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JD (Salisbury, Wiltshire United Kingdom)

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Foxcatcher [DVD] [2015]
Foxcatcher [DVD] [2015]
Dvd ~ Steve Carell
Price: £3.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, considered film making, 11 May 2015
This review is from: Foxcatcher [DVD] [2015] (DVD)
Really enjoyed this film, though can understand it isn't for everyone. I think you can see how much the director and actors bought into this story and wanted to do it justice. Slow paced perhaps, but this is incredibly sensitive, thoughtful cinema on all levels, with considered, restrained and brave acting throughout. This is a film where the leads and the director aren't afraid of silence. It's subtle, yes, but this film has real beauty and respect for the subject matter, something that gives it a unique atmosphere, partly tense, partly sympathetic. I loved the complexity of Carell's performance in particular, but his co-stars are also exceptional as they at first compromise themselves before struggling to contain their anger at being manipulated.

Personally I didn't feel it dragged at all. Unlike several films of late where the director could easily have slashed thirty minutes off the running time (Interstellar being typically baggy and Boyhood was equally over long) I felt the silences and ponderous scenes all had purpose. I can, however, see why people would disagree. Basically, don't buy or rent it expecting high action, but, if you love the art of cinema and acting, you won't go too far wrong with this.

Birdman [DVD]
Birdman [DVD]
Dvd ~ Michael Keaton
Offered by Discs4all
Price: £4.89

5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The emperor's new clothes, 11 May 2015
This review is from: Birdman [DVD] (DVD)
Of all the main Oscar contenders this is the one that, to me, was most appealing, so I looked forward to checking it out. I really enjoyed Black Swan and this, in many ways, is a similar portrayal of artists submerged in their work, mixing reality and fantasy, though swapping out the darkness for comedy. I'm also not against art cinema, but for me it seemed the target audience of this film is extremely narrow - actors, people involved in theatre and, dare I say it, the pretentious. If you belong to this group, you'll enjoy Birdman. If not, and if you are happy to not like a film that the critics and Academy rave over, don't bother. The acting is good, no doubt, particularly from Norton and Stone in my opinion, but other than that, ironically considering there is a scene with the lead walking around in his pants, this really is a case of the emperors new clothes. What's slightly annoying is that this is a film that thinks it is cleverer than it actually is when, in fact, there is very little original about it. The fantasy/reality thing has been done before in this exact context in Black Swan, while the annoying drummer making a couple of supposedly hilarious appearances is old hat. Although at least you get the chance to see who has been annoying you for the duration of the film. My advice is to steer clear. How Nightcrawler was overlooked, especially for a quite extraordinary acting performance, is staggering, and, contrary to popular opinion by the looks of the reviews, I found Foxcatcher to be a very effective, well acted and often beautiful film for those with the patience to embrace it's slow, sympathetic pacing and thoughtful, considered acting. Try those, give this a miss and maybe rent it at best.

Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £9.42

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lightly Christian indie rock too keen to hold middle ground, 4 Feb. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Cathedrals (Audio CD)
Don't get me wrong, this is an OK album, but pretty much about it. Problem is that the album shouts compromise to me - it's kind of in a middle ground of vagueness where they don't want to be too overtly Christian or too much the other way and the result is a pretty bland middle ground that doesn't want to offend anyone.

There are a couple of good tracks, but nothing with real emotional pull. For me, this is what you would term a 'lightly' Christian album (in the same way that Third Day tend to drift into that uncomfortable middle ground of non-specific song writing) that could serve as an introduction to Christian indie rock, particularly for non Christians who didn't realise cool Christian music existed. There are good tunes, most wouldn't be out of place among other non-Christian rock, but for me it isn't as good as their last.

