Kids for Cash Review

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Tragic events can often spawn knee-jerk reactions made out of passion, but not logic. After the events of the Columbine school massacre, Pennsylvanian Judge Ciavarella took a tough stance on juveniles with the zero tolerance policy. Tensions were already pretty high during this era with overly-cautious schools handing out strict suspensions for something as simple as leaving a box-cutter in your car (this actually happened at my school). To put it bluntly, it sucked to be a student in the early 2000’s. But nobody would dispute that the kids who got the worst of this policy were those in Luzerne County in this painfully tragic documentary.

Under Ciavarella’s furious presence, over 3,000 students were sentenced to the juvenile detention center. These kids appeared before the judge with no lawyer and found themselves sentenced to the center within a few minutes. The offenses included everything from unknowingly purchasing stolen property to minor scuffles in the school hallways. Before the kids know it, they’re spending the remainder of their youth incarcerated for something that any other student in the country would only serve a detention or suspension. Just the thought of never being able to experience all the pleasures of growing up or completing school seems like an entirely different world. The director does his best to illustrate this with the accompanying imagery of paper dolls and houses representing lost innocence. It’s a little much, but it gets the job done.

For about the first half of the film, we see interviews with the grown up kids who finished their time in the correctional facility and their parents. They relay the bitter and brief courtroom battles in which they were essentially shouted down by the judge with fire and brimstone. The students describe their frustrations for the many wasted years in a dirty room with cockroaches as roommates. The parents sob and breakdown feeling so helpless to do anything for their children. Those that lost them completely to suicide grieve even worse.

That alone would seem to be enough for a documentary, but the second half goes one further by actually interviewing former judges Conahan and Ciavarella. Both were involved with the Kids For Cash scandal in which the chain of events that led to these 3,000 sentencing for some kickbacks, though Ciavarella denies being aware of this involvement. Ciavarella truly believed he was doing something right in a world gone mad and now he’s paying for it. He breaks down heavily in an interview realizing his grandchildren will remember him as scum. The interviews take place mere days before he goes to trial and then later on for his sentencing. The town’s people also voice their opinions on the man believing he’ll finally get a taste of his own medicine when they send him to prison.

It helps to see some humanity for Ciavarella’s side of the story in which him and his family deny knowing anything about this scam. That being said, the atrocity of the lives he’s ruined over the years never stops looming over his head. During a press swarm around Ciavarella on the courthouse steps, the mother of a deceased child screams and hollers at him for taking her son away because of his pigheaded judgement. She curses him in what I can only assume was the same volume of scorn as Ciavarella displayed in her son’s ruling. It isn’t long before she storms off in tears at not being able to do anything to ever see her son again.

Still from Kids for Cash 2Kids For Cash presents a dark portrait of how a post 9/11 society failed the American justice system for children. All the facts in this scandal are laid out on the table and makes you sick to your stomach that such verdicts would be passed down to these students, robbing them of their youth and education. The film ends with some shocking statistics about how many kids are imprisoned, how much it costs and what future they have after going through such an ordeal. Whether you believe Ciavarella’s ignorance or not, he admits that system has failed. He is now serving a prison sentence as well as Conahan. It may not seem like enough of a punishment for all the lives they’ve destroyed, but it’s one step towards believing that there is some justice in this world for the wicked.

Rated 4 out of 5

Reviewed by Mark McPherson, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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Finding Fela Review

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Some films are made purely for entertainment, while others use the medium to tell an important story that causes people to stop and think about the world they live in. Finding Fela is of the latter category. It is an interesting look into a topic I knew nothing about, and will definitely be a work to remember. The whole film lasts just shy of two hours, and is filled with powerful imagery, but I can only give it two out of five stars.

Finding Fela is a music documentary about the Nigerian personality Fela Kuti. We learn about his beginnings, what he did with his life, and how it all ended. Much more than just about a man and the music he played, we see the political statements he made – the latter in a much clearer way due to the progress of time.

This film is an often confusing exploration of Fela Kuti, moving back and forth between archival documentary footage and the broadway play (the latter which begins the film and seems like it would be the focus). It starts out slow but gains momentum as it chugs along. The two main storylines keep you from drifting off, but it is easy to get overwhelmed. Unfortunately, by the end of the film, there is still so much you feel you don’t know about this man, and that is disappointing.

With a personality such as Fela, it was obvious that music was going to play a large role, and the creators did well in this. Music and politics have almost always gone hand in hand. Music is a way to speak to people, to make them remember something, and that is why it was such a powerful tool for Fela to use.

