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After a two-year break I'm itching to get typing again. May be rusty but be nice! Film reviews to trickle in :)

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since 02/01/2010


The Magnificent Seven (2016) (DVD) 04/10/2016

The Magnificent Seven

The Magnificent Seven (2016) (DVD) Film Only Review It is a story that has been expertly told in two different languages, in two different decades. Akira Kurosawa's “Seven Samurai” is considered a timeless classic by many, and its American western remake, “The Magnificent Seven” is hailed as quite possibly one of the best westerns, or at least the most entertaining. So it is only natural that enough time has gone by for Hollywood to try its hand at giving it a remake. Antoine Fuqua's reimagination of a classic, which in turn is a remake of another classic, was never going to reach the heights of either of its predecessors. However the 2016 update is neither a triumph nor a complete disaster for those involved, as it assembles a strong, colourful cast, and does not forget to have some mindless fun with its premise. The story remains the same, as it should given the simplicity of the main outline of the narrative. Bartholomew Bogue, a ruthless, cold-blooded, greedy man, played to unhinged perfection by Peter Sarsgaard, spreads terror across a helpless town in the Old West, killing innocents, forcing people out for his own gain. He leads an army of equally minded men, and the town itself does not stand a chance in a fight. Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett), the sole female in the movie with actual meaningful dialogue, gains enough riches from the townspeople to seek help from an unlikely source, Denzel Washington's Chisolm, a warrant officer from Wichita, Kansas. Chisolm hears of the desperate plights, and is swayed ...

American Hustle (DVD) 29/05/2014

American Hustle

American Hustle (DVD) "Thank god for me", says Rosalyn Rosenfeld (Jennifer Lawrence), after setting fire to her brand new microwave, ignoring her husband''s advice to not put something metallic in there. She then proceeds to furiously tackle some housework whilst listening to "Live and Let Die''. Yes, thank god for Jennifer Lawrence, who steals the show completely with her utmost confidence and relentless energy in David O. Russell's smart heist comedy that is no doubt the director's best film to date. That's not to say the rest of the cast under-performs. The big names in this star-studded ensemble, most of whom who have worked with Russell before, are all on top form, each with their outrageous hair and costume to fit in with the style of the decade they are portraying (the 1970s), with even a bonus cameo appearance from a screen veteran (hint, hint, he too has worked with director Russell before) who makes the most of his brief, uncredited appearance in which he scares the hell out of everyone by being a smart, bilingual mob boss. Based on the ABSCAM (Arab-scam) sting operation in which a number of corrupt politicians were arrested for taking bribes, we first meet Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) who hustle money off of desperate individuals ready to fork over large sums of cash over the promise of massive returns. Everything seems to be going swimmingly for this couple, an arrangement that is not only beneficial financially, but also in terms of embarking on ...

Need For Speed (DVD) 07/05/2014

Need for Speed

Need For Speed (DVD) Jessie from "Breaking Bad" feels the need for speed. Speed, as in not methamphetamine, but for car racing speed. Surely the overwhelming critical success of "Breaking Bad" could have set up Aaron Paul for a better lead cinematic role than this one. He has won two Primetime Emmys, and yet one of the first roles he manages to land is in a video game adaptation, a category of films that historically have the tradition of sucking. "Need for Speed" is sadly no exception to this rule, and no matter how low you set your expectations, chances are, you are likely to walk away having witnessed one of the early contenders to be the worst film of 2014. Trying to cash in on the mega-success of the "Fast & Furious" franchise, which already has a seventh film in production, we are introduced to a group of characters cut from the exact same cloth (a wronged, clean-cut hero, a surprisingly masculine female who knows a lot about cars, a greasy villain who has the hero’s potential love interest, a naive young guy who is a sweet kid etc.) What the "Fast & Furious" series lacked in decent story and characters, it made up for in sensational racing sequences. "Need for Speed" fails to even get that part right. A wrongly imprisoned Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul) is back with nothing but vengeance running on his mind. The circumstances surrounding his unlawful imprisonment are ridiculous enough, but what follows is even more preposterous than before. So there is a death, although it’s never sad, ...

