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Private (London)

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by Russell Brand
Edition: Hardcover

12 of 34 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Russell's got brewer's droop!, 6 Nov. 2014
This review is from: Revolution (Hardcover)
He gets intimidated by the dirty pigeons . . . they love a bit of it!


A Field In England [Blu-ray]
A Field In England [Blu-ray]
Dvd ~ Julian Barratt
Price: £10.00

28 of 50 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Indulgent disappointment - Script Editor please apply, 8 July 2013
The preview interviews and shots for A Field In England suggested a very exciting film, with Ben Wheatley having created something truly original from a kernel of an idea.

For anyone who's seen Kill List, it's perhaps unsurprising that AFIE registers the same issues ie it is only two thirds of the film. AFIE is more like half a film, in fact. It's astonishing that in 2013 film critics should be bowled over by a director devoting a huge chunk of his film to visualising a psychedelic trip! Really? This is not a music video or short film, and is presented as such. So it's fair to consider and criticise on these terms.

Reece Shearsmith's demonic features dominate the film as his character Whitehead oscillates between cowardly lackey and tripped out . . . tripper. Michael Smiley is unconvincing in a role that both sounds and looks out of time (well, it looks and sounds like a man wearing fancy dress). Irritatingly, the characters all speak using modern tics and references, with the mildest nods to the era shown - it's like dialogue a 16 year old would write.

I felt embarrassed for Wheatley, Shearsmith et al by the end. The final twenty minutes are a lazy student film, providing no link to what's gone before - this last bit could be a stand alone piece given what it provides the audience with.

Sure, Wheatley can point to the pioneering psychedelic films of the 60s and 70s as inspiration but they were very much of their time with people experimenting with then new hallucinogens. So what is the point of A Field In England? Why not make it a 30 minute short where there is less need for structure and more room for visual setpieces?

The occasional stunning visual / music interlude just does not provide any grist for a film that creates a huge dent in Wheatley's claims to be one of the UK's top film directors. He has an undoubted talent but until there is some focus on filming a fully realised script, the box office returns for his films will surely continue to register losses, even against minimal budgets.

While the critics fawn over his films, the audiences for this sort of half baked indulgence will surely remain in the minimal (Kill List and Sightseers couldn't even chalk up £180,000 box office between them even with all the praise) - it's up to Wheatley whether that's something to stick with.
Comment Comments (9) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 28, 2013 12:10 PM BST

The Doll Princess (Bane 1)
The Doll Princess (Bane 1)
Price: £4.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Unsatisfying magpie crime fiction, 9 Jun. 2013
The Doll Princess was a big disappointment to me, floundering under a tedious over use of practically phonetic Mancunian dialogue, fatal under characterisation of the lead and a nagging suspicion that I'd read / seen it all before.

The book blurb mentions the author has been through a creative writing course and the story feels like it's been cobbled together by someone 'borrowing' elements from other works that he's put a lot of time into studying. Get Carter seems to have featured highly in setting up this story although unlike Carter, Henry Bane has little plausible motivation to get into the plot of Doll Princess. The dialogue has a whiff of a Mancunian Irvine Welsh, tho with so much filler chat, it tends to drag while the short sentences structure is very Ellroy, and commonly replicated these days.

Even Bane's name currently registers more for Tom Hardy's performance in Dark Knight Rises, a film which was released a few months before this book was published . . . perhaps cynical from me (although I see the second Bane book features a komodo dragon, recently featured in Skyfall).

The setting of 1996 is completely arbitrary, and made an even odder selection given the author was born in 1987. The constant references to the IRA bomb are pretty much the only sense of the era, bar the cop out tactic of constantly naming 'of the time' tunes playing in every club or flat Bane walks into. The mentions of Bane's Harrington jacket are in fact the only description we have on the character, bar a height reference against his pal Gordon. It's an odd choice to create such a blank character to lead a crime book, and as such the story never feels particularly thrilling.

Add in Bane's ability to constantly fall into plot progressions (ie he is detained by a government agency but, to aid the story, beats up the guy holding him hostage - in the back of a van - and is then treated to a torrent of exposition on the story) rather than make them and a predictable late twist to make the whole thing go 'a bit Chinatown' and the Doll Princess registers only as an over stylised and smug entry into the crime genre.

