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J. Hawkins

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Nightcrawler [Blu-ray] [2014]
Nightcrawler [Blu-ray] [2014]
Dvd ~ Jake Gyllenhaal
Price: £7.00

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Jake Gyllenhaal gives an excellent performance as Lou Bloom, a very compelling manipulator., 7 Jan. 2015
Nightcrawler is a Schraderesque character study of a man far more dangerous than Travis Bickle. Like Bickle, Lou Bloom doesn’t like people, however Taxi Driver saw Bickle feel compassion for at least one person – Lou seems to have contempt for absolutely everyone. Lou’s interactions with other people have only one purpose – control. He is very opportunistic and has an unshakable confidence that isn’t hindered by the human inconveniences of nervousness and guilt.

Jake Gyllenhaal commands the long monologues of Dan Gilroy’s script, stealing every scene he’s in as the unnervingly brazen and enthusiastic Lou Bloom. Gyllenhaal lost 20 pounds for the role and it really worked, his gaunt face and glaring eyes do quite a lot of the acting for him. The performance carries the film and this will no doubt be recognised by the Academy next February.

In the film’s opening moments, Lou is a vagrant who is shown committing crimes both petty and, it’s suggested, not very petty at all. He’s in the desperate pursuit of a job, and when he meets someone who could be of benefit, Lou initiates his charm offensive and inundates them with a relentless barrage of articulate yet platitudinous language as if he’s reciting the effusive CV of a quixotic student.

Although his self-promotion is overbearing in the first few instances, Lou soon proves his skill in accruing large amounts of information and repeating it with the utmost conviction and credibility. Gyllenhaal must have relished delivering director Gilroy’s excellent script, his manner of speech reminded me of Patrick Bateman’s highly detailed monologues on everything from his morning routine to Huey Lewis and the News in Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho. Despite both men’s articulacy, their diction feels recycled, and this is because it is – their cynical sociopathy means they cannot form true, sincere relationships, however they are able to counterfeit them through their adroit ability of learning and imitating the necessary behaviour.

Quick wits and amorality are key skills for any successful paparazzo, so it is unsurprising that Lou Bloom thrives in the field. His first forays into professional prying are very funny. Inspired by a chance encounter with venerable camera man Joe Loder (Bill Paxton), Lou buys a rudimentary camcorder and scours the myriad streets of Los Angeles, abruptly stopping next to the scene of a car accident and poking his camera right in people’s faces; when he’s challenged he proclaims with an uncommon doubtfulness -‘I’m fairly certain I’m allowed to do this!’ You soon see Bloom gain confidence as he pushes the boundaries further and further, making for tense, unpredictable viewing.

His audacity proves successful, snatching footage that’s nice and gory, impressing Nina Romina (Rene Russo), the blonde, brassy director of a local news channel. Despite an appearance and demeanour that suggests seasoned business acumen, Nina spends much of the film under the thumb of Lou.

After proving his worth, enjoying his growing control over Nina and soon realising how vital he is for the news agency’s spiking ratings, Lou proves that his manipulation can work, albeit it very unattractively, in courtship. Gilroy’s best monologue occurs when, over dinner with a reluctant Nina, Lou blackmails her into establishing a longstanding sexual agreement, using a business-like vernacular bereft of anything remotely romantic, erotic or sexual.

Like Gone Girl, Night Crawler is a satire of the yellow journalism peddled by television news, content that’s perhaps interesting for the public but not in the public interest, a distinction that is gleefully ignored in favour of lucrative scare-mongering and countless other immoralities. As the majority of the characters are under this satirical gaze, I found it hard to care when they fell victim to Lou’s vicious conniving, my apathy extending to even his long, suffering accomplice Rick (Riz Ahmed) who is too darn wet and spineless to get that emotionally invested in. None of this, I hasten to add, is a major detriment.

The film is attractively shot by Robert Elswit, much of whose striking work can be found in the films of Paul Thomas Anderson including There Will Be Blood (2007), Punch Drunk Love (2002) and Boogie Nights (1997), the latter’s sun-kissed, neon-lit aesthetic being most similar to Nightcrawler’s. Elswit’s work here is also likely to immediately draw comparisons with Newton Thomas Sigel’s photography in the beautifully slick Drive (2011).

