Veronica Mars Review

Still from Veronica Mars 1

It’s been almost 8 years since the beloved cult series Veronica Mars went off the air and yet thanks to a Kickstarter campaign and over 90,000 willing donors creator Rob Thomas has brought his titular sleuth back for another round of snarky banter and crime solving. Despite the years away nothing has really changed for Veronica and ultimately thats just fine by me.

The film follows Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell), now a lawyer fresh out of law school as she is persuaded to return to the seedy town of Neptune to help her ex boyfriend Logan (Jason Dohring) as he is charged with the murder of his rock star girlfriend. While home she must handle the corruption that has infested the town and the old enemies she left behind when she left.

Filled with cameos aplenty, the film doesn’t exactly welcome new viewers, it has the necessary exposition to help them find their footing but to get the most out of the film you really have to have watched the series. Thomas has also framed this opening feature so that it has an open ended mystery to lead into another film (if the powers that be choose to make one), a common thread he played with in the series that doesn’t quite ring true in the feature world.

That being said Thomas is still a terrific writer and Bell hasn’t lost any of the signature charm she brings to the smart and dependable Veronica. They make a wonderful pair and together they make the film witty, but most of all, easy to settle into. The old routines seem new again and the characters newfound age allows Thomas to do new things and explore more grown up topics.

Still from Veronica Mars 2The ending may feel a little too neat for die hard fans who knew V Mars to be a twisted sort of girl who never really got over the horrors her life brought her but it seems apt for Veronica the woman, someone who has had enough time to think and process. If this is the last we see of the modern day Nancy Drew then I think people will be more than happy.

Rated 4 out of 5

Reviewed by George Hooper, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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Banshee Chapter Review

Still from Banshee Chapter 1

Most modern horror films are made using a certain formula, not in how the script is written or fashioned but in how the film is financed and produced. The age of low budget, experimental horror films has hit and it doesn’t seem to be letting go. The films find premises that can be developed easily and with a small amount of money while still making it scary and involving. The Banshee Chapter adheres to this formula but still keeps things interesting.

The film follows reporter Anna (Katia Winter) as she searches for answers as to why her best friend went missing years earlier. When she hits a wall she finds herself reaching out to an aging writer who introduces to the same drug that caused her friend to disappear. The effects of the drug are completely unknown but what is known is that they are utterly horrifying.

While the tale man be a little one note with a story that never really pushes the boundaries or tests viewers expectations it does use the films story to craft some really nice frights. Director Blair Erickson completely commands the spaces used in the film to capitalize on the tension. The constant cutting between conventional shots and found footage proves slightly enfuriating as it adds little to anything to the story but the film keeps you guessing as it keeps a lump in your throat for most of the film’s run.

The moments when the film slows down to quickly deal with plot though is where the film falls flat. Anna, an American journalist sounds like Elizabeth Bennet and Katia Winter is forced to run and scream for most of the films run with little being done to develop her as a character, despite the fact she may or may not have loved her missing friend, a point that is picked up and dropped just as easily.

Still from Banshee Chapter 2There is plenty to hate with Banshee Chapter but there is also plenty to respect and enjoy. The scares are real, the twists feel natural and unexpected and Ted Levine makes a cliched character entertaining by providing a much needed dose of camp but in the end the film has the same problem as The Purge, it has a nice concept but never really knows where its going.

Rated 3 out of 5

Reviewed by George Hooper, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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The Patience Stone Review

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An old Persian myth tells of a woman who, struggling under the burdens of her life, falls before a stone and vocalizes all her pain and suffering – after which the stone splits open and releases her of all her unhappiness. Founding its premise on this story Atiq Rahimi’s film the Patience Stone focuses on an unnamed woman who, after her husband is incapacitated by a bullet to the neck, opens up about her feelings about their loveless, arranged marriage and her lost hopes and dreams.

Set in an unknown part of Afghanistan in the midst of the recent, bloody, conflict the Patience Stone has a great deal of promise; the story of the unnamed woman is told well, the performance of the beautiful Golshifteh Farahani is underplayed and insightful. Unfortunately the film manages simultaneously to do too little and too much whilst the script is overly heavy and the camera work static to the point of stagnation.

