Archive for the ‘Drama’ Category

There’s really no way of truly capturing what Valhalla Rising is in words as it’s something in itself. It feels unlike anything else, yet still feels slightly familiar.

The story concerns the journey of One Eye a mute prisoner held captive by a Norse chieftain who uses him as a fighter. All we know about One Eye is that he is a brutal killer who brings fear to those who have heard about him. At one point when we meet some crusaders one mentions that One Eye was born of hell and would take all those around him back there.

The story is split into acts like a play with each having their own feel and their own theme. They all slowly build to a brilliantly beautiful finale. The film never rushes itself and unfurled expertly. It’s reminiscent of foreign sci fi film Stalker in the way the world plays as much of a role as the characters.

We begin with some brutal fight sequences which are juxtaposed with slow scenic shots ofthe harsh mountains. It works perfectly and really sets tge tone. There is a segment around the halfway Mark that does drag a little but other then that the pacing is pretty much spot on. We see a nie evolution of One Eyes character as his journey progresses, yet we find out little about him.

The acting is phenomenal with Mads Mikkelson giving a ferocious and powerful performance that is so deep even though he doesn’t say a word. The supporting cast hold their own as well, with Maarten Stevenson giving a great performance as the young boy who travels with One Eye.

I will admit it took me a few viewings before I truly appreciated the complexity of one eye’s journey across the world but when I sat down and watched it with a fresh mind I was blown away. Those expecting a Norse action film as quite a lot if the promotional material gave the impression of will be sorely disappointed. If you want a movie that holds your hand and gives you all the answers, again tho film isn’t for you.

If however you want a film that takes you on a journey through darkness and light I’d highly recommend giving the film a go. It won’t be for everyone but I do believe it’s a film that needs to be experienced.

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I had no preconceptions about this film as I had never heard of it before seeing the cover. From the cover it looked like a drama/comedy focusing on war reporters. What it actually was, I’m not really sure.

The first hour plays out as a very average by the numbers vague comedy following a reporter as she is thrown into reporting the war in Afghanistan. Its neither good nor bad. The humour doesnt really work and it kind of offsets the bits of drama that have been put in. It just doesn’t gel. There’s the tiny bit of romance seemingly put in for the sake of covering more genres, which only helps muddle the film more.

The final 30 minutes were the only time where the film clicked and even then it never evoked any reaction other then the feeling of mediocrity. During the final half hour the film does try to hit on some interesting points about war and journalism, but these are lost through some bad writing and unfocused direction.

The acting on the whole was pretty good with Martin Freeman stealing every scene he was in. The big problem is the overall feel of adequacy that eminates from the entire production. It almost feels like they were happy to make something merely passible to get it released.

Visually the film is ok. It handles the small combat scenes well and provides a nice contrast between city and desert. The same can be said for the audio, it’s serviceable. Nothing more, nothing less.

It’s kind of sad as the elements for a good film are here but are never combined in such a way as to create a fully realised product. I’m sure a lot of work went into the production but the sheer mediocrity of proceedings means I can’t and won’t recommend the film. It’s neither good nor bad, it’s merely meh.

Based on the novel ‘Flowers for Algernon’ written by Daniel Keyes, 1968’s ‘Charly’ brings the much loved characters onto the big screen for the first time (after a tv drama in 1961 also starring Cliff Robertson). When released it garnered critical acclaim and gained lead actor Cliff Robertson an Academy Award for Best Actor.

The novel is one of my favourite stories of all time and as such I approached the film with great hesitation as I remembered watching another production when I was younger and not enjoying it. After watching this one I came away pleasantly surprised.

Although the novel could be considered a novella by some, it crammed an awful lot of emotion and powerful character development into its shortish page count. As such it fits the 104 minute runtime pretty well. But I will say that the 3rd act does feel slightly rushed. It doesn’t wreck the film but it does feel a bit odd after the great pacing of the first two acts.

The acting throughout is amazing from all parties and the Academy Award was definitely given to the right person as Cliff Robertson’s performance is stunning. The film is also beautifully well filmed and every shot looks great and carries deep emotion and power.

The film unfortunately doesn’t have quite the same power that the book does and the relationship between Algernon and Charly  is nowhere near as emotional. It isn’t to say that there isn’t emotion in the film as there really is, but those hoping for the deep emotional involvement and the truly heartbreaking nature of the book may come away slightly disappointed.

Overall I’d recommend the film and although I probably wouldn’t watch it again soon, I am very happy I sat down and watched it. 7/10

First things first, this isn’t the same ‘Sleeping Beauty’ as many know from the classic fairy tale.

This film focuses on a girl called Lucy (Emily Browning) as she struggles to earn extra money while studying, by being a ‘Sleeping Beauty’ (essentially she is drugged and knocked out and while asleep men are allowed to touch and do what they like with her, everything except sex that is.) It’s not quite as dodgy as it sounds and none of it is filmed in an erotic or pornographic sense. It is a tactic that is used to study the base character without the superficial things such as clothes and makeup.

At its heart it’s a study of one girl and how her ‘sleeping beauty’ life and her waking life merge until she no longer knows what is real. The film handles everything amazingly well and the acting especially from Browning is close to perfection. Bearing in mind the only thing I had seen her in previously and recognised her in was ‘Sucker Punch’, her acting in this was a massive step up.  She holds the film on her shoulders and does a phenomenal job. It is amazing how likeable her character is when you consider she is essentially a glorified escort. Not even that really as during the film she gets paid for sex on the side. But still she is compelling and her tale is great.

As a piece of art the film is a masterpiece. Every shot feels like it could be a painting, and every chord of music draws you in and evokes emotion. The film takes it’s time and never rushes anything. I think this is why it works so well. By the end of it you feel like you have had an experience and that is what a film should do.

All credit needs to go out to the team who made this small scale film, especially Browning and the director Julia Leigh (especially as it is her directorial and writing debut). The film, although having a very small budget feels very grand and thanks to the cinematography and script stands head an shoulders above a lot of films being made nowadays.   8/10

I’d wanted to see this film for quite some time due to my love of extreme Asian cinema such as ‘Visitor Q’ and ‘Tetsuo: the Iron Man’. I’m happy to say that it was worth the wait, well kind of.

How do you start to describe a film like this?

Well firstly I’ll say it’s not a film for the easily unnerved as the atmosphere created through clever use of music and visuals is pretty unsettling from the get go. It’s not as extreme or graphic in terms of its depictions of sex and violence as say ‘Visitor Q’ but it has a more eerie vibe about it all.  I guess you could say it’s a kind of sexual horror film. But it’s not that simple.

The film is pretty complex in its themes and ideas. The plot of the film is about a husband and wife who are being stalked by a twisted individual. But I’d argue the film is about the futility of life and the need for companionship. The husband and wife are both missing something from their lives and it is only when the third party intervenes in their lives that they start to openly address these issues. You could even argue that the film is about voyeurism and how everyone is being watched without even knowing it.

There is a lot of focus on the unity between nature and the industrial world we are all accustomed to. Not that the film is set in any specific time period. It’s kind of timeless and feels vaguely futuristic at times. In fact the whole film feels very dreamlike with its unusual camerawork and creepy score. Throughout the film the city is shrouded by constant rain which helps emphasise the characters depression. I must say that the cinematography is stunning throughout, especially during the outdoor sequences. It is this amazing camerawork that helps create a beautiful sadness to the whole film, making it much more than your usual semi erotic horror film.

As the runtime progresses so does the craziness of the onscreen antics. All of it culminates in one of the most confusing and messed up fights I’ve seen in a long time. Even when it is being crazy the film is still weirdly believable due to the slow way it draws the audience in. The story is compelling and constantly keeps you on edge, wondering what will happen next.

I think that the decision to release the film in black and white adds to its beauty.  It means you are not distracted by the colours of the world around the characters, while also helping merge the industrial with the natural.

I came away from the film thinking hard on what I truly thought of it and I’m still slightly mixed. It is definitely good but I’m not sure if I’d consider it anywhere near a classic. I’d say it’s well worth watching as it is a truly unique experience and one that I doubt I’ll forget. 7/10

Set in 1989, the film tells the tale of a group of high school athletes who are accused of the gang rape of a mentally handicapped girl. When the town rallies to protect the athletes it is up to a detective and a prosecutor to discover what really happened.

