Showing posts with label dvd review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label dvd review. Show all posts

26 March 2015

DVD review - [Rec] 4 Apocalypse(2014)

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Genre:
Horror, Thriller
Distributor:
Entertainment One
Screened:
2015 Glasgow Film Festival
DVD Release Date:
2nd March 2015 (UK)
Director:
Jaume Balagueró
Cast:
Manuela Velasco, Ismael Fritschi, Paco Manzanedo, Héctor Colomé,
Buy:Rec: Apocalypse [DVD]

Considering how impressive the [Rec] franchise has been so far, [Rec] 4: Apocalypse comes as an unfortunate disappointment. Ditching the found footage origins of the franchise (for the second time), Apocalypse finds it difficult to create an experience as terrifying as the first two, or as peculiar as the third.
Picking up exactly where [Rec] 2 left off, Angela Vidal (the superb Manuela Velascoe) is rescued from the doomed apartment where it all began. Waking on board a tanker ship in the middle of the ocean, Vidal comes to terms with just how dangerous the unknown virus is.
The ship is a great set, but proves less iconic than the infamous stairwell of the apartment. The tight claustrophobic corridors of the tanker’s insides should be ample ground for a few good scares but they all seem to be relegated to the tiny monitor of a surveillance cam or, worse, off-screen. Velascoe kicks into gear as action horror heroin, but it comes too little too late. A shame because her performance has been a key component in the success of the franchise. Special mention goes to the late great Hector Colome for a charismatic turn as Dr. Ricarte, easily one of the most enjoyable parts of the “final” [Rec] film.
Choosing to ditch Angela’s turn to the dark side at the climax of [Rec 2], Apocalypse seems unsure of where to go next. Paco Plaza’s Army of Darkness style adventure Genesis was the perfect solution to the heavy horror of the first two, but proves a hard act to follow for Jaume’s return. But maybe that’s the essence of the horror franchise: fourth instalments are rarely great, and usually mark the point where money and fan desire over-ride solid storytelling.

[Rec]’s bizarre mythology has been drip-fed to us thus far, each film playing around with the tone and scope of the infection, yet Apocalypse feels like a step backwards. The scares are bafflingly lacking, when a return to more intimate surrounds should have been a sure-fire way to ramp up the terror. Jaume’s return marks the apparent end of the franchise, though its silly final scenes hint at the kind of ludicrous behaviour I would have sooner lauded than this relatively safe affair.

[Rec] 4: Apocalypse is pretty dull, all things considered. An action element proves poor substitute for the genuine chills and thrills presented thus far in the franchise.

★★1/2
Scott Clark


DVD Review - Sirius (2013)

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Genre:
Documentary
Distributor:
Matchbox Films
DVD Release Date:
9th March 2015 (UK)
Rating: 15
Director:
Amardeep Kaleka
Cast:
Thomas Jane, Jack Auman, Corrado Balducci
Buy:Sirius [DVD]

Sirius is indeed a hefty piece of work, just not in terms of the type of extra-terrestrial involvement you’re probably looking for. But as an extensive essay on late capitalist society, it’s pretty conclusive and fairly upsetting to be honest. Steven Greer and Emmy award winning filmmaker Amardeep Kaleka, strip back years of deceit to unearth heaps of alarming info on mindboggling cover-ups.
Sirius, the name given to a six-inch skeleton of unknown origin, is really just the starting point for Greer and his colleagues. Anyone who’s holding out for conclusive info may be somewhat upset by the fact the mini-mystery only bookends this epic portrait of human development- or lack of it. The main point of Sirius is to systematically present evidence and conjecture around governmental cover-ups and attempts to hide the true treasure of extra-terrestrial visitation: the science it would take to achieve space travel.
Yes, its mechanics not biology we’re really interested in here, especially when you go back and start combining religious scripture, atom bombing, and the pyramids. It’s a conspiracy fan’s wet dream and it’s executed with startling clarity, even if it wanders off topic, things usually pull together succinctly.
Sirius is perhaps too big for its boots, gnawing on the oversized bone of American political inadequacies in a kind of roundabout, all-inclusive, history lesson/economics case study. And all this starts with a tiny little, potentially extra-terrestrial, skeleton. It may be hard to remember that though, once the, sometimes whimsical, left-wing call-to-arms presents itself.

Painstakingly, and scientifically, put together, Sirius is an impressive documentary, but its meandering interest curve may prove too much for people simply interested in the origins of a baffling body.

