Friday, 30 May 2014

C'était un rendez-vous (Rendezvous)
Dir: Claude Lelouch
1976
*****
The epitome of edge of your seat film making. You've heard the stories, now watch the film. No camera tricks and all one take. Astonishing stuff, not to mention, terrifying! Film making at its most reckless, it is easy to condemn but at the same time it's impossible not to become mesmerised by it. It's certainly a film that could never be made again, and for good reason. It's an example of film making that belongs in its moment and that is something special. The ending it quite lovely but unfortunately Car adverts have abused it ever since.
Out Of Time
Dir: Carl Franklin
2003
***
Out of Time is a slightly above-average action thriller. It's entertaining enough but at times everything gets just that little bit too convenient which I'm afraid is down to the fault of unimaginative writing. To call it mediocre would be unfair, it's not great but it does have a certain unique charm to it. The cast is good, Dean Cain is totally underrated in my opinion (I've met him, he's a really nice man) but other than that though I'm afraid it is forgettable and feels like something we've seen before. The ending could have and should have been something special but unfortunately it was a clever twist away from satisfaction. A generous 3 out of 5 stars.
Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory
Dir: Joe Berlinger, Bruce Sinofsky
2011
*****
It goes without saying that this concluding part of the Paradise Lost series is a must see for those that enjoyed the two previous films. It's a must see for everyone really as the lessons learnt are important ones. The conclusion is both good and bad, I don't want to give to much away but the end could have been a lot worse for everyone involved. Some of the revelations are pretty shocking, at the end of the last film we all thought we had it sussed but more information is available now and and more important lessons have been learnt. We also have a new accused which makes for shocking viewing. A brilliant film but somehow I don't think this is the end. The trilogy should be watched and followed by West of Memphis to give the full picture of events. 

Paradise Lost 2: Revelations
Dir: Joe Berlinger, Bruce Sinofsky
2000
*****
It was always going to be hard to match the impact that the first film had but then this is more of an update of events. The real problem the film makers had was that far less people were willing to talk to them and they were banned from filming inside the courts. Instead, they concentrate on the West Memphis Three supporters and the only parent of the deceased willing to participate, John Mark Byers. It actually turns into the John Mark Byers show for most of the film, but then he is probably one of the most fascinating (not to mention disturbing) people ever to appear on screen. His involvement into the murders is questioned but now with hindsight, you can see how he was suspected and accused with the same lack of evidence and discrimination as the WM3 themselves. I suppose the only issue with this film is that it is now out of date as a lot has happened and I've read about the case and what has happened since. It's still a great reference though, as is the first film. For me the best moment was when the Free the three members calmly and intelligently ripped the media to pieces, the media being just as bad as the courts in their ignorance. Part 2 of a shocking and astonishing documentary trilogy that is not to be missed.
Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills
Dir: Joe Berlinger, Bruce Sinofsky
1996
*****
Probably one of the most shocking, frightening and astonishing documentaries ever made. Having been on a Jury twice I'm not surprised by certain problems in the judicial system but I just couldn't believe my eyes and ears watching this case. I'm not that naive that I don't believe that Courts, Defence/Prosecutors and the media aren't always on top form but the display of ignorance, stupidity and dishonesty on show here boils the blood as well as chills to the bone. Bruce Sinofsky and Joe Berlinger really hit the jackpot with this one but then can this still be classed a documentary after their involvement with the case? It has to be seen to be believed.
R.I.P.D.
Dir: Robert Schwentke
2013
***
I'm not sure how but the comic Rest in Peace Department totally passed me by. It sounds great and indeed the idea behind the story is pretty cool. I haven't read the comics though, so I have no idea if they are any good or if the film is a worthy adaptation. Firstly, I didn't think it was as bad as I'd heard. It is a bit like a cross between Men in Black and Ghostbusters but that really didn't bother me. Unlike those two first though, they totally forgot to add back story or build up. It is a great premise, they should have taken their time with the idea and also focused on some of the characters. Robert Schwentke was a good choice thanks to his work on RED and the direction here is sound, it's just the badly designed Ghosts that let the film down. This is a film running before it can walk and thus tripping over in the process. This had franchise potential but I can't see it happening now. It's hard to imagine messing up such a great story really but I would argue that it is a few teaks short of being great. A huge wasted opportunity but really not all that bad. I loved the counter-characters played by James Hong and Marisa Miller, Jeff Bridges was great but not given enough to work with and the wonderful Mary-Louise Parker suffers similarly. Ryan Reynolds appeal is a mystery to me and Kevin Bacon is fast becoming 'that annoying guy who sells mobile phones' but I'm going to give it a generous 3 out of 5 because of the unjustified hate for this film.
