Reviews written by registered user

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2367 reviews in total 
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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Poor, 28 February 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Keanu Reeves' John Wick returns in a sequel which delivers - exactly - more of the same.

By which I mean it delivers non-stop action in which Keanu headshots over 100 anonymous opposition items in gouts of CGI blood. As soon as he has despatched a pair, another pair emerge from the walls, exactly like video game slaughter-fodder. There is no emotional heft to this, he might as well be knocking skittles down.

There is some fisticuffs too, on broadly the same basis.

Good points: Ian McShane, offing the baddie, and the mute bodyguard.

Bad points: the utter absence of any emotional or moral consequences for the wholesale slaughter, the waste of Laurence Fishburne, and the discovery that 50% of the population of New York is made up of hit men.

I enjoyed the first one: I thought this was empty piffle.

Moving and inspirational, 20 February 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

At the age of 3, Owen Suskind disappeared into the fog of autism. Some years later, as he came out with a garbled quote from The Little Mermaid, his parents realised that their son was still inside there somewhere, and capable of complex thought.

This documentary tells Owen's story, and illustrates how Owen - with considerable help - has worked towards building some sort of life with a foothold in everyday conventionality, and has done so by using Disney animated films as reference points.

This is a film which should be seen, so I wouldn't want to say more. Owen's journey is daunting, challenging, funny, sad, moving and, ultimately, inspiring. This is an excellent film.

Self-consciously clever, but also entertaining, 5 November 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Writer Gil loves Paris, his fiancée not so much. So when Gil finds a time warp which drops him into Paris of the 1920s and, in particular, in among the artistic intelligentsia he so admires, he finds himself torn, especially when he begins to fall in love with Picasso's mistress. But the present-day beckons: he has commitments, but he may also find a way into the heart of the woman he is coming to love.

Woody Allen often annoys me, but the self-aware intellectualism which often spoils his films for me is here turned to entertaining use as the 1920s artists and intellectuals become vibrant scene-dressing and, in some cases, essential plot elements. The script is fun, and the lack of any explanation for the movement between eras matters not at all.

We know what's going to happen, of course - the mismatch between Gil and fiancée is gaping - but getting there is good fun. It is interesting to see Owen Wilson playing Woody Allen instead of himself, and the rest of the cast do fine.

And Paris looks lovely, filmed in oversaturated colours.

3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Smart genre-splicing, 4 November 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

After considerable setting up of characters and story elements, four men ride off in pursuit of a group of particularly savage Indians, in order to rescue captives who, it transpires, have been taken in order to restock the larder.

This atmospheric and fairly leisurely film is a horror movie slyly pretending to be a western. And it's rather good.

A great cast, mostly at the tops of their games, engage us as they go on their mission: we care about them and want them to succeed even though they - and we - don't really know what they're up against. The very opening shot shows a man having his throat brutally and explicitly cut so, despite some amusing dialogue (which continues throughout - the script is great fun), we understand that this is not a comedy, but no-one is prepared for the savagery they find. This is not a film for kids.

It's a good film, though, and entertains solidly throughout its 2 hour-plus running time.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Enjoyable black comedy, 1 November 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The film opens with a flashback of 30-odd years in which a likable young woman, travelling on a train, is found to have a dead body in her travelling trunk, and it appears that she is the author of the deceased's demise. Moving to the present day, we meet Gloria, wife to rather dozy vicar Walter and mum to sensitive Petey and mildly slutty Holly. All three are something of a trial, and her general lack of satisfaction at life isn't helped by next door's yapping dog, problems with the pond, annoying parishioner Mrs Parker, randy golf pro Lance, etc. Into her life comes Grace Hawkins as a live-in help, and suddenly - almost miraculously - all the problems begin to disappear.

You don't have to be a genius to work out what's afoot, but the joy of this film is in how it delivers what you expect in such unexpected ways, not to mention the lovely performances from all concerned.

The location work in Cornwall and on the Isle of Man is very attractive.

Yes, this is a black comedy, but it is also genuinely funny, and quite heartwarming.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
A quirk of genius, 31 October 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The Hoover family is having problems, and the word "dysfunctional" is woefully inadequate. Mom Sheryl is trying to hold it together, but her brother has just been released into her care following a depression- suicide attempt, son Dwayne hasn't spoken to anyone for a year as part of some teenage nonsense, Grandpa Edwin is an irascible old devil who is a poor example to his grandchildren, and Dad Richard delivers poorly-attended self-improvement seminars (which he then also inflicts on his family) for a company which is just about to fire him. And youngest daughter Olive has, unlikely as it may seem (because she is not especially talented or beautiful), obtained a place in the final of the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant. So, obviously, a road trip is on the cards. What could possibly go wrong?

