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Articles By Eric Hillis

New Release Review - "Twisters"



Almost 30 years after Twister swept into cinemas, Hollywood's allergy to anything resembling an original idea gives us a belated sequel that, as has proven the case with so many of these endeavours, plays more like a remake than a continuation. While recent revivals like Halloween, Top Gun and Beverly Hills Cop have been built around returning protagonists, Helen Hunt is curiously absent here, probably because only the horror genre allows actresses over a certain age to headline franchise instalments.

published on 07/17/2024


New Release Review - "Maxxxine"



With 2022's X, Ti West delivered a successful homage to hicksploitation thrillers like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Eaten Alive and Motel Hell. Hicksploitation is one of the easier sub-genres to imitate as all you need are some good-looking young folk to be butchered by redneck grotesqueries. That said, many filmmakers have tried and failed to emulate this simple formula, with only X and Devereux Milburn's underseen Honeydew managing to pull it off in recent years.

published on 07/14/2024


New Release Review - "Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F"



1980s Hollywood was fuelled by a simple formula, the "fish out of water." Whether it be an alien landing in the suburbs; a boorish, middle-aged Jewish comic attending college; or a young boy finding himself in the body of Tom Hanks; audiences lapped this stuff up. With 1983's fish out of water comedy Trading Places, director John Landis moulded Eddie Murphy into the '80s equivalent of Groucho Marx. Just as the Jewish Marx had done in the '30s, the African-American Murphy built his shtick around mocking wealthy white people. The movie that cemented this status was 1984's Beverly Hills Cop, in which Murphy played Axel Foley, an unfiltered Detroit undercover cop who found himself in the alien surrounds of that American centre of white elitism, Beverly Hills. The plot - something, something corruption, or something - was irrelevant. Audiences turned up to see Murphy crack wise, do funny voices and take the piss out of rich folk, and he did so with a unique and natural ease that no comic performer has matched in the decades since.

published on 07/09/2024


New Release Review - "A Quiet Place: Day One"



For the third installment of his hit sci-fi franchise, A Quiet Place: Day One, John Krasinski hands the reins to fellow Polish-American filmmaker Michael Sarnoski. If you've seen Sarnoski's impressive debut, the Nicolas Cage vehicle Pig, you'll note similar elements here. As with Pig, Day One features a protagonist who has retreated into their shell, whose one friend is an animal, and who embarks on a quest in a major American city. Both movies trumpet the pleasure of simple food in key scenes. Sarnoski manages to weave his own interests into Krasinski's series in surprisingly smooth fashion, suggesting that the world of A Quiet Place can accommodate a variety of stories and perspectives.

published on 07/04/2024


New Release Review: "Kinds of Kindness"



Yorgos Lanthimos reunites with Efthimis Filippou, his regular screenwriter before his recent Tony McNamara collaborations, for Kinds of Kindness, an anthology film consisting of three tales, all of which feature the same recurring cast members. Part of the appeal of portmanteau films is that if you're not vibing with one story you know another will come along pretty soon. With each segment running close to an hour, that's not the case here. If the absurdist tone doesn't hook you from the start, you'll likely find Kinds of Kindness a test of your patience. But while it's exhausting and unwieldy in stretches, it's entertaining and amusing often enough to make it a worthwhile venture for those already onboard with Lanthimos.

published on 07/01/2024




 



New Release Review - "The Bikeriders"



Have you ever seen any of those awful British movies about football hooligans that seem to be released straight to VOD on a weekly basis? You know the type. They always star some combination of Danny Dyer, Craig Fairbrass and Tamer Hassan, sometimes all three. The directors always try to emulate Goodfellas, but their attempts to use voiceover to draw us into a world of pathetic masculinity always come off as lazy storytelling. Most of these movies open with a scene in which the protagonist finds himself cornered by some rivals, and the frame freezes just as he takes a punch to his mush, followed by some sort of exaltation along the lines of "You're probably wondering how a geezer like me got myself in such a norty pickle."

published on 06/26/2024


New Release Review - "Horizon: An American Saga - Chapter One"



Once in a while a critic will have the cheek to publish a review despite not having seen a movie in its entirety. "I've seen this a hundred times before," is how they inevitably defend themselves when they're rightly attacked for such a lack of professionalism and respect for the medium. With Horizon: An American Saga - Chapter One, Kevin Costner has forced all of his new film's reviewers into the role of the unprofessional critic who forms an opinion despite having only seen half a movie, or in this case maybe only a third, or even a quarter. Costner's project is ambitiously spread across four films, with three reportedly already shot and two guaranteed a release at time of writing.

published on 06/24/2024


New Release Review - "The Exorcism"



You wait your whole life for a schlocky exorcism movie starring Russell Crowe only for two to come along at once. Hot on the heels of the entertaining if unoriginal The Pope's Exorcist comes writer/director Joshua John Miller's The Exorcism. Let's face it, all of these movies are to some degree knockoffs of William Friedkin's The Exorcist. But The Exorcism isn't simply another Exorcist wannabe; it's intrinsically tied in to Friedkin's film.

published on 06/19/2024


New Release Review - "The Watched"



Ishana Night Shyamalan's feature debut, The Watched (or The Watchers as it's known in North America; who knows what's behind the name change?), shows she has her father's eye but few of his other talents. Like Brandon Cronenberg, Ishana seems set on embracing her father's influence rather than purposely shying away from any comparisons. On paper The Watched reads like exactly the sort of movie you might expect from daddy Shyamalan, but where Cronenberg Junior has proven himself capable of replicating both his father's thematic obsessions and talent, Shyamalan Junior displays none of her old man's storytelling skills. Watching The Watched, I couldn't help but wonder if this is what it's like to watch an M. Night movie if you're not a fan of his distinctive shtick.

published on 06/17/2024


First Look Review - 'In A Violent Nature'



Recounting his first time performing as a nervous young pianist on stage with Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock claimed that halfway through the show the legendary trumpeter leaned over his shoulder and whispered the words "Don't play the butter notes kid." Initially puzzled, Hancock tried to wrap his head around what Davis meant by this odd instruction. Then it clicked. Davis was telling the piano prodigy to leave out the obvious notes, to create something fresh through omission. Hancock had been playing jazz for a while by that point, but that was the day he finally understood jazz.

published on 06/10/2024


New Release Review - 'The Dead Don't Hurt'



Viggo Mortensen's Falling was exactly the sort of intimate, talky drama you might expect an actor to choose for their debut as writer/director. For his follow-up Mortensen has opted for something that seems very different on the surface, a western, but while there's gun-slingin', horse ridin' and a villain clad in black, it's very much a character-based western of the sort that were common before the Italians stripped the genre down to its action basics.

published on 06/09/2024


New Release Review - "The Beast"



Bertrand Bonello's previous film, Coma, was an intimate project shot within the confines of his home during the pandemic lockdown. His latest, The Beast, is a sprawling sci-fi thriller that plays out over three timelines on both sides of the Atlantic. Despite such differences, the two movies are thematically joined at the hip, and I would recommend seeing them in the order Bonello made them, though modern distribution patterns being what they are, that may not be possible for most viewers.

published on 05/31/2024


New Release Review - FURIOSA: A MAD MAX SAGA



The success of George Miller's first two Mad Max movies gave rise to a wave of knockoffs in the early '80s. Mostly Italian, these movies aped the post-punk petrolhead aesthetic of Miller's films, with Mohawk-sporting warlords crashing dune buggies into one another in the Spanish desert. While some of those movies were fun and provided cheap thrills for an '80s audience eager to feed their new VCRs, they lacked something. For a start they couldn't compete with Miller's craft, but there was another key element missing: they weren't Australian.

published on 05/27/2024


First Look Review - COMA



The lockdowns of the COVID pandemic feel like a lifetime ago and yet we're still seeing the release of films that were shot under those restrictive conditions. While most of us were making sourdough bread and wearing our PJs all day long, the world's filmmakers were busying themselves by shooting whatever they could in the confines of their homes. Bertrand Bonello was no different. In 2021 he shot Coma in his home and a secluded forest. In contrast with most of the filmmakers who did likewise, Bonello has created something worthwhile here, a film that is often baffling, frequently entertaining and ultimately touching.

published on 05/18/2024


Review: "Wildcat"



Few actors have as much credit in the cinephile bank as Ethan Hawke. While all around him actors are dropping their pants for the Disney dildo, Hawke insists on taking roles he's actually interested in, and working with filmmakers he respects. Nobody bats an eyelid when Hawke name drops some literary figure or arthouse auteur in an interview. We fully believe in him as a well read, thoughtful renaissance man. That wasn't always the case though. Back in 1996 he was roundly mocked for having the audacity to write a novel, met with the sort of snobbish "stick to the day job, stay in your lane" derision we now see levelled at any sports personalities who dare to express an interest in any subject outside their competitive field. Hawke's latest film as director, Flannery O'Connor biopic Wildcat, is so terrible that even the kindest of critics may think Hawke might be better off sticking to his day job after all.

published on 05/16/2024




 
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REVIEW: "The Nest"



It’s been an agonizing nine-year wait for writer-director Sean Durkin to follow up his outstanding 2011 debut Martha Marcy May Marlene, but he’s finally gotten the finger out and delivered a second feature. And boy, has he delivered! Returning to the UK, where he was raised as a child and where he directed the 2013 Channel 4 mini-series Southcliffe, Durkin has given us a doom-laden rejoinder to the current rose-tinted nostalgia for that most awful of decades, the 1980s. The Nest is a moody family drama that plays like The Omen with Thatcher swapped in for Satan.

published on 09/22/2020


REVIEW: "The Devil All The Time"



Over the last decade or so, writer/director Antonio Campos has established himself as a master of intimate, moody character studies. His movies thus far have been rigidly focused on troubled individuals who pose an existential threat to either themselves (Christine) or others (Afterschool; Simon Killer). It’s safe to say he has an interest in homicide and suicide, which might make him the prime candidate to adapt Donald Ray Pollock’s The Devil All the Time, a novel in which almost every character either takes their own life or that of another member of its sprawling cast.

published on 09/22/2020


REVIEW: "Unhinged"



Director Derrick Borte’s road rage thriller Unhinged belongs to the tradition of movies in which a protagonist finds themselves targeted by a deranged motorist. This was a particularly popular storyline in American TV movies of the ‘70s, when car ownership had exploded to the point where the car became an extension of its owner’s personality, for better or worse. Small screen thrillers like Duel, Night Terror and Death Car on the Freeway exploited the potential for chaos that can arise when a motorist decides to defy the social contract we agree to adhere to whenever we get behind the wheel. Unhinged adds very modern elements like the stress of the gig economy, surveillance and entitlement culture to a formula that always makes for a gripping thriller.

