Sunday, 19 February 2017

Prevenge Review

Prevenge is out in cinemas as we speak. No doubt it will be available in other formats very soon as I don't think it is getting a very wide release. If you're thinking about watching it in a London cinema this week, or you are reading this at some undisclosed point in the future and considering watching the DVD, then check out my review below from the London Film Festival...

Alice Lowe writes, directs and stars as the pregnant Ruth, mourning the man who got her knocked up and hell bent on taking some revenge on the people she considers responsible for her lover’s death. While the baby girl inside her eggs her on by talking to Ruth and urging her to kill, Ruth must balance the ordinary challenges of pregnancy, while simultaneously ticking off names on her kill list and taking out anyone who gets in her way.

Prevenge plays on every mother’s fears of bringing a baby into the world. While Lowe was really pregnant as she took on the lead role, she might have poured out her major concerns about the world around her, but she still maintains a wicked sense of humour. Prevenge is a slasher film with a pitch black sense of humour, finding the mirth in murder and undercutting expectations of what society expects of a pregnant woman at every opportunity.

Here's the trailer:

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story novelisation and colouring book reviews

Can't wait till Star Wars: Episode VIII finally arrives later this year?

Haven't had a chance to see Rogue One in cinemas yet?

Seen Rogue One more than once and really want to spend a few more hours with the characters before you get the opportunity to purchase the DVD?

Well I've got a couple of books that might just fill the Star Wars shaped hole in your lives for the next eleven months.

Over at Starburst Magazine, I've reviewed the novelisation of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story by Alexander Freed and I've also reviewed the Art of Colouring book for Rogue One as well.

Here's a snippet of my review of the Rogue One novelisation:

"For those who criticised Rogue One for bland characters or a lack of character depth, you might find more to like in Freed’s novelisation. He does an excellent job in balancing multiple character viewpoints, offering a little more insight into many of the characters’ decisions and mind states. Ben Mendelsohn’s villain Orson Krennic is best served, with his character being an endless source of fascination throughout the book.
We also get more details about Jyn’s backstory with Saw Gerrera which had to be dealt with far too quickly in the film. Most of the book treads very literally on the toes of the film, but there are a few extended or new scenes that Freed includes with mixed results. These new parts, including more of Galen and Orson in the prologue, and more of Jyn in a cell at the labour camp that she is rescued from at the beginning of the film, add little, but are not jarring with their presence..."

Here's a snippet of my review of the Rogue One Colouring book:
"Have you ever wanted to brighten up Darth Vader’s none more black costume? Well here’s your chance. Unless you really like using your black and grey crayons, the Rogue One colouring book is an outstanding chance to bring some much needed colour to the dark side, and make Darth Vader into Darth Fabulous.
Unfortunately, of the 100 images contained within to ‘inspire creativity’, there is only 3 pages where you actually get to tackle the Sith Lord himself, but elsewhere you have plenty of opportunities to colour in the many other characters of Rogue One. The drawings range from the wonderful (Jyn Erso, Chirrut Imwe) to the ever so slightly strange (Saw Gerrera). Countless characters are included in a variety of poses, but more Vader would have been much appreciated..."
Read more of the review here.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

A Monster Calls Review

Getting 2017 off to a great start, here is my review of A Monster Calls, a film that I was lucky enough to see at the London Film Festival last year. Bring tissues.

Connor is an artistic young boy struggling to come to terms with the terminal illness of his young mother (Felicity Jones). Bullied at school, left to run the home, and plagued by a recurring nightmare, he is soon visited in his dreams by the hulking great cross between a Transformer and an Ent. This ‘monster’ forces Connor to listen to three tales about kings, queens, pastors, and an invisible man. As Connor’s Mum’s illness worsens, Connor’s behaviour becomes more destructive, especially when his estranged father (Toby Kebbell) arrives from L.A. and Connor is forced to live with his uptight grandmother (Sigourney Weaver).

