Monday, 1 September 2014

Sex Tape - review

Yesterday this was just a feature length Apple product placement advertisement disguised as a bawdy comedy.

Today Sex Tape is a cautionary tale and horror movie.

Following the news that a hacker stole and "leaked" naked pictures of celebrities including Jennifer Lawrence, this has become the most unintentionally socially relevant film release of all-time.

No one comes out this film smelling of roses, whether it be Cameron Diaz or Jason Segel and their awkwardly airbrushed youthful faces in the opening segment but especially Apple with many people watching it as an instructional video of how to understand the "f*cking mystery" that is "The Cloud" rather than entertainment.

While it misses its intended mark as a comedy, it does have some valid points to make about the current trend for sex tapes and "leaked" footage and the damage it can cause. At one point Diaz's character correctly states "they won't even be looking at you (referring to Segel) they'll all be looking at me" in that despite it taking two to tango, it is sadly the woman who will predominately be "slut-shamed" over her involvement and receive the brunt of the abuse.

However, and this just proves what a pedantic film geek I actually am, the most frustrating thing about the film was when you finally get to see the sex tape in question, that was filmed on ONE iPad, it features and cuts between several different angles that is impossible to do!

Diaz, Segel and everyone else involved will probably end up viewing this film like an actual sex tape. Seemed like a fun idea at the time but turned out to be a horrible mistake that should be erased from existence.

1 star

The Keeper Of Lost Causes - review

A perfectly reasonable Scandi-crime thriller with its fair share of thrills, twists and turns but feels identikit to the likes of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and The Killing

Based on the first of a series of books by Jussi Adler-Olsen about a homicide detective who is reassigned to Department Q, a dead-end job working through old cases with a new partner, it feels like the feature-length pilot episode of a new TV series rather than a cinematic effort.

Still, there is enough promise here to suggest more big screen outings for The Q Files.

3 stars

Friday, 29 August 2014

As Above, So Below - review

The basis for this 'found footage' film is a quest led by a posh English Archaelogist Indiana Jane?) to find Nicolas Flamel's mythical Philosopher's Stone within the catacombs beneath the streets of Paris.

I don't know where she has got her information from because everyone knows that the Philosopher's Stone can be found at Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Witchcraft.

The trailer sells it as a horror but the majority of the film is more akin to Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade meets The Descent as the first person footage is used to ramp up the sense of claustrophobia once the group become trapped and lost within the catacombs.

As they descend further into the tombs and towards "the gates of hell", the film descends into the camcorder horror cliches of "what's that? Whip camera round, nothing there. Whip camera around again, there's something there!" jump scares.

Beyond the main character of Scarlett there is not much back story or characterisation for the others, with some just there to function as recording devices due to their head cameras thus the emotional impact is negligible when the merde hits the fan.

The quest becomes a Last Crusade for many of them and there was real potential with this story but in terms of creative filmmaking decisions, the writer-directors "choose poorly" resulting in an As Above, So Below score of 2 stars.

2 stars

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Two Days, One Night - review

Sandra (Cotillard) is a wife and mother who returned to work following a bout of depression to find out she is facing unemployment unless she can convince the majority of her co-workers to vote to give up their bonuses so she can keep her job.

After appealing the decision which saw a vote against her of 14-2, Sandra has the eponymous Two Days, One Night to visit and speak to her fellow employees to convince them to change their minds.

It is never explained why she left work and the reasons for her depression but it has left her at odds with her co-workers and the resulting fight to win back her job plays out like a modern day version of 12 Angry Men.

What follows is a series of emotionally charged confrontations powered by a blisteringly raw performance by Marion Cotillard who is utterly convincing as a woman driven to the edge by the pressure of the awkward situation.

It is a thought-provoking film that forces the audience to imagine what they would do if they were placed on both sides of a predicament that could be called One Angry Marion.

4 stars

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Sin City: A Dame To Kill For - review

Wow. A lot can happen in nine years. Especially to a city. It can rise up to become a bustling metropolis or crumble and fall into a dilapidated wasteland.

Unfortunately for Sin City, it has become the latter.

When the original film came out in 2004, near the start of the of the current comic boo movie boom, it was one of the most faithful adaptations and Rodriguez captured its look perfectly so it made you feel like you were watching a comic book on screen.

Sin City: A Dame To Kill For might still have the look but some of the dialogue and performances are as flimsy as the dime store pulp novels that inspired these stories.

If you haven't seen the original film recently or read any of the graphic novels, A Dame To Kill For may prove to be every bit as confusing as trying to pick up Doctor Who having missed a couple of episodes.

Despite being a sequel, the majority of the stories take place before the events of the first film thus allowing Mickey Rourke's character Marv to return along with several others who have been recast for a variety of reasons.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Powers Boothe deliver two of the best performances, and are the most comfortable with the style and content of their story which is the only decent new addition to the canon.

Nine years on, and having done very little inbetween, Jessica Alba remains the weak link and is unconvincing as the stripper turned vengeance seeker. If she needed tips on how to play a convincing femme fatale, she only had to watch the sultry, salacious Eva Green who for the second time this year, walks away being the best thing about a sub-standard Frank Miller comic book movie.

"Walk down the right back alley in Sin City and you can find anything". Unfortunately it looks like they took a wrong turn as the result is a film that may look like a carbon copy but lacks the hard-boiled grit and impact of the original.

2 stars

Let's Be Cops - review

Since it stars Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr Let's Be Cops in a way feels like a prequel to New Girl, examining what Nick and Coach got up to before Jess came along.

It is an action comedy, similar to this year's Ride Along, where men approaching their thirties who are stuck in a rut try to gain a sense of confidence and responsibility be doing one of the most irresponsible things you could do... impersonating a police officer.

Inevitably, while showing off and abusing their new found powers, they attract the attention of some local bad guys and suddenly it is not just jail they are facing for their pretence.

Johnson and Wayans Jr do have a good rapport, as one would expect having worked together for years on a TV show, but the material is weak and tired with not enough gags to make it a good buddy comedy.

There is also a lack of threat due to the East European main villain being played by Brit James D'Arcy, leaving an unexpected cameo to deliver the appropriate but all-too-brief menace.

Better call 911 because this film needs to be read its rights.

1 star

Deliver Us From Evil - review

Despite being based on a real life case of NYPD officer Ralph Sarchie involving demonic possession, there is nothing in this film the church would classify as "original" sin.

Sarchie (played by Eric Bana) has a gift for spotting trouble, his partner calls it his "radar", but it gets them in over their heads when a series of troubling cases become linked by a series of occult messages and a squad of soldiers who encountered something evil when on tour in Iraq.

He joins forces with an unorthodox priest (Edgar Ramirez) who make for an interesting team as they are both fighting demons (internally and externally).

It plays out like The Exorcist meets Se7en with creepy things happening as police officers and priests investigate dark places during heavy downpours.

It might not be original but Sinister director Scott Derrickson continues to prove he can make audiences jump by executing a well-timed scare in a darkened corridor or basement.

Small notes:

The Doors feature heavily in the movie including "People Are Strange". A premonition of what was to come in the form of Dr. Stephen Strange?

It's pretty much a given that Sean Harris will never appear in a movie as the warm, cuddly romantic lead will he?

It might Deliver Us From Evil but the film could have tried harder to deliver a fresher and scarier frightfest.

2 stars