Diana (DVD) 14/04/2014


Diana (DVD) If it was ever Naomi Watts' intention to pull a Meryl Streep or Helen Mirren and score an Oscar win by playing an iconic English female, she should have paid closer attention to the script that was handed to her. "The Iron Lady", was hardly a masterpiece, and yet it was okay enough and Streep's usual gravitas performance bagged her many awards, and with Dame Helen "The Queen" was actually an excellent offering from Stephen Frears that truly highlighted the confusion and difficulties surrounding the death of an international icon, the same iconic figure who is given a far less interesting portrayal than could have ever been imagined in Oliver Hirschbiegel's ("Das Experiment", "Downfall") biopic. For what it's worth, "Diana"'s failure is not down to Watts' brave performance. At the centre of it all is the impeccably dressed, wigged, and made-up actress (they have really gone all out in trying to match the appearance - the resemblance is uncanny), who nails the (in)famous Panorama interview word for word, and really captures the essence of a woman trapped, constantly hounded by the press who can't get enough shots of her, as well as her desire for helping those in need and most importantly, for the purposes of this particular film, her search for true love after her well-publicised dissolution of marriage. It is a real shame to see such a performance, one that must have needed hours and hours of preparation to get just right, go to so much waste. After a couple of Oscar ...

Noah 10/04/2014


Noah When it comes to telling the story of Noah, the biblical figure who built an arc and saved his family and a pair of every living animal on the planet from a massive flood the vengeful God sent down from the heavens, director Darren Aronofsky is already at a tremendous disadvantage. The story itself is a fairly standard one. Of course there is a chance for Aronofsky and the modern technology to show off the grandeur and spectacle surrounding the event, but the events leading up to such a flood, can be seen as quite limited, whether or not you believe the story, which is rather beside the point (fiction or non-fiction, we can all put aside our differences for a film can't we?). In the hands of Aronofsky, a director not exactly known for tackling big budget movies, but instead in smaller, independent films like Black Swan and The Wrestler, you would be wise to expect more in-depth characterisation than rainy action, despite what the trailers may have you believe, which, to be fair to the people who put it together, has to be broadly appealing from a commercial standpoint. After a necessary, informative opening sequence that sums up how everyone on this planet aside from those in Noah's family is evil because they eat meat and kill each other, Noah (Russell Crowe) receives a shocking message from The Creator (the word God is never used here - perhaps in an effort to offend the least number of audience members? Although what good did that do, the film is facing permanent bans ...

August Osage County (DVD) 08/04/2014

August: Osage County

August Osage County (DVD) Here is a film of so many mixed emotions that it will make your head spin. With larger-than-life characters having a proper go at each other at a family gathering (where else?). Those of you familiar with the Walkers of ABC’s hit TV show "Brothers and Sisters" will know of their infamous dining scenes where no lunch/dinner party is a smooth ride. The Weston family, hailing from Osage County, Oklahoma, take things to a whole new level. There’s wine involved of course, but also pills, cursing is almost a requirement, and hurling verbal abuse is the norm. At the head of the table sits the matriarch, cancer-ridden, pill-popping, chain-smoking Violet Weston (Meryl Streep) who is reeling from her husband Beverly’s (Sam Shepard) suicide. The entire family has gathered to support her, although with this lot they create more problems and tension than they are able to diffuse. Violet’s sister Mattie Fae (Margo Martindale) and Mattie’s husband Charlie (Chris Cooper) turn up, as does their son Little Charlie (Benedict Cumberbatch), with events taking a more juicy turn with Violet’s three daughters Barbara (Julia Roberts), Karen (Juliette Lewis) and Ivy (Julianne Nicholson). Barbara’s family is falling apart, but in the face of such tragedy her daughter Jean (Abigail Breslin) and estranged husband Bill (Ewan McGregor) put on a united front, Karen turns up with the man of the year Steve (Dermot Mulroney) whose strongest quality is certainly not subtlety (driving a crazy loud Ferrari to a ...

