Reviews written by registered user
Rich B

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285 reviews in total 
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Wolf Creek (2005)
27 out of 54 people found the following review useful:
Superb horror and terror, but harmed by the "true story" aspect, 10 September 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This carries a tagline of Based on true events, and this concerns me. I think it's that word based, and then seeing how much of the movie is actually real, and the thing that makes the movie better in your mind is more the fact that you're considering what you are seeing is really what happened, when it is often not.

This movie really pushes that statement to the outer limits of reasonable interpretation, and relies heavily on the effect the audience's mind will have on them while watching the movie and associating everything with real life. What's even more interesting is that it really does work.The movie really has a few sections, there's the introduction to the characters and their lives, then there's the suspenseful thriller, followed by the Texas Chainsaw Massacre (original) moments, and finally the "based on a true story" wrap up, and actually it combines these really well into an escalation of terror.

We're introduced to the three travellers and have time to understand who they are, their relationships with each other, their friends and lifestyles and where they're going in the movie, seems somewhat elongated. Watching it I definitely got the feeling that it was taking too long, however what was happening was we were building an affinity with the characters and making a bond. This worked much better than other movies I've seen of late like Open Water where the introductions to the characters are scant and give you the bear facts without any real connections, so that during the movie when the scares should be kicking into gear you're shaking your head at their annoyance and idiocy.

That leads me to the dialogue and the style, both of which are pretty realistic. It switches from a documentary to a drama really well, and it's this early documentary feel that helps bring that believability to it, over the "true story" statement.

Although for the most part the dialogue is pretty real and natural, there are some moments where you're left wondering why no one is saying anything, it's more like an improvisation that's run out of ideas rather than a natural break in conversation. There's also a few moments of clunky dialogue that trip over themselves and it slaps you in the face to remind you that you're out of the movie.

Slowly, the mood of the movie changes, and the tension and suspense begin to build. This is done really effectively in a series of scenes, and at the point where terror takes over I was surprised at how much I was on edge.

There are two really effective scenes that manage to throw your suspense around. The first was the appearance of the truck, again the feeling in these scenes is overly stretched out and this is done to superb effect. He arrives and you know this is bad character, but then he's nice if a bit odd, and repeatedly nice. He's nice after the point that you even think this is a deliberate distraction from the standard Hollywood script device of misdirection. He's actually a nice guy. This just totally messes with you and actually didn't ease the pressure of suspense at all with me, it just raised it, as you knew you were waiting for something bad to happen.

Another superb scene is nothing more than a long stare, again it seems overly long but it's an extremely uncomfortable and chilling moment.

It's Mick who provides the most natural and truly terrifying performance, and when he really takes to the screen it's from here on that we move into the horror\terror area of the movie. This is where it totally delivers, the suspense is kept going on an even level, but we're treated to some utterly scary moments. Being locked up in the middle of nowhere by a psychopath is probably as scary as it gets, but the real horror is yet to come and we are shown it in a truly uncompromising and frightening way.

The two female leads Liz and Kirsty, played by Cassandra Magrath and Kestie Morassi, manage to portray their horror and confusion throughout. It's when they are being chased down that they really deliver performances that convince you they are out of their minds with panic.

There are some amazing scenes in this section of the movie that I'm really not going to talk about, other than to say that they are very well written, visualised and portrayed, and they provide for more terror and realistic horror than I have seen for a very long time. It's these moments where my hands were on my face and I was considering that my hungover stomach was definitely not happy.

Mixed in here though are some of those traditional teen horror decisions, a few that you can put down to confused terror, and one or two that stuck out for me. However the suspense and terror just sweeps that aside onto the next scene that you have to deal with. This movie has stayed with me for two days now, I'm still feeling uncomfortable and uneasy from it.

Yet it's not all great, and here I return to the reliance of that big flag I raised at the beginning, "true story". You see at the end of the movie we're given the traditional "true story" summary of closing events to the present day, just to let you understand the true horror of the events and again to tell us just how real it has all been. Yet in this case, what we realise is how much has been created.

That doesn't affect how good the horror and terror story is, but it raises so many more questions and you find yourself wondering a lot more about how and why and the huge missing storyline of one of the characters, rather than concentrating on the feelings of horror and terror that you've experienced and carried away.

