31 March 2015

Wild Tales, 2014 - ★★★★½

Each of the six tales is deliciously dark and hugely enjoyable. I was slightly worried that I still had a smile fixed across my face through some of the dark moments but the daring to do anything approach means everything comes as a surprise and delight.

March 31, 2015 at 08:08PM

30 March 2015

Seeking Justice, 2011 - ★★½

The worst kind of Nicolas Cage film are the ones where he's playing a everyman. Apart from Cage the rest of the cast come from the world of TV (although Mike from Neighbours has apparently made some other films) which also lowered expectations (although I shouldn't be so dismissive of TV actors). There is a good idea somewhere in Justice but it's let down by writers who appears to have never watched another thriller and many many stupid decisions made by characters.

Despite the problems it's actually quite engaging and never boring. Cage may never go over the top but we do get some wonderfully bad highlights. There's the difficult vending machine moment as Cage makes life changing decisions about buying one candy bar or two. As Cage desperately tries to escape a police station there's the moment of longing and inspiration as he notices the exit sign. My favourite part is after breaking into a newspaper office he's noticed by another journalist who asks a difficult grammar question, surely the game is up but wait you forgot Cage is an English teacher and can answer the question and get away with it again.

March 30, 2015 at 12:28PM

29 March 2015

Cosmopolis, 2012 - ★★

About a third of the way into the film Samantha Morton's character starts a speech about the "art of money making":

All wealth has become wealth for its own sake.

There's no other kind of enormous wealth.

Money has lost its narrative quality,

the way painting did once upon a time.

Money is talking to itself.

I want this car, which I love.

The glow of the screens.

I love the screens.

The glow of cyber-capital.

So radiant and seductive.

I understand none of this.

Does it ever stop? Does it slow down?

Of course not.

Why should it?

It's fantastic.

This speech stood out because it felt like it was describing the film but with the emphasis on the radiant, seductive and incomprehensible rather than the fantastic. Everything about Cosmopolis sounds and looks great but it's incredibly dull and makes no sense. That speech is 35 minutes into the film but it feels like much more time has passed. Towards the end it does feel like things have become a lot more interesting but I suspect most people will have long given up any interest by that point.

March 29, 2015 at 11:39AM

24 March 2015

Byzantium, 2012 - ★★★

There are lots of original vampire ideas in Byzantium which is a pleasant surprise but unfortunately for every good moment there are several bland and uninspiring ones. The end result is a mixed bag which feels like a wasted opportunity.

March 24, 2015 at 07:08PM

Guardians of the Galaxy, 2014 - ★★★½

Away from the (surprising) hype I was hoping that I might see what all the fuss was about on a second viewing. Disappointingly my opinion hasn't really changed. The Guardian are a great group of characters who interact wonderfully delivering great dialogue (although most of this was lost in the terrible NowTV sound mix) but the story is a mess full of confusing villains and macguffin orbs.

I still have high hopes for the sequel.

March 24, 2015 at 07:02PM

19 March 2015

Maleficent, 2014 - ★★½

Lots of interesting ideas are thrown together but they never really stick in a satisfying way. There are too many different artistic styles which don't work together and perfectly highlight that just because you can create something with computer graphics, it doesn't mean you should.

It did make me want to watch Sleeping Beauty again though.

March 19, 2015 at 10:16PM

Monsters University, 2013 - ★★★½

It's good to see Mike and Sully again and their friendship is developed in an unexpected way. The rest of the film is let down by an over familiar story which lacks anything original or interesting until the final acts.

March 19, 2015 at 10:13PM

17 March 2015

Still Alice, 2014 - ★★★★

I wasn't sure if I was going to like Still Alice, it had that smell of being a great award-winning performance in a fairly average film. Thankfully this is much more than just a great performance. If anything, because Moore is one of those actresses I take for granted and just expect to be great, I didn't particularly notice her subtle performance until the earlier an earlier video message is played back. The thing I liked the most about the film is not how it handled Alice's illness but how the family handled Alice. In particular it's the relationship with the youngest daughter played by Kristen Stewart that really stands out and provides the real heart of the film.

March 17, 2015 at 06:30PM

15 March 2015

This Means War, 2012 - ★★½

Could've been better, could've been a lot worse, I wasn't bored and even laughed once or twice.

March 15, 2015 at 06:03PM

Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter, 2014 - ★★★

I need to come up with a term for when you like a film so much you overlook the many flaws and just go along with things. Sadly for me this didn't apply to Kumiko, so I also need a term for the opposite effect where all the small niggling moments eat away and prevent you from fully enjoying the film. Having said that the final act from the taxi journey onwards is just sublime.

March 15, 2015 at 05:59PM

Fargo, 1996 - ★★★★

I'd forgotten just how effortlessly brilliant Fargo feels.

March 15, 2015 at 05:57PM

Frank, 2014 - ★★★★

The introduction from Jon Ronson and an appreciative audience definitely helped me enjoy Frank a lot more than my first viewing. There are still problems with pacing (the Ireland scenes go on too long and the American parts feel rushed) but this time the great moments felt like they were held together tighter than on my first viewing.

March 15, 2015 at 05:55PM

Appropriate Behavior, 2014 - ★★★½

Entertaining and occasionally very funny but it does feel like we've already seen this many times before. So many film have what looks likes a great final scene and then ruin it by having another couple of scenes before the credit rolls; no such problem here, the ending is practically perfect.

March 15, 2015 at 05:47PM

13 March 2015

The Amazing Spider-Man 2, 2014 - ★★

As I sat down to watch The Amazing Spider-Man 2 I wondered why on Earth it was 2 hours and 15 minutes long (5 minutes shorter on NowTV than the official running time). It turns out the films is so long because about half of it is completely unnecessary slow motion. Much worse is that it's hard to remember anything that happens over those two hours. even whilst you are watching. The opening scene is perhaps the only memorable thing and that has next to no connection to the rest of the film. It's a huge shame because Garfield's Spider-Man is the closest to matching my childhood memories of the web slinger but this is just a mess of a film.

Let's hope this and the recent Spider-Man news means Mark Webb is now free to make a worthy follow up to (500) Days Of Summer.

March 13, 2015 at 10:44PM

10 March 2015

What Richard Did, 2012 - ★★★★

Great performances and story make this a compelling watch.

March 10, 2015 at 05:49PM

09 March 2015

The Ipcress File, 1965 - ★★

As is often the case with films like this, I think a lot of how much you enjoy it depends on when you first saw it. This was my first viewing and I couldn't get into it at all. I thought it started off strong but I quickly lost interest, perhaps I was too tired/ill to appreciate it because there didn't seem to be anything particularly "wrong" with the film.

March 09, 2015 at 10:59PM

Enough Said, 2013 - ★★★★½

One of the best romantic comedies of modern times. It's probably also Gandolfini's greatest performances and so sad that it was one of his last.

March 09, 2015 at 10:55PM

Philomena, 2013 - ★★★★

Even after the awards and good reviews I still wasn't expecting this to be as good as it was. I found it surprising just how warm and heartfelt the script actually was. The film may not do anything special but it has enough surprises and bittersweet moments to keep you fully engaged throughout.

March 09, 2015 at 10:51PM

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, 2013 - ★★★★½

Quite simply one of the most beautiful films ever made. The animation is SO timeless and refreshing especially when compared to all the CG animation usually on offer. It's a shame the story drags a little in the middle but even when it does there's still something to look at in awe.

March 09, 2015 at 10:37PM

Transcendence, 2014 - ★★★

Starts off as a smart science fiction but quickly descends into something more akin to the weaker Terminator sequels. A big disappointment but not as bad as everybody claims.

March 09, 2015 at 10:24PM

08 March 2015

Toy Story That Time Forgot, 2014 - ★★½

I wasn't overly impressed with Toy Story of Terror and unfortunately this is not an improvement. In this film things just don't make sense; the dinosaurs don't feel, look or move like toys and instead they feel like CG characters dropped in from another world. It seems unfair to pick holes with the believability but this is a Pixar film (and more importantly a Toy Story film) so I expect a lot more.

March 08, 2015 at 08:36PM

Toy Story of Terror!, 2013 - ★★★

It never feels like a cheap cash in but it's certainly lacking the heart and quality of the feature length films. The Halloween/Terror theme is abandoned half way through for a weaker retread of Toy Story 2. There are also some unfortunate problems with the animation such as not being able to tell if the lizard is real or a toy because there is no distinction in style.

March 08, 2015 at 08:28PM

Quartet, 2012 - ★★½

Perhaps the worst thing you can say about a film is that is is "fine". There's nothing remarkable here and just a few days later I'm struggling to remember anything of real interest.

March 08, 2015 at 08:08PM

05 March 2015

X+Y, 2015 - ★★★★

I liked this more than ice cream.

March 05, 2015 at 11:40AM

04 March 2015

Tarzan The Ape Man, 1932 - ★★★★

This was an edited version of the film with a live performance from the Lancaster Millennium Choir and it was quite wonderful.

March 04, 2015 at 06:12PM

Class Enemy, 2015 - ★★★★

A wonderful film that explores the relationships between groups and individuals in the wake of tragedy.

March 04, 2015 at 06:09PM

Bicycle - ★★★½

A solidly made and heartfelt documentary which managed to entertain despite little personal interest in the subject.

