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Showing posts from July, 2009

Brick

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Title: Brick
Rating: 3/5
Genre: Crime, Thriller, Mystery, Film-Noir
Starring: Joseph Gordan-Levitt, Nora Zehetner

An unknown director, a cast of unknowns, and yet a plot idea that couldn’t keep me away; this is no mystery story of ‘who did it,’ but rather uniquely utilising a high school as the backdrop, and those within it as the main protagonists. The manner this was done was not to make it seem ‘smaller,’ or to diminish the characters intellect but rather to provide a change of scenery for a murder-mystery plot that had seen itself worked too many times. Unfortunately, this film probably would have been better without it.

It is that fateful day when Brendan (Gordan-Levitt) receives a phone call from an old flame asking for his help, filled with words he didn’t understand and clearly in distress he sets out to explore just what happened. With the help of ‘Brain’ (Matt O’Leary) it isn’t long before he finds her dead along the riverbank. Determined to find out what happened, he soon finds …

They Don't Cut the Grass Anymore

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Title: They Don't Cut the Grass Anymore
Rating: 1.5/5
Genre: Horror
Starring: John Smihula, Adam Berke, Mary Spadaro
Director: Nathan Schiff
Duration: 70 mins

Before I get started, let me tell you: I know I have bad taste. I, myself, consider it "aquired," but I'm grounded enough in reality to know when the stuff I watch isn't exceptional in the least. I'm not very discriminating when it comes to my favorite genre. With that out of the way, this is Long Island no-budget horror filmmaker Nathan Schiff's obscure 1985 gore flick.

Billy Buck and his silent brother Jacob are Texas gardeners working in the suburbs of Long Island, New York. Fed up with the Northern "yuppies" and their ignorant ways, our heroes literally tear them (and their fashion magazines) to shreds with their bare hands. That is, when they're not watching blaxploitation films at the local cinema.

You might think the above synopsis is the film in a nutshell, but in fact this IS the film…

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance

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Title: Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance
Rating: 3.5/5
Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
Starring: Du-Na Bae (The Host), Kang-Ho Song (The Host), Ha-Kyun Shin
Language: Korean
Director: Chan-Wook Park

Starting my mini-special on Chan-Wook Park’s ‘Vengeance’ trilogy, three films exploring the notion of retribution from the perspective of those delivering it, this is the first of three, and probably the most adventurous endeavour of them all. Whilst vengeance plays a strong role in the manner it unfolds, this is more tragedy than unruly bloodshed, with each character driven by doing what they feel is deserved, performing their own form of vigilante justice that inevitably leads to nothing by a cycle of pain and torment.

Following Ryu, a deaf mute desperate to find a kidney donor for his dying sister, he works hard in the factory to try and accumulate the funds required, but he soon realises that it won’t be enough. Persuaded by his young revolutionary girlfriend to take more drastic action, they decide t…

Oldboy

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Title: Oldboy
Rating: 4.5/5
Genre: Crime, Mystery, Thriller
Starring: Min-Sik Choi, Hye-Jeong Kang, Ji-Tae Yu
Language: Korean
Director: Chan-Wook Park

“You want to torture me, but I can simply kill myself first. Do you want revenge, or do you want the truth?”

The second part of the celebrated ‘Vengeance’ trilogy, as before many of the same themes appear. The notion of getting retribution from those who have done you wrong runs rampant, and as with the first part this is no simple quest, two main characters seeking vengeance for the atrocities committed against them. With enough stylised action scenes to keep the Tarantino fans appeased, a strong enough feeling of emotion running deep throughout relying less on language than physicality maintaining a degree of enjoyability for those who despise subtitles, and a mysterious dramatic and romantic element providing a constant questioning to delight those in urge of a drama, this is a cross-genre effort that caters to fans of all these styles and…

Sympathy for Lady Vengeance

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Title: Sympathy for Lady Vengeance
Rating: 4/5
Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
Starring: Min-Sik Choi, Yeong-Ae Lee
Language: Korean
Director: Chan-Wook Park

The final chapter in this trilogy of tragedy, this is easily the most straight forward concept of them all plot wise, one which could easily be derogatory considered unoriginal in its theme but beyond the bare bones lies a full and rich atmospheric masterpiece; a piece of art to be analysed, the bold imagery, subtle symbolism and powerful filming locations allowing a strength to either captivate or be lost on the viewer. For those who have watched the previous films, certain repeated phrases emerge, and those with attention to small details will notice the stark contrasts in colours and what they represent. This isn’t merely a film about vengeance or the fulfilment of justice, there is a deeper meaning prevalent here; redemption.