With a tense, unpredictable narrative that’s laced with strong satire and anchored by a great character and great performance, Nightcrawler is one the best films of 2014.


The Riot Club [Blu-ray]
The Riot Club [Blu-ray]
Dvd ~ Natalie Dormer
Price: £6.00

25 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A genuinely uncomfortable, shocking film about yobbos in waistcoats that met and surpassed my expectations., 7 Jan. 2015
This review is from: The Riot Club [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
After an amusing introductory scene that informs you of the club’s centuries old origin, the film turns to contemporary Oxford and presents us with the latest generation of students and Riot Club members. It follows first-year students Miles Richards (Max Irons) and Alistair Ryle (Sam Claflin), both are of ‘good stock’ however the former is normal and down-to-earth and the latter is a malicious, fascistic sociopath.

During the freshers' activities, Miles quickly befriends the middle-class Lauren (Holliday Grainger), a friendly girl from Northern England, The romantic pair have a sweet naturalism as they playfully talk about and erode their differing heritages. The scowling, aloof Alistair, however, proves to be not much of a conversationalist.

Both are soon inaugurated into the Riot Club, whose other members include Harry Villiers (Douglas Booth), the pretty boy who struck me as the de facto leader of the club; Hugo Fraser-Tyrwhitt (Sam Reid), a closet homosexual with an attraction to Miles; Dimitri Mitropolous (Ben Schnetzer), a horribly rich Greek student, and James Leighton-Masters (Freddie Fox), the smug little squirt who’s somehow the president of the club. Some have said that it is littered with caricatures, but the film isn’t about ordinary Oxford students or ordinary privilege, it is about an elite circle of extreme wealth and aristocracy.

After Miles and Alistair make up the Riot Club’s ten members, the group soon have their risibly pompous suits tailored and set off for a night’s debauchery at The Old Bull, one of the few establishments they haven’t been banned from. By the time this happens, I thought I had the measure of the pretentious characters and the film’s narrative and tone, but as the ‘dinner’ progresses, both the characters and the course of events become veritably loathsome.

As most will know, The Riot Club is inspired by the Bullingdon Club, an unofficial Oxford University dining society infamous for its destructive hedonism that boasts alumni such as David Cameron, Boris Johnson and George Osborne. The film’s main target of attack isn’t the purported anti-social behaviour of such people, the obnoxious decadence we witness is not endemic to the highly disagreeable ‘Riot Club’, what it attacks is rather the characters’ raging, blue-blooded superiority complexes that causes it. Some may disagree with its politics, they may consider it a gross exaggeration; it is indeed vehement in its depiction of class wars, however I think it is undeniably a very well executed piece of filmmaking.

The film is adapted from the stageplay Posh by Laura Wade, and the middle section of the narrative, which is one long scene, certainly feels like the work of a playwright. Like Tracy Letts’ Killer Joe (2011) and Bug (2006), it is another example of how punchy stage material often makes an excellent transfer to the cinema.

Much like Letts’ work, The Riot Club contains a maelstrom within a cramped four walls. The dinner goes from embarrassing to plain excruciating as the decuplet, fuelled by alcohol, drugs and each other’s presence, become increasingly hateful and immoral, the vile crescendo reaching a climax that’s genuinely shocking. It is all witnessed by the unassuming pub landlord, who is initially honoured to host the boys. The sight of him sycophantically at the beck and call of people half his age who look at him the way they would dog mess on their shoe is pathetic in the true meaning of the word.

The worst offender is Alistair; Sam Claflin is excellent when delivering his well-written diatribes with drunken, acerbic hatred. Alistair has genocidal contempt for the working classes and those bereft of prestige, he gets so angry that he’s reduced to saying ‘I’m sick to f*cking death… of poor people!’ Alistair is the most odious example of unearned privilege and arrogant sense of entitlement. He rants about the successes and innovations of the ruling classes and the proletariat’s supposed jealousy as if he’s had a part in it - after all, what exactly has he achieved apart from winning the genetic lottery? Claflin proves himself as an accomplished villain actor, he gives his character a sociopathic quality; when there aren’t flashes of his vulgar jealousy, resentment and massive hubris, Alistair has an unnerving emotional vacuity.

