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1504 reviews in total 
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Beguiling mystery/drama film, 26 November 2015

STAR RATING: ***** Saturday Night **** Friday Night *** Friday Morning ** Sunday Night * Monday Morning

In the late 60s, at an all girls school with a strict stance on discipline, straight laced Lydia (Maisie Williams) and her promiscuous mate Abbie (Florence Pugh) are going through the trials and tribulations of school life. When Abbie falls pregnant, and then tragedy strikes, a mysterious fainting spell strikes the girls at the school and then to others, leading to a mysterious ritual in the forest.

This unusual offering appeared out of nowhere in a few theatres last April, an out the way offering with a mysterious allure about it. Smaller scale, independent films often get less publicity, which in some cases can make them all the more of a treat. A lot of opinion seems to be divided, but for me, Carol Morley's blend of horror and drama is a promise that doesn't pay off, with an impressive, quiet sense of atmosphere about it, but an incomprehensible story that's impossible to get in to.

Something about it's eerie nature keeps you with it to the end, but with such a flimsily established story and characters you end up unable to really feel for, the end result is not as great as hoped. One thinks Morley was too obsessed with reaching for an art house flair, at the expense of making something that had any chance of translating to an audience. **

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Unfunny sequel to an original that wasn't much cop, 24 November 2015

STAR RATING: ***** Saturday Night **** Friday Night *** Friday Morning ** Sunday Night * Monday Morning

After a tumultuous few years, mall security guy Paul Blart (Kevin James) heads off to a convention in Vegas, which will double as a break, with his daughter Maya (Raini Rodriguez) who's heading off to UCLA soon. However, sure enough, disaster strikes when criminal mastermind Vincent Sofel (Neal McDonough) hatches a plot to steal a fortune from the vaults of a mega casino. Blart must use all his resources to stop him.

Comedy sequels have been popping out of the Hollywood cookie cutter like something malfunctioned over the last year or so, and the sequel to 2009's lukewarm but widely received comedy flick Paul Blart was among them. Not a great comic achievement in itself, with Kevin James's fat buffoon act hardly ground breaking stuff, this sequel manages to be an even less funnier, more stifling experience than that, only this time with no structured plot to follow and a set up that takes an eternity to establish itself and get up and running. James may be a whole lot of man, but his comic creation really ain't much Cop. *

Eye opening and outrageous, even if it lacks what you could call a real sense of cohesion, 22 November 2015

STAR RATING: ***** Saturday Night **** Friday Night *** Friday Morning ** Sunday Night * Monday Morning

The enigmatic, flamboyant Jonny Woo invites us into the world of him and his contemporaries, in the wild and colourful world of Soho's drag quarter. While older hands, such as him and fellow cross dresser John Sizzle, ponder what to do as the years draw on and they fit the bill less, younger, up and coming sorts, such as Amber, have their own hurdles to overcome. The film follows each of these similar yet distinctly unique characters as they make their presence felt on the scene and fly in the face of those that oppose them.

The many outlets of media have certainly been used in recent times to promote equality and celebrate diversity, which only those with some kind of defect would complain about to any great extent. Colin Rothbart's film zooms in on the widely documented and exuberantly colourful world of the drag scene, bringing some of it's characters to life and giving you a feel of who they are and what they're about. While you'll drop your jaw at some of the outrageous antics and get some impression of an 'alternative lifestyle', the film lacks a certain sense of cohesion and fails to form a really effective narrative structure to piece it all together with.

It exists in a time of openness and transparency, and is a product of this environment. You will care about the characters very much and enjoy the lifestyle so much you'll want to celebrate it, it's just a shame it couldn't all get put together in a way that keeps your attention focused. ***

A worthy idea that falls flat on its face, 14 November 2015

STAR RATING: ***** Saturday Night **** Friday Night *** Friday Morning ** Sunday Night * Monday Morning

Richie (Ian Oglivy) is an East End gangster who has retired to Spain with his daughter. However, back in London, his brother Charlie (Steven Berkoff) intervenes when a young woman is about to be gang-raped, and gets stomped to death for his troubles. Upon hearing this, Richie returns from Spain, and re-unites his old firm, including Arthur (James Cosmo), Butch (Tony Denham) and Roy (Chris Ellison) to head out on to the streets and punish those responsible. But the gang leader, Aaron (Danny-Boy Hatchard) and his group of menaces won't go down without a fight either.

