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Mr. J. Ryden (In your mind, in the part you've forgotten about.)

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The Grey [DVD]
The Grey [DVD]
Dvd ~ Liam Neeson
Price: £2.75

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars They shoot wolves don't they?, 6 Oct. 2012
This review is from: The Grey [DVD] (DVD)
Crikey, Liam Neeson's acting career has enjoyed an exponential curve as of late. You can't move for seeing his rugged good looks staring out of movie posters across the land. Here in The Grey he plays a world-weary, man-about-tundra, oil-rig employee in far-flung Alaska. The plane journey home is cancelled at short notice, unfortunately while still airborne. Ragtag band of survivors, led by natural born leader Neeson must find civilisation before being picked-off by the elements or a much messier end at the fangs of Lupine foes.

Against the backdrop of relentless and monotonous whiteness, The Grey could have easily been an equally dreary experience. Thankfully though plenty is crammed into running time to guarantee a heady mix of survival horror film and buddy-movie. In fact, it's not a far cry from the equally enjoyable 'Alive'. But without the cannibalism. Speaking of which, The Grey does well to break-up the relentless battle for survival with moments of well-needed levity; the impromptu 'meal' scene is one that served to give the viewer some respite.

On the other hand, there are plenty of mawkish stereotyping The Grey is guilty of though not too much to the film's detriment. The cast are all adept at their parts with Neeson a natural choice for his role as reluctant hero.

All told, a film well worth a watch and will have you rooting for the dwindling gang; with a surprisingly less-than-predictable finale.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 24, 2012 4:15 PM GMT

Silent House [DVD]
Silent House [DVD]
Dvd ~ Elizabeth Olsen
Offered by HarriBella.UK.Ltd
Price: £1.98

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The basis for a decent horror let down by plot holes and farce, 1 Oct. 2012
This review is from: Silent House [DVD] (DVD)
Now, i'm only giving Silent House two stars as it had the foundations of a decent film and, of course, the brave decision to shoot in one continuous take (as did the original La Casa Muda); which is laudable no matter the standard of the output.

Thankfully the running time is reasonably short which is just as well as very little actually happens during the course of the film. Plot as follows; our intrepid heroine is helping father and uncle renovate summer house which has (amongst other things) conveniently had every window smashed necessitating in plywood boards placed over them all. Oddball former childhood friend of Olsen's turns up generally being creepy and cryptic. This is followed by an hour of general weirdness in the house. Lastly the grand 'reveal' at the end which has been done before and better in other films. That's about it really.

In terms of horror, yes there a few jumpy moments but only by virtue of cheap scares and the prevalence of close-up camera shots which doesn't allow the viewer the benefit of perspective. This doesn't make a horror film; anyone can sneak up behind you and shout 'boo' but that misses the point somewhat.

It was apparent that the aforementioned boarded-up windows were meant to induce claustrophobia and thus share Olsen's entrapment but, honestly, it wouldn't have been that hard to prise a piece away which, for me, undermined what it attempted.

My main bug-bear was that it lacked coherence and sequences of events that made little sense. Sure, by the end I guess the viewer is supposed to be impressed; 'ah, right I see what they did there'.

On the plus side, for any Elizabeth Olsen fans out there, both my wife and I commented on the number of gratuituous cleavage shots through the film. Which is ironic as the film did make me think of Twin Peaks.

Cyborg She [DVD] [2008]
Cyborg She [DVD] [2008]
Dvd ~ Haruka Ayase
Price: £5.91

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Do cyborgs dream of electric love?, 29 Sept. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Cyborg She [DVD] [2008] (DVD)
Cyborg She, well where does one start? Yet another purchase made on the back of overwhelmingly positive reviews. Thankfully, this one hit the mark for me. After reading the blurb (I mean, it's about some fella falling in love with a robot) I wasn't sure if i'd watch it with the wife; after all, i've seen enough Manga to know where this type of thing can lead...

In any event, it's actually a wonderfully meandering and gentle love story between one man and his cyborg girlfriend sent from the future to protect him from a yet unknown fate. Yer typical Brit rom-com really.

Our man Jiro is a harmless and pleasant loner whom spends his birthday alone each year, dining in the same restaurant; buying himself the same present; and eating the same meal. That is until the kooky lady from the future appears from nowhere and inveigles herself into his birthday celebrations and spices up his life for the evening. After that night they don't meet again for another year though this time she's a little more, er, kick-ass.