Crash (2004/I)
2 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Well written and some truly great performances. Hard and uncompromising, real life indeed., 7 September 2005

Mixed reviews on the Internet, big cast, multi-angled story, to me it sounded like a few other movies that have treaded the same ground but still very interesting. The talents of Paul Haggis and the exciting casting of Don Cheadle, Sandra Bullock, Matt Dillon, et al, attracted me to this movie and I am thankful that I ignored what the critics have said.

The movie is a group of stories of different people that all connect through each other and all relate in some way. It's a strong story, and quite a controversial one. Large in both it's concept and it's cast. I can guess some of their negative reaction has been due to the uncomfortable feeling the movie has throughout and the very strong nature of its content. It's a difficult journey, but well worth going to see.

From the opening scene you're pretty much guaranteed to be shocked and uncomfortable, I know we were and we weren't expecting the tirade of abuse, one of the more uncomfortable aspects of this scene is that it's from a white man to a Persian, whom he thinks is actually an Iraqi. A very disturbing scene, and something that the movie is all about. The abuse doesn't just stop at the white American on Persian, it moves to Latino against Chinese, Chinese against black, black against black, black against white, white against Chinese, and so on.

It covers how hard it is for people in L.A. (and indeed any city) to actually get close to someone else and understand them. It seems to be much easier to blame problems on others than to actually face up to them, and if this movie is anything to go by, racism is a very common aspect of this culture.

The movie is telling us that if we take some time to get to know the people around us, perhaps make conversation and don't stereotype them, we may just get along a little better. Lives might even be saved. Don't make the mistake that it's all happy though, it isn't. Even those who think they have made the connections already, haven't done so on anything more than a superficial level.

Couple these aspects together and you have one serious movie. Although it is hard to watch and it does make you feel very uncomfortable, it makes you feel something, and that is what cinema is about for me. I left in debate about the movie, both of us, and that's a great thing.

Acting wise I was very surprised. Both Bullock and Brendan Fraser play characters well out of their normal sphere of acting, specifically Bullock and she absolutely excels as the D.A.'s wife who is very much on her own. If you ever thought she was a light actress you should see her performance here, strong with a well written and performed fear and growing racist anger, I can't be vocal about her performance enough. The only sad thing is that it is all too short.

Fraser also acts out of normal character, he plays the D.A. and there's not a hint of comedy in the script, unfortunately there is in his face and actions to camera.

Thandie Newton actually provides a good performance, although yet again she plays a woman with a chip on her shoulder and huge attitude, just like many of her previous characters. Yet she has more range here I felt, and she shows it well. Her frustration, anger and almost all consuming fear is so obvious on screen, and she really does give the performance a great deal.

For me Newton and Dillon gave two great performances, and the interaction between them on the two different scenes give a very powerful message. Not only about the Police force, but also about race relations in general, and shows a common understanding between both characters. This is one of the most powerful relationships in the movie.

However, the strongest pairing and the best acting in this movie for me goes to two non-lead actors. Michael Pena and Bahar Soomekh as the Hispanic locksmith and the Persian local store owner respectively, give the most heartfelt and strong performances in this movie. They, without a doubt, steal the show from the big names and quite rightly so.

There are some poorer aspects to the movie though, I felt a couple of the scenes were presented in quite a contrived manner, and instead of events leading to them being quite explainable or understandable, they felt strained and stretched. A perfect example of how this could be avoided was with the second Newton-Dillon scene, no explanation, no lead up, the event had just happened and the important thing was the story that unfolded before you and the aftermath. That's real life, often things happen and there's not a need to overly explain the lead up.

The ending, although not all good by a long way, reminded me a lot of Magnolia. Not because of anything more than a moment of plot device, but coupled with the same style of storytelling it was enough to knock me out of the movie and make the connection.

Overall the messages are strong, uncompromising and often quite bleak. Do not make a mistake, this is real life and not a nice fluffy bunny tale. Despite some moments that are a little contrived, there are a surprising amount of exceptional performances to be seen and the story gives you a real kick in the head about how we really should be as people. Thoroughly recommended.