Falsely imprisoned for the murder and kidnap of a six year old boy, she is forced into taking the blame, and i…

Atonement

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Title: Atonement
Rating: 4.5/5
Genre: Drama, Romance
Starring: Keira Knightley, James McAvoy, Saoirse Ronan

"Atonement": N. Amends or reparation made for an injury or wrong; expiation.

I am sure all of us have witnessed certain events that we misinterpreted, but how often does this interpretation leads to ruining lives? The film basically revolves about three characters, "Cecilia" (Knightley) who is the eldest daughter of a rich English family, "Briony" (played when she was 13 by "Ronan") who is "Cecilia's" young sister and an aspiring writer, and "Robbie" (McAvoy) who is the son of a servant, which is being taken care of his university by the family. Some moments of passion between "Cecilia" and "Robbie" are seen by the refined "Briony", for which she understands wrongly. That misunderstanding leads to gloomy repercussions. The world is at the brink of WW2, and we see how the outcome affects the…

Haute Tension (High Tension)

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Title: Haute Tension (High Tension)
Rating: 2.5/5
Genre: Horror
Starring: Cécile de France, Maïwenn Le Besco
Language: French

And so I return with another horror film, "High Tension" by director and co-writer "Alexandre Aja". The plot is basically like a casual slasher film, "Marie" (France) spends a weekend at the house of her college friend "Alex" (Le Besco), and then a homicidal maniac who roams around the neighborhood attacks the family at night and starts carnage. I enjoyed the representation of the plot rather than the plot itself. "Aja" is a good director, he did alright with this horror flick, but as a writer, many physicists would like to have a word with him. The reason for that can be known by watching the film, and paying attention to what is happening.

"Aja" as a director I enjoyed his film. At more than one point he did a representation, along with the actress, of the character's emotion of fear, rather than just …

Dead Man's Shoes

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Title: Dead Man's Shoes
Rating: 4.5/5
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Starring: Paddy Considine, Toby Kebbell

A break from the modern horror theme I going with now, now I come with a recommendation of this film, "Dead Man's Shoes" by director and co-writer "Shane Meadows". The film was greatly directed, greatly acted (Paddy Considine who played the main role of "Richard" also co-wrote the film), and greatly written. This is the story of "Richard" whom after returning from the army sees all the atrocities done to his brother, then decides to take his brother for with him to take revenge. This appears as your casual revenge movie, but it's far from being casual and silly.
I saw "I spit on Your Grave" a while ago, another revenge film, and it was utterly stupid. "Dead Man's Shoes" is what a revenge film should be, something beyond just "revenge".

"Meadows" did a classy job with direction. He brought u…

This is England

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Title: This is England
Rating: 4/5
Genre: Drama
Starring: Thomas Turgoose
Director: Shane Meadows

“That's what this nation has been built on, proud men. Proud fucking warriors! Two thousand years this little tiny fucking island has been raped and pillaged, by people who have come here and wanted a piece of it - two fucking world wars! Men have laid down their lives for this. For this... and for what? So people can stick their fucking flag in the ground and say, "Yeah! This is England. And this is England, and this is England.”

Meadows is still a relatively poor known director internationally, and of those that are aware of his work the same argument often finds itself emerging; why can he not do any other style? In some senses they may have a valid point; of his three full length films to date, they have all been set in the north midlands, often even using the same actors whom he seems to have developed a rapport, but he’s hardly producing work that many others are trying to imitat…

Frontière(s)

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Title: Frontière(s)
Rating: 3/5
Genre: Horror
Starring: Karina Testa, Aurélien Wiik
Language: French

As a continuation with the horror theme, recommended by a fellow Lifer, this time I went with "Frontière(s)". To those who have been watching horror from a time now, they will notice that this is a lot similar to the "Texas Chainsaw Massacre", without "Leatherface". A bunch of people on their way to Holland, they stop by a motel on the road to rest, motel is owned by crazy cannibals (Neo-Nazi's this rime), and then carnage begins. A decent horror film, not the best I've seen, but worth your while.