published on 08/23/2020


REVIEW: "Sputnik"



The Soviet Union used space exploration as a means of keeping its populace onboard with its goals, and Russians embraced their cosmonauts as folk-heroes, a symbol of national pride, something to aspire to. It’s no surprise then that science-fiction, both literary and cinematic, prospered in the USSR. Many Soviet sci-fi films were propagandistic, while some filmmakers, notably Tarkovsky, used the genre to conceal their contempt for the system. In recent years we’ve seen the emergence of a generation of Russian filmmakers influenced by Hollywood sci-fi, whose films are neither political nor propagandistic but rather vacuously glossy imitations of American genre product.

published on 08/23/2020


REVIEW: "Carmilla"



What must it have been like to be a young, cinemagoing lesbian in the early 1970s? Your sexuality was still far from being accepted yet on the cinema screen lesbian vampires couldn’t sink their teeth into their same-sex victims quickly enough. Until quite recently, the lesbian vampire movies of that period - The Vampire Lovers, Vampyres, Daughters of Darkness, The Blood Spattered Bride and Vampyros Lesbos, to name but a few - represented the closest we had come to being presented with something approaching a mainstream queer cinema canon.

published on 07/24/2020


REVIEW: "The Old Guard"



One of the primary reasons many viewers struggle with superhero movies is the lack of intimate stakes. If a movie’s protagonist is the most powerful being on the planet, or sometimes even the galaxy, it’s difficult for us to care about their predicament, as they’re rarely under any real threat. Superman II, still the peak of superhero cinema, had to remove its eponymous hero’s superpowers to create some drama we could invest in, but even that ended up in an intergalactic punch-up.

published on 07/24/2020


REVIEW: "Exit Plan"



Danish director Jonas Alexander Arnby’s Exit Plan (whose original title translates as the not so subtle ‘Suicide Tourist’) follows a long fictional tradition of healthy protagonists who find themselves trapped in sinister healthcare institutions, usually after having themselves committed in order to conduct an investigation. This idea has its roots in Thomas Mann’s 1924 novel ‘The Magic Mountain’, which Gore Verbinski loosely adapted in 2016 as A Cure for Wellness. The general premise can be found in Mark Robson’s Bedlam and Sam Fuller’s Shock Corridor; not to mention a host of various TV shows, most notably the penultimate season of Dallas, in which Larry Hagman’s JR Ewing checks himself into an asylum in the hopes of convincing a resident of signing over oil shares.

published on 06/23/2020


REVIEW: "Da 5 Bloods"



Get on the Bus meets Rambo in Spike Lee’s Vietnam set geriatric action flick Da 5 Bloods. The title refers to five African-American men who served alongside each other during the Vietnam War, or as the Vietnamese characters they meet along the way here call it, “The American War.” Inspirational squad leader ‘Stormin’ Norman (Chadwick Boseman) perished in combat in 1971, but his legacy lives on in the hearts of the surviving quartet - Paul (Delroy Lindo), Otis (Clarke Peters), Melvin (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) and Eddie (Norm Lewis) - who know that without his leadership and guidance, they may not have made it out of the jungle alive.

published on 06/23/2020


A Good Woman Is Hard To Find



To get ahead in life you need to be a bitch. That’s the advice a mother gives her daughter in director Abner Pastoll’s Northern Ireland set thriller A Good Woman Is Hard to Find, which is available via Video on Demand. Over the film’s runtime we’ll watch said daughter, young widow Sarah, go from a timid bundle of nerves to an avenging angel in convincing fashion, thanks to a stellar performance from Sarah Bolger.

published on 05/25/2020


REVIEW: "Dreamland"



It may seem strange to claim that an actor whose IMDB page currently lists 213 performing credits has been under-utilized throughout his career, but that’s the case with Canadian character actor Stephen McHattie. Thanks to the vast amount of American productions that shoot north of the border for tax reasons, the Canuck star has never been out of work, but meaty roles have largely eluded him, and he’s best known to casual viewers as “that guy” who crops up in baddy of the week roles in TV shows.

published on 05/25/2020




 



REVIEW: "She’s Allergic To Cats"



If, like me, you’re one of the few nutters who enjoyed David Robert Mitchell’s widely lambasted Under the Silver Lake and fancy another hit of Los Angeles set weirdness, writer/director  Michael Reich has you covered with his lo-fi, barely feature length oddity She’s Allergic to Cats.

published on 04/25/2020


REVIEW: "The Sharks"



Imagine if in Jaws, the resident of Amity Island who took the appearance of a great white shark most seriously wasn’t the town sheriff but a hormonal 14-year-old girl. The resulting film might be something like writer/director Lucía Garibaldi’s feature debut, The Sharks, which scooped the Directing Award in World Cinema at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

published on 04/25/2020


REVIEW: "The Hunt"



Few short stories have impacted cinema as much as Richard Connell’s 1924 tale ‘The Most Dangerous Game’, which tells the story of a Russian aristocrat who hunts human prey on his remote island. Along with a direct 1932 screen adaptation from the team behind King Kong, Connell’s story has indirectly inspired a host of movies from around the world including John Woo’s Hard Target, the Roger Corman produced The Woman Hunt, the Ozploitation classic Turkey Shoot, the racially charged Surviving the Game, the trash masterpiece Deadly Prey, the recent Ready or Not, and to some extent The Hunger Games and its Japanese antecedent Battle Royale.

published on 03/23/2020


REVIEW: "The Truth"



Arguably the most interesting filmmaker to emerge in the last couple of decades, Hirokazu Kore-eda has worked at a prolific rate, giving us roughly a movie a year, most of which have met with critical acclaim. With his latest, The Truth, Kore-eda leaves his native Japan to try his hand at European cinema, and it’s a remarkably effortless transition. If you didn’t know this French set drama was written and directed by Kore-eda, you might easily believe it a work of a local filmmaker like Mikhaël Hers, André Téchiné or Robert Guediguian, so readily has Kore-eda adapted his voice to an alien continent and culture.

published on 03/23/2020


REVIEW: "You Go To My Head"



With his solo debut feature (having previously co-directed 1995’s The Blue Villa with Alain Robbe-Grillet), You Go to My Head, director Dimitri de Clercq evokes everything from the psychosexual dynamics of 1940s melodramas to the dusty desolation of Ozploitation, with dashes of Hitchcock, Nicolas Roeg and Richard Stanley thrown in for good measure. The result is a heady brew that doesn’t always work, but for long periods of its narrative, de Clercq’s film keeps you gripped, and marks the veteran producer turned newbie director as one to watch.

published on 02/26/2020


REVIEW: "Emma"



A few years back, Anya Taylor-Joy delivered a striking performance in Thoroughbreds, a blackly comic teen thriller in which she played a spoilt rich kid who takes a troubled young girl (played equally brilliantly by Olivia Cooke) under her wing. The dynamic was reminiscent of that between Emma Woodhouse and Harriet Smith, the young central characters of Jane Austen’s 1815 novel ‘Emma’. With first time director Autumn de Wilde at the helm, Taylor-Joy has returned directly to the source for an adaptation of ‘Emma’ that is too reverent to the novel for its own good.

published on 02/26/2020


REVIEW: "Uncut Gems"



Over their relatively short filmmaking careers, the Safdie brothers (Josh and Benny) have established themselves as the chroniclers du jour of New York street life, employing that city in a way rarely seen since the 1970s. They’ve earned a reputation for mining striking performances from inexperienced actors like Arielle Holmes and Buddy Duress, but recently they’ve begun dropping superstars into their unique mix, with Robert Pattinson leading a largely otherwise amateur cast in their previous film, Good Time. 

published on 01/25/2020


REVIEW: "Portrait Of A Lady On Fire"



The underlying eroticism that can be found in much gothic storytelling comes to the fore in writer / director Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire. It’s a gothic romance that holds to its tradition for much of its running time, keeping its passions suppressed before ripping away its bodice for a celebration of forbidden sensual pleasures indulged away from the disapproving eyes of society.

published on 01/25/2020


REVIEW: "1917"



When Hitchcock attempted to create the illusion that his 1948 thriller Rope had been shot in a single take, he was forced to disguise cuts every 10 minutes, as that’s how long a reel of film lasted. In today’s digital filmmaking era no such limitations apply, which is why long takes and ‘single take’ movies are growing increasingly popular. Give a filmmaker too much...well, rope and they can hang themselves, with many long take sequences and single take movies feeling gimmicky at best, a waste of the powerful tool of editing at worst. The best of the recent crop of single take movies is the German thriller Victoria, which uses the format to immerse us in the head of its titular heroine, who is swept along on an increasingly dangerous adventure that plays out in real-time as dawn breaks on Berlin.

published on 12/25/2019


REVIEW: "Little Women"



Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women opens and closes with two cracking scenes. Playing an amalgamation of Alcott and her novel’s heroine, Jo March, Saoirse Ronan sparkles in her interactions with Dashwood, a stoic publisher played by the always watchable Tracy Letts. Not wanting sexism to scupper her chances, Jo presents him with one of her short stories, which she claims was written by “a friend.”

published on 12/25/2019


REVIEW: "In Fabric"



The elevator (or in this case, dumb waiter) pitch for In Fabric, writer/director Peter Strickland's fourth feature, ostensibly concerns a cursed dress, which may remind horror buffs of Robert Bloch's short story 'The Weird Tailor', adapted for the screen as an episode of the '60s Boris Karloff hosted show Thriller and an installment of the 1972 Amicus anthology Asylum. Splitting the film into two distinct though interconnected stories, Strickland's movie recalls the output of Amicus, and while he continues to channel the exotic spirit of '70s Euro horror, In Fabric is distinctly British in its self-deprecating humor. A succinct elevator pitch might read 'Dario Argento's Are You Being Served?'

published on 11/26/2019


REVIEW: "The Good Liar"



Ian McKellen and director Bill Condon reteam once again for this adaptation of Nicholas Searle

published on 11/26/2019


REVIEW: "Joker"



At some point in the late 20th century society decided that clowns were no longer funny, that rather they were the stuff of nightmares. At some point in the early 21st century Hollywood decided that simple entertainment was no longer enough, that movies in which heroes prance around in spandex should be competing for Oscars, and so the Hollywood blockbuster became as dull and soulless as the sort of worthy social dramas we previously associated with Awards season. When Heath Ledger won a posthumous statuette for his performance as Batman’s arch-nemesis The Joker in Christoper Nolan’s gritty, Michael Mann/William Friedkin influenced The Dark Knight, the comic book movie had well and truly grown up.

