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Reviews Written by
Mr. A. J. Richards "yourbiteall" (Weston Super Mare)

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Philomena [DVD]
Philomena [DVD]
Dvd ~ Judi Dench
Price: £3.50

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A pint of Guiness, 11 Feb. 2014
This review is from: Philomena [DVD] (DVD)
A film like Philomena comes along all too infrequently. That wonderful hybrid of quality drama, subtle, well-balanced acting and a sprinkling of welcome humor. Not to mention it all hung together around a meaningful and interesting subject matter.
Based on the true story of Philomena Lee, an elderly Irish woman who became pregnant as a teenager and had her child taken away from her by the Catholic Church and sold for adoption it truly is not just a fine piece of work from a idiosyncratic director but an example to all about how to make dramatic cinema. Its also a a high watermark in terms of its tear jerkiness. very seldom do you see a sentimental film full of appropriate humor and a lack of tacked on manipulated mawkishness. Take note War Horse, Les Mis, The Impossible and company.
I have never been a huge fan of Dench but here she gives the performance of a lifetime(wrinkles have never looked so engaging) backed up wonderfully by Coogan who is mildly eccentric and tempered but deeply moved all at the same time. My only concern would be the glaring convenience that pops up half way through but Frears keeps things so tightly wound that you feel completely tolerant of it straight away.
The movie has received some rare bashings by some critics who argue its intentions regarding its take on the Catholic religion. I say what goes around comes around and this deserves to be seen by everyone with a keen interest in, well, human interest stories.

Pain & Gain [DVD]
Pain & Gain [DVD]
Dvd ~ Mark Wahlberg
Price: £3.75

1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars I wish Bay was a Dont'er, 8 Feb. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Pain & Gain [DVD] (DVD)
Pain and Gain is ugly, tedious and if Bay had any sense he would have given up when realising a crime caper involving body builders does not translate very well when you try to make it idiosyncratic and arty.
I watched Southland Tales the other day, another mess of a movie also starring The Rock, but at least with Southland Tales it has the balls to tell something relevant and has a clear directive through all the madness to create a melodious and profound atmosphere. All Pain and Gain really gives you is a piercing migraine.
I suppose considering it is a true story it reflects the stupidity and desperation of certain people but its directed too flashily and erratically. Films such as A Life Less Ordinary, Suicide Kings and even the broad comedy Nothing to Lose are better prepared at dealing with this sort of story. If Bay had less of an ego i might suggest he is in on the joke with us regarding the fact that the meat heads in this movie embody the very people that are Bay enthusiasts. But i doubt hes that smart.
If it has anything of merit it is in the form of the ex wrestler Dwayne 'the Rock' Johnson who puts in another worthy expressive turn..if the guy can grab some more hard hitting roles rather than the dross he is given i would very much appreciate it. However, like the drool on your pillow in the morning, this movie needs wiping away very quickly.

The Wolf of Wall Street [DVD] [2013]
The Wolf of Wall Street [DVD] [2013]
Dvd ~ Leonardo DiCaprio
Price: £3.00

