Once More Review

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There isn’t much to Once More, hell its a film people have seen time and time again with a story people have read or watched over and over but there is something new about it as well and that lies in the wonderful performances it hides within. Not only does the film have a great lead in Morgan Freeman but he is joined by a exceptionally talented group of young actors you should look out for in the future.

Once More follows Monte (Freeman), a disgruntled western writer who is having problems writing as his life is slowly coming to a close or so he thinks. When his nephew pushes him to go spend a summer in the quiet location of Belle Isle he finds himself bonding with Charlotte (Virginia Madsen) and her three children even though he wanted to remain isolated and alone. Across the course of the summer he finds new ways to live while he contemplates writing again.

The parts of Once More that shine brightest despite a pretty conventional story of finding oneself through others is how it manages to make its visuals work with each of the individual themes of the film while also giving off this warm and emotional feel to each and every scene. Sure Freeman is excellent as Monte but the way the film is shot adds more depth of emotion than some of the performers.

Still from Once More 2Not only that but the film lets its actors breath with a script that is delightfully coy in the way it deals with its story as you must make your own decisions and choices of whether to like or approve of Monte and his actions. Not only does the script give its performers plenty of room to play it is also subtle in its themes and it never plays its hand too early leaving key moments to percolate just enough to make them important. All in all this is a terrific family drama you didn’t know about and probably should.

Rated 4 out of 5

Reviewed by George Hooper, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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The Summit Review

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I knew nothing of the Summit when I sat down to watch it, having seen it however the story of the eleven people who lost their lives whilst climbing the world’s second biggest mountain, will never leave me.

Notorious amongst the Himalayan natives K2 is said to be one of the most difficult mountains to climb and, according to local legend, has the power to cloud men’s minds. However, on August 1st 2008 the conditions couldn’t have been more perfect when an unsuspecting group of climbers made the decision to attempt to reach the top.

Two days later however, more than ten of them would be dead.

A dramatic story of human determination and a truly amazing look into the human psyche the Summit is somewhere between must-watch and car-crash; I could not take my eyes off the screen and yet at times it was a genuinely painful experience, the tension, devastation, fear and hope felt by those on the mountain is brought brutally and realistically to life in this on-screen retelling of a real life tragedy.

Still from The Summit 2Told with a combination of techniques, from voice over narration (complimenting breath taking aerial shots of the mountain itself), delicate re-enactments, interviews and even footage captured by the climbers themselves on that fateful day, the Summit is one hell of an experience made all the more potent by the truth of the story it depicts.

This is not a film for the faint of heart, but those who manage to complete the climb will emerge on the other side touched by the determination of humankind and the flooring, awe inspiring power of nature.

Rated 4 out of 5

Reviewed by Alyse Garner, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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Reasonable Doubt Review

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As countless parents have told their children over the years, it’s not about whether you win or lose, or about the final outcome, it’s about whether you’ve tried; and obviously the writer and director Peter P. Croudins and Peter A. Dowling have taken this advice to literally and turned what could have been an interesting, albeit a little generic, thriller into a mish-mash of crime drama stories more suitable for television than the big screen. These two boys have tried too hard, experimented too much and left us, the audience, with a truly disappointing outcome.

Starring Dominic Cooper and Samuel L Jackson as Mitch, the successful although a little arrogant district attorney and Clinton a working class but honourable worker, the film begins as a introspective thriller in which Mitch (Cooper), is involved in a hit and run accident which Clinton (Jackson) is held accountable for.

Celebrating yet another success with his colleagues Mitch makes the decision to drive home after having a bit too much tequila, convinced a cop car is following him Mitch finds himself distracted enough to run over a pedestrian. Leaving the guy for dead – but convincing himself he’s done enough by calling 911 – Mitch goes home. The next day however he discovers that, after finding the man in the street, Clinton has been picked up covered in the victim’s blood and the near dead body in his van. Claiming he was only trying to help the man and get him to a hospital Mitch – and the audience – alone know the truth; but when Clinton’s case comes to trial Mitch is faced with a difficult decision.