The film begins as a woman tends to her husband who is in a vegetative state following a collision with enemy soldiers; she begins her soliloquy tentatively at first but is soon fuelled by the silence and apparent lack of judgement from her mute husband and finds herself revealing things that she has never spoken aloud despite their ten year marriage. Though the script is a little wordy – the sentences twist around flowery language in an attempt to be poetic – this part of the film is rather beautiful, the slow and tempered unravelling of the female lead is well managed and perceptive. When however the story makes a change in direction the elusiveness and private-ness of the situation gets lost in the addition of more charismatic and over whelming characters and long scenes of conversation captured by a camera that feels almost to have been plonked down and forgotten by its director.

Still from The Patience Stone 2Though it’s a little pretentious I liked the first two thirds of the Patience Stone and, I am told, this area of the original novel/stage play are even better, I couldn’t help but feel let down by the final third where some of the newly introduced characters steal the screen from our unnamed woman and leave you wondering why you bothered to listen to her in the first place if there were these, more interesting, people around the whole time…

Rated 3 out of 5

Reviewed by Alyse Garner, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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Like Father, Like Son Review

Still from Like Father, Like Son 1

When a successful businessman learns that the son he has raised is not his own and that his biological son was switched for another child at birth he is forced to make a life changing decision about whether to chose the child who shares his blood or the one he raised as his own. From the director of the wonderful I Wish, a film that explores the lives of two children separated by their parent’s divorce, Like Father, Like Son is another moving and thoughtful picture by Japanese director Hirokazu Koreeda.

Just as he did in I Wish Koreeda presents his audience with a slow and gentle narrative that allows his characters to develop and evolve whilst remaining connected with the others around them.

Connection and the bond between families is put under a microscope here, though it remains an undiluted emotional rather than scientific experience; the businessman father, Ryota Nonomiya (Masaharu Fukuyama) loves his six year old son, Keita, he wants the very best for him and the film begins as he and his wife watch the boy regurgitate seemingly perfect answers at an entrance interview for a prestigious school. Yet there has never been any particular connection between the two, they do not share an emotional bond and there is no affection shown between them. Upon learning that this boy is in fact not his own but the son of a middle class shop owner with two other children Ryota believes that this gulf has always been because of this.

The four parents decide to switch their children back, slowly integrating them into the birth families by inviting them to stay first only at weekends, however when Ryota sees Keita slip happily into his new life, welcomed by his siblings and warmly accepted by his parents, he is forced to question whether there was more to their missing connection than a lack of shared DNA.

Still from Like Father, Like Son 2Like Father, Like Son is a gentle film, there is no other way to put it, it explores potentially difficult, painful and complicated emotions at a solid and well timed pace, it does not rush the characters, nor the story and, though some may find the film tedious, others will see the beauty inherent in it.

Rated 5 out of 5

Reviewed by Alyse Garner, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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Under the Bed Review

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In my opinion there are two kinds of good horror film, the ones that strive only for scares, to make the audience jump, scream, squirm or gag, these are, by and large, the more financially successful, involve big stars and often include a scene in which a busty young woman is murdered in her underwear. The second kind of film tend usually to run on a far tighter budget, the include unknown actors, or those smart Hollywood actors who like to branch out to something a bit unusual every now and then, their narratives are anchored in back-story and history and their monsters are often metaphors for something far more real.

Under the Bed attempts to be the later but, because of the failures one normally quotes when discussing the former, winds up just being disappointing.

Like most children. Neal (Jonny Weston) spent his childhood terrified that there was a monster under his bed, unlike most children however Neal seems to have some kind of mental breakdown and starts a fire that subsequently kills his mother. After spending several years in an institution Neal returns home to find his father remarried and his younger brother Paulie (Gattlin Griffith) seeing the same monster that drove him crazy two years earlier. With an excellent foundation upon which to create a film that explores the family dynamic, brotherly love, support, fear I have to say I was quite disappointed when the monster starts jumping out from behind furniture and killing visitors.

