Tag Archives: DVD

Film review: Coriolanus

Four starsRalph Fiennes both acts and directs in this fascinating adaptation of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus, superbly updated to the setting of a modern war zone. Filmed largely in Serbia, where the real scars of war are still visible, the setting complements the play magnificently, serving only to highlight the contemporary relevance of much of the text. Occasionally, references to the original Roman context seem slightly jarring, but overall it’s a successful and original re-imagining.

It’s an intelligent update that works well, with the advisers playing the media to sway public opinion and some visceral action scenes.

The acting is uniformly good, with a very credible Aufidius from Gerard Butler, but I have to single out Vanessa Redgrave who’s impassioned Volumnia is simply outstanding.

Film review: Killer Joe

Four and a half starsAnother stunning performance by Juno Temple, adding to what’s turning into a very strong body of work. Matthew McConaughey, especially, is a real revelation. His role here is textbook Woody Harrelson psycho territory and McConaughey is possibly more usually regarded as a lighter actor. Nonetheless, here he turns in a seamless blend of charm and sadism that’s both believably human and brutal.  Continue reading

Film review: Hugo

Five starsA beautifully conceived and executed film: a world away from classic Scorsese territory, but it absolutely glows with delight in its subject matter.

The story is broadly based around the true history of Georges Méliès, one of France’s cinematic pioneers and visionaries.

Based on Brian Selznick’s fictional tale, here, the story of Méliès is re-told via an orphan boy, Hugo, who lives in the Gare Montparnasse in Paris and secretly maintains all the station clocks. In his spare time, he steals parts from a toy shop on the station so that he can restore an automaton, his one remaining link to his father. The irascible shop owner’s godchild, Isabelle,(impeccable English accent, thank you, Chloe Grace Moretz) befriends Hugo. The pair’s adventures take them into magic, illusion and the early origins of the cinema, whilst Isabelle makes some surprising discoveries about her godparents.

Visually gorgeous, with nods to steampunk imagery, this brilliantly cast and acted film is a true gem that shouldn’t be missed. At just a shade over 2 hours, it didn’t struggle to hold this viewer’s attention. Although specifically shot for 3D, the 2D version doesn’t detract from the beauty of the storytelling or richness of the images.

Film review: Polisse

Three and a half starsAs a documentary-style film about the Parisian police Child Protection Unit, this is a powerful piece of storytelling.

It manages to cover a range of the disparate aspects of the job, whilst focusing on the dedicated individuals who go to every effort to make this unit function – often in the face of extreme bureaucracy and the more rigid social constraints of French society. In that respect, it’s also a mirror to modern France, the reality of whose capital city is ethnic and cultural diversity.

It works as social commentary, satire and, ultimately, tragedy for those on the front line for whom caring is sometimes simply not enough.

I’d have liked less of the photographer’s story (although she’s also the director, so…) and more about the others in the unit, although I think it’s perfectly clear why the pressure builds on them to intolerable levels.

Film review: The Awakening

Three and a half starsClassic, old-school psychological chiller in the best ghost story tradition, with lots of genuinely suspenseful, spine-tingly moments.

The story centres around a sceptical psychic researcher/debunker who is drawn into investigating an incident at a boarding school. When this rationalist scientist starts to see ghosts for herself, is there human mischief afoot or real supernatural goings-on? Convincingly acted by a strong central cast and with enough twists & turns to keep the plot alive, plus a deliberately and delightfully ambiguous ending.

Film review: Rampart

Well, this is like a one-man “The Shield” but without the compassion and warmth. This film is about Woody Harrelson as a seriously “bad cop” character. And, er, that’s it.

Now, normally, for a “bad guy” to be effective in film, he has to have something about him – a tiny hint at some scrap of humanity, however deeply buried. Harrelson’s character, however, is so massively over-the-top unpleasant and without any redeeming features that there’s just no room for any empathy. Nor is there any really serious suggestion that he may be a bad cog, but it’s a pretty rotten wheel that made him this way. All his troubles seem to be brought on himself and he fully deserves the retribution coming to him. How he has two “wives” and a string of women is nothing short of mystifying.

The direction is quite strange, too. In the clubbing scene (which goes on way too long), nothing is added to our understanding of Harrelson’s character – we already get it: he’s a self-indulgent, selfish arse – and the trippy cinematography (c. 1968) coupled with scratchy industrial music (c. 1990) all seem dreadfully old-fashioned. Then there’s the disciplinary hearing where the camera pans rapidly round and round the room from the centre, which was like being on a nausea-inducing roundabout ride. I’d like to get off now. I feel like I need to have a shower.

No stars.