If you consider crime in Britain, and what it was and what it's progressed to over the years, it does produce an interesting distinction, and makes you wonder what would happen if the older generation and the younger lot were to clash. So, in theory, We Still Kill the Old Way has a lot of potential, but in execution it's sadly a different matter.

A group of older actors, with a long and varied background in theatre and television, but who between them never really made much of a lasting impression, form what you might call the 'good guys', while that muppet from East Enders plays the villain with his hilarious 'yoof' accent. Altogether, there's just a massively amateurish feel to all of it, culminating in an absolutely nonsensical showdown in a hospital that perfectly trims it all off. **

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Detestably entertaining expose/parody of the behind the scenes of pop, 14 November 2015

STAR RATING: ***** Saturday Night **** Friday Night *** Friday Morning ** Sunday Night * Monday Morning

As the 1990s Britpop era dawns, Steven Stelfox (Nicholas Hoult) is an A&R man, one of the suits behind the scenes who decides what makes the cut and what doesn't. His deduction is simple: that the music industry has an obligation to make records that sell, not what is artistically excellent, and that the majority of what is released commercially probably is just very average at best. But Steven has an ambition to rise to the top of his game, and not let anyone stand in his way, so when he sees others double crossing and under-cutting him, he unleashes his psychotic side, which eventually gets exploited by his conniving secretary Rebecca (Georgia King.)

As I've said before, it's a sad time when memories of your younger years, and the music that defined it, become more and more distant, and you start to feel like more of a relic of a time gone past. Owen Harris's adaptation of real life former A&R man John Niven's salacious revelations of the inside goings-on of the music industry (also marking his theatrical feature length debut) brings this cutthroat and mercenary world to life in a manner those familiar with the style of Trainspotting will warm to, and delivers the most fitting character in the shape of Stelfox, who embodies all the vice and corruption singularly with one stroke.

It's got the 'period detail' (God, putting that in this sentence makes me feel ancient!) down to a tee, from Blair's 'Britain deserves better' posters plastered over buildings, to the bulky, pre flat screen computers in the offices, using a touch other than the music to keep the authenticity in place. And, it would seem, Stelfox is type of man who defined those times, with the film relying on us witnessing him become more depraved as he goes on, and still needing us to enjoy him as a character and the excesses he rides. Certainly to someone of my generation, it's like he's inviting us in to laugh at ourselves and how we were manipulated and mislead into buying music that was less than what our hard earned (or, our parents hard earned) money deserved.

It doesn't work quite as well as Filth, which showed an almost equally as morally drained protagonist riding us along his ride, only with a little more character and oomph in his voice, as opposed to Hoult's dry, dour delivery, as well as a more coherent, easy flowing story, unlike this one which veers and loses it's ebb towards the end. But this is still a ghoulishly entertaining and hilarious delve into a murky, behind the scenes world. ****

Wasted chance for Seagal to do something different, 12 November 2015

STAR RATING: ***** Saturday Night **** Friday Night *** Friday Morning ** Sunday Night * Monday Morning

Alexander Coates (Steven Seagal) has built up a massive crime empire over the years, but now faces competition from new boy on the scene Ice Man (Ving Rhames), with whom he already has an uneasy history with from many years ago, after Hurst (Bren Foster), a young associate of Alexander's, was severely beaten and hurt after a hit in a prison went wrong. Now, Alexander and Hurst must team up again and, with the help of affable restaurant owner Oso (Danny Trejo) stop Ice Man and his gang in their tracks.

