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Dan Sean Henry

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Seven Psychopaths [DVD]
Seven Psychopaths [DVD]
Dvd ~ Colin Farrell
Offered by Playaction UK
Price: £3.17

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "I like it. It's got layers.", 31 July 2013
This review is from: Seven Psychopaths [DVD] (DVD)
That line, spoken by Christopher Walken's dog-napper Hans, is one of many moments of self-reflexive humour found in 'Seven Psychopaths'. This is a film that knows it's a film, playing around with genre conventions in a way reminiscent of Shane Black's 'Kiss Kiss Bang Bang' and Tarantino's best work. But the film never feels smug or self-indulgent and, amongst all the madness you would expect from a film with such a title, it manages to retain a heart. The plot itself is an experiment in controlled chaos; there are so many diversions and plot loops here but it never feels like McDonagh is losing command of his creation. To describe the plot in a review would be completely fruitless; part of the joy of seeing this film for the first time comes from being dragged along for the ride, completely unaware of what's coming next. If you switch off for a second, there's a chance you may leave the cinema still not knowing what the hell went on. So sit up at the back of the class.

The film boasts a fine ensemble cast, a testament to McDonagh's reputation for whip-smart dialogue that actors would kill for. There are many showy, offbeat performances, which Farrell, as the screenwriter Marty, allows to orbit around him. He wisely plays it straight and let's those magnificent eyebrows of his express his exasperation better than words ever could. He's far more competent as a character actor than as an action star (as in this year's 'Total Recall' remake) and in him McDonagh has found his perfect leading man.

Rockwell, Harrelson and Tom Waits quite clearly relish every line they're given, producing truly funny performances as three of the titular psychos. The stand-out character, however, comes courtesy of the magnificent Christopher Walken; he's not really breaking much new ground here (the quirky Walken line readings are still very-much present) but he becomes so much more than a mere caricature, infusing his performance with a real sadness that provides the film with an essential helping of pathos. Hilarious one moment, heartbreaking the next, it's his best turn in years...

Fans of 'In Bruges' shouldn't walk away disappointed. All those who fell in love with Ralph Fiennes' demented crime boss in that film will lap up the creations McDonagh unleashes in his second venture. While both films stand as very different creatures, they both share elements that make them unmistakably the work of the same man.

Will the third time be a charm? I can't wait to find out.


Django Unchained  (DVD) [2013]
Django Unchained (DVD) [2013]
Dvd ~ Jamie Foxx
Price: £4.00

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "The 'D' is silent...", 31 July 2013
In the same year that I was born into this mixed-up, muddled-up, shook-up world, a young writer/director named Quentin Tarantino unleashed 'Reservoir Dogs' upon an unsuspecting public. Out of nowhere, here was a film filled with crackling dialogue and pop culture references, eccentric characters, unforgiving violence and a scene in which Michael Madsen cuts off a chap's ear to the tuneful sound of Gerry Rafferty singing `Stuck In The Middle With You'. A new film-making force had arrived, and the world just had to deal with it.

Since that explosive debut, Tarantino has become a film-maker of `superstar' status. Ask any regular joe to name a film director and he'll probably name QT, if only after Spielberg or Scorsese. His immense impact on popular culture is undeniable and, in a recent interview with Channel 4's Krishnan Guru-Murthy, he went further to prove that he's a man who's just as entertaining, quotable ("I'm shutting your butt down!") and, indeed, crazy as the films he makes. His finest films - 'Pulp Fiction', 'Jackie Brown', 'Inglourious Basterds' and, yes, 'Reservoir Dogs' - are testaments to the sheer joy that cinema can behold. I'll forgive him for the rest.

Whilst the excellent 'Inglourious Basterds' featured much of the style and iconography of the Spaghetti Western, 'Django Unchained' is Tarantino's first full-on exploration of the genre. Set in the pre-Civil War Deep South of America, the film has a relatively straightforward plot - in comparison with the usual fractured storytelling style - with the bulk of the story concerning the titular slave Django (Jamie Foxx) and his quest to rescue his wife from a charming but ruthless plantation owner named Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), with the help of charismatic German bounty hunter, Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz). As with Basterds, in no way is this Tarantino doing a history lesson but the portrayal of slavery should be commended. Brutal, uncompromising and - at times - genuinely difficult to watch, the subject is explored with total honesty. And that, for me, is the most impressive aspect of the film: it manages to balance such a shameful part of American history with it's creator's signature sense of fun and enthusiasm with absolute aplomb. In acheiving this, Tarantino proves that he continues to grow as a film-maker. Yes, he's more mature now but - fear not! - you'll still have a ball.

So you're safe with this Tarantino guy, he's knows what he's doing. We've established that. So what of the cast?

Jamie Foxx is a very capable actor but, funnily enough, he has the least compelling role to play. In a cast full of eclectic supporting characters, his Django gets a little overshadowed and the film is owned by the secondary players. He's cool and delivers the odd mean one-liner in a laconic, Eastwood-esque style (the much publicized "I like the way you die, boy." from the trailers is very effective in context) but Django never truly feels unchained. That said, the character's pursuit of vengeance is ultimately satisfying and Foxx carries the emotional weight with absolute ease: scenes shared between Django and his wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) are genuinely moving and it is perhaps wise to have such a grounded performance at the center to prevent the film from getting lost in it's own eccentricity.

Leonardo DiCaprio gives a performance unlike any other he's given before. All brown teeth and villainous charm, Calvin Candie is easily among the most compelling characters he's played so far, and he clearly has a ball playing him. It's a joy to watch Leo chomp on Tarantino's words and generally ham it up, taking a break from his run of playing frustrated protagonists and creating a monstrous pantomime villain before your very eyes (albeit one which watches with glee as two slaves fight, literally, to the death - that'd shut Biggins up). As Candie's loyal house slave Stephen, Samuel L. Jackson gives a performance that manages to be both very funny and sickening. I haven't felt such disdain for a character since I watched 'The Green Mile' on DVD a while ago... Percy from 'The Green Mile'. God, I hate him.

Without a trace of doubt, though, the film belongs to the magnificent Christoph Waltz. Dr. Schultz, like Hans `the Jew Hunter' Landa before him, is one of Tarantino's grandest creations. A magnetic, eloquent bounty hunting dentist with a taste for a cold beer and an utter hatred of slavery, he's a fascinating character who - in the hands of Waltz - quite simply ignites the screen. Waltz is already cleaning up this awards season, and he more than deserves a second Oscar, for all it's worth.

Tarantino has stated in interviews that he intends to retire from directing at age 60. He's 49 now. Throughout his career, he's delivered unique, personal, gloriously entertaining films that have established him a massive fanbase without ever diluting his visions or buckling under studio pressure or populist demand. With 'Django Unchained', he has shown that his ecstatic love of cinema continues to burn as bright as ever.

In Tarantino I trust.. but retire at 60? I don't believe you, Quentin.


The Purple Rose of Cairo [DVD]
The Purple Rose of Cairo [DVD]
Dvd ~ Mia Farrow
Price: £5.99

5.0 out of 5 stars "He's fictional, but you can't have everything...", 31 July 2013
I consider myself to be a fan of Woody Allen's work - I particularly enjoy 'Annie Hall', 'Manhattan', 'Radio Days', 'Match Point' and 'Midnight in Paris', as well as his early stand-up material - but his filmography is so expansive that there are still so many of his films that I have yet to see. Finding myself with quite a bit of spare time on my hands, I made the decision to gradually make my way through the 20 disc box set of Allen's films, which I purchased some time ago. It's likely I'll have to sit through some duffers but at least it will prevent me from falling into the trap of aimlessly wandering about the house, making unnecessary beans on toast and masturbating. Probably.

'The Purple Rose of Cairo' is an absolute gem of a film, with all the charm, quirkiness and romantic whimsy of Allen's recent outing, Midnight in Paris but with a considerably darker conclusion. Released in 1985 to a quietly warm response from critics, the film is set during the American Depression of the 1930's and stars Mia Farrow as Cecilia, a clumsy waitress who takes regular trips to the cinema to escape from the melancholy of her life and the loveless, abusive marriage she finds herself trapped in. Her life is bleak but, within the confines of the cinema, she feels truly liberated. Cecilia becomes particularly infatuated with a romantic adventure called - yes - 'The Purple Rose of Cairo', the story of a rich Hollywood playwright who takes a trip to Egypt with his companions, meets the charming archaeologist Tom Baxter (Jeff Daniels) and brings him back to New York for a `madcap Manhattan weekend', where he falls in love with a Copacabana club singer. During her fifth visit to see the film, the archaeologist turns to the camera and tells Cecilia that he has noticed how in love she seems to be with the film and professes his attraction to her. Stepping out from the black-and-white world of the film, Baxter convinces Cecilia to show him the real world and the two run from the cinema together, leaving the audience - and the other characters in the picture - positively baffled. The two begin to fall in love but not without consequence. The other characters in the film are unable to continue the story with Baxter and are left bewildered and aimless, playing cards and shouting abuse at the audience. The actor Gil Shepherd (also played by Daniels), who portrayed the archaeologist onscreen, fearing that this anomaly will bring an end to his career, searches for his estranged character. A love triangle is soon established between Gil, his fictional counterpart and Cecilia, who must decide between fantasy and reality....

Mia Farrow and Jeff Daniels are terrific in the lead roles, with the latter giving an incredibly charming performance that's worlds away from the goofball turn in Dumb & Dumber that he would, perhaps, become most closely associated with. Their romantic scenes together ooze with innocent charm and perfectly homage innumerable old school Hollywood love stories.

The film is beautifully shot, impeccably acted and, while there are flashes of vintage Allen comedy sprinkled throughout (the scenes depicting the befuddled characters left within the film-with-the-film are hilarious) it is permeated with a real sense of pathos, showcasing the undeniable versatility of Allen's abilities as a filmmaker. What could have quiet easily been a lightweight yarn has a bittersweet message that real life, unlike the movies, rarely has a happy ending.

I love 'The Purple Rose of Cairo' and, if you're a sentimental fool like me, you might too.


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