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

28 June 2017

SYKES: THE COMPLETE BBC SERIES. (1972-1979) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.

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19 January 2015

Blu-ray Review - I'm All Right Jack (1959)

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Genre:
Comedy
Distributor:
Studio Canal
Release Date:
19th January 2015
Rating: U
Director:
John Boulting
Cast: Ian Carmichael, Peter Sellers, Terry-Thomas, Richard Attenborough, Miles Malleson
Buy: Blu-ray I'm All Right Jack

I’m All Right Jack is considered one of the great British satirical films, and although it is certainly a good film, it doesn't quite live up to it’s reputation. Back during it’s release it was the highest grossing film of 1959, how times have changed. The film’s highlight is a performance by Peter Sellers as the socialist union shop steward Fred Kite.

The film’s protagonist Stanley Windrush (Ian Carmichael) is an upper class graduate who takes a job at his uncle’s missile factory. However, his uncle plans to have Stanley become the focus of a labour dispute that he plans to profit from. This all goes pear shaped when Kite takes advantage of the dispute for his own agenda.

As is so often the case with Peter Sellers, he completely steals the film from under all the other actors, and according to The Guardian, “it’s a career best performance”. Although that is a ridiculous overstatement, it is definitely considered up there with his finest performances, and Bafta agreed, awarding him Best Actor. British veteran thespians like Dennis Price and the recently decreased Richard Attenborough round off the supporting cast.

Unfortunately the satire is dated and isn't as funny as it should be, but with that being said, it’s still a very enjoyable watch. The film’s 102 running time flies by, and it does have something to say about how the greedy bosses will do anything to make a buck at the expense of their workers. This is certainly an issue that has relevance to today’s political climate. The disc includes a new interview with star Liz Fraser, a featurette on Peter Sellers, and an early Richard Lester short with Peter Sellers.


★★★1/2
Ian Schultz

13 January 2015

DVD Review - God's Pocket (2013)

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God’s Pocket will go down in history as one of the late Philip Seymour Hoffman’s last films. It won’t make any other serious dent in the history of cinema, but it’s a perfectly fine, indie-spirited, black comedy, that harkens back to the glory days of the character based stories of 70s cinema. It’s also the directorial debut of Mad Men’s John Slattery, which is why his Mad Men co-star Christina Hendricks plays Hoffman’s wife.

The film is set in a close knit, working class community where Mickey Scarpato (Philip Seymour Hoffman) tries to cover up the death of his son who has died in a mysterious accident. His wife Jeanie (Christina Hendricks) is convinced he was murdered. The local reporter Richard Shellburn (Richard Jenkins) also suspects something is amiss and begins to investigate.

God’s Pocket major flaw is in its tone: it is a dark comedy but it’s either too earnest or too broadly comedic to go full out. With that said, the film is funny at times, mostly because of the absurd situations Hoffman’s Micky gets into. For example, there is great set piece of him driving a dead body around only for it to fall out, which is reminiscent of Hitchcock’s unsung masterwork The Trouble with Harry. The film is passable however, due to a strong performance by Hoffman who could read the phonebook and make it captivating. John Turturro has a supporting role, and brings some comical relief as he normally does and Richard Jenkins is fantastic as usual as the alcoholic journalist.

Overall it’s a film that wants to be Five Easy Pieces or any other great 70s drama but at times it feels a little too forced. It does have strong performances from the cast, which is probably due to the fact the director is an actor himself. John Slattery makes an admirable directorial debut even though it doesn’t fully work and it’s nice to see a film about the working poor from the States as it’s so rare these day.

★★★ 

Ian Schultz

13 December 2014

Short Film Review - D.I.Y.

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JAM Flicks have sent us their new short D.I.Y., which has been selected for festivals such as London Lift-Off and the Portabello Film festival, and it’s rather good.

The film follows a male protagonist, Andrew, as he tentatively enters a DIY shop to confront Darren, the man who has been sleeping with his wife. A suspenseful and simple story, the tension builds as the film progresses, leaving the audience unsure as to what the protagonist’s final actions will be.

