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Benminx "benminx" (Plymouth)

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Dark Skies [Blu-ray]
Dark Skies [Blu-ray]
Dvd ~ Keri Russell
Offered by A2Z Entertains
Price: £6.38

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting sci-fi with hints of horror, 18 Sept. 2013
This review is from: Dark Skies [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
Very much surfing the wave of Paranormal Activity, this tells essentially a similar tale from an alien angle, even down to the use of an ageing male 'expert' who fills in the plot exposition by explaining what they're up against.
However, this is a glossily shot bigger-budget movie that goes into the characters and their relationships a little more. Much of what occurs is typical hysterical horror movie excess, from the money troubles to the weird behaviour, but the cast are game and play it straight-faced and earnest, and the horror moments occasionally have good shock value. The ending has moments that make you wants to slap the main characters for their lack of good sense, and feels occasionally a bit depressing, but it's inventive, has thrills and some nice character arcs, and the aliens get a few creepy moments.
It's not very original, but it is fun and worth seeing.

Arbitrage [Blu-ray]
Arbitrage [Blu-ray]
Dvd ~ Richard Gere
Offered by Wowudo
Price: £3.98

4.0 out of 5 stars A clever character piece, 18 Sept. 2013
This review is from: Arbitrage [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
Arbitrage transcends its dull title to grip with a tale of a morally compromised workaholic who accidentally causes a terrible accident and then runs from the scene to try to cover his back and save his firm.
Gere earns his paycheque as the centre of the movie, powering through scenes as a distracted father and husband who is so focussed on getting his company through a major deal to cover up his shady dealings that he fails to see his world falling apart around him.
The crime thriller strand as the accident is investigated is excellently handled, and gives the film a sense of pace as the net begins to tighten around him inch by inch, and he deftly spends his time dodging threats and trying to negotiate his way out of trouble.
However, more interesting than that is the way the plot brings out the layers of his character, as he gradually transforms from a slippery charlatan into someone who starts to show a few grains of humanity. Like a typical house of cards thriller, the joy is in seeing his carefully constructed lies start to crumble and watching the character try to fix it all before it caves in on him.
Yes it's about finance (a little) but its more about moral ambiguity and how far the characters will let it stretch before 'a bit' becomes 'too much'.

Maniac [Blu-ray]
Maniac [Blu-ray]
Dvd ~ Elijah Wood
Price: £9.75

4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating - a memorably original slasher, 18 Sept. 2013
This review is from: Maniac [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
Embracing its faintly sleazy slasher roots, but somehow transcending them to become its own deliberately scandal baiting movie, Maniac is very unusual. Not only does it star cuddly Frodo actor Elijah Wood, but barring a few brief seconds it's all entirely shot from his point-of-view. Director Franck Khalfoun does a great job of making the amiable Wood seem genuinely unstable and frightening, aided by a spectacularly game and committed performance from Wood, with his haunted gaze and furrowed brow making him feel truly unstable.
The film also sucks us in by showing his insanity affecting how he sees the world, as it distorts with his migraines and images are affected by his madness. With the first few scenes feeling almost unconnected and delirious, it's beginning to become hard going after the first 20 minutes as you start to wonder if the plot is actually going anywhere. However, it's at that point that a love interest emerges for him to fixate on with a shared interest, and things become much more captivating as characters you can care about are placed in immediate jeopardy.
The filming technique pays off very well, with the protagonist's rapid unnerving breathing as he stalks his prey, and a few very clever shots designed to reveal him (including a fun homage to the original video cover). The gore is gruesome in the extreme but also faintly tongue in cheek in its excess, and the climax is a great piece of tension.
It's barmy, overpowering and harsh to sit through, but it makes a memorable impression with its punchy, trashy style.

Parker [Blu-ray]
Parker [Blu-ray]
Dvd ~ Jason Statham
Price: £5.75

3.0 out of 5 stars Pretty standard Statham fare - fun but not especially surprising, 18 Sept. 2013
This review is from: Parker [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
Parker the film is a lot more complicated than Parker the man. Statham's character is quite sweet for a robber, reassuring a guard during a heist, and resolutely sticking to his moral code even when all around are shedding theirs. When betrayed, he makes it his goal to hunt down his ex-partners and throw a spanner in the works of their latest job.
To do this, he cons desperate estate agent Jennifer Lopez into assisting him, and once she suspects he's more than he claims to be, the sparks start to fly.
The movie is an interesting blend of straightforward revenge flick, character piece, gentle comedy and harsh violence, which occasionally makes it feel like it doesn't know what it wants to be.
The humour is fluffy and daft, and the heists are typical Hollywood overcomplicated silliness. However Lopez's character gets an emotional confession scene that doesn't quite fit the light-hearted tone of the rest of the film in its world-weary desperation, and the violence is occasionally shocking.
Tonally uneven, morally ambiguous, interesting, fun, and entertaining. It's a complicated mix for a simple movie, but it may well be worth your time.