Still from Finding Fela 2There is not much chatter about this film, and I don’t know if that is because of the topic, or the quality. Critic reviews have been mostly mixed to negative, with audiences responding slightly more positively. Everyone seems to agree that there is so much information about Fela and his actions that this film could have portrayed, but most believe it fell short of expectation. Despite its two-hour running time, it didn’t fit it all in, and therefore what we saw felt lacking.

As with all stories – especially those that are about real people and real events – you have to be careful how much you believe. I love that they were showing the many sides to this man, and letting the world know that after all he was just a man, and not a god.

I think the film has a limited demographic, and it will only really appeal to those who actively search for it.

Overall, I think this film is less about Fela himself, and more about what he did, who he influenced, and how this continues into the future.

Rated 2 out of 5

Reviewed by Michelle Sommerville, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears Review

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Avant garde movies like The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears leave me at a crossroads. On one hand, it’s a dizzying pastiche of clever camera tricks and beautiful use of color and photography. It never stops the way it beats you over the head with its varying visuals to illustrate its elusive mystery. But what is being presented is very disgusting and twisted with naked bodies stabbed, stomachs punctured, hands digging under skin and glass crushed into breasts. It’s a desensitized mess of explicit violence and sexuality, yet I just couldn’t look away trying to grasp all of its technical grandeur.

At first the story appears to be about Dan (Klaus Tange) trying to find his missing wife Edwige (Ursula Bedena). He discovers her absence soon after returning from a business trip to his spacious apartment and drinking himself stupid. Searching for clues, he begins to connect with others in the complex that have lost someone as well. But we really don’t learn anything all that much about Dan or any of these characters for that matter. We just know that they’ve experienced something strange and creepy in their lives that separates them from both people and reality. They spill their guts in various ways to Dan be it over tea or during an investigation. At one point Dan asks a detective, who just finished divulging his tale, what his story has to do with anything in the current case.

I’m at a loss for how to describe the rest of the film in its attempt to unravel this little mystery. The entire movie is told in a series of repeated dreams and flashbacks of clues that provide more questions than answers. A woman finds herself trapped in a room with a man in a hat who descends from the ceiling shadows. Dan has a dream without end where he finds himself naked and stabbing in the darkness. A knife runs along the curves of a naked woman, teasing her flesh before slicing it up and finishing the job with a forceful plunge. A recorded piece of audio is played back several times with the line “so you like mysterious phone calls.”

All of these scenes are shot as exceptional art pieces with a noble homage to the Italian gialli films. It’s all texture and mood that washes over and consumes any narrative that may have been intended. What’s implied is heavier focused on than what is there. On that level, this is a very demanding film that never compromises on any solid tone or style. Some scenes are shot as a series of photographs that speed up and slow down to display motion. Others are shot in an array of colors that shift and cascade over one another. Shots change angle and perspective almost at random. The camera morphs into a kaleidoscope as if it toying with the viewer’s perspective. Just describing all the choices in photography is making me as dizzy as the shots themselves.

This is the type of film much like The Trip that exists on its own as something maddeningly different. Is it an experimental examination of the dark depths of sexuality or is it just a trippy series of neat shots? Is it actually conveying a mystery or is it just a farce? Does anything on screen hold any water or is it just an empty shell of nihilism? The film never gives a clear answer and leaves the audience baffled at what they believe they saw.

Still from The Strange Colour of Your Body's Tears 2The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears is that one art film that brings about frustrating discussions on what it was and what it meant. At the end of the day, however, it’s just too grizzly and disturbingly violent to find something to latch onto in this stylish dance. I can’t exactly recommend the film for its cringe-worthy moments such as breasts forcing themselves into glass shards. But, on a technical level, I can’t fault it for being a never-ending cavalcade of gorgeous design and imagery. It ends up being one of the most beautiful pieces of film I’ve ever seen that I didn’t enjoy. If a friend asked me if he or she should see this picture, I suppose I would say yes, but come armed with plenty of artistic appreciation and a high threshold for on-screen pain.

Rated 2 out of 5

Reviewed by Mark McPherson, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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Two Night Stand Review

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I hate to start a review off like this, but…don’t waste your time on this film. It lacks material, morals, talent, and hopefully will lack audience members.

The film centres around two people – Alec and Megan – who are young and spend one night together (doing you know what). What began as a one-night stand extends, as a blizzard traps them in Alec’s tiny apartment. With nothing else to do, the couple decide to try and give each other dating advice. How will it turn out? (Reviewer’s note: nobody cares).

