Open Windows Review

Still from Open Windows 1

I would like to think that the further we’ve come with the general public’s understanding of technology that the same sensibilities could be applied to movies. The technological boogiemen present in such dated productions as The Lawnmower Man, The Net and Untraceable are such laughable thrillers that they’re viewed as missteps. But now we stumble once again with Open Windows, a film where the only thing more preposterous than the hacking of seemingly every webcam is the cynical setup placed within its confined perspective.

A creepy fan boy known as Nick (Elijah Wood) finds his heart broken when the actress of his dreams, Jill Goddard (Sasha Grey), turns him down for the dinner date he won in a contest. But an even creepier geek who happens to be Jill’s manager known as Chord delivers him the pervert’s dream: a complete digital view of Jill from her computer. Approached with the voyeur’s delight, Nick accepts the offer since he apparently has such loose morals. The obvious threat is that he’ll soon be discovered either by Jill or the authorities, but there are bigger dangers to worry about in how Chord toys with the two of them. Or is Chord being played himself? Or does Nick have a different motive for this level of access to Jill? And does Jill have an agenda in this ordeal as well?

Much like the Saw movies, this is a thriller that likes to pull as many twists out of its hat no matter how illogical or silly they may seem. There are double-crosses, collusions, faked deaths, staged deaths, exploding buildings out of nowhere and secret bunkers abound. It’s the type of film where the plot takes you for more of a tilt-o-whirl ride than a clever narrative. How exactly does one character have the kind of access to completely stage a fake corpse and alter his voice for staging his own phony demise? The movie never addresses this as it has far too many other farces to display.

Director Nick Vigalondo (Timecrimes) at least has a unique visual flair. The entire movie is seen through a desktop of various windows that lead to different webcams and cameras. It may be one of the most unique interpretations of a cyber-thriller for it’s original delivery appearing as though we’re watching the entire film through an operating system. The gimmick, however, wears pretty thin when it starts to lose its flair in the second act and go for far too many pull-outs and reveals. Who exactly is clicking through all these windows? Who cares, just keep pulling back the shot to reveal another desktop watching a desktop and you have an infinity twist formula.

I can’t help but feel that such a concept might be trying to make some sort of commentary on our interconnected world of social media and rise of hackers. Whatever message may have been implied is lost in a disgusting mess of vile characters pulling off ludicrous twists. There is absolutely no one to root for in this picture. It seems as though Elijah Wood’s character may have something to say about the over-obsessed nerd culture that has no scruples when it comes to sensitive and private information. But we never reach any meaningful lesson or moral in his arc. Ultimately, the only thing that can be taken away from such a movie is that you can’t trust anyone because everyone has access to everything about you and will exploit that for sick gain. In other words, it’s the same old technological boogieman tale with cyber-killers who exist almost entirely outside the realm of reality.

Still from Open Windows 2Open Windows is a thriller so toxic and vile that I almost hit ctrl+alt+delete to open the taskbar and end the program. I guess in that respect I can give Vigalondo some credit for playing with my perspective by immersing me in this desktop world, but the experience just made me all the more anxious for it to be over. It’s just another cyber-thriller too ambitious and too lacking in brains for it to be capable of technological suspense. If it just gave us something to latch onto, there could’ve been some hope. Just one likable character. Just one plan that wasn’t CSI levels of insanely false. Just a shred of morality within this despicable little tale and then I could appreciate the stylistic choices of the first computer monitor based movie. But that is all it appears it’ll ever be known for.

Rated 1 out of 5

Reviewed by Mark McPherson, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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Sinbad: The Fifth Voyage Review

Still from Sinbad: The Fifth Voyage 1

If you want to see a good action film with great acting, amazing special effects, and a coherent story, then this is not the film for you. B-movies are only entertaining when they know they are a B-movie. Unfortunately, this film still has ideas of grandeur. There are a lot of films depicting the heroic acts of Sinbad, and this one simply wasn’t needed and is nothing but a laughable let-down.

