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20 reviews in total 
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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
O God! O Jesus Christ!, 22 September 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I don't understand what the matter was with Nicolas Cage when he picked Neil LaBute to make this, because the result manages to fumble EVERY SINGLE ASPECT of what made the original film great.

Amazingly, it seems to be a peculiar hybrid of Hollywoodised rubbish and LaBute's usual anti-female ranting. It starts out establishing that Cage's Edward Malus (a name no-one in the film pronounces properly) has "issues", and when he gets to the pointlessly retitled Summersisle (not, unfortunately, pronounced "summer sizzle"), the local act in such arch, melodramatic and generally suspicious manner as to make K9 & Company look subtle.

The dialogue is so bad that people were openly laughing at the screen, and there were what appeared to be some very poorly-judged attempts at humour which may have been unintentional. Changing the original's Pagan-but-modern society into a bizarre quasi-Amish matriarchy doesn't work, and merely shows up LaBute typical apparent hatred of women, as the all-female conspiracy to trap and kill the only independent man on the island is revealed. "Look out!", LaBute is shouting, "the women are all out to get you and sap your masculine power!" I find it incredible that the subtlety, intelligence and wit of the original could have been totally excised from the script and direction, but with a talentless cretin like Neil LaBute in charge, it should be no surprise that this is as insulting, ugly, obvious and misogynistic as it is.

It is by far the worst film I have seen since Revolver, and that really stank.

Some Day My Prints Will Come (SPOILERS), 26 August 2002

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Sy Parrish is a quiet, introverted technician at a busy photo lab. For the past decade he has been developing the pictures for an ordinary family, and, with the passing of time, he has gradually become obsessed with becoming a permanent part of their lives...

I had been looking forward to seeing this film. A change of direction is exactly what Robin Williams needs to maintain his creative vitality, and having seen documentaries about his work in music videos, I greatly anticipated seeing a feature film directed by Mark Romanek.

The opening act is carefully judged and virtually note-perfect. Parrish is shown as pedantic about creating the finest set of prints possible, this care and attention being balanced by his lonely existence. He eats, and lives, alone, and Romanek provides the natural ending to this segment with a long shot of Sy sitting in his near-empty apartment watching television, with the wall behind him covered in duplicate prints of the Yorkin family's pictures.

The acting is excellent across the board. Advance reviews from Sundance had championed Williams, and rightly so: it's far and away the best "straight" performance he's ever delivered, streets ahead of the monotonous, sentimental goo he is normally required to emote. Nielson and Vartan are both good as the unwitting objects of Sy's psychosis, although Eriq La Salle appears still to be playing Dr. Peter Benton, his character in ER, failing to show sufficient distance to make Det. Van Der Zee a person rather than a plot convenience. Gary Cole is such obvious casting as Sy's boss, store manager Bill Owens, that somehow he feels entirely wrong in the part. It's as though the casting director's imagination was entirely sapped by putting Williams in the lead.

The direction is atmospheric, and the photography elegant. Other than Sy's blood-soaked, yet antiseptic nightmare, one shot that in particular stayed in my mind was of Sy walking to his car, bathed in the sodium yellow of a street lamp. Heil and Klimek's music is subtle in how it evokes fear and unease without intruding on the audience's concentration. But the script is something else entirely.

The film's ending was far too neat for my taste, given the build-up it had been given. Maya and Will did not seem sufficiently traumatised by their ordeal for it to have any lasting impact on themselves, their families or the viewers. The most disappointing aspect of Romanek's clever script was the final revelation that Sy had been abused and photographed as a child. This simple safety valve was so formulaic that it almost negated the originality of the rest of the film. Could Sy not have been driven insane by his years of isolation, solitude and looking at the pictures of others' happy times? This conceit drove the film from brave, virgin territory almost into the path of the mainstream and should have been more clearly thought out.

One Hour Photo realises most of it's potential, and it is certainly one of the best films I have seen this year. I just feel annoyed that a film so bold and original could have such a contrived final twist. Had Sy's quiet madness been the result of living a nothing life, many of us in the audience might be left asking: what if it happened to the people we know? What if it happened to us?