Sauna on Moon (AKA Chang'E)
Dir: Zou Peng
2011
**
I recently attended a special Q&A screening of Zou Peng's Sauna on Moon or Chang'E as it is also known as. I was rather excited, as not only was the producer present at the screening but Zou Peng himself would be joining us via satellite to answer questions. I was sure that I'd have a few. Sauna on Moon tells a tale of a Sauna owner, Boss Wu, who expands his business to keep up with China's recent reform, the sex industry being one of the key areas gaining success. Wu looks after and cares for his girls and prepares them so that they can make as much money as possible but in the end we see that maybe he is a little too caring for this line of work and progress is a little too fast for some. Indeed, is it really progress. Now, the film does get this message across and also has a little bit of Chinese mythology in there for good measure but it comes at a cost. The film is 45 minutes too long, not a good thing for a 90 minute film. The film could have ended on a high several times but Zou Peng just didn't know when to end it. The 'dream like' essence that Peng has tried to achieve just doesn't work and is completely unnecessary, it's as if he had a film in mind and got continuously sidetracked and lost concentration and focus. It's quite boring when it should have been rather captivating. I'm afraid due to poor translation and the fact we had woken poor Mr. Peng up at 3.30am the Q&A didn't really answer anyone's questions. There were an awful lot of Chinese people in the audience though, so I asked a few what they thought of it and they all said it was a rubbish film but they were happy to just see a little bit of home on film. This made for an even more sad experience for me. It's not without merit as there are some great scenes here and the symbolic stuff with the rabbits was lovely but a masterpiece it is not.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Resident EvilRetribution
Dir: Paul W. S. Anderson
2012
***
It's still a guilty pleasure but they are flogging a dead horse a bit now. I liked the way found a way to re-introduce past fan favorites such as Michelle Rodriguez and Colin Salmon but the idea of using different places to test Zombie invasions wasn't explored enough and the whole thing was a wasted opportunity and a half-hearted copy of the first four films. It's like in music where it's in most bands contracts that the 5th album is a greatest hits, this is essentially Resident Evil: Greatest hits so far 2002-2012 which is a bit lazy and a bit boring. We need something new for the franchise to survive, somehow I still want more!
Resident EvilAfterlife
Dir: Paul W. S. Anderson
2010
**
I believe Paul W. S. Anderson took back the directional reigns to get the franchise 'back on track' but I'm not sure it ever went off the rails. Sure, he has developed the story some but the forth installment is not great. This episode is a bit like a poor man's Dawn of the Dead. It does get a little bit silly in places too but too be honest I like the silly stuff in this franchise, it doesn't really work when they try to do serious. It's not a very good film and yet I still want more so they can't be doing everything wrong although this is the first I've given only 2 stars to, so they need to be careful.
Resident EvilExtinction
Dir: Russell Mulcahy
2007
***
The leap between Apocalypse and Extinction is pretty big and I'm not sure it helped the franchise. THe last scene of Resident Evil: Apocalypse was open to interpretation somewhat and a bit of a cliff-hanger, but the beginning sequence makes no referance to it and starts off with its own mysterious statement. It's a shock start, which I loved. but surely it is a bit lazy not to address the last previous film's finale, especially as it really made a statement. It's obvious with the hiring of Russell Mulcahy as the franchise's third director that they were looking at a change of pace visually as well as story-wise, which is understandable, but a little frustrating too. Mulcahy's work is 50% B-Movie and 50% music video and Resident Evil: Extinction feels much the same. The desert yellow filter made a nice change to the dark and progressively dreary blue of the past films though and the the film moved on in the right direction, I just can't help but think they decided they would go with a 'Mad max-style' film before actually deciding what the film would be about. Like the two previous films its no masterpiece but I found myself still wanting more which is always a good sign and I don't think i'm the only one. It is somewhat of a kick-start but the next film should remember its roots a little more and should also remember to be a little less serious.