The story seemed simple and generic enough – Sinbad is a good man who is forced to do undesirable things. He is tasked with rescuing the Sultan’s daughter who was kidnapped by an evil sorcerer. On his journey, he must face creatures and magic, risking his life to save hers.

Still from Sinbad: The Fifth Voyage 2It is a surprise to see a 2014 film using stop-motion animation. For some reason, a minority of people actually seem to like this ‘throwback to old-school animation’ (see the works of Ray Harryhausen), but this is one of the areas that is supposed to get better with time. I am not saying that the use of up-to-date animation would have made this film good, but it may have given it even one redeeming factor.

The cast was mainly filled with unknowns. The only notable was Patrick Stewart who was the narrator. This might almost trick some people into watching the film, because he does not have a big role, but his dulcet tones are clear.

The story was also slow to take-off and was confusing at times.

In trying to find something positive to write about this film, I will say that the costumes weren’t altogether horrific, and the cameras were pointed in the right direction. I will also say that it must have taken a lot of time to construct the models, but this could be seen as wasted time to be put into such a disappointing film.

It also brought you back to the simpler times of your childhood when films like this were the big things at the cinemas. If only they had understood that those people are now older and want other things from their films, we may have something better.

Audience reviews either graded the film 1/10 or 10/10. I do not know what film the latter group were watching, but this film was definitely not deserving a perfect score.

I will say here that this review is my opinion, and you should still check it out if you want to.

Some of the scenes can be a bit violent and gory, but it doesn’t look real, so it is not really inappropriate for younger audiences, so they can come along too.

It actually reminds me of one of my university projects, where at the end we were considering not attaching our names to it at all. If I worked on this film, I would have asked to have my name omitted.

Sinbad: The Fifth Voyage will leave you wondering: Is it supposed to be a comedy, or was it all unintentional?

Rated 2 out of 5

Reviewed by Michelle Sommerville, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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The One I Love Review

Still from The One I Love 1

The One I Love is a quirky premise for an indie romance that ends up being rather telling beyond its sci-fi gimmick. Mark Duplass and Elisabeth Moss play Ethan and Sophie, a bitter couple in need of some repairs to their marriage. A marriage counselor (Ted Danson) recommends a quiet getaway for the two of them at a gorgeous vacation home. When they arrive and get settled, they seem to be on the right track to a better relationship. They share a meal, a bottle of wine and a bag of weed with a few laughs. On the premises of this vacation home is a guest house which contains their greatest desire: a perfect version of each other’s partner.

When Sophie enters this guest house, she notices a more regal Ethan that works out, flirts effortlessly and doesn’t wear glasses. When Ethan enters this guest house, he discovers a Sophie that also flirts playfully, but cooks him a breakfast with the one thing he could never make her add: bacon. The catch is that Ethan or Sophie can only be in the house for their dream partner to appear. While inside, the doors automatically lock and the windows can not be broken. After the initial confusion, it isn’t long before the two realize what’s really going on with the guest house. Rather than try to solve the mystery from the get-go as Ethan suggests, the two come to an understanding to make each other happy with a strange intergalactic swingers arrangement.

Though it’s quite obvious that they won’t heed their own advice, there are a few ground rules set up for their frolics with their happier partners. They only stay in the guest house for fifteen minutes and they don’t have sex are the key points. But the more each of them enters the guest room, the more charmed and swept away they become with joy. It isn’t long before their thoughts and emotions get the best of them. But while Sophie finds herself overly pleased by the situation, Ethan is more perplexed by why all this is happening and what dangers are contained within the guest house. This distrust reaches awkward proportions when Ethan decides to break into the guest house at just the right moment to pose as the “better” Ethan which leads to the strangest sexual experience for both of them. How could things get any more weird? How about the two of them actually meeting their happier selves when all four of them finally converge for a cringe-worthy night of cards and drinks. Suddenly dinner with the in-laws doesn’t sound so bad.

Director Charlie McDowell masterfully directs this off-beat romance with the perfect amount of mystery and character. He plays up the situation with interesting characters that are smart enough at first to ditch the scene, but curiously playful enough to return for some fun. Their observations on their relationship are genuinely funny in how they try to reason and rationalize the dark prospect of idealization in love. McDowell zooms in with precision on a key component of romance that is hardly harped upon and rarely with such an intelligent punch.