The Riot Club is not simply 107 minutes of pretty boys holding champagne flutes, it is a sharply made thriller that is perhaps politically divisive but rivetingly executed.

Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 16, 2016 4:32 PM GMT

Schindler's List - 20th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray + Digital Copy + UV Copy) [1993]
Schindler's List - 20th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray + Digital Copy + UV Copy) [1993]
Dvd ~ Liam Neeson
Price: £10.00

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Schindler’s List is a masterful blend of direction, cinematography, scope, score and performances, resulting in an epic of overw, 20 July 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
WWII and The Holocaust were events of mind bending statistics and proportions. Tens of thousands dead in single bombing raids, 20+ million Soviets dead, 15+ million Chinese dead, 6+ million Poles dead, 7+ million Germans dead, 11 million the victim of Nazi genocide – it just beggars belief. The European and Pacific theatres were so dreadful, so massive, that it’s impossible for one to fully process it emotionally.

Schindler’s List is one of the finest cinematic depictions of those dark years; a sweeping, brutal film that brings a remarkable story to the attention of millions of viewers. However, as with all historical films, it does not serve as the definitive source of information.

The film follows Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson), a Sudeten German businessman who reaped the benefits of slave labour during WWII. With his imposing presence and magnetism, he charms his way through Nazi circles, soon operating an enamelware factory in Kraków, Poland using Jewish labour. At this point Schindler appears largely indifferent to the persecution all around him, or rather he avoids confronting the ugly truth of the Nazi’s approaching final solution.

He eventually becomes acquainted with perhaps the most memorable character of the film Amon Göth, the callously evil commandant of the Płaszów concentration camp who is performed excellently by Ralph Fiennes. Göth was an incredibly violent man, the extent of his crimes were such that his sentencing was phrased as following: ‘Amon Göth himself killed, maimed and tortured a substantial, albeit unidentified, number of people.’ Göth’s violence isn’t sugarcoated in the film, he shoots dozens of defenceless people and never shows even a modicum of remorse, so fanatical is his hatred for them. The film is starkly brutal, there is no cinematic sheen, the scores that are shot bleed profusely as they fall to the ground like rag dolls.

Fiennes, whose face can be both that of a mild-mannered Englishman and sinister villain all at once, delivers a performance that’s nuanced and restrained yet hauntingly evil. Just like an inundated office worker, Göth complains to Oskar about the pressures of the job, which at the time is the exhumation of thousands of rotting corpses – ‘Can you believe this? As if I don’t have enough to do they come up with this? I have to find every rag buried up here and burn it.’

Like Adolf Eichmann, the logistics man responsible for the deportation of hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews, Fiennes’ depiction of Amon Göth is another example of Hannah Arendt’s phrase ‘the banality of evil’. It is a compelling depiction of one of the Third Reich’s most committed defenders; a man deeply entrenched in Nazi ideology that has lost almost all humanity.

The relationship between Schindler and Göth and his SS cronies is quite uneasy for the viewer. Schindler enjoys pushing the boundaries, he thrives off being a renegade, in one scene he kisses a Jewish woman in the presence of a whole party of SS officials.

As the film progresses and Schindler realises both the abhorrence of the situation and his power to do something about it, something of a good vs. evil dichotomy arises. Deriders may say this is a simplistic construct, but it isn’t, they are two complex characters. Their exchanges shows that Schindler is the strongest leader between him, he has personality and charm, whereas Göth only has ruthless barbarism, something Göth realises and struggles with.

The film has grand scope and many brilliant set pieces. A notable example is the ‘Red girl’ scene during the liquidation of the Krakow ghetto, it is very impressive logistically, there are countless extras who all need directing. Schindler, who is atop a hill witnessing the brutality below, is the camera’s point of view, following this little girl in a red coat (famously one of the few moments of colour in the film) as she navigates her way through all the murder and pillaging. The scale of the scenes at the Płaszów concentration camp is also considerable, particularly as great masses of prisoners, naked and completely dehumanised, are shuffled around like cattle for inspection.

