Floating Skyscrapers Review

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Heralded as Poland’s first LGBT film, though it was pit to the release date posts by the similarly themed In the Name Of (2013) Floating Skyscrapers is the story of Kuba, a swimming enthusiast who, thanks to a secret relationship, slowly begins to come to terms with his sexuality.

The film follows Kuba, a young Polish man with dreams of championship swimming who lives with his girlfriend Slywia and seems unable to escape his somewhat overbearing mother: though he has always been aware of his homosexuality, or at least bisexuality, Kuba has been forced by a disapproving society to keep his thoughts and feelings to himself. Upon meeting Michal however, Kuba finally begins to connect the emotional aspects of homosexual love with the sexual allure of lust. With a handful of sexually tense moments the film explores Kuba’s draw to Michal and the fall out of his “coming out”.

A very quiet and delicate film Floating Skyscrapers has a distinctly familiar feel to it, for those of us who have watched both the big money making Oscar winners and the far smaller and more unusual LGBT films from the UK and the US over the last twenty years. The social and cultural issues addressed are those that were present in our culture as far back as the 1980’s; yet the Eastern European locale of this film reminds us that for many people homosexuality remains a covert, dangerous and intimate secret. Though this does not ruin the film at all, in fact it provides an incredibly interesting extra dimension of social and political context to the piece; it does mean that the story loses some of its impact for those of us who are already so familiar with such themes.

Still from Floating Skyscrapers 2Do not take this to mean that I disliked the film, far from it; Floating Skyscrapers is hugely enjoyable; it is an intimate and emotional story with a compelling lead character brilliantly played by the wonderful Mateusz Banasiuk. But the time delay in the experience and depiction of its themes makes it a little predictable and easy to lose interest in.

Rated 3 out of 5

Reviewed by Alyse Garner, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return Review

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It seems like every year there comes a couple of animated films that rely on most of their budget to secure big name talent to voice their characters just so they can hide the fact that the films story and animated prowess is nowhere to be found thanks to the directors own inadequacy or the studios failure to detect a dud script. The Legend of Oz: Dorothy’s Return is one such film.

The story follows Dorothy (Lea Michele) as she returns to Oz to help her friends out of yet another bind. When she gets back she must go toe to toe against The Jester (Martin Short), someone intent on causing all types of trouble over Oz with no signs of stopping. With the help of her four trusty friends and a slew of others she must think up a plan to defeat him and return Oz to the peaceful land everyone envisions it to be.

With the voice work of actors like Kelsey Grammer, James Belushi and Dan Akroyd to name but a few one would easily come to the conclusion that they flocked to the picture due to the story and the attention to detail within, the truth is that none of those things exist in this odd, unpleasant and predictable retread of a story done in many better ways. Sure the villain may be new but the world is not and the way the film handles Oz is to turn it into a generic wonderland, one with no concept of tension or the possibility of strife.

Still from Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return 2Dorothy waltzes through the story without a care in the world despite her protestations there is never a moment that the story isn’t plastered all over the lazy script, one more interested in playing cutesy gimmicks than real heartfelt character beats. All in all this is tripe of the highest level that cannot even be considered good family entertainment. Kids may be distracted by the bright colours and the pretty animated characters but anyone else seeking value here should look somewhere else unless you were considering suggesting this to someone you secretly loathe as a form of punishment, that I imagine might be pretty entertaining.

Rated 1 out of 5

Reviewed by George Hooper, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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Blue Ruin Review

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What starts as a simple vengeance story turns into so much more in Blue Ruin, a film that starts by putting its audience in a state of confusion only to slowly tease them out of it playfully through a story filled with spurts of brutal action and emotions long since squashed by its lead characters. If anything Blue Ruin is a masterclass in human psychology and the effects of loss.

Blue Ruin follows a drifter (Macon Blair) as he is informed by the police that someone from his past is being released from prison. This startling discovery sets him on a quest for vengeance against a man that did unspeakable things and received very little punishment. However what starts as one simple task quickly spirals as he is forced to protect his family that doesn’t know him from people he has enraged.

While the film feels gritty and ugly it also has a wonderfully colourful range of colours that add a beauty to a film full of horrors. Blair is a wonderful choice for the drifter as he hides a wealth of unspoken emotion behind his eyes and while the stereotypical down and out beard feels like a little much the film takes advantage of this stellar casting by throwing everything at him only to show he is more than capable of dealing it back at people.

Still from Blue Ruin 2Blue Ruin reminds me in many ways of The Raid, a film that feels like an action film but really hides a very real and very provocative story of family and the value of revenge and justice. All in all the film rides high on a stellar lead performance but it would be nothing without some excellent filmmaking and cinematography. The film shines off of the way it is displayed and everything about it is gorgeous.

Rated 5 out of 5

Reviewed by George Hooper, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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Skinwalkers Review

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Skinwalkers or Skinwalker Ranch as it is also known is a paranormal found-footage film about a group of scientists who investigate supernatural goings-on surrounding the disappearance of a 10 year old boy.

