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DeclanCochran (Devon)

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The Course of Love
The Course of Love
by Alain de Botton
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £11.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars through a marriage much like any other, 10 May 2016
This review is from: The Course of Love (Hardcover)
It's entirely fitting that Alain De Botton once wrote a book called "The Architecture of Happiness", since in this book he reveals to be an architect of all of our happinesses. This is a richer, more mature take on the same themes he mined in his very first novel, "Essays In Love". We follow two people, Rabih and Kirsten, through a marriage much like any other. But like a mechanic Botton lifts the lid and inspects the various aspects at play underneath, the inner workings and machinations, and runs them under the warm gaze of his analysis. The prose is poetic, the eventual outcome both sobering and comforting; this book is a tonic and a corrective to modern conceptions of love, and everyone on the planet could most likely learn something from it.

Hector And The Search For Happiness [DVD]
Hector And The Search For Happiness [DVD]
Dvd ~ Simon Pegg
Offered by Wowudo
Price: £3.19

14 of 37 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Veers Between Bland, Predictable and Detestable, 28 Aug. 2014
(taken from my review at

The distinct impression given by Peter Chelsom's Hector and The Search For Happiness is that of a film evaporating before your very eyes. Nothing about it sticks, from the distant cinematography down to the lazy script, and most crucially Simon Pegg's wasted phoned-in performance as a psychiatrist trying to find the root of happiness (clue: it was there all along). Even Stellan Skarsgard pops up for a bit and looks uncomfortable. How deliciously ironic that a film about a man trying to find happiness ends up being so relentlessly miserable.

Lucy [DVD] [2014]
Lucy [DVD] [2014]
Dvd ~ Scarlett Johansson
Price: £4.56

4 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Truly Gorgeous, Unforgettable Mess, 28 Aug. 2014
This review is from: Lucy [DVD] [2014] (DVD)
( taken from my review at

Luc Besson returns after last year's hideous "The Family" with this phenomenal science-fiction/action film about a woman (Scarlett Johansonn) who, after ingesting an experimental drug, unlocks more and more of her brain capacity. Don't stick around to dissect the (bizarre) script, but do stay for one of the first big-budget studio films of the year that is truly alive; visually fascinating and cinematically beautiful, it has the feel of a personal pet project that's been percolating for years. It all goes off the rails, as per, but I haven't been more transfixed by the proverbial train crash in a long time. Cult material.

What If [DVD] [2014]
What If [DVD] [2014]
Dvd ~ Daniel Radcliffe
Price: £5.00

5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Radcliffe and Kazan Gel In This Perfect Rom-Com, 28 Aug. 2014
This review is from: What If [DVD] [2014] (DVD)
(taken from my review at

Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan charm the socks off of each other, and us, during this unexpected gem. He is smitten with her, and she's in a five-year relationship; the chemistry is undeniable between them, and... Yeah, you can kinda guess where it's going, but in this case the formula works and doesn't feel formulaic because it is emboldened by characters who come across as entirely real and make us care for them. It is lent an extra twist by Michael Dowse's snappy and twee direction, and the cute animated drawings which come alive at opportune moments. This is one of the best films of the year, and I cannot wait to see it again.

Frank [Blu-ray]
Frank [Blu-ray]
Dvd ~ Michael Fassbender
Price: £8.99

8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Weird, Hilarious and Heartfelt Romp Showcasing Some Outstanding Performances, 11 May 2014
This review is from: Frank [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
(this review is a shortened version of the one I have written on my blog,

Frank (Michael Fassbender in a Frank Sidebottom head-mask) is one of those magnetic types who people tend to gravitate towards whilst himself lacking his own centre. Just look at how willingly Jon (Domhnall Gleeson) drops everything, including his job, nest egg and secure suburban life, to join Frank and his band as a keyboardist in recording an album.

