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A Mr. Diaz

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The Young and Prodigious T S Spivet [DVD]
The Young and Prodigious T S Spivet [DVD]
Dvd ~ Helena Bonham Carter
Price: £5.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A sweet little fable from one of France's most unique filmmakers., 19 Nov. 2014
This is the new film from the French Terry Gilliam, Jean-Pierre Jeunet. You may best know him as the director of Amelie, City of the Lost Children and Micmacs. This time, we have a sweeter and simpler affair: a young prodigy in Montana, the titular Spivet, has invented a 'perpetual motion machine' thereby solving an enigma that has baffled scientist. The discovery is so hot that it even attracts the attention of the Smithsonian institute, who wish to present the boy with an award, unaware of his real age. So, leaving home and his oddball family behind, T.S embarks on a journey across America to receive his prize.

The Short answer: It's really, really good! The Long? Well, where to start? Well given Jeunet pedigree, the visuals are up first, in all their vibrant, almost Technicolor-esque splendour. What's more, this is quite possibly the best use of 3D I have ever seen in a film. The depth of field is phenomenal, and really adds to the storybook feeling of the whole movie. It's sort of like a giant pop up book, which is fitting as that's how we transition between the different parts of the story. Whether it be out on the Montana ranch, looking out of a train or even in the Smithsonian itself, there is always something coming to the fore or floating out, and it's great fun.

Of course, there are other areas. The cast is top notch, with a pretty solid youngster as our lead. He captures the quirks and brainpower of our inventive young lead, alternately able to sell inspiration, determination and even fear a few times, reminding us T.S, for all his brilliance, is still a child. In supporting roles we have the likes of Helena Bonham Carter as his bug-studying mother, Callum Keith Rennie as his cowboy pop, and even Jeunet regular Dominique Pinon as a lively hobo T.S meets on his travels. This is just a shortlist of the people here, but every one does well and their own vibrance and sort of exuberance contrasts nicely with T.S's very straight forward, matter of fact behaviour and logic.

However, all this is but dressing without a decent script here, and well, we have a fine one. It's undeniably Euro-quirk, despite being a Canadian co-production, with a lot of visual gags and little sprinkles of off-quilter and slightly dark scenarios that are played with a slightly humourous bend (not many movies can make people shooting themselves, a cowboy with a lick fetish and even mourning trauma somewhat amusing, last I checked). However, amidst the silliness, there is a good deal of heart. For all his ingenuity, the film very much still presents T.S as a kid; he makes mistakes, he gets scared he misses his family as he goes on his adventure. The film wisely doesn't make him invulnerably just because he's our lead. What's mroe, there is a strong element here about dealing with death and letting go concerning a tragedy in the Spivet family, and while at first is somewhat there for amusement, the film does take it more seriously as it progresses, and once again, shows how people would react under that circumstance: some bottle it in, some cry and some regret and take blame. For a film with such a bright colour palette, it can get very dark and touchy a handful of times, and it's all the better for it.

Naturally, how much oddball quirk you can take will affect your enjoyment, and there are a few times where the pacing does slow down a little more than needed. Regardless, if you're burnt out by X Men and Edge of Tomorrow, and need something smaller and more out there, give this a shot. It may even leave you a little teary eyed at points, but regardless, if you can get to it, check this film out. It's inventive, touching and refreshingly with a few surprises. Can't ask for more than that.

The Road to Welville [DVD] [1994] [1995]
The Road to Welville [DVD] [1994] [1995]
Dvd ~ Anthony Hopkins

4.0 out of 5 stars THE BOWELS! The Bowels are born again!, 14 Nov. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Based on the quasi historical novel by T.C. Boyle, Alan Parker's adaptation tells of the hijinks up at the Battle Creek sanatorium at the end of the 19th century. It is a centre of health mania, headed up by the one and only Dr. Kellogg (Hopkins), who believes carnal impulses are dangerous, and clean bowels are the end all, be all of personal health and hygiene. A young couple enters (Broderick and Fonda) to seek healing of their own, while a young entrepreneur (Cusack) and a disgraced son of Kellogg (Carvey) attempt to launch their own breakfast cereal brand.