The mystery itself is just as engaging the way Ethan slowly tracks down clues about this vacation home and the various couples that occupied it prior. There are no majorly showy special effects being a sci-fi tale on a budget and there isn’t exactly a grand reveal of the home’s true purpose either. The movie instead chooses to focus on the real meat of the story in how a perfect double of yourself takes away identity and intimacy. How can you trust your own partner when there is somebody else who looks exactly like you and fulfills their every desire? Is Sophie really thinking about the better Ethan when she’s spending time with the flawed and real Ethan? It seems like very deep and dark subject matter, but it’s rather comical in how these feelings don’t stay bottled up for long.

Still from The One I Love 2The One I Love plays like a cross between a romantic comedy and an episode of The Twilight Zone. It takes a supernatural setup for a couple’s getaway and winds up being far more honest and telling than the usual romantic formula. This is one of those hypothetical trivia questions from a couples game turned into a darkly comedic reality with a bitter ending that you may see coming, but still resonates with a heavy dose of guilt and loss of self. As far as romantic comedies go, this is probably one you wouldn’t throw on for a date night with a happy ending. But if your partner happen to have a taste for the awkward and supernatural, this is easily at the top of the list for something weird and different.

Rated 4 out of 5

Reviewed by Mark McPherson, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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Rudderless Review

Still from Rudderless 1

Rudderless is the type of film that is not talked about much, but definitely should be. It is a beautiful story, with emotional acting, and music that takes it to a whole other level. Despite it being a directorial feature debut for William H. Macy, he has obvious talent, and uses his experience as an actor to draw the best performances out of everyone.

We follow Sam (played by Billy Crudup), who begins the film as a high-profile advertising executive. His life quickly falls apart when a college campus shooting includes the death of his son, and he becomes little more than a homeless drunk. Two years pass, and his wife brings him a couple of boxes of their late-son’s possessions. Inside them, he finds demo tapes and lyrics created by his son, a talent and passion he did not know his son harboured; and he finally decides to perform them as a way to deal with the loss. When a young musician (Anton Yelchin) hears and connects with the music, they form a semi-rock band, that will take their lives in directions they never imagined.

While difficult to do, Rudderless has been able to mix dramatic scenes with moments of humour, and musical performances, with all aspects being brilliant. Not one area is lacking, and it combines to make a truly remarkable finished product.

The musical element is only a part of the story. The characters are not going to suddenly burst into song like you would find in musical films like Grease and High School Musical, and most of the actors are not especially known for their singing abilities, but you will not even notice this. You will be too involved in the story and emotion that technicalities like that will not matter.

The acting is also what I should commend, because everyone gave their all. Leads Billy Crudup and Anton Yelchin had a very good chemistry, and were believable as two lost boys at different stages of their lives.

Still from Rudderless 2As I said before, Rudderless is William H. Macy’s directorial feature debut, but he has definitely been paying attention and knows what he is doing. His position as an established and experienced actor would also have given him a unique perspective from which to communicate what he wanted to the other actors.

The story – with a major plot twist I will not spoil for you – was everything you could ask for. Please do not spoil this for yourself, and just watch the film.

With its premier at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival getting it numerous standing ovations, it is no surprise that the vast majority of reviews have been positive.

The way the film dealt with the issue of a school shooting was respectful, though some elements of the film make it unsuitable for younger audiences; but otherwise it is a film a lot of people can watch.

So check it out, and enjoy.

Rated 4 out of 5

Reviewed by Michelle Sommerville, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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As Above, So Below Review

Still from As Above, So Below 1

As Above, So Below is a horror movie where it’s not so much about what the characters do as what happens to the them. They jump down holes, scurry through tunnels and something may or may not jump out to spook or slaughter them. There are even a few noises in the dark and maybe a hand or two that emerges from a puddle of blood. It is all theatrics and little else, turning this into a horror movie that plays like a haunted roller coaster ride. The bad news is that even that audience is going to be let down by this long bore of a journey into frightful treasure hunting.