Kill Your Friends
Kill Your Friends
by John Niven
Edition: Paperback

7 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Tedious, unoriginal imitation prose, 30 April 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Kill Your Friends (Paperback)
I'd held off buying Kill Your Friends because I'd heard so many uneven reviews of the book. On finally buying it, Niven's writing style is so flat that you can instantly pick out Bret Easton Ellis, Hunter S Thompson and Iain Banks (especially Complicity) as the authors who he has bluntly sought to imitate. Pivotally, the character of Stelfox is uneven and boring, while Niven is so love in with his creation that he forgets to make him remotely believable, or show us anything to explain why he seems so popular with everyone around him. Indeed, the title of the book is just an adman's tagline given the people Stelfox is killing are repeatedly clarified as being anything but friends.

Clearly aping Patrick Bateman, Stelfox is like a 16 year old's version of American Psycho, lacking any subtle nuances or depth of thought. The constant barrage of abuse isn't clever or varied enough to be amusing, and the occasional tidbits on the music industry feel like Niven adding filler to a wafer thin story. Despite setting the story in 1997, there is no feel for the era whatsoever bar blurb at the start of each chapter to explain who is where in the charts, or who has been tipped to become huge (ie Gina G).

The spine quotes amused me though. India Knight, the now defunct The Word and someone at the Independent slavering over the 'filthy' content within. If reading a grown man find repeated ways to get the word 'spunk' on a page is your thing, this is the book for you.

I defy anyone who has read 'Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas', 'American Psycho' and 'Complicity' before this to gain anything from reading 'Kill Your Friends' bar a hankering to read the wholly original creations again.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 4, 2016 6:47 PM BST

Looper [Blu-ray]
Looper [Blu-ray]
Dvd ~ Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Offered by Discs4all
Price: £6.34

31 of 70 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The Emperor's Time Loop, 11 Jan. 2013
This review is from: Looper [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
I was really keen to see Looper, but ended up finding it the most boring and self satisfied film I saw in 2012. Given everyone knows the plot, this is why I found it so tedious (so don't read if you haven't seen it yet);

Looper does not, as a film, know what it is. It's a time travel film. It's a chase film. It's a sci fi film with no sci fi. It's about telekinesis. It's a Firestarter rip off about a devil child. It's a mangled love story. The constant flipping around styles and themes became boring as the film would not fully develop any of it's ideas. How Rian Johnson was able to film large, momentum deflating bits like the 'Bruce Willis moves to China' part is beyond me. Again, it looks good but if you cut it out, the story remains intact - Willis would only have to tell Levitt about their murdered wife and the (ridiculous) Rainmaker character.

To back this general point up, I listened to a podcast Johnson gave where he said Witness was very useful to him in writing the final act. Witness as a film has precisely nothing to do with Looper bar both being set on farms at the end. Literally, the only similarity is they are set on farms.

The film is also riddled with logic holes, not least the "hey, I'm not going to explain time travel" massive 'hands in the air' cop out bit. The random addition of telekinesis is actually just a lazy 'deus ex machina' to help an apparently baffled Johnson somehow end his premise of 'young Joe meets old Joe', despite the Cid plot ending up creating two entirely different Joes who bear no resemblance to each other.

After that, minor embarrassments like the ridiculous bit where Emily Blunt's character inexplicably jumps into bed with Levitt's (just to provide a lukewarm b-movie love scene??) and the part where Levitt frenziedly shoots tarmac to create smoke as a distraction added up to a growing suspicion that Johnson was making up the entire thing as he was going.

For me, the proof of Looper's flaws was in it's significantly underwhelming box office (about $150m globally), probably due to word of mouth from cinemagoers - not critics. The "hey, it was too clever for everyone" retort doesn't work when films like Inception or Twelve Monkeys have mined similar themes way more successfully.