To begin with, the acting was unremarkable. Miles Teller, who has been cast in more and more popular roles these last couple of years, plays the lead male role ‘Alec’. You can only assume he took this role without knowing the other films he would be in and get noticed for, otherwise I have no idea what he was thinking. He may be a drawing card to younger audiences, so I urge parents to be aware that this is not a film for them. Analeigh Tipton did well for it being her first leading role, but she definitely wouldn’t stand out from a crowd.

Still from Two Night Stand 2I am a huge fan of television show episodes or the occasion film that can pull-off a ‘bottle episode’. This is when a story takes place in a limited setting (one or two small locations), and allows the characters to progress the story. Yes this film had limited locations, however, these characters were incredibly horrible and disinteresting. As a member of the portrayed generation, I find it almost disrespectful for us to be portrayed like this (aimless beings whose lives revolve around their sexual exploits). I’m not going to say that none are, but it is far from being everyone.

I may be old-fashioned for a twenty-three year old woman, but I can find nothing appealing about ‘occasional hook-ups’, ‘one night stands’, and the obvious emotional destruction that comes with it all. Granted its rating should keep younger audiences from seeing it, I can’t imagine why anyone would inflict this on themselves.

I will say that maybe one or two moments weren’t as bad as the rest, but that is about as positive as I can get.

Completely unsurprising to me, Two Night Stand has received mixed, but mostly negative, reviews from critics and audience goers.

It is hard to believe that, in the same year, we had films like Two Night Stand at the same time as American Sniper and The Imitation Games.

How this can be labelled as a ‘romantic comedy’ is beyond me – it is neither romantic, nor funny in any way. All I can gather is that this film is a too-long advertisement for why online dating sites and these kinds of casual encounters are very unwise.

I wouldn’t recommend this film to anyone.

Rated 1 out of 5

Reviewed by Michelle Sommerville, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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Middle of Nowhere Review

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Middle of Nowhere takes a unique perspective towards a tale of the criminal justice system. An African-American couple is separated when the husband is convicted for holding guns. The authorities say he’ll be out in five years with good time. Though the prisoner will go through many harsh and soul-crushing experience being locked up, it’s a story we’ve seen before. This time around, we follow the devoted wife and her plight of holding a candle until her man returns. What follows is a journey of one woman losing herself between her job, her child and the painful absence of her true love.

Our protagonist is Ruby, a rather strong woman who will do anything for her locked up hubby Brian. She works plenty of shifts at the hospital to keep up enough income to hire an attorney for her husband’s hearing. She does her best with the help of her mother to raise her son as best she can. The night and party life she desires is sacrificed after long shifts where she ends up dead-tired on the couch eating Chinese takeout. She even sticks it out for the two hour bus ride she has to make to the prison for visitations which leave her flustered at the transfers she has to make.

But what’s most engaging about her struggle is the emotional wasteland she occupies with one love removed in her life. She sleeps in bed at night alone dreaming that Brian was right to next to her as he always used to be. She walks by herself at night, harkening back to a time when her partner would be right along side her. The years of going so long with him have made her start to feel phantom pains of someone who used to always be there. There are plenty of forces working against her such as her flustered mother who doesn’t see why its worth all this suffering just to hold out for Brian. The attorney she hires starts bringing up surprise charges that she painfully pleas to reduce so that they can help her out with her situation.

Probably the most excruciating part of the whole ordeal is how much prison changes Brian. He ends up forced into gangs, caught up in scuffles and succumbs to his sexual urges. Brian is only human and so is Ruby. After several attempts by the bus driver to woo her on her many prison visits, she goes dancing and spends the night in his bed. Her physical desire is not rooted in distancing herself from Brian though. She still thinks about him with every waking moments, but can’t stand never being able to feel something. Ruby wants to feel Brian’s touch again and only uses the poor bus driver as a substitute. She doesn’t want to hurt either, but feels so helpless to find any honest means of curing her painful loneliness.

Writer and director Ava DuVernay did an extraordinary amount of research for this film. Spending months in Compton, she examines all the blows of lost love for the many women who see their men taken away for many years. It’s a theme she certainly had an interest in with her other film I Will Follow. Having grown up in LA knowing many women who have gone through the same experience, Ava makes this a very emotionally driving story. We don’t just see the obvious obstacles of her life from long hours at work to the stressful hours of bus rides back and forth. Ava lets us inside Ruby’s head so we can see and feel all the senses she longs for again. Her husband’s breath on her neck, his warm arms wrapped around her, the many nights of talking. It’s very quiet and subtle, but incredibly effective at letting us into this world.