Told in the found footage format, an archeologist is hot on the trail of the legendary Philosopher’s Stone. Her path leads to the underground catacombs of Paris where she enlists the help of her ex as a translator and some punk kids as sewer sherpas. There is not much of any development given to these characters since they’re just ducks in the shooting gallery. They all mount up their cameras and tools rather quickly with the end goal being treasure for the greedy and the artifact for the explorers. After a minor scuffle with the cops, they eventually make their way through the cramped arteries of Paris’ deep caverns. There is a kid in a corner of the first tunnel that tells them to turn back. They ignore his warning, proceed forward and look back to discover the kid is gone. Nobody questions this because none of them have seen a horror movie or treasure hunting flick.

Everything seems under control until they go around in a circle and the entrance has vanished. Strange voices can be heard from the darkness. Corpses and candles line certain rooms as if they were being staged for a goth music video. And there are plenty of warning signs including the old cliche etching on the wall stating that all who enter shall perish. None of this seems to phase the group as much which may seem shocking, but what they’re doing isn’t technically legal either so chalk that up to low morality. They keep going forward (or descending?) through the caverns, narrowly avoiding being crushed and squashed by the crumbling ground and ceiling. They drop down into dark holes and crawl over piles of bones blocking short openings.

The scares are pitiful. For a film where 75% of the picture takes place in the underground spook factory, it turns into a real bore. Most of the scares come from either trippy visions with way too obvious computer graphics or screams in the darkness that are straight out of the stock haunted house audio library. And there are the usual ghastly visions of tortured souls tormenting the travelers with the usual “I’m still alive” and “it was all your fault.” Is it even surprising that nobody in the group picks up on falling for these emotional traps after multiple visions? The kills are not that impressive either with the bloody bashing of skulls and falling to one’s death. The only end worth mentioning is how one member of the group ends up submerged in solid stone with only their legs exposed in the floor.

There could have at least been an opportune moment to deliver a better reveal of the Philosopher’s Stone, but it’s by-the-book for treasure hunting movies. The MacGuffin of the film is placed right next to a room of gold. Of course, they realize too late that the gold itself is an obvious trap which unleashes all the otherworldly frights. And just watch in amazement as the movies goes for the good old letting go of the treasure to save your own life. This is a group of characters that have not only never seen a horror movie before, they’ve never even seen an Indiana Jones movie.

Still from As Above, So Below 2For what should be a claustrophobic horror venture turns into a real snooze fest. It pulls just about every trick out of the old scare hat with nothing all that frightening to show off. And at two hours, whatever little fear or suspense that may have been effective grows incredibly tired very quickly. The director even spoils opportune moments for a real jump scare as when a mysterious figure doesn’t attack them from the dark, but stands there until he is fully lit and close enough to kill one of them. As Above, So Below ends up being a rather massive disappointment for its wasted potential that could have propelled it out of the mediocrity of this genre. Next time the director might want to get a few original ideas before jumping into the closed spaces with so few ideas and such ineffective frights.

Rated 1 out of 5

Reviewed by Mark McPherson, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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Felony Review

Still from Felony 1

Coming from my home country of Australia comes the 2013 thriller film Felony. Written by Joel Edgerton – who has been doing some exemplary work of late both in-front and behind the camera – it delves right into the darker side of the police force, and how one decision can set in order a devastating chain of events.

The film follows Detective Malcolm Toohey (played by Edgerton), who is everything a detective should be. After spending the night drinking with his cop-buddies after a successful mission, Toohey accidentally runs down a young boy on his bicycle. He stops and calls the police, but claims he simply found the boy on the road, and that the driver must have fled the scene. From one lie comes another, and another, with more people getting drawn into the deception. Will Toohey ever come clean? Will the newcomer to the force follow in their footsteps? And will all be revealed and sinners brought to justice?