A quirky & curious affair from the usually straight-laced veteran Parker, 'Wellville' boasts several enjoyable qualities. First off, we have a scene chewing Hopkins as Dr Kellogg, false teeth, cartoon accent and all, and he is a real treat to watch. The rest of the all-star cast all do satisfactory work, though none ever outshine Hopkins, with Broderick being mainly the suffering butt (pun very much intended) of the film's more anatomically-minded humour. Indeed, the playful contrast of period class and lowbrow gags does allow for a good few chuckles, and unlike your typical Sandler production, the sanatorium provides a decent context for the humour and is not gratuitous. This is all perfectly underscored by a zany soundtrack from romance veteran Rachel Portman, at points reminding me of Elfman's earlier works.

However, the film's endgoal is not quite clear, and does sometimes undercut the fun; is it a health craze satire, a personal story of real human nature and how it shouldn't be suppressed, or just a wacky romp? It's all of that, and yet, no one element ever feels like the forefront of the film, with Parker more interested in seeing Broderick get pumped full of enemas and yoghurt than using it to make much of a point. Plus, the pacing does wind down by the end, and it feels like the film could wrap up sooner than it does.
That being said, I rather enjoyed myself all the same. it's still perfectly watchable with enough strengths of its own to make for a unique title in Parker's distinguished catalogue.

Being Human [DVD] [1994] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Being Human [DVD] [1994] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Price: £10.81

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Being Butchered By Studios, 8 Nov. 2014
From Scottish icon Bill Forsyth comes a sprawling story that spans the ages as we look at vignettes in the lives of several men (all played by Robin Williams) across history, and how each one sort of bleeds into the next. We cover the Bronze Age, Rome, Medieval, 17th Century and Modern Day as our eternal Robin deals with a new type of dilemma.

Notoriously compromised by studio interference, Forsyth's metaphysical tale of reincarnation and human nature has an interesting premise, and a quality cast to back it up. Williams gives several surprisingly restrained roles as the various men, never once going over the top or wacky as you may think, Joining him are the likes of John Tuturro, Robert Carlyle, Vincent D'Onofrio and Hector Elizondo, who all do well, but not exactly standouts. But solid regardless, and help give the film a little more life and energy than it presently possesses.

However, the pros of 'Being Human' end there. Many of the film's issues can be traced back to Warners meddling in post, cutting the film;s runtime in half, and adding narration. As a result, the whole affair lacks focus, meandering at times and never fully exploring any of its ideas. This is not helped at all by the overbearing, spoon-feeding narration that borders on pretentious at times, rambling on about 'stories within stories' in a monotonous drawl. In fact, for a studio film with a veteran director, 'Being Human' is directed rather flatly, at times feeling more like a TV Movie with a lot of flat day scenes and underdressed sets, and often stuck in a lot of wide shots and mid shots, as if the film, ironically for being about human nature, doesn't want to get close to the people in the stories.

And even after that, the vignettes are still problematic; mainly the weak first 'story', where the 'Bronze Age' ends up looking more like the caveman/early hunter era, with rather poor costuming and location choices. And visuals aside for a moment, it just isn't terribly compelling, amounting to little more than his family gets taken, and he cries. That's it, at least in this version. Ummm.... touching?

Perhaps someday, Criterion or Masters of Cinema will get their hands on this, cut a deal with Warners, and release the original cut of the film. Until then, if you want a sprawling epic about human nature and our capacities, stick with Cloud Atlas.

Dream House (+ UV Digital Copy) [DVD] [2011]
Dream House (+ UV Digital Copy) [DVD] [2011]
Dvd ~ Daniel Craig
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £4.72

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Anything but a real dream of a film...., 6 Nov. 2014
A successful publisher (Craig) with his wife (Weisz) and daughters, moves into what seems to be their suburban 'dream house'. However, creepy things come a-knockin' before long, and as he investigates the house's dark past, our lead soon finds this dream could well turn into a nightmare...