All good so far? Yep? I was happy to up to this point, I knew where I stood, I could see pretty much where this was going, Clinton represents to Mitch the working class background he has sought to leave behind him, he’s not faced with a combination of karma and morals, will he use his legal prowess to get Clinton off the hook? Will he step up to the plate and admit his crime?

Still from Reasonable Doubt 2None of these things happen, at least not straight away, what happens instead is a bizarre plot twist – perhaps twist is an inaccurate phrase, addition might be more suitable – in which a serial killer seeking revenge is thrown into the mix and Mitch’s inner struggle is replaced with a poor attempt at a murder mystery style crime narrative.

Couple this with the heavy handed camera work and directing (expect a lot of intense, lingering and unnecessary close-ups) and some bad scripting and the talents of the two incredibly respectable actors, Jackson and Cooper, go entirely to waste.

Rated 2 out of 5

Reviewed by Alyse Garner, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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The Short Game Review

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There is a beauty in the possibilities of being a child and The Short Game taps into that in a very real way but it also highlights the aspects of sport that shouldn’t be encouraged, the jealousy and the strive to beat someone else being but a few. While the film shows you the wonder of having a skill nobody can take away from you it also introduces you to a dark side of sport and that is how we are influenced and taught to love something even when we might not like it unless we are pushed.

The Short Game follows nine 7 year old golfers who travel to a prestigious golf tournament to show their mettle to all the other competitors so that one of them can be called the next possible champion of the PGA. While they compete we are shown a different side to golf as well as the kind of commitment required to really shine at something as the film looks at the impact and salvation a gift can have.

Although the film has some interesting thoughts and it somehow makes golf watchable despite the very monotonous nature of the sport it also highlights the dangers of pushing these kids to hard, the idea that they can be pushed into something from such a young age makes it easy to imagine them missing out on the many experiences that life has to offer and while these children don’t seem to realise it, it poses a very real scenario in our minds as we watch.

Still from The Short Game 2However these children love what they are doing, they are good at it and the film tidily emphasises the joy that it brings them while at times going too far into the realm of saccharine emotions. The film is smartly filmed but it rarely hits the emotional highs the film is striving for and while it is interesting to look at the good and bad aspects of these kids the film misses perfection thanks to that very same conflict. However thats not to say The Short Game isn’t worth watching, in fact it might just prove more entertaining than you thought.

Rated 4 out of 5

Reviewed by George Hooper, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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The Raid 2 Review

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I know I watched the first Raid film and if I remember correctly I liked it, as much as I would ever like an excruciatingly violent action film. The Raid 2 is a fairly standard sequel then, upping the ante significantly and marking the whole thing as basically a do-over of the original; with more incidents of violence and more – shall we say “creative” – violent acts the Raid 2 doesn’t have quite the same individuality that exuded from its predecessor and just feels like a rehash in an attempt to duplicate the success.

Set shortly after the bloody events of The Raid (2012) the sequel continues to follow the inexperienced but determined rookie Jakarta cop Rama (Iko Uwais), whose actions have gained him the attention of those even higher up the gangland food chain. Destroying the seemingly unparalleled organized crime unit in the first film in a cacophony of close shot, tight and elegantly bloody violence Rama is now forced to go undercover and climb his way up the criminal hierarchy in order to take down those at the very top: the corrupt politicians and police officials who pose a threat not only to his community but particularly to Rama’s own wife and infant son.

Still from The Raid 2 2The story is really only there to provide an excuse for a lot of violence and ass-kicking; once again the cinematography is well managed, the use of extreme close ups during the fight scenes significantly increasing the tension, but ultimately, for me at least, it’s all just lost its edge. Where the first Raid film was set almost entirely in a single location, really driving you into the action, this time around the film just lacks the same ingenuity.

Those looking for a lot of violence and bloodshed are sure to be pleased with the Raid 2 personally however I felt it was rather mediocre.