Open Water (2003)
0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
No connection with the characters, difficult to take moments and a lack of suspense., 6 September 2005

This was a but of a disappointment of a movie, I'd heard a lot about this movie and the tense and unique storyline so I was keen to see it. Low budget, exciting and dramatic I was told.

Not so when I watched it.The biggest issue I found was the total lack of connection with the two characters in the movie, you don't really care what happens to them. You really want to feel a connection almost instantly, but nothing happened in the opening scenes in order to make that connection and get you involved with them. The actors work better together in the water than they do in the opening scenes, the scenes where you are supposed to be making your connection.

Another problem during the movie is the moment of realisation that they are stranded in the middle of the ocean. It's the characters that make this realisation and not you as the audience. You are being shown everything as it happens and you know they've been stranded before they do. There is no moment of realisation, for the audience this is missing and it's largely due to the lack of connection with the characters and the way the story is developed for us, we see everything as it happens, it's no surprise.

We're also treated to some frustratingly bad decisions by the couple and it does a great job of annoying the audience, frankly I didn't find it was in a positive way for the movie either. They seemed like the kind of decisions from bad horror movies, "I'll just climb the loft ladder into this darkened loft alone, you all stay down there in the basement." There were a number of threats and moments that were either underplayed or just not effective, and combined together they did bring down the effectiveness of the movie.

I also felt a lot of confusion at the end of the movie. Was this what happened? How much is guess work? How much is fiction and non-fiction? The mix in feel of the movie from documentary to thriller styles didn't really help that much, at some points it seemed a little like a docu-drama, and then back to thriller. Some knowledge of how much was true could have helped raise the suspense.

Overall, it didn't work well for me, and I found it a good attempt but lacking in suspense and surprise, two elements which were vital to this kind of story.

Antibodies (2005)
58 out of 72 people found the following review useful:
Excellent script with superb actors and an amazingly suspenseful ending. Catch before US remake., 4 September 2005

I would recommend not reading how IMDb bills the movie, I won't say why other than if you don't and you see this movie, it will be a richer experience for it. Basically though, the movie is about the capture of serial killer Gabriel Engel played by André Hennicke, someone the Police have been trying to catch for a very long time. A small town cop, Michael Martens played by Wotan Wilke Möhring, comes to interrogate him over the disappearance of a child from his village and makes more headway than the Detectives have. However the meeting troubles Martens, and the two characters suddenly seem not as far apart as their roles suggest.

The opening of the movie grabs you by the throat. It portrays Engel, the killer, being tracked to his apartment and captured by the Police but not without a battle first. It's dark, violent and extremely exciting cinema at this point and it shows you immediately the intelligence, cold calculation and sheer determination of the serial killer. It sets the movie perfectly, and tells you a lot about Engel. It's superbly shot and visualised, and had a fair amount of the cinema on the edge of their seats with audible excitement from the people next to me.

I have to then mention what happens after this scene, the titles. It struck me just how good these looked and I became fascinated with them. The words appear on the background and begin to move slowly across the screen. As they do so any foreground object that appears or walks across them, does so over the top and the title moves behind them. For some reason this simple effect was highly engaging and coupled with the unique angles and gentle scenes that played out, I was totally enthralled.

The good camera work follows on from the initial scenes, there are some unusual angles and shots used but they are never obtrusive. The camera is secondary and you do feel yourself pulled into the film by the strength of the story and characters, not noticing the camera moving for you.

Hennicke as the serial killer steals the show. He is utterly enthralling when he is on screen, and carries the role with complete believability and passion, I do mean that as a compliment. There is no real appeal for this character, yet he has a fascination, kind of like the scene of an accident where everyone slows down to look.

Möhring is equally as strong, and he is engaging because you identify so much with him and want him to win through. The chemistry between the two actors during their interview scenes is excellent, the power and strength of the killer against the insecurity and uncertainty of the cop are played out very well. These scenes provide for some great moments with some excellently written dialogue between them both. His slow descent and the way he is affected by the killers words is expertly handled. The way his life and his personality is slowly changed one step at a time is very strongly written.

The relationships between the cop and his wife and father-in-law are positioned early on in the movie and incredibly naturally, this is something I really liked about this movie, there's no exposition that is glaringly obvious, and even when it is made to the audience it's not always made in black and white, you have some assumptions to make. I really liked that, it means you have to do some of your own thinking rather than be spoon fed.