The two men appear to be complete opposites: the husband, a seemingly quiet, and smartly dressed man; and the lover, a cocky, confident 'bloke', dressed in his casual work uniform. The film employs this juxtaposition well, using the lover's brash, assured delivery to highlight the husband's lack of confidence, and the uncertainty in his actions. Dialogue serves its purpose, letting the actors' emotions tell most of the story. 

In between the main events in the DIY shop, little snippets of flashbacks and intriguingly ambiguous flash-forwards are shown, building the suspense. The unsettling sound design further reflects Andrew's conflicted feelings. One particular moment I enjoyed is during a sequence where he is playing out his revenge on the adulterer, with a mixture of natural and mechanical sounds building to invoke the sound of blood pumping in the ears during an adrenaline rush.

The film is well cut and well paced, with solid performances from both men, in particular the lead Andrew, played by Anton Saunders, whose understated performance as the cuckold is noteworthy.  D.I.Y. is a gripping short film, that builds more tension and suspense over ten minutes than some films do over ninety.

Hannah Newton


You can watch D.I.Y. below.


D.I.Y - A short film by Josh & Mitch from JAM Flicks on Vimeo.

22 November 2013

DVD Review - Thanatomorphose

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Genre:
Horror
Distributor:
Monster Pics UK
Release Date:
9th December 2013 (UK)
Director:
Éric Falardeau
Cast:
Émile Beaudry, Eryka Cantieri, Roch-Denis Gagnon
Buy Thanatomorphose: DVD


The word Thanatomorphose is a French term for the decomposition of an organism’s flesh after death. In Eric Falardeau’s film a young woman (played by Emile Beaudry) suddenly finds herself decomposing despite being alive. It’s clearly very influenced by the body horror films of David Cronenberg. He often used a horror conceit to explore a theme and to an extent Thanatomorphose does this too. Sadly the film ends up feeling like a vague idea stretched to feature length without saying much of anything unlike the films of Cronenberg making it an unpleasant and sometimes dull experience.

The film opens with a colourful montage of close-ups of the main couple in the film having rough sex. It’s pretty unclear what’s happening, it kind of has the look of the credits sequence of a grindhouse film and is underscored with John Carpenter-esque synth music. After this ends we are properly introduced to the main character, a woman who at one point had artistic ambitions but now seems devoid of any personality. She is defined by her weakness, her weakness in not saying no to her boyfriend who is a total ass, as well as another man in her life. The opening act of somewhat violent and uncaring sex is what seemingly causes her decay. In typical Cronenbergian fashion this body horror element is used as a metaphor, but in the case of Thanatomorphose the metaphor is so half-baked that it brings nothing more to the film other than a slight air of misogyny.

After the pulpy looking opening the film transitions into something else completely. The synths are replaced with strings and everything slows down. From this point on, other than another short pulpy interlude, the film is in full art-film mode. I say that because it’s full of mumblecore style muttered dialogue, constant nudity, and the aforementioned slow pace. The strange mix of genre elements and art aesthetics is something that Cronenberg’s films nailed, but this film is less successful. The reason Cronenberg’s best films succeeded were because their ideas were so strong. Thanatomorphose on the other hand seems very muddled with its ideas to the point that they really take a back seat to the pure experience of the film. The problem is that the experience of the film is just rampant unpleasantness.

To get more specific about what I mean I’ll use an example from the film where it very obviously references Cronenberg’s The Fly. In The Fly Jeff Goldblum’s character is slowly becoming an inhuman creature; his body is slowly falling apart as he changes into a monstrous human/fly hybrid. It’s a brilliant and heartbreaking allegory for disease and more specifically the AIDS epidemic of the time. In one scene we see him open his medicine cabinet and there are jars containing different appendages and body parts that have fallen off of him. This scene shows us that despite his changes he is still the scientist he was before. As monstrous as he appears the man he was still exists underneath, the man who wants to take note of everything and learn from this horror. Thanatomorphose takes this image of someone storing and noting their bodily decomposition but in this situation it tells us nothing. There’s nothing specific to her character that lends any significance to this moment other than “Oh cool, they’re referencing The Fly”. So much of the film’s attempts at bringing depth to its simple story end up adding nothing and if anything just draws attention to its emptiness.