★★★1/2
Scott Clark


23 March 2015

DVD Review - Traps (1998)

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Genre:
Drama, Comedy
Distributor:
Second Run
Release Date:
23rd March 2015
Rating: 18
Director:
Věra Chytilová
Cast:
Lenka Vychodilová, Lucie Vackárová, Tomás Hanák
Buy: Traps - [DVD]

Věra Chytilová is often considered a feminist filmmaker even though she would always reject being labelled and called herself an “individualist”. Given the fact the Czechoslovakian communist government oppressed her for years, it’s understandable to see her desire to reject Western labels. Chytilová is best known to Western audiences for her psychedelic masterpiece Daisies, which annoyed the powers so much she could only made one film, Fruits of Paradise, in the next 9 years. In the late ‘70s her blacklisting was lifted and she resumed making films.

Second Run, after releasing Daisies (which I assumed is one of their best selling titles), have made it their goal to release more films from Věra Chytilová. The first one to come out is Traps, which is one of her later films, it came out in 1998. It has a decidedly mixed response on release and it’s not hard to see why. It’s a pitch black comedy about a young vet who is picked up by two men and raped, she later gets her revenge on them by cutting off their testicles.

It’s certainly not a subtle statement on the abuse of power; one of the men is a politician for example and the film starts with some pigs getting their balls cut off. It’s also a brilliant statement on male chauvinism banter; before they pick the woman up they talk about how easy it is to just pick a woman etc. The film pulls a near impossible balancing act when it comes to the depiction of the rapists, obviously you don’t, nor should you, feel sympathy for them, but you can feel their pain of losing their manhood. The two men are portrayed as bourgeois fools, which shows the influence of Luis Buñuel who was a massive influence on almost all Czech New Wave filmmakers.

It’s an angry rallying call to sterilize the ruling class of Czechoslovakia; the government may have changed from communist to capitalist, but their intent hasn’t. Traps also plays like an absurdist comedy, with even elements of populist slapstick comedy which may have troubled some viewers at the time. It completely subverts the genres it’s playing with, like the revenge genre and populist comedy, and remains such a startling film.

★★★★
Ian Schultz

16 March 2015

DVD Review - The Young Savages (1961)

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Genre:
Drama
Distributor:
Simply Media
DVD Release Date:
16th March 2015 (UK)
Rating: PG
Director:
John Frankenheimer
Cast:
Burt Lancaster, Dina Merrill, Edward Andrews, Vivian Nathan, Shelley Winters
Buy: The Young Savages [DVD]

John Frankenheimer started out doing live television and learnt his trade in that throughout the 1950s. He made one previous feature The Young Stranger before he moved permanently into film (even though he would return to TV in his later life) with The Young Savages and what a step up it was. Frankenheimer’s status as a master craftsman has grown through the years and deservedly so.

Both the similar titled films The Young Stranger and The Young Savages are about problematic teenagers, but The Young Savages has a more sophisticated approach to the storytelling and visual style. Burt Lancaster (who collaborated with Frankenheimer on numerous films) plays the district attorney Hank Bell, who is investigating a murder of a blind Puerto Rican boy by 3 teenager delinquents. Bell is from the same neighbourhood as the boys, and one has a relationship with one of the boy’s mothers played by Shelley Winters.

It’s an issues film, which during the ‘50s and early ‘60s were very popular. It deals with issues like crime, racism, justice and although done intelligently enough, it’s never too preachy unlike more modern attempts like Crash. Burt Lancaster is pretty much always great and this is no exception. Shelley Winters is still at the height of her talent before she starts doing AIP films only a few years later. Kojak fans will also see a young Telly Savalas playing a police detective like he did on his later television show.

The real strength of the film is really Frankenheimer’s style. It’s full of strange angles and close-ups, which will be more evident in his later masterpieces The Manchurian Candidate and Seconds. It was Frankenheimer's first collaboration with cinematographer Lionel Lindon who he would collaborate with on The Manchurian Candidate. In closing it’s an early Frankenheimer film which stylistically pre-dates a lot of aesthetic choices he would make in later films, with a solid storyline and two strong performances from it’s stars.