Another interesting triangle of relationships is that between the two cops and the killer, all have different personalities at the beginning of the movie but as it progresses Martens grows closer to them both. Again well written and visualised characters with strong and believable dialogue.

The movie looks at the effect of strong faith and belief on a person and the family unit. The lead begins as a staunch religious believer and good all round character, and it's later in the film where his faith and belief are eroded and the doubt enters his mind. During the Q&A after the movie, Christian Alvart the Writer and Director said that the role of the killer is that of the doubting voice, of total doubt. The idea being that the two characters are the extremes, and it's from these extremes at either end of the spectrum that people can leap to becoming a fanatic. A fanatic as in the killer, or a religious fanatic. It's this that he wanted to show in the movie. It's only when the reconcile the extremes that they become a person and not a fanatical creature.

There are some shades of comparison with The Silence of the Lambs and the superior Manhunter, but these are inevitable considering the interviewing of a serial killer. There's also comparison with another movie that people will make, and I shan't tell you which, this is something Alvart himself acknowledges, but didn't realise until after he had filmed it. There's no negative aspect to this and the connections are quite superficial, the power and strength of this movie are in the many other layers, not the top glossy layer, but deeper in the characters, family life and fanaticism.

The ending is extremely well crafted, if not entirely well hidden. It's strong, suspenseful and the closing fifteen or so minutes are probably the most suspenseful and exciting I've watched in a long, long time, the audience gasped during these last moments. I thoroughly recommend this movie, especially before the deal is made for a US remake, and it will be, Alvart said as much during the Q&A. So see it now, it's a superb movie with some excellent performances and a very strong script. This was undoubtedly the best movie of the Edinburgh Film Festival 2005 for me.

37 out of 54 people found the following review useful:
A strong story concentrating on Merrin. Rich characterisation and a more subtle story than the Harlin action adventure., 4 September 2005

Having seen the second made but first to release Exorcist - The Beginning, the Renny Harlin version of the movie, I was very keen to see the original movie which the Studio saw and then scrapped, the Paul Schrader version.

This I managed to do during the Edinburgh Film Festival 2005, and actually with paid tickets I managed to even get to hear a Q&A with the Director, which in itself was extremely interesting. For now though, let's look at the movie.

It's really hard to watch this and not do any comparisons with the Harlin remake, and with so many similar scenes, the same actors and a very similar story I found it almost impossible not to. In doing so you realise how weak and one dimensional Harlin's version is, the and depth of character and their development just adds so many layers to each of the characters, giving them a much more human feel and making you connect with them rather than just watch them as you did with the Harlin movie.

Subtlety, dialogue and development are the keys here, things which were drastically missing from the Harlin version, and instantly you see the differences. The opening scene with Father Merrin and the Nazi's is the first strong example of the difference in style and Schrader handles this wonderfully. The single scene builds the Nazi character much thicker with some uncertainty of the Priest, whereas the Harlin is shown as a stock Nazi character. You also understand the root of the crisis in faith that Merrin has come to, and through this single scene it hits you just as hard as it did he.

It's this that I felt was the strongest part of the movie throughout, the characters richness and depth, and the fact that you could see them as real individuals and connect with some part of them. Merrin in particular is the real focus of the movie, and the analysis of his crisis, his faith and who he really is.

The following of the second, younger Priest in Father Francis, played well by Gabriel Mann, mirrors for Merrin the faith and hunger that he had as a young Priest, and watching his own slight crisis in faith provides an interesting viewpoint for the audience. Not only to understand what Merrin went through, but to watch Merrin witness this himself.

Stellan Skarsgård plays the character superbly as well. There's so much more restraint in the performance with inward pain and anger, he's superb to watch and really does make you feel as though he carries a tortured soul. The slow climb out of the crisis to the fight back against the Demon is played slowly and with a lot of passion. It's the moment when Merrin relives the Nazi slaughter and his second choice that shows us who he really is as a person, not just as a Priest. Comparing the two performances of Skarsgård together is, as Schrader said, an example of a masterclass in acting. In fact the whole two movies are a film students dream.

Another excellent character was Major Granville, very well played by Julian Wadham. He was far stronger, richer and deeper than the Harlin version, and his scenes were a lot more believable and striking than the Harlin version which had him going mad over his butterfly collection. Here he really plays a man getting out of his depth and letting events overtake him, and he has a superb scene in the village which provides with a strong connection to Merrins past.

A couple of things that stuck out in the movie but were then understandable during Schraders Q&A, were in the CGI and the famous flash of the Demon face. The face flash, which was so subtly done in the original Exorcist movies, was hugely prominent and did not hold with the subtlety in the rest of the movie. Some of the CGI was also poorly done, and during a sweeping camera shot across the front of the buried chapel the CGI rocks moved together as they tried to hold with the camera shot, the first appearance of the hyenas was also poor, showing as pure CGI and not looking in the least bit real.

The script for this movie is very good, and in stark contrast to the Harlin version. This has less blood, more story and characterisation, and much more concentration on the personal battle between Merrin and the Demon. It provides a much more intelligent and subtle story building characters and the plot to a much more satisfying climax.

Mirrormask (2005)
9 out of 32 people found the following review useful:
Weak story, hugely effects driven children's tale, 1 September 2005

There is no doubt that this movie is unlike any other around just now. The effects and unusual story line take control of the movie and it's these things that keep you watching, along with the able performance of the lead girl. Unfortunately I found that there was too much of the effects and quirkiness obscuring the actual story, one which is an extremely simple one and was almost identical to that of one of my favourite novels, The Talisman by Stephen King.

So already it was up against a difficult task, but did it take me anywhere I'd like to have gone?Quite frankly no. It's a children's story, and a very simple one at that, and the movie concentrates on the effects and creating scenes that will keep your eyes occupied without necessarily engaging your brain that much.

Try as I might, I couldn't shake the amazing similarity with The Talisman. A story where a young boy goes on a journey through another world to find a talisman that will save his mothers life from cancer and also save the strange world in which he finds himself. Substitute the words girl for boy, talisman for charm and cancer for tumour (possibly, we're never really told).

What the story boils down to is that of a girl whose parents don't pay her enough attention for working too hard, and her mothers illness pulls the family back together. In the meantime she has some bizarre dreams that may be connected to her actually trying to save her mother during her operation. There wasn't a real attempt at character or relationship development, other than a few short scenes, so you're pretty much limited to that initial storyline.

That said, the effects are really good, and there are some clever images and ideas. It's pretty off the wall stuff but extremely interesting to watch. Also the performances from Stephanie Leonidas as the young girl Helen, Gina McKee as Helen's mother, and Jason Barry as Valentine are all very good, and despite the weak story, very engaging.

Good as the effects and images are, there is the feeling that they are a series of scenes put together to show off the most bizarre and visually engaging effects that the team could create. For instance the woman and the cats, or the orbiting giants, there seemed to be no rhyme nor reason for them other than showing the creativity. This feeling did subside a little when Helen is in the dark palace.

It's with the, pardon the expression, dark side and the other world twin of Helen (another huge concept from The Talisman) where the real interest lurks in this story. There are some clever ideas for both these areas, and yet you feel they just weren't exploited enough and story wise they were presented with a light gloss rather than delving into them and expanding on them to make a rich storyline.

Ultimately, I feel that the weak story makes this a visually engaging, effects driven movie which will suit younger children more than anyone. A definite disappointment considering the rich rewards we'd been led to expect from the creative teams involved and the trailers.

18 out of 34 people found the following review useful:
Confused script, editing and actors. Very poor movie., 31 August 2005

The title of this movie gives the impression of something dark, tight, psychological and on the very edge of acceptable cinema. I'd say the last statement is most definitely true, it is on the edge of acceptable cinema, because it contains mediocre acting, a confused and torn script, and no conviction.

It's a shame because there is a message in there, and the lead character does manage to say it in no uncertain terms during the movie, and that's because he has to. There's really no other way to get to the moral of this tale through the confusion.

The second of the opening scenes remind me of the British Television advertisement for a certain directory assistance number, cheesy 70's outfits, hairstyles and moustaches. The section is supposed to portray events in the past, and from the beginning you can see the poor acting. There is much overplaying to the camera, and scenes of actors looking as though they're trying to find something to do to fill the time until the Director yells cut.

