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37 reviews in total 
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Trash (2014/I)
0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
much better than the truly awful Billy Elliott but..., 28 September 2015

When I saw that Stephen Daldry directed this it was enough to put me off watching it.'s well put together, well shot, edited, scripted and the young leads are superb. The poverty porn is problematic, the shots of the waste dump are aesthtically pleasing, the shots of the favela likewise. Films and other texts like this one can serve to assuage those of us living in relatively privileged conditions that actually for people living in abject poverty, well, you know, life isn't so bad at all. There's a stronger sense of community and people get on and look after one another. If you want a proper, serious, grown up film with a Latin American spin about poverty and what it does to people then look elsewhere to Pixote from 1981 or Luis Bunuels's Los Olvidados from 1946. If there's a better film than Los Olvidados on the subject out there I'd like to know what it is. All that said, I was entertained by this, I liked the points the film made about corruption on the part of the police and politicians, I liked the way it foregrounded street children as characters. Another more serious film about street children is Ali Zouaua made about 2002 in Morocco featuring a cast of Casablancan street urchins. Trash is a great movie to show young teens to get them thinking about global issues or as an introduction to world cinema but for serious social commentary one needs to look elsewhere.

3 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
another awful, boring, vacuous British 'film', 5 September 2015

I think I'm going to give up on 'British film' altogether because I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of decent British movies I've seen in the last ten years. Kill List, Wuthering Heights, Duke of Burgundy, Children of men, Never Let me go, Brothers of the Head. OK, OK it's up to six.

This is just awful. I remember feeling annoyed that I'd paid over ten pounds to see carol Morley's Dreams of a Life in the cinema when watching it at home on a small screen wouldn't have made any difference to the interest of the documentary, it certainly didn't need a big screen. However it was an impressive enough documentary to make me want to watch this.

The Falling is about nothing. It's cliché ridden and it doesn't even convey the late sixties properly. A decent film maker would have, along with their cast, watched some sixties films and got them to speak, got the intonations and the accents right. People spoke in a different way fifty years ago but in this film they talk like they do nowadays? By ending a sentence as if it's a question? With that rising intonation of the voice? Also, like most British films, it doesn't have a big enough budget so we have a school that only seems to have about nine students. With the result that the mise en scene is just unbelievable.

Anyway I lost ninety minutes of my life watching this which I'll never recover and advise you avoid doing the same. I won't repeat what other commentators have said - this film goes nowhere and is an incoherent mess of clichés. That it got National Lottery funding says a lot about the UK taxpayer funded gravy train that is the British Film Institute. Not to mention the BBC who also bear responsibility for this wreck.

Stick with the DVDs of Powell and Pressburger or Nicholas Roeg and avoid anything else with the label 'British film'. British and film is a contradiction in terms.

Mr. Turner (2014)
6 out of 16 people found the following review useful:
A singularly wretched and tedious experience., 31 December 2014

It was my misfortune to witness the spectacle about the painter Mr Turner. A more wretched and tedious experience I have seldom encountered. Grunts and mutterings on the part of Mr Spall, the principle actor, brought to mind those creatures whose antics amuse those who frequent such places of entertainment as the zoological garden. It is indeed astonishing to find such favourable reviews published in esteemed journals under the authorship of learned and distinguished persons. I must concur wholeheartedly with those sentiments expressed by others upon these pages concerning the singular deficiencies in narration. Moreover, little merit could be found in its presentation of the events of a past that remains in living memory. Those gentlemen who are desirous of knowing more of the singular genius of Mr. Turner would be well advised to eschew the aforesaid spectacle in favour of perusing tomes within their venerable libraries.