Still from Middle of Nowhere 2Middle of Nowhere is a somber and contemplative exploration of holding love up to the highest tests in the worst situation. We’ve seen plenty of movies about women who say they’ll wait for their man when he gets out on the other side. This is the cold reality of what it takes to devote one’s self to another with a prison barrier. Coupling this with a number of other films about men going to prison, you see how the whole experience is a struggle for all good people involved. Despite all you do to make a bad situation better, you may have to do just a little bit more. It sounds like a depressing outing, but it’s rather inspirational how romance can stand tall in the mist of all their mistakes two people can make from the divide.

Rated 4 out of 5

Reviewed by Mark McPherson, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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The Imitation Game Review

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One of the most talked about new releases, The Imitation Game, is based on a true story, and adapted from the novel by Andrew Hodges: ‘Alan Turing: The Enigma’. It’s almost everything you could want from a film, and I’m not the only one to believe that.

The film focuses on Alan Turing, a cryptanalyst who, along with his team, must hurry to create a machine to break the Nazi German code. If they succeed, they will save many lives.

There was a time when the greatest war heroes were those that were in the trenches, on the battlefields, and inside the tanks. Of course they shouldn’t be forgotten, but, in following with societies fascination with cute, intelligent, men, we are shown that not every war hero was on the front lines.

As with any film based on real-life events, there are always going to be those who vehemently deny its content and contend it happened differently. I don’t know how much of this is true for this film – whether Turing was a leader, or gained most of his material from Poland scientists – but this film is focusing on Turing, and so will not turn down every other path.

As I’m sure everyone knows, Benedict Cumberbatch is a phenomenal actor. The way he dives into these many-layered characters is unbelievable, and the film would have been very different without him. Like the other characters tried to convince Cumberbatch’s Turing, it was a group accomplishment. Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Charles Dance, et cetera, all brought their A games as well; surely they knew it’d be a very popular project.

The technical aspects were also brilliant: the shot of the little children standing in their gas masks is one you can’t forget; the stunning visuals and realistic effects; the smart dialogue; and the engaging story.

The crew did a fantastic job at making everything look so authentic. Working with the visual effects department to match-up the bombed Britain with their constructed sets was flawless. The score was also beautiful and moving, recorded by a professional orchestra.

Still from The Imitation Game 2I don’t think there has been a year when we haven’t had a war film. The recent season has been very positive for these films, with The Imitation Game joining the likes of Unbroken, The Railway Man, Fury, and more. As we can see, the latter deals with the physical fighting, the middle two deal with the mental horrors of war, and this film shows the intellectual feats. It’s important for everyone to hear these true stories, and understand how much work and effort went into ending the war.

The film has received enormous praise from critics and audiences. It’s for those that love period pieces, war, and an emphasis on emotions. We do obviously see the action and destruction, but it’s not a shoot-em-up war epic.

Its mature content won’t make it appropriate for younger audience members, but it’s one that I recommend putting aside for when they are older. It’s an important part of history, and one that was performed brilliantly.

Rated 4 out of 5

Reviewed by Michelle Sommerville, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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Jimi: All Is by My Side Review

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Jimi: All Is By My Side is a 2013 British-Irish drama film about the one and only Jimi Hendrix. While Jimi made an impression and was a leader in the industry, unfortunately this film has not followed suit. It is a disappointing finished product, despite certain aspects working hard to salvage it.

The film focuses on the life of Jimi Hendrix before he became the famous icon we know him as today. With talent and powerful personalities surrounding him, we see what influenced him, and get a taste of what he was really like before stardom.

You will never believe who plays the legendary Jimi Hendrix: Andre Benjamin from OutKast. Yes, a 40 year old playing a man who died at 27 years old. He did a very good job, and held the film together. The women in the cast were also amazing, and showed that behind every powerful man, is an even more powerful woman (for good or for bad).

I am not well-versed in the details of Jimi’s life, so I had a hard time separating the fact from fiction. This was made all the more difficult with reports stating it was not endorsed by the Hendrix Estate; therefore lacking credibility. Even if it isn’t entirely factual, it is still an interesting film, but it defeats the purpose and mars an image if purposely made to be fictional.

The primary focus of the film are those around Jimi – particularly three women who were the biggest influences in his life. While this only gave us a limited look into Jimi’s life, it is a better decision than to attempt to portray too much and risk losing audience attention.