published on 10/25/2019


Maleficent: Mistress of Evil



Unlike the redundant ‘live-action’ updates of Cinderella and The Lion King, 2014’s Maleficent saw Disney take one of their existing properties, Sleeping Beauty, and deliver a fresh take that cleverly played with the themes bubbling under the surface of that classic fairy tale. Maleficent, formerly a one-dimensional villain, was put front and center in a movie that explored such ideas as nature vs nurture, the futility of revenge, and whether or not true love really exists. Most surprisingly of all, it served as a potent allegory for how victims of sexual abuse are often shunned by society. But importantly, it never took its eye off the fact that it was primarily a fantasy romp aimed at children.

published on 10/25/2019


REVIEW: "Hustlers"



Bob Fosse and Martin Scorsese have a lot to answer for. American filmmakers now seem incapable of telling a true crime story without aping the templates established in Fosse’s Star 80 and Scorsese’s Goodfellas. Lorene Scafaria’s Hustlers (let’s take some comfort from the resistance to titling it ‘Hu$tler$’), based on a 2015 New York magazine article about sociopathic strippers, ticks all the boxes you expect it might. Fake talking head interviews? Check. Extended tracking shots through nightclubs? Check. It’s a Wonderful Life style freeze frames? Check. Voiceover narration delivered over slo-mo sequences? Check. Top 40 soundtrack? Check.

published on 09/24/2019




 



REVIEW: "Ad Astra"



Steven Spielberg has long maintained that had he made Close Encounters of the Third Kind after marrying and having kids, it would have ended very differently. After becoming a family man, Spielberg balked at the idea that a father and husband would walk away from his family and take a ride off into the great unknown with a bunch of aliens. Has writer/director James Gray become a family man in the short time between his previous movie, 2016’s The Lost City of Z, and his latest, Ad Astra? His new film plays like something of a thematic rejoinder to his last one.

published on 09/24/2019


REVIEW: "Gwen"



Writer/director William McGregor’s feature debut Gwen is an effective example of what can be achieved on a low budget with a small but talented cast and a striking location. Where most British indie filmmakers struggle to mine the cinematic potential of Britain’s over-exposed urban areas, McGregor sets his folk-horror tinged gothic drama in the spectacularly moody Welsh valleys.

published on 08/27/2019


REVIEW: "The Peanut Butter Falcon"



“I’m a Down Syndrome person,” proclaims Zak (Zack Gottsagen), the unique protagonist of first time filmmakers Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz’s The Peanut Butter Falcon. “I don’t give a shit,” is the terse response from Tyler (Shia LaBeouf), the troublemaker who reluctantly takes Zak under his wing. It may seem like a cruel exchange, but for Zak - and, indeed, for representation in mainstream cinema - it’s an important moment, the first time another human has refused to reductively define him by his condition.

published on 08/27/2019


REVIEW: "Blinded By The Light"



In recent years there has been much talk among the cultural commentariat regarding the need for onscreen diversity. Of course everyone should be able to see themselves represented in movies, whether that be by a reflection of their race, gender or sexuality; but it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that artists don’t need to share your own specific cultural attributes in order to speak directly to you. As a white Irishman, I’ve seen the distinctive traits of my culture represented a lot more accurately in Japanese and Korean cinema than in the movies of my own country’s film industry. As a teen I found the music of U2 so alien that Bono and co. might as well have come from another galaxy rather than a few miles down the road from my house; rather I connected, like so many young working class kids in the British isles have over the decades, with the music of African-Americans; Miles Davis showed me what he was feeling with his heartfelt music, unlike Bono, who simply told me his troubles in his lyrics.

published on 07/25/2019


REVIEW: "The Lion King"



“Doesn’t this seem familiar?”, one big cat asks of another in director Jon Favreau’s remake of Disney’s much loved 1994 animated musical The Lion King. Yes, yes, it sure does seem familiar. Remake, rinse, reboot, repeat. Such is the circle of life for Disney as the studio continues their campaign to wring every last dollar out of their back catalogue with a series of ‘live action’ remakes that are now arriving at a pace few parents could afford to financially keep up with. We’re only halfway through 2019 and we’ve already had remakes of Dumbo, Aladdin and now The Lion King.

published on 07/25/2019


REVIEW: "Yesterday"



There’s a famous gag in the climax of Back to the Future in which, having traveled back to 1955, Michael J. Fox’s Marty McFly finds himself fronting a band onstage at a high school dance. McFly picks up a guitar and performs a version of Chuck Berry’s ‘Johnny B Goode’, a song which wouldn’t be recorded until 1958. The school kids love this new sound, but McFly pushes his luck with some Van Halen-esque metal strumming. “I guess you’re not ready for that yet,” McFly observes, “but your kids are gonna love it!”

published on 06/24/2019


REVIEW: "The Dead Don’t Die"



The late George A. Romero always claimed that critics would bash his movies, but whenever they visited his sets they always wanted to play zombies. A zombie movie seems like something that would be a lot of fun to take part in, which may explain why Jim Jarmusch’s The Dead Don’t Die boasts such a stacked, star-studded cast, like a ‘70s disaster movie but for hipster thespians. I hope everyone had fun making The Dead Don’t Die, because I sure did not have fun watching it.

published on 06/24/2019


REVIEW: "John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum"



How many times can you watch Keanu Reeves inflict head trauma on faceless Asian goons before it gets repetitive? The third installment of the hitherto rewarding John Wick franchise answers this question in its opening 20 minutes but repeats the formula over and over regardless, leaving its audience in a mentally numbed state by the time it reaches its uninspired climax, in which Keanu Reeves inflicts more head trauma on an army of faceless Asian goons.

published on 05/27/2019


REVIEW: "Late Night"



Between 1992 and 1998, over six seasons and 90 episodes, The Larry Sanders Show chronicled the backstage drama surrounding its titular late night talk show, delivering some of the best satire seen on screens big or small. What could be added to the talk show milieu that wasn’t covered in the late Garry Shandling’s signature show? Well, how about the struggles of a woman in the male dominated world of late night American comedy? Enter Tina Fey in 2006 with 30 Rock, which couldn’t sustain its quality across its subsequent seven seasons but was the funniest show on TV at its height.

published on 05/27/2019


REVIEW: "Dogman"



A decade after scoring an international breakout hit with Gomorrah (a movie that would spawn an entire mini industry of spinoff prestige TV dramas), director Matteo Garrone returns to the world of Italian crime, though in a more intimate fashion, for Dogman.

published on 04/26/2019


REVIEW: "Under The Silver Lake"



Writer/director David Robert Mitchell made his feature debut back in 2010 with the coming of age drama The Myth of the American Sleepover, but he really announced himself with his followup, 2014’s It Follows, arguably the best horror movie of the past decade. With that film, Mitchell displayed an innate understanding of what makes a horror movie tick, and most of us thought he would stay in the genre, with many putting his name forward as a potential director for the rebooted Halloween franchise. It’s a surprise then that Mitchell has confounded expectations with Under the Silver Lake, a rambling gonzo adventure that largely defies categorization. It may be his third feature, but it plays very much like a ‘difficult second album’, in this case a four-sided prog rock concept album complete with gate-fold sleeve.

published on 04/26/2019


REVIEW: "Her Smell"



I’ve never been much of a fan of rock music, so the whole indie rock scene of the ‘90s passed me by. While I can’t say I’ve warmed to the music that era produced, I do find myself looking back at that time with a more appreciative gaze. It was a particularly fertile time for female rockers, with the likes of PJ Harvey, Courtney Love, and  Tanya Donnelly channelling a female perspective into a musical genre that had previously been dominated by men and refusing to sexualize themselves in the way today’s female stars seem compelled to.

published on 03/25/2019


REVIEW: "Ash Is Purest White"



There’s a moment in Orson Welles’ The Other Side of the Wind in which a critic accuses John Huston’s veteran director Jake Hanaford of borrowing from other filmmakers. “It’s alright to borrow from one another, what we must never do is borrow from ourselves,” is his sage-like response. I’m not sure I agree with Hanaford, as filmmakers often mature by returning to themes and ideas they explored earlier in their career, developing them with newfound experience. After all, if a carpenter makes the same chair every day for a year, chances are the last chair he fashions will be be more finely crafted than the first.

published on 03/25/2019


REVIEW: "Holiday"



Now that more women are venturing into and being granted more opportunities in filmmaking than ever before, one of the joys for cinephiles is seeing fresh female takes on previously masculine dominated genres. Is there any more macho genre than the gangster drama? The milieu Swedish writer/director Isabella Eklöfhas has chosen it for her feature debut, Holiday. In gangster movies, women have generally either been relegated to background eye candy at worst or Lady Macbeth figures at best. Eklöf takes a gangster’s moll and places her front and centre in this uncompromising and provocative character study.

published on 02/23/2019


REVIEW: "Climax"



In a self-referential nod to his controversial 2002 thriller Irreversible, Gaspar Noé opens his latest mindfuck, Climax, with the film’s final scene and closing credits. We then cut to an extended Haneke-esque sequence in which the individual members of a multi-cultural French dance troupe are seen discussing their enthusiasm for an upcoming Stateside dance competition on an old boxy TV screen (the movie is set in 1996, likely to avoid the plot hassles that cellphones notoriously cause horror filmmakers). Arranged beside the TV set is a pile of VHS tapes, the spines hinting at Noé’s influences (Argento, Buñuel, Fulci, Pasolini, Zulawski). They also act as a sly warning of the horrors to come - the primary coloured slaughter of dancers (Suspiria); floors splashed with bodily secretions (Salò); a miscarriage/interpretive dance performance (Possession); a blade dragged across human flesh (Un Chien Andalou).

published on 02/23/2019




 



REVIEW: "The Wild Pear Tree"



Writer/director Nuri Bilge Ceylan follows up his 2014 Palme d’Or winner Winter Sleep with another lengthy drama set in rural Turkey. And as with his previous film, The Wild Pear Tree gives us a protagonist who considers himself the intellectual and moral superior of the residents of a town he wishes to “drop an atom bomb on.”

published on 01/23/2019


REVIEW: "Glass"



When M. Night Shyamalan followed up his breakout 1999 hit The Sixth Sense with 2000’s Unbreakable, audiences were largely unsure what to make of this slow-burning movie about finding strength in survival. Arriving just before 9/11 and the rise of the superhero movie, Unbreakable was a film ahead of its time, predicting as it did with its villain - Samuel L. Jackson’s embittered, wheelchair bound Mister Glass - the threat that would rise in the early 21st century from entitled men obsessed with books (be they comics or religious texts) and striking out at a world they believe has left them behind.