Being completely honest, I find the majority of world-famous Australian actors to be far from the best my country has to offer. There is a lot of talent currently untapped, and it is good to see them at work in this film. In addition to actually writing this film (his screenplay debut), Edgerton also stars as the lead – Detective Malcolm Toohey. His tight grasp of the genre is evident, and he does not let one area suffer for the other. Along with Edgerton is the British actor Tom Wilkinson, and the Australian Jai Courtney (who has been in films such as Die Hard 5, Divergent, and the new Terminator Genisys).

Cop thrillers are always popular with audiences (Cop Land, L.A. Confidential, and Training Day, to name a few), but they have been done so many times that it is hard to make them new and refreshing. Felony takes more of an emotional thriller route as opposed to lots of action with car-chases and gun fights. This might not be the most popular choice with the male audience members, but it might entice women to join their boyfriends and husbands without having to face gory scenes.

In terms of the technical aspects, I don’t have any complaints. However, it wasn’t particularly noteworthy either. But then again, sometimes that is the best thing.

Felony has received mostly positive reviews from online critics and audience members. The only complaints are that it sometimes slips into melodrama, and chooses to play on the emotion as opposed to delving into the terrifying idea of cops going bad.

Still from Felony 2I am very pleased to read that this film has been called “smart” and “sophisticated” by critics and reviewers. This is quite a compliment, and I love that the Australian film industry is stepping up to the international level. Please note, some have said that the Australian accents make it a bit hard for international viewers to understand, but it’s not impossible. All in all, I like this film and I think you will too.

Rated 3 out of 5

Reviewed by Michelle Sommerville, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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Housebound Review

Still from Housebound 1

From New Zealand comes a brilliant new horror/comedy film Housebound. Even though a lot of really great films come from this small island country, it has yet to truly make its mark on the world film stage, but it definitely has the talent to take it there. Housebound will give you a scare, then make you laugh. You can’t ask for much more.

Like other elements of this film, the story at first appears to be one we have seen before, but with a twist. Kylie Bucknell (played by Morgana O’Reilly) is a troublemaker. She is a young-adult that has yet to learn responsibility, and finds herself in front of a judge. Not only does he sentence her to eight months home detention, but she must serve it in her old family home, living with her quirky mother. Things go from bad to worse when Kylie can no longer disregard her mother’s fears, and they discover the house is indeed haunted by vengeful ghosts; and together with an amateur ghost hunter, they will fight to survive and reclaim the house.

Still from Housebound 2The amount of remakes and sequels that flood the film industry drives me crazy. When you see something as different as Housebound, it is refreshing. The film is actually a feature debut for writer and director Gerard Johnstone, which shows that we need to let more new-comers into the industry, who are capable of bringing new ideas and techniques.

A lot of films try to juggle horror with comedy, but not many are successful. Johnstone has named many horror films as his inspirations, but came up with the idea for this film after watching the television show Ghosthunters. He has introduced us to characters we think we know, but has then given them twists that keep us watching.

Bringing these characters to life is the good work of a relatively unknown cast. You probably will not have heard of their names, but do not be surprised if you hear about them a lot in the future.

The only bad thing about having such good actors that create these interesting characters, is that the secondary characters tended to overshadow the main characters at times. This was made even worse by their characters feeling fake and silly. But no film is perfect.

Reaction from critics and reviewers has been predominately positive. It has won numerous awards at various film festivals, and has even had big-name stars like Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings) commending it.

New Zealand has delivered us an awesome film that most will love. Their modest budget – which they won – has proven that you do not need a lot of money to make a great film, and that creativity and talent is quite capable of winning the audience. The combination of horror and comedy is spot-on, and everyone should go and watch this film.

Rated 4 out of 5

Reviewed by Michelle Sommerville, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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Jingle Bell Rocks! Review

Still from Jingle Bell Rocks! 1

Jingle Bell Rocks is the documentary on the one thing that plagues every shopping mall around the holiday season: Christmas music. But this is far from just a cursory examination of the usual, repetitive hymns and carols. This is the documentary that delves deep into a sub-genre that, despite being limited to one time of the year, has spawned countless songs, albums, covers and even music videos. With so much variety, it makes you wonder why stores and radio stations limit themselves to the same old renditions.