The set-up hardly seems ripe for comedy development, yet this character-driven drama is often very funny. It is also frequently very moving (sometimes to the extent that you're in tears) and delivers a very clear message - just because you're dysfunctional doesn't mean you don't love one another.

The first-rate cast are all excellent in this well-written, well-acted ensemble piece. It frequently goes in unexpected directions, and is perhaps a little swearier than it needs to be but, ultimately, it leaves you uplifted and with a sense of hope.

Authentic but unpleasant, 24 September 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Series 7: The Contenders is the series finale (or, more accurately, the final 3 programmes of series 7 of the reality show The Contenders, in which half a dozen, er, contenders are pitched against each other. Each has a camera crew and a gun, last one alive wins. Current champ and favourite is 8 months pregnant, but all have backstories which become clear is the thing progresses.

This film - which purports to be a horror film and a black comedy - is so accurately observed, and seasoned with the trimmings of a reality TV show, that anyone walking in while it is in progress may take some while to realise that they are not watching a genuine reality show based on murdering people.

And that is both its strength and weakness. It is a scarily accurate satire, but it's not actually very funny, and the fictitious programme is not very entertaining, and filled with people who are unpleasant to be around (the cast do very well in performing unpleasant ordinary people on a reality show).

I suppose it succeeds in being what it set out to be, but that's not really much of a recommendation in my view.

1 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Ronseal, 2 September 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Don't get me wrong - I like Jason Statham, and I know exactly what to expect from his films, and that's exactly what I got here. But there were two elements (aside from the utter predictability and complete lack of any surprises) which annoyed me.

One was Jessica Alba's complete lack of screen presence. She's usually at least cute to look at - here she was drab and ordinary as well as unable to act. Awful.

And the second was the fact that, for much of the second half, I might as well have been watching a shoot-'em-up computer game as Statham engaged in a linear progression taking out hordes of unnamed black-clad target-fodder in endless combat scenes which carried no suspense at all, because there was never any sense that Statham was in jeopardy no matter how many men came at him, Disappointing.

Faults (2014)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Well acted, but odd, 28 August 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Ansel Roth is a pathetic loser, trying to eke a living from ill-attended lecture tours based on his expertise as a de-programmer of cult members. In order to stay one step ahead of his agent (aka threatening creditor) he accepts a commission from Claire's parents to de-program her.

A synopsis leads you to believe that this is a drama: it turns out to be a mystery (indeed, you may still be baffled by some of it when it ends), a character study and, at times, a very black comedy.

Ansel is played by Leland Orser. The average reaction on reading the name is "Who?", but the average reaction on seeing the face is "Oh, him!" - having had a lengthy and successful career playing supporting parts, he gets a lead role here and is phenomenal.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays Claire. I like Winstead enormously. She has an air of attractive ordinariness to her (which is probably why she isn't at the top of her tree), and that suits Claire visually. The part is multi-layered and complex, and Winstead's sharp performance makes her unforgettable.

My only reservation concerns the ending, which may make less sense than I thought. But the acting alone makes this worth catching.

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Profoundly strange, but oddly engaging, 13 August 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

In a somewhat skewed alternate version of somewhere in present-day Europe, David (Colin Farrell) is sent to the Hotel, where he has 45 days in which to find his match, failing which he will be transformed into the animal of his choice and set loose into the wild. Despite selecting a lobster (just in case) he initially attempts to set himself up with a woman with no kindred feeling for others, before escaping and joining a group of Loners in the woods. Unfortunately, they have their own rules which preclude him and Rachel Weisz' characters falling in love, which is exactly what happens.

It was only after watching this film that I discovered that the man behind it - Yorgos Lanthimos - was also responsible for Dogtooth, another deeply peculiar film in which the relationships between people, and their behaviour, are completely incomprehensible to anyone brought up in conventional society. In The Lobster, everybody speaks with conventional politeness and an utter absence of emotion.

The whole thing is completely bizarre, yet it is often surprisingly funny and, notwithstanding my expectation of finding it annoyingly pretentious (which it is) it also held my attention: I watched it all the way through and didn't switch it off.

I don't think I would recommend it, but it had sufficient weirdness and an odd warmth for me to quite like it. Terrific cast, too.

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