A patch work, 'Dream House' by turns wishes to be a deconstruction of psychological thrillers, a supernatural ghost story, and then just another routine by the numbers piece. The script is trying to be a jack of all trades, with a constantly shifting tone, and no grip of what its goal or central themes should be as it keeps throwing gimmicks to the audience to give the film some kind of steam. Even the halfway twist concerning Craig's character, as kind of neat as it was, felt like it belonged at the end and you have this very shaky pacing and build up throughout the film as it veers from trying to tell a story to just being creepy and enigmatic, meaning tension is constantly being undercut as you just want it to get some kind of grip instead of jumping around.

This is a pity, as director Jim Sheridan is a talented veteran and certainly, there are some good aspects; the cast turn in decent roles, with Weisz getting the most emotional material while Watts is ably mysterious and reserved as the neighbour. It's well shot and manages to convey a definite sense of foreboding and atmosphere despite the messy screenplay, and the most underrated John Debney provides a suitable haunting and ethereal score to underscore the film and add just a tad more power to what little is here. However, none of this is enough to save 'Dream House' from being a missed opportunity.

[3 Pack] Nintendo 3DS XL Top & Bottom CLEAR Screen Protectors with Cleaning Cloth - ALSO for New 3DS XL released November 2014
[3 Pack] Nintendo 3DS XL Top & Bottom CLEAR Screen Protectors with Cleaning Cloth - ALSO for New 3DS XL released November 2014
Offered by TECHGEAR Solutions
Price: £2.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad, 4 Nov. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Affordably priced, but does still catch air, no matter how careful you are, so hope you don't mind a few odd splotch marks here and there. Use them mainly for the lower screen.

Tarzan and the Lost City [DVD]
Tarzan and the Lost City [DVD]
Dvd ~ Casper Van Dien
Offered by Den's DVDs
Price: £24.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Typical lower budget jungle fare. Nothing more, nothing less., 4 Nov. 2014
Yes, there's another 90s Tarzan film. This time, set after Tarzan and Jane's fling in the jungle, the two are due to get married. However, an evil professor, Ravens, is intent on uncovering the lost city of Opar and obtaining its mythic power for himself. Sensing something foul, Greystoke makes his return to Africa to thwart his scheme and save the cradle of civilization.

Despite bland writing and a video game-esque narrative, somehow, this other 90s Tarzan picture still gets by, but only for serious cheese-venture types. First though, the genuine positives: The film boasts lush African production values (the first Tarzan film to be filmed on location, actually), from sunny savannahs to thick jungles to even a sizeable temple for a small budget (for a studio picture). Also a bonus is the thrilling and lively score by Christopher Framke, of Battlestar Galactica fame. Naturally, it incorporates a strong African flavour with plenty of woodwind and percussion, and at points harkened back to Hans Zimmer's work on The Power of One and Lion King.

Furthermore, given the rather basic nature of the material, the cast do a satisfactory job; Van Dien is charismatic as the Lord of The Apes, Jane March is spirited, though not always bright, as Jane, and Steve Waddington chews up scenery as the nefarious bad guy at the speed of sound. However, those two terms 'basic' and satisfactory' sum up the rest of the film; it's every tired adventure trope thrown into one film, and with about half as much money. Everything from magical end of the world powers to visions to booby traps rooms to even domestic spats between Tarzan and Jane (though these are less annoying than the ones in 'Legend of Zorro', so there's that). Characterization, plotting and dialogue pretty much follow suit and were it not for the short runtime, 'Lost City' would honestly be a bore, given how base and typical it is. And lastly, what low budget feature would be complete without some tacky, shoehorned CGI?

It's tough to really recommend 'Lost City' unless you're a die-hard of the Ape Lord or just are an adventure-junkie. However, if that's your thing, 'Lost City' makes for breezy, quick entertainment that will probably fade away as fast. Everyone else, stick with 'Greystoke' or Disney.