Interestingly, Spielberg said that Schindler really did see a red girl walk down the street unharmed during the liquidation; Spielberg then said that her bright red coat represented the obviousness of the Holocaust and how the Allied governments were aware of what was happening yet didn’t take any decisive actions in stopping it. I am not one for finding grand metaphors in an item such as a red coat, I think the scene is most interesting as a re-enactment of Schindler’s account, however I’m sure many would.

Cinematographer Janusz Kaminski said that the film was shot in black and white so it would look ‘timeless’. I think the colouring achieved the desired effect, and I also think the film’s visceral edge and authenticity was achieved through the hand-held, shaky cinematography that would later work so well in Saving Private Ryan (1998).

A great film will almost always have a great score, and it is no different with Schindler’s List as Spielberg once again found a masterful auditory companion in John Williams, whose beautifully melancholy score, particularly the central violin melody, has become instantly recognisable to many people.

The depiction of the mass exhumation at Chujowa Górka (pictured above) is set against the backdrop of Immolation (With Our Lives, We Give Life), the stirring operatic vocals and chords of which make the scene almost apocalyptic. There is also notable use of Hebrew music, such as the ebullient Yerushalaim Shel Zahav and the haunting Oyf’n Pripetshek/Nacht Aktion. Even the trailer leaves a huge impression through music. ‘Exodus’, a work by the celebrated Polish composer Wojciech Kilar, has a brooding subtlety that emphasises the trailer’s ominous ambiguity, making its two minutes and twelve seconds most moving and unsettling.

Despite massive universal acclaim, the film inevitably had its detractors, most notably Stanley Kubrick, who said:

‘The Holocaust is about 6 million people who get killed. Schindler’s List is about 600 who don’t.’

Firstly, around 1200 were saved, not 600. Kubrick suggests that ‘Schindler’s List’ is somehow a sugar-coated account of the Holocaust, it certainly isn’t. It is a true story, Oskar Schindler really did save 1200 people, it isn’t a fanciful, maudlin figment of a screenwriter’s imagination. It is an emotionally affecting yet tactful depiction of both the systematic murder of scores of defenceless people and a complicated man’s remarkable act of humanity in the face of unimaginable suffering.


Sennheiser 504291 HD 202 Closed Back On-Ear Stereo Headphone
Sennheiser 504291 HD 202 Closed Back On-Ear Stereo Headphone
Price: £29.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars They're really very excellent., 14 Feb. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The low price of the Sennheiser HD 202 headphones belies its fantastic sound quality. They deliver such detailed, punchy sound, they highlight each and every instrument of a song.

To say that they're excellent for the money would be true, but it would also be something of a backhanded compliment; these could compete with headphones of far higher prices. If this is what Sennheiser delivers for under £30, what must their premium products be like?

If you're looking for a cheap pair of headphones, I don't see much point in looking any further.

The Hunt [Blu-ray]
The Hunt [Blu-ray]
Dvd ~ Mads Mikkelsen
Price: £7.99

20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Who would've thought that a Danish art house film could be so thoroughly gripping?, 28 Mar. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Hunt [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
`The Hunt' is a truly accomplished film, its simple premise and themes are executed perfectly. The film is hugely engrossing and completely and utterly infuriating, which is a testament to the merits of its acting, direction, script and hyper-realism.

The film follows Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen), a lonely primary school teacher who relishes his job and is popular with both the children and the local community. Just as he meets Nadja (Alexandra Rapaport) and begins a relationship with her, his relationship with another woman, 5-year-old Klara (Annika Wedderkopp), lands him in immeasurable trouble. What happens is a completely innocuous misunderstanding, but the community, the `adults' who are supposed to be rational and fair, turn into a lynch mob.

The film is about the danger of mass-hysteria, ignorance and subsequently the frightening power of numbers. It teaches the importance of measure and consideration; it's a much needed anecdote to the sensational vilification, general ignorance and trashy media that permeates our lives.

It's the scare-mongering, amoral tabloids that partly brainwash and empower the dangerously ignorant lynch-mobs that arise whenever someone screams `paedophile!' or `woman beater!' These lynch-mobs normally consist of pugnacious, dreadful people who enjoy drama and violence rather than actually care about their cause.