Set on a cattle farm somewhere in the sticks, the film professes to be “based on true events”, as somewhat of a sceptic I immediately rolled my eyes at the concept, but attempting to remain open minded I made myself sit through the film regardless, and for a little while it wasn’t quite as dreadful as I had expected it to be.

Of course all the boxes of the horror genre were ticked from the get go creepy location, vulnerable characters, unexplained noises, you know what you’re getting with most horror films and it takes something truly innovative to make use of these tropes and still surprise you. And though the horror genre is not exactly known for it’s subtly, films that maintain a certain level of class and mystery are, in my opinion at least, usually more interesting and probably more frightening. Unfortunately for Skinwalkers the first fifteen minutes are easily the high point of the entire feature.

Shortly after we are introduced to our characters – many of whom I recognized as bit part players and extras from sci-fi horror television shows – we are thrown head first, into the midst of the paranormal events that have taken place at the ranch. Now whether this was a choice of the film maker or if it is based on the supposed reality of the occurrences at the Skinwalkers Ranch, this paranormal activity appears to include almost everything you could ever possibly think of to include in, reference or throw at a horror film. Ghosts, spirits, aliens, werewolves, you name it, Skinwalkers has it, and within the first quarter of the film any attempt at mystery, subtly, creativity or imagination vanishes.

Still from Skinwalkers 2Skinwalkers is the horror movie equivalent of having a bucket of cold water dumped on your head: sudden, unpleasant and overwhelming. The multitude of monsters is far from scary and, actually, causes every single one of them to lose any sense of character or menace; it is too busy, too manic and too obvious to leave any space for anything else.

In the end Skinwalkers is just crammed too full of the staples of the genre, the characters, location, incidents and apparitions all jockeying for centre position but ultimately all simply getting lost in the crowd.

Rated 1 out of 5

Reviewed by Alyse Garner, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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Game of Thrones: Series 3 Review

Still from Game of Thrones: Series 3 1

In it’s third year Game of Thrones has pushed boundaries when it comes to what we expect from television and while season 2 didn’t quite entice audiences in the same way as it’s first season it provided many water cooler moments worthy of mention. However Season 3 of this sword and sorcery series seems to be building to one solitary moment, a terrific and haunting moment of television but for the rest of the series it just feels like its buying time.

Season 3 follows the continued players in the titular game as Robb (Richard Madden) seeks to repay the Lannisters for his father’s death while Jon (Kit Harington) faces the wildling army to the north as Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) faces the return of his father Tywin (Charles Dance) to King’s Landing as he starts to lose ground in the game he was until then winning. Meanwhile word of the White Walker threat begins to spread as winter gets closer.

While the charm of Game of Thrones is the despicable moves that the players make from Arya’s turns towards the dark side or Cersei’s progressive moves towards gaining more power for her children there are very few machiavellian manoeuvres this year as Tyrion takes a back seat, sidelined by the injuries he sustained last season with most of the seasons treachery taking place off screen.

Still from Game of Thrones: Series 3 2However this season gives way to one of the finest television moments created in 2013 and while you may find yourself wishing for a little more action and progression or even just a few scenes where old characters reconnect this is strong storytelling that is filmed perfectly. One thing is for sure by the end of Season 3, things in Westeros will never be the same again and some old favourites will bow out of playing the game.

Rated 3 out of 5

Reviewed by George Hooper, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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Approved for Adoption Review

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A genuinely unusual and surprisingly wonderful film Approved for Adoption is a mixture of delight and sadness; a changing ebb and flow of emotions, imagery, genre and narrative.

Telling the story of Jung (pronounced “young”), a Korean boy who separated from his biological family through political conflict and war, is adopted by a caring, and ever expanding, white Belgian family. Though he is loved by his family and welcomed by his siblings can not help but feel a distance from them, a difference and confused sense of identity that causes him a great deal of grief, angst and confusion.

Beginning as an honest and occasionally sad immigrant story Approved for Adoption seamlessly slips in a coming-of-age story of self exploration and acceptance; using the prejudices of racists and the peaks and troughs of teenage hormones, the film projects an internalized struggle onto the screen in a series of bright, vivid and varied colours.

Still from Approved for Adoption 2The mixture of imagery, those of the graphic novel that Jung is creating, the super-8 family home-movies of Jung’s childhood and the gritty documentary and newsreel footage that provides a contextual background, creates a layered visual tapestry that only compliments the emotional depths the narrative presents. The realism of the characters and story is evoked not through the traditional tropes of a documentary but through the artistry of both the in story comic book but also the excellent film making; the reality of the film ultimately underscored by the live action rather than founded upon it.

With an ending that left me in tears Approved for Adoption is a fresh, unusual and truly memorable cinematic experience.

Rated 4 out of 5

Reviewed by Alyse Garner, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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Jersey Boys Review

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Having never seen the famed musical Clint Eastwood’s latest film is based on it put me in the unique experience of learning everything I need to know about Frankie Valli right then and there. I cannot speak about the musical but I can comment on the film and while in the much more playful environment of the stage what Jersey Boys presents could be entertaining and even delightful, the destructive personalities on display here make for a frustrating and dull viewing.