Orphan Black (DVD) 20/02/2014

Orphan Black

Orphan Black (DVD) There is a reason why television critics can’t stop talking about Tatiana Maslany. The fact that her work on the first season of Orphan Black missed out on an Emmy nomination which damn well should have resulted in a win over Claire “I do the same boring crazy spy skit every episode” Danes was scandal enough, but the recognition from the Golden Globes as well as several high-profile wins have justly placed her excellent new science-fiction show on an entirely new, wider playing field. The month of April 2014 sees the long-awaited return of the almighty, epic Game of Thrones, but you also need to be gearing up for the second season premiere of what probably was 2013’s best new show. We start with Sarah Manning (Maslany), a low-life English hustler in Canada who has just left her drug-dealing, abusive boyfriend Vic (Michael Mando) and is looking to connect with her daughter Kira who is currently being looked after by Mrs S (Maria Doyle Kennedy), Sarah’s foster mother, who emigrated from Ireland to the States many years ago. One day she witnesses a suicide. The odd thing being that the lady who jumped in front of a train looked exactly like her. Brushing this off as being a massive coincidence, Sarah steals Beth Childs’ (Maslany, again) identity. Although complicating the matters is the fact that Beth is a cop and is in the midst of a complicated shooting incident. Beth’s police partner Detective Art Bell (Kevin Hanchard) senses something’s up, and it doesn’t get any more ...

The Butler 13/02/2014

The Butler

The Butler When his mother is raped and father murdered by a nasty white man (Alex Pettyfer - very convincingly fitting), Cecil Gaines is taken in by an elderly plantation owner (Vanessa Redgrave) to work as a house servant. The skills he acquires here serves him well in the long run, as he goes on to work not only in a fancy posh hotel, but he makes it all the way to the White House, serving under numerous Presidents of the United States over several decades. "The Butler", an American sleeper-hit over the summer of 2013 that eventually reached the British screens in November the same year, is based on the true story of Eugene Allen, who worked in the White House for 34 years until his retirement in 1986. Throughout his dedicated career he is the first-hand witness to the American Civil Rights movement, with significant events involving racial issues becoming a huge part of his life. This dramatisation looks at Cecil’s life, both the professional and personal sides, although rather fleetingly, focusing on the landmark events that changed the course of American history. As an adult Cecil (Forest Whitaker) is a married family man with children. His wife Gloria (Oprah Winfrey) is mighty proud of her husband’s accomplishments, although as time passes by, his complete dedication to the job forces him to give up on some valuable family time. His two sons grow up to be very different individuals. His eldest Louis (David Oyelowo) is the more volatile, hot-tempered one, fighting for equality ...

12 Years A Slave (DVD) 11/02/2014

12 Years a Slave

12 Years A Slave (DVD) It's difficult to know just where you're supposed to start when it comes to complimenting every single aspect of "12 Years a Slave". Based on the shockingly true story of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man living in Saratoga, New York who was betrayed, abducted and sold into slavery where he was subjected to unthinkable abuse and cruelty for 12 long years (hence the title), Steve McQueen's ("Hunger", "Shame") third directorial effort, that made a big name for itself in the film festival circuits of 2013 (Telluride, Toronto, London) before it went on general release, will leave you speechless and intensely moved. This is a film of genuine, unflinching emotions, where no character goes to waste, where the pitch-perfect performances from its tremendous cast do wonders to capture the essence of their roles, and where a director with a sharp pair of eyes creates a harrowing atmosphere in one of the most uncomfortable eras and topics of American history. Every single minute of the film's running time is a painful one, not that you'd expect it to be any other way. As he is torn away from his family, beaten severely, and forced to work exhaustively under the burning sun, Solomon's many encounters are what drive the narrative forward. Condescending, money-grabbing Theophilus Freeman (brilliantly conniving Paul Giamatti who shines even in a role that lasts five minutes or so) wipes Northup's history clean to potential buyers. Northup is now to be called Platt, and ...