Rated 2 out of 5

Reviewed by Alyse Garner, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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Sex Tape Review

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I never really understood what Cameron Diaz brought to Hollywood despite blonde hair, a significant lack of acting talent and a whole lot of nothing else. That is why I am pleased to report that in Sex Tape she has outdone herself, not only in terms of her worst movie yet but also in terms of dragging down a rabble of great comedy actors with her. This is Sex Tape everybody and if you make it to the end, congratulations you are probably in a very small club.

Sex Tape follows married couple Annie (Diaz) and Jay (Jason Segel), a happy couple who look to spice things up. When they decide to make a sex tape they unleash a storm of trouble as they accidentally send it to their friends and co-workers and must scramble to get it back before anyone has a chance to see it so that they can avoid ruining their lives for at least a few more days.

The closest you can get to Sex Tape without watching it is an Adam Sandler comedy as they both turn to gross out humour, ridiculous physical comedy and idiotic side characters for most of the films laughs. The problem is that everyone has been told to go so over the top in their performances that the film is almost like pantomime as you expect someone to yell ‘he’s behind you’ at any minute. Not only that but the whole premise is idiotic, not only in a logistical sense but also in how the film feigns to understand the concept of the internet.

Still from Sex Tape 2However the main problem with Sex Tape isn’t its idiotic plot, its terrible performances or its similarities to Grown Ups (something that should instantly warn you away from it), it’s the fact that the film pretends to be about a couple trying to get their grove back but neither of them seem comfortable with each other at any moment in the film. Diaz and Segel are dreadful together and it sucks the life out of the beginning and end in a way that is unquantifiable and while I can cope with bad jokes and poor acting I can’t deal with a film so poorly thought out that even the casting is dreadful.

Rated 1 out of 5

Reviewed by George Hooper, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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The Two Faces of January Review

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There have been many great thrillers, thrillers that can be sung about from the rooftops for their breakneck pace or their killer storytelling. Then there are thrillers that plod along like they have seemingly forgotten what the point of a thriller was. Here is a helpful hint for all those filmmakers, the feeling of a thriller is in the title. Clearly someone should teach the director of The Two Faces of January how to at least read before they put a camera in front of him.

The film follows married couple Collette (Kirsten Dunst) and Chester (Viggo Mortensen) as they travel abroad and find themselves in the company of Rydal (Oscar Isaac) and the three form an unusual bond as they find themselves on the run when they are all implicated in the murder of a private investigator and must flee for their lives as the three have to decide which of them actually carried out the heinous crime and for what purpose.

The film has a decent mystery at the heart of it but by the end when you are looking forward to a grand revelation you are so fatigued by the films events that you hardly care. Not only does the film concentrate so heavily on the psychological aspects that it forgets that at the heart of this story are actual characters and real stakes so much so that while certain scenes should be concentrating on the idea that one of these people is a murderer they find themselves psychoanalysing each other.

Still from The Two Faces of January 2The whole thing doesn’t quite gel, the cast is excellent and some of the script shines with ambiguity but there are many moments where you will be scratching your head and thinking about why they did it. While you might find some interest in the overthinking, under rationalised story its hard not to think of The Fugitive and wonder how the creators got so far away from the films thriller-esque plot beginnings.

Rated 3 out of 5

Reviewed by George Hooper, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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Austenland Review

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I understand the love that Jane Austen has achieved over the years, her books are oddly timeless despite the dense nature of the language and while some of it might seem a tad old hat these days there is still an elegance to it all. Austenland tries to persuade you that a complete addiction to Austen is normal and while my father loves the books enough to reread them each year I don’t think he’s going to go out and buy tickets to this drivel.

Austenland follows Jane Hayes (Keri Russell), a woman deeply obsessed with the world of Jane Austen, especially Pride and Prejudice as she decides to travel to a Austen theme park called Austenland to find her own little piece of happiness and while the park seems to provide everything she is looking for it isn’t quite the place to go and expect the things that she expects as she tries to find her Mr Darcy

It’s films like Austenland that have the tendency to make you physically ill while it pretends to be wholesome romantic fare. The whole story rings of desperation, not only Jane’s own desperation but the desperation of a writer who thought this premise could be anything other than insulting. The whole film gifts longtime Austen fans to a few easter eggs and everyone else is told to sit and wait until something happens, fortunately nothing really does as Jane goes on an ‘adventure’ thats main characteristic is her gawking at a load of men and making a fool out of herself, it’s a laugh riot.

