All Cheerleaders Die Review

Still from All Cheerleaders Die 1

All Cheerleaders Die feels like a throwback to the old shlocky B-horror films of the drive-in cinema days. It presents a strange paranormal concept fused with high school cliques that seems like something straight out of a midnight movie. I could just see the poster with the key buzzwords. Cheerleaders! Lesbians! The Occult! Vampires! As you may have guessed by my hyping of the picture, there’s almost a tongue-in-cheek vibe to the way this film weaves its weird and supernatural horror premise. That doesn’t exactly make it a riot of a picture, but it has a surprising charm to its earnest, campy direction.

The unpopular student documentarian Maddy decides to turn in her camera for pom poms after an opening in the cheerleading squad after a fatal accident. Her goal is to take down the cheerleading group from the inside based on the soulless nature of the clique she filmed. She passes the tests and begins to get into the minds and pants of the squad. After she forms a romantic attachment to one of the cheerleaders, the football players grow jealous and violent. Maddy has invoked a gender war with the cheerleaders and football players. What was once a friendly treaty of the sexes is shattered is now a war of houses. All appears to be going to plan for the little manipulator, despite her best friend Leena glowing with anger for transferring into the clique world.

But forget all that high school drama! When four cheerleaders (including Maddy) all die in a car accident, the boys leave them with only Leena to fish them out of the river. Despite not being able to save them initially, Leena is able to revive the cheerleaders with the power of her magical stones though now they have swapped minds for some strange magical reason. There are a few rules to follow, however, for keeping them alive: The stones need to remain inside their bodies at all times, the girls will now feel everything all five of them feel and they need to drink a lot of blood. This is now a full-on revenge movie as the girls all show up at school the next day to taunt the football players and eventually snuff them out. Most of the logic in them being students is tossed out the window at this point focussing squarely on the paranormal horror of these undead cheerleaders seeking bloody restitution.

This is a very outlandish route to take and, for the most part, the movie realizes this. There are several comedic moments as when one of the girls makes out in the school bathroom. The other four girls feel the same sensation and breakdown in the school hallways in sexual pleasure. At the same time, the girl who is making out is doing so with the boyfriend of the female body she is occupying so you have a strange love affair going on as well. And as if that weren’t enough, another one of the girls is currently feasting on the soul of one of the football players so they’re all feeling full as well. Naturally, the girls grow hungrier and need more blood to keep going. Leena decides to cut her skin and let the girls suckle from her wounds in some over-the-top sequences staged more like romantic kisses with sappy music and all.

For as much fun as the film has with its subject, I don’t think it went far enough. There was so much more that could’ve been done with such a concept that ends too early as the picture devolves into slasher territory. The lead evil football player defends his position by taking on the girls, brutally murdering them and taking their magical stones which somehow make him more powerful and demonically deep in the voice. I think the film takes too long establishing the first act for the surprise of the second that it doesn’t have time to focus on what’s more entertaining.

Still from All Cheerleaders Die 2How much better would this film be if we saw the girls get into all kinds of unique situations with their new magical powers? One of them could trip down the stairs and the other girls would topple over themselves in gym class or trying to woo a boy. Another one could succumb to feasting on blood that the other girls are no longer hungry during their lunch period, disappointing them on pizza day. That would be far more entertaining than the wildly confusing and gruesome finale we all see coming. I do give the movie credit, however, for its spirit in throwing so many unexpected elements at the screen including a Sleepaway Camp style ending. Directors/screenwriters Lucky McKee and Chris Sivertson certainly infuse this horror picture with a lot of fun energy, but the fun becomes so offbeat at times you wonder just what the film is trying to be. All Cheerleaders Die is an admirable oddity of horror, but an oddity nonetheless preventing it from being a campy horror classic.

Rated 2 out of 5

Reviewed by Mark McPherson, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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Ass Backwards Review

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Movies like Ass Backwards really do make me feel like I’ve fallen into the Twilight Zone. In the first 20 seconds, I witnessed the two female leads urinating on a public sidewalk. In the next 30 seconds, I watched them hand a coupon to a homeless person feeling they did some good for the world. In the next 40 seconds, I pinched myself to see if this wasn’t a nightmare and was sadly let down. I do indeed live in a reality where road trip movies have sunk as low as the humor-drained presentation that is Ass Backwards.

Two airheaded roommates Kate (June Diane Raphael) and Chloe (Casey Wilson) find themselves drawn back to their hometown to finally win the beauty pageant they lost as children. What brings this on is a newly revived hatred of the pageant winner they lost to who is now a successful author. Angered at how their lives turned out lesser as a poor egg donor and dancer, they decide to return for an anniversary pageant and win it as some sort of self esteem boost. And what follows is a slew of a-typical road trip movie moments. They’re taken in by a lesbian commune that promptly kicks them out for misinterpreting their sexual advances. They enter a strip club where they perform some ridiculous stage moves for money. That, in turn, leads to the mandatory jail scene.

At first, I felt very removed from this picture. It seemed like nothing more than your standard road trip comedy with very flat gags. As I continued to set my watch for the expected cliches, things took a very strange turn in the second act. After Kate and Chloe make it out of holding, they reconnect with their old pal turned sex abuser Bryan. They meet up at his house and find him smoking crystal meth because he finds himself a loser. Sharing a similar opinion of themselves, the girls take part in the recreation as well. They seem almost completely unaffected by the drug as opposed to Brian who has all sorts of problems. I can only assume that the brains of these two ladies are so far gone they’ve some how built up an immunity. You can’t kill brain cells if none exist in your head. That’s the only reasoning I could find behind these two ladies smoking meth and still being able to sing and dance.

One would figure that by this point the movie has gone full-on crazy with its comedy as if anything can happen and will. But then it decides to take the sentimental route in which the two inevitably have to split and come together once again when they converge at the pageant. All their riffing and bitterness for the competitive nature of beauty is slowly pushed aside. But then, as if the movie were awaking from a comedy coma, it decides to pull off one lousy capper joke that somehow makes everything transmutates into a happy ending. This is a movie with severe mood swings resulting in comedy that is both tired and confusing.

Written by the stars June Diane Raphael and Casey Wilson, I can’t help but feel that Ass Backwards was trying to be a female version of Dumb and Dumber. But the humor of that film came from the characters being naturally oblivious to the world around them yet they still have genuine heart. In Ass Backwards, this airhead duo seems toxically cognizant. They’re driven by revenge, encourage drug abusers and are just violent cry-babies. Very little of any of their idiocies feel like they warrant any heart or good intentions. The other issue is that there is no straight man in this film. Every character is trying to appear off and kooky as they match IQs with our protagonists. There is never a moment where anyone sits these girls down to tell them that beauty pageants do not matter and that they’re wasting their time with this journey. Without any connection to reality, there is no ground to any of this lunacy or cruelty.

Still from Ass Backwards 2June Diane Raphael and Casey Wilson do have some great comic timing between them, but they simply cannot write jokes good enough for characters this vile. This is a script that feels as if it were fished out of a dumpster of rejected plots for Two Broke Girls. It’s a movie not interested in creating real or likable characters as much as it wants to throw as many half-thought gags at the screen until something sticks. If all else fails, just go for the easy low-brow with bodily functions. You know a film has run out of gas when the last shot involves more public urination.

Rated 1 out of 5

Reviewed by Mark McPherson, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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The Congress Review

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The Congress is a bizarre hybrid of a two-parts live action movie that don’t quite work as well as (I’m guessing) the director envisioned them, and one part 2D animation that’s actually trying to be the masterpiece it never became until its beautiful and cathartic ending.

