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All reviews - Movies (38) - TV Shows (1)

The Idiots review

Posted : 5 years, 10 months ago on 10 November 2011 10:10 (A review of The Idiots)

Always one for controversy, Lars Von Trier's The Idiots is no exception.
Filmed in the Dogme 95 style, the handheld camera, dodgy sound and mis-matched cuts are at first a distraction, yet once the storyline draws you in they become almost unnoticeable.

The film follows a group of young adults, who routinely "spazz out" in public in order to indulge their "inner idiot". The scenes of their play are not only disturbingly accurate and sometimes distressing but showcase an extraordinary amount of acting talent in the cast. They are not only believable but also serve to question your own view on stereotypes of the mentally impaired. Do we see what we commonly think of mentally disabled people to be, or are their acts true to life? It's an uncomfortable question, and one that is important to the film, as seen through newcomer Karen's eyes - are the group mocking the mentally disabled or the people who they come into contact with?
The scene in which the group are forced to interact with actually mentally disabled visitors is key to the discussion, and really opens the eyes of both the actors and the viewer.

This whole theme pieced together with the infamous orgy scene which features real sex, serves to violate the viewer's comfort zone, while the final scene in which Karen returns home to deal with her family and a recent tragedy, leaves the film scarily open-ended with no resolution.

It's not for everyone, but The Idiots is a superbly acted and thoughtful piece of cinema that really challenges the viewer. It fully deserves its cult status.


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More like "Craptivity" than Activity

Posted : 5 years, 10 months ago on 31 October 2011 10:58 (A review of Paranormal Activity 2)

After enjoying the first Paranormal Activity movie (despite the terrible audiences that inevitably came with it), I was looking forward to this sequel. I love ghost films, particularly those about haunted houses, and I even enjoy those films that are shot on handheld cameras and feature "found footage".

However, this film did not deliver in any way shape or form. The change from handheld camera to in-home CCTV is quite clever, meaning that you're treated to long static shots that build tension, but sadly so little happens that all tension dissipates and all that remains is extreme boredom.
Even when things do actually happen, the effect is so cheesy and badly staged that you stay bored and a little frustrated. For example, the shadow seeping from the basement door to the daughter sleeping on the couch is not done well at all and merely serves to make you roll your eyes.

A film best avoided. I won't be watching number 3. I think I'll revisit The Blair Witch Project as that is actually full of dread and horror.


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From Beyond the Grave review

Posted : 6 years, 3 months ago on 8 June 2011 11:35 (A review of From Beyond the Grave)

Fun portmanteau from Amicus featuring a superb cast including Peter Cushing, David Warner and Donald Pleasance.
Four stories intersperse scenes set in a creepy antiques store run by Cushing himself, where all customers buying items meet unexpected and often violent ends.

The first and second stories shine in particular with David Warner's ghostly mirror forcing him to commit vicious murders in his flat in the former. It stands out as both unsettling and superbly told with unflinching brutality. The second story with Donald Pleasance and his real life daughter as voodoo practitioners is also clever and brilliantly acted with a real eerie feel, and has a delightfully unexpected twist.

The third instalment is a silly affair featuring an OTT medium battling an evil elemental bothering a city man, and the fourth where an ancient door conceals a hidden room from the past that houses a ghost who eats souls is too ambitious in too short a section and falls flat.

Despite the uneven tone and occasional iffy effect, the film as a whole works so well that you easily forgive its faults.


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Without a Clue review

Posted : 6 years, 3 months ago on 8 June 2011 11:35 (A review of Without a Clue)

Immensely enjoyable farce featuring Michael Caine as Sherlock Holmes with a twist - Holmes is merely an invention of Dr Watson (Ben Kingsley) and played by an actor to appease public expectations.

Caine is superbly incompetent and cheeky as Holmes, bumbling his way through the featured mystery where the Royal Mint's printing plates have been stolen by Moriarty, with gormless charm and believable pratfalling.
Kingsley is great in a rare comic role, his vain and exasperated Watson the perfect foil for Caine.