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dont touch the Quaaludes!, 4 Feb. 2014
At one point in Martin Scorsese's hyperactive, wildly provocative and imposing character piece( or should that be party piece) Leonardo Di Caprio's turgid, slimy stockbroker Jordan Belfort addresses his minions and reminds everyone that money indeed does buy happiness and garners popularity. It was at this point that i decided to give up on The Wolf of Wall Street. Not because its stating the glaringly inobvious and not because it doesn't even bother to send up the outrageousness it portrays..but because Scorsese is having fun here and is giving us his view on a scenario that quite frankly i couldn't care less what happens by the final credits. It merely elaborates on a stock brokers disreputable life with hows and whodunits but not with any scope on the whys and wherefores? One in which once you have seen one drug fuelled party after another you have seen them all. if i wanted to see hours worth of pratfalls and crazy shenanigans i would watch Jackass. At least that doesn't try and be all high and mighty with its conquests.
A tad harsh? Well perhaps. There are some genuinely funny scenes no more so than Leo high on Quaaludes, some sort of high-end animal tranquilizer, trying to crawl to his Lamborghini. There is even some fresh originality on show, i mean i have never seen characters get high on a yacht before..in the middle of a force 10 storm. So kudos for that. But like any hang over or come down the end results here of all the excessiveness leaves a nasty taste in the mouth. The whole thing is also exquisitely shot and the narrative at least maintains simplicity and focus even if the direction is a little choppy at times.
I would probably rate this film even lower than i have but it is just about saved by a terrific cast (including our Shane from The Walking Dead with an exceptional goatee) Jonah Hill is fast becoming a reliable and trustworthy supporting actor capable of more than just a comic presence and Leo adds yet another string to his bow with an extraordinary turn as Belfort that while lacking dramatics or emotional value at times, evokes memories of early Jim Carrey with some of the physical stuff and believe me thats a compliment.
If you managed to pick up subtext then all credit for squeezing that out or if you liked it for the bravura and craziness then so be it. For this film-lover it just became exhausting and monotonous.
The most revealing thing i can say is its interesting to realise that The Wolf of Wall Street, a film about banking and the evils that lie with in contains more sex and debauchery than the film Boogie Nights..a movie about the hardcore porn industry.

The Act of Killing [DVD]
The Act of Killing [DVD]
Dvd ~ Joshua Oppenheimer
Price: £5.99

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Act of Retching, 29 Jan. 2014
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This review is from: The Act of Killing [DVD] (DVD)
There is a thin line to most degrees of feeling, debate and procedure. The Act of Killing walks theses lines very skillfully but for me swaggers a little every now and then with questions left unjustly answered. We know that the atrocities that took place were insufferable and unforgiving and yet we are dealt an account of these events in a very fickle and intimidating way that was most unsettling. I mean surely these tyrants should be locked up by now..at least! instead of making some kind of surreal(though it only trades this kind of thing in garish make up scenes and pantomime type tomfoolery), almost insolent documentary. There is a glimmer of remorse etched over Anwar's face in one scene and a retching scene so sentient and provocative that it bares the question: Did these men ever truly feel for what they had done? Or had they become too stricken with immoral practices to really know what they were suppose to feel? Were their lives merely some kind of waiting room to hell.
Although not overwhelmed by The Act of Killing it is extremely intriguing and open to plenty of post discussion. Essential and ground breaking viewing that probably brings out my own insecurities and nativities about the world around me. These pseudo-gangsters make their own propaganda that starts to feel inherently wrong, there are scenes of great power here and I am all for unconventional story telling and creative flaunting in telling an educational and controversial tale but this has 'one time watch' written all over it. A strange, conceited beast lying in a heart of darkness that stuns the viewer. I am normally very open and strong willed but this is that rare occasion the line 'i felt like having a bath after watching it' came to fruition.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 7, 2014 11:16 AM GMT

Dallas Buyers Club [DVD]
Dallas Buyers Club [DVD]
Dvd ~ Matthew McConaughey
Price: £2.38

27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Approved Performance, 28 Jan. 2014
This review is from: Dallas Buyers Club [DVD] (DVD)
Well if you weren't a believer of the 'McConaughsance' you surely will be swayed after his outstanding turn as Ron Woodruf, an ignorant, blunt man who lives each moment as if it's his last until the day he is told that final day is coming around the corner very soon due to contracting the HIV virus. With terrific support from Jared Leto as his trans-gender pre-op confidante and Jennifer Garner as the smart non-judgemental doctor, Dallas Buyers Club slowly turns into the sort of movie that is worth your time and investment.
The character work in Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack's screenplay is sublime. offensive, ornery and devilishly confident, Ron remains a prickly rascal throughout, inappropriately selfless in how gloriously selfish he is. He staggers and swaggers through the film, refusing to die when the doctors say he should, persistent and confrontational to the end. you will be with him in spirit every step of the way.
there is also an interesting political, commercial aside going on especially towards the end of the film that adds textures and layers to the debate of the morality on show in the movie. Despite a harrowing subject it never overplays anything, remaining subtle for the most part and hardly a note of music is heard anywhere in terms of classical scoring.
If i had a gripe it would be to do with the pacing of the film..it can become a little confusing in terms of its time-line process but other than that this is the first great film of 2014. A film this bold and honest about imperfection and illness never felt so unashamed.