With a script by Patrick Ness, based on his own Y.A. book, A Monster Calls is a very mature affair. It’s dealing with death, fractured families and honest feelings of hopelessness, despair and worse make it refreshing even as it slides into melodrama. The characters around young Connor are not perfect, and though some are two-dimensional, it doesn’t detract from the emotionally-charged exchanges between Connor and his bullies, parents and grandmother...

If this sounds like something that might sway your branches, then head on over to Starburst Magazine to read the rest of my A Monster Calls review

Here's the trailer:

More from LFF2016:

Trespass Against Us [London Film Festival 2016]

It's Only the End of the World [London Film Festival 2016]

American Honey [London Film Festival 2016]

Trolls [London Film Festival 2016]

Down Under Review [London Film Festival 2016]

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Dog Eat Dog Review

Did I ever tell you about the time I followed Paul Schrader from a cinema he'd just given a Q and A in, back to his hotel across Leicester Square? No I didn't, because it's a strange thing to do and this story has a totally unsatisfactory ending. Basically, at LFF this year, I saw Schrader's new film Dog Eat Dog and then the director participated in a Q and A. Afterwards, I saw him walking from the cinema and decided I'd go and shake his hand. For some reason, I didn't just stroll up and shake his hand immediately and instead thought it fascinating that a man as famous (to movie lovers anyway) as Schrader could walk around the centre of London unnoticed. So I followed him, slightly in awe that he was just casually walking around the Square. I thought I'd go and shake his hand in a minute and let him enjoy not being bothered by film fans. Alas, twas not to be as Mr Schrader then walked inside a hotel and disappeared from my life forever.

Anyway, the film Dog Eat Dog is released in UK cinemas on Friday 18th November so here's a snippet of my review:

Based on the novel by real-life criminal Eddie Bunker, Dog Eat Dog is the tale of three jailbirds fresh out of the joint, who while looking to make some fast money, become embroiled in a plot to steal a baby from a rival gangster. With so much stupidity and psychopathic tendencies on display from the central trio, it's not a surprise that nothing goes to plan.
Opening with a talk show interviewee spouting some nonsense about making the world safer by having more people carrying guns, Dog Eat Dog feels like it’s perhaps going to be a contemporary crime thriller with something interesting to say. No such luck. Stuck in the typical gangster milieu of strip clubs and sleazy bars, with its grizzled old ex-cons spouting casually racist lines and engaging in bad taste ‘comedy’ killing scenes, this feels like Schrader trying to emulate Tarantino and all the hip young filmmakers who probably grew up adoring Schrader’s early output with Scorsese at the helm.

If you'd like to check out the rest of my Dog Eat Dog review, please head over to Starburst Magazine.

Here's the trailer:

More recent reviews from LFF 2016:

Trespass Against Us [London Film Festival 2016]

It's Only the End of the World [London Film Festival 2016]

American Honey [London Film Festival 2016]

A Monster Calls [London Film Festival 2016]

Trolls [London Film Festival 2016]

King Cobra Review [London Film Festival 2016]

Down Under Review [London Film Festival 2016]

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Trolls Review: So Happy It Hurts

Trolls was the Family Gala film at the 2016 London Film Festival and was released in UK cinemas in October. Surprisingly, it's not as bad as it sounds. Read my full Trolls review at Starburst Magazine here. Here's the synopsis:

Justin Timberlake’s Branch is the only Troll with an understandable sense of unease that dreaded monsters the Bergens are desperate to find the eye-poppingly bright community of trolls living blissfully carefree in the woods. Twenty years earlier, the Trolls escaped the clutches of the Bergens, who are such a bunch of miserable creatures that they can only find happiness when they eat the multicoloured-haired Trolls. Branch warns his fellow trolls not to have parties full of loud singing and glittery fireworks, but will the irrepressible Princess Poppy and the other trolls listen?