The supporting case are also tremendous, especially Jeffrey Jones as the totally inept Lestrade who couldn't catch a cold if he tried. A reasonably beefed up part from Mrs Hudson is also a welcome touch, particularly in the extended finale set in the basement of an old theatre.

The plot almost seems inconsequential to the play of the characters and as a whole isn't particularly gripping, but its lacklustre storyline does not detract from the film's success.

Moriarty is played as a camp pantomime villain which is a shame, but in the film's limited scope it works.

Overall, great fun and a nice change from so many serious Holmes adaptations.



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TRON: Legacy review

Posted : 6 years, 3 months ago on 8 June 2011 11:34 (A review of TRON: Legacy)

Not being a big fan on the original now "cult" film, Tron, I went into Tron Legacy with some trepidation. Would the sequel be as boring as the first film?
Thankfully the answer was no, although the rebooted version still didn't do much for me, it at least managed to hold my attention for its lengthy running time.

The most distracting aspect of the film was not actually its non-sensical and frankly pointless plot; it was the horrendously shoddy CGI of Jeff Bridges' face as Clu/The Younger Kevin Flynn.
It was not the face itself, despite the fact that at certain moments it seemed to float slightly apart from the body it was supposed to be attached to. It was the speech. And how the lips didn't match up to the words spoken at all, rendering the expensive effects sloppy and pulling you as the viewer completely out of the film's diegesis and seriously hampering its believability. I couldn't take it seriously. Well, as seriously as you can take a film about a "grid" being full of miniature people representing programmes. What do all those programmes do anyway?

That aside, performance-wise there was nothing particularly exciting. Jeff Bridges played Jeff Bridges once again, channeling The Dude in parts, while Garrett Hedlund as Sam Flynn was quite unremarkable and mildly irritating, as was Olivia Wilde, but then that's more the characters than the acting.
But special mention must be made for Michael Sheen's bizarre performance as camp enemy programme, Zeus, who hams it up like there's no tomorrow despite the fact that everyone else in the film is playing it straight.

I think this one is for fans only.



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Grease review

Posted : 6 years, 3 months ago on 8 June 2011 11:34 (A review of Grease)

Perennial classic that never loses its shine no matter how many times you see it.

Travolta has never beaten his role as greaser Danny Zucco, who is both charming and hapless, sexy and stupid. His comic turn makes you wonder if he should have pursued a much more comedic career (Look Who's Talking films aside).
Olivia Newton-John is sweet and the picture of innocence as Sandy and her transformation at the end of the film to sexy strumpet is still a shock.

The supporting cast as so memorable they get permanently imprinted on your psyche, as do the musical numbers, which remain fresh and invite you to sing your heart out, leaving only the hardest hearted not caught up in their joy.

In a post-Glee world it's wonderful to see that this film's still sizzles and fizzes with charm and originality, particularly its script that is so ripe full of sexual innuendos and ribald humour it still surprises me it passes with a PG certificate.

A musical classic that will never fade.



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The Heartbreak Kid review

Posted : 6 years, 3 months ago on 8 June 2011 11:33 (A review of The Heartbreak Kid)

Surprisingly hectic comedy starring Charles Grodin as a man who marries too soon on a pretense of getting laid, only to discover his new bride is irritating and coarse. He then meets Cybil Shepherd’s glamourous Kelly on his honeymoon and instantly falls in love.

Grodin is manic and detestably likeable as he gets into full Steve-Martin-mode, fawning haplessly around Kelly and her stern father, and shunning his new bride with lie after lie. Having only previously seen Grodin as the bad guy in movies, it made a nice change to see him as a romantic lead, albeit an unlikely one, and his frenzied state is a delight to watch. Shepherd is suitably cool and flirty as the young Kelly, who is a convoluted character who plays Grodin against his wife, then shuns him when he leaves her.

The first half of the film is a joy, watching Grodin’s emotions turn from happiness to despair to hope in equal measure, his wooing of Kelly and his destruction of Lila (his wife) are guaranteed to make you cringe. However, the film goes way off track once he leaves Lila to pursue Kelly in her home town, as the subsequent love story is overlong and much duller than the events preceding it. The final scene of the movie does elevate the disappointment though – Grodin sits at his second wedding, ignoring his second wife, clearly unhappy and uncertain about his future. An apt end to such a flawed character, but this doesn’t make up for the stodgy second act.