12 Years A Slave [DVD] [2013]
12 Years A Slave [DVD] [2013]
Dvd ~ Chiwetel Ejiofor
Price: £4.25

1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Indifferent Slave, 14 Jan. 2014
I think on occasion McQueen is trying too hard to get his points across about how distressful these bleak times were for certain folk back in those times. He, inadvertently or not, mentions references to Django Unchained which of course is in the same field of histrionics but more satirical and playful. Its like McQueen thinks this is the most important film in the universe and that grates on the tension and engagement at times. That said i have upmost respect for McQueen for being the intelligent and articulate person he appears to be in interviews and for his passionate directing.
12 Years a Slave is a stunning work esthetically and with in its introspective and nuanced performances, especially Cheiwetel who gives a subtle and somewhat stoic take on a man searching for his opportune freedom, but i just can not ignore the fact that it hops over to the Oscar bait tropes in its last third.
The Epps character was fascinating built upon a cowardness often attributed to the starkly cruel wife that follows his every move and the film in its first 45 minutes, reminded me of anything Paul Thomas Andersen has put his craftsmanship too. But it never reveals true depth save for a few meaty scenes between Chewetel and Fassbender and the human rights angle is something we can all relate too anyway. It was a fairly easy set up, it needed something more to make it truly epic. Not as consistent or as well rounded as Shame or Hunger, McQueen's previous two films, but good enough to become what will surely be one of the best of the year anyway.
And Ejiofor deserves all the praise in the world as he holds the limelight in awards season for all the sterling work he has contributed too down the years. From Bad guy duties in Serenity to Drag queens in Kinky Boots..he now has a role that truly stands the test of time, as for all its little meanderings, his performance is as marvelous as the backdrops that surround him. Trees and rivers have never looked so good and so full credit must go to the cinematographer Sean Bobbitt complimented by Hans Zimmer(music) at his finest and most creative and experimental.
Its harrowing, perhaps even sadistic and does not contain any real emotional profundity to make it an epic but it has too much cinematic austerity to be anything other than a decent and motivational film. And in its award battle with Gravity, I know where my hopes lie.

A Field In England [DVD]
A Field In England [DVD]
Dvd ~ Julian Barratt
Price: £7.20

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Surreal Field, 15 Dec. 2013
This review is from: A Field In England [DVD] (DVD)
The vast, open landscape captured on widescreen with black and white cinematography makes for displacement towards the characters by fixating ourselves to the setting. This is enhanced by psychedelic notions in behaviour and editing places one's mindset to fever pitch interpreting various meanings. A Field in England is begging for interpretation, having an open mind will result in a world of good.
Of course it is completely bonkers but Wheatley sure knows how to mess with his audience...one of the strangest films for some time.