No, they bloody won't, the annoying little buggers. No wonder Branch is miserable and hiding in a hole in the ground. So when the Bergen head chef finds the trolls and carries some off to Bergen town to turn into tasty treats, Poppy must enlist Branch to help her in rescuing her friends so that they don't miss out on anymore scheduled hug times, singing, dancing, and lest we forget... scrapbooking.

Read more of my Trolls review at Starburst Magazine.

Here's the trailer:

American Honey Review

American Honey played at the 2016 London Film Festival and was released into UK cinemas in October. My full review of American Honey is at Starburst Magazine here. Here's the synopsis:

The film follows Star who  first jumps into a minibus full of carefree scruffy white kids who love nothing more than blasting out hip hop, having a good time, and making some money selling magazine subscriptions. Entrepreneur Krystal runs the show keeping her crew of kids working hard, along with her sidekick and best seller Jake (Shia Labeouf). Star jumps at the chance to get in on the action, living the wild life on the road and falling for Jake along the way.

American Honey’s motley crew roll around the affluent neighbourhoods of America, attempting to sell their wares by any means necessary, but the focus is always on Star and Jake as he trains her in the art of the hard sell. It's an episodic structure with no real goal in sight. It's telling that two characters are asked what their dreams are and both reply that they have never been asked that question before. These kids don't get to have dreams. Their minibus is a cocoon of angry hip hop, where they all get to spout repetitive brain-washing capitalist messages about getting rich. Their chemistry comes from sing-alongs and snatches of clearly improvised dialogue. Their single-minded little community lives only to make enough money to buy food, drink and drugs.

Read more of my American Honey review here.

Watch the trailer:

T2 Trainspotting Trailer Arrives: Better Late Than Never

I believe the expression is: 'there are no words'. The trailer for Trainspotting 2 has given me 'all the feels'. Finally, the sequel to one of the greatest movies of all time, and probably my favourite British movie ever, is here. And it's pretty much everything I could have hoped for.

T2 Trainspotting will be arriving at your cinematic station on January 27th 2017. Here's the poster and trailer:

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Green Room: Callum Turner and Jeremy Saulnier Interviews

Just a quick note to say I was lucky enough to get to recently interview Jeremy Saulnier, the director of Green Room and Blue Ruin and also actor Callum Turner who plays Tiger, the lead singer of punk band the Ain't Rights in Green Room.

Here's a snippet of my review of the film:

"Punk band Ain't Rights are going nowhere fast, playing crappy gigs and siphoning petrol just to keep their clapped-out tour van running. After an interview with a local journalist and a disappointing take from their latest gig, they hear of a backwoods gig where they can make some quick and easy cash. The only rub is the clientele at the venue are far right (or are they extreme left?) nutters and Ain't Right don't help matters by opening with a cover of The Dead Kennedy’s Nazi Punks.

However, the poop really hits the fan when they witness a murder backstage in the green room and find themselves trapped in the venue by those who don't want them to get out alive. Led by Patrick Stewart's gang leader and venue owner, an army of skinhead 'red laces' are soon lining up to pick off the band members of Ain't Rights one by one."

The interviews with both Callum Turner and Jeremy Saulnier are both up at Starburst Magazine now and Green Room recently came out on Blu-ray and DVD so if you didn't catch it at the cinema (and not enough people did), then you should most certainly think about getting yourself a copy now. Or I'll send round Patrick Stewart to knock some sense into you.

More interviews from I Love That Film

Friday, 16 September 2016

Blue Ruin Review

Blue Ruin came out in 2013 was easily one of my favourite films of the year. This review was originally posted at Filmoria.

Jeremy Saulnier is a name you better get used to. Writer, director and photographer of the brilliant indie revenge thriller Blue Ruin, he will need to watch his back if he carries on like this. Everyone will be after him and his considerable talent and there are bound to be a few directors jealous enough of his skills to try and take him out themselves. For that matter, the magnificently bearded lead Macon Blair is also a serious talent to watch.