The first of the scenes is equally as bad and amusing, but then we are expected to see that as it is supposed to be an old cheesy horror movie. Some grounding an basis for the entire movie, but also to show us the level of gore that we're going to be seeing. There's nothing slick or costly about the effects, they are cheap and cheerful, and although some might be deemed shocking, there's nothing really off-putting in the movie.

From these opening segments we return to the present day to find the ex-laird of Glenbogle (another British Television event) is indulging in some rather frisky behaviour, obviously in a desperate attempt to try and shed his previous TV nice guy image. It fails though, and throughout this movie he sticks out like a sore thumb.

The script is so confused that scenes just seem to happen out of nowhere. For instance suddenly we're all outside and there's a huge audience of onlookers watching events. This from the previous premise where we were all in a house being filmed by webcams. This is probably the best example of the confusion we were shown and felt.

It attempts, from an early stage, to address some issues on the Internet, freedom of speech, the fact that anyone can broadcast anything online. Yet it stumbles over them, readdresses them through the script, and doesn't really say much about them by the end of the movie. In fact at the end it seems to take a totally different tract altogether, and doesn't seem to have been about anything at all. Very confusing.

Add to all this that it's filmed poorly and seems to have been thrown together editing wise, and it's an altogether awful movie. IMDb lists this as still in Post Production, and perhaps we were treated to an early cut at the Edinburgh Film Festival 2005, who knows. It was just bad.

There were two moments though that actually got my feelings moving. One was when the ex-laird Alistair Mackenzie sits down at a computer while his girlfriend is away for the evening, starts a can of lager, and pulls up Google with a search for some porn. By the time he's on his third can you can see the searches getting worse. This actually raised a good laugh from the audience, and was something you could instantly connect to.

The second was a stabbing scene late on in the movie, a man is stabbed in the stomach, all the time you see his muscles moving and there doesn't look to be a special effect in sight. That was unnerving and is probably the only scene where you would consider the possibility that it was living up to its title.

There it ends though. The female lead Lisa Enos is weak and unconvincing, and what the hell has happened to Jeroen Krabbé, his role is awful.

I won't go on. There's nothing to redeem this movie bar a laugh and an awkward moment. I'd avoid like the title should have suggested.

Oldboy (2003)
18 out of 97 people found the following review useful:
An amazing story, wonderfully visualised, directed and acted. A must see., 30 August 2005

Oldboy begins with a typical Hitchcock style story. A man is imprisoned for 15 years with no understanding of why or, during his incarceration, any idea of how long. Then suddenly he is free and his journey begins.

The style in this film just pours out of the screen. Yet they don't overpower and dominate the movie as they would in Hollywood, they look as integral to the story as do the actors and the dialogue. They aren't treated as a big moment but viewed as a whole with the rest of the film. There are some really nice touches throughout the movie, in particular the movement between scenes, the corridor fight or the beautifully shot snow scene all really stand out for me.

That brings me nicely onto the action topic. Asian film, "must be lots of martial arts" I hear some of you non-converts shout. Not at all. The action and fighting is some of the most realistic I've seen in a movie. People go down when they are hit, and when hit hard they stay down. That is except Oldboy himself, fuelled by fifteen years of revenge and hatred, he is allowed a but more leeway. Yet that doesn't stop the action being beautifully choreographed and put together.

In particular the fight scene in the corridor shows the beauty and care placed into the fight scene. It takes place in a long corridor with the camera panning back and forth following the action as Oldboy, successfully and realistically, fights approximately fifteen men. The action frequently slows and stops, and with no real moments where you are pulled back out of the movie thinking you are watching the impossible.

Some of the scenes are tough to watch, not because they are all gruesome, but because Asian filmmakers have the balls to push the audience and make them feel something more than the average cinema experience. To feel something, much like the main character. So scenes are uncomfortable or uneasy because you're feeling the same as the characters.

The live sushi moment is stunning to watch, and conjured up some strange emotions in me, I'm still not sure how I feel about it. The torture scenes are arduous but so real and fear inducing. Perhaps the most shocking and emotionally strong moments are saved for the latter half of the film. Don't be concerned though, these aren't vile in any way, they just make you feel incredibly uncomfortable and very uneasy.