As I said, the key thing that made Cronenberg’s films succeed was the strength of his horrific metaphors. In the case of Thanatomorphose this is one of the most troublesome aspects of the film. The idea of externalising internal decay is interesting but what the film denotes as decay worthy of this horrible experience is rather strange. This woman’s relationships with men are what are rotting her. Her boyfriend is cruel and obnoxious who seems to just want her for sex, something that is mirrored by another male friend who appeared nicer than he actually was. The male characters are dismissed as animals wanting sex in one strange scene but she seems to be held accountable for her weakness. The idea of someone causing their own pain and unhappiness (and by extension this being externalized) could be interesting and if done well could be quite brave. The thing is that here we know so little about her that it kind of comes across as victim blaming. As if these relationship mistakes are completely her fault, because men are just beasts, and how they are destroying her are due to her and nothing else. I don’t want to completely chastise the films ideas and proclaim they are hateful of women but they’re so underdeveloped and surface level that they could definitely come across that way.

A lot of this could be excused if the experience of watching the film was good enough. Sadly this is not the case. Other than one moment (which was also very similar to a scene from The Fly), which definitely got to me, I didn’t feel anything other than grossed-out. The special effects of this woman’s living decomposition are generally well done, but that’s not enough for me to be interested in any way. Even the camerawork was completely uninteresting. It was hard to tell if the incessant blurriness and close-ups was meant to be a reflection of her delirium, they didn’t know how to make this apartment look interesting (the whole film is set in her apartment), or the effects were not solid enough to show entirely clearly.

When a film invokes the memory of some classic horror films it better be good enough to pull us in and not solely think of those other films. In this case the comparisons it drew just highlighted its failings even more. All in all I found it to be a very empty film with one good idea. The performances, music, and camerawork could have been one way that the film made itself more interesting but they were nothing more than fine. Everything other than the effects and one burst of craziness lacked any kind of character and that was really the films downfall. Disgusting effects can forcefully pull an audience in to reflect on the film’s ideas but when there are no ideas the effects serve nothing other than to disgust, and that’s all this film has.

☆☆☆☆

James MacLeod


15 November 2013

Blu-Ray Review - Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1978)

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Genre:
Sci-fi, horror, cult
Release Date:
18th November 2013 (UK)
Distributor:
Arrow
Director:
Philip Kaufman
Cast:
Donald Sutherland, Leonord Nimoy, Brooke Adams, Jeff Goldblum, Kevin Mccarthy,
Buy:
[Blu-ray] or [Blu-ray SteelBook]


Philip Kaufman unwitting started the trend of remaking classic horror films with his 1978 reimagining of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It started this trend because it was actually really good and similar remakes followed like The Thing and The Fly. Body Snatchers started life as a novel by Jack Finney and have been adapted 4 times to the silver screen. It was first made in 1956 by Don Siegel and remains the best, the aforementioned 1978 one, the underrated Abel Ferrara take in the early 90s and more the recently the version with Nicole Kidman but let’s try to forget that one.

The film’s protagonist in this take is Matthew Bennell (Donald Sutherland) a San Franciscan heath inspector who hears from a friend Elizabeth (Brooke Adams) that her boyfriend is acting strange around her. Matthew gets his friend in touch with Dr. Kibner (Leonard Nimoy) a psychiatrist. At the same time two of his friends discovered a body that resembles one of them Jack (Jeff Goldblum) that appears to be browing. They call Matt to have a look at it and if he can help

Matt comes down to examine it and heads back to see Elizabeth and finds a pod person version of her growing. Matt gets the real Elizabeth to safety and contacts the police but soon realizes they are pod people. The invasion has started and Matt and his friends can’t fall asleep or they will become pod people as well.

Kaufman’s take is very much of its time it’s set in a post-Watergate world. It has that great 70s paranoia feel and you know from the extremely creepy opening scene something is amidst. This is refined with the inclusion of Robert Duvall’s unsettling cameo as a priest in a playground. It also includes fantastic cinematography from Michael Chapman who also shot Taxi Driver.

It’s one of the finest film remakes of its kind with only The Thing or The Fly surpassing it in quality. Kaufman is a very versatile director who has director stuff like The Wanderers and The Right Stuff and casts the film impeccably. Sutherland feel adds some gravitas to his role, which is rare in the genre. The film also features a cameo by the original film’s lead actor Kevin McCarthy which begs the question is it a remake or sequel.