Boyhood [DVD] [2014]
Boyhood [DVD] [2014]
Dvd ~ Patricia Arquette
Price: £4.92

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars there is only so much you can live off this before it becomes a gimmick and a reason to give it good reviews. Because, 4 Feb. 2015
This review is from: Boyhood [DVD] [2014] (DVD)
What is it with Ethan Hawke and passing of time films? For anyone who's seen the 'Before' movies, Boyhood follows a similar theme, but the subject matter, unfortunately lacks the intensity to pull it off.

While the premise itself is interesting and different, admirable in fact, there is only so much you can live off this before it becomes a gimmick and a reason to give it good reviews. Because, sadly, there isn't much else here.

While the Before movies have the chemistry of the main characters and a reason for you to care for them, built up over years, Boyhood lacks characterisation and even events. There is nothing to keep your interest, no development, no big question marks or crossroads for the main characters to negotiate, no 'will they or won't they' moments.

Yes, realism is important, but there is nothing here to really engage you, no emotional moments, no real meaning and, while that is brave in itself, the film just ends up being a meandering and over long picture of a pretty uneventful childhood.

One of the key aspects of the Before series is that it locks you in on just two people. You get to know them, you live their characters and the awkward silences. Not so with Boyhood. Here you get no insight into the fear a child would feel living under an abusive step dad, no feeling for the pain of his birth dad being away, no angst from his teenage years and, ultimately, no feeling that the main character, or any character has grown, learned or come through a journey. As the mum aptly sums it up - you grow up, you get married, get divorced, your kids leave and it's all totally pointless and generally pretty dull. Not my take on life, but certainly the film's take.

The secret of a film like this, like the Before films, is that you need to finish the movie thinking 'I can't wait to see what happens next', wanting to know what will happen to characters you care about. Problem is with Boyhood is that you kind of know he's just going to have a fairly normal life at college, his dad won't do much and his mum won't do much either. Not much to make you rush to the sequel.

Great idea, missed opportunity

Exodus: Gods and Kings [DVD] [2014]
Exodus: Gods and Kings [DVD] [2014]
Dvd ~ Christian Bale
Price: £5.00

101 of 120 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Epic and overlooked - Exodus revives the Biblical epic, 5 Jan. 2015
Having endured the attention seeking nonsense that was Noah earlier in 2014 I had low expectations for Exodus, particularly as I expected Bale and Scott to potentially have their own agenda when working with the subject matter.

So I was very pleasantly surprised to see that not only had they resisted in making any anti-Christian statements but that they'd avoided the trap that Noah so badly fell into of turning an already epic story into some kind of generic Hollywood action movie (complete with the obligatory final fight scene and other such nonsense).

Instead we get the Bible story told remarkably close to the text, with some of the blanks filled in with imagination and flair.

Yes there are departures from the exact story, but compared to Noah these are pretty respectful and acceptable, especially in 2014 for a non-Christian film.

For those worried about the much-hyped portrayal of God as a young 'brat', I think this is in the most part a misunderstanding of what Scott was trying to do here. Yes, God is shown to 'appear' to Moses as a young child, but is it mere coincidence that the child is of roughly the same age as Moses's son at the time? It can be argued that, in Scott's depiction, God merely appears to Moses in a form he knows he will relate to.

Other things I've seen hurled at this film by people who haven't seen it is the idea that Scott explains the plagues away as 'natural phenomenon'. This isn't the case. While he gives them added believability through clever theories as to how they might have happened, he always makes it abundantly clear (as with the parting of the Red Sea) that these are divine acts.

Indeed, the intellectual/scientist character who does try to explain the plagues away is portrayed as a bit of a fool. No, Scott leaves no room for interpretation in his Exodus - God is responsible for saving his people and he's not clearly acting in the 'roll the dice' random way that has been suggested by people taking the child depiction too literally.

On top of that, for me, the film helped me to visualise and get a better grasp of certain aspects - from burning bush to the parting of the Red Sea, with the plagues in between - all given impressive realism as you'd expect by this master director.