Resident EvilApocalypse
Dir: Alexander Witt
2004
***
Alexander Witt takes over the directional duties for the first Resident Evil sequel but Paul W. S. Anderson is still very much in charge. Resident EvilApocalypse follows the video game meticulously in style but develops the story from the second and third games and adds new characters. Fans of the game will revel in the reconstruction of certain scenes and in the overall tone of the film, which seems a little spookier than the first. All the great elements of the game are covered and adapted pretty successfully and I was relieved to see that the follow up film retained much of the creepiness and nonsensical surrealism that I always enjoyed from it. In fact the film gets spectacularly silly in places which really did fill my heart as I was sure the ridiculous bits of the game would never make the cut. I would say that the film is ridiculous in content but also ridiculously entertaining. The big bad guy at the end is hilarious, unintentionally I'm sure but seeing the sort of thing that would have me and my mates rolling around laughing at in the game suddenly make it to the big screen - in a serious adaptation, is something quite glorious to this old gamer/cinephile. It is guilty pleasure viewing at it's finest and mainstream B-Movie gold.
Resident Evil
Dir: Paul W. S. Anderson
2002
****
'Based on a video game' should be something that makes most Cinephiles run in the opposite direction, or at least it was until Paul W.S. Anderson's Resident Evil adaptation showed up in 2002. To be fair, games have come a long way in their story telling creativity, and the game that the film is based on was a great mix of horror, thriller, action and sci-fi. I've got a lot of love for Paul W. S. Anderson's original Resident Evil as it ticks quite a few boxes, it's no masterpiece for sure but it's incredibly watchable. It is successful in being a good apocalyptic film and a confident zombie film, add the great slice and dice scenes and it's a great horror. Add the sci-fi element, the action, the thriller and almost noir visuals and you've got a film that crosses quite a few genres and does so effortlessly. It's big budget but it's the sort of thing B-Movie fans have been waiting for for years. It's visually impressive, from the flashiness of the secret labs, the exciting laser corridor that slices people in half to the hologram of the little girl who helpfully reminds people that they are all going to die, it is popcorn-tastic . It's strange though, even with so much going on it never seems over complicated when it really should, it's that good balance between horror sci-fi that Anderson exhibited in Event Horizen, although I understand that I'm in the minority in thinking that was a cracking film. The computer game is creepy and ridiculous and the film series should carry on in that vein. Like I said, it's not perfect but it won me over, Milla Jovovich and a fair amount of gore being key factors.

Hoodwinked!
Dir: Cory EdwardsTodd Edwards,Tony Leech
2005
**
For once it seems the story is better than the animation but to be honest, neither are that good. It seemed original enough but still a bit too close to Shrek in its play on fairy-tales for my liking. I liked the idea of interviewing each nursery rhyme character in police interrogation style but the execution could have been much more creative. The voice talent wasn't much to write home about either but I do love Patrick Warburton.
I'm All Right Jack
Dir: John Boulting, Roy Boulting
1959
****
Fear not socialist comrades, everyone gets their fair share of ribbing in this British classic poking fun at strike culture, unionists and factory life in the post war years. Ian Carmichael, Peter Sellers, Terry-Thomas, Richard Attenborough, Dennis Price , Margaret Rutherford and John Le Mesurier all in one film!!!! What more could you ask for (Well, more sick day allowance, free dental care, extra carers leave.....I jest). A classic, well worth a watch and still very funny.
