Film reviews and more

Month: July 2013

Film Review: ‘The Conjuring’

★★★★☆ Following last year’s The Cabin in The Woods, traditional horrors have started to seem seriously out of date. Thankfully, with Saw director James Wan’s The Conjuring (2013), a return to the traditional tropes are as fresh as ever in what is an unnerving, albeit kitsch horror of remarkable finesse. Purportedly based on a true story concerning paranormal investigators/demonologists […]

Film Review: ‘The Smurfs 2’

★★☆☆☆ Released in the late summer of 2011, Raja Gosnell’s The Smurfs made an astonishing (and not to be snivelled at) $560 million at the worldwide box office, despite a lukewarm critical response. So, in that respect, The Smurfs 2 (2013) seemed inevitable. And, without doubt, a mere two years later and Belgian comics artist Peyo’s little blue fictional […]

Film Review: ‘The Heat’

★★☆☆☆ Whatever happened to the 90-minute Hollywood studio comedy? Was it damned to obscurity by the bromantic Judd Apatow’s unwavering faith in his actors’ abilities to riff themselves through any situation? The Heat (2013) is yet another comedy so bewitched by its stars’ improvisational skills that it feels curiously overloaded and under-nourishing at the same time. Director Paul Feig’s […]

Film Review: ‘Only God Forgives’

★★★★☆ Mere minutes into Nicolas Winding Refn’s Only God Forgives (2013), it becomes evident that the critical derision which greeted it at Cannes was wholly misplaced. While it inevitably opens itself up to accusations of pretentiousness, it’s a picture that redefines the visual possibilities of exploitation film. The deliberate portentousness and formal precision is all attractive misdirection; Only God […]

Blu-ray Review: ‘Runaway Train’

★★★★☆ Andrei Konchalovsky is one of cinema’s true enigmas. Loosely descended from Tolstoy and born into tsarist nobility in 1937, he has the genetic make-up of a genius, and once displayed all the signs, but to look back upon his filmography is like staring at a jigsaw with all the wrong pieces. He has disassembled the Soviet psyche and […]

Blu-ray Review: ‘Enter the Dragon’

★★★★★ If Bruce Lee hadn’t passed away a week before the US release of Enter the Dragon (1973), Robert Clouse’s martial arts masterpiece may well have been regarded as nothing more than a taste of things to come. As it is, Enter the Dragon was the only opportunity we got to see the great man in a genuine Hollywood […]

Blu-ray Review: ‘Le Pont du Nord’

★★★★☆ The English translation of French maestro Jacques Rivette’s debut feature Paris nous appartient (1962) is “Paris belongs to us”. It could also have easily been the title of his 1981 oddball offering Le Pont du Nord. Coveted by cinephiles for years, this Masters of Cinema rerelease is most welcome. It’s a magical work of blazing intelligence and imagination […]

Blu-ray Review: ‘The Birth of a Nation’

★★★★★ It would be something of an understatement to label D.W. Griffith’s American Civil War epic, The Birth of a Nation (1915), as controversial. The film became infamous due to its overt racism and negative stereotypical portrayals of African-Americans, coupled with the rampant glorification of the Ku Klux Klan, causing widespread outcry. Such was the strength of the reaction […]

Blu-ray Review: ‘Possession’

★★★★☆ “She created a monster as her secret lover!” screamed the poster for Possession (1981), a truly indefinable 80s horror hybrid, brainchild of the hugely undervalued Polish filmmaker Andrzej Zulawski. This is a tagline that not only short-sells the film’s deeply felt psychosexual themes, but also drips with sensationalist desperation on the part of the distributors, faced with marketing a […]

DVD Review: ‘Welcome to the Punch’

★★★☆☆ After helming the ultra low budget and critically praised urban thriller Shifty (2008), BAFTA nominated director Eran Creevy returns with Welcome to the Punch (2013), an explosive action film that sees Creevy depicting London in altogether more sleek and slick parameters than his directorial predecessor. Armed with a bigger budget and the clout of executive producer Ridley Scott, […]

DVD Review: ‘The Paperboy’

★★★☆☆ Based on American author Peter Dexter’s 1995 pulp novel of the same name, Lee Daniels’ The Paperboy (2012) found itself derided and lauded in almost equal measure after screening in competition at last year’s Cannes Film Festival. Blending gaudy, stylised visuals with a pungent tale of love, racial prejudice and serial killing, it’s certainly a hard pill to […]

DVD Review: ‘A Late Quartet’

★★★★☆ Yaron Zilberman’s feature debut A Late Quartet (2012), starring Catherine Keener, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Christopher Walken, follows the fortunes of an acclaimed New York string quartet who find its future threatened by petty rivalries and inner discord. When Peter (Walken) the cellist and founder of ‘The Fugue Quartet’, discovers that he has Parkinson’s disease it looks as […]

DVD Review: ‘Side Effects’

★★★★☆ Steven Soderbergh has made something of a habit over the past few years of threatening his departure from the cinematic arena. A fiercely independent filmmaker who has found getting his visions onto the screen more and more difficult, this year he had announced as his retirement from the medium. Prior to the acclaimed Liberace biopic, Behind the Candelabra […]

DVD Review: ‘The Host’

★★☆☆☆ Twilight Saga scribe Stephenie Meyer saw another of her teen-friendly novels adapted for the big screen this year with the release of The Host (2013). Helmed by Andrew Niccol – no stranger to glossy sci-fi following Gattaca and In Time – the film features yet another conflicted female protagonist, unable to decide which one of two hunky heartthrobs […]

Film Review: ‘The Wolverine’

★★★☆☆ Whilst Wolverine remains one of Marvel’s most popular characters, his latest big screen appearance is low on hype. Maybe because it’s released in the same year as superhero juggernauts Iron Man 3 and Man of Steel, or perhaps the critically-savaged X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) is still weighing on people’s minds. James Mangold’s The Wolverine (2013) presents us with […]

Film Review: ‘Blackfish’

★★★★☆ If gaining an understanding of the motivation behind the distressing acts committed in 2009’s The Cove wasn’t enough to put audiences off a trip to a marine park, then Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s Blackfish (2013) may just do the trick. Opening to a harrowing 911 call, the film hardly lets up as it attempts to shine a light on a […]

Film Review: ‘Frances Ha’

★★★★☆ Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha (2012) sees the US director and indie queen Greta Gerwig team up once again after their successful collaboration on 2010’s Greenberg. This time around, Gerwig has been integral to the scriptwriting process, creating a delightfully twee, metropolitan fairytale about the difficulties of growing up when you’re already fully-grown. Frances (Gerwig) is a 27-year-old aspiring […]

DVD Review: ‘Reality’

★★★★☆ The Taviani brothers explored a Shakespeare production performed by a group of prison inmates earlier in the year with Caesar Must Die (2012). Matteo Garrone, who arrived on the international scene to great acclaim with hard-hitting Mafioso drama Gomorrah (2008), has now gone one step further. Out on DVD this week is Reality (2012), a film for which […]