I thought Looper took the audience for idiots, and the haphazard plotting, themes and characters lost me after an interesting opening 20 minutes.
Comment Comments (15) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 27, 2013 3:52 PM BST

Shame [Blu-ray]
Shame [Blu-ray]
Dvd ~ Michael Fassbender
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £7.85

10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Overwrought, overstylized and underwritten, 7 Jun. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Shame [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
The beautiful look of the film and the quality of Michael Fassbender's and Carey Mulligan's performances aren't in doubt, but I found the film as a whole lacking. The screenplay in particular was massively wanting as far as I was concerned - in terms of character development, nobody in this film goes anywhere.

To put this in context, I love Jonathan Glazer's film 'Birth' which Shame has similarities to, not least in the visuals. So this isn't knocking a specific type of film. While 'Birth' provides a story, Shame gives Fassbender and Mulligan skin deep character histories and no development or gained self knowledge at all.

For a 100 minute film, a hell of a lot of screentime is given over to scenes which do nothing, but look good. 5 minutes are given to Mulligan singing when the actual point of the performance (to evoke some kind of emotion in Brandon) requires nothing like that. Plot wise, the film has several of these scenes which serve little purpose - that's a directorial choice, and makes me wonder how long the screenplay actually was. I'd guess it was nearer 75 pages / minutes.

This film has nothing new to say about addiction either. The much trumpeted research writer Abi Morgan and McQueen did offers no insight bar "look at this sex addict." After the film finished, I was given to wonder what was the point of Sissy's character? She's not a sex addict but neither does her appearance serve any real plot purpose come the end - certainly Brandon is left apparently unchanged. The probable excuse of "well, that's how sex addiction is" does not make (or justify) a screenplay, in my view.

The vague family history hinted at between Brandon and Sissy would be an essential plot point but we are just left guessing as to what it is, and thus the hugely OTT finale (including a pretty shamefully designed trip to an apparent gay sex dungeon) serves to tick a box marked 'find an ending' more than actually give us any sort of resolution.

The kind of dialogue shown when Brandon takes a co-worker out for dinner and we see a different side to him was what I hoped to see in Shame, but the option to stylise everything and pander to overlong visuals were the director's preference - didn't work for me.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes [DVD] [2011]
Rise of the Planet of the Apes [DVD] [2011]
Dvd ~ James Franco
Offered by Shop4World
Price: £1.94

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Does exactly as promised (eventually), 3 Jan. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The first 40 minutes or so had me wondering how such a lazy script had been such a smash hit. James Franco's typically bland performance and some real plausibility stretches (Caesar living in a house for years??) made for a soap opera start, with some CGI apes chucked in for good measure.

However, the film picks up speed hugely at the midpoint, and the director makes full use of the premise for the second half. The setpieces are tremendous with the humans relegated to the sidelines as the film focusses on the evolution of Caesar and his leadership of his fellow simians. it's a real irony that the humans are very shallow creations - Franco, Freida Pinto, Tom Felton, John Lithgow, David Oleyomo and Brian Cox are all given skindeep characters to work with and generally produce expected results with their performances, which bogs down the first half at points.

Andy Serkis et al, and the initially slightly suspect (but finally fully realised) CGI work together to create a final half hour of action and setpieces that is unrivalled in any recent big budget Hollywood films. Any criticism of Rupert Wyatt's work with the first half is alleviated by the riproaring end.

After my initial doubts, I have to admit that there really isn't any point in wittering on about plot implausibilities for such a big scale film, so I suggest you watch it in the spirit it's intended - a genuinely thrilling Hollywood popcorn flick.

Funny People [DVD] [2009]
Funny People [DVD] [2009]
Dvd ~ Adam Sandler
Offered by ReNew Entertainment
Price: £2.40

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Apatow casts his family and sabotages a good film!, 18 Dec. 2010
This review is from: Funny People [DVD] [2009] (DVD)
Funny People didn't appeal to me in the cinema due to the awful film poster (a version of which is the DVD cover), the irritation of Apatow relentlessly casting his wife (Leslie Mann) and kids in his films and the running time (140 mins).

On eventual viewing, I was pleasantly surprised by the film and enjoying it - Rogen's and Sandler's characters (along with Rogen's flatmates) were believable and funny, and the film was moving in the right direction towards the emotional drama Apatow had promised.

How then to explain the inclusion of Apatow's wife and kids which imbalances the plot, and pushes Rogen and Sandler's characters into behaviour that doesn't fit with their initial performances? Why Eric Bana took the role of 'Stereotypical Aussie Drongo', I'll never know - Bana is a likeable presence and has comedy skills, but is given a character so stupid and boorish it makes no sense that Mann (presented here as a wonderful woman who takes an old boyfriend into bed while her husband is away, and her kids are playing next door - ok then) would ever have married him.

Take out the 30 / 40 mins when Apatow's family take centre stage, and you have a very promising film based on an aspiring comedian getting to know a global comic star, through a circumstance that makes sense. The pratfalls and indulgence of giving Mann centre stage in a show off role (written as 'Oscar shot' by her hubbie, presumably - we even view Mann's real film roles from her youth at one point!!) present a clear case for the film's failure.

The decision to marginalise a hilarious Jason Schwartzman and Jonah Hill combo along with the lovely Aubrey Plaza (all working in the same industry and very relevant to the story) was not wise, and I really wished the 'alternate version' of the film would correct this and marginalise Mann and her kids - sadly not.

Worth a watch, but rather like you are watching two films glued together.

Heartless [DVD]
Heartless [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jim Sturgess
Price: £3.83

4 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A big letdown in the originality department, 21 Jun. 2010
This review is from: Heartless [DVD] (DVD)
Convinced by an enticing trailer and the positive reviews here (bar the 'Silent Child' PR plug), I bought Heartless - which I think was released simultaneously at the cinema and on DVD.

Promoted as 'a Philip Ridley film', the reviews suggested an original urban horror. Alas, there is practically nothing original here. Take pieces of Chris Cunningham's Aphex Twin videos, a bit of Hellraiser, some Devil's Advocate (where 'Papa B's' big speech has been shamelessly lifted from) and a final twist, and you have Heartless.

While that sounds a great mix, in reality it's all lazily stuck together, especially with regards to the final 'twist'. This particular plot twist has been so chronically overused in the last decade that it's now surely no longer a twist and merely an expected, lazy plot device for tired screenplays - it also registers much of the film as pointless, Dallas-style as a result. In fact, the film would function much better as an urban horror without this last gasp wheeze and a bit more commitment to the original premise.

Sturgess is fine as the main character Jamie (bar a rather gormless expression for the scenes with his birthmark), while Joseph Mawle and Eddie Marsan are excellent in their brief roles as the satanic Papa B and his goon Weapons Man respectively. A couple of interesting visual flourishes and some moving orchestral music aside, the film suffers from stilted, pretentious dialogue and a wider lack of characterisation (Jamie's brother and mum don't ring true at all, while Tim Spall is miscast in flashback scenes).

All in all, I'd recommend you track down the music vids and films that blatantly inspired Heartless rather than settling for this.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 27, 2010 12:06 PM BST

Adventureland [DVD]
Adventureland [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jesse Eisenberg
Price: £2.40

4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Late 80s Dawson's Creek, 28 May 2010
This review is from: Adventureland [DVD] (DVD)
Despite the advertising, this film is a fairly lazy summer of love fairytale, where we're asked to believe the Jesse Eisenberg who starts the film as a standard Jesse Eisenberg character (see Zombieland, Rodger Dodger etc etc), picks up a summer job and inexplicably instantly becomes popular with the guys and attractive to the gals. Straight away, this will either grate with you, or entertain.

The biggest letdowns for me were the lack of humour and the lazy, indulgent characterisations. Ryan Reynolds was kept in second gear all the way through, Eisenberg does his Eisenberg by numbers (a comparable to the more likeable Michael Cera's efforts) and Kristen Stewart, well, she does Kristen Stewart.

The other characters are all surface deep 'only-in-the-movies' types (ie the wise nerd friend who exists only to help the lead, the zany other friend etc).

The film doesn't look very 80s, and the music and introspection kept reminding me of Dawson's Creek. I wasn't expecting Superbad, but I was expecting way more than the fantastical summer romance by numbers Greg Mottola has delivered. If, however, you can swallow the premise that the nerd gets the girl and becomes cool 'just because' (and lots of folk did), you'll enjoy this.

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