Blue Ruin is the story of Dwight (Macon Blair), a homeless drifter who takes baths in empty houses, sleeps in his car and gets food from anywhere he can. Dwight is the silent type; his mouth seemingly lost beneath his impressively overgrown beard. When he finds out that Wade Cleland, the man responsible for the murder of his parents has been released from prison, Dwight immediately swings into action, carrying out his burning desire for revenge. However, killing Wade may only be the beginning of Dwight's one man rampage of revenge.

Because unfortunately for him, Dwight is no Rambo. He hasn't got the skills, the savagery or the insanity to just pick off bad guys left, right and centre. He is clumsy and clearly crap at all this killing stuff. Though he is committed to his cause and clever enough to carry it out with the possibility of getting away with it, he is also just an ordinary guy. His early mishaps with a knife show his worrying lack of prowess in the weapon-wielding department and it makes him believable, sympathetic and impossible not to root for.

Blue Ruin starts off like a deceptively typical indie movie; all intriguing close ups with shallow depth of field and bereft of dialogue for most of the first half hour. The composition of early shots are gorgeous with the camera later prowling around the dark locations building an unbearable silent tension. The subtle score exacerbates this, brooding in the background and anticipating the violence. Suddenly and viciously, Blue Ruin becomes a black comedy  and edge-of-your-seat thriller.

And when it comes, the first murder is brutal, bloody and swift. The first act of the film ends where most revenge thrillers would finish but Blue Ruin has plenty more in store. The exact details of the murder that has spurred this mission are deliciously drip fed through sparse bursts of dialogue, punctuating the scenes of silent Dwight stalking. After he seems to have succeeded in his goal, it suddenly and frantically becomes clear that what started out simple has just become far more complex as Dwight has ignited a terrifyingly dangerous family feud.

From revenge thriller to home invasion movie and back again, Blue Ruin is never less than absolutely thrilling. As Dwight rolls around in his old battered car, he beautifully blurs the lines between victim and predator. Though he is a man of very few words, he is impossible to take your eyes off. Macon Blair is revelatory in the role, transforming his features so he is almost two different characters during the story. His amateur assassin becomes reluctant protector to his estranged family and his bravery, resourcefulness and  determination are hilariously balanced by his total authenticity, lack of faith in himself and deep sadness he lugs around with him. It is a wonderful performance; at times bringing real warmth and empathy to the character while being darkly funny as he is forced to tend his wounds and deal in death. There clearly can't be a happy ending for poor Dwight who never smiles and takes no pleasure in his actions. He is a man driven to do what he simply has to do and he has no illusions that he deserves to get out alive. However you are guaranteed to wince with him when he is hurt and cheer him on when he takes revenge.

Helped along the way by an old friend who warns him not to make speeches before killing people, Blue Ruin is gripping from start to finish even when it pauses for pitch black humour. The villains may not have much shading, but their love of guns is enough to make them (for the most part) a mysterious and chilling foe. Bleakly funny, tense beyond words, breathtaking and heartbreaking, Blue Ruin is everything you could possibly want in a thriller. Dwight is undoubtedly one of the best characters of the year and his story will keep you riveted. As Dwight travels to another showdown, he hears a song about having no regrets on the radio. Like Dwight after his spree, you certainly won't have any regrets after seeing the brilliant Blue Ruin.

Watch the trailer:

Check out my review of writer/director Jeremy Saulnier's latest Green Room and watch out for my interviews with Saulnier and Green Room actor Callum Turner coming soon at Starburst Magazine.

Monday, 12 September 2016

Blair Witch Review: Does Adam Wingard's Sequel Match the Original?

You've got to wonder where the parents of Heather and James Donahue are, and what exactly they think they're doing. We didn't see them before their daughter got lost in The Blair Witch Project and now they've only gone and let their son James wander off in search of his sister 20 years later. Surely one of the parents might have advised against this madness.

