Reviews written by registered user

7 reviews in total 
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8 out of 19 people found the following review useful:
Don't Stare., 31 March 2012

Whenever you hear the words Death, Row and Documentary in the same sentence, you instantly know the deal – falsely accused white trash is saved by impassioned ninety minute plea of a dedicated filmmaker.

You see, documentary loves the the falsely accused… The system of injustice, of botched investigations, of bent cops, corrupt, careless judges and the 'man' keeping the poor, the black and the mentally ill behind bars where they belong.

But not Werner Herzog. This one-man institution of documentary chucks that formula out the window.

We've been taught to see the well-spoken, smiling man on death row as our beat upon, down- trodden hero, and after opening with this tried and tested device, Herzog yanks us back to the crime scene and the hero's utterly depraved and senseless brutality.

So far, so new, fresh and daring; but then, twenty minutes into what could have been an incredible film, he starts meandering through the wider story, of one of the killer's incarcerated father, whose regret and life-saving courtroom plea proved the difference between life and death row, and of the town full of white trash with their own drunken bar fight war stories. It all gets a bit muddy and unfocused.

For the next hour, it seems to stall, and you start hankering to see more of the killers' interview as, well, that's what sold us the ticket stub after all, but they have neither the screen time, nor the insightful comments, to really deliver on the promise of the premise.

Eventually, in the closing fifteen minutes, we get a chance to really ruminate on the inhumanity of the death penalty and of loss, which ends up being rather ghastly and offering, perhaps, a sigh of relief we didn't have to endure that intensity for the full 106 minutes.

An in-depth study of death row and the death penalty, sadly this is not, and while, admirably, Herzog was trying to do things differently, he really only managed to deliver a strange meandering journey through the trailer trash and gated communities of Smallville, Texas.

Restless (2011/I)
3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Death-obsessed beauty., 9 March 2012

I don't know about you, but as great as Dennis Hopper was, I was never able to love him. He was so mean and frightening – all those horrid things he put poor Keanu and Sandra through on that bus, the sacrifices that Jack had to make to get him in 24 and that frankly frightful tongue in Super Mario Bros. But, finally, from his loins, comes something I can love – wee little Henry.

He seems to be carved from the finest tree in the Gus Van Sant forest of indie-actors, whilst having a face perfect enough for the inevitable actor-cum-model turn for the odd glossy magazine.

Death, cancer and all that stuff is hard enough to deal with when you're an adult, but when you're abandoned by your parents to make sense of this world and all its harshness, there's really only one place to go and that's off the rails. Finding yet more death in his imaginary friend and his new girlfriend, young Enoch is just a little bit dark and kooky.

And talking of his girlfriend, is there nothing that Mia Wasikowska isn't in these days. Six months ago it was Amy Ryan who seemed to be in every movie in the cinema, film on iTunes and series on TV; but for the past couple of months Mia has been everywhere. I just caught, and fell in love with, her in In Treatment; and here, well she continued to win me over.

I love a film about grief – and this one is beautiful, cute, and has that little Romeo and Juliet vibe. And a little note to the film's stylist – loving your work.

Michael (2011/II)
51 out of 62 people found the following review useful:
I feel a little sick and a lot disturbed., 9 March 2012

I feel a little sick and a lot disturbed, but mostly, incredibly impressed.

I think when you buy a ticket for a film which has a pedophile for a protagonist, there's always that possibility that it might be a sympathetic portrayal; that beneath the monstrous outside, inside he's just a misunderstood kitten. I mean, surely, if ogres can be like onions, then pedophiles can be like physalis – a juicy centre fully enclosed in a large papery husk?

Well my Daily Mail reading readers, you can relax, Michael is anything but a sympathetic character – although, you may be disappointed that he has neither horns nor tail.

The complexities of the relationship between Michael and his 'houseguest' are fascinating, as it slowly dawns on you how easy it could be to manipulate a child into being a complicit captive, and exactly how many basements out there in fact have a missing child within?

So much of your ninety-four minutes of viewing 'pleasure' is consumed with such sobering and vile thoughts, while the rest is filled with some very dark humour indeed as there's nothing funnier than seeing a pedophile get stuck in the off-piste snow. Believe me, there isn't.

The film itself is flawless, and there are certain moments in and amongst its day-to-day mundanity that reveal themselves as a masterclass in subtle suspense.

This would happily sit right up there on your 'challenging' DVD shelf alongside Dogtooth – which is another fine film that reveals the worlds that people carve for themselves when the shutters come down and all that's left is you, the awkward man and his penis.

Abduction (2011/I)
4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Watchable pulp., 9 March 2012

Taylor Lautner goes all out to prove he can carry a movie.

Shrugging off the wooden dialogue, questionable underlying philosophies and the miserable Kristen Stewart is certainly a step in the right direction! One thing he doesn't seem too great at, though, is carrying his rather bulky frame. He hulks where most would walk, and there's actually something about his gait that reminds me of a particular gentleman in my old gym who seemed to spend more time working on his quads than he did walking on them.

Still, what would Taylor be without his hulking bulk…

Nice to see Hollywood still like their identikit female companion to run holding hands, scream at the bad guys, hand Jacob (whoops, Nathan) weapons on cue, kiss-and-hold in the quiet moments, and ask that all important question: "are we going to die, Nathan?"