The Tribe (2014)
76 out of 102 people found the following review useful:
Brutal but incredible filmmaking, 5 October 2014

At the time of writing (October 2014) this is on release in France but not the UK or the US so I'll write this for the benefit of audiences elsewhere in the world who might be wondering whether to go and see it or not. When not extorting money from other students at a boarding school for the deaf in the Ukraine, the 'tribe' of thugs in the title spend their time robbing train passengers, people in the street or, with the help of their teachers, pimp each other at a truck stop. New kid Sergey arrives and falls for one of the young hookers...which is about all the synopsis you need. There's no dialogue, or subtitles, all the communication between the characters is through sign language. Along with a total absence of incidental music this has the paradoxical effect of heightening the sound...the sounds of footsteps, lorry engines revving for example becoming sinisterly effective. It's not difficult to follow the narrative at all, so don't be put off. The bleak surroundings of the institution combine with a dreary landscape of crumbling apartment blocks, supermarkets at night time in a bitter, dirty grey winter, to heighten the feeling of an amoral universe, a dog eat dog world where everyone is out only for themselves. There's no compassion, the one intimate relationship which develops seems to be motivated by lust, carnality and characterised by opportunism on either part. There doesn't appear to be any real tenderness there. Is the closed institution an allegory for the Ukraine, or human societies as a whole? The Tribe is a unique piece of cinema and inspired me to write, I've seen nothing in the last few years quite so extraordinary, but be warned it most definitely is not for the faint hearted. The violence is sickening, stomach churning, and made all the more shocking by the use of sound and absence of music since even if averting your gaze you remain all too aware of what's happening on screen, with no music to distance or make things ironic. The Tribe forces you to gaze, unblinking, into the abyss of total human depravity.

SoulBoy (2010)
4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
could have been better but worth a watch all the same, 1 November 2013

I remember the buzz around this film a few years ago because it was shot in Stoke and part financed by the now disbanded Screen West Midlands. With whom I had some professional involvement. I can't add anything to the already excellent user comments about this film but will say what I would do differently were I making it. As other users say its a coming of age story set against the northern soul scene of the mid seventies. I've got interested enough in northern soul to have researched it and Wigan Casino was one of umpteen clubs across the midlands and north of England. My strongest criticism of this film is it doesn't work within its constraints of a low budget and the attempts to re create the Wigan Casino don't convince. They needed a bigger budget, a bigger cast of extras and so on. If I was making the film I'd have thought a lot smaller and set it in a fictional soul club or maybe even a youth club in Stoke on Trent. Stoke had a major Northern soul venue in any case I can t remember the name, as did places like Droitwich and Wolverhampton. When Hollywood do period films they have the budget to chuck at it that it convinces. We can't do it. There's all of three period vehicles that appear in the film. Some of the costumes and detailing are wrong. Did digital watches have alarms in 1974? I doubt it. But this is nonetheless entertaining and worth a watch, especially if you like retro drama. I've seen clips from the forthcoming NORTHERN SOUL film which looks a lot more convincing. I was six years old in 1974 so too young to be part of any scene but I still remember the decade and certain things can transport me back. There's a certain 'look' to the seventies and it needs a budget to achieve a convincing rendition in a film. What I saw of NORTHERN SOUL seemed to have it. SOULBOY is 2/3 of the way there, a commendable effort, worth seeing but in my opinion it would have been better if it had been a little more modest in it's ambitions.

The Dead (2010)
zombie wey na one way, 26 May 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The illogicality of the zombie thing has to be suspended when approaching films like The Dead: how can you kill monsters who are already technically dead? Do zombies starve to death if they can't find victims to devour? Why don't zombies devour the entire person instead of just biting them enough to turn their victim into another zombie? In this film Lt Brian Murphy, without the aid of maps let alone a satnav, without a gas station in sight, washed up somewhere on the coast of West Africa, manages to repair an old pick up, drives several hundred miles through the bush instead of taking the main road, to arrive at the Pics de Sindou, a huge rock formation and tourist attraction, in Burkina Faso. On the way he finds an airfield with a radio producing nothing but static. Evidently there's still electricity. Somehow they've managed to keep the lights on during a zombie outbreak...

Despite the gaping holes and illogicalities this film breathes new life into a tired genre. If some sort of virus were to emerge that turned people into flesh devouring zombies, it's all too believable it would originate in the hot humid tropical climate of Africa. After all, Ebola and HIV have been traced to this continent...