And so Blair Witch begins with director Adam Wingard (The Guest, You’re Next) taking us back into the haunted woods of Burkitsville as another group of camera-carrying crazies go in search of the elusive Elly Kedward. This time there’s six doomed younglings; James Donahue was four when Heather disappeared, Lisa wants to make a documentary on James’ ill-advised search for his missing sister, and their friends Peter and Ashley are just along for moral support (and to handily up the body count and prove that in horror, black guys are still first on the kill list). The four friends are then joined by oddballs Lane (darknet666) and Talia who uploaded footage to YouTube that they claim to have found on a tape in the woods. The shaky camera video appears to show a female figure in a house just like the one at the end of Heather’s original project. Is Heather still alive after all these years, or is the Blair Witch up to her old tricks again?

No points if you guess the answer, but prepare for another bumpy ride on you’re way to the climax. Blair Witch ditches much of the ambiguity of the original film. There’s no room for any real debate over what exactly happens to this bunch of terrified youths. Anyone still fuming that they sat through The Blair Witch Project and never got a single shot of the Blair Witch can rest assured that there is definitely something to see here. Thankfully, not too much though. Wingard is smart enough to know a little goes a long way and milks the most suspense possible from his characters’ shaky cameras and inability to confront the Blair Witch face to face. The sound design is also racked up a notch, sometimes a little too much as it sounds like the black smoke monster from Lost might have found its way into the woods of Maryland.

Though the Donahue kids’ parents could have done much more to stop at least their second child from heading into the woods, at least James and his buddies are much more prepared for their camping trip than Heather, Mike and Josh were back in 1994. This new crop of tech-savvy millenials have Walkie-talkies, GPS, wearable cameras, a drone camera, lots of lights, food and just more cameras than you can shake a spooky stick-man at. Unfortunately, they obviously didn't watch that footage filmed by Heather and Josh carefully enough as they don't seem to realise that it's all bloody useless when faced with the power of the Blair Witch.

And if you thought she was too passive in the original, or  maybe you don't believe that there was a curse and that everything can be explained rationally in the footage from Heather’s project, prepare to think again. In Blair Witch, the late Elly Kedward really unleashes her powers. She messes with their technology, messes with time and space, magics that old house from out of nowhere again and even throws in a few new tricks that are best left unspoiled. Wingard leaves you in no doubt that the Blair Witch exists and she's pretty much as terrifying as she ever was.

Fans of the original have to endure a little catch-up exposition to fill newcomers in on the legend of the Blair Witch, but at least a little more is added to the mythology. Rustin Parr’s house is also expanded with previously unseen elements providing one particularly claustrophobic moment. However, it's what goes down in the house that really gives the sweat glands a workout as familiar beats (people standing in corners, apologies, unseen attackers) get new and thrilling updates.

For those sick to death of found footage films, this offers little to win you over. There’s more cameras and camera technology so a slightly more varied visual experience than many other similar films. And the old charge of ‘why would they still be filming in this situation?’ is at least partially answered by having the characters wear their cameras on their head requiring them to not have to think about filming when the shit really hits the fan in the final act. These cameras also provide Peep Show style interactions as the characters talk to each other but gaze directly into the cameras. This pays dividends when two characters can only see each other's torch-lit faces while the space behind them remains in total, terrifying darkness.

So Blair Witch is scary, but it's not as ingenious and won't be as influential as the original. It's mostly a shame that Wingard didn't use the ‘method directing’ tactics of original directors Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick. Clearly some of the scenes were unpleasant to film, but the actors in this film got off lucky. Though there is less ambiguity in Blair Witch, there’s a higher body count and more hysteria to make up for it. It's just a shame that there isn't anything as iconic, moving and ‘real’ as Heather’s final apology in the project that started it all. Still, Blair Witch fans won't be disappointed and newbies will learn that the woods of Burkitsville can be scarier than Crystal Lake, Elm Street and Haddonfield put together. Go back to bed Paranormal Activity, the Blair Witch is back with a vengeance and as terrifying as ever.

Here's the trailer:

More on Blair Witch and the original: