Thursday, 31 March 2011

World Cinema Showcase: Movie Review

World Cinema Showcase: Movie Review

The World Cinema Showcase
It's back showcasing some of the best cinematic talent around - from here and around the globe. There's a few premieres too - and as ever, it's a mixed bag to suit all kinds of tastes.
Here's just a taster of some of what's hitting the streets from the 1st of April.
Rubber comes with a cult following already behind it. Simply put (and no word of a lie), it's the tale of a tyre - yep, you read that right - who goes on a killing spree. This French piece of madness works on a few levels. It never sets out to be something radical, but plays with your expectations in a smart way. Worth watching for the way the action loops back to a group of spectators, direct to camera pieces and back to the tyre's rampage. So much so, you're never quite sure which viewpoint is the one to focus on. . At the beginning a character, in a monologue to the screen, tells you the best things in cinema happen for "no reason". It's best to bear that in mind as this piece of destined for eternal cult lunacy unfolds.
Bill Cunningham New York already is bound for great things. A simple film, this doco follows the life of 80 year old Bill Cunningham, the fashion photographer who walks the streets of the Big Apple, taking pics and setting the trends on the streets. Genuinely likeable, Bill's clearly old school, with ethics and principles aplenty - the majority of which get his support from within the industry. While many are happy to be photographed by the legend and put in his columns, not many know much about him. The engaging doco which plays out in front of you will charm and amuse in equal measures. Plus you'll be impressed at the major effect one person has on so many lives.
The Woodmans is a curious doco about the life of an artistic family. Mom Betty and Dad George believe that "art is a very high priority" - so much so that their two kids, Charlie and Francesca, spend much of their formative years being dragged around exhibitions and to a degree, suffering neglect because of their parents' passion. Inevitably Francesca gets the art bug but excels in photography - however, her own demons threaten her self obsessed world. The doco leaves many questions over the parenting skills, with interviews of Betty (in particular) and George never giving you the feeling they got the family right. Francesca's life plays out in telling journal extracts and her photos litter the doco casting a haunting presence over this troubling yet hypnotically watchable piece.
You Don't Like The Truth - 4 Days inside Guantanamo is harrowing to be brutally honest. Hidden-camera footage of a Guantánamo interrogation, released by a Canadian court, provides filmmakers Luc Côté and Patricio Hernríquez with acutely personal evidence of the tragic injustice of American war on terror tactics. Canadian-Afghani Omar Khadr, abandoned in Afghanistan by his father, is accused of killing a US medic. He was interrogated in 2003 aged 16 by Canadian intelligence officers. But the interrogation sees Khadr fall apart and get treated brutally by his interrogators as his mental state falls apart. With grainy images and an unclear view, the effect is devastating - quite simply the pictures tell the story - and commentators/ interviewers and those fighting for Khadr's justice and freedom all rationally weigh into the debate. Uncomfortable viewing but an essential reminder of the atrocities being committed as the ongoing war against terror continues.
We Are What We Are - a cannibal flick from Mexico - sort of says it all really. When the father of a human eating clan dies in the middle of the street, the family he provides for are flung into chaos. Well, sort of - as they try to work out who should lead them and continue the life of collecting and killing their victims. Dark and bleak it is and there's little light throughout. But scenes of the lead characters preying on their targets may also give nightmares because of the tension and bleak overtones. That said fans of horror (albeit of the subtle and restrained variety) will lap this up.
Bicycle Dreams is a doco charting the progress of riders in an annual 3000 mile Race Across America; focusing on the 12 day event which runs through some truly terrific and truly terrifying countryside, this doco is exactly what you'd expect from a feature looking at endurance athletes. Interviewees talk of "learning something about themselves" and "being pushed to the absolute limits and beyond." Interesting though are the choices made by the riders who partake in this difficult race - we see them forgo sleep and risk death to be the winner. Fairly told and interesting, this will fail to garner anything but a "What the hell are they thinking" reaction from those outside the cycling fraternity. But I doubt it will convince you to start training for it next year - particularly when this event they charted leads to tragedy.
Of Gods and Men was France's official selection for the Oscars this year - and it's searingly haunting. It's set in the monastery of Tibhirine, where Trappist monks lived in harmony with the largely Muslim population of Algeria. Well, that is until terrorists invade their village, frighten the local populace and look to the monastery for supplies and medicines. Ultimately, this true story leads to seven of their number being beheaded in 1996. From initial shots of prayer and treating the locals for their ills, to scenes of the monks studying, eating and living together, there's a hypnotic lull to this film which explores faith in a crisis. But when the terrorists break in, reality comes crashing in - however, it's never at the expense of the drama or over the top at all. The final sequence which sees the monks partake in a Last Supper is electrifying - even if the camera milks every emotion from the close ups on their faces. Lambert Wilson and Michael Lonsdale shine as the lead two monks in an entirely powerful and masterly film - and it imparts such a serenity and horror in you, it'll haunt you from the minute you leave the cinema.
Waiting for Superman is a doco about the American education system and its failings. From Davis Guggenheim (who brought us An Inconvenient Truth) its USP is that this doco blames weak teachers for the failing students rather than the system itself. Choosing to follow a clutch of kids from all sides of America and their families who want the best for them educationally, it manages to humanize the issue. Throw into the mix some inspirational teachers who're trying to make the difference after realizing what's wrong and some damning evidence (and some anecdotal) about where it's going wrong and you've got a fairly potent mix. Use animations and clips from the School of Rock and The Simpsons and Waiting for Superman aims to get its message out to all - many will appreciate what it's saying; some will feel, once again, that the doco maker is following his own agenda.
Tucker and Dale Vs Evil is likely to be the new cult hit (along with Rubber). A comedy horror with aspirations to do for hillbillies what Shaun of the Dead did for zombies, it's got a neat premise. Tyler Labine (of Reaper) and Alan Tudyk (of Firefly and anything cool) are the Tucker and Dale of the title; a pair of hillbillies who're just heading into the woods to do up their vacation home. But when they get nearly run off the road by a group of college kids, enemies are made. The hapless duo find things get worse when they save one of the girls from drowning and take her back to their cabin - soon, her friends are, in their words, "in a suicide pact" and "killing themselves on my property." Simple misunderstandings lead to hilarity and horror in equal measures - and you'll never look at a hillbilly again in an unsympathetic light.

The World Cinema Showcase starts this Friday in Auckland before hitting Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin. Full details here.

Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work: DVD Review

Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work: DVD Review

Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work

Released by Madman
Rating: M

A simply stunning doco about the stalwart of the American showbiz scene, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work follows the comedienne through one year of highs and lows of her life.
During that time, Joan tries to launch a stage play, get as much work as she can and generally seize every opportunity which presents itself - and then milk it for as much as she can.
A warts and all portrayal of how to deal with longevity in showbiz it may be, but what it's also is a fascinating look at how one woman continues to thrive within the industry.
We watch Joan take every chance to get her play off the ground and then see her slump catastrophically when it gets 3 star reviews - we view her apartment, with its opulence and magnificence; or as she says "how Marie Antoinette would have lived if she'd had money."
You can't help but want her to succeed or to empathise with this bastion of showbiz - but what you do get out of this is a cautionary tale of how ruthless the industry can be - however, given the amount of effort Joan puts in (filing cabinets full of jokes, trying out material over Obama), you just can't look away.
Highly recommended.
Extras: Commentary with Joan, Extra scenes, Q&A at Sundance and trailer.

Rating: 8/10

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Paranormal Activity 2: Blu Ray Review

Paranormal Activity 2: Blu Ray Review

Paranormal Activity 2
Rating: R16
Released by Universal

Following on from the soaraway success of the first Paranormal film comes part two.

Once again, it's a doco style film where everything unfolds through CCTV around a house - this time, it's the home of Paranormal Activity's original victim Katie - to be specific it's sister Kristi (Sprague Grayden), a recent mother.

It begins 60 days before the death of Micah from the first film - the handheld video camera captures the return home of the new mom and her son Hunter as they begin their new life with husband Daniel and daughter Ali and their pet Alsatian.

But with something in the house as well, it's clear this isn't going to end well for all involved.

Paranormal Activity 2 is sinister, creepy, and improves on the first one. Those involved could have simply once again ramped up the scares and gone for obvious horrors - but thanks to a degree of restraint, there's an ominous tone of creeping horror in this sequel (which is more prequel than anything).

With CCTV footage you find yourself scanning all corners and waiting for the shocks to come - and even when they do, you're caught out.

Paranormal Activity 2 retains the quality of the first and leaves it open to a third one&here's hoping the trilogy will see it all wrapped up nicely rather than stretched out like SAW.

Extras: Exclusive footage, an extended cut - these are ok but do little to enrich the experience.

Rating: 7/10 

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Game Review: Dead Space 2

Game Review: Dead Space 2

Dead Space 2
Released by EA
Rating: MA15
Platform: PS3
A horror first person shooter - with the emphasis firmly on the "atmosfear" from beginning to end.
A sequel to the massively popular Dead Space, we once again rejoin Isaac Clarke as he fights an alien organism that infects and takes control of human corpses, turning them into "Necromorphs", mutating their bodies and generally scaring the player to death.
After a genuinely unsettling opening, the game rarely lets go of its fear factor - and despite the ability to drop some of the settings down to easier to battle on, Dead Space 2 is likely to give you some nightmares and haunting images as it progresses.
That's not necessarily a bad thing and sees the genre being slightly redefined in terms of gameplay, action and atmosphere - but it'll do little for any heart condition you may suffer as a result.
With 360 degree movement and the feeling you're never quite alone, this is a superior , if at times challenging game which will reward long term players as well as reward those who invest in the strategy side. There's masses to explore in this sprawling compund and some genuinely unsettling imagery will haunt you for a long time after - this isn't a game for the faint hearted with gore and horror in equal measures, it's certainly one to keep you horrified and entertained as you try to battle on through.

The Limited edition comes with an extra game for PS Move - and if you've completed the main game with nerves in tact - you're likely to want more as well.
Overall, as the dark nights draw in, Dead Space 2 is bound to be a solid game favourite - although the horror side of the game will have you scrambling to leave the lights on in the background on more than one occasion

Rating: 8/10

Buried: Blu Ray Review

Buried: Blu Ray Review

Buried
Rating:M
Released by Warner Home Video

Ryan Reynolds stars in this claustrophobic thriller where the clock is ticking in a deadly race against time.

Reynolds is Paul Conroy, an American truck driver in Iraq who awakes to find himself trapped in a coffin with only a cellphone, a few pens and a lighter for company.

As Conroy comes round, he begins to realize the horror of the situation; namely that he's buried alive, with no idea where he is, why he's there and perhaps most importantly, how he's going to get out.
However, as he makes a series of desperate phone calls, he begins to piece together a potential escape plan. Things get more complicated when those who put him in the box call and make demands of him..can Conroy get it together in time and get out alive with time, oxygen and hope running out?

Buried is a good old fashioned thriller with an intriguing premise and a great sense of claustrophobia.

Every sound, every nuance is disorienting on the big screen in the dark - Conroy's frenzied panicked breathing puts you on the edge of your seat right away.

But what will keep you on the edge of that seat is Ryan Reynolds - what a performance in what is essentially a one man film. As the camera pans over Reynolds in his captivity, his every performance (whether it's the breathing or freaking out as he realizes how problematic his situation is) is pitch perfect.

Buried is a nervy mesmerizing treat - and a sign Ryan Reynolds is an underrated and extremely impressive talent.

Rating: 8/10

The Killer Inside Me: Blu Ray Review

The Killer Inside Me: Blu Ray Review

The Killer Inside Me
Rating: M
Released by Warner Bros

A difficult watch to say the least, The Killer Inside Me (from acclaimed director Michael Winterbottom) is an adaptation of a Jim Thompson book about a sociopathic sheriff in 1950s Texas.
Casey Affleck plays said Sheriff Ford, who finds himself entangled in blackmail and extortion - as well as a torrid affair with prostitute Joyce (Jessica Alba) - and when things come to a head, boy, oh boy do they explode, as Ford discovers he's heading in deeper and deeper.

When Simon Baker's (The Mentalist) Howard Hendricks starts to investigate him (using very similar techniques to Patrick Jane as well) - and Ford finds he's in a real predicament.

This film, despite its slick 50s look and polished performances, is going to be steeped in controversy because of its violence- well, specifically its violence against the two women in Ford's life (both played wonderfully by Jessica Alba and Kate Hudson), which is shocking in the extreme.

While Affleck's performance is chilling and spot-on for a complete psychopath, it's a hard ask to watch a man who's meted out such violence as he has - audiences may find themselves split down the middle on this flick which has echoes of American Psycho -but none of the humour.

Rating: 5/10

Monday, 28 March 2011

The American: Blu Ray Review

The American: Blu Ray Review

The American
Rating: R16
Released by Universal

George Clooney stars as Jack, an assassin, who's been ordered to lie low in Italy after his cover in Sweden is blown, resulting in a bloodbath.

While there he befriends an elderly priest, falls for a prostitute Clara (Violante Placido) and takes on one last job.

However, the demons of the past are catching up with him.

Deceptively shot and simply made, The American is a thrilling ride.

With a restrained performance from Clooney, it's hard to root for this assassin as we learn very little about him - many shots are of him constructing a gun or merely going about his day to day business while waiting for the storm to blow over. Clooney's rarely been better than when he plays against type - and this is no exception.

It's a good solid turn from Clooney which sees you sucked into empathizing with him very early on - even if the opening does shock you.

It's a gradually building, well acted and restrained drama which has you in its vice like grip as the final moments play out.

Extras: Deleted scenes, making of and commentary - nothing wildly exciting but solid nonetheless

Rating: 8/10 

The Town: Blu Ray Review

The Town: Blu Ray Review

The Town
Released by Warner Bros
Rating: M
In this flick, set in Charlestown in America, Affleck is Doug MacRay, a criminal who's found robbing banks is the only way to survive the miserable drudgery of working a construction job.
However, he along with his three co-robbers, end up abducting the manager of the latest bank they turn over - Claire, played by Rebecca Hall.
The problem is that they're not sure what Claire saw or heard so when Doug's volatile buddy Jem (a searingly jumpy turn by Jeremy Renner) suggests keeping an eye on her, Doug decides it'd be safer if he looked out for Claire.
As Doug and Claire's relationship begins to flourish into something, the police (led by Mad Men's Jon Hamm and Lost's Man in Black Titus Welliver) begin to close in on the gang - and Doug starts to wonder if he can ever escape from the life he's forged for himself.
I hadn't been expecting too much from a Ben Affleck outing to be honest - but thanks to some excellently restrained directing which allows the story to breathe and come to life, he's managed to put together a corker of a film with some brilliant ensemble performances - from the likes of Gossip Girl's Blake Lively as Jem's sister who's had an off-on-off again thing with Doug and is resentful of Claire to Jeremy Renner's nerve tingling performance as Jem, a man who can explode at any second.
That's not to say the likes of Pete Postlethwaite as a gangland kingpin who runs a florist and a cameo from Chris Cooper as Doug's dad don't shine - everyone brings their A game to this flick about desperation, hopes of escape and the promise of another life.

Rating: 8/10

The Social Network: Blu Ray Review

The Social Network: Blu Ray Review

The Social Network
Rating: M
Released by Sony Home Ent

It didn't quite make it at the awards ceremonies this year, but The Social Network remains one of last year's great film.

Jesse Eisenberg plays Mark Zuckerberg as we dive back to the heady days of the 2003 Harvard scene - and his introduction to a pair of Harvard twins, the Winkelvosses, who are working on a site idea called The Harvard Connection.

Ultimately Zuckerberg builds the Facebook and a legal battle ensues as to whether he's ripped off their idea.

Written by the West Wing scribe Aaron Sorkin - and you know it from the moment the film opens. Sparkling dialogue, zippy scenes and smarts are all over this Oscar winning screenplay - plus throw in a great soundtrack too and you've got the perfect combination.

But the Social Network also thrives from its actors - Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield and Justin Timberlake all add so much to this film from beginning to end.

As I said at the time of cinematic release, The Social Network is simply unmissable and the film for the web generation. It remains even more so on Blu Ray and DVD thanks to a great film and scores of fantastic extras - this is how movies should be treated on release to the small screen; not simply churned out without any thought.

Perhaps the best release of 2011.

Rating: 9/10 

Sunday, 27 March 2011

The Ghost Writer: DVD Review

The Ghost Writer: DVD Review

The Ghost Writer
Rating: M
Released by Sony Home Ent

Roman Polanski's latest is a political thriller which sees Ewan McGregor's Ghost Writer brought in to help polish former UK Prime Minister Adam Lang's memoirs following the suicide of the previous writer.

But he finds himself embroiled in a political storm when Lang (an excellently suave Pierce Brosnan ) is caught up in a war crimes trial - Lang's accused of agreeing to the illegal capture and torture of terror suspects for the CIA.

The Ghost Writer is a tense, smart piece of film; a crackling sizzling political thriller - even if occasionally it veers into slightly unbelievable territory (suddenly the ghost writer becomes a crack investigative expert).

But it's the central performance of McGregor which makes this film such a compelling watch as it unfolds in front of you.

Whether it's handling some of the comic relief lines (and dry humour) which are peppered through the script ("All the words are there just in the wrong order" he remarks about the book) or steering us with a sense of impending dread towards the end of the film, you can't take your eyes off him.

It's a great film from Polanski and holds your attention for two hours as the paranoia - and unexpected humour - ramps up as the revelations finally reveal the truth.
Extras: Docos on the DVD - but on blu Ray you get an interview with much maligned Polanski.

Rating: 8/10 

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Red Riding Hood: Movie Review

Red Riding Hood: Movie Review

Red Riding Hood
Rating: 5/10
Cast: Amanda Seyfried, Gary Oldman, Julie Christie, Shiloh Fernandez, Max Irons, Viriginia Madsen, Lukas Haas
Director: Catherine Hardwicke
From the director of Twilight, comes a film about a girl who's in love with the wrong boy as a killer stalks the village she lives in.
Hold up - that sounds exactly like Twilight....
Red Riding Hood is the latest adaptation of the fairy tale and sees Amanda Seyfried's Valerie trapped in a love triangle with Shiloh Fernandez's woodcutter Peter and Max Irons' Henry - as well as a murder mystery, when the townsfolk she's living with in a high mountain range are picked off by the big bad wolf.
As fear continues to grip the snow-capped village, a priest (played with scene chewing aplomb by Gary Oldman) is called in to try and save them.
But as the climate of terror grows, the threat to Valerie and those she loves becomes greater - and soon she realises she's the key to saving everyone.
From its opening shot of villages in mountains as the camera sweeps across trees, it's very hard to not think about Twilight - which I guess to a degree is what you'd expect from the director of the very first film. Throw in lines like "If you love her, you'll let her go" and "I lost a sister - I can't lose you" and clearly you're in teen angst territory in more ways than one. Add into the mix a pair of boys and a love triangle - plus a wolf which looks like one of wolf pack from a certain other franchise - and you'd be forgiven for thinking you're watching a different film.
That said, while the rest of the cast are fairly wooden and stilted, Amanda Seyfried shines in this. With her big blue eyes (all the better for seeing you with, right?) and pale complexion, she stands out from the rest of the townsfolk - but physicalities aside, she also stands out with her slightly ethereal acting, bringing an air of mystery to her part as the film goes on. Gary Oldman is okay too - but he's clearly overacting in some parts which takes the edge off a little.

I suppose at the end of the day, Red Riding Hood will find a teen audience that will adore it - with some striking visuals and a gothic air here and there, there's certainly something for genre fans to love - but many will feel they've seen it all before. Some may even argue they've seen it done better too.

Get Low: Movie Review

Get Low: Movie Review

Get Low
Rating: 6/10
Cast: Robert Duvall, Lucas Black, Bill Murray, Sissy Spacek
Director: Aaron Schneider
Robert Duvall stars in this story spun, apparently, from folk tales.
Duvall is hermit Felix Bush who's spent 40 years living deep in the woods away from those nearby in mid-America.
Rumours swirl about him, the "weirdo in the woods", such as how many people he's killed - but no-one really knows much about his life or who he is.
One day, he heads into town to arrange his own funeral with Bill Murray's Frank Quinn (the local undertaker) - but with the proviso that anyone who attends has to bring a story about Bush.
Quinn, along with protégé Buddy (Lucas Black), pulls together the event - but it takes an unusual turn, as a long-standing mystery rises to the surface...
Get Low is not speedy cinema - it's blessed with some very, very dry humour and a stunning performance from Duvall, but it's slow to engage your emotions.
The mystery of why Bush made a hermit of himself propels the narrative along but by the time the revelation comes to light in the final act, it's lacking the commensurate punch that it needs. That's not to detract from Duvall's delivery of the truth, which is mesmerising, but you'd be hard-pressed not to join the dots of clues scattered throughout.

Unfortunately, what it means is that you feel slightly let down at the end - and while Get Low is blessed with great performances from Duvall, Murray and Black, it's not likely to endear you with its - at times - snail-like pace.

World Invasion: Battle Los Angeles: Movie Review

World Invasion: Battle Los Angeles: Movie Review

Battle Los Angeles
Rating: 6/10
Cast: Aaron Eckhart, Michelle Rodriguez, Marines, Aliens, Explosions, Space ships
Director: Jonathan Liebesman
Do you like alien invasion films?
Do you like plenty of shooting?
Do you like a minimal plot which sees a leader looking for redemption after the loss of troops in former combat?
Do you like stuff blowing up?
If you've answered yes, then move along, this review won't matter to you. Because right after you've read the title, you'll be in the queue for the ticket. And waiting for the inevitable video game release.
For the rest of you - strap in.
World Invasion: Battle Los Angeles (to give it its title outside of the USA) centres on a platoon of marines recently returned from combat, who've suffered the loss of their own thanks to the decisions of Aaron Eckhart's staff sergeant.
24 hours later this crew of gung-ho grunts (including one who's about to marry, one who's got post-traumatic stress, one who's a marine on the brink of retirement - just the regular collection of cliches) is heading into battle when a series of meteors land at strategic points around the world.
Pretty soon, it's clear this is an invasion force - and the marines are one of the last lines of defence in the war against this unnamed extra terrestrial army.
World Invasion: Battle Los Angeles does what it says on the tin.
As I've already said, it's got the tenets of a B movie, a war film and an FX spectacular thrown in - as well as the predictable Iraq allegory (the aliens are after our resources; they use water for fuel ... subtle it may not be).
But visually, its style is impressive - it looks like a war film with its handheld cameras, verite style following the marines as they try to save civilians from behind enemy lines (which resemble wartorn streets of Iraq). It really gets you into the heart, paranoia and uncomfortable nature of battle.
The opening works well - the suspense as the aliens arrive and simply start shooting does enough to set the scene (even with the obligatory last night out of the marines before being shipped out).
But towards the end, all semblance of plot goes out the window - previously unassailable aliens are able to be run down with humvees; gung-ho statements like "I'm ready for payback" really destroy what atmosphere there was. It's the kind of film that should be shown to Marines to hype them up before combat - the whole thing is akin to a major recruitment drive film or a PlayStation game (get the marines to the city, steal the bus, shoot the aliens, save the civilians etc).
The other major problem is that outside of Aaron Eckhart and Michelle Rodriguez, I couldn't really tell you who's who - the other actors all blend into a camouflage goo and don't stand out in the slightest.

Having said that, World Invasion: Battle Los Angeles is a reasonable adrenalin-filled spectacle for two hours, full of bullets, bangs and boys (and slightly dodgy alien FX) - ultimately, it's not adding anything new to the genre but is distracting enough.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Chloe: DVD Review

Chloe: DVD Review

Chloe
Rating: R16
Released by Roadshow Entertainment
An erotic thriller remade from a French film from the 90s, Chloe stars Amanda Seyfried as a mysterious woman who wreaks some kind of havoc on an apparently happily married couple.
Liam Neeson and Julianne Moore are Catherine and David; when David doesn't return for his birthday and encouraged by the fact he appears to flirt with everything, Catherine suspects him of having an affair.
So she engages the services of prostitute Chloe (the sultry Seyfried who oozes sexuality in this) to tempt her hubby. But when Chloe comes back and reveals all, Catherine finds herself brought to life by the sordid details - and soon Chloe's about to destroy their lives...
Sultry and sexy, this psycho thriller also dips into the silly side as well - the end completely ruins what's gone previously and plunges Chloe deep into OTT territory.
Seyfried does sultry very well (boding well for Red Riding Hood) and Moore impresses as the obsessive yet suspicious wife.
Granted you can see what's coming and when, but respected Atom Egoyan spins out the suspense of the story well, and with the sensual side and sexual obsession ramped up, this is something a little different.
Extras: Deleted/ Alternate scenes

Rating: 6/10

Friday, 18 March 2011

Dr Who: The Movie: DVD Review

Dr Who: The Movie: DVD Review

Dr Who - The Movie

Rating: M
Released by BBC and Roadshow

Paul MCGann's one outing on TV as the Doctor gets a release - although why the movie's been released as a stand alone after forming part of last year's Revisitations set is beyond me (even the special features are the same).
Anyway, set in the turn of the millennium and in America, the 7th Doc's been asked to convey the returns of the Master home - but when the Master breaks out (even in dead form) the Doc finds himself in San Fran on New Year's Eve 1999 - and gunned down.
Regenerating into McGann's 8th Doctor, suddenly the world is facing its demise as the Master's poised to destroy the cosmos&.
The Movie divided fans and still has me sitting on the fence - it's not the best Who ever thanks to some dodgy performances (step forward Eric Roberts' hammy run as the Master) but McGann showed real promise for the role - and it's a shame on TV it never amounted to more.
This two disc release has a wealth of special features which make up for the overall dismal quality of the show - and if you're not planning on getting the superior Revisitations set, maybe you should consider this.

Rating: 6/10 

Thursday, 17 March 2011

My Wedding and Other Secrets: Movie Review

My Wedding and Other Secrets: Movie Review

My Wedding And Other Secrets
Rating: 7/10
Cast: Matt Whelan, Michelle Ang, Kenneth Tsang, Pei-Pei Cheng
Director: Roseanne Liang
In this rom com, Michelle Ang stars as Asian film student Emily Chu, a geek who's at odds with the world around her.
While her fellow film students are claiming their influences number the likes of Fellini, Emily's talking about how Star Wars turned her to the dark side of film making...
She's a bit of an oddball and that geeky goofy charm extends to the rest of her life.
But it also puts her into conflict with her Hong Kong parents - she's seen one sister nearly disowned after she dated a boy her parents didn't approve of.
So, when she meets good ole Kiwi James ( Go Girls' Matt Whelan) and the two spark, she's well aware of the potential divisions it could cause.
However, Emily's a dreamer and follows her heart over her head.
Things are further complicated when the pair fall in love and decide to marry.
In secret.
My Wedding And Other Secrets is a charming and sweet culture clash romantic comedy. It has an innocence and character which will melt your heart.
Michelle Ang manages to bring an endearing charm to Emily and life to the story. She veers on the right side of compassionate to her eccentric spontaneity rather than irritating - and she also has sincerity for the part as she juggles her heart, what's right and the wishes of her family.
And she gels very well with Matt Whelan's awkward and nervy James - but then all the supporting cast are pitch perfect. From Cheng Pei Pei (of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) who plays the mum to Kenneth Tsang's father, they all add to the overall feel good vibe of My Wedding and Other Secrets.

With a light deft touch, director Liang who based this story on her life, knows exactly what she wants from all - and the end result is a sweetly charming cultural rom com which perfectly matches the times we live in.

Never Let Me Go: Movie Review

Never Let Me Go: Movie Review

Never Let Me Go
Rating: 8/10
Cast: Keira Knightley, Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield
Director: Mark Romanek
(Be warned - necessary spoilers ahead)
From the 2005 book by Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go has been adapted for the screen by Alex Garland.
It starts with an announcement that in 1952, a medical breakthrough means the average life expectancy now extends past 100 years old.
Then we fade into an idyllic English boarding school where we meet Carey Mulligan's narrator Kathy H as a school kid - she's been best friends with Ruth since forever. And their lives are completed by the friendship Kathy forms with Tommy.
Gradually the bonds grow stronger between the trio - as their confined existence grows.
The children there are essentially clones, being nurtured as organ donors for those outside in the real world. In a climate of oppression, they're told never to leave the grounds, have limited social interaction with the outside world (they're taught in classes how to order tea in cafes) and are encouraged to paint for inclusion in an exclusive gallery.
But it's not good for the trio - Kathy's lost Tommy to a relationship with Ruth.
Years pass - and the three of them find their lives permanently intertwined as their inevitable path plays out.
Never Let Me Go is haunting, harrowing, depressing and yet incredibly powerfully compelling viewing.
It begins with an air of mystery and intrigue as you know there's something different about these children but the reality of what it is evades you initially.
Once the truth comes out (via a great interruption by Sally Hawkins' disruptive school teacher who's honest with the kids), it suddenly adds a level of poignancy to this forlorn trio - they're told they'll complete (ie die) during their donations but it's all part of who and what they are.
An offer of deferral from the National Donor programme gives some hope - but when that reality is scotched, the world comes crashing down.
Essentially a three hander, this film is wonderfully acted by all three - Mulligan is hypnotic and shines as a detached forlorn Kathy, doomed to never be with her love; Knightley adds a subtlety to the manipulative Ruth and there's real anguish in Garfield's Tommy.
Deliberately drably shot (even landscapes look gloomy) this film is beautifully put together by Romanek.
The mournful, maudlin and sombre tone may not be for all and there's a little frustration at not exploring (or making you understand) why they can't run from the programme but ultimately this poignant and angsty piece is about love and accepting your mortality.

Never Let Me Go will haunt you and remain with you long after you've left the cinema.

Limitless: Movie Review

Limitless: Movie Review

Limitless
Rating: 6/10
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Abbie Cornish, Anna Friel
Director: Neil Burger
What if you could find a drug which stimulated all of your brain?
What if you were that dude from the Hangover aka Bradley Cooper and someone presented this premise to you?
Cooper stars as out of work, down on his luck writer Eddie Morra, who's dumped by his girlfriend Lindy (Cornish) because he's going nowhere.
On the very same day, he bumps into his former brother in law whom he's not seen for nine years - and on his advice, Morra takes a techno wonder drug NZT48.
Soon, Morra's finished that book he's been working on for years, made a killing on the stock market and generally stimulated his life more than he could ever have expected to.
With heightened intellect, learning ability and creative powers, he comes to the attention of De Niro's Carl von Loon, a stockbroker who tries to use him to sort a merger.
But Morra's facing all manner of problems; he's being chased by creditors who'll do unmentionable things to him and to make matters worse, he is running out of wonder drug NZT 48.
Coupled with the fact he learns the drug could kill him, Morra's in dire straits...
Limitless has some impressive moments; Cooper does well as Morra, the man who becomes addicted to the drug and improving his life. He brings the behaviour mannerisms of any addict to life and yet manages to keep this druggie affable and watchable.
Director Burger also starts off well - using some clever lighting techniques and camera ideas to reflect the highs of taking the drug (everything becomes crystal clear and bathed in a yellow light).
But then he blows it - as Burger soon himself becomes addicted to the thrill of using the same psychedelic tricks over and over and over again; any subtlety and appreciation for the novelty is pounded out of you with their repetition. It's akin to your senses being visually pummelled repeatedly with a very blunt object.
Throw into the mix some frankly ludicrous plot developments (Morra encourages his girlfriend to use the drug to think her way out of a tight spot - even after he's learnt how dangerous the drug is) and you begin to realise Limitless has found its own boundaries.
It's based on a novel and while it has a couple of reasonable twists, most can be seen coming.