I think it also gives realism and a more human face to Moses that means we can relate to him - after all, it's clear from the Biblical account that he has imperfections. Exodus makes an interesting attempt to show his inner battles, frustrations and complexity of his relationship with God, those he grew up with and those he then leads. This includes the struggles of his family to accept God's will for him (which is an interesting addition by Scott) and another interesting focus on Moses's struggle to accept that God is in control and be humbled. Scott didn't need to add this kind of detail (which is in the spirit of the source material), but he did, and credit to him for doing so.

Credit also to Bale for playing the role of Moses with such self control. He'll always add that bit of anger and intensity, but he controls it nicely here, unlike Crowe and Winstone in the pantomime-like Noah.

For me, Exodus harks back to the true Biblical epic in a way I'd not expected would be possible in this age. Unlike all the recent output and even going back to the Passion of the Christ, The Last Temptation... and others, there is no agenda here. It is a fair account done with impressive visual flair.

Let's face it, it was never going to review well because too many reviewers have an agenda when it comes to anything Biblical and many Christians are going to expect the worst and look for problems. Had Scott been intentionally controversial it would have stood a chance, but he's taken the narrow, more difficult road and produced a film that I believe, in future, will get the credit it deserves as an overlooked gem and one of Scott's better films, certainly in recent times.

Indeed, nobody does epic visuals like Scott and, with this kind of restraint and respect, I'd like to see him bring the Gospels to life in a way not achieved in the modern era - no agenda, just awe inspiring visual drama and emotion.

To conclude, I'd highly recommend it to Christians and non-Christians alike, either just as an entertaining, epic visual spectacle, or as something more. 4 to 4.5 stars from me.
Comment Comments (14) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 27, 2016 1:13 PM BST

Ghost Stories
Ghost Stories
Price: £5.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars And, if you like the Coldplay of old..., 27 Jun. 2014
This review is from: Ghost Stories (Audio CD)
Not a bad album this, but if you like the Coldplay of old you could do worse than check out this band, who clearly take a lot of inspiration from the former, particularly X&Y and before, as this track illustrates, particularly towards the end. Consistent album too:


The Wolf of Wall Street [Blu-ray] [2013] [Region Free]
The Wolf of Wall Street [Blu-ray] [2013] [Region Free]
Dvd ~ Leonardo DiCaprio
Price: £7.00

7 of 23 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Scorcese achieves the impossible, 19 May 2014
Mission impossible: take a film with a historically renowned director, great acting talent, beautiful women, fast cars, sex, excess, drugs, swearing and nudity and make it very, very, very boring...
Mission accomplished.

Honestly, you'd think it couldn't fail to be at least entertaining and, in part, there is the odd funny moment, but as a whole it felt like one of the longest pieces of 3hr cinema I can remember.

And that's saying something because, as you'd expect, Leonardo puts a lot of energy and skill into his performance. As usual he is larger than life and over the top, but, hey, it works.

Matthew McConaughey is, as seems to be norm these days, a scene stealer in his cameo appearance, which, frankly, is probably the high point of the film.

There is no shortage of outrageous set pieces, there are plenty of beautiful looking women, endless drug use, etc, etc,

So why a one star review?

Well, because it is so dull and repetitive, making it excruciating to sit through.

I had really high hopes, I don't have any problem with the nature of the content, far from it, it was just very boring (and, before you ask, I am not a prude in any way and this did not go over my head, far from it, it's more vacuous than an action movie).

This repetitive nature might work if any of the main characters were even in the slightest bit likeable but, bar his first wife, you really don't care what happens to any of them.

Equally, it's pretty obvious from the first scene what is going to happen to them - it just takes about an hour longer to get there than it should.

Maybe it's the influence of 'slacker movie' star Jonah Hill, but I assume several scenes involved a fair amount of improvised dialogue, which doesn't help. But, like the slacker movies, while occasionally funny, Wolf of Wall Street eventually outstays its welcome due to excess self indulgence and lack of tight editing.