Jersey Boys follows Frankie (John Lloyd Young) as he rises through the ranks as a young impressionable boy to the lead of a world renowned band with plenty of problems and fights filling the gaps between here and there. While Frankie rises up he must face the destructive nature of fellow band mate Tommy (Vincent Piazza) and the effect his lifestyle has on his family. All the while he must deal with his relationship with the mobsters that he grew up with in New Jersey.

While the film devotes a decent chunk into the creation of The Four Seasons the film loses itself when the band find themselves and their success as the problems and drama that the film dovetails into feels forced as the film never devotes any time to their development until they are required to cause problems for the characters. Frankie and Tommy’s issues feel equally nonsensical despite Tommy’s completely unpleasant character and actions.

Still from Jersey Boys 2The film tries to justify some of its weaker elements with a simple line in the film, one that would work tremendously on the stage but in the world of cinema feels like a cop out as it allows Frankie and co to act like children, do what they want and live lives that are unpleasant to watch. All in all the songs are nice but bobbing along to a pleasant tune is all well and good, I wish there was a story to differentiate this from an episode of Glee.

Rated 2 out of 5

Reviewed by George Hooper, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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The Fault in Our Stars Review

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The internet has been on fire since the announcement of the movie adaptation of John Green’s popular YA novel The Fault in Our Stars with fans wondering how Hazel Grace Lancaster would be translated to screens. Those wondering if it was a resounding success or a epic failure will be surprised that it is neither, in fact it dips into both territories throughout its run while never quite feeling like the emotional tale it really should be.

The film follows Hazel (Shailene Woodley), a young girl dying of cancer who has cut herself off from everyone and everything as she slips into a cycle of self pity and depression, despite the protestations that she is not depressed. However when she meets Augustus (Ansel Elgort) at a support group she sees life differently as she starts to see the little things in life that her parents (Laura Dern and Sam Trammell) are dying for her to enjoy before her time runs out. It’s not long before each are invested in each others lives, something that will bring heartache and joy.

Woodley, much like in almost all of her prior films since The Descendents is fantastic, she makes a poorly scripted Hazel seem outspoken, smart and someone who doesn’t deserve to be pitied but emulated. The film cleverly relies upon her to sell its story and while the film does feel like a two man show, Elgort is less than stellar. He squanders the better of the two characters with faux charm, idiotic deliveries and a lack of any kind of heft. The films final act cleverly plays around him improving proceedings.

Still from The Fault in Our Stars 2The most disappointing thing about Fault however isn’t the fact its lead male doesn’t quite sell it, its the fact that every shot, every moment in this tale is painfully choreographed. The picture is a staged progression of young love but with the more interesting Green twist of one of them having cancer. In fact despite Fault’s excellent soundtrack it squanders its unique feel in favour of predictable melodrama, never quite taking advantage of everything it has going for making this film decidedly average.

Rated 3 out of 5

Reviewed by George Hooper, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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Vikings Series Review

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With the advent of Game of Thrones, studios have been looking for series that embrace the serious emotional stakes of the aforementioned series but are more grounded in reality. Vikings is such a series as it uses the history of a group of Viking raiders and their families to bring vicious fighting to life in a unique way. Thats not to say the twists and turns Vikings provides are bad, in fact, it’s the opposite.

Vikings follows the ambitious viking Ragnar (Travis Fimmel) and his journey from loyal viking to the leader of the whole group. Along the way Ragnar must face off with those who intend to keep their power including Earl Haraldson (Gabriel Byrne), a vicious leader of Ragnar’s group. However Ragnar must also contend with his family, especially wife Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) whose own ambitions and family ideals often find Ragnar balancing more than his own desires.

Beautifully filmed in delightful locations and full of interesting and realistic traditions and reactions, Vikings is an impressive historical series that doubles as fast paced drama. Ragnar and Haraldson’s contentious relationship makes for some excellent episodes and Fimmel makes an unpleasant Ragnar seem sympathetic despite the death he brings to those he raids with his family and fellow vikings.

Still from Vikings Series 2It’s easy to find your favourite in Lagertha as Winnick is terrific in the role and while the series doesn’t quite scream family drama it proves an emotional series as the harsh world the series presents forces family dynamics you would not expect and actions that make for some complicated moral viewings. While Ragnar is the draw and his drive to get more and more takes the lead you will probably stick around for the way life is lived in this new and exciting series that will tell a fast paced story in very little time at all.

Rated 4 out of 5

Reviewed by George Hooper, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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Cinema Paradiso website update and new features

Here are a couple of videos introducing new and improved features on CinemaParadiso.co.uk. The DVD and Blu-ray formats are now under one title which makes it much easier to add the desired format to ‘My list’. We have also enhanced the quality of images, combined series under one title, revamped ‘Report Problem’ and ‘My List’ page and made the site overall cleaner. It is now much easier to switch format, change position of the title in the list etc. Let us know what you think via Feedback button on the right of the website.

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