published on 01/23/2019


REVIEW: "If Beale Street Could Talk"



Outside of cinephile circles, filmmaker Barry Jenkins is perhaps best known for his role in arguably the greatest debacle in the history of the Academy Awards. On February 26th, 2017, La La Land was mistakenly announced as the Best Picture winner, only for it then to be revealed that Jenkins’ Moonlight was the actual winner.

published on 12/22/2018


REVIEW: "Cold War"



Back in 2006, German cinema scored something of a breakout global hit with Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s The Lives of Others, which followed the travails of a group of disgruntled, pro-western artists in communist era East Germany. At the time I couldn’t help view the protagonists of Von Donnersmarck’s drama as the sort of people who would be just as discontented with their lot if they found themselves living in the capitalist west. The grass is always greener on the other side.

published on 12/22/2018


REVIEW: "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald"



For better or worse (worse in this writer’s eyes), the success of the Harry Potter franchise is largely responsible for the current Hollywood landscape of endless sequels, prequels and that awful phrase “universe building.” The Potter films showed Hollywood that it was a far safer financial model to hook audiences into returning for instalments of an ongoing series rather than taking a punt on the unknown quantity of original properties.

published on 11/27/2018


REVIEW: "Shoplifters"



Earlier this year, writer/director extraordinaire Hirokazu Kore-eda surprised us with The Third Murder, a legal thriller that made for a stark departure from the sentimental family dramas he’s become known for. With his Palme d’Or winning Shoplifters, Kore-eda is back on familiar ground, but this particular family drama shares much in common with The Third Murder. With his thriller, Kore-eda deconstructed the genre, forcing us to question how willingly we place our trust in a storyteller. Similarly, Shoplifters sees Kore-eda lull his audience into a false sense of security, making us develop a warmth and affection towards people who may not warrant such empathy.

published on 11/27/2018


REVIEW: "First Man"



The image that most defines the 20th century is that of a man standing on the surface of the moon. The man is astronaut Neil Armstrong, but we can’t see his face as he’s wearing a helmet, the glass of which reflects our collective achievement back at us. When he took a small step, we all took a giant leap with him, and Armstrong instantly became more than a mere man, a symbol. With First Man, director Damien Chazelle takes us inside the famous helmet, stripping away the symbol to tell the story of Armstrong the man.

published on 10/24/2018


REVIEW: "Halloween"



In 2013, John Carpenter’s Halloween received a 35th anniversary blu-ray release. The accompanying booklet credited the following line of dialogue to Jamie Lee Curtis’s babysitting heroine Laurie Strode: “Was it the boogeyman?” Of course, that’s a misquote. In the scene in question, Laurie admits to herself that “It WAS the boogeyman,” to which Donald Pleasence’s Doctor Loomis solemnly replies, “As a matter of fact, it was.”

published on 10/24/2018


REVIEW: "Cold War"



Back in 2006, German cinema scored something of a breakout global hit with Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s The Lives of Others, which followed the travails of a group of disgruntled, pro-western artists in communist era East Germany. At the time I couldn’t help viewing the protagonists of Von Donnersmarck’s drama as the sort of people who would be just as discontented with their lot if they found themselves living in the capitalist west. The grass is always greener on the other side.

published on 09/27/2018


REVIEW: "Black 47"



In a year that has offered cinemagoers culturally distinctive takes on the western genre from countries as disparate as Australia (Sweet Country), Indonesia (Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts) and South Africa (Five Fingers for Marseille), it’s no surprise to find Irish cinema adopting the tropes of that most traditionally American of genres.

published on 09/27/2018


REVIEW: "Searching"



A few weeks ago the body of a 14-year-old schoolgirl was discovered around the corner from where I’m sitting writing this review. Within hours of the tragic discovery, two 13-year-old boys had been arrested. The police had their work simplified by a series of damning posts across social media which pointed to the guilt of the boys in question. Increasingly, when young people go missing or have their lives taken from them, police investigations are now focused more on trawling through the victim’s internet history in search of clues rather than the pavement pounding of old.

published on 08/25/2018


REVIEW: "The Children Act"



Earlier this year saw the release of On Chesil Beach, an adaptation of an Ian McEwan novel centered around a wealthy musician who can’t bring herself to have sex with her husband. Now we get The Children Act, an adaptation of an Ian McEwan novel centred around a wealthy musician who can’t bring herself to have sex with her husband. Both are scripted by the novelist himself, and both suggest McEwan should stick to the literary world.

published on 08/25/2018


REVIEW: "Skyscraper"



Over the last half century, the concept of blockbuster spectacle has flipped on its head. In the 1960s, big budget spectacle meant Steve McQueen jumping over a barbed wire fence on a motorcycle without the aid of a stunt double, or Julie Andrews screaming her lungs out on a Swiss mountainside. Science fiction was relegated to Saturday morning screenings of b-movies, which parents would use to relieve themselves of their tykes while they went shopping. George Lucas  changed all that a decade later, and now sci-fi and fantasy dominates the multiplex, while the only movies featuring practical stunts are those low budget straight to VOD action movies designed to showcase the athleticism of former MMA fighters.

published on 07/24/2018


REVIEW: "BlacKkKlansman"



Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman isn’t a remake of Ted V. Mikels’ infamous 1966 grindhouse staple. Rather it’s based on true events (“Dis joint is based on some fo’ real, fo’ real shit,” reads the title card, because Lee is apparently a 12-year-old boy), the story of how rookie cop Ron Stallworth (played here in a star-making turn from John David Washington, son of Denzel) became a member of the Ku Klux Klan in 1978, despite being an African-American.

published on 07/24/2018


REVIEW: "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom"



I recall hearing an anecdote concerning a society of pranksters in 1970s London who would take trips en masse to the cinema, only to walk out when or if the title of the movie in question was spoken by a character. That lot would get their money’s worth with Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, as it’s not until the closing minutes that a returning original cast member (in a blink and you’ll miss it cameo) informs us that we’re now living in a “Jurassic World.” It’s the sort of cringeworthy moment that would normally cause me to groan, but I was so broken down by the laziness and ineptitude of this fifth installment in the franchise that I couldn’t even muster a sigh by that late point.

published on 07/01/2018




 
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REVIEW: "Sequence Break"



One of the great under-rated horror movies of recent years is Jackson Stewart’s Beyond the Gates. Two of the stars of Stewart’s movie, Graham Skipper and Chase Williamson, reunite for Sequence Break, written and directed by Skipper and starring Williamson in the lead role. Both films make for a dove-tailing double bill of horror movies that employ the genre, and the current obsession with all things 1980s, to explore the dangers of nostalgia and seeking sanctuary in the comforts of your childhood.

published on 07/01/2018


REVIEW: How To Talk To Girls At Parties



‘Punk’s not dead, it just smells that way!” So goes the old joke at the expense of that short-lived but impactful cultural movement that captured the imaginations of teenagers in the New York and London of 1977. Fifteen minutes into John Cameron Mitchell’s adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s short story we begin to get a whiff as pungent as the rotting corpse of Sid Vicious. This, folks, is a stinker!

published on 05/26/2018


REVIEW: "On Chesil Beach"



There’s an argument to be made against novelists adapting their own work for the screen.  They might be too in love with their words and don’t understand how to turn those words into images in the manner of a conventional screenwriter. They may struggle to trim down their work to fit a two hour running time, devoting too much time to unnecessary subplots at the expense of the main narrative.

published on 05/26/2018


REVIEW: "First Reformed"



Film criticism and the priesthood have much in common. The primary function of both critics and priests is to deliver an interpretation of someone else’s text to an audience seeking guidance or enlightenment. Before he became the key screenwriter of the 1970s New American Cinema/Movie Brats movement, Paul Schrader plied his trade as a film critic, a protégé of Pauline Kael. Before that he was a student of theology. With his latest and perhaps greatest film, First Reformed, Schrader combines both his passions to deliver a movie that will provide food for thought for cinephiles and seminarians alike.

published on 04/23/2018


REVIEW: "Rampage"



Rampage is the first screen adaptation of a video game that this writer can claim to have played. Back in the day I pumped a lot of coins into its arcade version while on day trips to the seaside, before later purchasing the home version for my Commodore 64 (remember those?). It was a deliciously simple game in which the player got to play as one of three giant monsters - George, a King Kong type giant ape; Ralph, a ginormous werewolf; and Lizzie, a Godzilla stand-in - and destroy representations of American cities (for some reason Peoria, Indiana stands out in my memory). I think the appeal of Rampage for kids was its theme of destruction; kids love to break stuff, so knocking down skyscrapers appealed to our lizard brain instincts.

published on 04/23/2018


REVIEW: "Unsane"



“Your phone is your worst enemy!” So advises a cameoing Matt Damon’s cop to Claire Foy’s stalking victim in Steven Soderbergh’s Unsane. The line plays like an in-joke on Soderbergh’s part, as the film itself was shot using iPhones, not for budgetary reasons, but because the director/cinematographer, who has experimented with developing technology throughout his career, shot his thriller in relative secrecy on a tight schedule, the ease of the device allowing him to quickly transition between camera set-ups and save hours of production downtime.

published on 03/22/2018


REVIEW: "Sweet Country"



Along with its vast acres of formidable and inhospitable terrain, Australia shares a similar colonial past with the United States, with its native aboriginal population historically treated almost as badly by its white invaders as Native Americans and African slaves were by the Europeans who arrogantly claimed the land to their west for themselves. As such, Australia has proven itself the only country outside North America that can convincingly pull off westerns set in its own past.

published on 03/22/2018


REVIEW: The Endless



Moorhead and Benson isn’t an accountancy firm, as the moniker might suggest. Together, the writing/directing/acting duo of Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson have formed one of the most fascinating filmmaking forces to emerge over the last decade. The pair gained much acclaim for their second film, 2014’s Spring. A Lovecraft meets Linklater hybrid in which a young American falls for a mysterious Italian girl who is secretly a tentacled creature feeding off tourists, it’s one of the most romantic movies to ever come out of the horror genre.

published on 02/26/2018


REVIEW: Golden Exits



With its middle class New York milieu and a jazz inflected score by Keegan DeWitt, Alex Ross Perry’s Golden Exits may draw simplistic comparisons with Woody Allen, but the filmmaker whose work it evokes most is Alan Rudolph. In Rudolph’s best films - Welcome to L.A.; Remember My Name; Trouble in Mind; Choose Me - the intersecting lives of a group of people are thrown into turmoil by the arrival of an outsider.