Still from Austenland 2Unlike Waitress, Russell’s previous foray into romantic comedy Austenland lacks an identity outside its Austen loving script and while adoration works in most romance films it seems strangely out of place in this film about overcoming the dreams we have to enjoy the life we should be living. All in all Russell is a likable enough actress to guide you through the films early moments but when the story really sinks in you will find yourself asking why you are watching this in the first place.

Rated 2 out of 5

Reviewed by George Hooper, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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Brick Mansions Review

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Back when District 13 was released I was apprehensive about a film crafted around parkour not only because crafting a film after something rarely works as people concentrate so much on making it work they forget that film is a story based medium and they might actually have to think of one. District 13 proved me wrong so when they decided to remake it in America and called it Brick Mansions I was even less excited to find out what it would deliver, turns out nothing has changed in translation, not even one small aspect of these dire films has differed.

Brick Mansions follows undercover police officer Damien Collier (Paul Walker) as he is sent into one of the roughest neighbourhoods in Detroit to try and find his way to the cities most influential crime lord and put his plot to ravage the whole city to a stop before anyone gets hurt. However he must rely upon the help of criminal and parkour expert Lino (David Belle) to get him through the neighbourhood alive.

While the film may be one of Walker’s last before his tragic accident it doesn’t make a lick of sense why he chose it, the action may be entertaining to watch as most gymnastics oddly are but there is nothing else to take away from it. Belle is a dreadful performer so when he is given the chance to say anything he makes Lino out to have some kind of severe speech impediment or just stumbles his way through until Walker has the decency to cut him off and somehow keep the film going.

Still from Brick Mansions 2A supporting role by RZA adds a little flavour to the mix as he makes the lead villain reprehensible enough to like and enjoy but he also adds his usual over the top gangsta schtick that never really goes down well. Although the Detroit setting adds character to the films weak and lifeless story it isn’t enough to make Brick Mansions more than a carbon copy of the original District 13 and if there is a film nobody should emulate it would be that one.

Rated 2 out of 5

Reviewed by George Hooper, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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Fruitvale Station Review

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Considering the story surrounding Fruitvale Station is well known in the press and a shocking moment in American culture I was surprised by the release of the film but when it comes to handling such a sensitive topic this is an excellent piece of feature film work and it has one of the best central performances by Michael B Jordan that elevates the tense and ultimately tragic story to new heights.

The film follows Oscar Grant (Jordan) as he sets out to celebrate New Years Eve 2008 with friends and family in San Francisco. The night follows his interactions with everyone he meets as he enjoys the party that is new years and while things start out well he finds himself facing undue hardship when he bumps into enemies, some of which he didn’t even know he had.

If you are unfamiliar with the story then I will not ruin it as I believe it will add a certain shock factor that may make the film that much better as part of the horror and amazement of the film is delivered in the final moments. What I will say is that this film isn’t just about Oscar, its about human nature in general and how over the course of one night Oscar sees the best and the worst of people and everything in between and director (and writer) Ryan Coogler captures it perfectly while never showing that he is a first time feature director.

Still from Fruitvale Station 2Jordan delivers one of the best performances of the year as Oscar and its a shame that come award season he was not showered with praise but regardless the movie is worth watching solely for some expert character work by the young actor who rose through the ranks of Friday Night Lights to really burst onto the scene in recent years. While more could be said about the excellence of the film, it is really a study in great characters and wonderful actors with a performance by oscar winner Octavia Spencer also shining bright. In the end this is brilliant filmmaking from a fresh new voice people need to be aware of.

Rated 5 out of 5

Reviewed by George Hooper, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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