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910 reviews in total 
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The Master (2012)
The Search for Belonging, 7 September 2014
8/10

2012 saw the return of Joaquin Phoenix to acting after a brief break so he can have a 'rap' career. He unites with writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson and works with some great actors in the thinly veiled attack on Scientology.

Phoenix stars as a Peter Quell, a Navy veteran, an alcoholic and psychologically damaged. He is unable to keep a job and prone to anger and violence and when he hits rock bottom meets Lancaster Dodd (Phillip Seymour Hoffman). Soon Peter opens up to charismatic leader and becomes a part of the organisation.

The Master is both a character study and an examination of the running of the cult, particularly the politics within the organisation. Peter is a man who is looking for somewhere to belong yet hostile to everyone he meets. Lancaster and his group offers that, using 'The Process' to allow Peter to open up. Yet Lancaster is also a man who is also not above anger when poked or questions from people within and outside the organisation. Lancaster's wife (Amy Adams) too is a major force within the organisation, acting as a power behind the man, influencing Lancaster and getting him to do her bidding.

To anyone who knows anything about the Scientology Cult can see the parallel being presented. There is the obvious that both have insane and non-sensible ideas the cults are based. Processing is the same as the as Auditing by the Scientology, used to break down people and find out personal information about people. The idea of fair game is brought up, that if anyone who criticise the movement should be targeted and anyone who leaves are locked out for good.

The Cause is not just a pseudo religious movement but it is also a family conflict as many of the Lancaster's family members have different views, such as his son who sees his father for what he really is, a charlatan.

The Master is a beautiful looking film, having some great cinematography by Mihai Mălaimare, Jr. as he shoots the desert, the sea, the beach and uses plenty of long takes and tracking shots to show scale and allow the actors to have a natural, uninterrupted performance. But scenes in the dark were too dark and many scenes that play for too long and could have shorten.

The Master is not Paul Thomas Anderson's best films, There Will Be Blood and Boogie Nights are stronger films. It is still a worthy drama, a well written and directed film as Anderson shows himself to be a auteur and his period setting and long, slow burning style is very reminiscent to Terence Malick.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Pure American Cheese, 9 August 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Olympus Has Fallen is pure cheese, a film designed to get American audiences to chant USA, USA despite having a lead actor barely being able to do an American accent. This is a film with a hacky script, being compared to Die Hard and clearly been influenced by 24. The writing and plot points is predictable, most of the cast are slumming it for a paycheck and the CGI is on the same level as straight-to-DVD film. Director Antoine Fuqua wants to be a low budget Michael Bay as he shows the destruction of many American momentums, military planning and action and the wounded American flag as the nation suffers a shock before a triumphant return. The film even ends up on a clichéd ticking time bomb situation.

Olympus Has Fallen's strongest feature is its violence: it is a hard-R as blood is spilled and bones are broken. One of the best sequences is when the North Koreans storm the White House and battle the Secret Service.

Olympus Has Fallen is entertainingly silly where you can play a drinking game about the clichés and plot holes, but if you want a better quality about the American president in peril watch White House Down or Air Force One instead.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
A Classic War film, 3 August 2014
9/10

The Longest Day is a epic war film, having three directors, a running time of nearly three hours and made on a grand scale. The Longest Day tells the story and events of D-Day from the British, American, German and French perspectives. There are many story from the Allies deciding on whether to invade, the German wondering where the Allies would invade, the airborne landings in Normandy to capture important strategic points, the bench landings and German commander's reaction to invasion and trying to get the Panzer Reserves into the battle. The Longest Day is a historically accuracy film as it shows all these parts of the conflict and is balanced between showing the story of the British, German and Americans and soldiers fighting on the ground and high command in headquarters. The Longest Day focuses on the military aspects, so threats the Germans and their generals simply as men doing their jobs. The battles were brilliant handled, especially with aerial shots showing the size of the actions. The Longest Day does suffer from a few bad performances and expository dialogue but it is a must watch for fans of war films and history buffs.