The blu-ray Arrow has complied is packed to the gills with material; the real highlight is the roundtable discussion with Kim Newman, Ben Wheatley and Norman J. Warren who discuss the film at quite length. The disc also includes a really pretentious interview with Kaufman’s biographer Annette Insdorf along with an interview about Jack Finney from Jack Seabrook and some featurettes from the American MGM blu-ray and a director’s commentary.

★★★★

Ian Schultz


14 November 2013

Review - In Fear

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Genre:
Thriller, Horror, Indie
Distributor:
Studiocanal UK
Rating:
15
Release Date:
15th November 2013 (UK)
Director:
Jeremy Lovering
Cast:
alice englert, Ian de caestecker, Allen leech


The most terrifying thing to man or woman after lonilness is fear itself, it may help us to make rational thoughts to deliver positivity however Fear itself has 2 sides. There is an psychological effect which can fester terror and in Jeremy Lovering's In Fear that fear is delivered in it's simplest most effective form , well almost

In Fear is the feature directorial debut for veteran tv director Jeremy Lovering starring British upstarts Ian De Caestacker (Agents of S.h.i.e.l.d) and Alice Englert (Ginger And Rosa).They play Tom and Lucy a young couple in the early days of their relationship and heading to a music festival somewhere in Ireland.On the way to the festival venue Tom surprises Lucy by booking a night's stay at a near by country house hotel. Reluctantly Lucy agrees to go and enroute to that hotel the pair follow the signs frustration takes over when they seem to be going round in circles  terror takes over when darkness falls the penny drops when the couple believe someone is playing tricks on them.

In Fear is a lesson on how to deliver the maximum effect on screen ith the minimalist of resources. We dive head first into our primal fears as if we are experiencing the emotions Tom and Lucy are experiencing. Things do seem to work largely thanks to improv skills of our young leads who are drip fed snippets of what lay ahead for them help making their fear, genuinely convincing.

As the roads tart to encroach our young couple, tensions rise paranoia strikes as things go missing making things intense most of all claustrophobic.As Tom and Lucy are pushed to their limits the fabric of their relationship disintegrate, mysterious Max (Allen Leech) appears this is when In Fear unravels.

The last third of the film becomes cliched, outlandish even very predictable which is a crying shame as De Caestecker and Englert deliver strong raw performance.. In Fear may not deliver anything remotely new  in plot what it does do is deliver a film full of atmosphere, tension  spoiled by a frustrating ending.

★★★☆☆

Paul Devine


Review - John Pilger's Utopia

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Genre:
Documentary
Rating:
12A
Release Date:
15th November 2013 (UK)
Director:
John Pilger
Watch Utopia:
cinema listing here
Film Official Website:
Enter here


In new documentary Utopia, the Australian journalist John Pilger sets out to examine the suffering felt by his native country’s indigenous population, a problem caused by the British Empire’s colonisation of Australia.

Pilger’s film is a noble attempt to highlight the poverty and awful living conditions felt by the Aboriginal people, an issue that most of the world - and Australia’s European descendants – remain blissfully unaware of. This is made evident when Pilger interviews individuals whilst they are celebrating Australia Day, enquiring as to what the original population should take away from the country’s national day. Each interviewee shows incredible ignorance of the subject, stating that the Aboriginal’s want to live that way – in shacks with no running water or functioning toilet. Pilger also conducts interviews with members – past and present – of Australia’s government whose job it was to protect these people, and failed. Footage of Aboriginal living conditions today compared with that filmed several decades ago seems to show that nothing has changed at all.

In Utopia, Pilger firmly asserts that for such a wealthy country, Australia’s indigenous people should not be living this way; and that, this vast land was in fact never for the taking in the first place. These are issues that everyone should know about, but with a long running time combined with a slow, ponderous pace, the film may not appeal to the audiences that need to be informed.

UTOPIA is in cinemas from 15 November with a Nationwide Q&A with John Pilger on Monday 18 November at Picturehouse Cinemas. Available on DVD 2 December

★★★☆☆

Sophie Stephenson