★★★1/2
Ian Schultz

DVD Review - Panic in Year Zero (1962)

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Genre:
Drama
Distributor:
Simply Home Entertainment
DVD Release Date:
16th March 2015 (UK)
Rating: PG
Director:
Ray Milland
Cast:Ray Milland, Jean Hagen, Frankie Avalon, Mary Mitchel, Joan Freeman
Buy: Panic in Year Zero [DVD]

Ray Milland was one of the big screen’s greatest actors, which is evident in such classics as Lost Weekend (which he won the Oscar for), Dial M for Murder, and The Big Clock amongst many others. Due to rumoured alcoholism (but never confirmed) and a desire to direct, he moved away from acting in major films and started directing, but he also starred in some AIP B-Movies, and actually directed one of the ones he starred in - Panic in Year Zero.

Panic in Year Zero is a classic bit of cold war, apocalyptic filmmaking. Ray Milland plays the father of the Baldwin family, Harry. The Baldwins try to go on a family camping trip, but L.A gets attacked with nuclear bombs (if only that would happen). Harry must become a full out survivalist to survive the nuclear fallout and the chaos and crime that follows in it’s wake.

It’s not quite the harrowing apocalyptic tale of something like Peter Watkins' fantastic The War Game. It moves at a swift 87 minute pace, which is due to the fact it was a part of a double bill with Roger Corman’s Tales of Terror. It’s also certainly one of Milland’s finest later roles; he plays a total paranoid asshole perfectly. It might not be the genius of X: The Man with X-Ray Eyes but it’s pretty damn good. The teen heartthrob singer Frankie Avalon plays his son.

The depiction of the total moral collapse of society after a nuclear war is a more likely outcome than the more proto-hippie takes around the same time. It’s also sets the template for so many post-apocalyptic journey films from Mad Max to The Road to stuff like Time of the Wolf. It may have had a tiny budget but it’s big ideas and the atmosphere it portrayed, despite showing very little, still works it’s charms over 50 years later.

★★★1/2
Ian Schultz

13 March 2015

DVD Review - He Walked By Night (1948)

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Genre:
Film Noir
Distributor:
Simply Home Entertainment
Rating: PG
Director:
Alfred L. Werker, Anthony Mann
Cast: Richard Basehart, Scott Brady, Roy Roberts, Whit Bissell, Jack Webb
Release: 16th March 2015
Buy: He Walked By Night [DVD]

He Walked by Night is a fairly standard procedural noir fare but has enough style to move it up a level. It was directed by Alfred L. Werker even though Anthony Mann finished the film. It’s very loosely inspired by the real life Erwin "Machine-Gun" Walker who committed a similar strings of crimes as depicted in the finished film.

Richard Basehart plays the killer Roy Morgan, who in the beginning shoots and kills a police officer. This is after the police officer questions him because he is acting suspicious outside an electronics store. The rest of the film is basically the police trying to find this mystery man.

The film’s big set piece is it’s climax, in an L.A storm drainage system. It’s very similar to the climactic scene in Carol Reed’s masterpiece The Third Man and begs the question, did Graham Greene or Carol Reed see He Walked by Night? It’s very possible. The film’s director of photography was John Alton, who also shot one of the textbook examples of classic noir The Big Combo and numerous others; his use of light and shadow is partly what brings He Walked by Night up from being a fairly standard film to a solid one.

I would certainly not say He Walked by Night would be the best starting point for a budding fan of noir; there are dozens you should see before. Despite my reservations it has a strong lead performance by Basehart who plays a psychopathic killer very well. Overall, the film has a brutal nihilism that many of the best noirs do, but due to the standard of storytelling it misses it’s mark in becoming a classic.

★★★1/2

Ian Schultz

12 March 2015

DVD Review - Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me (2012)

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Genre:
Documentary
Distributor:
UMC
Rating: TBA
Director:
Drew DeNicola, Olivia Mori
Release: 2nd March 2015
Buy: Nothing Can Hurt Me [DVD]

Nothing Can Hurt Me is a documentary of the cult band Big Star from Memphis, Tennessee. They bridged the gap between The Velvet Underground and what would later become punk rock, and more specifically the power pop and paisley underground that would come in it’s wake. It was the brainchild of two songwriters, Alex Chilton and Chris Bell.

The documentary, like the band’s fame, is a bit too late for it’s own good. The film really started filming around the time of Alex Chilton’s death and Chris Bell has been dead since the late ‘70s. Chilton also was notoriously cagey about speaking about his time in Big Star, and when him and Jody Stephens reformed the band, he admitted it was for the money many times. The film’s crucial flaw is that there is no on video interview with Chilton - there are audio interviews and some archive stuff but that’s all. Chilton, after all, wrote most of the band’s enduring songs.

