Monday, 27 March 2017

A Cure For Wellness: Film Review

A Cure For Wellness: Film Review

Cast: Dane deHaan, Jason Isaacs, Mia Goth
Director: Gore Verbinski

Tipping its hat to horror and Gothic pretensions, Gore Verbinski's suspense-filled A Cure For Wellness soaks in mystery for 2 of its 2 and a half hours run time.
A Cure For Wellness

A pallid and drawn Dane De Haan stars as Lockhart, an ambitious investment banker, who's extorted to bring back the head of a financial company from a mysterious spa in the Swiss Alps.
With the clock ticking to return the man in question ahead of a company merger, Lockhart finds his efforts frustrated by the staff and owner of the spa who believe it's better for all if they stay and get some treatment.

But as Lockhart starts to look around, he digs deeper into the disturbing secrets of the spa - however, will he be too late?

There's a mania infecting every frame of A Cure For Wellness.

A Cure For WellnessWith Bojan Bazelli's precise and exquisite cinematography, A Cure For Wellness is infected with a starchly stiff look that manifests in every scene.

Moments are perfectly framed and add much to the overall sheen of A Cure For Wellness' frankly lunatic edges, giving the film a detached feeling that hangs heavy in the air as it plays out.

While DeHaan's growing incredulousness seems to be at odds with what you'd expect from the character, this Gothic-tinged film, with its transfixing blend of weirdness and and surreal nightmare edges is a Lovecraftian parable and dreamscape made real.

Complete with some great use of sound, the suspenseful atmosphere is ramped up to 11 and the creaks and clanks of the walls and Lockhart's crutches add a sense of a very real rhythm that comes, lulling you into an odd dreamlike mentality that helps you view the film.

As the body horror ramps up to its natural and expected crescendo, the actual denouement of the film is as utterly daffy as you'd expect. In fact, the sheer insanity of the end actually threatens to derail the film at this point, potentially derailing the meticulous work done by Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verbinski and his team.

Large parts of the film feel like they've been ripped from plenty of other source materials (from a catalogue of horrors to elements of Scorsese's Shutter Island), and even the slow pans down the corridors recall The Kingdom, Lars von Trier's foray into TV.
A Cure For Wellness

And yet, despite the ending sequence, A Cure For Wellness remains a largely taut and well-executed trip into the fevered mind. It's a trip, to be sure, but the paranoia, suspense and madness within make it a journey well worth experiencing.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Office Christmas Party: DVD Review

Office Christmas Party: DVD Review

It's the time of the year.

It's the season for excessive partying and generally letting everything fly.

So it's no surprise that Office Christmas Party looks to fill the seasonal blow-out with a comedy aimed at the fun-loving audiences seeking an R rated raunch fest.

Essentially, with a threadbare plot, it's the story of Silicon Valley star TJ Miller's Clay, who's the local branch manager of a computer company handed down to him by his father. But the company's facing tough times and when Clay's sister Carol (Jennifer Aniston in boss bitch mode, already pioneered in elements of Horrible Bosses) shows up with the threat of closing down their branch, Clay's determined to land a big client and save the day.

His plan - to woo Courtenay B Vance's Walter Davis with the biggest office bash they've ever seen - and despite Carol's refusal to let them party with redundancy around the corner...

Office Christmas Party sets its stall out early on.

It's actually quite tame in comparison to prior R Rated fare like The Hangover that wore its crudity and boorishness on its sleeve. There's a real feeling of family in the film, from the family of workers to the bickering family dynamic between Carol and Clay, and it softens proceedings from what you may be expecting.

Miller does a version of his Pied Piper CEO character Erlich Bachman, and at times, feels constrained by the script and story. (Miller's always at his best in a loose approach or improvising, and it distinctly feels like he's been reined in).

Bateman and Munn have a tentative romance brewing and dynamic that's sweet but never cloying, though equally it never feels riveting and lively, with the softness more at the fore. Bateman plays his usual laconic everyman, Munn plays a computer genius who's human, Aniston plays icy cold to perfection, and Miller gets goofball manchild down pat.

But there's little zing where there could be more - and even when the party kicks in, the chance to ramp up the raunch is squandered. It should have been more Crass-mas than anything else.