I suspected that the film makers had basically decided to discard all attempts at a story from this point and I settled in for a thrills and chills creature feature. However by attempting to hold a foot in each camp, maintaining a story that, despite a strong skeleton remains poorly fleshed out, and including obvious and clichéd horror scenes Under the Bed ends up lacking both soul and suspense.

Still from Under the Bed 2I’m not entirely sure what director Steven C. Miller, a well established horror director whose talents had, so it seems, been steadily improving with each production, was hoping to achieve with Under the Bed, but whatever it was, he was unsuccessful.

Rated 3 out of 5

Reviewed by Alyse Garner, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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Walking with Dinosaurs Review

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Founded on the same technology that lay behind the pioneering BBC documentary series Earth this visual marvel is an absolutely unrivalled experience, yet Walking with Dinosaurs – the 3D Movie strives to blend the truth of prehistoric science with modern, fictional narratives and unsurprisingly succumbs to the fate of most visual extravaganzas; lacking any depth or meaning beyond its surface appearance.

The tepid story behind Walking with Dinosaurs involves the second son of a migrant tribe who struggles to find his place and identity in the shadow of his more powerful older brother; a simple enough story that has been told many times to great success but unfortunately for the minds behind Walking with Dinosaurs – directors Barry Cook (Mulan) and prolific nature documentary producer Neil Nightingale and script writer John Collee (who I can’t believe wrote one of my favourite children’s pictures of the last ten years – Happy Feet) – this time it is simply too gimmicky, overdramatic and lacking in personality.

Still from Walking with Dinosaurs 2Since watching the film I’ve learnt that it was originally conceived as a silent film, a purely visual experience in which viewers bare witness to a plethora of beautiful images, the unbelievably impressive animation as well as the utterly gorgeous live action shots of New Zealand and Alaska would have made for an excellent artistic piece – whatever bigwig felt that Walking with Dinosaurs required a script, which I understand was to make it a more popular and family friendly production, ought to keep his opinions to himself from now on.

Ultimately, what could have been a fantastic combination of art and science is spoilt by the addition of narrative leaving Walking with Dinosaurs 3D to be a significant let down.

Rated 2 out of 5

Reviewed by Alyse Garner, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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Museum Hours Review

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A film with only a sparse narrative that acts merely as an anchor Museum Hours is an exploration of art and history and humanity taken through those very things, the art and history of architecture and museum artefacts and the humanity of strangers and crowds and unknown places.

On the surface Museum Hours is about a Viennese museum attendant, Johann (Bobby Sommer) and a visiting Canadian, Anne (Mary Margaret O’Hara), who develop a quasi-friendship for the brief time in which Anne is in Germany caring for an estranged cousin. However the narrative tells us little else about these characters, Johann spends much of his time alone, though his solitude is not an obviously lonely one, whilst the gulf between Anne and her cousin remains more or less unspoken of. Instead the pair spend much of their time together touring Vienna, with Johann showing Anne his most beloved parts of the city, telling her the history and folklore behind the buildings and areas and even rediscovering places he had long forgotten.

But don’t let this explanation fool you into thinking Museum Hours is little more than a glorified tour guide; there is much more to this film than the mare visuals depicted on the screen; it is the story behind each image that is important, whether it be a painting in the Kunsthistorisches Art Museum or a street seller hawking his wares, each visual is minutely explored, intimately examined and then ultimately set against the sheer vastness of time to highlight the bittersweet nature of the brevity of life.

Still from Museum Hours 2Director and screenwriter Jem Cohen is known for her depiction of cities and spaces, and often focuses on not the overwhelming electricity of overcrowding and noise pollution but the beauty of quiet moments and often ignored buildings – finding peace in the busiest of places. These same themes are expunged in Museum Hours and ultimately culminate in a somewhat intense but intellectually invigorating and eye opening piece of art that rivals the quiet contemplation of Rembrandts portrait of an old man; questioning, unconventional and powerful.

Rated 5 out of 5

Reviewed by Alyse Garner, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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R… Rajkumar Review

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I must start with review with a warning to all Bollywood fans that, despite an outspoken love of Glee and most ridiculous and over the top musicals, I have yet to watch a Bollywood movie that I haven’t panned.