It's a shame because the trippy start and the solid performances of the main cast make Limitless a little different, engaging from the get go and likely to confound some of your expectations; but unfortunately an over-use of some stylish shots detract from the end result and you get some of the highs of a trip - but also some of the lows.

Dr Who: A Christmas Carol: DVD Review

Dr Who: A Christmas Carol: DVD Review

Dr Who - A Christmas Carol

Released by BBC and Roadshow
Rating: PG

So Matt Smith's first Christmas outing as the Eleventh Doctor arrives - and it's a complete rip off of Dickens.
With Amy and Rory on honeymoon and trapped on a space liner about to crash, it's upto the Doc to save the day.
But standing between him and a rescue effort is Michael Gambon's Kazran Sardick, a Bah humbug character who doesn't believe anyone deserves a happy ending.
So, with the Doc taking on the role of Christmasses past, present and future (Time travelling's never been so convenient), he sets out to melt Sardick's heart and save his pals.
Firstly, this is about as Christmassy as Who gets - which coming after Tennant's Festive Farewell in 2009 is a relief; but it does have the feeling of being a little too fluffy at times - and even has a flying shark.
No seriously, it does.
But,ultimately this does melt your heart and before you know it (and with a second viewing) you're swept along with the adventure and feeling festive. However, Steven Moffat really does need to up the writing to match Matt Smith's impeccable performance - and it remains to see if Series six will deliver later this year.
Extras: Dr Who at the proms and Behind the scenes - a rounded if unspectacular package.

Rating: 7/10 

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Farewell: DVD Review

Farewell: DVD Review

Farewell
Rating: M
Released by Roadshow
It's back to the 1980s for this espionage thriller set in events which led to the fall of the Soviet Bloc.

As it opens on a white landscape filled with snow, a lone wolf watches troops head off into a truck - and from there, the action flicks from the cold wastelands to the decadent west of the 1980s France.

Guillaume Canet is Pierre Froment, an engineer who's caught up in the world of espionage and trading secrets to the Soviets. But soon, this relatively naïve spy is making big waves in the world and powers higher up are wondering where the leaks are coming from.

And as the web is more deeply woven, both Reagan (Fred Ward) and Gorbachev, as well as President Mitterand find themselves in the line of suspicion as a cat and mouse game develops between intelligence agencies.

Farewell is a globe trotting complex and deeply rich film - it starts off slowly and builds towards the end. There's an authenticity to the film which is there from the beginning - and Fred Ward impresses as Reagan.

While it's intelligent and engrossing film making, it does at times teeter on the slightly slow side as it follows its story from beginning to end. That's not to say it's not captivating - it just takes a little time to suck you in.

Rating: 7/10

four Lions: DVD Review

four Lions: DVD Review

Four Lions
Rating: R13
Released by Roadshow
A comedy film about British Muslims looking to commit a terrorist act - there's already some of you out there reading this who've formed your own opinion of what this is.

Well, let me tell you - you're completely wrong.
British satirist Chris Morris turns his eye on four would be suicide bombers in this hilariously insane comedy.
The would be terror cell are so incompetent that their leader Omar (Ahmed) shows the messed up takes of their terrorist video to his son and says they could be deleted scenes for a DVD release.

This quartet wants to take their dreams of Jihadism to new levels - and plot to devastate the London Marathon. But Omar is disillusioned about the treatment of Muslims around the world and is determined to become a soldier - however, his views clash with that of white Islamic convert Barry (Lindsay) who believes a) that he's "the most al Qaeda one here" and b) that blowing up a mosque would be the best way to set the world alight.
As their ideologies and opinions clash, the group blunders ever closer to achieving their goals - despite their innate stupidity.
Granted there will be debate about how the four are portrayed - and some will take offence.
However, the writers planned for that during their in depth research and talking to Muslims - every sensitivity has been taken to ensure what you see on screen is not offensive or racist.
What Morris and his team of writers have done is take logical arguments over the matter to the absolute absurd end.
Four Lions remains a case of light the touch paper and stand well back - but it's searing entertainment which subtly plays with your expectations - and confounds them at every turn.
Extras: Deleted scenes, film premiere and behind the scenes

Rating: 8/10

Monday, 14 March 2011

Le Donk and Scor-zay-zee: DVD Review

Le Donk and Scor-zay-zee: DVD Review

Le Donk and Scor-zay-zee

Rating: R16
Released by Madman

Shane Meadows once again blazes a trail in this doco comedy about an inept rapper and his even more inept manager, Le Donk (a clueless yet loveable Paddy Considine.)
Dumped by his pregnant girlfriend, Le Donk is determined to get the somewhat dumpy Scor-zay-zee onto the stage to support the Arctic monkeys.
So with a camera crew in tow, the pair hit the motorways and appear to be on the verge of achieving their dream....
With a touch of Peter Kay in there somewhere and some top acting from Considine (brilliant in Hot Fuzz), this mocko doco is terrific fun.
Taking a while to adjust to the style of filming is rewarding as the hapless duo worm their way into your heart - they're not completely clueless; special mention needs to go to Olivia Coleman (From Peep Show) for her part in this.
Apparently shot over 5 days, Le Donk and Scor-zay-zee is a road movie with an insanely funny heart which will become beloved by many.
Extras: Deleted scenes and trailer - minimal.

Rating: 8/10 

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Blue Valentine: Movie Review

Blue Valentine: Movie Review

Blue Valentine
Rating: 8/10
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams
Director: Derek Cianfrance
With an Oscar nom in tow for Michelle Williams (but sadly no win), Blue Valentine turns an uneasy warts and all eye on a marriage in trouble.
One day, Gosling's Dean and Williams' Cindy are suffering under the strains of six years together.
On a whim, the pair palm off their young daughter to family and check into a crappy local motel to try and recoup some of the love.
However, as the night creaks under the weight of expectation, the cracks in their marriage begin to widen.
Blue Valentine is gritty, emotionally raw and heart breaking in places. Interspersed with flashbacks to their first meetings the films blessed with two compelling performances from a pair of actors hitting their peak.
Williams conveys every emotion of despair and desperation as the strain begins to show; but her Oscar nominated performance is matched by Gosling who veers from anger to frustration and love with ease - and consequently both actors are unmissable because of their opposite's performance.
Two compelling actors give their all to this and it soars because of it - it's not a comfortable watch by any stretch of the imagination but thanks to a clever way the narrative unfolds, it feels natural, upsetting and at times, tender way of looking at the ups and downs of love.
Blue Valentine runs the gamut of every raw and human emotion; it shines a spotlight on what makes - and breaks - a marriage and because of Gosling and Williams, it really does feel like a superior sobering two hander.