The Man Who Fell to Earth
Dir: Nicolas Roeg
1976
*****

Nicolas Roeg's 1976 classic The Man who fell to Earth is sci-fi at its most self-indulgent, I had no problem with that, far from it, sci-fi should be indulgent and I was more than happy to take this particular ride. It's full of artistic license, quite typical of Roeg's style and utterly 70's, it's safe to say we'll never see films like this again so, probably why it, and films of its ilk, are so cherished. It's the sort of film that will be new to a new generation every few years or so, such is its appeal to young creatives. It probably helps that I'm a David Bowie fan but I just loved the imagery and quirkiness of the whole production. David Bowie was a well established performer by this stage but this was his first lead role in a motion picture. His somewhat androgynous appearance went some way in capturing an alien-like look but it was his mannerisms and the way it seemed he could see passed what was in frot of him that really convinced the audience that he was extraterrestrial. He was perfectly cast although the truth is he was taking copious amounts of cocaine at the time and didn't really know what he was doing. He would later say; "I just threw my real self into that movie as I was at that time. It was the first thing I'd ever done. I was virtually ignorant of the established procedure of making movies, so I was going a lot on instinct, and my instinct was pretty dissipated. I just learned the lines for that day and did them the way I was feeling. It wasn't that far off. I actually was feeling as alienated as that character was. It was a pretty natural performance. ... a good exhibition of somebody literally falling apart in front of you. I was totally insecure with about 10 grams of cocaine a day in me. I was stoned out of my mind from beginning to end". Without wanting to condone drug taking, I think that maybe it's exactly what the character called for. Drugs aside, it put Bowie in the state he needed to bring Thomas Jerome Newton to life, the drugs put him in that state but it is all Bowie. Sci-fi often fails when too much is revealed or too much is explained (or at least the attempt of explanation often subtracts from the overall enjoyment) so no spoilers in this review I'm afraid, watch the film yourself to draw your own conclusions. I get something new out of it every time I watch it, something that only really great sci-fi can do. Dark, funny, tragic, surreal and intense. A beautiful film, a pure masterpiece.
Hard Eight
Dir: Paul Thomas Anderson
1996
***
Hard Eight may be a little anticlimactic but the continuous mood and intensity really does make for a thrilling watch. Don't get me wrong, this isn't really your stereotypical thriller, it's a lot more, or should I say a lot less than that. Less is more is what I'm trying to say. I've been a harsh critic of Anderson in the past, I have warmed to him somewhat over the years although Boogie nights and Magnolia are still over-hyped in my opinion but I do wonder if maybe had I'd seen this film first I would have seen his work in a different light and no dismissed him as someone who didn't really know what they were doing. Maybe it was fluke, I don't know but I suspect by the time he got to Magnolia he was believing his own hype just that little too much. Since rectified in my opinion but then I'm the only person who didn't like it anyway. Anyway, enough, Hard Eight is an insightful beginning of a director destined for great success.


5 Centimeters per Second
Dir: Makoto Shinkai
2007
*****
I find the Japaneses high-school romance obsession tiresome beyond belief, it's like a genre over there, so many films have it as their main story it's almost a rule and a subject every director has to tell at least once in their careers. Anyway, that aside, 5 Centimeters per Second is one of the most beautifully animated films I've ever seen. It is touching at times too but the detail in every shot is amazing. Recommended to all but anime fans have no excuses not to see. It's nothing short of stunning.

Envy
Dir: Barry Levinson
2004
*
A fairly tiresome and ill-conceived film. The story had legs, they just didn't run with it and I also feel they were terribly let down by their props department. I would have thought the budget was bigger considering the stars and the director. Jack Black has made a fortune and he buys a plastic mansion? It all gets a little too cartoon-like and Stiller and Black aren't exactly pulling their weight either. Barry Levinson is a strange fish, this is definitely one of his worst and a huge blotch on his CV.