It ends up once again being a film that's stolen by Ghostbusters star Kate McKinnon's performance. This time, she's an uptight oddball HR rep who's determined to squash the fun, while secretly harbouring a desire to be involved.

In among the awkward moments and the obligatory pushing the attempts to make this Project Xin an Office block, Office Christmas Party never quite fully hits the vibe it should. Sidelined by the sweetness and stunted by the lack of some strong frat elements and not enough laugh out loud gags, this is, unfortunately, one Office Christmas Party that delivers a hangover and needed many more of the boozy highs. 

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Bad Santa 2: DVD Review

Bad Santa 2: DVD Review

Released by Madman Home Ent

Christmas comes every year.

And with it, there's a large portion of the world who are cynical and unimpressed as the commercial holiday kicks into gear, with its enforced jollity and OTT happiness.

The original 2003 outing of Bad Santa was the perfect antidote to the festive cheer - a crude, crass and comical caper that pitted a foul-mouthed thief and his dwarf friend against the festive season. Coupled with Terry Zwigoff's writing and Thornton's not giving a sh*t Santa, Bad Santa was near perfect holiday fodder, destined to take the shine off the saccharine season.

Unfortunately, Bad Santa 2 is the complete opposite; a piece of trashy cinema that plumbs the depths of depravity and somehow manages to mine deeper in its attempts to garner some jollies.

This time around, Billy Bob Thornton's beer-soaked Willie Soke is contacted once again by Marcus Skidmore (Cox) to help him crack open a safe with millions within. The kicker this time is that the safe is housed in a Chicago charity organisation, run by Christine Hendricks' Diane, a former alcoholic turned good. Ditching the innocent Thurman Merman (Brett Kelly, once again providing the naive simpleton approach), Sokes sets out to crack the safe and start again after being suicidal. But the kicker is that the con-job is being pioneered by his white trash estranged mother Sunny (Bates)....

Released 13 years almost to the day of the first film, Bad Santa 2 is distinctly difficult to love.

Much like its main star, who spends a disproportionate amount of time soaked in the booze, it's hard to see how anyone will get any laughs from this if they're sober. Every single punchline mines low hanging fruit and somehow manages to dig even deeper, ensuring the final outcome is a cloyingly annoying mix of depravity and puerile stupidity.

To be fair to the cast, they embrace this wholeheartedly, with Thornton once again proving to the antithesis to the normal dwellers of the red Santa suit. His deplorable and despicable antics prove fertile ground for some base jokes, but there's a real hint of tragedy about this man who can't get off unless he's called Santa and who starts the film by literally pissing on the past and trying to hang himself.

Equally prone to some kind of depression allegory is Kelly's Thurman Merman, a man-child whose outlook on life is clearly disconnected from the real world and whose eternal jollity comes naturally and provokes nervous laughter when anyone else would be calling for mental intervention.

The original wore its toxic despising of the enforced holiday period like a badge, a kind of honest heart on sleeve truth seldom acknowledged about the holiday period. This sequel, with its irritating desire to annoy with vulgar humour feels like a real let down for an attempt to follow a much-loved anti Christmas classic tradition.

Bad Santa 2 is one present under the Christmas tree that nobody cinematically will want; sure, some may get a perverse kick out of moments in its 90 minute run time, but others will want to run away as fast as their little elf legs can carry them. 

Friday, 24 March 2017

Aquarius: Film Review

Aquarius: Film Review

Cast: Sonia Braga
Director: Kleber Mendonça Filho

Sometimes, the words tour de force are bandied around performances with gay abandon.

But in the case of Aquarius, Kleber Mendonça Filho's film, Sonia Braga deserves the accolade.

Braga stars as Dona Clara, a music critic in her 60s, who stands resolute in her apartment building when all else have moved out and the developers come to tear it down. Refusing to move on after a full life in the same building, Dona Clara digs in, but not by drawing battle lines - but by simply living her life.

Reflecting on her past and living in her present, Braga's extraordinary class in the role lends the whole piece a sort of innate charm. Broken up into 3 chapters, the story follows its own lyrical beats and pace as it demonstrates a life well loved and friendships well nourished. The enigmatic Sonia Braga is a commanding presence throughout, imbuing the ageing Dona Clara with a sheen of genuine feeling that this is a life well-lived as society has changed around her.