After discovering the quality of the TV films distributed by ‘Odyssey True Films’ (Death of a Cheerleader, Deadly Whispers, In a Strangers Hand etc…) I decided to seek out this film as I really like the actor Eric Stoltz. I was not disappointed.

It is a deeply dark tale told without any kind of censoring of the facts (it’s based on a true story) . It deals with some very dark subject matter that I haven’t seen in a film in recent years, let alone a film made for television.  Although it features themes such as rape, corruption and the rights of the mentally handicapped, it never uses them for exploitation. Ferland handles each of the elements really well and handles them in an appropriate manner.

The pacing is brilliant as is the direction and the acting. Everyone plays their role amazingly well, especially Stoltz, Sheedy and Matarazzo. You can’t fault any of the actors on their performances which are all believable and fell very natural.

‘Odyssey films’ has yet to disappoint me with a bad film. What we have here is a very well made and highly thought provoking piece of film that I’d say is worth the time. 7/10

One day kids turn on the local bully. But how far will they go to make sure he doesn’t bully them again?

I had been looking forward to seeing all of this film for quite some time after catching the beginning on television years ago. I finally got round to watching the ending and I must say I was slightly disappointed.

The whole film is very well acted by the young cast especially Brad Renfro and Rachel Miner who are what you’d call the main instigators of the piece. Nick Stahl is also great as the town bully who can go from being likeable to a hateful rapist at the click of your fingers. The supporting cast are all just as good and all help power the plot along.

The film looks really good, yet isn’t too glossy which is nice. It all feels very natural and in a way, quite documentary styley. This helps the film get across the fact that it is based on a true story (I’m not sure how closely it sticks to the facts though).

The film is very grim which is both one of its biggest saviours and its biggest downfall. The grimness is created through the fact that everything is played out very deadpan and nothing is hidden. Larry Clark the director doesn’t shy away from filming graphic sex and violence and he’s no different here. While there is a lot of sex, non of it feels ‘erotic’ of ‘sexy’, it is merely there because it happens in real-life. I would argue that he started off using it in this way but somewhere in his carrier decided he would use it extensively for exploitative reasons and to get his films in the public eye.

Some films use sex and violence to make a point. This uses it to shock the audience. There is no other reason for it but on the other hand, without it the film wouldn’t work at all. It relies on this shock to in turn keep the audience watching.  It also doesn’t help that by the end the characters are all unlikeable and unrelatable to.

Overall I’m happy to have seen it, but I’m not inclined to watch it ever again. 5/10

To pay for Spring Break, 3 girls rob a restaurant. This is the start of their descent into darkness.

‘Spring Breakers’ is an interesting film as it is actually far more thought provoking than the trailers would suggest. The film opens with 5 minutes of T&A and party music. This for me is when the film is at its weakest. It makes the film feel juvenile and teen orientated from the outset, which it’s not (no matter how hard it tries). After this sequence we get a couple of other similar sequences segmented throughout the films runtime but never quite as ‘in-your-face’ (well not quite).

What we have for the rest of the runtime is a study of 4 girls getting in over their heads with sex and drugs and their downward descent into the darkness these things bring.

Yes….

there is violence,

there is sex,

and

yes there are drugs

but these things, although being the backbone of the story, are never as important as the actual characters we are following.

A lot has been said about the fact that 2 former Disney starlets (Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez) are in the film. But to be fair you kind of forget this fact as they (and the other girls) all play their characters really well. Gomez is easily the weakest of all of them but still gets the job done.  James Franco also has to be praised for his portrayal of a drugs/arms dealer. He is amazing and is easily steals the screen from the girls when he is around.

I would say that the four central girls all feel quite 2 dimensional and similar. It would be difficult to truly explain each of their personalities as (other than Gomez’s character) we never really see them.  In any other film I think this would be really bad but here it kind of works.

I think it is helped by the fact that we’re thrown straight into the overpowering nature of spring break along with them and have very little time to think about such things.

The music and the visuals are amazing throughout the film and both help create a stunningly overpowering  feast for the mind. There is always something to see or hear and at times it’s a true sensory overload. But it works. The film is about this kind culture and how easily it is to get lost in the sights and sounds. The movie works perfectly on this front and it really helps draw you into the picture.

