Easy Money: Hard to Kill Review

Still from Easy Money: Hard to Kill 1

I didn’t know going in that Easy Money: Hard to Kill is a sequel, that it builds its story around the previous instalment in the series 2010’s Easy Money. When it finally dawned on me that this wasn’t a stand alone picture I realized that the films opening just doesn’t work unless you have seen the previous feature and while I did sit through the films first 20 minutes I can honestly say its hard to comprehend what anyone in the film is talking about for them unless you have prior knowledge of the series.

The film follows Johan (Joel Kinnaman), a young man who is serving a sentence in a Swedish prison following the events of the previous film. However when he is released for the weekend he finds himself presented with the same triggers that set him down a dark path in the past. While he tries to face these demons head on he must also learn that some things you can’t run from and to get your own kind of justice you might just have to fight back.

Despite the unpleasant opening, Hard to Kill is a unique crime film as it doesn’t spend its time building up the crimes that take place. It doesn’t even concentrate on them while they are taking place. The film is more interested in showing how these events and choices guide people to become who they are. Johan’s choices find him in a precarious position as he becomes an important anti-hero, a man with plenty of empathy but more than enough hatred to counterbalance it with.

The direction is choppy and at times slightly confusing but it gives the film a sense of unease, it makes you contemplate what is happening and the idea that the choices being made aren’t being made lightly. The unsteady filming style highlights the lack of conviction Johan has in his decisions, something each and every one of us can understand.

Still from Easy Money: Hard to Kill 2Ultimately though the film lacks a clear story as it takes almost half the run time to remove Johan from the shackles of prison and turning over a new leaf to reveal the new Johan. While the film builds towards its finale the ending is flat and unimpressive as the parts fit into place but never really amaze in the way they are supposed to leaving a film that doesn’t work without its predecessor and doesn’t really come together in the way a sequel should.

Rated 2 out of 5

Reviewed by George Hooper, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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Open Grave Review

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Part of the charm of a film like Open Grave is its sense of mystery and the film fosters that sense of the mysterious right up to the very end as it builds towards a climax you would never see coming. The downside? The reason you don’t see it coming is because what you are left with is so convoluted, bizarre and nonsensical that you can’t help but wonder what the point was.

The film follows a group of people who have all awoken with no memory of their past lives and who they are. When one wakes up in a ditch full of bodies he starts to wonder if he has anything to do with what has happened here. While the group search for answers about who they are and why they are alive they come across things that could destroy them long before they recover their memories.

The film has plenty of questions to be solved and thought about while the group searches for answers, the only problem being that all of the questions revolve around one character, around the mysterious man in the pit (Sharlto Copley) and his justifications. While the film fleshes him out and figures out what kind of a man he is, you learn nothing about the others as they prove to be needless meat sacks or eye candy for the viewers.

Copley does a good job in connecting viewers to the story but whenever the film isn’t following him the film stops dead in its tracks as you are stuck with characters you know very little about. Aside from some obvious character traits (one is German, another can’t/won’t talk) you know literally nothing about who they are except for how they may connect with Copley’s character.

Still from Open Grave 2The whole film is unique, the ideas on display are impressive but they aren’t thought out. The horror elements of the story are so unclear that there is no sense of danger, the characters feel like cardboard cutouts and the overall conclusion isn’t as smart as people thought it would be making Open Grave another disappointing horror picture that didn’t think before it delivered a half baked idea.

Rated 2 out of 5

Reviewed by George Hooper, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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Dark Touch Review

Still from Dark Touch 1

Dark Touch unlike many of the horror films today is about a real life horror, something we choose to ignore or only talk about when we are presented with it or find out in some happenstance way. That is what makes Dark Touch so impressive, it uses our own fears about the subject and weaves them into a dark and scary tale that has more than a few genuine scares.

The film follows Neve (Missy Keating), a young girl who finds herself being haunted by something or someone. When she survives a horrific attack on her and her family by an unknown force she is left alone with only the kindness of strangers to help her. However when she thinks she has escaped to a kind of safety she is presented with more darkness, this time seeking her.

Director Marina De Van understands the dark soul of the film and also how to elicit scares from minor and major moments. She creates a sense of tension while discussing the darkness of child abuse in a new and totally unexpected fashion. The scares may be what you watch for but by the end you will be thinking about a different kind of darkness.

Keating makes Neve an interesting and complicated character to follow as you try to decipher why this is happening but the film is really about the little things, the well thought out direction, the detailed and grounded story and the over the top gore all add to this sense of impending doom and the chaos that has been caused by the mistrust from Neve’s life.