Adam & Paul
Dir: Lenny Abrahamson
2004
*****
When I was first introduced to the film Adam & Paul it was described as a 'Tragicomedy'. 'Tragicomedy' was a genre that I never really believed in with most examples suiting the title melodrama. Poetics comes close but generally covers the theme of good coming from bad, but I'm not sure that's a genre as such. Adam & Paul is the only film I can think of that can give 'Tragicomedy' proof of existence. There is no other way to describe it in fact. There is humor here where it doesn't belong, sometimes we laugh at the ridiculous and that is probably as close as I can describe my feeling when watching the film. The balance between comedy and tragedy isn't 50% though, as Adam & Paul is probably one of the most devastating films I've ever seen. Nothing is gratuitous though, everything is intentional but never is the audience taken advantage of. It's important not to look away, Lenny Abrahamson focuses our attentions on what matters and not just at what we're looking at but at ourselves as well. This he does perfectly. Lenny Abrahamson is terribly overlooked and has made some of the best films of the millennium so far, Adam & Paul being one of them in my opinion.


The Flight of the Phoenix
Dir: Robert Aldrich
1965
*****
Robert Aldrich's The Flight of the Phoenix is the ultimate 'Against all odds' thriller. The story is very clever, as ingenious as the film's story itself. The role each person plays in the story is key though, with pretty much every character in society and human emotion represented. Some of the acting may have been a little over the top but it doesn't last long. The subtitles are part of what make the film so powerful; the contemptuous silence between Captain Harris and Sgt Watson, the quiet impatience of Dorfmann, the cutting jest of Crow. That said, the performances are big when they have to be and I would argue that Richard Attenborough's performance wins outright. His rage feeling every bit as real as it would be in his characters situation. An original and intelligent story, a dream cast with some brilliant performances and glorious direction. You can't really ask for much more!

A Hijacking
Dir: Tobias Lindholm
2012
****
Tobias Lindholm's A Hijacking is not your archetype action thriller. Interestingly the actual hijacking is absent in the final cut of the film, instead, Lindholm focuses more on the real situations ahead. The film is of two halves. On one half we see the hijacking through the eyes of the ships cook, we see his isolation, not knowing what will become of himself and the other crew members, the misery of being held captive at gun point etc. The other half is from the point of view of the owner of the ship being held captive, the one the ransom is focus on. Although safe in the comforts of his office in Copenhagen we see his isolation, not knowing what will become of his crew members, the misery of being held captive knowing their lives are at risk and the responsibilities that come from that etc. They are both in a near identical situation, both are being held at ransom. The conclusion is chillingly real and is a welcome antidote to the typical whooping of success at the end of most ransom movies. The differences are few, it's the attention to the similarities that is what is so clever about the film and make it the intriguing thriller it is, one of the best made in the last decade. Tobias Lindholm is a superb writer and I look forward to much more from him.
An Inspector Calls
Dir: Guy Hamilton
1954
*****
J.B. Priestley's An Inspector Calls was written for the stage but Guy Hamilton adapted it to film, perfectly. Everything that exists within the stage version is there still but Hamilton seems to have made a point of adding everything that the theatre simply could not accommodate. The ending is as open to interpretation as intended but there is something about it's captured in this film that makes it so special. I think maybe it is due to Alastair Sim's performance. I can't see anyone else in that role now no matter how hard I try. His knowing smile at every juncture makes the film for me, especially so in his very last scene. It's Dickens meets Hitchcock and every bit as good as that sounds.