For all of this ‘overpowerment’ the film still paces itself beautifully and allows you to go on the journey with the girls. By the end of the film you feel you have been on a true cinematic journey instead of just watching random characters doing random things (this for me is what watching a movie is all about, the experience).

For me the film only has two real negatives.

The first is the fact that it doesn’t seem to always know what it wants to be, ‘pure exploitation flick’ or ‘slow character study’. It just about gets the balance but at times I found there was too much random nudity for the sake of it (not that I’m against nudity, but I find there should be some half-decent reason behind it in a film).

The second negative would be the ending. I won’t spoil it but I will say I was left completely unsatisfied. It would also have been so easy to fix, which is the most frustrating point.

Even with the disappointing ending. I would say it is absolutely worth watching as it rally is like nothing else. I for one would be happy to see it again and hope that when the dvd comes out they’ll have an alternate ending that works better. 8/10

A 27 year old suddenly get the dreaded news that he has cancer. The film charts his struggle to beat it with the support of his friends and family. But will it be that easy?

Straight off the bat, I don’t know if this film would’ve worked as well as it does without a strong actor in the lead role. Luckily they hired Joseph Gordon-Levitt who is an amazing character actor after being in such amazing films as ‘Switching Parents’, ‘Killshot’ and ‘500 Days of Summer’. He is amazing here in the role of Adam (a 27 year old cancer sufferer). He is believable throughout and it is a remarkable performance.

That isn’t to say the supporting cast aren’t any good. Seth Rogen is especially good in a role a little less comedic then the usual character he plays. There is no denying though that he is ultimately the comedy relief in what is a pretty deep story about some pretty rough subject matter. That isn’t to say the film isn’t funny though. At times it is hilarious, but it is never over the top and is always pretty grounded. This is helped by the films relationships. Rogen and Levitt play off one another really well and they do feel like two friends who have built up an almost brotherly love for one another over the years.

The film is technically superb with great sound design and some truly great cinematography. The film, for what it is looks beautiful. This really helps draw you into the film and never jars with the on screen drama. The direction is also brilliant from Jonathon Levine. It’s amazing how far he’s come from ‘All the Boys Love Mandy Lane’, which in my view was pretty bad in almost all areas. From 50/50 though you’d never know it. He’s since made ‘Warm Bodies’ which is yet another set up (which I’ll review at a later date).

Overall the film handles its subject matter very carefully and it pays off. It’s a film that makes you think ‘What if it happened to me?‘, while showing that it is something you can beat. It has some very interesting messages about life and death which stay with you long after watching. It’s a beautiful film about a hard subject. Well worth your time 8/10

Two fire-fighter brothers must get past their differences and work together before a dangerous arsonist strikes again.

That is the basic plot of the film, although the film has a lot more depth than simply that. The two brothers are played by Kurt Russell and William Baldwin. Russell plays the older brother who is a well-respected fireman following after their father. Baldwin plays a new recruit who people only recognise because he was there when their father was killed in an arson attack. They don’t get on very well and this love hate relationship is the basic backbone of the film.

Along the way we get other great actors such as Robert De Niro, Donald Sutherland (although his role isn’t really necessary) and Scott Glenn. All of them are as good as ever and all gel into a great team. The actual fire fighting teams of the film actually feel like a unit and they do feel like they have fought fires together for years. This is helped by a great script and amazing direction by Ron Howard. I guess at times the script can get a bit corny and sentimental but this never took away from what was on screen (which is impressive when you consider it runs at just under two and a half hours in length.

The thing that truly makes this film stand out from everything else is the fire. It really does become a character in itself. Howard opted to use real fire instead of CGI as he realised it was the only way to make it look real. He also placed the actors in the fire which helps make everything believable as they are there. It was brave for all the actors to be willing to do this and it really shows.

the film culminates in an amazing inferno inside a warehouse. The VFX team did an amazing job. The fire looks truly threatening and having the actors in it really does make it that bit more special. The dialogue gets a little silly during the heightened tension between characters but it works.

The whole film feels very much like a Ron Howard film in the fact that it gives you that semi feel good feeling at the end and makes you think about the characters you’ve just been watching. I really love this film and think it is a brilliant example of pure filmmaking. 8/10