It however does successfully tell the story of the band, and to some extent gets into the heads of the two songwriters, not from the outside but through the people who knew them. It’s very much a musos doc as oppose to a biography of the band; there is a lot of talk about the album’s production. I’m a massive fan of Big Star but, for the most part, couldn’t care less about the production techniques they used. This can also be said of anyone when they talk about the plus and minuses of album’s production.

Sadly there is very little footage of the band, mostly just silent footage of them in the studio. It’s a fascinating story of a band that nearly made it, but due to so many different factors didn’t quite make get there. What a different world we would live in if Big Star were as big as one of their contemporaries like Led Zeppelin. It’s very well made given the limitations they had, but if you're looking for a deeply insightful documentary into the minds of the bands’ songwriters you may come out of it disappointed.


★★★1/2

Ian Schultz

29 June 2013

Stoker DVD Review

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Rating: 18
BD/DVD Release Date: 1st July 2013
Director: Park Chan-Wook
Cast: Mia Wsikowska, Matthew Goode, Nicole Kidman
Buy StokerBlu-ray / DVD


If you can avoid the trailer, then for God’s sake do because here’s a film that benefits from going in blind. Park Chan Wook’s Stoker is a thing of undeniable beauty; a carefully crafted piece of art, and there’s a word I don’t go throwing around too often. Essentially it’s a story about sexual awakening against a backdrop of dysfunctional family politics, but as with most great films, it’s not in the idea: it’s the execution.

The first half hour may strain patience, but it’s worth it. Wook takes time to set up his near epic tales, but after that slow start the film starts winding tighter and tighter, releasing brief flurries of energy whilst maintaining the illusion of a melodrama.  Here is a film horrific and deeply unsettling, without giving itself over to the horror genre.  Early scenes of India in the basement are thick with suspense, and moments of mystery call up Hitchcockian influences.You’ll spend a lot of time wondering just what in buggery is going on until finally Wook delivers a fantastic phone-box realisation scene and the film, rather than falling into place, lifts.

Important to the horror aspect is Mathew Goode’s electrifying performance as India’s estranged uncle, a man who appears just after her father’s death and upsets the balance of the household. To be fair I had expected Goode would be on top form, but this is something different.  There’s so much going on under the surface, so many silent and manipulative glances that you need a second viewing to catch the subtlety, Goode’s performance is the prize of the piece. Wasikowska’s India is something of gothic beauty also, shifting from what could have been a tired Burton character to a solid Angela Carter heroine.  We should be hearing a lot more from her in the future if this is anything to go by.

As with every Clint Mansell soundtrack Stoker is a thing to behold, furthering those Hitchcock influences with epic strings whilst digging deeper into India’s slowly dawning mind state with heartfelt piano.

Wook’s keen sense of style and image are fantastic , perhaps even a career best. The Gothic grandeur of the colonial house is captured with apparent ease, every frame looks like a painting, every image is a goldmine, there’s enough symbolism here to fill a hundred books. Repetition and explanation of certain details allows Wook’s film to achieve a bizarre nostalgic quality. This works hand-in-hand with the vicious and cold quality of the night time sequences allowing the horror to take shape.

Kidman’s performance fits in somewhere here; as a detail. And a fine one.  Just as important as India or Charlie, Kidman’s performance is seductive, pathetic, and heart-breaking: her’s is the damaged thread that winds throughout, adding the most pure strain of heart-ache to Stoker.

Macabre, erotic, visually seductive, perfectly cast and performed, and flaunting a plot so thick with mystery and meaning you’ll feel your brain swell. Stoker may just be a genuine masterpiece from a genuine master.

★★★★★

Scott Clark



[This is a repost of the Glasgow Film Festival review]

15 June 2013

To The Wonder DVD Review

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To The Wonder is Terrence Malick’s latest film and it’s been released in the shortest period between films for him ever… a gap of one year! He notoriously didn’t make a film for literally 20 years between Days of Heaven and The Thin Red Line. He has only made 6 films in his 40-year career of directing films (He wrote drafts of some films like Dirty Harry and Pocket Money) beginning with his masterpiece Badlands (a top ten film for me). He is considered by many to be one of the cinema’s greatest living talents and any new film by Malick is a real event.

Malick isn’t a director known for his great story telling ability. He makes great films but he is a mostly visually storyteller first and foremost, most of films have a very simple plot. To The Wonder is no exception and very possibly his simplest. French woman meets American man in Paris, they move to Oklahoma, it doesn’t quite work out, she moves back, he meets somebody else and it doesn’t work out, she decides to move back.