Temple Grandin
Temple Grandin
Dvd ~ Claire Danes
Offered by Tom-Media
Price: £17.29

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unique, heartfelt and rather amusing! A real biopic gem., 2 Nov. 2014
This review is from: Temple Grandin (DVD)
From the director of The Bodyguard comes an HBO biopic about the famous autist and meat industry pioneer of the same name. Born in a time where autism was grossly misunderstood and treatments shoddy, Grandin overcomes much adversity, both social and medical, to not only make it through the education system and graduate, but also help implement much more humane methods of slaughter for cattle in the US that draw on her means of comfort and self control.

Simply put, 'Grandin' may be among the best biopics I have ever seen, and certainly one of HBO's finest in a long line of TV movies. Right off the bat, Danes give a career best performance, completely vanishing into the title role, not only through some subtle prosthetics but also carefully adopting the mannerisms of real people with the disorder. Speaking as someone who has a history tied to the disorder and its effects, she was absolutely spot on. Yet, in spite of the character's very matter of fact ways, she still imbues Temple with both a strong drive and passion for her work, as well as a strange optimism. Supporting her are the rock solid likes of Julia Ormond as her hard working though understandably stressed mother, Catherine O'Hara as her sweet, and ultimately influential, aunt, and David Straitham as her high school science teacher, who recognises and helps Temple develop her talents.

Beyond them though, Mick Jackson imbues the film with plenty of stylish flourish, mainly in the surreal representation of Temple's super-literal thoughts, which lead to some of the film's biggest yet also sincerest laughs (like when someone talks to Temple about 'animal husbandry', and her mind pictures it literally). Plus, the mainly South Western setting also gives the film an often goldish, very warm hue, which plays off nicely against the sometimes somber, even harsh, nature of the material, complimented by excellent sound work that greatly emphasise how Temple struggles to cope with even mundane everyday tasks like walking through automatic doors, which feel more like a guillotine to her..

Honestly, there isn't really much negative that I think of, especially given how tight this script is and how it can balance drama and sometimes oddball humour. There maybe one or two points that kinda slowed, but that was never an issue for me really as the film would always pick right back immediately, and for some, the 'literal thoughts' may come off a little too silly, but again, it's actually fairly accurate to how such a mind works so you can't accuse it of being off base. Frankly, I can't recommend this one enough, especially if you've ever had any kind of history or know people who suffer from autism/mental impairments, you'll instantly click with this movie.

Agora [DVD] [2009]
Agora [DVD] [2009]
Dvd ~ Rachel Weisz
Price: £5.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Noble Effort, but not a Success, 23 Oct. 2014
This review is from: Agora [DVD] [2009] (DVD)
Recounting the events that led to the destruction of the Great Library of Alexandria, this epic Spanish drama tells of the Christian-Pagan tensions in 4th century Roman Egypt, specifically focusing in on the slave of female philosopher & scholar Hypatia (Rachel Weisz), and how he witnesses her struggles to preserve the ancient knowledge against the rising Christian extremism.

Ambitious but ultimately out of steam well before the end, 'Agora' is rather lavish, but its hefty script doesn't quite pack the punch it ought to. It makes the classic mistake of a lot of historical/biographical films; it tries to cover so much ground and squeeze in as many historical events and personages as possible, and so whose story this is, and what even the main themes are, becomes really muddled. You have Hypatia's own experiments concerning astronomy, her own battles for preservation, the social tensions in Egypt, the religious tensions, Hypatia's slave and his quest for knowledge, the battle over the Library, the declining power of Rome, the rise of Christianity, it's just too much to cover in a little over two hours. Cutting out a lot of the side characters, most of whom are one note extremist archetypes, and center the story more around Hypatia and her slave's quest, and the film would've been the better for it.

A pity it's so scattershot and rambly, as there are quite a few good things, and it is a very superb production for European cinema. The sets and locations that recreate Roman Egypt look amazing and you really see and feel their size and just how populated they are, as well as the historical crossroads Alexandria is at. The cast is well rounded, with Weisz in top form as both a charismatic yet passionate and fiery Hypatia, joined by the likes of Oscar Issac, Max Minghella, Sami Samir, Michael Lonsdale and Rupert Evans, who all do fine jobs, even if their material is again, more limited. We even have a score from Italy's new cinematic go-to Dario Marrinelli, which takes a strongly religious/choral cue and is often sombre, reflecting the state of affairs in the story. Think of the more downbeat, intimate tracks of say 'Gladiator', as an entire film score.