Still from Jimi: All Is by My Side 2The film is written and directed by John Ridley, who is mostly known for his film 12 Years A Slave. While other filmmakers would have thrown in the towel when they couldn’t get endorsement, Ridley made it work for him. His use of lens flares, jump cuts, and era-themed visuals were well placed, and added to the aesthetic of the film.

The clothes were also very era-correct; not too over-the-top, just enough. Obviously, the music is an important part of this film. However, with its focus on Jimi before he made all of those songs we love, and the lack of endorsement and permission by his estate, we do not hear any of the songs that were written by him.

Jimi: All Is By My Side has received mostly positive reviews. Critics have been more favourable than general audience members, perhaps because they are more understanding of why Ridley made some of the creative decisions he did.

If you are after a film about Jimi Hendrix playing all the songs you know and love, then this is not the film for you. If you are after a much quieter (though still debated) look into his life before stardom, then look no further.

I would not particularly recommend this film over others, and can only give it a rating of two out of five stars.

Rated 2 out of 5

Reviewed by Michelle Sommerville, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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Persecuted Review

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The current crop of movies made by Christians for Christians seem to exist on another plain of reality. Persecuted, as its title implies, focuses on the subject of faith being under attack. But rather than take aim at crucial areas of the globe that still breed a deadly level of religious persecution, it’s a matter of first world affairs for a movie that’s more hokey thriller than societal commentary. It whips up propaganda and hysteria about the Christian plight in America to create what is essentially the crazy religious-fueled version of The Fugitive.

The movie plays on the ludicrous idea that televangelist John Luther (James Remar) would be a major celebrity of television and a key component in politics. The family man becomes the target of Senator Donald Harrison (Bruce Davison) after refusing to support his Faith and Fairness bill which would apparently make the bill go through. John is then framed for the rape and murder of a teenage girl. He awakens the night after being knocked out by the senator’s goons to discover the media circus that has sprung up. Now on the run from the FBI only his trusted friends, its up to him and his faithfully devoted family and friends to uncover the scandalous cover up against him.

But what exactly is this Faith and Fairness bill that makes Senator Harrison resort to such dirty tactics? It’s kept incredibly vague and seems to suggest that all religions would be presented in an equal presence. If this is true, the bill doesn’t sound as evil as it’s made out to be. But the bottom line is that it means Christianity’s influence will be reduced in some way. The Senator and the President (played up as one of the worst Clinton parodies) ring their hands in a sinister fashion for this bill since their end goal appears to ultimately be an attack on the Christian religion. Luther is the victim of their assault as he struggles to both clear his name and maintain his spirituality. With a gun and a rosary.

In the film’s ultimate goal to illustrate an attack of the religious, characters bounce around the screen with confusing morals and motivations. Luther believes deeply in his faith, praying quite often during his evasion of authorities, but seems quite comfortable threatening the bad guys with a pistol. His friend Ryan (Brad Stine) is a bubbly preacher of the gospel, but comes off creepy the way he hangs around Luther’s wife and associates with the enemy. The strategy of Senator Harrison also seems rather backwards. He can’t get the support of Luther and decides to frame him for murder. Is Luther supposed to change his tune in exchange for a get-out-of-jail free card? Why would Harrison, or even the President, think that this was a good idea? It’s especially dumbfounding when you consider how easy it is for Luther to prove his innocence (almost laughable).

But none of the details actually matter for this type of story. It all just boils down to a shootout with the righteously spiritual and the evil sinners. The corrupted cronies burst into homes to deliver bullets into the skulls of those who know too much. They crash into Luther’s escaping car and exit their vehicle to fire a few shots through his windshield in cliche slow motion. These guys go to extreme measures just to wipe one guy off the map. But this brings up one big question: Why not just kill Harrison from the beginning? Or do those get-out-of-jail-free cards I joked about actually exist in this world?

Still from Persecuted 2Luther’s father at one point compares the forthcoming damage of the Faith and Fairness bill to the religious turmoil of Middle Eastern countries. You know what would really help sell that point? Actually telling us what the bill does! For all the research and digging Luther does on his attackers, why couldn’t he give us some more perspective on this bill and why he opposes instead of just growling “faith bill bad for Jesus.” Persecuted is a film that not only paints a warped world of decaying Christian presence, but it forgets to color in all the numbers. Even the highly religious right are going to need some major faith in the lacking elements of this script to find the spiritual thriller it so desperately aims to be.