Cyborg She doesn't really fall into any particular genre as it blends together sci-fi, romance, comedy, college-drama, and action flick all in one. Though a lot is squeezed into the film, I found the most compelling element was the shifting dynamics between the pair's relationship as his feelings towards her grow with each day however the course of true love never runs smooth...

You could easily take the 100 minutes as a stand alone film in its own right but just when you think it's going to come to a predictable coda the director pulls it in an entirely new direction which really made me sit up. From there it's a psychadelic futuristic soma-induced tapestry which eventually ties-up the end with the start in an almost mobius manner.

Oh, and Haruka Ayase truly is a beautiful woman; worth the admission fee alone. That and the complex and rivetting plot of course. I mean, that would just be shallow wouldn't it.

Dark Mirror [DVD]
Dark Mirror [DVD]
Dvd ~ Lisa Vidal
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £2.10

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Mirror, mirror on the wall; which is the duffest film of all?, 13 Sept. 2012
This review is from: Dark Mirror [DVD] (DVD)
Director: Right, your brief is to scour the land far and wide to find me a lead character so dislikeable and devoid of redeeming features that the audience finds it impossible to care what happens to her.

Casting Director: Sure thing boss, leave it to me.

Seriously, i'm not sure if this was a deliberate casting decision but the plucky 'heroine' of the story is such a cold fish who spends most of the film giving her husband and son the cold shoulder. Imagine, if you will, you forgot to buy your partner a present or card for their birthday/anniversary/Valentine's day. Now imagine that look on their face as they realise what a cad you are for being so unthoughtful. I think you can see where i'm going with this...

Brief synopsis as follows; family, including cold-fish wife (to be known now as CFW) with a penchant for photography move into new home. Previous couple vanished without trace. CFW decides randomly to take a photo of herself while looking in the bathroom mirror. This sets off some otherworld spirit who kills anyone she takes a photo of. Honorable mention goes to the next-door neighbour (dumb, vacuous blonde) who is either that specious in real life or a very good actress; either way she certainly vies for top-spot with CFW in the most annoying film character. It's a tough call. Plus the husband seems to wander in and out of the film at will (he works. a lot. apparently) so I couldn't care less what happened to him either.

To be fair, Dark Mirror had the makings of a decent plot but it lacked cohesion and lacked explanation to the point that I cruised through the last 30 minutes idly wondering whether to file my CDs in alphabetical or chronological order next (not to mention the lacklustre cast). Stripped down to its bare bones it could have worked really well as a film similiar to Danielewski's book 'House of Leaves' or an MC Escher drawing.

In short, a vaguely creepy horror film that couldn't decide if it wanted to be a serial-killer flick or an alternative universe head-banger; could have been better but in the end doesn't warrant 90 minutes of your attention.

The Shrine [DVD]
The Shrine [DVD]
Dvd ~ Aaron Ashmore
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £2.85

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A horror film that could have been better, 2 Sept. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Shrine [DVD] (DVD)
If you're a horror afficianado you'll trawl through hours and hours of guff in search of the film to creep you out more than the first horror film you ever saw (which, let's face it sets the benchmark); in my case it was Evil Dead at the age of 12. More often than not you'll end up with a duffer which you only persevere with for the inevitable gore. The Shrine is one such addition to the horror genre.

Okay, tenuous plot as follows: failing journalist, and her trusty intern, persuades photographer (oh, that's lucky) boyfriend to travel to Poland to investigate the case of an American tourist going missing. Her editor has an assignment to investigate declining bee populations but apparently this scoop is worth travelling half way across the world for.

Now, cast-wise the only character I rooted for was the photographer boyfriend, the other two did nothing to engender the least bit of empathy. The greatest cardinal sin was the film's over-reliance on ludicrous decision making to propel the plot. Honestly, that's one of my biggest bug bears in horror films. Sure, the director has to orchestrate death scenes but the individual character decisions have to be credible.

On the plus side the death scenes are macabre and very much wince inducing. The only thing rescuing The Shrine from dreck status was the rug-pulling plot device in the final third which I thought very clever. The remaining cast speak mainly in Polish with no subtitles, which in hindsight was necessary to keep the viewer in the dark.

In short, a reasonable horror film let down by dodgy plot and characters hard to care about.