The film as is the case with all of Malick’s films to a extent is a deeply spiritual film. Malick own believes’ are truly unknown because he has been interviewed proper in almost 40s and is rarely photographed. The title To The Wonder has obvious spiritual connotations. The spirituality of a film is most obvious in its subplot of the film deals with a priest having a crisis of faith played by Javier Bardem.

The film has a very ambiguous ending not unlike his previous film The Tree of Life. Both films have been important in Malick’s career, both are much more overtly spiritual (they both deal with god, faith, nature as religion etc.), both are much more overly experimental than even stuff like The Thin Red Line or The New World. They have been critically very divisive even though The Tree of Life was more acclaimed on release. The films stars on both films have been even spoke of their reservations Sean Penn and Ben Affleck respectively.

However despite the very experimental nature of the film doesn’t mean its bad film, it’s a very good film. I’ve seen To The Wonder twice now, it’s clearly a meditation on love and faith and the loss of both. It’s beautifully photographed, which is always the case. The film’s biggest flaw is the subtitled narration throughout which can be really distracting from the stunning visuals but Malick is well known for using narration (it’s used heavily in every film of his). It’s a beautiful film even though it has some flaws.

★★★★

Ian Schultz

Rating: 15
DVD/BD Release Date: 17th June 2013(UK)
Directed By: Terrence Malick
Cast: Ben Affleck, Olga Kurylenko, Rachel McAdams, Javier Bardem
Buy To The Wonder: DVD / Blu-ray

10 June 2013

Zero Darky Thirty DVD Review

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After missing Zero Dark Thirty's theatrical run, I settled on straight to DVD alternative Code Name: Geronimo which also detailed US Navy Seal's hunt for Bin Laden as well as the political and military politics building up to this. Whilst the cheaper version was an honourable attempt to portray these events, Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty will remain the definitive interpretation of one of the most prominent moments in military history.

Zero Dark Thirty follows Maya (Jessica Chastain) a CIA agent who is inherently driven by the concept of hunting down Bin Laden. We see Maya sit through brutal interrogations with suspected terrorists in her hunt for information, which ultimately leads to threats against her own life. The last segment of the feature details a US Navy Seal team using Maya's intelligence to raid Bin Laden's compound and finally take down the figure-head of Al Qaeda.

Despite a hefty runtime of 157 minutes, Zero Dark Thirty remains fast paced throughout thanks to a sharp screenplay from Mark Boal (The Hurt Locker) and energetic direction from Bigelow. Boal's screenplay feels completely convincing in its portrayal of the events (whether it is or not is anyone's guess), with every information/military briefing meeting feeling grounded in tension and political gravitas. Boal's narrative gradually unwinds with every piece of information that Maya learns, allowing Zero Dark Thirty to detailing the highly dangerous world of the CIA.

Bigelow's direction is tense and hold viewer's attentions in a tight-grip throughout. Whether taking an action-centric or more dramatic approach (many of the tracking/discussion sequences are far more gripping than the action ones) Zero Dark Thirty remains completely entrancing. The raid on the compound in the film's conclusion is thrilling, despite reflecting that this was not a clean-cut mission - several innocent people were taken out. Despite this, it is hard not to feel like there is a sinister pleasure behind many of these action scenes - with the quick editing and high-octane style reflecting some form of brutal gung-ho quest for blood and revenge. This can make Zero Dark Thirty feel like a rather dubious, problematic watch.

The cast lead with utter conviction, in particular the magnificent Jessica Chastain who captures Maya's unparalleled drive to end this manhunt - which is truly showcased in the film's final sequence. Supporting turns from Mark Strong, Joel Edgerton, Kyle Chandler, and Chris Pratt also round off the stellar cast. Also look out for an odd appearance from John Barrowman and Brit action favourite Scott Adkins.

There is no doubt that Zero Dark Thirty is a gripping and truly thrilling watch. Boal's screenplay feels like an accurate and detailed depiction of this military manhunt, whilst Bigelow champions this through slick, tense direction. However, it is hard to ignore these sense of gleeful brutality and bloodlust in the film's final act.

★★★½

Andrew McArthur

Rating: 15
DVD/BD Release Date: 10th June 2013 (UK)
Director:  
Cast,
Buy:Zero Dark Thirty (Blu-ray + UV Copy)
Win: Zero Dark Thirty on Blu Ray (opens up on a The Peoples Movies page)