While the tone of the film may be the same, here in their latest collaboration, director Keoni Waxman has afforded Seagal the chance to play a darker, more complex character than the usual standard hero guy he plays. His quiet, brooding tone and demeanour suit this new role quite well, with Seagal getting his chance to give his take on Marlon Brando's character in the legendary Godfather. This is the film where he's spouting his new goatee beard for the first time, which gives him a new distinctive look in itself. Sadly, the film itself is actually a bit of a mess, that fails to make the most of something a bit more new and challenging.

The script just comes off as a big jumbled mess, glittering with flash style, but without any of the substance to back it up. An all star cast line up, filled with faces familiar to the straight to DVD world, aren't done any justice with a story that fails to keep itself together and only a handful of any decent action scenes. It may be Seagal's show all the way, but his lack of enthusiasm to try something new can only be matched by writing that fails to set any standard for him to rise to. **

Startling documentary, with some very interesting points to make, 10 November 2015

STAR RATING: ***** Saturday Night **** Friday Night *** Friday Morning ** Sunday Night * Monday Morning

Since President Nixon announced a crackdown in the early 1970s, the 'War on Drugs' has been probably the main source of arrests in the United States, caused families across the country to fragment and fall apart, and made America the country with the highest jail population in the developed world and beyond. This hard line stance, that serves to illuminate a particular section of society and make them scapegoats, is designed to act as a moral standpoint that appears to be acted on, but is actually doing more harm than good, creating criminals out of otherwise law abiding, non violent people, and targeting America's black population more than any other. Eugene Jarecki delves headfirst into the front line of those affected by this war, from the low level dealers and their families, academics, those involved in treatment, but more startlingly even those on the other side of the fence, such as a host of disillusioned lawmen, judges and penal workers, whose opinions have also shifted to the more liberal way of thinking.

Independent film is easily the best way to express an opinion artistically that mainstream cinema would not comfortably touch with a bargepole. While usually in America it comes from expressing an opinion that others would consider unpatriotic, here Eugene Jarecki has created an in-depth, thorough assault on a moral standpoint that has been the word of law for several decades now, and that other countries soon followed suit with, such as Britain with the Misuse of Drugs Act. The most high profile contribution comes from David Simon, the creator of highly successful cop show The Wire, and it's most startling that we hear from a series of cops who question the validity of what they're doing.

It plays almost in the manner of a prosecution barrister acting against the War on Drugs in court. We hear evidence that it has racist origins from the last century, that play into its racist nature today, which disproportionately targets black communities more than any other, that judges are not free to use their own discretion and judgement when sentencing, but are instead saddled with guidelines that they must obey without fail, that unscrupulous cops can use it to boost their arrest rate and even steal property through civil asset seizure, and that its all just basically an excuse to do away with those who those in power don't see as having any use to society, beginning with the black community in the 80s with crack cocaine, before progressing to white trailer parks in more recent times with crystal meth.

Jarecki has studied the evidence, and knows which cards he's chosen, and what has to be admired is the sheer thoroughness and depth with which he's presented his case. If people who are meant to be on the front line can have their opinions swayed after years of bitter experience, surely a casual viewer who maybe has an unsympathetic view to drug addicts can. The only ones who surely never will (in public, anyway) are the self serving, hollow politicians who would never risk their careers by saying what they truly think. ****

Potentially dynamic stuff, bogged out with sub-standard writing, 8 November 2015

STAR RATING: ***** Saturday Night **** Friday Night *** Friday Morning ** Sunday Night * Monday Morning

CIA agent Evan Lake (Nicolas Cage) was, years ago, held captive by vicious terrorist Muhammed Benir (Alexander Karim), who inflicted some savagery on him. Years later, a new lead has emerged that suggests Benir is still alive and active, hiding out in Northern Africa, but Evan has also started displaying the early signs of dementia, and the agency suspend him until further notice. But with the help of eager young recruit Milton Schultz (Anton Yelchin), he puts together his own private crusade to track down Benir and settle an old score.