Prison [DVD]
Prison [DVD]
Dvd ~ Lane Smith
Offered by Bee-Entertained
Price: £9.64

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Prison? It certainly felt like a life sentence, 20 Aug. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Prison [DVD] (DVD)
Prison - 1988 horror flick transferred to DVD - has aged like a cheap table wine. This is the type of cheap and nasty horror film you would have browsed (de rigeur in the 80s) in the local video store long before your teens; wishing you were 18 but instead having to enjoy the films vicariously via the gaudy front cover and tantalising screenshots.

As it is, i'd never heard of Prison and only stumbled upon it thanks to Amazon; of the few reviews it had attracted they were overwhelmingly positive; I figured what could possibly go wrong? Plus it has Viggo Mortensen in it as a very early role (a cracking actor in recent years). It was my birthday last week so thought i'd treat myself to some retro blood and gore.

The intro starts off with our innocent man getting fried in the electric chair at the hands of the sadistic warden (Lane Smith). From there it's back to present day and the authorities have had to re-open the since decomissioned prison. Cue lots of new inmates including our plucky hero (Mortensen) playing a rather lacklustre Cool Hand Luke impersonation. In hindsight, I think Prison may have worked better with that angle; y'know the type oppressing prison regime a la Brubaker et al. In any event, it's not long before the bricked-up electric chair is unsealed, for reasons that escape me. From there we get into the horror film proper.

Granted, the death scenes were done pretty well and were all varied with sufficient blood and guts. I think my main criticism of Prison was it felt like it tried to span two genres with neither achieved particular well which instead diluted both endeavors. Mortensen was largely uncharasmatic so didn't make it easy for the viewer to indentify with him as the hero. Smith was also pretty two-dimensional and, equally, wasn't sadistic enough to achieve 'baddie' status. So much so that by the inevitable finale it was an overwhelming 'meh' from me.

In short, Prison it most definitely a product of its time which hasn't dated well at all. It's by no means the bottom of the barrel; it will provide 90 minutes or so of entertainment but there's far better films of its ilk and era out there.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 18, 2013 1:12 PM GMT

The Chaser [DVD]
The Chaser [DVD]
Dvd ~ Yun-seok Kim
Price: £5.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Chaser; good though a little pedestrian., 14 Aug. 2012
This review is from: The Chaser [DVD] (DVD)
Bought The Chaser on the strength of numerous positive reviews on Amazon. To be fair, perhaps I suffered from a case of the 'inflated expectations', if I were to be generous. The plot itself isn't vastly original; cat-and-mouse thriller which sees killer caught early in the film followed by our corrupt cop-turned-pimp searching for the still-living latest captive.

I do like my Korean and Japanese cinema so was eagerly anticipating this bad-boy. When all's said and done though, it wasn't the resounding success I thought it would be. The plot and acting is all good but sometimes the film seemed to veer into a slight slapstick feel which felt incongruous and out of place. Similarly, the inept and bumbling local police felt like they were played for laughs. This for me took something away from the urgency of the plot. As I say, the pimp, killer and young girl all played their parts well; they made up for the film's shortcomings somewhat.

In short, not a bad film by any stretch of the imagination but my experience didn't match that of its plaudits. A film of a very similar ilk I thought did better was German serial-killer flick Antibodies.

Absentia [DVD]
Absentia [DVD]
Dvd ~ Doug Jones
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £5.24

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Haunting & unforgettable, 6 Aug. 2012
This review is from: Absentia [DVD] (DVD)
Absentia is one of those rare gems which prove that a big budget is far less important than plot and cast. Watched this last night and is still whirring around in my brain, trying to make sense of its various threads. Those looking for blood and guts are going to be left wanting; there is very little in the way of in-yer-face SFX; instead it's left to a very able cast to pull-off this slow burning horror which is what they should be; horrific.

It has a real indie-feel to it (which i'm a sucker for anyway) principally as it eschews cosy convention which leaves the viewer in limbo; what will happen next? Who knows but you're sure there ain't gonna be a happy ending. It's also heavy on implications and suggestions, never spoon-feeding the viewer and leaving it open to interpretation.

The film's focus is on an eerie subway tunnel; predominantly shot in broad, sunny, daylight further accentuating the juxtaposition between the reassurance of light with the brooding and foreboding subterraenean space. It harks back to childhood; that primeval, inexplicable fear gnawing away at your brain, urging you not to venture into the abandoned warehouse; or the derelict garages; or the overgrown alleyway.