The film is directed by Mitchell Kezin who begins with a trip to the local music shop. Scouring over the various LPs, he relegates himself to a bargain section of holiday music. An avid music collector and lover of the seasonal tunes, his pile of stuff to buy mounts up quickly. He nearly freaks out when he realizes there is even more in the form of CDs and that the store will be closing soon. By the time he’s ready to checkout, he has his hands full and his shopping basket overflowing with Christmas music. And he still feels that he hasn’t found enough.

There is an entire world of underground Christmas music built on original songs and mix tapes. Mitchell takes us deep into that world by interviewing many producers and musicians who either dabbled in or conceived holiday tunes. This includes such big names as John Waters, Wayne Coyne and many others (though I wish Kezin included Christopher Lee in that list to talk about his heavy metal Christmas music). But Kezin doesn’t just ask them specifically about the music, but their Christmas nostalgia that inspired their work. I was especially intrigued by John Waters who relates one holiday memory to lighting Christmas trees on fire in an alley and drive past them all with a filming camera. There’s also some cool tales to be told from a singer who once wrote for Miles Davis.

At a brisk 93 minutes, the film zooms through a lot of a material with a scattershot method. The only element that ties this whole movie together is Kezin himself who relates his fondest memories of Christmas to an LP he simply cannot find. Frustrated that he can’t relive that exact memory, he receives the greatest gift from an upstairs studio: a new recording just for him. It leads up to a stellar piece of music, but it comes at the very end after a host of interviews that felt all over the place in what they took aim at. There is discussion of religion, consumerism, race and childhood as they all relate to the songs of the season.

The good news is that while most of these tales don’t feel that well-edited, they’re still very unique. I was entranced listening to Coyne attempt to recreate a Christmas movie taking place in space that his mother relayed to him once and could not find. He figures it was most likely a hallucination or the result of two Christmas movies being slammed together in her mind, but I’m glad he took it upon himself to make that dream a reality. The birth of Run DMC’s rap classic Christmas in Hollis is an interesting story in how all members agreed upon the beat almost instantly without initially being in the same room. There’s even a little history in how a few of the older gents discuss the cultural importance of Santa Claus Is A Black Man.

Still from Jingle Bell Rocks! 2The biggest flaw for me of Jingle Bell Rocks is how it opens up a pea-sized hole into this world of alternative Christmas music. There’s not nearly enough music of the many hundreds of renditions and history covered that this music documentary appears more as a best-of than a full album. I’m grateful for having seen the film and feel just a little inspired to go searching for some holiday themed musical gems, but I would’ve appreciated a more focused documentary which picked a target rather than firing wildly in all directions. Whereas with shopping malls where one simply can’t stand Christmas music, Jingle Bell Rocks is a movie that could use a whole lot more.

Rated 2 out of 5

Reviewed by Mark McPherson, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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Enemy Review

Still from Enemy 1

Denis Villeneuve’s Enemy is a fascinating thriller that is one of his most challenging and haunting pictures to date. It’s a case of identity as Jake Gyllenhaal plays two characters: a quiet college professor and a bitter actor. But this is far from your standard or sitcom-level case of doubles separated at birth. They don’t meet up with each other in an awkward mimic-mirror moment of comedy. They don’t go the route of the Prince and Pauper where they swap lives in that tired old device. Enemy instead chooses to focus sharply and artfully on the biggest issue with discovering your duplicate: a loss of individuality you cannot shake.

Adam Bell (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a creature of habit. He teaches a history class, comes home to his girlfriend and mostly keeps to himself. While watching a movie by himself, he notices one of the actors happens to look exactly like him. After some digging, he discovers this man is Anthony Claire (Jake Gyllenhaal) and takes it upon himself to learn more about this individual. He sneaks into his agency and receives a few more details about this actor. It isn’t long before he decides to call up Anthony and have a meeting that is strange and uncomfortable for both of them. Anthony grows paranoid of this individual as the marriage with his pregnant wife is on the rocks. This brings about his own means of revenge which takes a nasty and unexpected turn for the worst.