SexLies, and Videotape
Dir: Steven Soderbergh
1989
**
SexLies, and Videotape is one of the most overrated films of all time. It has been said that both SexLies, and Videotape and Pulp Fiction both pioneered independent film in the 1990s. That's not true, independent cinema with relatively low budgets had been gaining momentum rather successfully worldwide, mainly around Europe but also in America. I can name 100 better independent films made in the early 90's, many having made much more of an impact on contemporary cinema. What Soderbergh and Tarantino did was to make independent films mainstream, thus, loosing what was essentially what made them so good in the first place. Tarantino didn't really hide his influences and went on to improve on many of the ideas he'd seen and loved anyway, he certainly added his own 'Cool' branding to them. Soderbergh went straight to European cinema, ripped it off and claimed it as his own. He's not the first person to have done so, to his credit it's a good bit of ripping but it's still a McDonald's Happy Meal disguised as a Michelin Starred feast. I guess if you're used to eating crap and don't realise it you would know no better. I'm not being a film snob, I'm really not, but after watching many films by Éric Rohmer, Louis Malle, Claude Chabrol - to mention a few, a film like SexLies, and Videotape is just poor imitation and an annoyance when it claims so much dishonestly. It was a pioneer in what I would describe as the 'Mutten dressed as lamb' era.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1
Dir: Bill Condon
2011
*
No disrespect to director Bill Condon but they really do seem to pick their directors at random in this franchise. Bill Condon's direction is faultless for what must have been a frustrating job though. Basically, buff out as much as you can of half a book that really doesn't warrant four hours of film. Make boring look good. Good stories shouldn't be rushed but my goodness, this isn't a good story. Two hours of nothing. Two very long hours. Our characters seem to have undergone some memory loss or is that the writer/film makers? The character consistency is nonexistent, it's like the last two films never happened (which I wish were true). What is really going on here though? What is the message? 100+ year old Vampire marries young 18 year old. That's a bit nasty but not illegal I suppose so onto the big question; why is a Vampire (the Anti-Christ!) so worried about sex out of marriage? Then you have the issue of abortion, being with the 'right kind' and the social repercussions of both. Is this some Christian ploy to reach out to the moody kids of middle America, you know, the strange ones that wear black t-shirts? Well, whatever it is, it's possibly the worst (and most boring) Vampire/Werewolf film ever made. It's hardly the most romantic film either. I can only hope Bella changes and kills everyone in the final film. Oh, and the less said about that CGI baby the better, what were they thinking?

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

The Twilight SagaEclipse
Dir: David Slade
2010
*
I can see why David Slade wanted a piece of the action, Twilight is loved just as much as it is hated, but I don't think he brought anything new to the franchise. I don't see how people can get so excited about a story in which absolutely nothing happens. It's incredibly boring, the actors certainly look bored, most of who could have been replaced by cardboard cut outs. The special effects are so bad that I'm wondering if they actually did use cardboard cut outs. The performances are forgettable, the characters are forgettable, the story could be told in five minutes and I'm really struggling to figure out what the overall point is. It's so forgettable in fact I've almost forgotten what film it is I'm supposed to be reviewing.
The Twilight Saga: New Moon
Dir: Chris Weitz
2009
*
I wasn't a huge fan of the first film but I thought this one was going to have a bit more of a Vampires vs. Werewolves theme so I gave it a go. I was disappointed to say the least. Like I said in my review of the original Twilight, I was never in the target audience but even then, I went through teenage angst and went through a 'Goth' stage, I had my heart broken etc etc, but this is depressing even by depressed thirteen year old pubescent standards. I've never really got the romantic idea of Vampyrism either, cheer up you miserable buggers, you make hard-core Trekkies look cool! Anyway, all that aside, this is a very dull film about a vacuous and particularly annoying girl that I didn't like very much. Where the story dragged the direction should have picked up but it didn't. It's like a rainy day at the sea-side. I really don't understand the fuss over Kristen Stewart either, maybe it's the role but I see nothing worthy of all the accolades she's received.
Twilight
Dir: Catherine Hardwicke
2008
**
It's fair to say that I've never been in the target audience for Twilight and I'm certainly never going to be. I'll be nice though. The direction was impressive and the soundtrack was brilliant but... The acting was awful, the script was bizarre (and also awful), the story didn't grab me and Kristen Stewart is dead behind the eyes. I did like the bit when Robert Pattinson's Edward gave Stewart's Bella a 100ph piggy-back ride but that was about it. I really don't see the appeal of this miserable teen-vampire malarkey and, fantasy or not, the idea of a 108 year old who enters a high-school in order to get it on with a seventeen year old girl leaves a nasty taste in my mouth but like I said, I guess I'm not the target audience.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Drag me to Hell
Dir: Sam Raimi
2009
***
Drag me to Hell is one of the better horror films to come out in recent years and it is a bit of a return to horror making form for Sam Faimi. It has a good mix of humour, back story, character development and a brilliant ending, usually the things that most of the recent cliched horror films lack or mess up. Dare I say it, there is an essence of Evil Dead about it but I did find the 'gross-out' scenes a little too heavy handed and in the end a little bit tiresome. I expected a lot worse but I was surprised and I loved the ending.
