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]

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: