Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Horns - review

When people talk about "The Boy Who Lived" it will no longer refer to "Harry Potter" but instead it will mean Daniel Radcliffe, the boy who lived and survived out of the shadow of Mr. Potter and became a legitimate actor and star beyond his most famous role.

Since leaving Hogwarts he has continually impressed with his film and role choices and Horns is no different.

Here he plays a young man accused of the brutal murder of the woman he loved and becomes the town pariah. The people of the town see him as a devil and one morning he wakes up to find he has literally grown horns which provoke strange responses in the people he meets and decides to use this to solve the murder himself.

The film is based on novel by Joe Hill and if the plot sounds a bit like a Stephen King novel (something strange happens in a small town in middle America which causes evil, magic and murder) then it might be down to Joe Hill being Stephen King's son. Looks like some of that skill has transferred down a generation.

Radcliffe is excellent as the tortured man who has lost the love of his life and desires revenge, fuelled by an on-screen chemistry and bond with Juno Temple that is as strong as his American accent.

The premise for the movie has a lot of potential (the horns provoke people to reveal their innermost desires, secrets and thoughts to Radcliffe, sometimes to great comic effect) and for the first two-thirds of the film it is used effectively however it all gets a bit silly come the final act which is let down by the fact that the identity of the real killer will be obvious to many people from the outset (I even guessed it from a shot in the trailer).

It might not entirely live up to its potential but Horny Potter and the Temple Of Doom provides another showcase for Daniel to prove his career will be more Rad-cliffe than Boring-cliffe.

3 stars

Serena - review

Question Of The Day:

If an Oscar winner and an Oscar nominee who starred together in two Oscar-nominated films teamed up for a film set in a forest and nobody went to see it, would it still exist?

That is the question certainly facing the distributors of Serena starring the incredibly bankable stars Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper that has

After all this is the pair that were lit up the screen together in Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle.

Unfortunately they are unable to light a match let alone catch fire in this damp squib of a tale that tries to be so many things (a love story, a noir, Thirties crime drama) that it can't see the forest for the trees.

2 stars

This Is Where I Leave You - review

This Is Where I Leave You features an incredibly new and revolutionary concept for a movie. A disfunctional family are brought together by a tragedy/crisis and forced to work through their issues.

Oh wait, that's been done before... many, many times.

Why is it that you never see a conventional, happy family brought together by a funeral in a movie? Now THAT would be a novel twist on the formula!

Instead talented actors like Bateman, Stoll, Fey, Olyphant and Driver and brought together and forced to confront their problems that include the tried and tested "infidelity", "inability to commit", "inability to conceive", "mid-life crisis" etc, etc.

Sadly the screenplay and film offers nothing new to say on any of these topics and so this is where I leave it...

2 stars

The Book Of Life 3D - review

Jorge Guitierrez's The Book Of Life is certainly chock full of that. It is vibrant, colourful and will entertain entire children and adults alike in this tale of love and family.

The lords of the Mexican Underworld's Land of the Remembered and Land of the Forgotten make a wager on the Day Of The Dead over the result of a love triangle between three childhood friends; Manolo, Joaquin and Maria.

It may start off with a predictable love story at its heart but it is incredibly inventive with its visuals and storytelling and it is an incredibly enjoyable ride that will see a man literally go to hell and back for the woman he loves.

The English speaking cast are very good with Del Toro regular Perlman delivering menace and pathos as Sebulba, Zoe Saldana is sassy as Maria and Channing Tatum proves once again no one is currently better at playing an idiot with a heart of gold.

The bookended narrative of a museum tour guide teaching kids about Mexican culture paints it as a timeless story but the use of modern songs does date it and could have done without this.

It has been a disappointing year for animation (with the exception of The LEGO Movie) but this film proves there is still some life in it yet.

3 stars

Monday, 27 October 2014

Nightcrawler - review

In Taxi Driver, while driving up and down the streets Travis Bickle remarks that "All the animals come out at night" and that statement is certainly true of Nightcrawler although one might not expect so many animals to be embodied within one human being.

For Jake Gyllenhaal's Louis Bloom is part shark, snake, worm, wolf and vulture.

This is a man who takes up a profession filming crime scenes to sell to news outlets and is constantly on the lookout, sniffing for blood, ready to slither and worm his way into any situation he can turn to his advantage before picking at the bodies and remains for his own sustenance.