published on 02/26/2018


REVIEW: "Phantom Thread"



Should you decide to visit your local cinema to take in a showing of Phantom Thread, Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest offbeat character study, you might want to make a bit more effort with your wardrobe than you’re accustomed to for such outings. After spending 130 minutes totally immersed in the world of 1950s high fashion, I felt like an utter rube walking out of the cinema in my jeans and hoody combo.

published on 01/23/2018


REVIEW: "The Party"



What must those modern cinemagoers who cry “SPOILER!” whenever a critic mentions the most innocuous of plot details make of movies like Sunset Boulevard, Citizen Kane or Carlito’s Way, which not only open in media res, but reveal the ultimate fate of their protagonists? I’m forced to admit myself that in the case of the aforementioned Brian de Palma gangster epic, it does seem a little pointless, and sucks much of the tension out of the film’s otherwise expertly crafted climax.

published on 01/23/2018


REVIEW: Darkest Hour



Roughly five minutes into his performance as Winston Churchill in Joe Wright’s wartime biopic, Darkest Hour, I forgot I was watching Gary Oldman. It was only about a half hour later - when a photographer’s flash captured the portly PM in a monochrome freeze frame, and Oldman’s two-fingered salute and defiant expression gave the impression that Wright had subliminally edited a frame of the actor’s turn as Sid Vicious in Alex Cox’s Sid & Nancy into his film - that I was briefly reminded I was watching an iconic actor, rather than an iconic figure. Awards season hype should always be mistrusted, but Oldman really is doing something special here, embedding himself into a subconscious history most of us never lived.

published on 12/25/2017


REVIEW: Molly’s Game



“Aren’t you Molly Bloom?” a schoolgirl asks Jessica Chastain’s eponymous entrepreneur in Molly’s Game, the directorial debut of Aaron Sorkin. That kid is a lot more clued in than I am, as prior to the trailer dropping for Sorkin’s film, I had never heard of Molly Bloom (at least, not this Molly Bloom). Maybe that’s because we have a far more liberal attitude to gambling here in Europe than our puritanical cousins across the pond. Within a two minute walk of where I’m writing this review, there are multiple outlets that will gladly allow me to gamble away my few possessions, but that’s not the case in the US, where having a few friends over for a poker night can land you in jail.

published on 12/25/2017


REVIEW: Sweet Virginia



Have you ever watched a movie and come away wishing it had focused its attention on one of its supporting characters? That’s the feeling I had after viewing director Jamie M Dagg’s Alaska set, noirish, contemporary western Sweet Virginia.

published on 11/21/2017


REVIEW: Call Me By Your Name



In a time before international travel became accessible to the masses, the cinema was the destination for those who wanted to experience foreign climes. Audiences would sit entranced by adventures set in exotic, far-off lands, even if they were blissfully unaware that they were actually watching a few ferns strategically placed in a studio backlot.

published on 11/21/2017


REVIEW: "In Between"



Adjectives like ‘brave’ and ‘daring’ are all too often thrown out in relation to filmmakers, but in the case of those attempting to make films in the Middle East, such labels are indeed appropriate. Despite being the subject of a filmmaking ban imposed by his government, Iran’s Jafar Panahi has managed to elevate his career by finding loopholes in the system that allow him to defy the authorities who seek to silence his voice. Saudi Arabia’s Haifaa al-Mansour was forced to direct her debut film Wadjda using walkie-talkies to communicate with her crew from the back of a van. Now Palestinian filmmaker Maysaloun Hamoud finds herself the subject of a fatwa thanks to her feature debut In Between.

published on 10/23/2017


REVIEW: "The Snowman"



Somehow, the internet convinced the masses that bacon is a delicious foodstuff. Come on now, it’s bacon for heaven’s sake. It’s perfectly fine, and I enjoy a good rasher as much as anyone, but seriously folks.

published on 10/23/2017


REVIEW: American Made



Breaking Bad. Narcos. Bloodline. Ozark. In recent years the small screen has hosted numerous series set in the world of the drugs trade. Aside from last year’s little seen Bryan Cranston vehicle The Infiltrator, the trend has eluded the big screen. But now we have American Made, a true life tale of the extraordinary exploits of a drug-runner at the height of Reagan’s war on drugs, and starring the planet’s most recognizable movie star.

published on 09/22/2017


REVIEW: Una



I’m beginning to think Rooney Mara has cloned herself. This year alone we’ve already seen her in Lion, The Secret Scripture, The Discovery, Song to Song and A Ghost Story, and her brief career has seen her work on four continents. Maybe her workaholic nature explains her somnambulistic acting style - she’s simply worn out. I can’t figure out if Mara is actually a good actor or not, but she’s certainly cornered the market in playing ‘damaged young women’, as is once again the case in Una, director Benedict Andrews’ adaptation of David Harrower’s controversial play Blackbird.

published on 09/22/2017


REVIEW: Clash



From a western perspective, making sense of the ever evolving politics of the Middle East can at times feel like refereeing a football match in which both sides are wearing the same colors. The governments of the west seem equally befuddled, condemning the Islamic fundamentalists of some nations while selling arms to those of another, and dropping bombs on both the terrorists and the government forces fighting them.

published on 08/22/2017


REVIEW: Logan Lucky



When Steven Soderbergh announced his ‘retirement’ in 2013, going out on the double strike of pharmaceutical thriller Side Effects and Liberace biopic Behind the Candelabra, few of us believed him. It seems spending time pottering about in the garden, in between directing his TV period medical drama The Knick, didn’t agree with the filmmaker, who makes his return to cinema screens a mere four years later with the all-star white trash heist movie (Riffraffi?) Logan Lucky.

published on 08/21/2017


REVIEW: Dunkirk



Too often, history disappears in a fog of dates. We all know the year the Battle of Hastings was fought, or when Columbus discovered the Americas, but beyond that the details aren’t so clear. We know more about WWII, chiefly because it was the first war of the media age, documented in real time by radio coverage and for posterity on film. We can counter the claims of Holocaust deniers thanks to footage shot by allied cameramen during the liberation of death camps, whereas the voices of victims of earlier campaigns of genocide are growing more silent with every passing day. And of course there are still some living among us who experienced the conflict first-hand.

published on 07/23/2017


REVIEW: After Love



We’ve seen so many dramas exploring failed relationships recently that it can seem like a crowded market; what more can be said on the subject? With After Love, Belgium’s Joachim LaFosse takes a unique approach in two distinct ways. While recent movies on this topic (Blue Valentine, The Broken Circle Breakdown) have contrasted the end of relationships with their beginnings, LaFosse’s movie begins long after things have broken down between his protagonists, pragmatic Marie (Berenice Bejo) and wastrel Boris (Cedric Kahn), and he steadfastly refuses to contextualize the end of their 15 year long partnership. There are no flashbacks. No references to prior indiscretions. No clues.

published on 07/22/2017


REVIEW: Baby Driver



Ever since James Cagney met his death to the strains of ‘I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles’ in 1931’s The Public Enemy, popular music and the crime film have gone together like ham and cheese. Filmmakers like Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, and Guy Ritchie have used the crime genre as a means of showing off their record collections, and it’s difficult to imagine their movies with traditional orchestral scores rather than soul, funk and rock cuts from the ‘60s and ‘70s.

published on 06/22/2017


REVIEW: Lady Macbeth



Anyone who falls asleep at the mention of Shakespeare can rest easy. Director William Oldroyd’s Lady Macbeth doesn’t feature Marion Cotillard mumbling her way through the bard’s text; rather it’s an adaptation of a 19th century Russian novella, Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District by Nikolai Leskov.

published on 06/22/2017




 



REVIEW: Alien: Covenant



Though it boasts a cult of stubborn supporters, Ridley Scott’s Alien prequel Prometheus is widely regarded a failure; yet another misstep in a franchise that hasn’t offered us a thoroughly satisfying installment since the 1980s. Like Rob Zombie with his Halloween reboots and George Lucas with his Star Wars prequels, Scott decided the simple concept that made the initial movies such classics wasn’t enough, and retro-fitted a mythology that explained the origins of the series’ iconic extra-terrestrial terrors. It was a backstory most of us didn’t need, nor cared for, and audiences were left checking their watches throughout, wondering when the bloody aliens might show up.

published on 05/22/2017


REVIEW: Berlin Syndrome



In her previous two films, Australian director Cate Shortland notably mined outstanding performances from then unknown young female leads - Abbie Cornish in her 2004 debut Somersault and Saskia Rosendahl in her 2012 sophomore effort Lore, the latter sadly disappearing off the scene soon after. With her third feature, an adaptation of author Melanie Joosten’s novel Berlin Syndrome, her lead is this time an established actress, Hollywood star Teresa Palmer, but with Shortland taking her to places we haven’t seen the Aussie actress venture before, it almost feels like we’re being introduced to a fresh new talent here.

published on 05/22/2017


REVIEW: The Lost City of Z



Your attitude to filmmaker James Gray probably depends on your geographical location. The French adore him, Americans are ambivalent, and in the UK and Ireland we barely know he exists, as his movies barely get released here (we’ve given up on a release of The Immigrant at this point). I’ve been largely unimpressed by his CV so far (though I’ve yet to see The Immigrant and may have to fork out for an import disc now), but his latest, The Lost City of Z had the same effect on me as Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood, a lauded filmmaker’s work finally clicking with my sensibilities.

published on 04/24/2017


REVIEW: Free Fire



After delivering one of 2016’s most disappointing releases - his adaptation of JG Ballard’s High-Rise - director Ben Wheatley makes a quick return with an equally ambitious project. But while Free Fire is an improvement on his treatment of Ballard, it’s yet another case of Wheatley biting off more than he can chew.

published on 04/24/2017


FILM REVIEW: The Transfiguration



Gritty takes on the vampire mythos are nothing new. Filmmakers like George Romero (Martin), Abel Ferrara (The Addiction) and Larry Fessenden (Habit) have given us downbeat, unromanticized movies that view vampires as victims of disease or addiction. Debut director Michael O’Shea’s The Transfiguration follows this path to some degree, but it’s not short on romance. Indeed, you’re unlikely to see a more romantic movie all year.

