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5 reviews in total 
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Restrepo (2010)
2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Restrepo is intense and insane, there will be moments in the film where you simply can't believe that it's real, 24 November 2011

Restrepo is a brilliantly strange experience; on the one hand the harrowing documentary is powerful enough to chew your face off while you're watching it, on the other hand the bizarreness of the unfolding situations borderline on an incredibly dark parody.

The suggestive editing threads a narrative through the insanity, and offers an underlining current of cynical gallows humour throughout. Meanwhile, amidst the bleak absurdity of war, we bond with these guys, these regular blokes, as they go about their lives, not exactly living but defiantly surviving in the deadliest valley in Afghanistan. This is a film that is well worth experiencing, as it will undoubtedly change your perspective on war and the lives of soldiers, far more effectively than any Hollywood effort. But be prepared to be pulled in a hundred different directions emotionally, as the film will throw you into intense, horrifying battles, comedic downtime, and heart wrenching moments of loss and pain, giving you a glimpse of the kind of disorientation the soldiers themselves experienced.

There will be moments in the film where you simply can't believe that it's real, and moments where you can only laugh at the mind-boggling other-worldliness of it all, and yet it is one of the most real experiences it's possible to have in a safe, comfortable cinema.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
A refreshingly surreal and dark blockbuster. Plenty of money has been thrown at this film, but it retains a sense of identity that is unmistakably British, 24 November 2011

It will be no surprise to anyone that the latest instalment of Harry Potter is "darker than the one before it", but I certainly wasn't expecting such a pitch-black blend of melancholy, depression and horror- with a bit of sex thrown in. What the hell happened? One minute Potter is a scrawny little dork, getting into trouble in the enchanted school of Hogwarts, the next he's covered in the blood of his friends, a look of quiet acceptance on his face, as he prepares to die. I haven't been paying the utmost attention to the series, but I have at least seen every film once. If you haven't, don't even bother watching The Deathly Hollows, because no attempt will be made to bring you up to speed with the story so far. Instead you'll spend the entire film wondering why so many famous and much loved British actors keep popping up with just a handful of lines of dialogue between them. It is a curious thing, but ultimately good, that so much time is spent with the film's heroic trio while people like John Hurt, Alan Rickman, Jason Isaacs and so, so many more (basically all the British actors) are left to hover around in the background, largely left out of focus.

There is a tangle of different plots that keeps the narrative going forwards, but they are of such simple design that the ideas never really bog you down. It's more a case of "find the MacGuffin" which is actually a refreshing change from the complicated relationships of Harry, Ron and Hermione, who all hate each other now apparently. The story itself is relatively linear; Harry and the team must find and destroy some pieces of evil Lord Voldemort's soul, which have been hidden away in keepsakes and scattered about (though usually found in locations that were important to the dark lord). There's also the Deathly Hallows themselves, which are explained in a rather lovely animation sequence, as three magical devices that, when combined, can defeat death itself.

Voldemort obviously wants to get his mittens on these Deathly Hallows, while the heroic trio are more concerned with finding a means to destroy an unbreakable locket, which contains a piece of his aforementioned soul. It's simple stuff, but allows for plenty of emoting on the kid's side, as the burden of their quest becomes too much to bear. Cracks begin to appear in their relationship, especially between Harry and Ron, while Hermione actually holds the gang together- although, it's fair to say, she is the source of most of the trouble. Indeed, this new instalment has a lot of sexual undertones- and at one point throws subtlety completely out of the window, when Hermione becomes a cold, hard dominatrix- possibly channelling Galadriel's temptation of the one Ring. Speaking of which, the new Harry Potter, like the majority of the previous instalments, borrows heavily from Tolkien lore, most notably with the corrupting power of Voldemort's locket, which the trio take turns in carrying round their necks. The locket is one of the primary contributing factors to the cracks in the trio's friendship, ratcheting up the tension and the melancholy in equal measure. While the film is host to many a famous face, the young stars; Radcliffe, Grint and Watson do an admirable job, their acting lending the fantasy a healthy injection of realism.

The kids are so normal, that at times they seem at odds with the overly camp, theatrical actors that prance around having immense fun with their limited roles. It is worth noting, however, that despite the apparently sombre look of the film, the spiky humour is consistent throughout, and there is an ample amount of surrealism that gives this film a particular shine. The infiltration of the Ministry of Magic is a stand out moment; equal parts disturbing and bizarrely humorous, drawing on great films like Terry Gilliam's Brazil for inspiration. Another wonderful scene is Harry and Hermione's trip to see Bathilda Bagshot, which is scarier than most of the horror film's out at the moment.

All in all, the film is dark, but funnier than the previous chapter's in the series. There are plenty of flaws, particularly if you find yourself unconvinced by the film's protagonists, who carry the story on their shoulders. There are plenty of cliché's, and the moments you wish would last longer are hurried along to make way for more scene's of Harry sitting around looking tired. However, the overall feel of the film, the darkness that must come before the light, is pretty powerful. If you allow yourself to be invested in the story and the characters, rather than approaching it with snooty cynicism, you will probably find yourself going along for the ride.