Tim Burton being Tim Burton, 19 July 2014
7/10

Tim Burton has had a tough few years with many of his newer films disappointing his fans and audiences. He returned to something more personal by turning his first short film, Frankenweenie into a feature length film. Frankenweenie is a film that Burton was committed to project, making a homage to Gothic horror films of the 30s, particularly Frankenstein and The Bride of Frankenstein and mixing it with the 50s small town Americana of Edward Scissorhands and focusing on many outsiders. The Elementary School is populated by strange characters, Victor (Charlie Tahan), an intelligent boy more interested in science and filmmaking, Elsa (Winona Ryder), a depressed goth girl, Edgar "E" Gore, a creepy hunchback kid and "Weird Girl" (Catherine O'Hara), a girl who is obsessed with her cat's psychic visions.

Frankenweenie is a fantastically animated film: Burton brings out a creepy look: the characters are deliberately exaggerated as it tells a story most people can relate to when we have suffered some sort of lost. Burton recreates the look of both old Black and White monster movies and B-Movies from the 50s. But this disadvantageous because Frankenweenie is a bit too much of a love letter to though films. The humour for the most part is mild with the funniest moment being when a Eastern European puts down the parents during a public meeting in the most condescending matter possible.

Frankenweenie is a solid enough film with a running of 80 minutes. But it is essentially what you would think a Tim Burton film would be like.

Ran (1985)
A film that truly lives up to the word "Epic", 11 July 2014
8/10

Akira Kurosawa is one of the greatest filmmakers ever and his last epic film Ran is often considered one of his best, an adaptation of King Lear. Ran is a visually striking, thematic epic that Kurosawa's fan will love. Ran is glorious to look at, having fantastic colours, costumes and cinematography of the Japanese plains and mountains. The characters are rich, major and minor as well defined and have a role to play with their character dynamic. Tatsuya Nakadai as Hidetora is a character who goes through the ringer as he descends into madness, face all his sins when he rose to power and goes into a mental and physical void as he ends up in a wasteland. The battle of Third Castle was a terrific sequence as a small force are in a last stand against massive army attacks, using arrows and muskets. It was beautifully shot battle, showing the scale of the army and showing the carriage as Hidetora's mind cracks.

A theme of power corrupts as Hidetora seek power as his sons want to have complete control of the land. All the characters have their own agendas and the only ones who are loyal to Hidetora are the ones he rejected. All the characters in the power struggle are all trying to play one against the other.

Kurosawa direction is superb, a great looking film and he allowed scenes to play out in long takes, allowing the drama to play out and adds to the theatrical nature of the acting and story. Kurosawa even uses the weather to great effect to enhance the emotion and turmoil the characters and world suffers, much like Rashomon and Throne of Blood.

Ran is typical Kurosawa.

Delightful Viewing for the Holidays, 30 June 2014
8/10

Rise of the Guardians is a delightful film for the whole family, telling the story of how Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and the Sandman protect children and they thrive on children's beliefs. But when an old threat awakens the group needs to find a new guardian to help them, Jack Frost (Chris Pine).

Rise of the Guardians is a wonderfully animated film from first time director Peter Ramsey perfectly mixes the comedy, drama and action. The animation is fast and fluid they is great detail all of the scenes. They are great little designs such as the Christmas Elves and the Tooth Fairies.

The comedy is strong, being very physical and visual whiles also have some little jokes and character moments. It is a film that provides plenty moments that will bring a smile to people's faces. It is all weighted with the drama and the darkness of the villain, Pitch (Jude Law). Screenwriter David Lindsay-Abaire clearly follows the Hero With Thousand Faces template as a reluctant hero having a destiny thrust upon him and has to prove himself as well find out about his past whiles Pitch reflect of what Jack Frost could become.

The film assembles a great voice cast with Pine being perfectly cast as the cocky, fearless Jack Frost whiles playing the character. Combined with the visuals it is easy to feel for Jack's plight as he longs to be seen by the world. Law gave a sinister performance as the voice, also playing it straight and Alec Baldwin was having fun being a Russian accented Santa.

Alexandre Desplat supplies another excellent music, giving the film both an epic score for scale of the action and giving the seasonal sound when needed.

Rise of the Guardians will certainly make Christmas viewing, working as a fantasy drama and a comedy and it is easy for the young and the young at heart can enjoy.

I saw the 3D Blu-ray version and the 3D effort were very score.