Mama (Blu-ray + UV Copy) [Region Free]
Mama (Blu-ray + UV Copy) [Region Free]
Dvd ~ Jessica Chastain
Price: £6.78

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting tale that feels a little more original than most, 18 Sept. 2013
Mama fascinates as a horror tale that blends the real world with the ultra-fantastical. When a father snaps under pressure and turns homicidal, his brother searches for years for the missing children. Five years later they're discovered, miraculously alive but utterly feral.
To the consternation of his child-averse rocker girlfriend, he's persuaded to try to parent them to ease them back into a normal way of life, but normal isn't on the menu, as the kids claim to have been cared for by an imaginary friend called Mama, who it turns out might not be quite so imaginary after all...
Mama's strengths are multiple, but the exceptional performances of the children support it like iron pillars with the most convincing portrayal of feral children I've ever seen. Their behaviour is relentlessly odd and territorial, which makes the small moments when civilised care and parenting begin to win them around all the more emotional and sweet.
Chastain is also utterly brilliant as the anti-mum figure, in a brave role as a girl who simply doesn't want kids and ends up saddled with them, and struggles with her goals and sense of duty to try to work out what to do. It's one of the few believable roles I've seen where a woman is unexpectedly put in the role of parent, and contrary to typical syrupy Hollywood fare, she doesn't instantly warm to them and suddenly become parent of the year, lending the film a depth that enriches it.
Mama is also fascinating - a supernatural creation that's not always utterly convincing but always unusual in her freakish appearance. The film's shocks don't always work properly, but it has plenty of unexpected moments of bravery and power, and it's well worth seeing for some less conventional horror fare.

Oz the Great and Powerful [Blu-ray] [Region Free]
Oz the Great and Powerful [Blu-ray] [Region Free]
Dvd ~ James Franco
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £4.94

3.0 out of 5 stars Visually gorgeous but feels a bit unsatisying, 18 Sept. 2013
Oz is a gorgeous looking film, and the visuals only get better once the film moves from the lovely black and white of America to the rich colours of Oz.
Franco plays the carnival illusionist and charlatan who gets whisked away into Oz and is lauded as their saviour, only to find he has to try to man-up to the task or risk losing his life.
Oz is gorgeously colourful, and the variety of characters and scenes will keep many viewers happy. However it all screams 'CHILDRENS FILM!!!' a bit too strongly, with the acting and enunciation very stagey and spelled-out, and none of the characters ever feeling like more than a quickly painted two-dimensional idea of 'he's good but a conman' or 'she's good but disappointed in him'.
The climax works as an exercise in visual splendour but doesn't convince, and overall the film feels a bit like its own huge intricate illusion.

Killer Joe [Blu-ray]
Killer Joe [Blu-ray]
Dvd ~ Emile Hirsch
Price: £5.75

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Richly acted, fascinating, and weird as heck, 18 Sept. 2013
This review is from: Killer Joe [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
Killer Joe is a film that's a fascinating experience to watch, but I don't think I'd ever watch again, much like the same director's 'Bug'. It's a great showcase for fantastic performances and interesting writing, but is that little bit too downbeat and sordid to be termed 'enjoyable viewing'. Rich with a dark, sardonic humour, it's the tale of Emile Hirsch's downbeat loser scheming to bump off his hated mother for the insurance money by hiring McConaughey's twisted cop and part time hit-man.
What happens from there is part of the joy of the movie, as little goes quite to plan, and this is very much a film where the delirious pleasure is in seeing the awfulness of everything spiralling madly out of control, and wondering how the characters are going to pull themselves back from the brink and salvage the situation.
Everybody on screen gets a role that it written with such detail and flavour, and acted with such gusto and abandon that it could practically act as a career-best showcase for them. Hirsch gets to play a greater range than usual, and McConaughey manages everything from analytical cop, to charming gentleman, to unhinged psychopath with aplomb.
Fun, deranged, and occasionally just a bit too weird, it's a film that's definitely adults only and not always enjoyable, but always fascinating.

Welcome To The Punch [Blu-ray]
Welcome To The Punch [Blu-ray]
Dvd ~ James McAvoy
Price: £4.75

4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful looking and good fun, but a little emptier than it first appears, 18 Sept. 2013
Welcome to the Punch is a laudably brave attempt to make a British-set action movie with a little more of the gloss and action of a Hollywood thriller, and in many respects it works. The city of London has rarely looked so glittering and atmospheric as it does in Eran Creevy's cops & robbers thriller, filled with glowing night-time hues of blue and green.
It's also got more than the usual share of action as McAvoy's brittle cop doggedly chases his nemesis, Mark Strong's career criminal, with the aim of catching him whatever the personal cost.
Supported ably (but perhaps with too little to do for a star of her talent) by Andrea Riseborough, he's brought back on the case when Strong has to re-emerge from hiding to clean up his son's mess, leading to gun-battles, criminal schemes, and chases once again.
Punch moves like a shark, trying not to stop so it doesn't sink, and in some degree that does the film few favours: McAvoy's character is good, but never gets the chance to feel as whole as Strong's - and Strong also gets fantastic support from Peter Mullen in a great side role full of warmth, whereas the cops are all short on humour or camaraderie.
One standout is Johnny Harris, utterly chilling as a dead-eyed and utterly devoted psychopath.
Welcome to the Punch works as a flashy, gorgeous looking piece of stylistic violence with a bit of a message thrown in, but feels slightly hollow by the end, with one of the major characters never feeling like more than the sum of his experiences. Still fun however, and full of praiseworthy ambition to try to stop languishing in grimy estates and meet the Americans at their own glossy level.