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The Thing review

Posted : 6 years, 3 months ago on 8 June 2011 11:33 (A review of The Thing)

It doesn’t matter how many times you watch The Thing, it still has the ability to raise the hairs on the back of your neck and forces you to the edge of your seat.
The dark, brooding atmosphere starts at the opening credits when the title burns its way through the screen. The eerie thudding music accentuates this and the tone doesn’t let up for the full running time.

Kurt Russell is superb as MacReady, the world-weary pilot stuck in the middle of nowhere with a somewhat motley crew. He is the key figure the audience clings to throughout the film, the one voice of reason that can be trusted. The brilliance of the film is that by the end you cannot trust your own judgement – is MacReady human or alien copy? We never know the answer and therefore you leave the film with the sense of dread dripping off you.

The special effects are a key feature of the film, and are a testament against the pervasion of CGI in the modern horror and sci-fi. The creatures drip and ooze and scuttle, their hideous forms visceral and the more frightening as they are real and can be touched. The key scene where Norris is revealed as a Thing and his body falls apart in hideous fashion is as unsettling the thirtieth time as it is the first.
The Thing is easily John Carpenter’s best work, and is an excellent example of tension, suspense and character study as well as horror. You can only wonder at what the new prequel will bring to The Thing canon.



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Catfish review

Posted : 6 years, 3 months ago on 8 June 2011 11:32 (A review of Catfish)

Intriguing documentary following a young photographer, Nev Schulman, and his relationship with a young fan and artist, Abby. Abby sends Nev a painting of one of his photos and from there they build a friendship by post and online and occasionally on the telephone. Nev "meets" her entire family via Facebook and falls for Abby's glamourous sister, Megan, over the phone. He longs to meet her. But all is not as it seems...

It seems almost like this documentary has been made to scare the hoards of us who spend huge amounts of time online, making friends, building relationships and feeling emotions that are totally real to us. However, in reality it just makes you feel sad for people like those portrayed, that their lives are so empty and depressing or difficult that they feel they have to create new personalities and lie in order to feel some worth for themselves.

The final effect of the film is mixed. It is an excellent investigation into the pitfalls of communicating in a modern cyber world where people can hide behind lies and falsities. However, there are moments when it appears staged, and the conclusion seems a little too perfect, but then if it's real what can I say??

Overall, an interesting insight into modern culture and highly recommended.



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127 Hours review

Posted : 6 years, 3 months ago on 8 June 2011 11:31 (A review of 127 Hours)

I was excited about 127 Hours from the moment I heard it was in development. The combination of Danny Boyle and James Franco was a thrilling thought. A great actor on his own for the majority of the movie, and a great director helping him on the journey. The subject matter was interesting to boot.
However, when I came out of the cinema after watching the film I was disappointed. How did the finished product not live up to the promise?

Firstly, there are many good points about the film. Franco does not disappoint as expected. His portrayal of Aron is moving and funny in equal parts. You really do feel for him from the first fall that traps him between the rocks to the final moment when he is rescued by fellow hikers. This is a key aspect of the film – if the audience does not engage with Aron as a character they will not care what happens to him. Thankfully this is an Aron you really do root for, and the moment each viewer dreads arrives (the actual method of escape) you cannot help but wince and squirm and feel desperately sorry for him for going through such an ordeal.
The moment in question is brilliantly shot and realised. It isn’t overly graphic or gratuitous, and the use of sound and close ups is perfectly choreographed.

Onto the bad points. It’s actually hard for me to put my finger on exactly what didn’t agree with me about this film. Partly it was the portrayal of Aron’s hallucinations as he slowly dehydrates and starves. They were too flashy, too literal, too polished. They make the film over-melodramatic which spoilt the mood ever so slightly. The flashbacks however, were all fine and really did add meaning to Aron’s life and his tragedy.
Apart from the hallucinations, I really don’t know what it was that didn’t click for me. Maybe it’s just one of those things.

I would recommend seeing it though, purely for Franco’s acting and to experience an event that you question whether you could do the same in that situation.



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