Thursday, 7 December 2017

Blade of the Immortal Review

Blade of the Immortal is out now in UK cinemas and I was lucky enough to catch it earlier this year at the London Film Festival. It seems to be getting a pretty wide release so you should not have any problems finding the film at a cinema near you. My full review of Blade of the Immortal is at Starburst Magazine here. But for the time being, here's a taster of what you can expect...

Takashi Miike's 100th film Blade of the Immortal reveals a director in no danger of slowing down, and certainly not easing off on the bloodshed. Based on the manga series by Hiroaki Samura, this is even bigger, bloodier and better than Miike's recent 13 Assassins.
The body count in the opening five minutes is enough to make Tarantino blush as samurai Manji fails to save his little sister from being sliced to death at the hands of a gaggle of wrong'uns. That's not to say Manji doesn't make them all pay for their crimes, leaving the ground strewn with corpses not for the last time in the film. However, Manji is mortally wounded and saved by a witch with sacred bloodworms that render Manji immortal and unable to die even after decapitations....

Read the rest of my review here. And while you're here, how good is that poster above?

Here's the trailer:

More reviews from London Film Festival

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Happy End review

Happy End, the latest film from Michael Haneke (Funny Games, Hidden, Amour) is out now in UK cinemas. My full review of Happy End is at Starburst Magazine here.

And here's a little taster of what you can expect from the film, and my review:

Happy End follows three generations of a successful construction dynasty, but Haneke’s characters are frustrated, bitter and broken right from the first frames of the film.
Anne (Isabelle Huppert) oversees the business and deals with the fallout from a construction site accident. Her doctor brother Thomas (Mathieu Kassovitz) is reconnecting with his teenage daughter, who has come to live with the family after Thomas’ ex-wife overdoses. Anne’s aging father Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) has stepped away from the business as his health is starting to fail. Anne’s son is drinking too much and appears to be crying out for attention.

It’s a plot full of major events that mostly happen off screen. A car crash, an overdose, a suicide attempt and more are involved but Haneke’s focus is on the quieter moments of relationship drama, including some surprisingly tender moments of inter-generational mutual understanding as well as inevitable conflict.

Read more here

Read more reviews from London Film Festival 2017 here.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Out now: 78/52, Thelma, The Florida Project Reviews

Still in cinemas around the UK are some more films that I saw at the London Film Festival including Psycho documentary 78/52, Scandi-sort-of-horror Thelma and Sean Baker's Tangerine follow-up The Florida Project.

My review of 78/52 is up at Starburst Magazine here and this is is a snippet from the review:

"Director Alexandre O. Philippe takes the approach of honing in on one famous sequence; the Psycho shower scene. Hitchcock’s most famous set piece is put under the microscope, subjected to rigorous analysis, and (excuse the pun) showered with praise by a gaggle of talking heads including critics, directors, actors, editors and professors. Philippe has assembled an impressive list of some of the master of suspense’s biggest fans and all are eager to pore over the minute details of the sequence that has 78 cuts and 52 camera setups (hence the title)."

Also out is Joachim Trier's oddball horror film Thelma which I also reviewed at Starburst Magazine here. Here's the synopsis of the film from my review:

"The titular character is a young woman who has arrived in the city to study biology at university, for the first time living away from her rural-living religious parents. While Thelma makes friends and enjoys her new found independence, her strict parents are frequently phoning to check up on her. When Thelma meets classmate Anya, something awakens in her that is not just about her sexuality, but might also be supernatural."

Finally, The Florida Project is also out at the moment and though I have not reviewed this elsewhere, I have to highly recommend it now. The film mainly follows a child that lives in a motel down the road from Florida's Disneyworld theme park. She lives in poverty with her weed-smoking, foul-mouthed and irresponsible mother. 

I found this film incredibly depressing. What interests me is that many critics have gone on about the joy of the film. Seeing the story through the eyes of this young carefree girl makes it all seem so much more innocent and magical than it really is. What The Florida Project really deals with is inequality on a terrible scale, but also the way that some people fail to help themselves time and again. 