Several things struck me watching this a second time. The Dead reworks disaster iconography to really great effect. I wonder whether the film makers realise how effectively they have used the way we're conditioned to see Africa. That is either as a locus of disaster and suffering on the one hand or a timeless landscape of incredible natural beauty on the other. The visual conventions of disaster journalism are employed superbly: Severed limbs and amputees evoke footage from the civil wars of Liberia and Sierra Leone. A convoy of army trucks rumbling through an unnamed African country with mean looking soldiers in sunglasses. A solitary figure running crying and screaming through the bush. (Look closely in this scene and you see the Jeeps have Ghana plates). Consider the amount of news footage we have in Europe or America of displaced Africans waiting aimlessly around. These contrast with the sheer beauty of the landscapes and setting of the film and intricate attention to lighting and camera work. Shooting in this climate presents considerable challenges such as shorter daylight hours, humidity, dust, visibility and the film makers have surmounted considerable technical challenges.

Some commentators describe the film as racist. Flesh devouring, cannibalistic zombies? The walking dead? It can be argued the film is an allegory about a continent which has literally been devoured for centuries by Europeans and more recently by corrupt Africans themselves.

There's some tacky scenes for example where Murphy rescues a baby. I think these can be problematic if one considers the film literally. It might be that by having a scene as corny as this the film is commenting on other films, making us aware of how most films always position the US as the Good Guys who are coming to save everyone else. Films are not just entertainment products, they reinforce the ideology of a culture and this reviewer can't make out whether The Dead is reinforcing, or challenging the ideology of White America, that is it's beliefs, thoughts and assumptions. The ending is likewise problematic for this reviewer. We see an American man with a cute African child with dreadlocks, gazing out at the camera. By doing this it can be argued the film positions Africans as being childlike – not fully capable, not fully adult. The child's father, Sergeant Daniel, has been attacked by the zombies then to all intents sacrificed, left beneath a tree by Murphy, to die. This raises another problematic which is that the film obeys Hollywood conventions whereby the Black character is there to save the white protagonist.

I may be reading too much into what after all is only a film but cultural products like films reveal, whether intentionally or not, much about the culture from which they emerge.

To conclude. The slow moving zombies generate a powerful sense of constant threat and tension. The pacing and suspense are well maintained and there's enough gore and shocks to delight horror afficionadoes. Scratch beneath the surface and the film becomes more interesting on a number of levels. Whatever problems the film raises are not necessarily the fault of the filmmakers who are to be commended for shooting in West Africa and bringing in local crew and cast, such as Prince David Oseia who is a household name in Nigeria. While the stunning, timeless landscapes in which the film is set are one of the ways we're conditioned to see Africa, that part of Burkina Faso really is as amazing in real life as it is in the film. Maybe The Dead will inspire more people to visit this corner of Africa.

4 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
is this an elaborate hoax?, 24 December 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I like the comments from another reviewer, about how ms Vincent didn't fit in easily, neither the Black, nor Asian community and encountering racism from her white boyfriend Martin's parents. I was fascinated to watch this having lived in Wood Green myself during the early nineties and I remember vividly during the course of my training in one of the caring professions visiting a client in the very same block of flats where Joyce died. Its a strange building, a walkway above a car park, sitting on top of a shopping centre and very anonymous. No one passing by and, from Wood Green High street, you would never imagine there are homes above this shopping centre. Apparently the housing association have reviewed their procedures after Joyce was three years in arrears with her rent. Knowing how inept and useless many big organisations are its easy to see how someone in social housing could get into big rent arrears. Someone in the organisation has to notice, then they have to consult a manager, then they have to have a meeting, then they have to refer it to a committee, then there's another meeting, then they have to check with the social services... Still, there must have been a power cut at some stage in the three years. Who was paying the electricity bills if the TV was still on? Why wasn't the electricity cut off? Things don't add up. If Joyce had contact with professionals dealing with domestic violence, there must be case records. Were the police ever called to an incident? Did Joyce use aliases? I ve hear a couple of theories, one is this whole film is an elaborate hoax. The other is she was murdered by someone with a key to her flat and the murderer went to great lengths to cover their tracks. The housing association could answer some of these questions, such as confirming there really was a Joyce Vincent housed by them. Also, many housing associations will only issue one set of keys to tenants, special keys which you cannot copy at a regular locksmiths. Someone needs to check this story out. It would not be the first time a national newspaper like The Sun was duped by a hoax. I m not saying it IS a hoax, just that it might be... Finally, I saw this at the Odeon and while I encourage anyone to watch it, you won t lose anything by waiting for the DVD. Cinema tickets can be pricey these days and Dreams of a Life is perfectly good watched on the small screen.

3 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
superb literary adaptation but not for everyone, 16 November 2011

I can't add much to reviewer Richard Wilkins excellent user review on this site. However Heathcliff is clearly coded as an ex slave. There's a scene early on when scars are visible on his back as well as a brand mark on his shoulder. My own personal reading of this Wuthering Heights is as an existential piece. The moors which surround the cottage are the one space where Cathy and Heathcliff are able to experience joy, amidst the natural landscape. The world of people, conveyed in the claustrophobic cottage which is filmed with lots of close ups, by contrast is one of casual cruelty, nasty and brutish. The film highlights the indifference of nature and how utterly alone we are in the universe. It questions how 'civilised' our civilisations really are by making Heathcliff an ex slave. This is a thinking persons Wuthering Heights, there's layers of meaning beneath the surface as befits one of the best loved novels of the English language. The cinematography is just superb and incredibly visceral, lighting is amazing, with shots by candlelight and darkness, things half glimpsed. You really feel as if you are in the eighteenth or nineteenth century. If you want a fluffy literary adaptation with a clear storyline this is not for you. If you re prepared to work and take the time this is a real treat. Historical cinema with attitude.

14 out of 19 people found the following review useful:
evocative and well curated footage, 10 November 2011

I saw this in a UK arts centre with a friend from the US who had left High School in 66 or 67 and graduated from college in 70. On her own admission here was another America she has never experienced or known about. What struck me about this is the pacing, the editing allows the protagonists time and space to speak and articulate themselves. There's a section when Angela Davis speaks eloquently and movingly and the camera holds on her for several minutes. This film is essential viewing for any younger people involved in the 'Occupy'or anti globalisation / anti capitalist movements. The issues that the Black Power movement were addressing are still with us. The film has a wonderful soundtrack and music score complementing the footage perfectly. The footage is both evocative and informative, carefully selected. There's shots of everyday street scenes, interviews and dramatic footage of rioting and disturbances. Yes BPMT is short on analysis, but for this viewer the beauty of this film is that I felt an empathy as a fellow human being with these angry, militant people and felt inspired to learn more about the Black Power movement and quietly, calmly, start to listen. I don t feel I have to apologise for being white after watching this or start going all PC simply that I have a better understanding now of where some people were or are coming from. Finally, it's fascinating this film emerges from Sweden. Often held to be a model of 'responsible' capitalism, a proper social democracy where entrepreneur ism and business can live happily alongside social provision and an excellent welfare state. However unlike other European countries such as Britain or France, Sweden never had to address the legacy of a colonial empire and immigration from former colonies. It's very safe for a country, a society where everyone looks the same and speaks the same language to be open, liberal and tolerant. I'm very intrigued as to what the fascination and interest was for the Swedish in the Black Power movement, a question this film doesn't address. Maybe the Black Power activists in this film are being positioned as 'exotic' in the same way that countless documentaries always position Africans as exotic, closer to nature, primitive and so on. Just a thought...

Kill List (2011)
9 out of 16 people found the following review useful:
Allegory of the nihilism of contemporary Britain, 10 September 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Director Ben Wheatley made 2010's highly acclaimed micro budget Down Terrace, about a criminal family trying to unearth the grasses whose snitching has brought one of them to the attentions of the criminal justice system. Like Down Terrace, Kill List eschews conventions, instead busting through genre classifications. There's much debate on the web as to which genre this film fits and much criticism about the way it shifts genre. Debate which goes up a dead end for a truly original piece of film as art. A more appropriate designation for this film would be 'noir' rather than 'thriller' or 'horror'. There is a palpable sense of dread, a pessimistic world view, characters caught up in situations over which they've no control, lots unexplained and stylistically, shots of dim lit hotel corridors, anonymous rooms, are pure noir.

Rather than The Wicker Man, Kill List is more on the lines of Michael Haneke's Time of The Wolf which takes a low key, realist approach and, like Kill List with references to the unexplained incident in Kiev, never fully explains its back history.

The first third of the the film takes place in the family home of Jay and Shel and their small boy Sam. In their claustrophobic house on an anonymous peripheral housing estate the couple bicker and argue. A dinner party with Jay's ex army buddy Cal to which he brings mysterious new partner Fiona is a scene for an excruciating argument. At this stage the film is shot in a hand-held, verite style, with performances and dialogue which look to be improvised, putting the film in the realm of kitchen sink realism. This has the effect of allowing the depth of the characters to emerge. Persuaded to join Cal on a job, the second third of the film sees Jay and Cal travelling a non scape of contemporary England, a landscape of arterial roads and anonymous hotels. The heavy grey and oppressively overcast skies, the flat colouring generates an air of subtle unease. There's been careful and effective detail to mise en scene, grounding the film in the everyday even something as apparently insignificant as a crate of beer in the background of the garage takes on significance: evidently this family get through lots of booze. This treatment becomes brutally effective in the second half as the pair meet 'The Client', a sinister, well spoken Rodger Straun who seals the deal with blood. They then embark on their 'kill list'.

When the killing begins its all the more shocking and sickening for the way generic conventions of horror / thriller are abandoned. There's a truly stomach churning torture scene, taking place not in some seedy warehouse but a respectable looking house, replete with hanging baskets. Watch these scenes closely and especially the victims responses because they are crucial in understanding the films final third. The child in the film, Sam, is important. If children embody hope and the future, in this film the child serves as a locus for anxiety. There's a scene where some sort of awful pornography is discovered, which sends Jay into a psychotic rage 'as a parent.'

Kill List brings to mind the best British horror film and television of the seventies, where the horror is all the more effective for being implied and you're presented with images and sounds left unexplained which you have to try to make some sense of. Anyone who grew up with TV series such as Sapphire and Steel or Thriller will know exactly how these relied on building mood and atmosphere for their effect and in the case of Sapphire and Steel, were utterly terrifying through what was left unexplained, unsaid.


Are the victims, the priest and the librarian, who thank their killers / torturers, members of the same death cult we encounter towards the end? There's a well documented phenomenon of suicide cults, the most notorious being Jonestown in 1979 and while the sudden shift into occult territory causes a jolt, it's nonetheless perfectly plausible.

On the surface Kill List is about a hit man manipulated or tricked into killing his wife and child by a death cult. On a deeper level its about the banality of evil and how it takes quite ordinary people to carry out the most atrocious acts. At one stage in the film The Client tells Jay and Gal they are 'cogs'. Writer Primo Levi, in talking about the Nazi holocaust, described how the most dangerous people were those who just obeyed orders, didn't question, allowed the monstrous state bureaucracy of fascism to function. Kill List can be read as an allegory of the anxieties and nihilism of contemporary Britain. A country which has spent ten years fighting wars in distant lands against an obscure enemy. A country whose security services are implicated in the practice of torture, whose police appear to carry out extra judicial killings. This has always been a nation riven by a deep and problematic class system (signified through speech and dress, Jay and Cal have strong London and Irish accents, The Client's voice is educated upper class). Furthermore, an atmosphere of fear and mistrust pervades throughout contemporary Britain, from CCTV cameras (more than any other country in the world) to Criminal Records Checks for prospective employees. The nihilism is further manifested in the failure of political and public institutions and a sense people have of being abandoned. People left with few comforts aside from drinking (observe the bottles of wine and crates of beer in Jays garage). At the end Jay kills his wife and son and the allegory is made explicit. England has no future left. This is what the mysterious Doctor says to Jay: 'Let me give you some advice. the past is finished, the future is not here. There is only this present'. Pretty bleak message but it rings true with this reviewer.

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