The Last Exorcism Part 2 (DVD) 20/09/2013

The Last Exorcism Part 2

The Last Exorcism Part 2 (DVD) The last "Last Exorcism" certainly was not the "last" as it is followed by this pretty disastrous sequel that is somehow trying to bridge a gap for a potential third entry to turn the franchise into a trilogy - because any mildly successful horror series must at least have three films to show for its financially lucrative status. The first entry was quite excellent - despite a very familiar premise, the film had a surprisingly fresh take on the genre - it had unexpectedly dark twists and turns, ones that spun something rather disturbing into the whole narrative. Nasty church leaders, equally horrendous family, and an innocent, religious girl of age caught in the middle of one horrendous satanic ritual. It ended on a slightly ambiguous but clearly satisfying note, one that signalled the danger of a sequel and therefore here it is: one disappointing scene after another strung together to overall achieve something so dull that could potentially put a welcome end to the series. And yet trying to milk the franchise for as much cash as possible, here's the sequel, in which very little happens, and one that is frustratingly toned down when it comes to the shock factor (were they aiming for a lower age restriction rating or something? Certainly seems that way). Once again we have the same girl who's being pursued by a relentless demon that is determined to possess an innocent, pure body so that it can have its wicked, supernatural ways. What it really wants is not very clear, but ...

White House Down (DVD) 11/09/2013

White House Down

White House Down (DVD) The White House is yet again under attack, with its hopeless defence systems (there are hardly any here by the way) and guards (again, hardly any) taken down effortlessly by meticulously organised bad guys who take control of what's supposed to be one of the safest places on Earth in a matter of minutes, if not seconds. But fear not, for we have Channing Tatum on our side. There are of course, some very important-looking people in suits in a crowded room trying to do their best to save their country from collapsing, but ultimately, it's Tatum and his one-man army that you know will protect the President of the United States. Perhaps keeping in with the state of affairs in the current White House, Jamie Foxx plays the President, trying to sign a peace treaty and pull American troops out of the Middle East. It's not a wildly popular move, which explains the attack later on. One of his closest advisors the Speaker of the House Eli Raphelson (Richard Jenkins) is not too happy with the decision but supports the decision nonetheless. Elsewhere in the political arena Martin Walker (James Woods) who is planning to retire from his position as the Head of the Presidential Security Detail, leaving his trusted protégée Carol Finnerty (Maggie Gyllenhaal) in charge. So how does Tatum's character fit into the whole thing? It turns out John Cale (Tatum) is an ex-military man and wants to join the Secret Service, and enters the White House for an unsuccessful job interview. With him is ...

This Means War (DVD) 06/09/2013

This Means War

This Means War (DVD) With a love triangle that is as impossibly good looking as this one, it's difficult to know which pair to root for. But to put things simply, it's a showdown between a young James Bond (Tom Hardy) and a young Ethan Hunt (Chris Pine) who are also the best of friends. "I know that you would take a bullet for me, I would for you as well" says Tuck (Hardy) to FDR (Pine) Awwwww. Their bromance is shown in none other than a loud, kinetic action scene on the rooftop of a tall Hong Kong tower, something director McG (Terminator: Salvation) should be familiar with. But it's nothing special, with a modest scale that seems to be a waste on the two talented young actors. And just from watching the first ten to fifteen minutes or so of uninspired, highly ordinary footage, we immediately begin to worry whether the rest of the film will be as mediocre. Thankfully, things get more interesting however, for both the leading men and the audience, when Reese Witherspoon enters the picture. As her bright and perky unlucky-in-love Lauren appears, it's no more a nice bromance, but a full-on war, hence the title. A slight misunderstanding involving a blind date and a chance encounter at a video rental store, the two men meet her within minutes, and are completely taken by her. Witherspoon, the talented comic actress who can do this kind of simple role in her sleep, is effective in showing us just why these two tough guys are bending over backwards to impress her. The snarky, sly interception of ...

