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116 reviews in total 
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The Box (2009/I)
3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
A Lynch-lite mess that could have been so much more..., 5 May 2010

I really enjoyed this ... for the first hour. Then I got bored. The plot wandered down too many narrative blind alleys, the weirdness becoming increasingly less sinister and almost comically OTT, before culminating in a finale that worked as a sequel to the film's first half hour but further undercut the whole middle section, making it seem like little more than needlessly convoluted filler. Overall, I really enjoyed many aspects of the film - from the many genre-crossing thematic motifs to the wonderful '70's mise en scène - but dialling down the ridiculously cheesy moments and cutting the length could have turned this Lynch-lite mess into a tighter, suspenseful little gem. Entertaining when it's not boring, "The Box" is better than Kelly's second film but still not a patch on his first.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
So-so., 12 September 2007

Live Free or Die Hard (known here in Europe as Die Hard 4.0) is the fourth film in the popular Die Hard franchise of action films starring Bruce Willis as John McClane, a detective with the NYPD.

The first Die Hard appeared in 1988, a no-frills action-suspenser that was followed by 1990's Die Hard 2: Die Harder and 1995's Die Hard With A Vengeance. Both films were not bad as action films (and sequels in general) go. The second film suffered from being a little too similar to the first's premise, while the third upped the ante somewhat and injected some much-needed new twists and turns on a by then already-jaded franchise.

This new Die Hard comes nineteen years after the first and twelve years after the last installment. Bruce Willis reprises his role as McClane. No other previous characters reappear. Sadly, McClane's wife Holly (played by the brilliant Bonnie Bedelia) disappeared after the second film, and you miss Vengeance's Samuel L. Jackson. A lot of new characters don their Die Hard hats with varying degrees of success. Timothy Olyphant isn't bad as the villain (though doesn't hold a candle to Alan Rickman or Jeremy Irons). Justin Long is Willis's new sidekick. And we meet McClane's grown-up daughter, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Long and Winstead put effort into their parts and seem to be enjoying the trip. They're nothing to write home about, however, just two more twenty-somethings indistinguishable from most of Hollywood's line-up of young, good-looking stars.

All the Die Hard films have been based on books or original scripts intended for other franchises (the first two were based on novels and the third was intended to be a Lethal Weapon film). This one continues in that vein, being based again on the written word, this time on a 1997 article "A Farewell to Arms" written for Wired magazine by John Carlin.

The film's storyline is about virtual hackers and McClane now up against a world he doesn't understand. Hence, his need for a new sidekick, Long's whizz kid computer hacker. To be honest, the plot isn't important and you don't really need to know it. Suffice to say, it's serviceable but no more. What really matters here is: how well does this film live up to its three predecessors? The answer is fairly well. In some ways it is the weakest of the series but, all in all, a night out – no more and no less.

The action is big, bad and bold (though sometimes very repetitive). There are no real surprises, sadly, and that's what I found most disappointing. Sure, McClane is subjected to many perils but you never doubt for one moment that he will survive any of them. The finale when it comes is a bit too quick, a rush job, surprising considering the over-extended battles in the middle of the film.

It seems a pity that, considering the article it was based on, the general paranoia of today's wired world, and the fact that this is the first post-9/11 Die Hard film, that more wasn't made out of the premise. With a bit more attention to the script and some retooling of the set-pieces, we could have had a much better film, something that not only thrilled you with its action but made you think. But that's not what these films are about.

My final comment on this is simply that it's not bad. If you like your action films loud and no-nonsense and you enjoyed the first three Die Hards, then chances are you'll like this one. The film is predictable to the extreme, however, so don't expect any surprises.

Disturbia (2007)
0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
The title is edgier than the actual film., 12 September 2007

Rising star-of-the-moment Shia LaBeouf plays Kale, a teenager who receives the ultimate grounding – house arrest with a security bracelet on his ankle. He can't leave his house or the immediate surroundings. Bored and depressed (he's also recovering from the shock of his father's death), he slouches around the house until he finds a hobby – spying on his neighbours with his telescope. When he begins to witness shady goings-on in neighbour David Morse's house across the street, he suspects he may have stumbled onto a murder mystery. With the help of his best friend and the cute girl-next-door, Kale sets out in search of answers.

Disturbia has been billed a "Hitchcockian thriller". Sure, there are shades of Hitchcock's 1954 masterpiece, Rear Window – but that's only because this teen thriller is a barely-disguised rip-off (the studio would no doubt say "homage") of that film. Director D.J. Caruso is no Hitchcock. He mishandles many scenes, relying on cheap scare tactics and rushing scene transitions so that any chance of lingering suspense never reaches a pay-off. The pacing is effective for the first half of the film, but things get increasingly fumbled as it wears on. The overall shift in pace from slow build-up to the finale's blundering version of a PG-rated horror (dark shadows, darker basements, slasher-lite non-deaths) particularly jars.