The film is intelligently and thoughtfully written. The girl is by no means vindictive; as much as you want to vent your anger, she's clearly far too young to understand what is happening. It's the `adults' who display their stupidity, their total lack of reasoning and fairness left me indignant for the entirety of the running time and subsequently the whole evening - the film really works.

There is a palpable sense of danger throughout the film, you genuinely fear for Lucas' life; seldom have I empathised with a character so dearly. Who would've thought a Danish Art House film could be so thoroughly gripping?

`The Hunt' is a thought provoking, tactful and important film that should be seen by as many people as possible. It's one of the best films of 2012.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 28, 2013 1:47 PM BST

Holy Motors [Blu-ray]
Holy Motors [Blu-ray]
Dvd ~ Denis Lavant
Offered by Helen's Goodies
Price: £9.27

13 of 32 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars 'Holy Motors' is boring, nonsensical avant-garde hogwash. It's one of the worst films I've seen in a while., 26 Feb. 2013
This review is from: Holy Motors [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
The film is a parade of pseudo-intellectual claptrap, a mere montage of disjointed oddity; it has no direction, it just presents the viewer with one weird, meaningless image after another. I derive no positive emotion from a film that relies solely on ambiguous subtext, surrealism and symbolism.

I began to lose faith in the film by the 40 minute mark, each minute after that began to drag severely. Some people have been flabbergasted by the suggestion that it's `boring', I don't see what's so surprising about that, how can you be engaged by something that's so utterly worthless?

Some people have praised its imagery, waffling on about how it `celebrates the medium'. I agree it's striking and unconventional, but that's all it is; the best films achieve in both celebrating the medium of film and delivering strong, engaging narratives, whether they're simple or complex. Any idiot can throw together two hours of sheer meaningless oddity and claim it to be `metaphorical' - it's weak filmmaking.

Even fans of the film have no idea what's going on, however many of them seem to relish mustering up their own vague, self-aggrandising interpretations of it. Although there are those who genuinely enjoy such ambiguity and have an honest approach to analysing the film, there are many that don't.

These are people who are likely to fiercely defend the film; typically, they will patronisingly label the film's critics as ignoramuses who need their narratives to be `spoon-fed' to them. I cringe to think about the scores of obnoxiously pseudo-intellectual people who will attempt to revel in the utter poppycock that `Holy Motors' serves by the shovel load. I apologise for such strong language, but it irks me.

This is as bad as avant-garde cinema gets; it's nothing more than an indulgence by Leos Carax.
Comment Comments (12) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 29, 2014 12:54 AM BST

F [DVD] [2010]
F [DVD] [2010]
Dvd ~ David Schofield
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £2.91

0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars This banal, remarkably unfrightening film seems to have been made with a GCSE Media Studies qualification., 22 Aug. 2012
This review is from: F [DVD] [2010] (DVD)
'F' is interesting initially, however it quickly descends into a woefully banal, generic and wholly unfrightening slasher flick. This film takes me back to watching my classmates' Horror trailers in secondary school; it seems as if the film-makers consulted a GCSE Media Studies text book when attempting to construct tension - it's tiringly cliched and ineffective. One of film's methods is its hilariously useless and sometimes irritating score, which borrows elements from the eerie children's rhyme in 'A Nightmare on Elm Street'.

The film's paper-thin, immature and utterly dumb plot makes me think that the crew also opened the text book when it came to narrative, which consists of a secondary school being raided by hooded assailants whom needlessly jump and climb around with such agility that they appear to have either been bitten by a radioactive spider or are just psychotic break dancers, it's all completely stupid.

Almost all of the characters are obnoxious and flat: the unreasonable, vindictive daughter; the cold, officious bitch of a boss; the overly sarcastic, rude little urchin of a security guard. They all add up to an increased blood pressure, which is a testament to their acting credibility, perhaps. As I said, the film began strongly; it appeared to be a straightforward but compelling, resonating story about a middle-aged man wrestling with the pressures of work and family after suffering what he considers an injustice, however it devolved into an amateurish rip-off.


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