Reviews written by registered user

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128 reviews in total 
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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
New boy, 22 April 2011

Oldboy indicated that there was a new genre on the block. A film full of violence and revenge, but very much trapped in the human mind. No attempt to shove the viewer into the supernatural or the spiritual.

Asian cinema often learns style from Hollywood but never taste. I saw the Devil has a less inward feel than Oldboy; the scenarios are more familiar to audiences fed on modern thrillers and horror tropes. This leaves the mechanics of the head to head battle between the two main characters more exciting - think Infernal Affairs.

The violence is relentless, but it is obvious early on that violence stands in for desperation - not some ersatz authority. This is what gives the film its unique track. Everyone is a victim.

This is a gruesome ride; fast, often unpleasant, with no reliance on tricks or twists. Because of the attention to detail, it is more than the sum of its parts. At the end you will be satisfied, though probably not enlightened.

Inside Job (2010)
12 out of 14 people found the following review useful:
Money troubles, 25 February 2011

A very well photographed tour of the places and people that the 2008 financial collapse touched. Which is pretty much everyone and everywhere.

What the documentary does well is explain the legal, business and regulatory triangle that was seen to be broken by anybody who actually looked. The road to disaster is well examined.

Getting interviews with people you are going to slag off is not easy; most of the guilty interviewees are either still in denial, not used to being questioned or consider the whole thing academic. Mostly they hang themselves.

Some of the angles are less fruitful. That the bankers snorted cocaine and used prostitutes does not imply they were loose on financial regulation.

One aspect that marks this as the real deal is that it does not push the idea that bankers were naturally bad, rather that they were happy to manipulate a system full of people who did not understand Credit Default Swaps.

An added extra looks at the role of academics; many of whom put their name to a system that eventually collapsed.

Black Swan (2010)
7 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
Down the Swanny, 31 January 2011

As an Arafonsky fan.. OK, it isn't that hard to be a fan as he has only a handful of excellent films to his credit.

He is probably in the part of his career where he has to match personal projects (The Fountain) with money making stuff. Portman is probably at a similar place, and that maybe the best way to understand why this film was made. And the assembled cast is excellent on paper.

The Black Swan falls down rather quickly. The depiction of the claustrophobic Jewish princess and mother starts well but departs usefulness rapidly. And between the clichés (dark reflections in subway etc) there are three part performances (her mum, director and rival) that don't quite mature. But that's because she is mad, and we need to see two sides to everyone at once. Because she's mad. Yeah? No. The camera is on Portman a lot, and that may be the problem. She is not allowed to evolve fully one way or another, and when she does change it is rushed.

This film seems to be a backward move from Requim for a Dream, where we got to see vibrant threads of collapsing lives. With Nina, we just don't get a valid journey. Which leaves the film on a certain river.

4 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Family ties, 3 December 2010

After years of well crafted TV serials, we are used to a specific language of spoon-fed clues to describe the strange, alien or fantastic. In this Mexican "cannibal" film, the audience is made to work fairly hard to discern anything.

The grinding logic of the film eventually pays off. The closing doors, family stress and fear of the outside from inside the dysfunctional home paint a picture of a family that is twisted yet recognisable.

There is a possibly fantasy link that explains things, but that is thrown in. Poverty, or inability to control the future is the driver for everything. The ending is slightly more traditional, but the experience remains unrelentingly strange.

8 out of 20 people found the following review useful:
Two hicks bury their mama, 20 October 2010

While the film has some attractive imagery, it is effectively summarised as my title suggests. This short work, which played tonight at the London Film Festival, doesn't particularly satisfy in any area.

The Mississippi landscape is nice enough, and some of the style works as good verite, but really the thing needs to re-cut to focus to give the film any centre whatsoever.

I don't know whether I fully understood the little that was happening, and the intrusive soundtrack didn't help. While the film has no Antichrist moments that make you regret art-house cinema, this only makes the grade at a festival with slender merits.

French subtitles merely added to the puzzlement.

The Town (2010)
4 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
More Heat than lite, 8 October 2010

The point of heist movies is that they are pretty much the same. From the Aussie gem Money Movers to the classic Heat, it is another way to view the relationship between man, woman and money.

The Town - following on from The Wire - bases itself in a single urban area. We are introduced to its bad denizens. Affleck is vaguely convincing - in parts - as a lowlife criminal. Well, he isn't truly with it but he doesn't actually do harm.