The acting was good in this film. Unlike many horror films where they actors are screaming, running around like idiots, and generally not convincing, I thoroughly enjoyed the role of "Yasmin" (Testa). It was convincing and emotional for the most part of the film. For the others, let's say they suffered and died well. Not to forget a well done acti…

Quarantine

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Title: Quarantine
Rating: 0.5/5
Genre: Horror
Starring: Jennifer Carpenter, Steve Harris, Jay Hernandez

Whether this film is dealt with as a remake of the Spanish film "REC", or just a regular zombie film, it failed to deliver a good experience. Basically the film makers decided to literally translate the original to English, and bring new actors. The changes that were done were mostly insignificant, and the biggest change, about the origin of the virus, leads us completely bewildered about many things. The acting is lame, just because you have the name "Carpenter" it doesn't mean you can make a horror film good. Overall the original is better by a lot.

The direction here, cinematography, and acting are just dull. The "shaky camera" style wasn't utilized as it should have been; even when there's no action at all the camera's motion is irritating. We sometimes wonder what kind of an idiot would hire a photographer like that. Chiefly, all the goo…

Dirty Pretty Things

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Title: Dirty Pretty Things
Rating: 3.5/5
Genre: Romantic, Drama
Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Audrey Tautou

“We are the people you do not see. We are the ones who drive your cabs. We clean your rooms. And suck your cocks.”

Continuing by stint on British cinema, I am lead towards this tale set in the heart of London, following the stories of immigrants doing what is required of them to survive. With Tautou’s first English-speaking role, working closely with the lead – an as of here relatively unknown actor – I went in expecting many difficult situations with regards to immigration authorities and surviving. What instead came as a surprise were the characters themselves, as we gradually learn more about them and what they are willing to do in order to stay in the country, and the dire situations they frequently find themselves coerced into without a status in the country, treated with disdain by many as second class citizens.

It is the curious character of Okwe (Chiwetel), a Nigerian doct…

Naked

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Title: Naked
Rating: 4.5/5
Genre: Drama
Starring: David Thewlis, Katrin Cartlidge, Lesley Sharp
Director: Mike Leigh
Release Date: 1993

“What if God just put us here for his own entertainment? That's all we are - just something for him to have a bit of a laugh at?”

Forget ‘Green Street’ and its exaggeration of the modern east end, say goodbye to the glamorisation of mob behaviour displayed in ‘Trainspotting,’ and say hello to the real, gritty detail of life at the bottom rung. Filmed on location with actual British actors let all the Americans know what regional dialects truly sound like (in fact, despite being entirely in English you may well need subtitles; the thick Scottish, cockney and mancunian accents featured in this film wont slow down for you to keep up), director Mike Leigh gives a quite literal ‘crash course’ of the despair on the streets, and his social commentary remains as potent now as ever.

A train-wreck of a film it lies in shambles, meandering through in an unforgiving …

Låt den Rätte Komma In (Let the Right One In)

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Title: Låt den Rätte Komma In (Let the Right One In)
Rating: 4.5/5
Genre: Romance/Horror
Starring: Kåre Hedebrant, Lina Leandersson
Language: Swedish

A vampire film with a love story? I gave it a high score? It is modern? Yes! I have to admit, this probably the best vampire film I saw in a long time, since many classic vampire films. It didn't gather all the clichés we see now from "dark, tall vampire wearing all black", to the "helpless, lonely damsel who happens to fall in love", on the contrary, it abandoned all that to bring us something authentic and worth your time. This is the story of "Oskar", a lonely 12 years old boy living with his mother, who meets and bonds with "Eli", a "girl" vampire who is also "12". Having no experience with vampire film, the director "Tomas Alfredson" focused more on the relation they have, rather the casual vampire subculture we now see.

The best thing I enjoyed in this film is the …

Man Bites Dog

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Title: Man Bites Dog
Rating: 4.5/5
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Mockumentary
Starring: Benoit Poelvoorde
Language: French
Released: 1991
Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bcPhaieTg4o

When we think of serial killers in films, we think of two types of people: cultured, highbrow sickos like Hannibal Lecter and John Doe who go through elaborate schemes to kill people or masked psychopaths like Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers who are unstoppable, supernatural forces. "Man Bites Dog" instead gives us Benoit (played by Benoit Poelvoorde), who's just a regular guy who still helps out at his parents shop, hangs out with a lady friend, and does other normal activities for a man in his late 20's. Oh, and he happens to be a serial killer for a living.