Maleficent (2014)
6 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
An Underwhelming Fantasy Experience, 25 June 2014
3/10

Dark version of popular fairy tales has become filmmaking idea, with films like Alice in Wonderland, Snow White and the Huntsman and Oz: The Great and Powerful being bit hits. Disney has now made a live-action version of Sleepy Beauty, focusing the villain Maleficent.

Angelica Jolie takes on the title role: the producers begged her to play Maleficent and she was the best feature of this fantasy film. She gave a committed performance and was best at bringing out the fiery fury of Maleficent. The best scene in the film was the Christening scene when Maleficent wants revenges against the main that betrayed her and King Stefan (played by District 9's Sharlto Copley) begging her not to curse his new born daughter, giving his character some depth.

Robert Stromberg, the production designer of films likes Avatar and Oz and the Great and Powerful makes his directional debut and it shows. The costumes, particularly of the army and the castle set design is excellent and Oscar worthy, but the CGI is sub-par for a big budget fantasy film and the creature designs were downright terrible. Stromberg and writer Linda Woolverton were taking an approach of being a dark fantasy and mixing in annoying comedy shtick by the three pixies who are totally hopeless. The action was solid enough but it affected by a strange zoom effect which annoying and out of place.

Maleficent was an underwhelming experience that wasted potential with an under written plot and characters and poor direction. A real disappointment.

Oculus (2013/I)
2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Great potential, but muddled at the end, 25 June 2014
7/10

Writer/director Mike Flanagan adapted his own short film Oculus: Chapter 3 – The Man with the Plan as a psychological horror feature film and serves as Doctor Who star Karen Gillan's Hollywood debut.

After spending 11 years in a mental hospital Tim Russell (Brenton Thwaites) is released on his 21st Birthday and is greeted by his older sister, Kaylie (Gillan). She gets Tim to fulfil a promise they made when they were children, to destroy a 400-year-old mirror known as the Lasser Glass, which she believes is haunted, and plans to document the events over the course of a night. Locked in their old house for a night, Kaylie and Tim reflect on their childhood when their parents were driven to insanity 11 years earlier.

Oculus is a very well acted with the whole cast giving strong performances, including child actors Annalise Basso and Garrett Ryan as the younger versions of Kaylie and Tim. British audiences are most likely to be interested because of the beautiful Karen Gillan and her fans will be pleased by her performance, giving plenty of emotion and a convincing American accent.

Oculus has major conflict early on between the older versions of Kaylie and Tim, Tim acting as the voice of scepticism and coming up logical explanations about what happened in their past and the history of the mirror. One of the best sequences is Kaylie and Tim debating the mirror's history, with Gillan and Thwaites working well together. Oculus would have benefited from being more ambiguous about the supernatural elements and casting more doubt.

Another theme is the persecution of reality the siblings suffer and arguing about their psychological states. They both have different interruptions of the events of their past, coming up with different examples and if done a little differently could have been a deeper study of the fallibility of the human memory. The mirror plays on the siblings minds and causing visions and casting doubt about what is real and what is not. Finally the characters are facing demons, both their personal and literal demons that the mirror causes.

Flanagan shows himself to be a director with potential. With his cinematographer Michael Fomognari, the pair do create some excellent shots, having wonderful camera movements as it follows actions on screen and both are fond of using high camera angles and steady cam shots. There are some excellent visuals, from the camera to the design of the ghosts. One particular little moment is when Tim sees an image of Kaylie on a computer screen which is different to the cameras she had set up and resulting in thoughts about the Doctor Who episode "The Time of Angels".

Flanagan also treats his characters to having some intelligence, Kaylie being very scientific and methodical approach to proving what the mirror does and her plan to destroy whiles Tim as stated comes up with sensible counter arguments. As the film progresses and plans more tricks on the mind it becomes tougher for the Russell's as they do not know what is real. Gore is kept to a minimum and is more impactful when it is shown. It is not a film for gore hounds.

But as Flanagan tries to judge the two narratives he ends up struggling despite his best efforts and by the third act Oculus starts to implode with its two conclusions at the end, becoming more of a muddled mess.

Film School Rejects put it best with their review saying "well-acted, looks quite good and manages some moments of entertainment, but as the minutes tick by it grows weaker and weaker until its final cheat designed to allow for a shocker ending". It is a statement I totally agree with.