Rated 1 out of 5

Reviewed by Mark McPherson, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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Honeymoon Review

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Yet again we have a horror movie with attractive white folk that go to a secluded cabin in the woods and weird stuff happens. For the life of me, I don’t see the fascination with horror films, and yet this one seemed different. The posters released looked more like a lovely romantic comedy than horror film, and yet Honeymoon did well at sticking to horror film conventions. I give it four out of five stars.

The film begins with the seemingly normal and in-love couple – Paul (Harry Treadaway) and Bea (Rose Leslie). They are newly-married, and decide to spend their honeymoon in a cabin shrouded in the darkness of the woods. It is not long until Paul awakens and finds Bea missing. He searches for her, eventually finding her standing, naked, in the middle of the forest. She is disoriented, and cannot remember what has happened to her. Things go from weird to weirder, and Paul begins to think she is not the woman he married. Is this all one big misunderstanding, or is there more in the woods than the young couple were aware of?

Honeymoon was directed and co-written by Leigh Janiak – her feature film debut. I find it inspirational to see a female filmmaker succeeding, but of course there were moments that were rather lack lustre.

The story is quite simplistic with a semi-unsatisfactory ending. It seems to have attempted to ‘always leave the audience wanting more’, but did this by not fully explaining itself. This was made all the more unfortunate – and yet almost expected – because the set-up was so good.

The leads, most notably Rose Leslie (Game of Thrones), did a good job capturing the emotions, though their accents were off. For the majority of the film, it is only these two characters, and so the actors had to be interesting and have believable chemistry. In my opinion, they did achieve this.

It’s hard to not feel uneasy when in a cabin in the dark woods, so there was not much needed in the way of setting the scene. I have definitely seen better horror films made on lower budgets, but this one did well with its limits. We were focused more on the human side of the drama, and were influenced more by the effects we could see it having on them.

Critic reviews have been quite kind to this film, but the general audience has been less than positive. The major downfall is the ending, with most finding it hard to understand and turning to the internet for explanation.

Still from Honeymoon 2The things I like about this film – not as ‘hardcore’ in its horror and gore, more character and relationship-focused – are what will probably turn a lot of people away. For those that like to be truly terrified and see a plethora of gore, this will not be a film for them. It also has too much horror and gore for those that don’t like it at all. It appeals to a very limited audience.

In general, I liked it, and I recommend it.

Rated 4 out of 5

Reviewed by Michelle Sommerville, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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Leviathan Review

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Leviathan is a 2014 drama film, set in Russia, but with worldwide connotations. Yes you will have to read subtitles, but for almost two and a half hours, you will remain in your seat with your eyes firmly plastered to the screen. The duration almost seems too short.

The film is set on the outskirts of a town on the Barents Sea. It is here that we meet Nikolai and his family: wife Lilya and son Romka. The small town life feels anything but peaceful, as the family struggle against the corrupt mayor who is working to take away almost everything Nikolai owns. With the aid of his friend, they will fight to keep what is rightfully theirs, and stop the mayor once and for all.

Leviathan is noted as being a ‘rework of the Book of Job’ that deals with maintaining faith and trust in God when constantly confronted with hardship. What is actually the most interesting fact about this film, is that the main story was inspired by an event in the United States of America, but was changed to a Russian setting. Why writer/director Andrey Zvyagintsev did this, I am not entirely sure, but it does make the arguments and discussions over its portrayal of the Russian Government seem more pointed towards the American Government.

I had not seen or heard of any of the cast or crew before, but they all did a great job. Their emotion and conflict was felt through the screen.

The screen held wide and powerful shots of the scenery and nature, yet much closer shots of the people. The colouring was dark and daunting. The music was commanding. The scenery was beautiful despite the destruction.

The film does not contain cuts that paste together a picture they want you to see. The creators have been very reserved and want the audience to have time to see the images and decide for themselves how they feel.

Russia has always been a powerful country with figures that make their mark around the world. Russian politics have yet again been thrust into the spotlight, and this film shows that it is an important discussion that needs to be had in many countries. Of course, it is also bringing up uncomfortable and scary ideas for many, and loyalties are being tested.

Leviathan has received immense praise from critics and audience members alike. Online and in-print reviews have scored it almost perfectly, and it has won three of the five awards it has been so far nominated for (including at the Golden Globes).

Still from Leviathan 2As a believer in Christ, I connect with the characters’ striving to remain faithful to God, despite the many hardships of life. I give it four out of five stars, because it has almost everything you would want in a film: interesting story, engaging characters, dark and beautiful locations, and much more. I recommend this film and hope to see more like it.

Rated 4 out of 5

Reviewed by Michelle Sommerville, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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