published on 03/25/2017


FILM REVIEW: Prevenge



Babies have long played a role in horror cinema, from the suspect infant growing inside Mia Farrow’s tummy in Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby to the killer rugrats of Larry Cohen’s It’s Alive franchise. In British actress/writer Alice Lowe’s directorial debut, Prevenge (don’t ask me for that title’s correct pronunciation), the nasty nipper hasn’t even left the comfort of the womb, and it’s already causing mayhem.

published on 03/25/2017


REVIEW: The Girl With All The Gifts



Ever since the success of 28 Days Later and Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake back in the early days of the century, we’ve been living in a cinematic zombie apocalypse. Every opportunist low budget filmmaker lacking a creative thought has turned to the zombie genre, filling the horror section of streaming sites with low-grade dross featuring the director’s extended family shambling about in pasty make-up. Mainstream cinema has tried its hand at the trope too, with the screen adaptation of Max Brooks’ cult novel World War Z proving an unexpected hit (and apparently spawning a sequel to be directed by no less than David Fincher). On TV, it seems every night there’s a zombie show broadcast on some channel or other, be it The Walking Dead, Z Nation or French import Les Revenants. At this point it seems the genre has been well and truly exhausted, and new British offering The Girl with All the Gifts has very little to add to this overcrowded market.

published on 02/23/2017


REVIEW: Raw



Imagine American Pie, if rather than using that famous pie as a sex aid, Jason Biggs had instead eaten it, taking him down an obsessive path of consumption that leads him into cannibalism. That’s a rough elevator pitch for writer-director Julia Ducournau’s astounding debut, Raw.

published on 02/22/2017


REVIEW: A United Kingdom



It’s that time of year once again; ‘Awards Season’, when a bunch of movies adapted from Wikipedia articles are strategically released to appeal to all those old voters who apparently only watch movies in the final two months of the year. Kicking off the season is Amma Asante’s highly disappointing follow-up to her impressive breakout hit Belle, A United Kingdom, which is based on the book Colour Bar by Susan Williams, but which might as well be an adaptation of the Wikipedia entries ‘Sir Seretse Khama’ and ‘Ruth Williams Khama’.

published on 01/21/2017


REVIEW: Split



Many of you will likely disagree, but M Night Shyamalan’s found footage thriller The Visit was one of last year’s finest movies, a rousing comeback for one of cinema’s most maligned filmmakers. I must confess I’m something of a Shyamalan apologist, finding something of value in even his undeniable stinkers. I even had a blast with The Happening, if only in a ‘so bad it’s great’ way. I’ve died on more hills than Tom Cruise in Edge of Tomorrow defending Shyamalan, but with his latest, Split, he’s on his own; this is indefensibly awful.

published on 01/21/2017


REVIEW: Paterson



In its poetry, paintings, songs and prose, America loves to celebrate the common man. Not so much in its cinema. In its movies, America generally prefers its heroes to be superhuman. While Springsteen, Whitman and Hopper can pay tribute to the unassuming masses who go about their daily, undramatic lives, filmmakers in the US are reticent to give us portrayals of such characters, perhaps in the misguided belief that mundanity equates to mediocrity.

published on 12/20/2016


REVIEW: A Monster Calls



There’s a moment in JA Bayona’s Spielbergian adaptation of Patrick Ness’s children’s fantasy novel, A Monster Calls, that’s as jarring as that scene in which M Night Shyamalan appears as a modern park ranger in The Village, which we had previously believed was a period movie set in the time of the pilgrims. When A Monster Calls’ protagonist, 12-year-old Conor O’Malley (Lewis MacDougall, outstanding in only his second screen role), steps on a remote control and inadvertently turns on a DVD player, it’s a shock to learn the movie is set in our present.

published on 12/20/2016


REVIEW: Fantastic Beasts and where to find them



You can thank or blame British author JK Rowling for Hollywood’s current obsession with ‘universe building’. Long before the arrival of the Marvel cinematic universe and the irritating trend of final books in various Young Adult series being split into two films, a new Harry Potter movie was hitting cinemas roughly every 18 months. With a worldwide box office total of close to $8 billion, the franchise made Hollywood sit up and take notice. Without Potter’s success, it’s unlikely we would have had Twilight, The Hunger Games and their many YA clones. And would Disney have been so keen to purchase Marvel? Unlikely.

published on 11/23/2016


REVIEW: Nocturnal Animals



Fashion designer turned filmmaker Tom Ford opens his sophomore feature, an adaptation of author Austin Wright’s 1993 novel Tony and Susan, in arresting fashion. The credits appear over a montage of naked obese women, dancing and waving American flags against a blood red background. Post credits, we discover these attention-grabbing images are being projected on the wall of a Los Angeles art gallery, while the models concerned lie naked on slabs, surrounded by cheese munching, wine swilling patrons.

published on 11/23/2016


REVIEW: "The Girl On The Train"



Following the success of David Fincher’s adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s ‘chic trash’ page-turner Gone Girl, a scramble ensued to snap up the next big adult oriented thriller, and so we have director Tate Taylor’s take on Paula Hawkins’ bestseller The Girl on the Train, which relocates the novel’s action from London to New York.

published on 10/24/2016


REVIEW: "Shin Godzilla"



Following its attack on the US in the 2014 Hollywood production, Japan’s most iconic monster returns home in Shin Godzilla (aka Godzilla: Resurgence), back to Japan, and back to Toho Studios. For their 29th Godzilla (or ‘Gojira’ as the Japanese know the creature) production, Toho hits the reset button, delivering an origin story that will kick start a new series for a new generation of monster kids.

published on 10/23/2016


REVIEW: Chronic



Tim Roth has had a career of peaks and troughs. He burst onto the scene in the UK in the early 1980s, working with such British cinema legends as Alan Clarke (Made in Britain), Mike Leigh (Meantime) and Stephen Frears (The Hit) before quietly disappearing into TV obscurity. A decade later his career was revived by a new wave of US indie filmmakers, led by Tarantino, making Roth one of the key acting figures of ‘90s cinema. The 21st century hasn’t been so kind to the actor, with roles in turkeys like Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes, Grace of Monaco, and the FIFA love-fest United Passions. In recent interviews Roth has freely admitted to taking roles purely for the money, and who can blame him? But with Mexican director Michel Franco’s Chronic, the appeal was certainly beyond the financial.

published on 09/26/2016


REVIEW: Friend Request



Last year Unfriended took a lot of jaded horror fans by surprise with its skillful and realistic use of social media, playing out its entire story on the screen of its final girl’s laptop without losing out on the ability to build tension and suspense. The same can’t be said of Friend Request, a cynical attempt to cash in on the millennial generation’s relationship with technology, and one which shows no basic understanding of said technology.

published on 09/26/2016


REVIEW: Disorder



Is there any other film industry that can claim to rival that of France when it comes to boasting an abundance of high profile female filmmakers? It could be argued that of France’s current crop of young auteurs, it’s the women - Mia Hansen Love (Eden), Rebecca Zlotowski (Grand Central), Celine Sciamma (Girlhood), Lucie Borleteau (Fidelio: Alice’s Journey) - who are producing the most interesting work. And they’ve not been marginalized either. Directors like Zlotowski and Claire Denis (Bastards) craft dark, atmospheric dramas while their Anglo-Saxon counterparts are all too often limited to generic rom-coms and biopics.

published on 08/20/2016


REVIEW: Mia Madre



You’re gonna die. Yep, despite all your best efforts to maintain a healthy lifestyle, despite waiting for the green light before you cross the road, at some point the reaper’s cold fingers will take you by the hand and lead you off to some much debated final destination. Given every one of us will experience it, the subject of death has rarely been broached in cinema. Understandably so, maybe. After all, it’s something we don’t like to be reminded of. Thankfully, Italian filmmaker Nanni Moretti likes to face the reaper head on.

published on 08/19/2016


REVIEW: Ghostbusters



The idea of a remake is always contentious. As a younger man, when such matters still bothered me, I bored anyone who would listen with my rantings of distaste at the idea of my favorite horror movie being remade by a heavy metal star. In the years since, a host of the movies I grew up on have been reworked, most badly, but guess what? The originals didn’t disappear, and mention The Fog, Assault on Precinct 13 or Dawn of the Dead, and very few would assume you’re referring to the remakes, though the latter title is a pretty great movie (whatever happened to that Snyder guy?)

published on 07/21/2016


REVIEW: Florence Foster Jenkins



Over the past year or so we’ve witnessed Jersey native, Meryl Streep, exercise not only her much lauded acting chops, but also her vocal range, belting out tunes as a witch in the screen adaptation of the hit musical Into the Woods and as an aging rocker in Jonathan Demme’s Ricki and the Flash. Now she’s giving an altogether different vocal performance in the title role of Florence Foster Jenkins, a New York socialite whose passion for music wasn’t remotely matched by her singing talents, yet managed to cut several records and play to a sell out crowd at Carnegie Hall.

published on 07/21/2016


REVIEW: Blackway



Blackway refers to the film’s antagonist, played by a never more menacing Ray Liotta. Boy is he a nasty piece of work. In the opening scene he beheads a cat belonging to waitress Lillian (Julia Stiles), whom he’s been harassing since her recent return to her childhood home, following the death of her mother. Lillian takes her case to the local Sheriff, who practically admits he’s terrified of Blackway, a former deputy himself, and refuses to go near him, advising Lillian to leave town if she knows what’s good for her. When Lillian scoffs at such a cowardly suggestion, the sheriff tells her to go to the local lumber mill and see if any of the men employed there might be willing to help her out.

published on 06/20/2016


REVIEW: Our Little Sister



When we think of comic book movies we inevitably picture slam bang Hollywood blockbusters, but two of the best of recent years have been low key, female-centric affairs - Lukas Moodysson’s We Are the Best! and now Hirokazu Koreeda’s adaptation of Akimi Yoshida’s serialised Manga Umimachi Diary.

published on 06/20/2016


Summer of Sequels, Reboots, & Familiar Names - 2016 Summer Film Preview



Some of the biggest blockbusters of the season will look very familiar to moviegoers.For a complete list of the summer films, click here for a preview from our friends at TheMovieWaffler.com

published on 05/19/2016




 



REVIEW: Alice Through The Looking Glass



Old fashioned English eccentricity meets contemporary Californian commercialism in this cynical sequel to Tim Burton’s 2010 Alice in Wonderland, a surprise smash hit that raked in over a billion dollars at the global box office. The title of this one is merely a selling point as the film dispenses almost completely with Lewis Carroll’s original work. Alice, played once more by Mia Wasikowska, does indeed cross through a looking glass, but that’s pretty much where the comparison ends.