Grimy, raw and yet poignant in the extreme, Blue Valentine is a powerful watch - a piece of cinema which signals two actors have stars which are continuing to rise.

I Am Number Four: Movie Review

I Am Number Four: Movie Review

I Am Number Four
Rating: 5/10
Cast: Alex Pettyfer, Timothy Olyphant, Teresa Palmer, Dianna Agron
Director: D J Caruso
Teen sci-fi is always a popular genre and I Am Number Four arrives on the screens, crying out the possibilities for a potential franchise.
Pettyfer is "John Smith", an alien on the run and one of a mysterious nine from his home world being hunted.
Holed up in Ohio, Smith, with his protector Henri (Olyphant) tries to blend in - enrolling in high school and just attempting to be a normal teen with the usual teen issues.
But as the others of his race are hunted down and killed, Smith complicates his life by falling for local girl Sarah (Agron), making it difficult for him to flee his pursuers.
So as the tensions grow with his pursuers, his guardian Henri, Smith decides to take a stand.
I Am Number Four is reasonably good teen fare - it's nothing original; new kid has issues with school bullies, resents the interference of his guardian, falls for a girl - they're all very universally explored themes.
While it zips along well, despite some impressive action sequences and effects, there's little that makes this stand out from the rest of the crowd.
Granted, its teen audience may be attracted to the ideas and the good looks (and at times moodiness) of the core characters, but that may be its undoing for the rest of the cinema going public.
Pettyfer (formerly of Stormbreaker) is fine as the alien on the run; his scenes with Palmer are okay too - there's nothing radical in them and there's nothing that makes you switch off or not engage with them throughout.

I Am Number Four ends with the potential for a sequel (and is from a series of books) but unless the drama is stepped up a little and the audience widened, it could end up being a case of a missed opportunity.

Rango: Movie Review

Rango: Movie Review

Rango
Rating: 8/10
Cast: Johnny Depp, Abigail Breslin, Bill Nighy, Isla Fisher, Ned Beatty
Director: Gore Verbinski
Johnny Depp reteams with the Pirates of the Caribbean director in a computer animated comedy adventure and stars as a chameleon with an identity crisis.
No wait, come back - it's zanily brilliant.
Depp's pet chameleon finds his life changed one day on a road trip when he's flung out onto a desert road by accident.
Stripped of his life inside his terrarium, the chameleon finds himself in the Wild West, in the town of Dirt.
Dirt's the kind of ole town you used to see in the westerns - except this one's got various animals for residents. Iguanas, toads, cactus mice, armadillos, rattle snakes - the whole gamut's here.
Being of an actorly bent, the chameleon reinvents himself as Rango, and finds himself thrust into the role of Sheriff for Dirt.
But Dirt's got a problem - they're running out of water, the only commodity that talks in the town - and so Sheriff Rango sets out to try and save the day when their only source is stolen.
Rango is insane, loony and beautifully animated.
A film about critters and lizards it may be - but the level of detail in the animation of the characters and their depth is to die for.
The story takes a little bit of time to get going - but there's some genuine zaniness in some of the lines uttered by Rango and there are plenty of nods to westerns in general as well as a major tribute to Clint Eastwood.
It's your Classic western in many ways (even the name is a nod out to Django)- a stranger rolls into town, tussles with the local powers that be and ends up saving the day.
But what gives Rango its edge is the script and a commanding vocal performance from Depp as the lizard prone to spouting soliloquies and channeling acting; he's a wannabe thespian who's forced to play the role of sheriff to get by. Lunatic and laconic in ways Jack Sparrow never could achieve, Depp brings a joie de vivre to the thespian chameleon (did he ever think he'd see his name in a sentence like that?)
If Depp's good in this, what's more amazing and probably the bigger star is the animation.
Lushly detailed and rich in depth, every fibre of the creatures on screen stands out and every nuance of their unusualness is accentuated. These motley crew of characters are bound to become the new favourites of the young.
Prone to great one liners ("I intend to strip this mystery and expose its private parts" is just one of Rango's bizarre verbal outings) the whole film has a moodiness and tone which sets it apart from the average animation. It really is Oscar worthy on that level alone.

Stick with Rango - despite its slightly unusual opening, its oddball nature appeals and never irritates - and I for one, am hoping this chameleon and his wacky, at times, tripped out creators get another outing soon.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Dinner For Schmucks: DVD Review

Dinner For Schmucks: DVD Review

Dinner for Schmucks
Released by Universal
Rating: M
Taken from the original French film Le Diner De Cons (The Dinner Game) and Americanised, Dinner for Schmucks stars Paul Rudd as Tim, a mid level executive who's desperate to break through to the upper levels of the board room.

One day, he manages a break through by impressing his boss (Greenwood) over how to net a potential new client Mueller (David Walliams) and is invited into the upper echelons of the board room.

However, on arrival there, he's told of a monthly dinner hosted by his boss which he's duly invited to. But the crux of the dinner is that each of them has to bring an idiot along as a dinner date for their collective amusement - and it gets worse for Tim as he realises the boss picks a winning idiot to give a prize to.

That's where Steve Carell comes in - his IRS worker Barry is run over by Tim. And as Tim talks to Barry, he realises this taxidermist could be his in to win the Dinner. You see, Barry makes diorama and famous scenes with dead mice (eg the Mousea Lisa) and is clearly some kind of idiot in Tim's eyes.

I have mixed feelings about this film (and no I've not seen the original French farce)- Paul Rudd puts in yet another good and likeable act - and Steve Carell is once again, another version of Steve Carell but starts to irritate a little as the film continues. However, it's nice they've made him a loser with a back story that's revealed near the end rather than just a goof.

Dinner For Schmucks can be best described as a meal which promises so much - in the end it resembles a buffet which initally has you salivating but ultimately leaves you wanting.

Rating: 6/10 

Monday, 7 March 2011

Planet Earth: DVD Review

Planet Earth: DVD Review

Planet Earth
Released by BBC
Rating: PG
6 discs, a 24 page booklet and some truly gorgeous footage make up this stunning natural history release.
Narrated as ever by David Attenborough and made from the BBC unit, you know this is a quality release from the start - but what you never fully expect is to be blown away time and time again by the footage.
Produced some five years ago, each 50 minute episode covers the majesty of the world we live in - from the poles to the mountains; from the rivers of the world to caves, every nook and cranny of the planet is explored here - and what a stunning journey.
Its value to the history of the world is unquestionable - and Planet Earth is well worth seeing on the biggest television screen you can find.