Rebecca Hall performance as the innocent moll is a bit strong, but like Affleck she is watchable.

Yes, this tears off a great deal from Heat - but that is no bad thing. Heat could be remade every two years and I'd probably see it all the time. The Town is predictable but well put together, which makes you wonder what genre Affleck wants to try his hand at next.

1 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
Battle Royale, 30 August 2010

To say the last ten years have brought forth many comic adaptations would be a daft understatement. With CGI coming of age, as well as the attention deficit generation, it made sense as a source.

But until recently, most adaptations were actually films. That is - you were watching a film of a comic. With Scott Pilgrim, you are watching something that is part film, part comic, part video game. The logic of the film is not entirely cinematic. If you don't read comics or play video games - you simply won't be able to progress to the next level. Even when the logic runs as a film, the genre keeps altering through rom-com to bollywood. The constant battleground is a post student McJob Toronto, with a sort of 90s view of geek rock.

While the plot is simply guy meets girl, guy loses girl, guy battles with mystic evil ex-boyfriends to the death, the film isn't too bothered whether the audience is involved or not. Cool and funny things happen, but it seems all a bit esoteric.

While much of the sensibility is Kevin Smith vs Douglas Coupland, and therefore pretty funny, I would expect that it will take a few more tries in this direction before a true classic emerges. But the attempts will be entertaining.

Inception (2010)
0 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
lucid dreaming, 17 July 2010

So time for more expensively filmed science fiction entertainment. At least this is not a comic adaption. Should this have been a TV series? Nolan tries his best to keep it within the bounds of cinema and mainly pulls it off.

As the actors are pushed around the set and through the rushed plot, the layer below the slightly antiseptic action scenes becomes apparent. The high hokum is in the employ of fairly intelligent questions.

One of the problems that has to be faced by films using virtual scenarios is to set the right level of jeopardy. This is done on the hoof in Inception, with rules of the game announced as we go. Yet the director rarely abuses this.

The classic problem with the Matrix era films was unexplained pop video place changes largely to show off budget - but everyone still behaved as if they were in LA. To some degree Inception nods at this with its own high sheen low fidelity changes, but is also gently ribbing them. Its all a dream, of course.

There is no question that by the last scene you feel that another concept has escaped the original film - I think this is what people are referring to as cerebral. It is a badge of faith that the film is improved on repeat viewing (i.e. it is too dense for one telling) and that leaves the film as a work that will live as much on the internet forums as in your head.

1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Wires crossed, 3 July 2010

We now live in a post Wire world, so a cops and gangster flick needs to be good. And this is good - cinematic timing, acting and scope. This is a tale of morals, played with three cops. Accuracy and intelligence is somewhat jettisoned for emotion and theater. It adds up to great entertainment.

Clichés do run riot, and maybe the reference to video games is a clue that the director does not trust the audience. But the acting of Hawkes, Gere and Cheadle is fine enough, and they transcend the material. Somewhat the inverse of the Departed, where the intricacy consumes the performances.

In the final moments, the three characters descend into hell (the projects) for their final reckoning. This film is not a classic, but is worth the ride.

Avatar (2009)
0 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Astonishing film for the start of a new decade: 1990, 2 January 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

So how to make a film that keeps cinemas open through the recession? Use new technology, and make sure the story works all over the world. The 3D is of course the only point of this release. It is a mark in the sand. There is no throwing things in your face 3D here - just giving an extra depth to a new world.

I see people asking "Why does Avatar make marines bad?" Its because this film must pull its weight around the world - and retelling the invasion myth of America with different winners appeals to world opinion in this particular time with unethical wars appear to be the fault of America.

But appealing to world taste may have gone awry here. This film seems to place itself about two decades backwards in film chronology. It isn't just using Signourey Weaver that signals this. Blade Runner was 1982. Aliens was 1986. Dances with Wolves was 1990. The Matrix, 1999, looks clearly advanced in ideas compared to the sub L. Ron Hubbard rubbish that Avatar develops. Compare "World tree" to "We are all Avatars unless we unplug".

I thought Lord of the Rings achieved something with a real myth retold strongly in a modern idiom. Avatar seems more applicable to a Dr Who episode from time gone by.

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