too much fun, but early demo testers have said otherwise.
Along with a huge story, a hefty graphics upgrade and a wide range of new enemies to face, DMC5 is looking to be the polished and sleek sequel fans have been waiting for.
Honestly though, go and listen to DMC5’s theme song Devil Trigger – the hype is palpable.
Available on PS4, Xbox One, PC. March 8.
The Division 2: Washington DC edition (PEGI 18)
Rainbow Six, Splinter Cell, Ghost Recon. There’s little chance you wouldn’t have played a game with the ‘Tom Clancy’s’ tag. This special edition of The Division 2 is spawned from arguably the most successful game in the series, with the action shifting to the US capital as survivors and marauders battle it out after a smallpox pandemic.
Out on PS4 and Xbox One from March 15