The Iceman (DVD) 02/09/2013

The Iceman

The Iceman (DVD) In some of the marketing used for "Man of Steel", we are told to "kneel before Zod (played by Michael Shannon)". Instead, we should all kneel before the real Michael Shannon, easily one of the most underrated, under-awarded, and under-recognised actors working today. He is the anti-hero of "The Iceman", a taut retelling of the life of Richard "Richie" Kuklinski, an American-Polish mob hitman who was arrested having killed what is believed to be well over a hundred people. We first see how he and his wife Deborah (Winona Ryder) first met. "You're a prettier version of Natalie Wood," possibly the highest compliment that could be paid to a young woman about her appearance in the 60s, is uttered shyly by Richard. He claims he dubs Disney movies, a job she finds cool and fascinating, when in fact it's revealed he makes his living by pirating pornographic movies. His knack for killing is revealed early in the film; after an ill-advised verbal exchange that ends with someone insulting Deborah, that poor sucker who had no idea who he was messing with gets his throat slit - rather neatly it's also worth noting, showing that this is far from the first time Richard has ever done something like this. After an encounter with a local mob boss Roy DeMeo (Ray Liotta), who is impressed by Richard's ice-cold demeanour that shows virtually no fear of dying, Richard is privately hired to watch Roy's back, collect debts, and send "messages" to those who aren't quite following the rules. Long ...

Ginger and Rosa (DVD) 25/08/2013

Ginger and Rosa

Ginger and Rosa (DVD) It's only natural to be scared when Russia goes ahead and places nuclear missiles in Cuba aiming it at the United States in the 1960s. In a constant state of panic, with everyone screaming about the end of the world and a real possible chance of an all-out nuclear war that will no doubt eradicate much of the Earth's population, it's no wonder Ginger (Elle Fanning) is having an existential crisis about the future of the planet as well as hers. She's only a young teenager after all, and when she should be out there spending time with boys, drinking and smoking, like her best friend Rosa (Alice Englert) knows best, Ginger finds herself constantly distracted by the fact that they could all be dead the next day. Putting a more depressing spin on an already grey and gloomy atmosphere is the less than ideal situation back at home. She isn't to call her father "dad," she is to only address him by his first name Roland (Alessandro Nivola), and the relationship between her pacifist father and her mother Natalie (Christina Hendricks) is, safe to say, on the rocks. His eyes start drifting elsewhere and eventually landing on Rosa, his daughter's inseparable best friend. There is some consolation to be had in the warm and caring godfathers she has, Mark (Timothy Spall) and Mark Two (Oliver Platt), always there for the lost young girl who needs some sort of stability back in her confused life - also putting in some time for that maternal angle is Bella (Annette Bening), an American friend ...

This is the End (DVD/Blu-Ray) 19/08/2013

This is the End

This is the End (DVD/Blu-Ray) Two important lessons to be learned from watching this film: that Jay Baruchel was in Clint Eastwood's Oscar winning boxing drama "Million Dollar Baby" (completely missed that), and that The Backstreet Boys are all alive and kicking, possibly getting geared up for a reunion. Watch the film, and you'll know what I mean. If the apocalypse ever comes in your lifetime, perhaps it won't be a good idea to hang with a group of actors in your last moments on Earth. As "This is the End" shows, actors are self-confessed softies who only pretend to be tough for their roles - and this is a paraphrased sentence from Craig Robinson, one of the film's stars. As the day of reckoning outlined in the Bible gets underway, this isn't about a group of brave guys trying to save the world. It's about how they struggle to even save each other from themselves. Jay (Jay Baruchel) and Seth (Seth Rogen) are old buds who meet up to spend the best weekend of their lives. And their interpretation of this involves hours and hours of gaming plus smoking marijuana. Seth in fact has been invited to James Franco's (James Franco) house-party packed full of Hollywood stars, one that Jay isn't particularly keen to attend, since he feels he doesn't fit in with that kind of fancy crowd. But they decide to go eventually, as who can really turn down an invite to a swanky gathering like this? And oh what a fun party this is. James Franco's house (not actually his house in real-life but let's just go with it) is, ...
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