The script does have some witty, knowing lines ("That's 30 gigs of my life," Kale says at one point of his iPod) and a general up-to-the-minute overview of modern teen culture (Xbox Live and iTunes are LaBeouf's fellow housebound pals till his mother cuts them both off). But otherwise the script is weak and riddled with holes. The characterisation is thin. David Morses's villain is never properly sketched out – his reasons, motives, etc. Perhaps this was an attempt to make him seem creepier by virtue of being an enigma, but it doesn't work. The cast does their best. LaBeouf equips himself quite well and David Morse as the villain is the most effective, all hard stares and cold eyes, in a reasonably creepy role. And yes, that is The Matrix's Carrie Anne Moss as Kale's mother.

The film will please many with its quick pace, overall trendiness, snappy soundtrack, and hip cast. But beneath the surface gloss, this thriller has little suspense, few surprises, and no genuine scares. Ultimately, Disturbia's title is edgier than the film itself.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Brief impressions and summary., 12 September 2007

It is always a difficult task to review a David Lynch film. For one, it can seem virtually impossible to summarise the plot. This has never been more true than in the case of INLAND EMPIRE (Lynch insists the film's title be capitalized), a film some have said his entire career has been leading up to – a sprawling three-hour film shot on digital video.

The basic plot (but there are many more plots both connected and seemingly unconnected to the main plot) has Laura Dern playing an actress called Nikki who is cast in a remake of a haunted film (the previous cast died mysterious deaths). As she becomes more involved in the film's production and immerses herself into her role, Nikki's mind begins to unravel, and she turns into many other characters. Dern is fantastic in her role(s) and is ably supported by a strong cast including Grace Zabriskie, Harry Dean Stanton, Justin Theroux, Julia Ormond, and Jeremy Irons.

INLAND EMPIRE is not an easy film to watch or to understand. I wouldn't go quite so far as to say that it is for Lynch fans only, but being a Lynch fan would certainly help as the film feels like the director has come full circle with his career, back to the independent production of his surrealistic and experimental debut, Eraserhead. It's also chock full of subtle self-referential nods to all his films. If you're unacquainted with Lynch, I would certainly recommend that you check out some of his other films before this one - 2001's Mulholland Drive may be helpful as an introduction.

It may leave you scratching your head. You may find it impenetrable. But one thing is for sure – INLAND EMPIRE will tease, torment and teach you with its multi-faceted and multi-layered narrative. It's definitely the most innovative movie of the last few years, a complex and puzzling work of genius that's worth taking the time to try to unravel.

A quick note on the DVD: INLAND EMPIRE is available as 2-disc Special Edition. The one sold here has some interesting interviews on its second disc. But I would recommend the Region 1 (US) DVD as its production was personally overseen by Lynch himself, and it contains much more features – including a further 90 minutes of deleted material!

39 out of 43 people found the following review useful:
Beautiful, intelligent and thought-provoking., 4 March 2006

After failing with the well-intentioned but risible The Hulk, Ang Lee (not his first time directing a film with a gay romance – see also 1993's The Wedding Banquet) returns with one of his best films to date, a poignant and beautiful adaptation of E. Annie Proulx's short story, Brokeback Mountain.

Charting the twenty-year love affair of two men, the film features brilliant direction, stunning cinematography, a beautiful authentic-feeling score, and a dignified and well-written screenplay (courtesy of novelist Larry McMurtry and writing partner Diana Ossana) that judiciously adapts Proulx's story.

The film is also filled with superb performances from all its cast. Heath Ledger in particular gives a stunning performance. Initially I thought his portrayal was a bit too stiff and teeth clenching but, as the movie progresses, you realize it is the perfect portrayal of his character, Ennis del Mar. Ledger really grows into his character and gives method acting a grace and dignity reminiscent of Montgomery Clift. Co-star Jake Gyllenhaal also gives a fine performance, though unfortunately he will be overshadowed by Ledger: it's understandable, as the movie concentrates more on Ennis del Mar than Gyllenhaal Jack Twist, but Gyllenhaal is a talented young actor who gives a marvelous performance.

Both main stars are well supported by Michelle Williams (as excellent as she was in another gay-themed film, HBO's If These Walls Could Talk 2) and Anne Hathaway (giving surprising depth that you would not expect from the star of such films as Ella Enchanted and The Princess Diaries).

The film plays beautifully, never sensationalizing its so-called 'controversial' topic (really, in 2006?) and all the cast and crew display an obvious respect and passion for the subject.