published on 05/19/2016


REVIEW: Dheepan



If you’re after a movie about Chicago’s particular pizza style, Dheepan will disappoint. That said, if you’re expecting a film worthy of the Palme d’Or, which Jacques Audiard’s film scooped last May, you’ll probably be just as let down. Dheepan is the latest mediocre work from arguably France’s most over-rated contemporary filmmaker.

published on 05/19/2016


REVIEW: A Bigger Splash



The marketing of Luca Guadagnino’s latest film, focusing heavily on the comic antics of Ralph Fiennes’ drug-addled record producer, would have you believe A Bigger Splash is a sun-kissed romantic comedy, and for its first act, that’s largely how it plays. But A Bigger Splash is actually a remake of Jacques Deray’s 1969 erotic thriller La Piscine. Guadagnino has tried to distance himself from the earlier film, claiming his is merely ‘loosely inspired’ by Deray’s, but save for a subplot suspiciously similar to one found in the recent Italian drama Human Capital, this is essentially a straight retread of La Piscine’s plot, even carrying over the character names.

published on 04/21/2016


REVIEW: High-Rise



For those of us of a pre-millenial generation, there’s something surreal about living in the year 2016, having grown up with science fiction movies and TV shows whose timelines we’ve now long passed. Escape From New York takes place 19 years ago; the ‘future’ of Back to the Future 2 is now consigned to the past; and a Blade Runner sequel will arrive roughly a year from the events of the first film.

published on 04/20/2016


REVIEW: Green Room



Six years after his debut with Murder Party, writer-director Jeremy Saulnier returned with a vengeance with 2013’s critically acclaimed revenge drama Blue Ruin. Thankfully he hasn’t left such a long gap to give us his third feature, Green Room, which plays, in the very best sense, like a debut - it’s raw, edgy and feels like we’re watching a filmmaker ejaculating years of pent-up ideas on the screen.

published on 03/22/2016


REVIEW: Midnight Special



The American movie industry is currently obsessed with nostalgia. For mainstream Hollywood it’s all about an easy way out of risk-taking by rebooting, remaking and expanding the beloved franchises of the past; and it’s working, with Jurassic World and Star Wars: The Force Awakens dominating last year’s global box office. For a new generation of indie filmmakers it’s more about paying heartfelt tribute to the films they grew up on, and no auteur of that era has proved as influential as John Carpenter, with movies as diverse as Cold in July, It Follows, The Guest and Green Room all owing a debt to the director affectionately labelled ‘The Master Of Horror’. Of course, Carpenter worked outside the horror genre on occasion, and it’s one such venture, 1984’s Starman, that provides the inspiration for Jeff Nichols’ latest work, along with a dash of Spielberg and a touch of Stephen King’s Firestarter.

published on 03/22/2016


REVIEW: The Lobster



Single people are often viewed as untrustworthy, somewhat dodgy. If you’re a politician, it’s practically a requirement for you to be in possession of a significant other should you ever wish to run for office. People are single for two reasons; either they can’t find anyone or they bizarrely wish to be alone. If they can’t find anyone, surely there must be something seriously wrong with them, and if they consciously choose to spend their life in solitude, they must be bonkers. But singletons view the coupled with equal disdain. We’ve all had friends who disappeared into a void upon taking their vows, forbidden from leaving the house, joining in social engagements only when accompanied by an event like the baptism of a child or, heaven forbid, somebody else’s bloody wedding. And who in their right mind would want to spend eternity with one person? Yes, the single and the married enjoy outwardly cordial relations, but we secretly hold each other in contempt.

published on 02/20/2016


REVIEW: Triple 9



Ensemble crime dramas were two a penny back in the post Reservoir Dogs ‘90s, but they found themselves relegated to the straight to DVD shelf in the ‘00s. Triple 9 is a return to the sort of star-studded thrillers that arrived in the wake of Tarantino’s breakout, though thankfully the postmodern dialogue has been swept aside and replaced by a grittiness that’s at times genuinely shocking.

published on 02/20/2016


The 10 Most Intriguing Movies of 2016



If you’re a movie lover, the start of a new year is filled with excitement. What cinematic delights will come your way over the next 12 months? How will your top 10 list shape up come December? We’ve been spoiled over the last three or so years with American independent and world cinema experiencing a healthy renaissance, and this looks set to continue in 2016. Here are the 10 upcoming movies that have most caught our attention.

published on 01/22/2016


REVIEW: Rabid Dogs



There was a time when every successful French movie seemed to receive an English language remake, but in recent years we’ve seen Francophone filmmakers remake cult movies from other territories, with Franck Khalfoun and Jacques Audiard adapting William Lustig’s Maniac and James Toback’s Fingers respectively. Now Eric Hannezo (a producer turned director who I’m assuming is French; apologies to Quebecois readers if he’s one of your own) delivers a remake of Mario Bava’s gritty 1974 Italian crime thriller Rabid Dogs.

published on 01/21/2016


Top 10 Films of 2015



Overall, 2015 didn’t quite hold up to the standards set by recent years, but while there was an awful lot of mediocrity to endure, the year’s top films are as good as any past year. Here are the 10 that most impressed me.

published on 12/22/2015


REVIEW: Sisters



While there’s a drought of talented male comic performers in contemporary American cinema, their female counterparts have risen to the fore, with the likes of Lake Bell, Julia Louis Dreyfuss and Jenny Slate winning accolades for their recent turns in a slew of impressive indies. In the mainstream we have the duo of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, now as famous for their Golden Globe hosting gigs as for their long running TV sitcoms 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation. Fey and Poehler’s small screen success has thus far failed to translate to the multiplex, and Sisters is yet another waste of their talents.

published on 12/22/2015


REVIEW: Life



Over the past few years we’ve seen the emergence of a curious new sub-genre of films in which Ordinary Joes find themselves in the company of talented but troubled celebrities - Marilyn Monroe in My Week With Marilyn, Dylan Thomas in Set Fire to the Stars and David Foster Wallace in The End of the Tour. Anton Corbijn’s Life is the most interesting entry in this minor movement, possibly because its subject hasn’t yet reached his cult status at the time the movie takes place.

published on 11/21/2015


REVIEW: Legend



Given how a substantial portion of the British film industry has subsisted on London set gangster flicks over the past couple of decades (you can blame Guy Ritchie for the trend), it’s remarkable that the city’s most famous real-life mobsters, the Kray twins, haven’t found their exploits mined by countless low budget filmmakers. It’s 25 years since Peter Medak’s take on the subject, 1990’s The Krays, which cast pop-star brothers Gary and Martin Kemp as the title duo. Brian Helgeland’s Legend takes the next logical casting step, dropping Tom Hardy into both roles.

published on 11/21/2015


Every HALLOWEEN Film Reviewed!



One of the classic horror film franchises is Halloween. Eric Hillis takes a look at each film from the classic debut in 1978 to the most recent installment in 2009. Along the way, you get a sense of how the story has evolved (and how the quality has devolved at times) along with a look at the original film trailers for each film. It's a fascinating look at the Michael Myers story...

published on 10/21/2015


FILM REVIEW: Crimson Peak



The gothic horror genre has struggled to survive in recent years as it’s assumed that modern audiences lack the patience to invest in the sort of drama that’s based on mood and atmosphere rather than jump scares and gore. The revitalised Hammer Films, once the natural home of gothic, have only returned to their roots twice, for an adaptation of The Woman in Black and its sequel, but neither film came close to recreating the studio’s glory days.

published on 10/19/2015


FILM REVIEW: The Visit



If you’re a regular reader, you’ll no doubt be as sick of my moaning about found footage horror movies as we are of watching the damn things. At this point, reviews of found footage flicks pretty much write themselves, thanks to the frequent employment of the aesthetic as little more than a gimmick, an all too convenient way of covering up a filmmaker’s lack of creativity. It’s rare that established filmmakers take on the sub genre, with Barry Levinson and George A. Romero two notable exceptions, but now we have M. Night Shyamalan, possibly the most derided director working in mainstream film today, giving it a shot. And it’s a success; his finest creation since The Sixth Sense earned him a reputation he’s struggled to live up to since.

published on 09/21/2015


FILM REVIEW: Everest



If you plan to go see Everest, it may be best to leave at the point where its protagonists reach the summit of the titular mountain, as it’s all downhill after that. Apologies for making such a crude joke, but this really is the case. Everest is a movie of two halves - one an involving and inspiring tale of human triumph, the other a dull, by the numbers disaster flick.

published on 09/20/2015


REVIEW: Mistress America



With his last movie, While We’re Young, barely out of cinemas, we already have Noah Baumbach’s latest effort, yet another New York set comedy drama that owes more than a little to Woody Allen. Though I enjoyed While We’re Young, I expressed my disappointment at the sidelining of the characters played by Naomi Watts and Amanda Seyfried, who amounted to little more than convenient plot devices designed to cause conflict between the film’s male protagonists. No such accusations can be levelled at Baumbach’s rapidly turned around Mistress America; the ladies are front and center here, with Baumbach’s other half Greta Gerwig sharing writing duties.

published on 08/20/2015


REVIEW: The Man From U.N.C.L.E.