Arriving seemingly out of nowhere, this marks what seems like part of a downward direct to DVD spiral for Nicolas Cage, which he seems to have brought on himself with a lot of bad choices over the years. A shame, since Dying of the Light is a relevant and topical thriller, that could have had great potential as a cinematic thriller. But, it seems there was a big clash between the director and the cast, and the film studio that took over from the one before it, and the end product is one that they all seem to have disowned. The end result is something that's not that bad, but just could have been a lot better.

He may have just been getting in to character, but it's hopeful Nicolas Cage isn't really looking that old these days. Writer/director Paul Schrader obviously had his hopes on something big, and it must have been quite a horror to have the rug pulled from under his feet the way it was. One can only hope that's not the reason why something that could have been truly stirring and dynamic, is in fact quite so flat and tepid. **

Impressive, low budget Aussie offering that restores your faith in horror, 1 November 2015

STAR RATING: ***** Saturday Night **** Friday Morning *** Friday Night ** Sunday Night * Monday Morning

Amelia (Essie Davis) was widowed when her husband was driving her to hospital to give birth to their son Samuel (Noah Wiseman.) Since then, she has been struggling to raise Samuel alone, while he has been displaying some wild behaviour. Things take a sinister turn, however, when they discover a creepy looking book entitled The Babadook, and Samuel begins seeing an imaginary monster that drives him completely out of control. As Amelia is confronted with spooky happenings of her own, she finds herself pushed over the edge, on the verge of losing her own sanity.

Being Halloween week, it's been the perfect opportunity for me to get round to watching this well received, off the wayside horror offering that seems to have hailed from Australia. Marking Jennifer Kent's feature length directing debut, after a string of TV work and short films, this takes the familiar horror device of placing a child in the centre of the story and adds in more distinctive themes of unresolved grief and emotional dependency, and works them wonderfully, with only a fraction of the budget of your modern day, sanitised American horror film.

It lays its cards on the table very early on, taking a slow, lingering opening that generates its terror from a haunting use of atmosphere and silence. The set up created from the mother-and-son relationship generates an interesting dynamic all of its own, working in a way where you're never sure how it's going to work in relation to the unfolding story. Without any great special effects or CGI, Kent has crafted something that truly works and restores your faith in modern horror.

By the end, it's lost its original angle a little, and it's hard not to notice shades of The Shining and Poltergeist that have crept in to the script, but none of that detracts from what has gone before, a splendid offering that generally works and restores your faith in horror. ****

Selma (2014)
Probably not the epic it would have been twenty years ago, but still a lot to admire, 28 October 2015

STAR RATING: ***** Saturday Night **** Friday Night *** Friday Morning ** Sunday Night * Monday Morning

In the 1960s, Professor Martin Luther King Jr. (David Oyelowo) is in the thrust of his epic civil rights battle, which has come to the attention of President Johnson (Tom Wilkinson.) Johnson tries to assist King with some platitudes and assistance, but King believes the next major step forward is securing equal voting rights for him and his people. In the face of relentless violence and intimidation, from both sides of the law, King presses on regardless, with an epic march from Selma to Alabama.

It seems to be the in thing these days, when making a film about an important historical figure, to focus on one particular event in their lives, rather than to make an all out epic dramatisation of their life story, like they would have twenty years ago, when the likes of Steven Spielberg or Ron Howard would have turned it into a three hour yarn of the sort I remember from my youth. For someone who remembers these types of films so vividly, this more condensed approach is a little hard to adjust to, but by zooming in on one important event in Kings life, Ava DuVarney has made a piece of art all the same.

I always imagined who would portray King if ever a film was made about him, and it seems the honours have fallen to British actor David Oyelowo. Given the endless list of Hollywood candidates available, this is an achievement in and of itself, but that he nails it on the head so perfectly is something even better. Oyelowo captures King's speech, delivery, fluidity, mannerisms and general presence perfectly, and fits the role physically too. Given he's carrying the film, and his is the role it all centres on, this is a great thing, but it's not as if fine support from the likes of Wilkinson and Tim Roth don't help.

It seems the honours have fallen on me to do the 200th review of this film, and given how well everything was pulled off, this is no poor honour. ****

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