6.5/10 Please visit www.rocknreelreviews.com

4 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
A mixed bag of a film, 25 June 2014
6/10

John Turturro is best known to mainstream for his role as Agent Simmons in the Transformers series and has had to suffer many indignities for his sins. But with his latest film, Turturro gets to portray what some may regard as a wish fulfilling role playing a successful gigolo who gets to sleep with many beautiful ladies.

Fioravante (John Turturro) is a part-time florist who helps his old friend Murray (Woody Allen) – whose bookshop goes out of business. Hard-up for cash Murray tells Fioravante about Dr. Parker (Sharon Stone) who wants to have a threesome with her friend and suggested Fioravante for the role. Soon Fioravante becomes a successful gigolo with Murray as his pimp. But Fioravante's life is complicated by his relationship with an orthodox Jewish widow, Avigal (Vanessa Paradis).

Fading Gigolo has advertised as a comedy with some of the main quotes on the poster focusing on the comic elements. But the film is as much a drama as it is a comedy and a very mixed bag. It is a film that has some excellent moments but the individual elements do not make the sum of its parts. At a 90 minute running time Fading Gigolo has some parts which were only very minor, playing a bigger role in an earlier draft of the screenplay and should have been cut completely.

Allen is the comic highlight of the film, bringing energy and expert comic timing. He has the best lines, many based on his new profession or his Jewish heritage. Some of recognisable neurotic persona is around, but it is not as prevalent as it has been. Allen has a particularly strong relationship and interplay with Turturro and the two make a good double act.

The other really strong element of the film is the relationship between Turturro and Paradis. Both actors are excellent together and give good performances. Turturro directs their scenes together with a tenderness that was required and their scenes together were given emotional weight. Two scenes of note were Fioravante and Avigal first encountering and when the pair are in a park; given extra power by long takes and the lovely cinematography.

The two women that want a threesome are Sharon Stone and Modern Family's Sofía Vergara, two of the least likely women who would struggle to find a man to join them. Even if they did, considering we live in the digital age, they could surely find someone on the internet.

Fading Gigolo is a deliberately old-fashioned film, using classic cinematography of long takes, a jazzy score and focuses on close-knit communities. While the film has some solid comic and dramatic moments it suffers from major tonal shift and an unfocused screenplay.

Please visit www.rocknreelreviews.com

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
A Comedy of Two Halves of Quality., 25 June 2014
7/10

Directors like bands and singers are susceptible to suffering a second album syndrome, as they success leads to them having more free reign and see them receive less of an objective advice. After the success of Ted, Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane made a bigger scale film with his follow-up A Million Ways to Die in the West.

The Old West was terrible place to live where people risk death from other people, wildlife, the weather, disease and injury. Only the tough can survive, and unfortunately for sheep farmer Albert Stark (MacFarlane), he is a coward and after being shot by his girlfriend Louise (Amanda Seyfried) she breaks up with him for a successful moustached man, Foy (Neil Patrick Harris). But all is not lost after he strikes up a friendship with Ann (Charlize Theron) who offers to help him win her back.

A Million Ways to Die in the West is a comedy of two halves. The first half is a constantly funny comedy, using strong verbal, physical and gross-out comedy to supply laughs. The second half becomes more reliant on more cruder humour as the story itself runs out of steam.

Ted worked taking the fun childish fantasy and twisted it into a stoner comedy. A Million Ways to Die in the West is a more traditional story of a man trying to win over his dream girl when he is blind to a better girl that is already there: it just happens to be set in the Old West. MacFarlene does show his affection for the Western genre, using bright cinematography and desert locations, the set dressing and costumes and its score which are all reminiscent of classic Westerns, just with more swearing, sex and violence.

MacFarlane surrounds himself with a strong cast, featuring the likes of Giovanni Ribisi and Sarah Silverman, having fun as a Christian Couple saving themselves for marriage despite Silverman playing a popular prostitute. Theron's strength was supplying a deadpan performance, working off the more overt humour of the other characters and the strange location of Old Stump. Most of the cast was strong, but some actors suffer bigger indignities then others. MacFarlane also eschews some fun cameos who provide some great moments A Million Ways to Die in the West has strong first hour, that was consistently funny for the most part and features some of MacFarlane's risqué humour. But this was a film that needed a rewrite for the second half as it drags its down. It should have been a shorter, tauter affair.

6.5/10 Please visit www.rocknreelreviews.com


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