And Filho's film also impresses too.

From the stunning seaside vistas from the Aquarius apartment in Brazil to the casual reveals about health issues or deaths, this is a film that's masterful and takes its time while spinning its observations out. Building on the life of her aunt early on and how she set the trend, it's easy to see Dona Clara's blossoming into a similar role as she fends off demands from her children to sell up and the developers, insisting that she's better leaving.

If there's to be a flaw it's the tail end of the film where the fight with the developers comes to a head with an abruptness that seems crowbarred in. Certainly, the final scene leaves you feeling the story's incomplete and unfinished, which given what you've invested in over the past 2 hours 20 mins is frustrating to say the least.

Aquarius is a lesson in class from Braga - she's the reason to see this film, a reminder that great performances are central to film. It's a pinnacle performance.

Win a Ghost In The Shell prize pack

Win a Ghost In The Shell prize pack

Produced by Avi Arad, p.g.a.  Ari Arad, p.g.a.  Steven Paul

Based on the comic THE GHOST IN THE SHELL by Shirow Masamune

Screenplay by Jamie Moss and William Wheeler and Ehren Kruger
Directed by Rupert Sanders

Cast: Scarlett Johansson, “Beat” Takeshi Kitano, Michael Carmen Pitt, Pilou Asbaek, Chin Han and Juliette Binoche

About Ghost In The Shell

In the near future, Major (Scarlett Johansson) is the first of her kind:  A human saved from a terrible crash, who is cyber-enhanced to be a perfect soldier devoted to stopping the world’s most dangerous criminals.  
When terrorism reaches a new level that includes the ability to hack into people’s minds and control them, Major is uniquely qualified to stop it.

As she prepares to face a new enemy, Major discovers that she has been lied to:  her life was not saved, it was stolen.

She will stop at nothing to recover her past, find out who did this to her and stop them before they do it to others.

Based on the internationally acclaimed Japanese Manga, “The Ghost in the Shell.”

Ghost In The Shell hits cinemas March 30th

To win The Ghost In The Shell prize pack, all you have to do is enter simply email your details to this  address: or CLICK HERE NOW!

Include your name and address and title your email GHOST!

Please ensure you include your name and address; title your entry GHOST! - competition closes March 30th!

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Allied: Blu Ray Review

Allied: Blu Ray Review

You must remember this.

A kiss is just a kiss.

There's a great romance to 1942's star-crossed lovers flick Casablanca, and director Robert Zemeckis tries to swathe his latest, a drama about a French resistance fighter and a Canadian intelligence officer who meet behind enemy lines, in a lot of that too.

But unfortunately, this is more Casa-blankly than Casablanca.

Kicking off in North Africa in 1942, where Pitt's Max Vatan drops out of the sky, floating into the dunes like a fallen angel, the story puts Cotillard's Marianne Beausejour in cahoots as the duo plot an execution on a German ambassador.

Reuniting later in London after the mission ends, and picking up after a sandstorm tryst saw them succumb to each other, Max finds his loyalties tested with an assertion that all is not as it seems....

For a film titled Allied, there's an irony that this feels like a flick of two disjointed halves.

The first that's supposed to set up the romance and build the romantic tension and bond between Max and Marianne is a bitter disappointment, lacking in time to let moments develop and jumping around to get to the crux of the conflict.

Suffering from an exclusion of time to dwell, the time-hop serves only to stiffen the pair's relationship and point out their relative lack of chemistry, while heightening the fact the scenes that are supposed to tie us to the characters are missing as some of the emotional beats fail to hit their mark.

Which is a shame as the largely terrific and at times should be taut back half of Allied kicks it up a gear (and simultaneously shoots itself in the foot with a French set escapade that feels like something from Dad's Army and Allo Allo). Although it suffers from what's preceded it with tension without suspense and romance without heart play out, as it hurtles towards its denouement.

It's a shame because in among the stifling and stultifying story, there is some wonderfully evocative period detail and terrific costuming that is redolent of old school Hollywood romances. And certainly in the second half, Pitt's portrayal of a man struggling with the moral dilemma of love or loyalty is marvellously underplayed and relatively effective.