Gangster Squad [Blu-ray] [2013] [Region Free]
Gangster Squad [Blu-ray] [2013] [Region Free]
Dvd ~ Ryan Gosling
Price: £6.00

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very glossy and violent gangster atmospherics, 18 Sept. 2013
This feels very much like an Untouchables for a new generation, as a cast of hard-boiled cops are assembled to take down an untouchable gangster in a corrupt town. Josh Brolin's tough decent cop assembles a team of detectives 'off the books' to try to shatter crime kingpin Mickey Cohen's hold on his town, bringing with him Ryan Gosling who gives a very charismatic turn, and Emma Stone as the girl who's torn between the good and the bad in a great noirish role.
The cast are all uniformly on top of their game, with Sean Penn especially surprising as a genuinely chilling and nasty gangster. A few early scenes exposing his cruel streak and vicious temper make it very clear why most people take the bribes and also make it equally clear just how much danger the heroes taking him on are putting themselves in.
Director Ruben Fleischer creates a gorgeous ambience to his LA, really filling it with a sense of time and period, and throws in some cracking violence too. The action and chases are brilliant, although there are some strategically idiotic moments that may make the audience wonder how the heroes survived the WW2 campaigns they're supposed to have weathered in the past.
There are some clichés, and if you've seen gangster films before, you'll know some of what's coming. However, its executed with a rarely bravura flair. And the violence is a notch more than you may be expecting from a gangster flick.
High quality (and surprisingly funny) entertainment.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation (Extended Action Cut) [Blu-ray] [Region Free]
G.I. Joe: Retaliation (Extended Action Cut) [Blu-ray] [Region Free]
Dvd ~ Dwayne Johnson
Price: £8.00

4.0 out of 5 stars It's fun, but it's messy, 18 Sept. 2013
First things: - if you hated the previous GI Joe movie and don't like daft excessive action with flimsy plots, you're going to hate this one too. Simply move along - it'll be 2 hours of your life you won't get back and you'll wish you'd known better. Secondly: - knowledge of the previous movie may not be strictly required, but certainly helps a LOT. The two films could almost dovetail together, with one crucial plot point from the last one having a huge effect on this movie.
Third: - (and if you've read ANY press reviews or seen any of the trailers, this isn't a spoiler) one of the biggest cast members of the first film bows out pretty swiftly, which may really annoy fans. This is essentially 'new gang' but 'same style'.
Does Retaliation work as a sequel? Yes. It's a lot of very silly fun, with slightly harsher violence than before, ditching some of the cartoonish tone for moments that feel a tiny bit more adult-orientated. The action set-pieces are still elaborate and contain a lot of acrobatic stunts and impressive gunfire. There's a very silly evil scheme that threatens the world once again - and our heroes are up against even greater odds.
Does it work as an Action movie? Yes. It's guilt-free unplug brain fun and will happily amuse fans of the first film.
The casting is patchy. Johnson ("The Rock") is good as a lead, and his banter with Channing Tatum is pure comedy gold. Tatum is probably his most likeable in ages, which makes his limited screen time a shame, and Ray Park gets an expanded role as Snake Eyes, delivering a few more shades to a character that will always be hard to flesh out by its very nature.
The role of Cobra Commander is played by Luke Bracey - almost permanently behind a shiny visor. Presumably the less nuanced role and dialogue given to his character this time around didn't appeal to Gordon Levitt enough to reprise it. Ray Stevenson is visually imposing and fun as Firefly, and makes a great bad guy, if only his accent would pick a country and stay there.
RZA continues his almost film-breaking awfulness after 'Iron Fists', performing another martial arts role with the leaden nuance of a lump-hammer smashing crisps, delivering ham-fisted dialogue like world-shattering pronouncements. Thankfully his screen time is even more limited than Tatum's.
Of more amusement is Jonathan Pryce's turn as Arnold Vosloo's Zartan in disguise. Essentially tormenting himself throughout the film, he gets to deliver several cracking moments of political satire, and although he gets one terrible joke about waterboarding, appears to be having a terrific time, which buoys up the whole film.
The action is exciting, the humour is all there, and the cast are mostly good. Why isn't this Five Stars? Well, the story feels too 'bitty'. While the first film (flashbacks and all) felt like one coherent movie, this feels like several films stitched together. The main heroes are kept apart for so long on their separate missions that it feels like two partially related movies have been taped up into one. It doesn't help that Snake Eyes' dojo segments and spectacular mountain battle scenes are so visually different from the more US based scenes with Johnson and co. So the only real failing is stylistically - in the choice of how to make the plot hang together. Oh, and I almost forgot, Bruce Willis is in it. That kind of says everything you need to know about how important he is to the film.
Watch it if you can ignore the flaws.

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