Di Caprio does have his 'Gordon Gekko' sermon moments as well of course (in fact these also become incredibly repetitive), but again we've seen it all before, only done with heart and soul.

I can understand people liking it because the ingredients are all there, just left me cold and, crucially, very bored.

All Is Lost [Blu-ray] [2013] [Region Free]
All Is Lost [Blu-ray] [2013] [Region Free]
Dvd ~ Robert Redford
Price: £8.00

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Understated, perhaps too much so, 6 May 2014
I'm a fan of this type of film and was looking forward to it, particularly to see Redford's performance. And, while I found plenty to admire, the main element of a tense film such as this way missing, leaving me feeling strangely detached for much of the running time.

The main reason for this is the understated performance from Redford and lack of back story surrounding him. The opening section suggests he has family, but there is no other reference to this or attempt made to give us a glimpse into his personality.

The total lack of dialogue or emotion he shows throughout the film shows strength perhaps, but it doesn't endear you to him - how can you relate to a guy who seems calm in everything he does, barely mutters a word and, despite days in despair, doesn't utter a word to himself or curse his bad luck? It just comes across as weird. The only explanation for his silence and calm is that it fits with a gimmick the filmmakers were determined to stick to - that the film would be virtually dialogue free.

While that will make headlines and make the film 'brave', it's also not a great choice. Just a few muttered words would have been enough - a sign of his frustration and despair here and there, maybe a bit of surprise or momentary panic when he first discovers his boat is filling up with water. But we get nothing. So, while there is a lot to admire in understated performances, this one takes it a tiny bit too far.

In a one character film surely the movie stands or falls on whether you care for that main character? Sadly, while feeling for his situation, I can't say I ended this film feeling any more for the character than I did in the beginning, or knowing any more about him bar than he is incredibly in control of his emotions.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug [DVD] [2013]
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug [DVD] [2013]
Dvd ~ Martin Freeman
Price: £6.99

22 of 60 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Buy quickly before the extended version comes out, 25 Mar. 2014
The only positive about this film or any in the Hobbit trilogy so far is that it isn't extended.

Let's face it Peter Jackson is alergic to the editing function as it is. Why else would he take one two and half hour idea and drag it out over three long, long films. So the idea that we are somehow robbed by not being given even longer versions featuring content even more unworthy of screen time (stuff that even Jackson is too ashamed to show to the world unless he can make a few extra quid) is ridiculous. When in cinema has extra content ever meant a better film or better value (with a few notable exceptions).

Editing is a great thing and it's not used enough in cinema these days, certainly not by Jackson.

I'd suggest saving your money completely because a quick read of the following and you've virtually seen the film anyway:

Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 7, 2014 10:58 PM BST

Kick-Ass 2 [Blu-ray] [2013] [Region Free]
Kick-Ass 2 [Blu-ray] [2013] [Region Free]
Dvd ~ Aaron Taylor-Johnson
Price: £6.78

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Er, have I missed something?, 7 Jan. 2014
Firstly, this is a decent sequel. It isn't quite as good as the first, but it isn't far off and is very much more of the same, but with a bit of character development. Personally I like the fact that we're seeing these characters grow up in this film and, in my opinion, I'd look forward to a third instalment.

For some reason the critics seem to have jumped on this, probably putting two and two together due to Jim Carrey's comments on the film's violence, and started some some of mass opinion that this film is particularly violent or takes this aspect too far.

How they came to this conclusion when it contains much the same level as the first film is beyond me. The difference here is that the Kick Ass series has comic book violence which, in my opinion, is far less dark and disturbing than the type of accepted artistic violence seen in the Dark Knight films and the likes of Drive and Only God Forgives.

So, a decent movie and an above par sequel. When compared to a lot of the dross I've seen come out of Hollywood of late I found Kick Ass 2 to be entertaining and fun. Some silly plot holes but sadly that seems to be the norm in post-recession Hollywood.

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