But it's a bloated script that lets all of this down. I cannot deny I respect director/co-writer Alejandro Amenabar for really pushing larger scale Euro film making, but he just forget to really have a powerful tale to bring it all together. Well mounted, but never truly enthralling.

Smile [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Smile [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]

5.0 out of 5 stars Eureka, Arrow or Second Sight, release this movie in Region 2 now!, 22 Oct. 2014
A perfect sister piece to the much more beloved 'Nashville' from Robert Altman, Michael Ritchie's (Bad News Bears, The Golden Child, The Candidate) satire of small town America is a giant barrel of fun. Basic gist, it's the time for the Santa Rosa state beauty pageant, and we follow a week in the town and all the malarkey surrounding and within the prep and then actual competition. The film skewers the sometimes strange values of these people as well as the naivete of the girls, which is exploited for some amusing gags about how narrow minded and oblivious some of them are, and how NOT American Miss some of them are, smoking and swearing after shows, and even tampering each others acts.

All of this lampooning is assisted by a capable cast headed by a wonderfully straight Bruce Dern as a local car salesman and panel judge who embodies the attempted squeaky clean face of the town and pageant, though his son is a peeping tom and his best friend is in a dead marriage. Also, among some of the girls is a young Melanie Griffith for a shot of trivia. Mix in dashes of sharp, occasionally raunchy wit that ensure regular chuckles throughout the film, whether it be little touches like the janitor storing vodka around the pageant hall in odd location, or even bigger gags like a surreal local ceremony involving kissing a chicken, as well and catchy songs sprinkled throughout as underscore, especially the jazzy title tune that is both ironic yet also quite chipper and relaxing in its own right.

In the end, 'Smile' is a forgotten little 70s gem, and I strongly recommend if you like classic satires, as opposed to just 'spoofs', you'll get a real kick and well, a smile out of 'Smile'.

Iceman [1984] [DVD]
Iceman [1984] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Timothy Hutton
Offered by Love-Your-Books
Price: £24.89

4.0 out of 5 stars Charlie!, 21 Oct. 2014
This review is from: Iceman [1984] [DVD] (DVD)
A group of scientists stumble upon a fully frozen Neanderthal, whose cells seem to have miraculous not been ravaged by the subzero temperatures and long term prison. It is these cells the scientists wish to harvest and study as a means of advancing cryogenics. Little do they know that their attempts revitalize the Neanderthal and in turn lead to an even bigger scientific, and personal, feat.

While it doesn't drastically stray from the 'fish out of water/unlikely friends' tropes, the usually comic Fred Schepsi actually pulls in a fairly decent sci-fi drama. Sure, some of the science here is a fairly sizeable stretch, but John Lone's outstanding and sympathetic performance as Charlie the Neanderthal easily carries to film. His simian movements, expressionistic grunting and the incredible make up utterly sell him in the role, and he completely vanishes into it. The rest of the cast include the likes of Timothy Bottoms, Lindsay Crouse, David Strathairn and Danny Glover as the various scientists, though Bottoms plays the main one who bonds with Charlie, and he does fine, being the typical 'nerd with a good heart' but Lone eclipses him.

The film also does a good job capturing the frigid and lonely landscapes of the Arctic region, with plenty of snow covered vistas, wide chasms and pastel blue skies, very much contrasting an ancient natural world with the tech of the science base. The score by Bruce Smeaton also captures a similar vibe, going for a very ethnic/tribal sound with plenty of woodwind, and comes off as both touching yet also complementary, and never too obnoxious or grand to upstage the story or the actual emotions. In fact, it actually reminded me a lot of Jerry Goldsmith's work.

Honestly, this is a pretty cut and dry affair; if you're looking for a moving little drama of clashing worlds with an incredible title performance, 'Iceman' is an easy recommend. However, suspension of disbelief may have to be pushed further to swallow its somewhat goofy premise and science.

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