In fact, despite what the title tell us, this film is really more about Jon that it is about Frank. The film begins and ends with him, and he is undoubtedly the core of this film. We first see him as he tries to piece together random lyrics by observing the world around him, and these scenes set up the film nicely; by turns absolutely hilarious and ruthlessly honest.

A series of unfortunate events gets Jon playing as keyboardist in the band “Soronprfbs” (nobody else in the film knows how to pronounce it either), of which Frank is the lead singer.

But this is no ordinary band, and their first gig consists of half of one song before one of the instruments blows up and the theremin player Clara (Maggie Gyllenhaal) storms off. We are also introduced to Don (Scoot McNairy), the band's manager, who is the biggest surprise in this film, and gives arguably the best performance in it.

It's a film built on little details, such as the film’s frequently hilarious use of Jon’s Twitter and Youtube feed. As we get to know Jon, we also realise that he is fundamentally a good person, but also a ruthless opportunist. We do delve into the persona of Frank, mask and all, and it comes as no surprise late into the film that he has mental health issues. There is also a fair amount of suicide too, although regarding who and where and why I will not say.

It all adds up to a very funny film; not a masterpiece by any means, but a gleeful, abundant and unhinged work of energy that, among other things, proves that Michael Fassbender is one of the best actors working today; to suggest the lifetime’s worth of struggle that he does, and make it look so effortless, belies a certain rare genius. The dialogue is witty and snappy, with more than a few excellent one-liners, and the musical interludes are by turns charming, hilarious, and actually incredibly good; I can’t find a soundtrack released for this film, but I’d certainly buy it. The film also has a pretty and punchy look about it, with very bright colours which match the tone superbly.

Ultimately, what makes the film is its heart. It’s not an especially serious film, but it does care for it characters and that care shines through. It also understands perfectly the razor-thin line that exists in indie music between the sublime and the ridiculous. It is nearly the match of such films as This Is Spinal Tap and Almost Famous; it certainly warrants mention in the same sentence. I have no doubt that a devoted cult following will ensue, and this film deserves it.

Also, mark my words; Domhnall Gleeson will go on to do some very great things indeed. His performance in this, along with his brief turn in the recent Calvary and last years’ masterpiece About Time, show him to be a versatile and fearless actor with immense range, an expressive face and a certain rare dignity, who fully understands the characters he is portraying. Look out for him.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 14, 2014 8:22 AM BST

Mr. Peabody and Sherman [DVD] [2014]
Mr. Peabody and Sherman [DVD] [2014]
Dvd ~ Ty Burrell
Price: £2.99

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars One Of Those Kids Films That Only Really Works For Adults, 4 Mar. 2014
I enjoyed this film immensely; the kids in the cinema who this film was aimed at did not- I probably laughed twice as hard as them. When my parents took my seven year old brother to see this film, my mother enjoyed it more than him. Apparently, in that screening too, the kids weren't exactly enamoured either.

There is a very simple explanation for this; the jokes in it are simply far too "adult" for anyone under the age of twelve to really get. There is a place for jokes about the Oedipus Myth and Bill Clinton's various wrongdoings, but I'm sure that's not here. And the film doesn't exactly help itself by having a time-travel plot that rivals Back to the Future for complexity (meaning that it is possibly to understand, just, but kids are likely to be left behind)

That said, the film is not a complete failure. I myself did find it riotously funny, whilst also acknowledging the fact that kids aren't going to get as much out of it. It is nevertheless a colourful and engaging tale, even if it doesn't hit the heights of something like Despicable Me 2, or the recent Lego Movie (which are themselves kids films that work in equal measure for adults and children).

Still though, compared to The Moshi Monsters Movie (an utter travesty), you could do worse. A film for a lazy Sunday afternoon, in the background.

Three Colours Trilogy [DVD]
Three Colours Trilogy [DVD]
Dvd ~ Juliette Binoche
Price: £14.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life-Altering, 4 Mar. 2014
This review is from: Three Colours Trilogy [DVD] (DVD)
There aren't many films out there that can claim to be genuinely life-changing, but these films, I would argue, have earned that right. Made around the three French ideals; liberty, equality, fraternity, they are the pinnacle of film-making, a distinguished and mature work that form a cohesive and coherent whole, or can simply be enjoyed separately.

Three Colours Blue: my personal favourite of the trio, this is a film that sucks you in from the very first frame, and has such a high command of the core aspects of film-making (the unity of space, action and music, for example) that it makes all other films seem dull by comparison for several days afterwards. It tells a simple story; Julie Vignon is in a car with her young child and husband, who is a famous composer, and then the car crashes. The child and husband die. Julie is at first sad, and then we don't know how she is, and then we follow her for the rest of the film as, presumably, she doesn't know how she is either. This is where the theme of "liberty" comes in, as we learn slowly that she is trying to "free" herself from the shackles of the past through abandoning her old life. That's my take on it anyway, and even Kieslowski would admit that it is probably not that simple. Nevertheless, the film remains a singularly devastating and beautifully luminous experience that has images and sequences that are simply unforgettable.

Three Colours White: the underdog of the trilogy, and the least lauded, I retain a soft-spot for this film because it takes a potentially un-watchable scenario (that an impotent man's wife suddenly abandons him, has his shop burnt down by said wife, and then has to smuggle himself back to his native Poland and tells it with a dry, cynical humour that ends up carrying the film. Kieslowski's eye for the transcendental moments of life are still here though; watch in particular for the scene with the gun, and the sign-language scene at the end, which remain arguably my favourite singular moments of the trilogy. It is a comedy, yes, but the laughs are earned through the optimism of the central character, and thus the film sidesteps the fact that it could have been bleak as hell, and despite the fact that it is bleak in places, it is finally redemptive and uplifting.

Three Colours Red: the grand finale to the trilogy, this film concerns itself with a young model who finds an injured dog in the road, and takes it to its owner, a judge, who greets it with indifference. The film then goes on from there and plays with the ideas of fate, time, and what it means to live a "worthwhile" life. It's arguably the heaviest of the trilogy, but once more it is alive with the spirit of true film-making, moral objectivity, and a refusal to judge the characters. This is an image best symbolized in the image of the lonely judge, who has wired several phones in his area and seems to be playing God; a statement on the nature of film directors, God himself, and all manner of things, no doubt, and an image that Kieslowski himself probably eschews. There is always the sense that his characters are people, and not just machines for plot. Anyway. The finale alone is one of the most beautiful pieces of film-making you are likely to see.

All three films share performances that never feel like performances, and are shot with a breathtaking clarity that is peerless in modern cinema. See this films, and they will change your perception of film and what it is capable of. They are to be cherished.

12 Years A Slave [DVD] [2013]
12 Years A Slave [DVD] [2013]
Dvd ~ Chiwetel Ejiofor
Price: £4.76

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Majestic Film, 19 Jan. 2014
I have long been an admirer of McQueen (Shame is in my personal top 10), and this is probably his crowning work. It is a painful, brutal, beautiful and transcendent work that stands head and shoulders above all of the Hollywood dirge out there these days.

The story, as you probably know by now, is that of free black man Solomon Northrup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), captured and thrown into slavery for the 12 years of the title. We follow him over these 12 years as he goes through whippings, plantation owners, torture, as well as his affinity with fellow slave Patsey (Lupita Nyong'o).

The story itself could essentially carry itself, but it is McQueen's shot composition and skills as a visual auteur which make this film the masterpiece it is. He has a certain masterly, painterly power behind the camera, as well as an immense skill with actors (regular cohort Michael Fassbender is especially good as the brutal slave owner Edwin Epps). The score by Hans Zimmer and Nicholas Britell is a masterpiece on its own, switching from gratingly industrial to sweepingly orchestral at the touch of a button.

Basically, see this film. It is an invaluable one that teaches so many lessons about what we as humans are capable of, and on top of that it is better made than a number of classic films I could care to mention. It is a meeting point of the twin poles of message and artform, although to say that it has a "message" seems to belittle the true nobility of this masterpiece. Quite simply, see it and wonder why all films can't be this good.

Paradise Trilogy: Love / Faith / Hope [DVD]
Paradise Trilogy: Love / Faith / Hope [DVD]
Dvd ~ Margarete Tiesel
Price: £15.00

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Impressive, 29 Dec. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I must confess to being a newcomer to the works of Seidl (I've owned Import/Export for some time but haven't watched it), but on the strength of this trilogy, I will be keeping a closer eye on him and his work. Here we have his ironically titled "Paradise" trilogy (ironic because these films are miserable, and the characters find neither closure nor paradise, although they do look for it), presented beautifully in a cardboard fold-out boxset with slipcase and booklet. For a director whose style is both formal and aesthetically pleasing, this set is very fitting. The m.o is three films about three women, all of whom are linked (a mother, her sister, and the mother's daughter in that order).

The films themselves are all very good, but some more so than others. The first in the trilogy, Paradise: Love, concerns a middle-aged, overweight woman named Teresa who goes on a holiday in Africa with carnal and romantic satisfaction primarily in mind. It's a grim little picture with a very depressing outlook. Teresa is a vile creation, self-centred, racist and thoughtless, quick to objectify the black men she surrounds herself with in the pursuit of "love" (or her blinkered approximation of it). It's undoubtedly a masterfully controlled film, and Margarete Tiesel is fearless in the things she does for the camera. Seidl is keen to hold the frame, and his shots have a quirky symmetry to them, perhaps to a fault (as do all the films in the trilogy). For all these good things, however, the film is a tad overlong, and suffers from repetition in the middle passage. It's my least favourite of the lot, but it's worth seeing for an austere examination of what happens when an amoral woman decides she wants to get her rocks off abroad. It's a few quick-cuts and a 90's soundtrack away from being a BBC3 documentary. I award it a high three stars.

Paradise: Faith was my favourite of the three, primarily because of my own interest in the nature of organised religion, and faith. It starts as it means to go on, with the shocking sight of the main character, Teresa's sister Anna Maria (Maria Hofstatter), apologising to the large crucified Jesus on her wall for being sinful and flagellating herself over and over (and over) again. It's strong stuff that doesn't let up for the rest of the two hours, but whereas the previous film had a tendency to ramble on, making the same points more times than necessary, this one has more of a focus. The kick-off for the brunt of the plot is the arrival of Anna's estranged Muslim husband Nabil, and the way the two play off each other. Anna also passes her days by travelling from house to house spreading the word of the lord; this is where the strongest scenes can be found, as we are allowed an outside perspective on Anna's faith. One scene in particular involves Anna going to the house of a couple who have both been previously married (one being divorced, the other a widower). Their conversation, then argument, provides one of the strongest comments on the nature of faith I've seen in a film, comparable with the confession from The Seventh Seal. She just wants them to atone for their sins, but in their eyes they have not sinned. She thinks that they should seek forgiveness from the Lord, but in their eyes there is no Lord at all (as the man says, "Where is this God?"). It's a beautiful five minutes that provides the core of the film. The plot with the husband is the other side of this film's coin, as the two argue and bicker and circle around each other before painfully, realistically colliding. It is implied that it was their marriage deteriorating that led to Anna's faith becoming more of an obsession, and indeed, as the film goes on and the painful truths come out, Anna's faith starts to crumble (yes, she masturbates with a crucifix). A fascinating film, anchored by a painful performance from Hofstatter. Five stars.

Paradise: Hope is the final one of the three, and it falls somewhere in the middle of the two in terms of quality; the repetition is gone (indicated by the shortest running time, 88 minutes), but there is less intrigue (for me personally) than in the second film. I also found it the hardest to watch. Melanie Lenz plays very well as Melanie, a 13 year old girl (Teresa's daugher) who is sent to a "Diatcamp" to lose weight. Once there, the film turns into a warped coming-of-age story in which the usual rituals and tribulations of youth (drinking, smoking, staying up late and sneaking out to clubs) are played against the very uncomfortable relationship between Melanie and the 40something doctor on the site. She becomes infatuated with him, and he develops an obsession with her. She is naive and believes that their relationship is genuine and can last, he is aware that what he feels is wrong, but pursues it anyway. The film does not shy away from any aspect of the pair's relationship, and I almost had to look away in a number of scenes due to their frank and uncompromising nature (how this film was the one to receive a 15 certificate astounds me- it shows us more than, say, Todd Solondz's Happiness). It's also unexpectedly sad at the end; after the cold and distantly impressive first two, a sudden burst of feeling was quite unexpected. Four stars.

As a trio, they form a complete whole, sharing the same styles, motifs, longueurs and ideas. Films made about women in this day and age are rare; films made this honestly about women are even rarer, and the fact that this was made by a man is close to a miracle. They aren't a happy watch by any means, but they'd lose their edge and point if they were sugarcoated. They are a bleak antithesis to the trite and artificial dramas found in Hollywood, and they offer no easy ways out of the all-too-real situations Seidl is offering us. It's a brave and ultimately impressive whole that I highly recommend.

The Addiction [DVD]
The Addiction [DVD]
Dvd ~ Lili Taylor
Price: £4.99

5.0 out of 5 stars I'm Holding Out For A Critical Re-Appraisal, 21 Oct. 2013
This review is from: The Addiction [DVD] (DVD)
I must admit to being partial to Ferrara's rough and ready film making style, having greatly enjoyed the Driller Killer, and so bought this film "blindly", upon seeing it for sale. I had no idea what it was about, only that Ferrara directed it and Christopher Walken stars in it; I can honestly say that this is one of the best "blind buys" of my life.

It's about a young philosophy undergrad called Kathleen Conklin (Lili Taylor, giving it her all), who is bitten by a vampire in a dark underpass (one of the films many spellbinding Gothic sequences), and then herself turns into a vampire. She battles with this "addiction" over a great many years, meeting Walken's passive and wise vampire along the way, all before a dark and twisted conclusion.

Where this film excels is in its merciless slaying of the usual tropes of the vampire genre, and constant willingness to look at the more philosophical aspects of such an existence; there are clear metaphors with drug use (hence the title), and Kathleen's position as a philosophy student isn't just a script requirement to give her "character"; there is a direct and frequent interpretation and discussion of the meanings of various heavy philosophical texts. The implication is that all the great philosophers were in contact with, or were themselves, vampires; it's an outlandish one, but (somehow) within the film it never seems ridiculous at all.

As you might have gathered already; this is not a film for everyone, and it's certainly not your average vampire movie. It makes the edgy aspects of "Interview With The Vampire" (which I admire, book and film) look tame, and the film carries a certain sense of the terrifying, the unknown, that is present in every frame. The black and white cinematography isn't just an arty and pretentious style choice (although you could take it to be a reflection of how none of the issues discussed are black and white), but instead seems to be simply an aesthetic one; in trying to emulate the fairly tame terrors of the black and white monster films of yore, this film only grows in terms of impact. Ferrara makes good use of locations, with his apartments and vast, imposing streets; it feels like an expressionist movie in New York.

The saddest thing about this film is, mainly, how unknown and under-appreciated it is. Despite being Peter Bradshaw's favourite film , him being the Guardian's chief critic, you'd think this film would have more fanfare, or a larger cult audience, and that is a deep shame that it doesn't. I'm holding out for the revival this dark, un-nerving, brooding and terrifying film deserves.

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