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Is That It? [contains spoilers], 27 October 2000

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

No-one can deny that The Blair Witch Project was the most ground-breaking film of last year. When it turned an extremely healthy profit someone in a suit decided that a sequel would be good business. So it was with some trepidation that I sat down in a south London cinema yesterday evening to see possibly the first public showing of this film in the UK. I should have stayed at home.

The basic story is simple. The Blair Witch Project has been a massive success, and the town of Burkittsville is overrun with obsessive fans. Jeff, who has recently been released from a mental institution, has set up the Blair Witch Hunt, which offers tourists the chance to see where the movie was made. But after a night of camping, Jeff and his four customers cannot remember the events of the previous night, so they decamp to his home, an abandoned warehouse, to study the footage that was shot the day before...

The premise of basing the movie on the hype of the first film is really the only sensible alley that a sequel could have taken, but writer/director Joe Berlinger manages to stuff it up at the first corner. "I was in the hospital when it came out", says Jeff of the first film, so we are subjected to laughable scenes of him a rubber room, complete with window and radiator, and of him having milk poured up his nose. Things don't improve. Throughout the film we are subjected to mono-dimensional characters, right from our alleged heroes to townspeople so unpleasant it makes Royston Vasey look like Hi-De-Hi. The words they speak seem to be coming off the tops of their heads, and the script as a whole is so poor I wouldn't use it to line a cat litter tray.

As director of the acclaimed documentary Paradise Lost, Berlinger should at least make things look interesting. He doesn't. He fails to inspire any kind of tension, and it's worth noting that he employs a device [interspersing videoed footage with people talking about it] that Myrick and Sanchez rejected the first time round. The performances are workmanlike at best, with the five leads giving it their best shot. The worst actor here though, must be the sheriff [whose name isn't listed at the time of writing]: a gruff stereotype who adds virtually nothing to the plot.

I do hope the young actors find better roles, but they can't really do any worse. A cack-handed shaggy dog story filled with plot holes [Who is Erica really? Why did the Witch possess Tristine in particular? What the hell is the Book Of Shadows??] is not the best way to start a career. But I am left wondering why Artisan are releasing the film worldwide simultaneously? It couldn't be because they want to avoid bad word of mouth, surely? At the end of the day, The Blair Witch Project was a truly unique event, and Book Of Shadows is nothing more than an ordinary horror film, and not a very good one. Don't even think about paying to see this rubbish.

Pushing To The Nth, 16 August 2000

Originally I dismissed the Dogme95 manifesto as arty pretentiousness. This was the wrong decision. With Dogme 1- Festen, a harrowing yet realistic story is told.

As a family convene for it's patriarch 60th birthday, the eldest son decides to share a secret with the guests, little realising the effect this will have. So far, so normal. But it is the execution of this story that is so impressive. Vinterberg pushes the rules of Dogme to its limits e.g hand-held cameras only, so he ties one to a boom. The story, of how people refuse to acknowledge parents abusing their children and how people will move to the crowd (everyone starting to sing the Little Black Sambo song) is portrayed brilliantly, particularly by Ulrich Thomsen, whose introverted performance is the highlight, along with the amazing near-death-experience/dream.

The concept of Dogme95, telling realistic stories realistically, is a masterstroke, and this film is the benchmark for experimental filmmaking. I greatly look forward to seeing Idiotern, Mifune and The King Is Alive if they possess this film's sheer genius, insight and admirable lack of respect for convention.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
What's That Whirring Sound?, 16 August 2000

Updating the plays of Shakespeare has occupied the minds of many filmmakers, but it is a good idea to try to occupy the minds of the audience as well. Baz Luhrmann's loud, brash and irritating adaptation is possibly the most pathetic attempt at updating the Bard I can remember. How do I hate thee? Let me count the ways...

The basic setting doesn't really work beyond the most surface level, although using a newscaster as a narrator is a good idea. The casting is utterly bizarre, with Danes displaying all the talent of a jar of water, Postlethwaite miscast as a priest, and Margolyes overacting horribly. The decision to make Mercutio a drag queen make so little sense that I wonder if I'm still watching a 16th century play, and the whole enterprise is horrendously overdirected. The cross motif gets so out of hand that by the end we have a gross of them in a single shot, the storm is an unoriginal device, and is badly matted, as are the shots of family names on the tops of buildings.