To me, that is what cinema is all about, even all art. It's about making you feel something, not sitting in a darkened room letting images and story wash over you then disappearing for your dinner and a chat about the weather. You want, and need, to be pulled into the movie, to feel and empathise with the characters, forget about the world around you and all the other people and their lives, and finally come away with the haunting of those feelings. The movie should continue on in your mind and pop up in conversations, provoking thoughts and discussion, otherwise you've wasted your time and money. Oldboy satisfies that to perfection.

Unfortunately I can't really go into the story, not that I do much in reviews anyway, but in the case of Oldboy it really does give far too much away even touching on it. Check out the IMDb listing if you really want, however just trust me, it's a superb story and you don't want to know anything more about it beforehand. For the last twenty minutes or so you will be astounded and the twists and turns keep coming right up to the very end.

It's also quite a moving story and takes on what exactly makes a person and defines who they are and the labels they carry through their lives. Most of all though it's about revenge and how unfulfilling, all consuming and empty it can make you feel.

The actors are really good across the whole movie, but it is the leads that really excel. Min-sik Choi is utterly believable and gives such a powerful performance. His acting coupled with the visual style will have you holding your breath at times. The female lead Hye-jeong Kang and the protagonist Ji-tae Yu also offer excellent performances. The range of emotion that the character Woo-jin Lee has to go through is enormous, and Yu performs them brilliantly, while Kang plays a restrained, controlled and tortured mind to perfection. There is a real depth to these characters, and they are brought to life by these three wonderful actors.

This movie is an excellent example of what cinema can be, and once again the lesson comes from outwith Hollywood, I just wish they would sit up and listen in class. The movie is not any single scene, but the sum of it's wonderful set pieces, beautiful style, imaginative camera work, truly wonderful performances from all the leads, and a stunning story. You have to see this movie.

The Dark (2005)
71 out of 88 people found the following review useful:
Stock scare horror for the first half, then a somewhat confused but clever psychological horror the second half., 30 August 2005

Sean Bean is such a lost talent, he's a great actor and never seems to be given a decent or lead role. Even in Lord of the Rings he was cast as the turncoat. So I was excited to hear that he was the lead man in this movie, although not the lead it was a good step. Plus it was a British film and a horror. These things all combined to make me think that this was a movie to see.

Both Bean and Maria Bello are very convincing in the movie. Bean plays the straight up man who is confused by the happenings around him and just wants to make the family happy again, he plays a super convincing Father. Bello gives a great performance as she is called upon to be a trying mother, confused, insane, panicked and totally distraught. Not that much of a range really! The interplay between these two actors is very good, and when Bean has scenes with the daughter, he's just superb.

Something that becomes quite annoying through the first half of the movie are the deliberate scare tactics used by the Director, they are exceedingly formulaic and you know when they are coming and even when the shock comes. Still, all credit to them, you still leap out of your chair even knowing when a scare is coming. The formula is pretty constant through the first half, slow music, a long single scene, slow movement and no action, usually in the darkness, then a few fast cuts together accompanied by a loud sound and a raise in the music tempo, and there you have the scare. During the screening people were leaping like mad! After a while following this formula the film does turn around on itself and become something different. It's here that it becomes a lot more psychological and indeed, clever. There was a big feeling in this half of Event Horizon, particularly the flashbacks to being strapped in the chair, fast, multiple cuts of horror.

However during the latter half it also becomes confusing and very weird, yet I wish the whole movie had been like this. It could have abandoned its standard scare tactics and concentrated on the plot in the latter half, and this would have provided for a much more psychologically scary movie.

There's a particular moment near the end of the movie when a door closes in front of the lead, and your emotions are totally with the character at this point. Confusion for a few seconds and then a slow building understanding. It's a very good moment.

Still, however clever the entire ending is, I still felt it lacked clarity and subtlety. Dropping the scare formula of the first half would have brought a much better movie, and getting rid of the premise of scary sheep would have helped too. Perhaps it's a British thing, but sheep are not in the least bit scary, in fact coming from a Northern Scottish town sheep are considered far from scary. It just seemed to be a plot device that was struggling not to be absurd.

That said, you'll still leap, you'll still be scared, and when the film finishes you'll still like the conclusion.