The central theme of the picture is about losing control of one’s world when presented with such a chaotic discovery. Adam’s life seems to follow a simple routine that is thrown out of balance the more he discovers about Anthony. He begins to lose track of the world around him as the city buildings seem to contort and twist around him, appearing to form a trap. Throughout the picture is the presence of spiders. The opening shot features Adam (or Anthony?) attending a secret stripper party in which one woman places a spider on the ground and begins to crush it with her foot. Sometimes he starts seeing spiders in the strangest place such as the faces of women that pass him by. And other times it just gets ridiculous as a long-legged arachnid looms over the city.

This bizarre imagery displays just how far deep Adam is caught in the web of danger with no means of escape. His double is present and robbing him of everything that made him different. In one of Adam’s lectures, he states that a totalitarian state will censor any means of individual expression. But who is censoring Adam? According to director Denis Villeneuve, it’s the uncontrollable force of one’s own internal dictator. Perhaps Adam secretly wants this fear in his life to shake up the dreary, yellow-tinted world he occupies.

Still from Enemy 2Enemy is a character study that is as richly complex as its challenging visuals. Jake Gyllenhaal not only succeeds at playing dual roles, but creates real terror both self-inflicted and doled out to his opposite. It’s an incredibly intense thriller that takes the audience on a psychological trip through strange visuals that may or may not be hallucinations. The whole experience keeps you guessing right up to the final shot in which everything the protagonist has been running from confronts him head on just when he thinks he’s out of the woods. This is one heck of a movie puzzle to put together with powerful performances backing up such a deviously intriguing script.

Rated 5 out of 5

Reviewed by Mark McPherson, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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Rob the Mob Review

Still from Rob the Mob 1

With Rob the Mob, one word that comes to mind, is ‘interesting’. Written by Jonathan Fernandez and directed by Raymond De Felitta, they have delivered a twist on the typical mafia movie. It is a mix of drama and comedy (the title hinting at this), and I have given it a good four out of five stars.

The film begins by following Tommy (Michael Pitt) and Rosie (Nina Arianda). They are a young and stupid couple who soon find themselves in more trouble than they can truly comprehend. Tommy has just come out of prison, and is desperate to start a new life for he and his girlfriend. But doing the right thing does not come easily to the couple. While sitting-in on the trial for the known mobster John Gotti, Tommy hears the address of one of the mafia’s social clubs, and decides to rob it. Not only do the mobsters not have weapons on-hand while there, but Tommy knows they are unlikely to go to the police to dob him in, and that the FBI would surely not care if mobsters are losing money. He figures he can’t lose. Finding a list of further mafia social clubs, the hold-ups keep coming. Will the FBI figure it out? Will Tommy and Rosie have their happily ever after? Or will the mafia reap their revenge?

There are so many remakes and unoriginal stories that are made every year, that it is refreshing to see something original on our screens. The surprising thing is…this is based on a true story! How much of it differs from reality, I do not know, but from those that know the real story, apparently it is pretty close.

The acting was also a positive element of the film. Michael Pitt and Nina Arianda take the lead roles. You have probably heard their names before or find their faces familiar, but they do not have an extensive film resume. Despite this, they did an excellent job at embodying these crazy characters. They were in good company, however. Perhaps you would not call them ‘veteran’ actors, but the experience of Ray Romano and Andy Garcia probably helped the younger cast. They became the focus of the latter-half of the film, which made it more well-rounded in its story.

Still from Rob the Mob 2While some films give you a clear good and bad guy, others instead choose to make the characters much more complex. Rob the Mob makes the distinction even murkier. Do we root for the young robbers, the mobsters, or the FBI? You may find yourself switching from one to the other.

Online and in-print reviews have been quite positive, agreeing with audiences who have also found it entertaining.

It contains some aspects – swearing, violence, etc. – that make it inappropriate for younger audiences, but uses them less than you would expect from a mafia flick. It does not use them flippantly like we see all too often, and helps to further the story and characters.

Overall a good film worth checking out.

Rated 4 out of 5

Reviewed by Michelle Sommerville, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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