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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 3 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 1 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 2 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.

83 out of 118 people found the following review useful:
Utter drivel and, what's worse, boring drivel., 5 August 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This film starts promisingly with an eye-catching and unsettling image: then the first dialogue (or should I say "direlogue"?) scene starts, and two things happen. One, the dialogue is awful. Two, the instruction in Acting 101 "Make the most of your pauses" has been translated here into "Leave 5 seconds silence before replying to anything which has been said." The self-consciously clever-dick direction, at its worst, leads to an interminable sequence which is supposed to represent a catwalk show in which nothing happens (and it doesn't happen repetitively, too) for what seems to be half a day. Refn thinks he is being clever in his direction: he isn't.

The first 80% of the story is trite and obvious: the final sequence is ludicrous. Refn again. Perhaps it's supposed to be a metaphor or some sort of metaphysical commentary. It's still ludicrous.

Lesbian necrophilia and cannibalism? I was too busy being bemused (when I wasn't being bored) to be outraged.

If I had been even slightly engaged, I would have been left with a bagful of unanswered questions afterwards. As it was, I didn't care enough to be bothered, although I will chuck one out, just for fun - what was the point of the mountain lion in the motel room? What did that add to the narrative? As expected, the Refn Fan Club is full of the usual "If You Didn't Understand This Parable Of Modern Existentialism It's Because You're Too Thick" nonsense, to which I reply Emperor's New Clothes.

If you don't see just one film this year, please make it this one.

It's a stinker. And a boring, tedious stinker at that.

25 out of 80 people found the following review useful:
Good fun, 15 July 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Let me say right at the start that I thoroughly enjoyed this. I found it funny and escapist, and a completely reasonable reboot. I thought it was an enjoyable, entertaining movie. End of review.

My word, there is some agenda-driven poison in many of the comments here. The original movies haven't been destroyed: they are still there, so you can watch them if you didn't like this one. And as for the man-hating - which of the male characters in the original were so great? Much of the criticism here is just as unfair as the pre-release hostility.

Go and see it with an open mind - it's fun. If you can't manage an open mind then don't go and see it - spare yourself, and spare us.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Not what it was made out to be, 3 July 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Amelia has a small boy who is an utter nightmare - hyperactive, somewhere on the autism scale, full of obsessive compulsive behaviour - plus she is exhausted and hasn't really processed her husband's death. A bedtime story book called The Babadook turns out, it appears, to summon a genuine nightmarish entity. Or does it? I missed this when it first came out - a genuinely scary horror film, it said, one of the best horrors for years.

Sorry, but it falls short, possibly on the basis of false advertising. It is nicely creepy, with a sense of enveloping dread, and the cast are all very good, especially young Noah Wiseman as a truly annoying little boy (but then, he's supposed to be). Had it been staged (and advertised) as a psychological thriller, then it would have been utterly successful. However, it is sold as, and turns out to be, a horror movie, in which endeavour it is considerably less successful. In particular, it promises much and delivers little, and it has a dumb resolution. Still, at least it didn't have one of those unconvincing shock endings which turns everything on its tail.

And it was so nearly really good.

I don't get it, 20 June 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

3 juvenile college boys go to New Orleans during Mardi Gras in order to get drunk, see naked breasts, and possibly have encounters with the girls to whom they belong.

There's a bit more plot than that, but not much. This is a fairly typical gross sexist early 20s American college comedy, a little bit lower on the humour side of things than usual - it thinks it's funny, but it really isn't.

What interests me is the character Bump, played by Josh Gad. Bump is a fat, obnoxious, loud-mouthed, crass imbecile. He is supposedly funny: he isn't. But he is a character we have seen often before, starting with Jonah Hill in Superbad: Hill has gone on to have a successful career, and so has Gad. This puzzles me - perhaps America really likes fat, obnoxious, loud-mouthed, crass imbeciles, but I certainly don't.

The Hunters (2013) (TV)
Good performances don't stand a chance, 19 June 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Two brothers discover that they are hereditary Hunters, and end up searching for shards of the magic mirror from Snow White.

This must have looked good enough on paper to be greenlit, but something went wrong on its way to the screen, and it wasn't the cast, who are fine.

The script is lacklustre, the action is dull (there are a number of Indiana Jones-lite sequences which offer no thrills at all), the production values are underwhelming and, despite a pleasing friction in the dynamic between the potentially romantic couple, there is little chemistry between them. And the film is filled with illogicality and nonsense.

This was not very good.

Addicted (2014/I)
Boring and, 19 June 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A happily married family woman and mother explains to a psychotherapist that she has given into a desire to have sex with assorted other men.

That's the plot, folks - about 15 minutes worth, I reckon. Yet it takes an hour and three quarters to tell it in a film peppered with sex scenes which don't actually have any sex in them, substituting coy avoidance instead. Yes, US cinema continues its perverse relationship with sexual matters whereby it is preoccupied with sex, but avoids actually showing an frankness on screen - beware the nipple, civilisation will fall.

This film manages to be lurid, lame, prissy and interminably tedious all at the same time. Do, please, try to avoid it.

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