If there are any low points, they are few - such as the cast is very young (not only the main leads but Hathaway and Williams in particular look too young) which stretches credibility as the twenty years slowly pass. However their fine performances just about make up for this and the filmmakers wisely didn't overdo the aging make-up (in fact they keep it to a bare minimum: young cast members playing much older characters can be hard to believe, but particularly so when they are obviously heavily made-up to look older!).

There's very little else to fault in this wonderful movie, though perhaps the passion between the two main characters could have been slightly steamier – you do get the feeling the producers were treading carefully; then again, had they steamed things up, maybe it would have felt too vociferous and controversy courting.

As things stand, this is a tender and heartbreaking masterpiece and one of the most beautiful films to come out of America in recent months. Though the film thugs wonderfully at your heartstrings, it never comes close to being one of those awful 'weepies' like Love Story.

Hopefully, the controversy surrounding this movie will stop. It's unnecessary at this point in time. This film deserves to be viewed, enjoyed and cherished on its own right, as a beautiful tale of a love affair repressed and hidden out of fear of society's reaction.

Brokeback Mountain is an intelligent and thought-provoking film that deserves to win all the Oscars it's nominated for. I truly hope it does.

11 out of 14 people found the following review useful:
Excellent debut thriller from Kyle Shickner & Co., 18 October 2004

I went to see this 3 nights ago here in Cork, Ireland. It was the world premiere of it, in the tiny cinema in the Triskel Arts Centre as part of the Cork Film Festival.

I found "Strange Fruit" to be an excellent movie. It is a bit rough around the edges, but for a low-budget movie that is to be expected! In general the acting (particularly from the main lead Kent Faulcon) is wonderful, the cinematography and direction excellent, and the script hugely entertaining and thought-provoking, with some nice set-ups and witty dialogue.

The ending was a bit sudden, with no conclusion given to characters and events once the finale came to its gripping end ... but perhaps that's what the filmmakers were going for? It certainly did make the movie more unsettling. I did like the fact that the main character never came to terms with his mother on screen: it leaves you wondering whether or not he ever will, as in real-life sometimes these things are never settled. This was a good choice, to leave it unresolved rather than sentimentally wrapping it up!

Taut and suspenseful throughout, "Strange Fruit" is a hugely ambitious debut and I have high hopes for what the writer/director Kyle Schickner will unleash next. He - and his colleagues - are a talent worth watching.

I hope "Strange Fruit" gets a wider release soon, as more people deserve to see this movie, an above-average thriller with some original and insightful twists on homophobia and racism in America's Deep South.

Highly Recommended: 7/10

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Slow-moving but worth it., 21 March 2004

Billy Murray's performance in Lost in Translation is worth the price of admission alone, and Scarlett Johansson proves to be just as good as ever.

The movie suffers a bit at the beginning from getting most of its jokes from the typical fish-out-of-water scenario, while you could argue that a large portion of it is just one long commercial for Tokyo.

Still the cinematography is fantastic, Sophia Coppola's (thankfully she's left acting behind since her woeful turn in The Godfather Part III) direction is sublime, and the chemistry between the two leads will make you tingle. Highly recommended, but only if you don't mind slow-moving movies.

3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
A groovy movie., 21 March 2004

Jack Black was born to play this role. His presence really makes the movie (forget his so-so turn in "Shallow Hal" and his woeful performance in the equally woeful "I Still Know What You Did Last Summer"). Joan Cusack (who appears to be in every movie of the past ten years) lends able support and the kids are pretty good too.

Thankfully never descending into sentimental hell like so many movies featuring large casts of kids, School of Rock manages to do just what it says on the tin. It's funny, funky and will have even the most pessimistic of you smiling. As long as you don't expect too much, it will have you leaving the cinema with a big smile on your face.

Surprisingly this movie was directed by Richard Linklater, formerly of the Generation X quarter of Hollywood, who made Dazed and Confused, and the `talky' movies Waking Life and Before Sunrise.

3 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Not the worst, but close enough., 15 February 2004

Surprisingly, this movie was not quite as godawful as I imagined it would be. But it's still pretty bad, the whole farce is based on a one-joke concept and everything in the movie is wrapped in predictability. Avoid.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Stronger than the first film., 2 February 2004

Having established all the characters and set up most of the foundation of Harry's world in the first movie, this sequel is free to concentrate more on the storyline and action. At times it suffers from being a little too similar to the first movie. Nevertheless, the child actors and special effects are better, as is the action. A strong, enjoyable movie. Like the books, the movies seem to get stronger as they progress ... Here's hoping "Azkaban" will be even better!

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