It angered me. It made me think of some old friends of mine. Friends that can barely make ends meet, but still manage to take drugs even though they now have children. People that I find it hard to call friends now even though I know damn well how hard their lives are. 

I think The Florida Project  is a brilliant film and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it pretty much everyday since I saw it two weeks ago. I found it very hard not to judge some characters and by the end, it left me thinking even more about someone close to me who works in social services. It's definitely not a barrel of laughs and I found it hard to see the joy that so many others saw in it. But it is brilliant, and strangely beautiful, with some of the best performances of the year across the board and a perfectly tragic open ending. See it if you can.

More from the London Film Festival 2017 

Strangled review

Strangled is a Hungarian film based on the true story of a serial killer known as the 'Monster of Martfu'. I caught this at the London Film Festival earlier this year and it's now getting some kind of a cinema release in the UK. It might be difficult to find a cinema that's actually playing it, but it is supposedly being released on November 17th 2017.

My review of Strangled is up at Starburst Magazine and here is a snippet about the story:

"In 1957, a woman leaving work at the Martfu shoe factory is raped and murdered and her body is dumped in a river. The man who was last seen with her, Reti Akos is arrested and eventually admits to the murder despite his sister’s vehement protests of his innocence. Seven years later, a killer strikes again murdering, mutilating and dumping women’s bodies in similar ways to the previous crime. But with Reti still doing his 25 years in jail, the detectives and prosecutors begin to investigate the new crimes and question if they got the wrong man."

More reviews from the London Film Festival 2017

Ingrid Goes West and Good Time Reviews

I know that its tempting to go and see Batman vs Superman 2 or whatever its called, but please rethink your life and go see Ingrid Goes West or Good Time instead. My review of Ingrid Goes West is up at Starburst Magazine here. In a nutshell, it's hilarious, insightful, awkward and tragic. It probably sends out a very dangerous message so I wouldn't let your depressed teenage kids near it. But if, like me, you spend a lot of time on Instagram or Twitter sharing every thought or moment of your life with friends and strangers, then you need to see it. Here's a snippet about the story from my review:

"Ingrid's life is a mess. Her mother has died leaving her a fat inheritance, but she's left in a psychiatric ward after a meltdown at an old friend's wedding. Obsessed with Instagram, hashtags about perfection and happiness and the perfect emoji to use when commenting, she's desperate for a friend, and for someone to notice her (and more importantly ‘like’ her pictures). Discovering the seemingly perfect life of social media sensation Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen) in a magazine, she moves to LA to needle her way into Taylor's life, no matter what the cost."

If Ingrid Goes West doesn't take your fancy, but neither does another all-star superhero team-up, then why not try Good Time. I haven't actually reviewed this film, but it absolutely blew me away. I knew Robert Pattinson was good, and has been making some interesting choices since finishing up with Twilight, but this film is next-level good.

It's about a criminal (Pattinson) with a mentally challenged brother. After a robbery goes wrong, Pattinson's vulnerable brother ends up in jail. Pattinson has to figure out a way to get his brother out  before something terrible happens to him.

Good Time is constantly going in unexpected directions, it pulsates with a brilliant score and it moves at a breakneck pace. What I loved most about it though, is its final scene. I won't spoil that here, but it's incredible how it makes you see the entire rest of the film in a different light. Well it did for me anyway. Undoubtedly one of my favourites of the year, I highly recommend a visit to the big screen for this one.

More from the London Film Festival 2017.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

The Handmaiden Review

The Handmaiden is on its way into UK cinemas right now. It seems to be getting a great deal of attention and a decent marketing push so hopefully if you're interested in seeing it, you should be able to find it in a cinema near you.

Here's a snippet of my review...