Where Absentia also works well is that hinted-at otherworld just beyond your peripheral vision; this isn't another planet, it isn't hell; it's much worse than that - the real world just tantalisingly out of reach. Other films that explore this are Hellraiser and The Dark, for instance; this fits firmly in said camp.

The largely unseen antagonist clearly has a macabre sense of humour as evidenced by the penultimate scene. Just when you think you've seen it all before, the altruistic sacrifice to save another; the film aims a kick well and truly in the groin to leave you nauseous and unsettled. The ultimate two-fingered salute to the well-tread Hollywood plot device to rescue a shred of happiness from the most hopeless scenario.

In short, a brilliant, poignant horror film which focuses on loss, absence and guilt rather than scares for scares sake.

Pontypool [DVD] [2008]
Pontypool [DVD] [2008]
Dvd ~ Stephen McHattie
Offered by Revolution Media
Price: £4.52

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sticks and stones may break my bones..., 15 July 2012
This review is from: Pontypool [DVD] [2008] (DVD)
Cripes, what an odd and strangely compelling film in Pontypool. Shot almost entirely in the town's radio station, the intelligence of the film lies in the plot unravelling via second-hand accounts. From the opening scene it's clear that things are going slightly awry but throughout the morning show more and more information is filtered through to suggest the town is in the grip of an unknown virus which is turning the townsfolk into murderous savages.

I think what also works in its favour is the ambuigity insomuch most 'zombie' films (I use the word very loosely here) it's obvious how the virus is transmitted; here there is no neat tying-up of loose ends. Sure, the cast have a reasonable idea of what is causing the outbreak but, even then, how sure are they? This brings me to another point; the plot itself is very clever and one which i've never come across before; how do you prevent a disease which has no physical existence.

The music worked very well to accentuate the creeping dread; speaking of which there's a great scene with the singing quartet. It's at that point where you beging to understand what is occuring. Again, how do you know if someone is sick when there are no outward manifestations of the sickness?

The only slight drawback is the introduction of the town's doctor; it came across as incongruous and spoilt the realism of the film somewhat. Then again, the character did provide some much needed plot explanation.

In short, a thoughtful thriller which reminded me of the J-Horror Kairo. I don't think it would appeal to the out-and-out zombie gore hounds but should appeal to those whom like their films slow-burning and cerebral.

Paranormal Entity [DVD]
Paranormal Entity [DVD]
Dvd ~ Mark Atkins
Offered by wantitcheaper
Price: £2.09

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Who ya gonna call? Dross-busters!, 8 July 2012
This review is from: Paranormal Entity [DVD] (DVD)
Ho hum, yet another 90 minutes squandered on a turgid film when I could have spent it on the Xbox or down the pub. To be fair, our Virgin on-demand bill has been creeping up of late due to the sheer number of films we're getting through. So we've decided to cut back and only watch existing DVDs or films on the box. Step forward Paranormal Entity courtesy of Movies 24 channel, with more adverts than a US soap opera.

I knew it was a knock-off of Paranormal Activity and realised it'd be on a much lower budget but all I ask for from a horror film is a few scares/gore - I mean, is that too much to ask for? So here we have yet another found footage film yadda yadda presented as fact. The acting from the mother isn't actually too bad; by and large she carries the film, such as it is. The daughter spends the duration looking sullen, screaming, or showing off her ample (one of the perks of the film, ba dum tish) busom. The mainly off-screen son (the plucky film-maker) isn't too bad but fails to notice the irony in their fixation with falling crosses and the amount of blaspheming he manages.

The main criticism is that the film plods its way to a deeply underwhelming finale with very little in between. The only vaguely creepy scene was the sister's voice coming out of the ether. Other than that, they spend most of the film unexplicably in the dark, I guess to make the most of their night-vision camera equipment which no doubt cost a pretty penny to rent out. Oh yeah, not to forget our absent 'doctor' who they try contacting throughout the course of the film. You know how naff films fixate pointlessly on one theme? This is one of those, cue lots of discussions as to where he is, when is he back from vacation, phoning the doctor on screen. Five minutes from the end he rocks-up in the middle of the night natch. Baffled, totally baffled.

In short, if you're a massive fan of the found footage genre or just luurve the Paranormal Activity series then you may tolerate this 'effort'. If you value your time like it was the end of the world tomorrow then find something better to spend your time on. Perhaps you could make your own Mockbuster of this and call it Paranormal Laxative about a haunted toilet.

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