The Rocket Review

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If there was any part of Beasts of the Southern Wild that I loved the most it would be the idea that anything can be made to look exciting and delightful through the eyes of a child. The film worked because it shined a light on the sense of imagination we had lost by growing up and The Rocket reminds us in a very similar way that imagination and dreaming can

The Rocket follows a young boy who travels across Laos with his family and his new friends to try and find a new home after they are faced with problems. However their journey is filled with strife and pain and when they finally reach their destination the boy tries to convince himself that he isn’t cursed by entering himself into a competition to make the titular rocket to try and fight back against the problems and heartbreak he has faced.

The way that children face adversity is unique and while the idea of fighting your problems with the mythical power of a Rocket building competition sounds ridiculous the film forces you to view it through a childs eyes, the eyes that see the world as a place full of wonder and possibilities instead of a world of disappointments, upsets and occasional misery. His journey may be harsh, things that happen cannot be taken back and his life is changed forever but the hope still exists for better.

Still from The Rocket 2The film turns a world of darkness into one of light through some beautiful colouring, some expert cinematography and a central performance that is unabashedly enthusiastic and hopeful that you can’t help but be sucked into it and enjoy the ride you are thrust upon. The film never once lets you think that life can collapse around you and while it’s unrealistic it makes for a delightful story and experience I would happily suggest you watch.

Rated 5 out of 5

Reviewed by George Hooper, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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Chinese Zodiac Review

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I honestly don’t know what to say about Chinese Zodiac beyond the fact that if there is a discernible plot beyond tracking down artifacts I didn’t see it. Not only does the film never quite attempt to make audiences understand why the group are looking for the artifacts but it never connects you to the characters in a way that could possibly make you care.

Chinese Zodiac follows Asian Hawk (Jackie Chan) and his group of adventurers as they hunt down 12 bronze heads of Chinese Zodiac animals that were lost all across the world. On their journey they must face many troubles that will force them to fight, run and struggle to the finish line as Hawk must guide his team through various different troubles.

Much like every Jackie Chan film, Chinese Zodiac features some awe inspiring action sequences that seem almost impossible to pull off unless you have seen The Raid. Then again action alone does not a movie make and while Chan is still capable of the physical the film is so incoherent that even he cannot understand what is taking place making Hawk a remarkably confusing character, one who cannot even justify in his own head why he is doing this outlandish mission.

Still from Chinese Zodiac 2Despite the inconsistent way the movie is structured and the truly idiotic script its impressive to think that Chan, at 60 has managed to create an action film like this and for that alone, Chinese Zodiac is worthy of watching but for all intent and purpose this is poor filmmaking that never coheres and lacks the kind of flow to provide entertainment beyond the visual splendor of the fights and chase scenes. I mean it makes more sense than Who Am I ever did but Chan has been known to do better and should do better, especially this far into his career

Rated 2 out of 5

Reviewed by George Hooper, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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The Punk Singer Review

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While I am not the authority on all things punk, in fact as a genre of music I usually try to avoid it, I feel I can say with certainty that The Punk Singer is a gripping and authentic look at the punk scene through the lense of one particular artist and while it may be on the fence when it comes to a point there is plenty to ponder and admire here and it will leave you contemplating why you weren’t a fan in the first place, even if like me you were too young to remember.

The Punk Singer follows the rise of Punk artist Kathleen Hanna, one of the pioneers of the riot grrl generation in the 90s and how her influences changed the way that punk was perceived and how femininity was seen throughout not only the music industry but also America while also reminding viewers of the music that made it all possible.

Despite the title the film is really a glowing endorsement of the mentality of punk itself, a viewpoint from a clear fan who understands the emotions that brought about the music that made a generation. Hanna is a woman who used everything about her to make her music but also to inspire despite the conflict that is clearly visible in her music and performances.

Still from The Punk Singer 2The only real problem is the film feels incomplete, it lacks the complete feel of a documentary as it presents all the facts but never really commits to any kind of point at any point in the film. The life of Hanna is important, heartfelt and dangerous in this version of her story but it never quite feels like the two sided story one would expect.

All in all the film is entertaining thanks to some good music, a character (and i do mean character) you can get behind and an interesting look at feminism but the film lacks commitment and thats what stops it from being truly inspirational in the way it was clearly intended to.

Rated 3 out of 5

Reviewed by George Hooper, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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The Class of ’92 Review

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It wasn’t until recently that I came to an understanding with football, that we would enjoy each other periodically but never really consistently or in any meaningful way so when I watched The Class of 92 I really didn’t quite understand the draw to make it or the point behind it but all in all I had an awful lot of fun with The Class of 92 as it displayed the famous faces behind 90s football in a new light as they showed them interact outside of the commercials most people know them in now.

The Class of 92 looks at the six footballers that made Manchester United a team to be envied during the 90s thanks to their talent, teamwork and their dedication to their craft. The film looks at their lives and how this moment in time affected them deeply and how it has ultimately shaped the rest of their lives up to this point. The film also delves into the importance of this time to football itself and why in the end we should all appreciate the kind of commitment they put forward.

Although the film feels more like a celebration of an era than a glowing endorsement of the players themselves the film manages to get each one of them relaxed by getting them all together. Players like David Beckham, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville all communing with each other as regular human beings with a kind of candor that you rarely see in interviews or testimonials. The film treats them elegantly to bring the best out of them.

Still from The Class of '92 2In the end the film uses some of their finest moments to depict the best of their time and also to highlight a time of joy and happiness for not just the fans, not just the players but also for the country that sunk their teeth into the story of their triumph. This is top notch documentary filmmaking as it makes you feel good while also highlighting the best of its subject.

Rated 4 out of 5

Reviewed by George Hooper, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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Ironclad: Battle for Blood Review

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As someone who had the misfortune to miss the original Ironclad when it was released in 2011 I entered into Ironclad: Battle for Blood with nary an expectation; as a fan of historical fantasy and medieval warfare style novels by rights the Ironclad films ought to be at least of some vague appeal to me; however poor direction and excessively indulgent story made this second Ironclad feature too silly even for me.

With the same writer and director as the first Ironclad – which to my knowledge was reasonably successful and at least entertaining – Ironclad: Battle for Blood returns to the 13th Century and Rochester Castle which, in the previous film, had to be defended against marauders by the inhabitants, and now finds itself under siege once more, this time from the Scots.

Still from Ironclad: Battle for Blood 2With the details of the previous film lost to little but bloody memory and brief reference Ironclad 2 works as a fairly stand alone narrative and tells your standard revenge-come-invasion narrative; except in this case the home that is invaded is a large ancient castle and the alien’s a few rather pissed off Celts. Throw in a few jaded warriors, money-hungry mercenaries and a female psycho-killer and you have all the ingredients used to create Ironclad: Battle for Blood.

As you can imagine the story plays out as you would expect it to: they fight, they almost lose, but at the last minute, thanks to some serious violence and a miraculous change of heart from one of the central characters, they pull it out at the last minute.

The film is entertaining enough, I have certainly seen worse in my time, and for the first third it appears to have some potential at least; but with a narrative that spirals quickly into the ridiculous and extravagantly gory the film had little to offer by the time the credits rolled.

Rated 2 out of 5

Reviewed by Alyse Garner, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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Antboy Review

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While the superhero genre is one that has been done to death in modern Hollywood it hasn’t been taken advantage of in foreign cinema and while its good to see a new take on a genre dominated by Marvel there is not much to Antboy, a film designed for children and nobody else as the film fails to commit to providing a film accessible for all ages.

Antboy follows Pelle, a child who is bitten by an ant and develops powers because of it. Not only does he gain powers but when he tells his friends he is persuaded to become a masked hero, saving people. However when a villain called The Flea starts causing havoc it is up to Antboy to deal with the problem once and for all.

Although the film is colourful with a fast pace and plenty of silly moments to go around it also never really makes a lick of sense, it feels rushed and confusing as Pelle does things purely for the sake of plot, not because he has any smarts to be detected. The whole picture feels like it is still being worked on and while a major rewrite may have been necessary the film mostly suffers from the look of the film as it never really feels like a superhero movie.

Still from Antboy 2When it comes down to it Antboy is a disappointing attempt at taking advantage of a genre long since lost to most filmmakers and while it’s admirable that they tried to ambitiously make a childrens film out of the whole mess it didn’t feel like the effort that was required was actually put in making this a shocking waste of time, money and to some extent talent.In the end it’s probably best if you stick with Marvel for the forseeable future instead of branching out into territory like this

Rated 2 out of 5

Reviewed by George Hooper, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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A Touch of Sin Review

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There are not many films that can live up to depicting violence in a very real and emotional way. Filmmakers like Tarantino and Steve McQueen make it seem easy but more often than not films will treat a drama’s violence content with a Hollywood sheen, a viewpoint that will glamourise or accentuate what is taking place for the sake of humour or shock value. A Touch of Sin attempt to give light to the reality of violence and it does an almost perfect job.

The film follows many different horrific acts taking place as it concentrates on four specific stories and the effects these events have on those involved and how they and the people around them deal with the after effects as they scramble for reason behind these acts while also attempting to find something on the other side of them.

While the film depicts the stories in an honest light it is also a decidedly foreign film as it presents characters that are hard to connect to not only because of their specific national traits but also because the script is loose and interpretation is left up to the audience leaving many a scene that falls through the cracks as they prove jarring to a regular picture. If anything A Touch of Sin reminds me of Upstream Color, a film entirely dependant on the viewers ideas and while there is a loose story here it may require some deep thought by film’s end to really get the most out of it.

Still from A Touch of Sin 2All in all this is rich and compelling storytelling with a twist and while it may cause a few headaches there is plenty of beauty hidden behind the violence. Although this may not be the pleasant film some may be searching for I dare you not to find yourself pondering the possibilities and ideas raised for many days to come as this is intellectual filmmaking at its finest.

Rated 4 out of 5

Reviewed by George Hooper, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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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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