The Boat That Rocked (AKA Pirate Radio)
Dir: Richard Curtis
2009
**
I liked The Boat that Rocked but I also hated it. It is too long and story-wise, a bit of a mess. That said, I liked the idea and the cast is great with some very funny performances. I just wish Richard Curtis would have given the idea to someone else to make. Firstly, it gives a very wrong account of the real story. My parents used to talk of Radio Caroline with great fondness and it would have been great to hear the true story. Also, the Marine Offences Act was passed for very good reason, not because the government didn't like Rock and Roll. It was past by the late great Tony Benn, who I have the utmost respect for, he is hardly the Conservative character that Kenneth Branagh portrayed in the film. For one thing he was a Labour man. It's these stupid inaccuracies and tweaks that really annoy me, it makes for a good film sure but there is already a good film in the true story, don't be so lazy and do some homework. Did I mention that I can't stand Richard Curtis?
The Wackness
Dir: Jonathan Levine
2008
****
The Wackness was like pure nostalgia for me. Swap New York for London and I can relate to much of the story and this felt like a proper 90's film, made by someone who is just as fond of the decade as I am. I loved the pace of the film too, you could probably smoke a bit of the green while watching to great effect (I'd imagine). I thought everyone did a great job, I loved Ben Kingsley's performance and I thought Josh Peck was actually quite good. Although it would be nice if he closed his mouth once in a while. Ahh, life was much simpler then!
I'm not Scared (Io non ho paura)
Dir: Gabriele Salvatores
2003
****
I'm not Scared is thrilling and intense. It doesn't go for cheap scares either, less is definitely more and the truth is far more frightening than anything that might jump out at the camera. The performances are strong, especially from our protagonist Michele played by Giuseppe Cristiano. The intensity builds throughout the film and I found it hard not to shout at the TV at times but the rewards are there. It is also beautifully filmed, with some stunning scenery.

The Night Listener
Dir: Patrick Stettner
2006
***
The Night Listener is relatively short and sweet really. It's based on true events and is believable throughout. I respect the fact that the twist wasn't taken too far, many found it an anti-climax but I thought they did well to handle it the way that they did. Robin Williams is likable and a good actor which was probably a clever bit of casting but it is Toni Collette's performance that impresses the most. It's not amazing but it goes against many of the cliched and formulaic thrillers of late and it handles the psychological aspect of the story properly and with understanding.
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
Dir: Lasse Hallström
2011
***
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is a lovely story with likable performances. I liked the pace, nothing was rushed and the relationships were believable as were the characters. I think some elements were a little heavy handed, Kristin Scott Thomas's performance and character could have been toned down a little but on the whole it worked well. Still, even with the few tweaks, it was never going to be an amazing film, not that there is anything wrong with that, it is simply a nice film and you can't knock a nice film.
Forks Over Knives
Dir: Lee Fulkerson
2011
****
Forks over Knives puts a great case together for why Veganism is a positive health choice. I work in trials so I know a little about this and while I understand people might be a little skeptical regarding their statistics, trust me, in-depth analysis into such things does not usually make for interesting viewing. I trust what they say is true, it all makes sense. The tagline is true, this film could save your life!
Benda Bilili
Dir: Renaud BarretFlorent de la Tullaye
2010
*****
Benda Bilili! is an uplifting documentary of epic proportions. It's the true story of a group of disabled Congo street musicians who make it into the music industry. Their story is simple and sweat, neither one of them ever lets their disability get in the way of their struggles or determination. They are also the most lovable bunch of people you'll ever meet. Ricky, the leader, is a great guy, full of charisma and an inspiration to so many. I love the way he shouts at the kids "Get off my Wheelchair, what are you the village idiot?". Highly recommended!



Tales from the Golden Age
Dir: Cristian MungiuIoana Uricaru, Hanno HöferRazvan MarculescuConstantin Popescu
2011
*****
Tales from the Golden Age is a great collection of short films based on urban myths/folk tales from the Ceausescu regime (referred to as The Golden Age by communists) when Romania was under communist rule. Each short film is quirky, funny, a little strange and very entertaining, much like how folk tales are. It's a brilliantly conceived idea and very easy to understand no matter how good your understanding of Romanian history is. The first film I found particularly funny, I really do hope that particular urban-myth is based on fact!