Still from Dark Touch 2Ultimately this is top notch horror from a director that understands how to make us relate to it, if even by understanding. Dark Touch is a depressing yet captivating watch into the mind of the young and the disastrous effects that manipulating the young can have on those people they encounter in the future

Rated 4 out of 5

Reviewed by George Hooper, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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Dark Touch Review

Still from Dark Touch 1

Dark Touch unlike many of the horror films today is about a real life horror, something we choose to ignore or only talk about when we are presented with it or find out in some happenstance way. That is what makes Dark Touch so impressive, it uses our own fears about the subject and weaves them into a dark and scary tale that has more than a few genuine scares.

The film follows Neve (Missy Keating), a young girl who finds herself being haunted by something or someone. When she survives a horrific attack on her and her family by an unknown force she is left alone with only the kindness of strangers to help her. However when she thinks she has escaped to a kind of safety she is presented with more darkness, this time seeking her.

Director Marina De Van understands the dark soul of the film and also how to elicit scares from minor and major moments. She creates a sense of tension while discussing the darkness of child abuse in a new and totally unexpected fashion. The scares may be what you watch for but by the end you will be thinking about a different kind of darkness.

Keating makes Neve an interesting and complicated character to follow as you try to decipher why this is happening but the film is really about the little things, the well thought out direction, the detailed and grounded story and the over the top gore all add to this sense of impending doom and the chaos that has been caused by the mistrust from Neve’s life.

Still from Dark Touch 2Ultimately this is top notch horror from a director that understands how to make us relate to it, if even by understanding. Dark Touch is a depressing yet captivating watch into the mind of the young and the disastrous effects that manipulating the young can have on those people they encounter in the future

Rated 4 out of 5

Reviewed by George Hooper, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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Endless Love Review

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Endless Love plays with some pretty interesting themese and ideas, hell it even dares to make a love story depressing which for Hollywood is almost astounding. However what lets Endless Love down is its complete disregard for the characters and the reality that they are surrounded by.

The film follows David (the perpetually dreadful Alex Pettyfer) as he meets and falls head over heels in love with Jade (Gabriella Wilde). However impressing upon her parents Hugh (Bruce Greenwood) and Anne (Joely Richardson) that he is worthy of Jade is another task entirely and as things begin to fall apart for Jade’s family she starts to wonder if she really can rely on David.

Entertaining in an almost train wreck kind of way, rubbernecking to see if you missed any awful lines of dialogue or shots so pointless and artsy that the whole film feels like Diana all over again. Wilde is a luminous and impressive young actress but Pettyfer turns David into a self aggrandizing, soulless manbot, a person unaware of the word emotion, let alone what in means.

The film never presents its characters in a decent light either. Anne hides under the covers while Hugh descends into cliched and depressing territory, David acts like a child because he still is one and Jade maintains a persona of being together but she is the biggest and least believable mess in the entire feature.

Still from Endless Love 2The worst of it however is how the film is written to contemplate how bad things can happen along with the best things but the film concentrates so heavily on the burgeoning young love that when the darkness finally hits it feels completely unwarranted and idiotic with actors being forced to give impassioned speeches for no reason but to tell this badly framed, idiotically paced tale of unbelievable woe.

Rated 1 out of 5

Reviewed by George Hooper, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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Winter’s Tale Review

Still from Winter's Tale 1

Much like the book of the same name by author Mark Helprin, Winter’s Tale is not your conventional love story. It isn’t even really a film about love at all but the forces in this world that keep the world in check, be it the good in people or the bad. These forces find themselves conspiring in ways we wouldn’t expect, often to the best results.

The film follows Peter Lake (Colin Farrell), an expert thief who finds himself running from his so called mentor Pearly (Russell Crowe). However when he meets Beverly (Jessica Brown Findlay) on his way out of town he finds himself a reason to put himself in harms way. However Peter doesn’t realize there are dark forces conspiring against him and that the world he lives in isn’t normal, it’s a place of angels and demons.

The valentines day release and the endless sappy trailers do try to paint a certain picture but even though most of the film is devoted to the relationship between Beverly and Peter, it doesn’t feel like the driving force, it feels like a way of showing the inherent optimism and perseverance of man in front of impressive odds.

Still from Winter's Tale 2The addition of the supernatural to the story proves hit and miss as it creates a grand idea of the importance of Peter’s life and the task he has been presented but it also takes away from a very real, naturalistic story of love and compassion that feels ever so slightly cheapened by the mystical. The addition of a cameo by Will Smith as a supernatural judge in charge of maintaining balance is interesting and shows Smith in a decent way after the After Earth debacle but it adds little to the story.

In the end the film is akin to Cloud Atlas, a tale about how our lives prove important for unknown reasons, reasons we might not understand but play into none the less. Peter Lake’s life is vast and tragic but in the end it feels like you have watched something important happen even if you might feel a little lost

Rated 3 out of 5

Reviewed by George Hooper, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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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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