Due to Benoit's (Ben to his friends) chosen profession, documentary filmmakers Remy and Andre (played by the films directing/writing team, Remy Belvaux and Andre Bonzel, respectively) have chosen Ben to be the subject of a documentary.…

Green Street II: Stand Your Ground

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Title: Green Street (Hooligans) II: Stand Your Ground
Rating: 1.5/5
Genre: Drama, Action
Starring: Ross McCall

In a slight twist from my usual review style, this opening paragraph will deal with expectations, having seen the first film but not yet the sequel. The first, set largely around East London (an area I know well) was wrought with difficulties. From the glamorisation and excessive use of fights (here’s some news folks; they don’t happen. Certainly nothing as excessive as was displayed here), the overdone unrealistic ‘cockney’ accent and not in the least the clearly problematic matter of the German director. Despite this, the end result displayed a sense of morality, about standing up for yourself despite your stature, with a gritty outlook and actually filmed on location, it wasn’t as bad as it easily could have been. Here we have a sequel which, despite the somewhat worrying premise, has an English director at the helm, perhaps showing promise for the result.

How wrong was I? Foll…

Slither

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Title: Slither
Rating: 3.5/5
Genre: Horror, Comedy, Sci Fi
Starring: Nathan Fillion, Elizabeth Banks
Director: James Gunn

“Praise *Jesus*? That's fucking pushing it! This shit's about as far from God as shit can get! Either of you ever seen anything like that? You even heard of anything like that? Huh? Me neither... and I watch Animal Planet all the fucking time!”

Taking its cues from the long-gone classic horror B-Movies from the 80s, filled with enough clichés that only a horror fan would recognise, from zombies, chest-bursting slugs and mind-controlling creatures from outer space with a craving for meat, its all been integrated in this comical rampage. This is one of those rare horror films that preys on the lighter side of the genre, and for the most part delivers on just that, paying homage to the classics without overtly criticising them.

It doesn’t take long for the horror to hit, with the alien meteor emerging in a small time Southern American town. Taking its first victim in…

The Killer

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Title: The Killer
Rating: 4/5
Genre: Action, Romantic, Thriller
Starring: Chow Yun-Fat
Language: Chinese
Director: John Woo

“Do all killers have a sense of honour?”

Another John Woo classic action film, it’s uncommon to find one where the dramatic aspect is performed so aptly. The characters are fully fleshed out, believable unique and yet flawed, the action comes as thick and fast as you could want, with his standard ‘gun-fu’ style of gunplay antics that inspired many modern action films. With no simple ‘love interest’ tacked on, she performs a critical role to the story. Forget his Hollywood atrocities such as “Paycheck” and “MI:2,” 20 years since its release, this film shows John Woo at his best.

Following the character of ‘Ah Jong’ (Yun-Fat), the assassin with a heart, working indirectly for the Triad through his friend – an elder in the organisation – he has an unconventional sense of morality and honour. It doesn’t take long for him to accidentally injure the object of his affections, t…

A L’interieur (Inside)

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Title: A L’interieur (Inside)
Rating: 3.5/5
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Starring: Beatrice Dalle, Alysson Paradis
Language: French

This is a blood bath, there's no doubt about. A pregnant woman (Paradis) wakes up to an intruder (Dalle) in her bedroom trying to cut open her for the unborn baby. The sight of the scissors penetrating her belly button is unforgettable and unremorseful, which makes many other horror films seem silly, but in all honesty I expected the film to have more matter, since it did have potential to be something greater. The acting is good, this I doubt not, and the bloody scenes were flawlessly directed, but what started as good thriller shortly ended up being a mindless blood bath.

Let me begin with the acting, "Dalle" whom we only know her as "La Femme" gave a chilling performance, one of the best film psychopaths I saw. What's even more frightening in this film is imagining her as a mother; this is something that reminded me of "The Hand T…

[Rec]

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Title: [Rec]
Rating: 4/5
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Starring: Manuela Velasco, Pablo Rosso, Ferran Terraza
Language: Spanish

A horror film about zombies that runs for about 75 minutes is usually not expected to be that good, but I thought this one was good. Shot in the shaky camera style, we begin with a TV reporter, "Ángela" covering the night shift in a fire station, later an alarm is released for an emergency, and so they go to a building to rescue a woman trapped in her apartment, from there all things go wrong. Some of the things I found interesting in this film is that the makers brought some "zombie films clichés" and gave them a new look. I think the film was meant to bring chills, something it did well, rather than create a work of art. This is one of the best zombie films I saw, unlike many that came out lately like "Resident Evil" and its sequels, it made me feel tense at some moments.