Children of a certain age may not understand a lot of what's going on, and will likely be terrified during the scary moments, which are often quite horrific, but chances are the people who have invested in this film have already grown up with the previous six instalments. If you are unfamiliar with the story so far, go back and watch the other films, or at least read the synopses on Wikipedia.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is a good movie, there's plenty of exciting set pieces, sharp wit throughout and lots of time to develop the characters in interesting ways. Just remember that it is actually darker than you're expecting it .

Four Lions (2010)
3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Four Lions celebrates that one aspect of humanity that each and every one of us share, no matter what creed or culture we come from: stupidity, 24 November 2011

People familiar with Chris Morris' early work, from Jam to Brass Eye, will not be surprised to hear that his feature debut is a darker than black comedy focusing on the madness of humanity. However, few could have predicted the film would be quite as brave as this; following a group of radicalised Jihadi terrorists (from Sheffield) as they attempt to blow themselves up for Islam.

Shot in an almost documentary/fly-on-the-wall style that recalls the excellent BBC2 comedy The Thick of It, Four Lions feels very personal, as we spend time with these confused individuals and, yes, begin to like them. Omar is the most identifiable character out of the five would-be terrorists, which is ironic because he is also the most driven to commit the terrible act. As the film progress, we follow Omar and his ever trusting but dim-witted friend Waj, as they go to Pakistan to make a name for themselves in a terrorist training camp (this, it has to be said, quite literally backfires). We also witness the volatile Barry, a convert to Islam, as he attempts to train the timid Faisal and newcomer Hassan. While Barry is certainly no genius, we do at times enjoy his exasperation as Faisal, a man who trains crows to be bombers, buys hundreds of bottles of bleach from the local corner shop, or the nervous Hassan raps about his jihad much to everyone else's confusion.

Despite the comedy element of Four Lions, it is still a film that understands, better than any other terrorist themed movie, what drives these people to do what they do. While bigger, perhaps more critically acclaimed- films are happy to take George Bush's insightful view on what motivates a fundamentalist (that they are all friends of Satan), Four Lions offers us something that may seem strange but is ultimately rewarding; it humanises them.

Now, it must be emphasised that by humanising the Terrorists, Chris Morris has not only made them all the more terrifying but also celebrates that one aspect of humanity that each and every one of us share, no matter what creed or culture we come from: stupidity. During the three years Chris Morris spent researching the project, he came across countless true stories that are so absurd and mind-numbingly dumb that they could easily have been in the film. The fact that the Terrorists are from Britain has a particular poignancy; the film deals with the issue that these people aren't just men in masks, they're British, as Morris says "They're part of the landscape", it's not as simple as black and white, or good and evil.

Omar has a loving wife and an awed, bright eyed little boy, a family that he loves and who support his war on the Western world. These moments of tenderness and humanity only showcase how confused and misled Omar and his friends are. By the end of the film there are moments of real tragedy, albeit with a kind of gallows humour, as the group begin to realise just how confused they really are about they're ideals, about right and wrong and the reasons for why they do what they do. Four Lions is a film that parodies terrorism in the same way Dads Army parodies the Nazis, in a kind of fairy tale moral; we need to laugh at the terror to vanquish it. But in creating a comedy that actually understands the humanity and stupidity in Terrorism, Chris Morris has made a film that is as meaningful as it is funny.

7 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
Terra Nova is a big, clumsy behemoth; an action adventure family drama set in a beautifully realised fantasy and inhabited by dinosaurs., 24 November 2011

Terra Nova may not be an intelligent, serious drama, but then what do you expect from a series that has a pun in its title? It's big budget, b-grade fun, an exciting ride and a fantastic spectacle. It slipped up in a few places, not least when it decided to ruin a perfectly good mystery at the end of the double bill, but then I'm guessing 'Genesis' was made to be a pilot, and the writer's felt they needed to set up some kind of grand story-arch to hook their audience. The dialogue is often pretty clunky, but that adds to the appeal, it's an absurd fantasy epic about a family trying to get along in the Cretaceous period, don't expect Shakespeare.

It'll be interesting to see how Terra Nova evolves, the family drama element is actually quite appealing in the dinosaur infested setting, and the thought of seeing what new misadventures the Shannon family get themselves into each week is very intriguing. Terra Nova is really silly, but when you make a science fiction drama about living with dinosaurs, you kind of need to be.

31 out of 45 people found the following review useful:
John Landis' Burke and Hare is more like a Victorian Laurel and Hardy, 28 October 2010

Burke and Hare is a fast-paced, fun filled riot and the title roles are inhabited brilliantly by Simon Pegg (as William Burke) and Andy Serkis (as William Hare). Harking back to the good old American Werewolf days, Burke and Hare joyfully plays with your expectations, creating characters you like and sympathise with and then making you squirm as they nonchalantly murder their way through Edinburgh. Andy Serkis proves that he is the most easily likable man in the world with his earnest, all or nothing approach to acting, and as he reasons that mankind's fate is sealed the moment they're born, you almost find yourself nodding along happily when he suggests "helping them along the way". Simon Pegg has the straighter role, though not by far, as he gleefully goes from love-struck puppy-eyed romantic to monstrously suffocating old ladies in the blink of an eye, his facial expressions, mostly of dim witted "innocence" perfectly contrast with Serkis (Burke's reaction to Hare's coinage of the term "burking" is hilarious). All in all the duo are a perfect pare, thick as thieves and as funny as, well, horrible murderers.