Here comes the Boom
Dir: Frank Coraci
2012
**
Here comes the Boom is fairly harmless unless you take it too seriously but I'm not sure why you would. It's perhaps a little unfair to teachers but the three leads are played by extremely likable actors and the film does have its moments, I chuckled a couple of times in fact. It's a silly idea and I don't like the way everything seems to be solved by fighting or winning for that matter but like I said, best not to take it too seriously. It's got Henry Winkler in it and that will do nicely.
The Sweeney
Dir: Nick Love
2012
*
I was never a fan of the original Sweeney so I'm not upset at them for remaking and ruining the characters, I'm just upset that I've wasted time and money on watching it. The story is crap and the acting is worse. Plan B is an idiot, I hate him and anyone that likes him. I saw one of his early gigs around 2006 and I think many of his later fans would be shocked at his old material. He's a nasty little idiot. I saw him in an interview claiming it was, and I paraphrase "Hard to act as a copper, seeing as I've never really seen eye to eye with them in the past". What a tool. He can't act either. Ray Winstone I'm afraid is now in 'overrated' territory with more misses under his belt than there are hits. Nick Love is the chav godfather, he's gone downhill as well. If you're happy to believe a 12 year old drug dealer could be chief of the Flying Squad then you might be stupid enough to enjoy it, otherwise jog on you slag.
The Turin Horse
Dir: Béla Tarr
2011
*****
Take that Nietzsche! Every coin has two sides, here that idea is beautifully explored. As much as I like Nietzsche, I do hate those that are happy to spout out quotes without actually understanding them, analysing them or ultimately thinking for themselves. The Turin horse is bleak, depressing, slow......hypnotic, haunting and beautiful. Artsy is a lazy word that doesn't mean anything, if it doesn't stir up thoughts and/or feelings then it says more about you than it does about the film. Also, look up the word pretentious before you use it, it's only 'demanding' if you're impatient. This is a film worth watching and dedicating a short amount of time for. I loved it. Immerse yourself.
Bellflower
Dir: Evan Glodell
2011
****
I'm really not sure how I feel about Bellflower. I'm not sure the final result is as good as the initial idea but it is original and strangely captivating. It's kitchen-sink melodrama for testosterone fueled men with immature tendencies. It's a strange fish, you either like it or you don't. I cursed it a few times while watching but it engaged me enough for me to say I enjoyed it and appreciated its originality. When I wasn't shouting "Get a job" that is. Destined for cult status for sure, and I love that Car!
Dredd
Dir: Pete Travis
2012
***
The slow motion photography was absolutely stunning but I'm not sure it really worked within the story or style of Dredd. Dredd was my first love when it came to comics. The early 90's was all about 2000AD for me and I became obsessed with Dredd and to be honest, I had low expectations for the film. So many great stories to choose from and they went with this? It's not terrible but it's not great, I really hope that this is just an introductory thing and that they will make a few more based on classic story-lines. I would never expect Hollywood to understand what Dredd was really about, it's satire, dark humor, social comment etc but I also didn't expect the level of violence and gore. I thought Karl Urban was great though and I'm glad he kept the helmet on throughout. I thought Olivia Thirlby made a good Anderson and Lena Headey was great as Ma-Ma. Personally I want to see the likes of Judge Death and Judge Fish, Otto Sump, Father Earth, Don Uggie Apelino.... the list goes on. I just don't know if they could ever appear in this relatively grown-up version in the future. Although, I can't tell you how trilled I was when I saw the Chopper graffiti, he was one of my favourite characters and I'd love to see him in the next film. I want another film, I just want to see more of the comic Dredd. Also, the bikes looked rubbish and Mega City One didn't look futuristic enough but this can (and should) be fixed. Where was the giant Judge statue? Where were the White Cliffs of Dover? We hard-core fans need a little more please!