Let me start with the direction. The team of "Jaume Balagueró&…

The Girl Next Door

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Title: (Jack Ketchum’s) The Girl Next Door
Rating: 4/5
Genre: Drama, Thriller, Horror
Starring: Blythe Auffarth, Blanche Baker, Daniel Manche

Since were going with a torture theme here I thought I’d keep things going. I myself have long since stopped being squeamish at gore, torture and general horror themes, a frequent watcher of the likes of Cronenberg’s “The Fly” and “Braindead,” before my age was in the double digits, so I want to get across my full meaning when I state that some of the scenes featured in this film are some of the depraved, stomach-churning and despicable acts imaginable. Based on the novel by Jack Ketchum, Gore-aficionado’s may well feel underwhelmed with the distinct lack of visual effects, instead leaving this very much to the audience’s imagination (which is perhaps why it stands so vividly in my mind), but rather than a horror film this is still a Drama at its core.

Set in the 1950s America it follows the true story of Meg Loughlin (Auffarth), whose parents died i…

Scanners

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Title: Scanners
Rating: 2.5/5
Genre: Horror, Sci Fi, Thriller
Starring: Michael Ironside, Stephen Lack
Director: David Cronenberg

“All right. We're gonna do this the scanner way. I'm gonna suck your brain dry!”

Perhaps mis-marketed as a ‘Classic Horror’ film, for apart from its age, at no point did it really feel like a horror film should; there was no attempt to provide any sort of disbelief or scares, no psychological tampering and only a couple of really ‘gory’ scenes. Instead what we are left with as an unconventional thriller with a constantly evolving plot as we follow the lead through his journey until the final (rather bizarre) conclusion. Understandably on a low budget, and approaching 30 years old I was expecting a few shortcomings with regards to the effects but unfortunately they ended up being the films biggest asset.

We are quickly introduced to the notion of a scanner, a human capable of not only reading someone’s thoughts, but also of controlling them, linking to thei…

Martyrs

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Title: Martyrs
Rating: 4/5
Genre- Mystery-Horror
Starring: Mylène Jampanoï, Morjana Alaoui
Language: French

I have seen many horror films in my life, and I have seen many films that took it to the extreme, yet no film affected me as this one. Something in me felt… wrong while watching this, this I owe to three factors:

1. The direction and writing for this film, both done by "Pascal Laugier".
2. The great cast, who unlike in many of the new films that came out like "Hostel" 1&2, delivered an immense performance!
3. The grotesque makeup!

I shall talk about these separately. It should be noted also is that the film has a philosophical theme especially in existentialism, which is something I am really into. The basic plot can is in a way similar to Hostel's, but here this is the story of "Lucie" who escaped when she was a kid from the "torture house", is found and raised in an orphanage, bonds with "Anna", and years later revenge is hunted…

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

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Title: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
Rating: 4/5
Genre: Comedy, Mystery, Thriller, Film-Noir
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Val Kilmer, Michelle Monaghan
Director: Shane Black (Lethal Weapon)

“You don't get it, do you? This isn't "good cop, bad cop." This is fag and New Yorker. You're in a lot of trouble.”

Following on aptly from my previous review (Blade Runner) is another in a similar vein but with a delightfully comical twist, doing what his ‘Lethal Weapon’ series did for Action films in an entirely new style. Its rare to watch something for the first time and recognise what should become regarded as a cult classic (in fact, the aforementioned Blade Runner was initially harshly criticised) but this has paid delightful tribute to those before it, satirically mocking it without ever feeling condescending towards those it pays tribute to.

Hitting the ground running we are introduced to the characters in such a way to not feel boring, learning more through their actions than any dul…

Henry V

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Title: Henry V
Rating: 4.5/5
Genre: Historical Drama
Starring: Kenneth Branagh

Where to begin? This is without a doubt one of the finest "Shakespeare" adaptations ever to be filmed! To those who are following these adaptations, I am sure they are familiar with that made by "Laurence Olivier". I shall try not to focus on a comparison between these two, since I haven't yet seen the first. "Kenneth", who directed and starred, brought us a really great and emotions-filled adaptation of a play about "Henry V of England", and the events before and after the "Battle of Agincourt", remaining loyal to the play and bringing us realistic representation of the events that took place.

Let me begin with something essential in any Shakespearean adaptation, the representation. "Branagh", who was still a beginner with directing, gave a truly stunning portrayal, whether as a director or as an actor. To begin with, I think the language used is…