I can't begin to imagine why so many people like this film, although at least they are getting more out of it then I am. If you want a good Shakespeare update, try Richard III (1995). As for this, I wasted two hours of my life, which I'm not getting back, on a film that disappears up it's own backside faster than a jet-propelled enema.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Why Are You Watching This?, 8 March 2000

Unlike my other reviews that have been about the films themselves, this will describe the effect it had on me. Just to clarify, I am an 18-year-old Brit who has seen more than his fair share of violent films, and I thought I could take the content of this one.

When I noticed in a listing magazine that Funny Games was being shown, I looked forward to it. I had heard that it was a film about the corrosive nature of movie violence, and contained many unpleasant sequences. This is, of course, the other reason I wanted to see it, the reason I did not admit to myself: I wanted to see the violence.

As I was watching the film, I found some of the scenes unpleasant, and understood and agreed with the moral subtext. I wondered in my mind during the commercial breaks who would play the leads in an American remake of the film. It was only towards the end that it occured to me that no-one was going to survive, and that my boredom during long, uneventful shots was partly because I wanted something violent to occur. As the deafening thrash metal played over the end credits, and Paul's empty smile gazed at me, it finally dawned on me what was happening. I did not find the violence in Funny Games repulsive because I have myself become desensitized to it. That is the genius of Haneke. If you decide to walk out of the cinema/turn off your TV/press stop on your VCR, you will have lost the game of Chicken that not only Haneke, but also Peter and Paul are playing with you. You will probably get out unscathed and you will know your limits. If you decide to stay to the end, you win the game, but at what cost? If, like me, you did find such suffering and humiliation intolerable, is that not more disturbing than any violent act you can possibly imagine?

That night, I couldn't sleep.

Anarchy In The US, 16 February 2000

Kevin Spacey plays Lester Burnham, a man who wakes up one morning to discover he has been in an emotional coma for the last 20 years. That evening he attends a high school basketball game, where he meets his daughter's jailbait best friend Angela (Mena Suvari). She inspires Lester to return to his youthful vigour and completely reinvent his life. This forces his family and neighbours to reinvent their lives. As events become more and more convoluted, Lester finds himself less and less in control of his life...

This film has already been hailed as the greatest of all time even over the likes of Citizen Kane and The Godfather. But is all this praise deserved? Well I certainly think it is. Director Sam Mendes and screenwriter Alan Ball both make their feature debuts: Ball used to write sitcoms, while Mendes is an acclaimed theatre director, whose most recent success was last year's The Blue Room. Mendes is also British and lends an outsider's viewpoint to Ball's very American story. It portrays each participant as both a caricature and a human being, something great comedy writers excell in doing.

I am running out of adjectives to describe Kevin Spacey's greatness, but now "funny" can be added to the heap. The film's comedy takes almost every form, from traditional (Lester picks up his briefcase and the contents fall out), to wit ("Today I blackmailed my boss for $60,000. Pass the asparagus"), to farce (Lester's neighbour thinks he is paying his son for sex, rather than dope) to very dark satire. The entire cast is outstanding in fact, but the best performance is Chris Cooper's as the afore-mentioned psychotic neighbour, who violently beats his son.

It takes some time after the film to digest everything that has occured and work out what it means. The script shares major similarities with Fight Club (a man rejecting upper-middle-class to violently rediscover himself) and 70's British sitcom The Fall And Rise Of Reginald Perrin, which has an almost identical story, several hundred shades lighter, and is a source Mendes himself acknowleges. But whereas Fight Club is about being human, American Beauty is about being as human as possible. It shows that we can learn about ourselves, that we all have hidden depths. Sometimes they are exposed, sometimes repressed, some are constructive, some destructive. But we must never be afraid of them. They make us what we are, who we are.

So what, other than a film, is American Beauty? A comedy, a tragedy, a drama, a murder-mystery, a social comment, a psychological comment... But it is one thing above all others. It shows that we don't really know who we are, and that we really ought to find out. It is a state of mind.