Erotic, emotionally charged and unsurprisingly laced with a splatter of torture, The Handmaiden is a return to both Chan-wook’s thematic preoccupations and native Korean language after his English language debut, the wonderfully eerie Stoker.
Told in three parts, The Handmaiden is no step back for the auteur, even if it not only repeats itself in its own internal structure, but also traverses similar territory to his previous films. The three parts are central to the twists in the story as Korean thief Sookee is employed to be the handmaiden of Japanese heiress Hideko in part one. Sookee is actually in the employ of a fake Count who is keen to swindle Hideko out of her fortune by seducing and marrying her and then having the poor woman driven mad and locked up in an asylum. Sookee’s job is to convince Hideko that she really does love the Count, and in return Sookee will receive a portion of the fortune. But when Hideko and Sookee start to feel a growing lust and affection for each other, allegiances are tested...

Read the rest of my review of The Handmaiden at Starburst Magazine. 

And here's the trailer:

A Dark Song Review

A Dark Song seems to be floating around the place recently with a limited release. If you want to see Steve Oram as you've never seen him before, give it a chance.

Here's the gist of it:

Sophia (Catherine Walker) lost her son three years ago and is now determined to make contact with him by hiring alcoholic occultist Joseph Solomon (Steve Oram). When we meet Sophia, she is forking out a large amount of cash for a secluded old house in the Welsh countryside and asking the letting agent for privacy. Soon, Mr Solomon (as he is strictly to be called) arrives and the torturous process of invocation can begin. Sophia has been prepped for the difficulties that lie ahead, but is fully committed to submitting to Mr Solomon’s authority and abuse as he has assured her that she will be able to speak to her son again.

Read more of my review at Starburst Magazine here.

And here's the trailer;


Saturday, 4 March 2017

Trespass Against Us Review

One of my favourite films of the London Film Festival 2016 is released in UK cinemas this weekend. Here's a snippet of my review of Trespass Against Us which stars Michael Fassbender and Brendan Gleeson.

With its frequent references to Christianity, it's unsurprising to find a holy trinity of perfect performances at the heart of Trespass Against Us. A towering Brendan Gleeson plays domineering father to reluctant criminal Chad (Michael Fassbender), who is hoping for a better life for his own son Tyson (Georgie Smith). As three generations of the Cutler family, Gleeson, Fassbender and Smith are a force to be reckoned with in this exceptional crime drama.
The caravan-dwelling Cutlers commit robberies and clash with the police constantly, led by Rory Kinnear’s P.C. Lovage. Chad and his wife Kelly (Lyndsey Marshal, also excellent) want out of the criminal life, attempting to get a secure home and keep their two children in school. But Gleeson’s ‘Pa’ Cole has other ideas, pushing Chad into a heist that will bring down the full force of the law upon them all. Like the doomed kids of American ghetto movies, Chad finds himself torn between the life he has been born and raised into where criminality is an everyday occurrence, and another life where he may only find disappointment and prejudice...

Here's the trailer:


Friday, 3 March 2017

It's Only the End of the World Review

Director Xavier Dolan's latest film It's Only the End of the World is currently in cinemas and despite a very mixed reaction from critics, I was very impressed with it. But then, to be fair, I'll watch anything with Vincent Cassell in it! Here's a snippet of my review from the London Film Festival:

Xavier Dolan becomes the Roland Emmerich of melodrama with his apocalyptic family reunion in It’s Only the End of the World. Not even a single plate gets smashed as a French family collide over a single day, but the emotional devastation is worth more than a thousand alien spaceships smashing their way into the planet. It might not really be the end of the world, but for these characters, there may never be another chance for them to express their heightened emotions.
For writer Louis (Gaspard Ulliel) however, time is most definitely running out. With his terminal illness weighing heavily on his mind, Louis returns to his family home after a twelve year absence to tell his mother, brother and sister that he is dying. His older brother Antoine (Vincent Cassel) is filled with resentment for everyone around him, younger sister Suzanne (Lea Seydoux) barely knows the brother who left when she was only a child and Antoine’s wife Catherine (Marion Cotillard) is meeting Louis for the first time. As tensions boil between the siblings, Louis must find the right time to deliver his devastating news.

Here's the trailer:

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]