He really is a wolf in sheep's clothing. Lou Bloom still possesses Gyllenhaal's baby blue eyes and disarming smile but his gaunt appearance and motivational business speeches make him look and sound like a sociopath who grew up reading Richard Branson's autobiography and would kick his mother down the stairs if it got him ahead in life... hmmm, almost makes him perfect for The Apprentice.

Almost by accident he stumbles head-on into the world of freelance crime journalism.
As a cameraman (played by a sleazy Bill Paxton) tells him "If it bleeds, it leads" and soon he is out searching the streets for images of destruction, despair and death that he can sell to the network news.

It is a dark satire about the media's and our own fascination with the macabre. That car crash television mentality where we see some horrific yet cannot turn away. Witness the erotic undertones to the scene where Rene Russo's news director tells Bloom she really wants his footage and demands that he give it to her.
At its core is that base level of Schadenfreude, taking pleasure in other people's pain and celebrating that you are alive and others are not.

Network prophesied this coming all the way back in 1976 and it couldn't have been more accurate.

Watching Lou Bloom ascend his crooked ladder and achieve his own twisted version of the American Dream, or is that the American Nightmare?

It is a film that will make you feel like you need a shower after seeing it but it feels really good while you are watching it, especially due to the fantastic cinematography by Robert Elswit who makes this L.A. feel like the same world that is home to Ryan Gosling's mysterious Driver in Drive or Elijah Wood's Frank in Maniac.

If you want to win the lottery, you need to make the money to buy a ticket. And writer-director Dan Gilroy, Gyllenhaal and audiences have all won the jackpot with Nightcrawler.

5 stars

The Babadook - review

Every now and again a horror film creeps up on you out of nowhere and scares you senseless. The Babadook is one such film and features the scariest figure to wear a top hat since Papa Lazarou.

What really makes the film stand out from other horror films this year is the story and characters are as three dimensional as the pop up book which proves the catalyst for this terrifying tale.

Amelia is a single mum who lost her husband in a car crash on the way to the hospital to give birth to her baby boy Samuel. She is now struggling to cope with raising him as a seven year old who has behavioural and anger issues and still believes in monsters under the bed. This is exacerbated when Sam makes her read a bedtime story to him in the form of an unfamiliar book called Mister Babadook that becomes increasingly sinister with every turn of the page.

At first Sam acts out, convinced that The Babadook is out to get him, much to the frustration and eventually anger of Amelia who resorts to increasingly drastic measures to keep her child and herself on the right side of sanity.

It is all wrapped up inside one creepily effective scary movie but at the heart of the film is a woman unable to cope with her own grief and sense of loss and how it has affected her relationship with her son. Essie Davis is superb in the role which balances on the fine line between the similarly terrific performances of Belen Rueda in The Orphanage and Jack Nicholson in The Shining.

The look of Mister Babadook is the stuff of nightmares, with the drawings and monstrous apparitions feel Expressionist in origins, even if the origins of the characters and his motives remain refreshingly vague.

The writer/director Jennifer Kent clearly knows that people fear most what they can"t explain and has crafted an intelligent, emotionally powerful and, importantly, scary film that most pleasingly does not rely on sharp sudden jolts of music to manipulate the audience into jumping out of their seats.

Instead this is a horror film that will have you checking inside your closets and under your beds for days after you've left the cinema.

So take my advice. Just take one look. You'll be thrilled and wowed by The Babadook

4 stars

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Love, Rosie - review

Love, Rosie might be one of the most grammatically confusing film titles of the year but there is nothing confusing about the film. It is just a tired, predictable rom com which is neither terribly romantic and not very comedic.

Unless you find a sequence where a woman loses a condom in her vagina and has to go to hospital hilarious.

It feels more at home in an American Pie film than a story about two friends who should be together but never seem to get together.

Wait, it is a Richard Curtis-esque British version of When Harry Met Sally. Only without the wit, warmth, charm and jokes of the original.

Cue dodgy wigs to signify younger versions of themselves, romantic near-misses, the snarky comedic relief best friend, trips to airports, public declarations of love, etc, etc, etc, yada yada yada, yawn yawn yawn.

Love Rosie? I couldn't even muster up the energy to hate Rosie. Instead the only feeling I have towards her is apathy.

1 star