Star Trek. The Fugitive. The Twilight Zone. The Prisoner. The Outer Limits. Anyone old enough to even catch the ‘90s reruns of these shows will tell you the ‘60s was the true golden age of TV. Add into the mix The Man from UNCLE, initially devised as a small screen James Bond cash-in but eventually finding its own groove and becoming one of the decade’s most memorable shows. Several attempts have been made to bring UNCLE to the big screen, with names like Tom Cruise, Quentin Tarantino and Steven Soderbergh previously attached, and now it’s finally found its way to the multiplex under the direction of Guy Ritchie, who also shares a co-writing credit with Lionel Wigram.

published on 08/20/2015


REVIEW: Mr. Holmes



Thanks to the Guy Ritchie movies and the contemporary set BBC series, Sherlock Holmes, arguably the most well known fictional character of all time, is once again occupying a prominent position in pop culture. Based on Mitch Cullin’s 2005 novel A Slight Trick of the Mind, Bill Condon’s reteaming with his Gods and Monsters star Ian McKellen has little in common with either of the aforementioned franchises.

published on 07/18/2015


REVIEW: Ant-Man



Here we go again for yet another spin on the Marvel merry-go-round. I had been tempted to post this review in a font size so small you would have required a microscope to read it, but figured that would be taking a joke too far. Marvel, on the other hand, seems to be pulling a size related gag of its own by shooting this latest movie in a manner far more befitting the small screen.

published on 07/18/2015


REVIEW: Jurassic World



"Jake Johnson, clad in an original Jurassic Park t-shirt, riffs about how he preferred the old version of the park. It's as though the movie knows it's a pale shadow of the original, and it's correct in believing so.”

published on 06/16/2015


REVIEW: Big Game



"While it has its share of one-liners and amusing beats, Big Game plays its premise with a commendably straight face, and a beating heart. Alongside the thunderous set-pieces we're treated to moments of sweetness between the film's unlikely heroic duo.”

published on 06/16/2015


REVIEW: Good Kill



Kiwi writer-director Andrew Niccol has spent most of his creative career in the realm of speculative sci-fi. Early works like Gattaca and The Truman Show won Niccol plaudits but since then he’s struggled, delivering a series of mediocre (In Time, Simone) to downright awful (The Host) sci-fi flicks that failed to live up to their high concepts. With Good Kill he swaps future dystopia for that of the present (or at least 2010), exploring the controversial issue of the US military’s increasing use of unmanned drones.

published on 05/20/2015


REVIEW - Mad Max: Fury Road



The patch on the back of that raggedy denim jacket you wore in the mid-80s is brought to glorious life in George Miller’s fourth visit to the post-apocalyptic environs of his cult franchise. An AC/DC concert on wheels, Mad Max: Fury Road may not live up to the first part of its title (the title character barely registers and is far from mad, though was he ever really?), but it’s certainly a furious road trip, one a certain other vehicular based blockbuster franchise would do well to study.

published on 05/20/2015


REVIEW: The Water Diviner



Antipodean cinema’s biggest star, Russell Crowe, makes his feature directorial debut in ambitious style with an epic that, though wrought from an original screenplay from Andrews Anastasios and Knight, bears the hallmarks of a filmic adaptation of some much loved ‘Great Australian Novel’. It’s not the movie you might expect from a first time actor turned megaphone wielder, though Crowe may have been chiefly attracted to a scene in which his character saves the day by clobbering a villain with a cricket bat; an iconic image of Aussie heroism if ever there was one.

published on 04/20/2015


REVIEW: Hyena



For a long time, the phrase ‘British crime thriller’ has been associated with a slew of third rate ‘mockney’ geezer flicks that glamourise the criminal lifestyle. In recent years we’ve seen a new wave of British crime thrillers focus their attention on the other side of the law. James McAvoy has played dodgy cops in two of them - Filth and Welcome to the Punch - while Ray Winstone essayed another maverick bobby in the big screen reboot of ‘70s TV drama The Sweeney. The latest in this trend, Hyena, comes from writer-director Gerard Johnson and leading man Peter Ferdinando, the duo who gave us 2009’s Tony, an impressive low budget outing focussed on a socially awkward serial killer and his working class London backdrop.

published on 04/20/2015


REVIEW: While We’re Young



Movie stars - they just can’t age gracefully can they? Despite being in his fifties, Tom Cruise insists on dangling off the world’s tallest buildings without the aid of special effects, while at a full decade older, the likes of Neeson and Stallone continue to get into fist fights with screen villains young enough to be their children. It’s no different for the women either, with Monica Belluci about to become the first Bond Girl older than the actor playing Bond himself. Writer-director Noah Baumbach, along with good sports Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts, two stars who know a thing or two about playing younger, tackle the extended midlife crisis full on in While We’re Young, poking fun at their own careers in the process.

published on 03/19/2015


REVIEW: Ex Machina



Domhnall Gleeson and Oscar Isaac are set to become household names when Star Wars: The Force Awakens rolls into town in December, but before then the pair can be seen in Ex Machina, a far more esoteric brand of sci-fi.

published on 03/19/2015


REVIEW: Maps To The Stars



It's now 26 years since David Cronenberg made his last horror movie, Dead Ringers. In the intervening years he's moved further away from that genre, and as a result his best work is fading into the past. Maps to the Stars isn't a return to the horror genre, though its characters are as horrific as they come, but it is a return to form as the Canadian director's best work since that 1988 film.

published on 02/22/2015


REVIEW: '71



In the past, screen depictions of Northern Ireland's 'Troubles' have veered very much on the 'film' side. Yann Demange's thriller, however, is unashamedly a 'movie', which may point to how much progress has been made in that previously turbulent part of the world.

published on 02/22/2015


FILM REVIEW: Black Sea



In the late 50s, Hollywood studios, terrified of the burgeoning threat of TV, began to focus their attention on mega budget, epic spectacles. This left a gap in the market that was filled to a large degree by independent British productions like the horror films of Hammer. Forward to 2014 and we're seeing a similar situation, with Hollywood once again attempting to compete with TV by producing movies with insanely large budgets, while showing a reticence to fund lower budgeted genre movies. With Hammer reborn, it seems it may be time once again for the British film industry to step up and give us the sort of movies Hollywood is no longer interested in offering.

published on 01/18/2015


FILM REVIEW: American Sniper



The phrase 'journeyman director' usually carries negative connotations, but many of cinema's finest artists could be labelled in such a way, simply for not making the same movie over and over. Clint Eastwood is one of the best journeymen we have today. Few directors could follow up Jersey Boys with American Sniper in the space of a year at the age of 84. Where he found the energy to put together a film as ambitious as his latest is baffling to this reviewer, who at less than half Eastwood's age gets tired tying his own laces.

published on 01/18/2015


Film Review: The Woman In Black: Angel Of Death



The woman in black is back. Back in black I guess. Hammer's 2012 adaptation of Susan Hill's cult novel was a massive hit for the resurrected studio, so it's no surprise that a sequel was ordered. Old Hammer of course made their name from their classic franchises - Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy etc - and now New Hammer have their first franchise of their own. Sadly, apart from a terrific fog-shrouded location, The Woman in Black: Angel of Death throws very few bones to fans of the iconic studio's classic gothic horrors.

published on 12/19/2014


Film Review: Winter Sleep



It's at this time of year that we usually get the chance to finally see all those movies we got so excited about during the Cannes Film Festival back in May. Turkish auteur Nuri Bilge Ceylan's Winter Sleep arrives carrying the boast of being this year's Palme d'Or winner, something that can often be a burden on a film, as many past winners have failed to live up to the hype generated in those sunny weeks of May. Ceylan's latest work probably isn't the best movie to have featured in this year's competition, but it certainly doesn't disappoint.

published on 12/19/2014


FILM REVIEW: The Babadook



"If it's in a word or it's in a look, you can't get rid of The Babadook!" That's the portentous line that spells terror for a single mother and her troubled son in Jennifer Kent's Antipodean horror, which has been gathering rave reviews across the global festival circuit. Kent's feature debut is an expansion of her 2005 short, Monster, and while it has its flaws, The Babadook is a highly accomplished debut, one that marks Kent as a fresh talent worth watching.

published on 11/21/2014


Film Review: The Imitation Game



In this, the centennial year of the outbreak of World War I, it's odd that we're receiving a raft of movies set not during that conflict, but rather its bigger budgeted, more effects driven 1939 sequel. Snuggled in between the Brad Pitt tank drama Fury and his wife's POW drama Unbroken, comes The Imitation Game, which details the ground-breaking work of British mathematician Alan Turing in cracking the Nazi's 'Enigma' system of relaying coded messages, and his subsequent conviction on indecency charges (Turing was a homosexual at a time when sodomy was still outlawed in the UK) in the early 50s.

published on 11/21/2014


Film Review: The Judge



Back in the 90s, the courtroom thriller saw a revival, thanks mainly in part to the popularity of the novels of John Grisham. Adaptations of Grisham's work flooded the market for a few years, but despite directorial heavyweights like Francis Ford Coppola and Robert Altman lending their talents, none of these films rose above mediocrity, and lent themselves all too comfortably to parody (Think TV sitcom 30 Rock's 'The Rural Juror'). Two decades on, The Judge feels almost like a postmodern take on the genre. It hits every cliched note, but asks us to forgive it for doing so by winking at the audience. But acknowledging that you're giving us nothing we haven't seen before doesn't hide the fact that you're giving us nothing we haven't seen before.

published on 10/19/2014


Film Review: Nightcrawler



If Rupert Pupkin and Travis Bickle, the demented characters essayed by Robert DeNiro in King of Comedy and Taxi Driver, raised a son, he might grow up to be something like Lou Bloom, the sociopath portrayed with a chilling zeal by Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler, the stunning directorial debut of screenwriter Dan Gilroy.

published on 10/19/2014


Film Review: The Guest



All too often we see a filmmaker show great promise in their early work, only to witness them continue to eke out a career that never fulfils that potential. Over the past decade Adam Wingard has been making enjoyable but ultimately forgettable genre movies, leading us to believe he would never break through the glass ceiling and deliver something that can't be so easily dismissed. It's with great pleasure I can report that Wingard has well and truly shattered that ceiling, leaving us doubters to pick shards of glass out of our cynical hides.

published on 09/20/2014


FILM REVIEW: The Expendables 3



Barney Ross (Stallone) and his team of crack mercenaries break a former member of their crew, Doctor Death (Snipes), out of a middle-eastern prison before embarking on a mission to take down the arms dealer who has been supplying a Somali warlord. Turns out said arms dealer is no less than Conrad Stonebanks (Gibson), a former Expendable himself who had previously been presumed dead. When Stonebanks escapes, Ross disbands his crew and recruits a fresh bunch of young grunts to hunt the traitor down.

published on 08/18/2014


FILM REVIEW: What If



Newly single Wallace (Daniel Radcliffe) meets Chantry (Zoe Kazan) at a friend's party and the two instantly form a connection. Chantry gives Wallace her phone number but lets him know she has a boyfriend and is only interested in a platonic relationship. Wallace claims to be fine with this arrangement, but immediately begins a campaign to split up Chantry and her boyfriend (Rafe Spall).

published on 08/18/2014


FILM REVIEW: Boyhood



We're introduced to Mason (Coltrane) at the age of six, living in Texas with his mother Olivia (Arquette) and sister Samantha (Linklater, director Richard's daughter). Over the course of the film we follow his development for a period of 12 years.

published on 07/18/2014


FILM REVIEW: Grand Central



Aimlessly drifting from one job to the next, Gary (Rahim) finds himself employed as part of a decontamination crew, undertaking hazardous work in nuclear power plants around France. When seemingly promiscuous co-worker Krole (Seydoux), the fiance of fellow crew member Toni (Ménochet), takes him for a quick fumble in the grass, Gary is instantly besotted, and the two conduct an affair. After an accident at work leaves Gary contaminated with a dangerous level of radiation, he fakes his health status so as to avoid being laid off and continue his affair.

published on 07/18/2014




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