But what cripples Alliedis the fact there's a palpable lack of thrills, a disturbing absence of tension and suspense when there should be as it climaxes and an overall nagging feeling the whole thing is slightly underwhelming despite its old movie star sensibilities.

Hollow and unsatisfactory, Allied is dressed in such old Hollywood charm and draped in such wonderful attention to detail that you realise you've spent a great majority of the film gawking at its clothes and its setting rather than its story and the lack of chemistry between its stars.

Ultimately, that proves to be a fatal flaw in the film that aims for heart-breaking but can barely stop its audience at times from emitting a yawn.

Get Out: Film Review

Get Out: Film Review

Cast: Daniel Kaluulya, Alison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Catherine Keener
Director: Jordan Peele

White liberal guilt plays a big part in the smart satirical take on social mores from debut director Jordan Peele's box-office bashing, genre-mashing thriller.
Get Out, from Jordan Peele

Essentially riffing on the Meet The Parents story and the Stepford Wives, Brit actor Kaluulya plays Chris, a young African-American, whose girlfriend Rose (Girls star Alison Williams) takes him to the family estate for a weekend.

Already nervous about what may lie ahead, Chris' unease is further heightened when he arrives on the estate and finds an African-American groundskeeper and an African-American housekeeper. Despite his prospective father-in-law's reassurances that he's aware how it looks, but it's not what it seems, it sets the tone for Chris' weekend.

However, things get more mysterious when an annual event on the estate sees out-of-towners arrive....

To say more about the dread-laced atmospherics of Get Out is to rob the film of the freshness that unfolds along with the unease of atmosphere accompanying it.

There's a reason Peele's subversive and sinister Blumhouse-produced debut has received such acclaim - and it's largely due to the satirical elements within, as well as the clear commentary on the times we live in and how African-Americans are treated both within society and perhaps to a lesser extent, within the Hollywood system.
Get Out, from Jordan Peele

Tapping into the unease that's currently in America, where movements like Black Lives Matter continue and where tensions continue to grow, despite calls of progression, proves to be fertile ground for Peele, and gives the film a feeling of something more below the surface.

Cultural appropriation is wrapped up within as well - and much like Scream 2's meta take on how African-American actors are treated within Hollywood's horror factory (hint - easily and quickly dispatched by the killer within the opening act), Get Out plays with perceptions with as much ease as it plays with the tropes of the thriller / horror genre.

Unlike most horrors, Get Out deftly manages to spin both a web of unease and atmospherics simultaneously without ever losing sight of what it sets out to do. Along with a modicum of jump scares, as well as some sly humour, Get Out never threatens to topple the house of cards once the reveal comes in - many horrors tease and tantalise, but when the ultimate reveal comes of either who the killer is or what's afoot, the web collapses into a dirth of plot-holes; Get Out never once falls into that trap (even though there are a few narrative conveniences in the final moments).

With an appropriation of one of the mystical elements of Stranger Things to his own twisting, Peele, who wrote and directed Get Out, has created a film that feels both contemporary, satirically smart and timeless. Whether that's more a sad indictment and damnation of what the film has to say about the treatment of African-Americans is certainly up for debate.
Get Out, from Jordan Peele

But what's not really up for debate is how inherently smart and devilishly taut, the clever Get Out is.

From its whip-smart writing (Bradley Whitford's patriarch more than adds creepiness into the idea that he would have voted for Obama for a third time if he could and adds unease into revealing his feelings that owning African-American house workers "is such a cliche"), to its incredible sound-scape, Peele's debut captures and subverts the conventions terrifically as the story plays out.

It's best to know little about this film going on, as the less you know, the more it grabs you in its vice-like grip - and its take on 21st century liberalism may leave you a little rocked and disturbed when the lights ultimately go up. Awkwardness and avant-garde approaches to the genre and the general terror of the story's unspooling make Get Out an at times, queasily paranoid watch.

However, you'd do wisely to believe the hype, as this is one of 2017's best and smartest films - and as such, it's more than worth at least one visit to the cinema - if not more.