Raw Meat (1972)
1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Everything But The Kitchen Sink, 15 October 1999

The plot of this film is really extremely simple: something with a taste for human flesh is stalking the Piccadilly Line. This is an accurate summary of the contents of the movie, but there is more than just the sum of the parts.

Pleasance's odd, jocular turn pre-dates Anthony Hopkins' similar performance in Bram Stoker's Dracula by 20 years, and many of the other actors give career-best efforts.

The outstanding player in the film is, however, Hugh Armstrong. His quiet, dignified, yet randomly violent portrayal is eerily convincing, and his cries during the chase at the films climax add to the nerve-jangling atmosphere.

In conclusion, this film is triumph of wit, imagination, style, and satire, and must surely count among the all-time horror movie greats. By the way, please stay in your seats until the train has come to a complete halt.

The Matrix (1999)
Living In A Box, 30 September 1999

Having already gone down a storm in the United States, this sci-fi thriller finally arrives on British shores. Keanu Reeves plays Thomas Anderson, by day an ordinary program writer, but by night a computer hacker with the alias of "Neo". He comes into contact with legendary female hacker Trinity, who tells him that the search is almost over. But the search for what? Why is Neo being chased by less-than friendly Men In Black? And just what is The Matrix?

Although criticism might seems irrelevant in the face of such a box office steamroller, there is more to be had here than simple special effects. The script evokes memories of Ridley Scott's classic Blade Runner, but the question here is not "What is human?", but "What is real?". The ideas that the screenplay contains, such the attractiveness of the "mink-lined prison" that is The Matrix, enhance a film already attention-grabbing through it's visuals.

And what visuals they are. Innovations in technology allow us to fly around kung-fu fights while time appears to stop, thanks to the creation of bullet-time photography. The direction is also superb, alternating between the depths of a future earth and an anonymous city of the present (in reality, Sydney Australia). The otherworldly feel of the movie is perfectly in tune with the twisted nature of the worlds on display.

Reeves is ideal casting as a man trying to comprehend his existence, and in fact the whole cast is seamlessly chosen. Particular praise must to Hugo Weaving as the sinister Agent Smith. Rarely has a villain been so magnetic on screen. This, combined with the film's best lines delivered in an American-Australian hybrid accent, results in easily the best performance in any film I have seen this year.

There is literally something for everyone in this film: intelligent scripting, outstanding images and note-perfect acting. So what if the ending is at best opaque. What we have here is an instant classic, never setting a foot wrong, and giving us the most unique science fiction film since Blade Runner.

P.S. This review earned me a nomination of Young Film Critic Of The Year. I just thought I'd tell you

What Are Little Girls Made From?, 14 May 1999

Allegedly the scariest film ever made, this head-turning, projectile-vomiting extravaganza had another outing in British cinemas to celebrate its 25th year. The story is very simple: in present-day Washington D. C. an 11-year-old girl is possessed by an entity that claims to be the devil himself. When her atheist mother exhausts all medical possibilities, she turns in desperation to a Jesuit priest.

The first thing that ages in films is the special effects, but in this example some have aged faster than others. The sight of the girl, Regan, being thrown around her bed by invisible forces made some other people in the audience laugh, but the make-up effects, such as the afore-mentioned projectile vomiting and a genuinely shocking scene involving a crucifix, are as fresh now as they were then. The film is also too long, with endless shots of nothing happening deflating the tension that has been built up so painstakingly. The direction itself is assured to the degree of virtuosity (Friedkin had just won an Oscar), and the script is true to its source novel, since the same person wrote them. The finest performance of the film comes from Miller, brilliant as the anguished priest of faltering faith who finds new purpose in saving the soul of the young girl. Blair is also impressive, although the "Voice of the Demon" is provided by one Mercedes McCambridge, having to act in such an entirely evil way would certainly have an effect on an ordinary prepubescent, but she handles it all with enormous talent, properly earning her Oscar nomination.

On the whole though, the whole thing is somewhat unsatisfactory. I didn't find it at all scary, though occasionally thrilling, but my fatal error was reading up about the film before seeing it, as knowing the intricacies of how the subtexts and directorial tricks all work detracted from the film itself. Just as films are supposed to desensitise people to violence, I was desensitised to this film's intelligence, thought, shocks and originality.

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