R… Rajkumar is no different really, this is essentially another retelling of the Romeo and Juliet story and, once you realise this, the rest of the film plays out almost entirely by the book, lacking any real imagination or re-envisioning

Rajkumar is a young man who gets involved with a powerful drug baron and is tasked with killing his boss’ rival; when the beautiful Chanda comes onto the scene however things change and an all out gang war starts over this Juliet-character.

There’s no darkness and no grit, nothing to give this movie any depth or appeal beyond the lavish choreography or catchy musical numbers; I like my musicals with a bit of tongue in cheek comedy, a bit of sadness, even a little unpredictability. R… Rajkumar lacks this entirely.

However, my overall experience of Bollywood pictures is that they, by and large, stick to the same tropes and styles – living by the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” mantra, and if you’re already a fan of the genre then I fully expect that you’ll disagree entirely with my views.

Still from R... Rajkumar 2For those who still aren’t sure I will attempt to step away from my predisposed ideas and give what little unbiased commentary I can: the first half of the film is certainly the better of the two parts, the characters are reasonably well written and they are portrayed with all the vigour and style of well established and highly talented actors.

Going entirely against my job description I think the best advice I can give here is that viewers watch the film for themselves and make their own decision…

Rated 2 out of 5

Reviewed by Alyse Garner, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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Daddy, I’m a Zombie! Review

Still from Daddy, I'm a Zombie! 1

Dixie, the daughter of an undertaker falls pray to a prank played by the school bullies and, running off distraught into a storm, is killed by a freak accident – only to wake up as a zombie a short while later.

Deciding not to waste her after life Dixie joins up with two other zombies and rejoins the world of the living where she sets about righting the wrongs of the world and hoping to thwart the evil plans of other members of the living dead.

Still from Daddy, I'm a Zombie! 2Obviously taking a great deal of influence from the stop-motion animation of Tim Burton and his ilk the Spanish language feature Daddy, I’m A Zombie looks promising on the surface but ultimately fails to deliver. The animation is perfectly adequate but lacks the personality of seminal pieces such as A Nightmare Before Christmas or the genuine darkness of Coraline. The story is also brimming with potential but simply doesn’t carry enough meat for any viewer, flesh eating or otherwise, to get their teeth into.

All in all Daddy, I’m A Zombie is reasonably enjoyable but hardly memorable; for fans of Burton’s classic film making style and that slightly quirky animation then this piece is a perfect option when you’ve nothing better to do, but I couldn’t go as far as to recommend it to anyone.

Rated 3 out of 5

Reviewed by Alyse Garner, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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The Missing Picture Review

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French speaking naturalized Cambodian Rithy Panh combines documentary style film making with rather wonderful animation and clay motion to explore the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge against his people; how such despicable actions can be transferred to the screen with such elegance and artistry is both captivating and a little disturbing – all of which only serves to make the Missing Picture all the more powerful.

Panh uses his own experience in a Kampuchean re-education camp to recreate some of the worst of his own memories and archival footage to portray the worst collective memories of a generation of Cambodians.

Yet it is not solely the images of the violence, murder and neglect enacted by the Khmer Rouge that give this film it’s weight; rather by the end I found myself more affected by the things the film does not overtly highlight and that, in their absence, become more potent; the Missing Picture raises numerous questions about memory, collective remembrance and the impact of alternative representations.

Still from The Missing Picture 2Panh’s use of clay motion is excellent and, though many may find it hard to believe, perfectly compliments the other cinematic forms used in the rest of the feature. The combination of real footage and the highly stylized clay motion does not dampen or distract from the pain and shock of what the viewer is seeing but rather offers them an opportunity to witness the sequences in an entirely new fashion – adding a new dimension to an already multi-faceted experience.

The Missing Picture is brilliantly pieced together, feeling more like a piece of artwork than of cinematic making; either way it is a hugely memorable film, both the impact and images of which will stay with you.

Rated 4 out of 5

Reviewed by Alyse Garner, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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