Prisoners [DVD] (2013)
Prisoners [DVD] (2013)
Dvd ~ Hugh Jackman
Price: £3.75

9 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tortured Souls, 18 Nov. 2013
This review is from: Prisoners [DVD] (2013) (DVD)
Prisoners is more than the sum of its parts. Jake Gylenhaal's enigmatic, aloof but not all together dedicated cop staring into the abyss in most of his scenes might come across as insipid and empty but look closer and it is one of the most fascinating performances of the year. There is despair and despondency mixed with frustration and idleness and an almost care freeattitude in his approach and yet all the while his sole directive remains finding the missing girls. Its a balance which is congealed well with Jackmans character, the vengeful god-fearing dad.. the director throws an emotionally charged and morally complex set of issues at our two main stars and it brings the story to some really clever and interesting places.
The director's powerfully imposed mood of dread raises what might otherwise have been just a above par police procedural. It puts it into the same bracket as Zodiac and Gone Baby Gone (2007), pieces unafraid to explore human wretchedness through their bleak intricacies, The cinematography, though stark is utterly enthralling. You can breathe the dank air and sense of dread..it is relentless until it does give way to melodrama towards its climax. It blurs the lines of what is law, or what can transcend the law and it shows the effects of a civilian in a frightening extreme situation with realistic consequences.
But its Jakes disparaging, myriad cop wrangling with how to better himself who reaches a cathartic climax only for the audience to be told that perhaps Jackmans tactics all along were easily forgiven by those who were emotionally attached to the missing girls. Its a very intriguing movie and one that i couldn't stop thinking about long after the credits rolled, even its religious spouting seemed valid for a change, like a relief from all the evilness. It says alot about the difference between empathy and sympathy and makes you understand that not all character traits are ever that straightforward.
It also makes you pray that nothing like these terrible events ever occurs in your own life. 'Here endeth the lesson'.

Gravity [DVD] [2013]
Gravity [DVD] [2013]
Dvd ~ Sandra Bullock
Offered by DVDBayFBA
Price: £5.33

6 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lacking Gravitas, 10 Nov. 2013
This review is from: Gravity [DVD] [2013] (DVD)
Forest Gump, Titanic, Les Miserables, Avatar. These films and many more are manufactured in a way that they become media savvy, critically hyped and crowd pleasingly manipulative. However, its all subjective i hear you cry..of course it is and i am not about to crucify Gravity but i am here to say 'lets all just calm down a little bit'.
It is not churlish to begin with the fact Gravity is stunning on a visceral level. The 3D isn't added to Gravity for the sake of squeezing a few more pennies from the paying customer; it is arguably intrinsic to the success of Gravity as a film. Without 3D, Gravity would simply be deficient. This is one of its strong points as is it's inescapably intense camera work and cinematography. Quite simply breath taking, one of the highlights being a quieter moment of reflection with Bullock looking down at earth and gazing at a cloud formation while establishing to her comrades on earth(if they can hear her) the situation at the time.
Taken at face value and keeping in tune with the concept, on the surface Gravity is a four starrer, and apparently for many a masterpiece but dig a little deeper and you start seeing the flaws..some of which are unforgivable.
There were at least three parts of the film that grated on me;
The unnecessary quips about Clooneys looks seemed out of place and an excuse to inject some light relief from all the panic.
The dream sequence was quite laughable really. If you are going to deviate down that path then less of the forced humour and less of the self eulogising before hand.
The end of the movie went one contrivance too far.
The score was interesting in places evoking the likes of Moon and Blade Runner and again at times rallied the film to epic heights but it was let down with some obvious choir sections and a cliched climax.
Bullock is fantastic especially as she has to deal with corny dialogue at times her best moments saved for near the end(Woof Woof scene will either make you laugh or cry..oh and theres a baby crying, how very convenient...Hankies please!)
There is a minority that will crush this film with its heavy symbolism and lack of depth and phoned in performances. There will be a majority that will feel emotive about the grief stricken Space woman trying desperately to get back to Earth. I am not really in either camp. Like space itself..its beautiful to look at, mysterious and hypnotic but ultimately a vacuous void of nothingness.
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 19, 2013 10:49 AM GMT

Now You See Me [DVD]
Now You See Me [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jesse Eisenberg
Price: £3.29

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The more you look, the less you care!, 9 Nov. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Now You See Me [DVD] (DVD)
Abracadabra..and be gone with you! I wish.
The sleeper hit of the summer had a fascinating tone for the first half hour but very quickly descends into flashy, ridiculously staged nonsense that in the end is more about entertaining the audience rather than wooing them with all things magical.
Things become more and more out of control and farcical to the point where everything turns into a predictable, clumsy mess not helped by headache inducing camera work. Of course, it wouldn't be magic if there wasn't a big twist at the end, but it felt lifeless, sappy, and illogical all at the same time.
For real magic see The Prestige, Christopher Nolans spell binding ode to trickery at its most mystical and enchanting. The greatest trick this pulls is convincing half the population it is a decent watch.

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