3 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Gritty, violent, stylish, poor lead accent and slightly weak opening performance from Wood, 27 August 2005

Gritty, violent, stylish, but in no way does it glorify the lifestyle. The bad is shown to so heavily outweigh the good, and when people fight they get hurt. There's not that much good to be seen in the movie, but it is a very good movie, and I would think something which captures the feelings and beliefs of these groups of people very well.

The opening fight scene is pretty harsh, and I have to say the only "enjoyable" fight scene of the film. Now by enjoyable, I mean in a Hollywood entertainment sense, because the violence in this movie is so real, you don't want to think that it fits the standard Hollywood template of violence and glorify it in anyway, however this scene does slightly, and perhaps to grab the audience because hereafter you'll be shocked and uneasy.

The second fight scene of the movie deserves pointing out as well, because it combines some great filming effects and camera work to provide a different look to a scene shot so many times before. It's hand-held and close up, and these things are not my particular favourite in Hollywood fight scenes, because you miss so much you have to end up guessing what's happening, I wish they'd look more to Asian movie makers on how to do this right. However the style in this scene comes through with the use of a couple of effects which make the whole fight seem quite surreal, perhaps how the main character views it. It really gave some excitement and confusion to the scene, yet keeping the feeling of violence very real, and very nasty.

Now, onto perhaps two of the most controversial parts of the movie, and no, I've already talked about the fighting and that's not one of them. Firstly the casting of Elijah Wood as the American who discovers this world of Football Firms. Many people are saying that he just doesn't suit the movie, that he's totally out of place, well I agree but only to a point. Yes, for most of the film he's out of place, his laughing moments seem awkward, like those moments when you tell a joke and your foreign friend doesn't catch it but laughs anyway because everyone else does. You see, I think perhaps he is supposed to be looking totally out of place and awkward here, I mean he's come from Harvard and is a Journalist, why would that make him feel easy in amongst UK organised Football Hooligans? He has redemption though, in the final act of the film he faces a tough decision, and I really do believe it's from this point on that he comes into his element and gives a very good performance. Still, there is that stigma associated with his most famous role to date, and it's very prominent here. The "fish out of water" style and awkwardness is also easily taken as bad acting, that said I could be wrong and it could actually be bad acting! The second controversial part of the movie is something that perhaps only people in the UK will grab, Charlie Hunnam's accent. His cockney accent is pretty bad, there are moments when he settles into it, but there is a distinct feeling that he's over pronunciation much of what he's saying, particularly the Cockney inflections.

However, putting the accent to the side his performance is really good and very convincing, when you see him give an order, take control of a situation or in the midst of a fight, you believe who he is 100%. Without a doubt he appears strong and single minded, and a very violent character.

Yet for me, it's Leo Gregory that steals the screen. His performance as Bover is totally immersive and you're drawn to him on screen. If I remember Lexi Alexander, the Director and Writer, introduced him at the Q&A after the EIFF premiere as the UK's answer to Sean Penn, and you can see why. He has all those qualities that draw you to Penn. Let's hope he's recognised for it.

Both Marc Warren and Claire Forlani are just as convincing and give strong performances, I've always liked Warren as an actor and Forlani is a new find for me. These two have a good chemistry, although not all that you'd expect from a married couple, Forlani gives an emotional performance.

Geoff Bell as Hatcher, the leader of the Millwall Firm, is a true psycho. Totally broken and void of the understanding of morales, you can see he's consumed by complete hatred and anger. He just seemed such a real character and a truly scary man! The ideas of retribution, morales and karma are very strong throughout this movie. It's an example of how good the script is when you can understand the allure of the Firm for the character of Buckner, as well as see and understand the bonding between the members. It does a lot for the audience to help them understand the reasoning behind it all, and this is where I think the controversy for Hollywood lies. These are the parts that can be viewed as portraying a positive light on the Football Firms rather than the actual fighting, and it's not hard to see that. Yet I do think it's balanced by the retribution and karmic endings shown.

Overall a strong movie, although Wood's casting is very unusual and seems quite awkward during the first two acts of the film, coupled with the poor accent of the lead Englishman and there lie the negative aspects. The story, portrayal of the Firms and the violence itself all give for a strong and hard hitting movie, although perhaps more attractive to a British audience.

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