Surrounding them are the appropriately menacing Russian bad guys, inept and untrustworthy CIA agents and Little Miss "I'll do a small cameo for a big cheque" Weaver. At times, CIA chief Alfred Molina tries his hardest to channel Tommy Lee Jones' Fugitive lawman, but doesn't quite manage to be the put-upon man of experience.

The story is a dippy mish-mash of the action-thriller genre and certainly doesn't give you any of those 'oh hell' moments that these films really need to make your heart beat fast.

Abduction is just about good enough to make sure Taylor will get another crack at leading man; just next time, maybe try a couple more topless shots, son.

Girl Model (2011)
60 out of 67 people found the following review useful:
Priceless and petrifying at the same time., 9 March 2012

Former model and now jaded scout (read: human trafficker), Ashley Arbaugh, reveals the ugly truth that there is no glamour in modeling.

With incredibly questionable morals on display from just about everyone, from the 13 year old Siberian child's mother pushing her daughter into modelling (read: slavery), through to the curious agency owner who knows that there is no money to be made on these girls who stay in Japan for three weeks only to return home with $2k worth of debt for the family (along with a nice mentally scarred teenager).

Ashley, the soulless globetrotting star of this film, is self-indulgent beyond belief in her self- pity, which, if you try really hard to push past her shocking, confronting can-I-slap-her exterior, you might just see a a raw and damaged woman. A template that you can easily imagine these 13 year old girls are now going to grow into themselves.

Yet another awesome example of documentary kicking fiction's butt in the creation of monstrous characters, and nothing says this better than the agent (read: child catcher) that enthusiastically talks about bringing happiness and wealth to all of the girls and their families, and how this mantra of helping others must exist because he had been a bad man in a previous life. Classic.

Watch out for one of cinema's most uncomfortable scenes when Ashley drops in to say hello to the two models in their rather compact apartment (or shall we say 'cell').

Tomboy (2011)
17 out of 22 people found the following review useful:
Tomboys don't cry., 9 March 2012

It feels like a time gone by of dreamy focused, eternally youthful, summer days: running around in woods, water fights, wrestling, sitting out of football matches, Play-Doh spaghetti, and feeling too scared to stand next to the other boys to pee.

With an approach that is far more Boys Don't Cry than it is Mrs Doubtfire, and by hitting upon gender identity during pre-puberty, a lengthy and distancing make-up job can be avoided.

And so without a rubber nose nor silicone jaw in sight, little Zoé Héran is left stripped bare, literally, to "play boy", with performance alone. And her performance as Laure / Mikael is nothing short of genius.

Masculinity is a hard act to pull off, but pre-pubescent masculinity is such a fine and narrow ledge between forced and feminine that it's incredible that it feels so effortless for a ten year old actress. Compare this to Glenn Close and Janet McTeer in Albert Nobbs, and they feel even more like Little Britain characters than they ever did tearing along the beach screaming "I'm a lady…" And they both got Oscar nominations…?

Zoe is surrounded by a cast of unbelievably naturalistic fellow children; her six-year old sister Jeanna, and the relationship they share is so intimate and convincing that every now and then I simply couldn't imagine there being a camera and film crew right up in their playful, cute as a button, faces.

Her burgeoning relationship with new neighbor Lisa, is as delightful as it is frightful, as you know that at some point there has to be a denouncement that Mikael is not all he seems – and for those of you that have experienced it, you thought that finding out your boyfriend was gay was tough?

Maybe, just maybe, it's because they're talking French that the performances and dialogue feel flawless – murmur in Parisian tones underneath sparse subtitles and I'm sold – or maybe it's because elsewhere they just don't grow 'em like they grow 'em in France.

The script, story, direction and cinematography are enviable, and throughout you hold a little silent prayer in your heart that it's not going to end up, like Brandon Teena, in a ditch.

Project X (2012)
0 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
The geek will continue to inherit the earth, one party at a time., 9 March 2012

Some films take their time to get there and some films never even make it, but Project X hits you right in the likability testicles from the word go. And so I was won. I bought in, I paid up and I went along for the ride.

I wonder if everyone else in the audience were thinking "yeah, yeah, I've been to some parties in my time", as the film began. Indeed up until a certain point, I was still thinking "these boys are just partying like it's 1999". And then there was the midget in the oven. And at that point, I took my hat off and allowed them to boast of the "most epic party".

Thomas, the nerdy birthday boy, who's constantly on edge, understandably, as his parents' house gets wrecked, still manages to dip in and out of pride and awe. Which feels quite genuine, because is there really a former 17 year old nerd amongst us who wouldn't have loved the whole school chanting our name; whilst at the same time having half of the girls topless in our pool just waiting for us to come over with a bottle of tequila and do body shots. That didn't happen in Milton Keynes, for sure.

And as all good coming-of-age stories do, Project X makes you really will for them all to get, well, laid. Lots.

Ultimately it doesn't do much more than Ferris Bueller did, back when I was small and in denim school sport shorts. And as Ferris did all those years ago, the set up of the Dad's car getting trashed is so obvious that for it to be held back until almost the very end, feels a little lazy on the writing side.

Regardless, it's hilarious, and made me want to go out and party all night. I didn't, however. Instead I came home for a lemon and ginger tea and played on the Xbox. Partying like it's actually 2012.