What's more vital about it though is its tool as a resource; perfect viewing for all the family, its educational value cannot be faulted - and with creatures and environments for all to marvel at, this is one Planet Earth to savour.

Rating: 8/10 

Friday, 4 March 2011

The Adjustment Bureau: Movie Review

The Adjustment Bureau: Movie Review

The Adjustment Bureau
Rating: 8/10
Cast: Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Terence Stamp
Director: George Nolfi
Matt Damon and Emily Blunt team up for this romance-drama with a twist of sci fi and mysticism.
Damon is David Norris, an American wannabe senator who falls for Emily Blunt's ballerina Elise after a chance meeting.
But when he tries to meet up with her again, he's taken captive by a group of shadowy men in suits and hats - they tell him he's never to see her again because it's not "part of the plan."
Despite his protestations, and against advice from this group (who resemble the Observers in Fringe in behaviour), Norris does whatever he can to find Elise - and the powers that be try their best to keep the two apart.
That's probably not the kind of synopsis which does this film justice to be honest - but it's quite a complex film to condense down.
Essentially, what it boils down to is - two people, who have a strong attraction, are kept apart by mysterious forces who may have a hidden agenda.
If I then add that it's from a short story by Philip K Dick, you may get some idea of the layers that are starting to build up.
But that shouldn't put you off.
It's a rare joy to find a film which is original and tries to do something different but The Adjustment Bureau is certainly that.
Blessed with two great leads, it's a conventional love story told in an unconventional - and novel way.
Damon uses his everyman appeal to great effect and Blunt is alluring right from the start - and director Nolfi (who wrote the screenplay) teases out the mystery elements and the motives of the shadowy cabal well.
There's a spiritual element too which bubbles under and adds another smart layer of sophistication again; free will, pre-destiny, true love, moral conundrums - they all play a big part in this film.
Sure there's a level of hokum and frustration toward the end, but the debate the film provokes just about makes up for that.
The Adjustment Bureau defies real description - it's witty, funny, clever and intelligent and not one genre (be it the love story or the scifi) is over indulged.

Worth seeing twice to appreciate, The Adjustment Bureau is one of the freshest films I've seen in a while.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Hall Pass: Movie Review

Hall Pass: Movie Review

Hall Pass
Rating: 4/10
Cast: Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis, Christina Applegate, Jenna Fischer, Richard Jenkins
Director: The Farrelly Brothers
So the guys behind There's Something About Mary bring us a new comedy where a couple of dudes get given a week off their marital obligations to do whatever they want.
Owen Wilson is Rick, who's been married to high school sweetheart Maggie (Fischer); Jason Sudeikis is Fred, married to Christina Applegate's Grace.
The pair love their wives but are constantly on the look out whenever anything female crosses their paths.
So, sick of their visual straying, the wives grant them a "hall pass", a magic ticket for a week off marriage and any obligations so these guys can get their urges out.
With seven days free, Rick and Fred head back to their single ways...
I'm afraid Hall Pass is one of those cases of the funniest bits being in the trailer - and the most shocking bits saved for the film itself.
Don't get me wrong; I'm no prude but this uneven and at times flat and unfunny film feels like it tries to shock simply because it's a Farrelly Brothers' joint. It does little to propel what plot there is along and simply serves to show the guys can still offend and gross out if they so desire.
Owen Wilson is likeable enough as the middle aged schlub who actually loves his wife and can't cut it when "back on the scene" - and when paired with Sudeikis, the duo are completely clueless when it comes to the dating game (a scene of them trying some pick up lines is painful for the wrong reasons). As a serial womanizer and icon to the guys, Richard Jenkins turns in another admirable character performance.
And there's a nice idea here - the philosophical idea of what would you do if you could and get away with it - but the moral conundrum is buried in such inanity and long periods of a laughter drought that it struggles to breathe.
Thank goodness for Stephen Merchant's (relative) cameo which enlivens the affair (make sure you stay after the end for the funniest bit) but doesn't make up for what goes before.

Hall Pass is probably one for the boys - a couple of humourous moments but overall, way too patchy for a great night out.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

The Last Exorcism: Movie Review

The Last Exorcism: Movie Review

The Last Exorcism
Rating: 7/10
Cast: Patrick Fabian, Ashley Bell, Louis Herthum, Caleb Jones
Director: Daniel Stamm
'Tis the season for horror again - what with Paranormal Activity 2 currently scaring them up on DVD, there's still the market for a good spooking.
In this "documentary" filmed in Louisiana, Reverend Cotton Marcus (Fabian) is a man tired of the church milking those who believe in exorcism. He knows the act is a scam and one day, randomly selects a letter from someone begging for help to use a way to end the charade.
With a doco crew in tow, he heads to the Sweetzer farm in deep dark rural Louisiana, bible belt territory to help a family who claim their daughter Ashley is possessed by a devil.
But when they get there, despite the Rev's time spent debunking the exorcism "myth" and the tricks of the trade, they soon discover there's more to this case than meets the eye....
The idea of a preacher who's lost his faith and has to face evil is not a new one - but The Last Exorcism is a spooky, freaky and frightening ride.
Part improvised, the story is brought to life by an engagingly likeable Fabian as the Rev who's determined to give the church back its credibility. We watch as he debunks the theory and shows the tricks of the trade (using wire to shake walls and pictures); it's thanks to his underacting that the whole thing feels so real - and when the frights come at the Sweetzer farm, you really do feel that the event is unfolding in horrific ways.
Ashley Bell also deserves credit for her performance as the innocent girl who finds herself in the middle of a ghastly situation. From her naïve ways initially to her eventual contortions during her possession, it's unsettling and spooky; a genuinely convincing turn from a relative newcomer.
The gathering crescendo and resulting storm that plays out on the deserted farm leads to a slightly grotesque ending - and unfortunately one that falls foul of its own narrative device. The documentary works well but the subsequent ending falls short.
Without revealing too much, the denouement is frustrating and will be as polarizing as the end to The Blair Witch Project all those years ago - while it's an inevitable end and one which is in keeping with the film's tone, there will be some who'll feel it's a little hysterical.

That said, overall The Last Exorcism is a welcome original entry into the horror genre; it reinvigorates the brand and will leave you glad when the lights go up at the end.