March 04, 2015 at 06:02PM

White Shadow, 2013 - ★★

This is the perfect definition of a "festival film": it looks great, appears to have an important message, will pick up lots of awards at festivals and be praised by critics but to most people will be incredibly dull. After failing to engage me in any meaningful way at the start I struggled to follow what was going on. It often seemed like we were jumping between several different films. By the time the powerful ending arrived I'd lost all interest in trying to understand what was going on.

March 04, 2015 at 06:01PM

The King Is Alive, 2000 - ★★★½

I'd never heard of this Dogme film and so was pleased to get chance to see it as part of Keswick Film Festival's 20 year celebration of the movement. Less controversial than other films, there's a dream like quality to everything that happens that sticks with you long after the film has ended. It may have been my less than ideal seating arrangements with a large bobbing head frequently obscuring my view but towards the end I found the film had run out of things to say and started to drag. However things pick up again before the film comes to a close.

March 04, 2015 at 05:57PM

The Babadook, 2014 - ★★★★

For the first hour it's easy to see why many claimed The Babadook was one of the best films of 2014. It's stylish and scary, psychological rather than horrific, taking so many genre tropes and presenting them perfectly. Then in the final 20 minutes it all gets a bit silly, showing things that were previously left to the imagination and undoing so much of the tension and possibilities that had been built up throughout the rest of the film.

March 04, 2015 at 05:51PM

The Vancouver Asahi, 2014 - ★★★

A lavish period Hollwood film that just happens to be in Japanese. It doesn't do anything special but is entertaining throughout.

March 04, 2015 at 05:45PM

Into the Woods, 2014 - ★★★

When we reach the happily ever after it's only an hour into the film and despite being wonderfully enjoyable so far it does already feel like things have been stretched a bit thin. The second half offers very little apart from one song which may be the best (Your Fault - and even that is recapping the first half). The darker tones would be welcome if anything interesting happened but it doesn't. The stage version may have been first but now we've seen Once Upon A Time, The Wolf Among Us and Grimm revisiting fairly tales doesn't feel fresh. The second half also suffers many other problems such as characters disappearing and lots of the action happening off screen. There's only one moment (the wolf's belly, in the first half) which feels like it's been expanded from the stage version and that doesn't work. The rest of the film feels like a wasted opportunity to utilise stunt casting and special effects, after this screening I watched a short film Big & Small made by children which managed to create an on screen giant much more effectively than Into The Woods.

Still I'm fairly sure I'll watch Emily Blunt and Anna Kendrick in anything and would happily sit through the 1st half again.

March 04, 2015 at 05:42PM

03 March 2015

The Tribe, 2014 - ★★★

As expected this was one of the highlights of #KFF16 if not entirely for the best reasons. Several people walked out, the pile of 1-star response slips was high, the audience score averaged out at 40%. I couldn't understand the 1-star ratings for something so ambitious and unique. I could understand how some of what is portrayed is too much to sit through or how the repetitive nature becomes dull long before the film ends. I say this about nearly every film and I know it's lazy criticism but this really would benefit so much from losing half an hour. Fewer uncomfortable/unnecessary sex scenes, one less trip to the truckstop, cutting some of those shots a bit earlier. A tighter film would be easier to appreciate and allow more thought about not understanding the dialogue and what part that plays in storytelling. As it stands you're more likely to just get frustrated and bored than engaged.

Interestingly I talked to more than one person later in the festival who thought they had been too harsh only giving the film one star.

March 03, 2015 at 10:42PM

Shongram, 2015

In his introduction, director Munsur Ali informed us that this was not the final version of the film so it doesn't feel right to review or give a rating.

March 03, 2015 at 10:22PM

Radiator, 2014 - ★★★★

Much of the delight of Radiator comes from the intimacy of a very personal story which you instantly feel part of. I'm glad that in his introduction, writer/director Tom Browne reminded us that it was a comedy and we were allowed to laugh. There are lots of funny moments but they are often dark and may not usually generate the type of laughter we experienced at Keswick. Amongst the laughter there are lots of heartfelt and moving moments so it's a shame that the film drags in the final third before reaching a satisfying conclusion.

March 03, 2015 at 10:18PM

Difret, 2014 - ★★★★½

When the poster quote stated that Difret was "A movie that could lead to change. Everyone should watch it" I took it with a pinch of salt especially as the quote was from Angelina Jolie who is one of the producers. However I don't think I've seen another film where I thought so strongly that everybody should see it. I had no idea about the subjects that are covered and solely as an educational piece the film is so informative. The story is also incredibly compelling and it's inspirational watching the lawyers in action throughout the developments. It's a shame that the towards the end of the film there's a jump "6 months later" to a court case which is portrayed in the most conventional way imaginable and really sucks the life out of the film. Up until those final scenes I was incredibly impressed but then I left feeling let down. Having had some time to think about it, the weak ending doesn't really detract from the powerful message of the rest of the film but it's still a shame it doesn't go out on a high.

March 03, 2015 at 06:10PM