In the beginning, we’re presented with a simulacrum of worlds occupied by actors, with space semiotics built to resemble their lives, or the decadence of a Hollywood fame over the years in the business, Robin Wright in particular. It’s eerily strange how The Congress transfers its emotional meaning to the audience without explicating and naming those emotions and from the introduction of Robin’s son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) and his illness onward, it becomes perfectly clear the movie’s characters will eventually experience a tragedy in their own worlds they inhabit, a poetic one indeed. With its many self-references, the movie migrates towards a visual and emotional transmutation which will later culminate in a form of a liminal 2D animated adventure. In the narrative background, Robin’s Swansong inhabits the invisible parts of the narration and symbols which’re clearly used to personify her inner conflicts, as she’s presented with a binary choice of ontologically ending her career (by selling her acting self), or choosing to stay in the business and continue making one bad decision after another.

After Robin’s choice insecurely sinks into acceptation, we’re witnessing Harvey Keitel’s demonstration of a theater-like performance that pulls the wholesome experience out of the viewer for a moment, which is not so bad for a movie mimicking a real life mimicking a post-apocalyptic simulacrum of Raphael’s The School of Athens’ equivalence of a cartoon reality.

45 minutes in and things go awry: after a Faustian deal’s being made, Robin inhales an ‘ampule’ and the real world transforms into an animated Miramount (Miramax + Paramount) studio’s paradise, a glimpse into director Ari Folman’s already approved visionary inner ecosystem which hosts an overabundance of colors, mythical characters and oneiric appearances of hybrid flora and fauna. If for some reason you lost track, try to remember Cool World, Space Jam and Who Framed Roger Rabbit among other films, or as Robin herself puts it in the movie: “It’s like a genius designer on a bad acid trip” which kept my eyes stuck on the screen as soon as it lasted, I might add.

Still from The Congress 2Animated Robin’s exploring some deep philosophical stuff about immortality (staying forever young) while deconstructing the perennial existential dilemma of who are and how can we tell apart illusion from reality from animation. Her (animated) character pushes forward the whole experience, but I’m personally fonder of Danny Huston’s almost fascist-esque portrayal of a Devil figure embodied in couple of characters throughout the movie, as to provide ‘evil’ counterweight to Robin Wright’s ‘angelic’ appearance.

But, as the animated story unravels, the ambiguity of it all gets suddenly interrupted by the interpolation of the second live action bit, which, instead of amalgamating with everything happened by far, it just doesn’t fit in the whole picture, pulling viewers yet again from an otherwise immersive escapade.

Everything considered, The Congress presents itself as a good live action movie, an extraordinary animated feature and a conflicting hybrid of both in its 2 hour 2 long runtime.

P.S. The fake trailer for “Rebel Robot Robin Street Fighter” is awesome.

Rated 3 out of 5

Reviewed by Adrijan Arsovski, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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Dracula Untold Review

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Vampire films are almost always being released, each giving a different idea as to what a vampire would be like. Some portray it as an illness or curse, others a physical creature, and some even as a romantic figure. Dracula Untold brilliantly brings back the fearful creature we know this famed vampire to be, and is a film you’ll want to watch again and again.

When his pride, kingdom, and family are threatened, Prince Vlad is determined to defeat the enemy. He makes the difficult choice, and becomes the villain to be the hero. And the rest…is history.

There are so many reasons why this film is great. Firstly: the acting. For the most part, I prefer to watch TV shows and films where I’m not particularly familiar with the cast. While I love seeing my favourite actors get work, it helps me to enter the new world by not recognising the characters as whoever I have seen them playing previously. This cast also created a dramatic atmosphere. This is a good thing, because even though a story about vampires is clearly false, they still managed to make the audience feel for the characters. To break up this drama, the smaller moments of comedy were excellent, not turning the film into something silly, but showing the multiple layers of the characters.

Still from Dracula Untold 2Vampire stories have been told so many times and in so many different ways across assorted mediums, and yet, just from watching the trailer, I could tell this was going to be different. It was a very cool way of portraying vampires again, that have slipped from being scary creatures/villains, to romantic figures. As a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and not Twilight, I appreciate this resurgence of the vampire-as-villain element. The story also reminded me a lot of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, which I also loved. The mix of history with fantasy is an awesome thing if done right, and Dracula Untold definitely did that.

With the advancement of technology, films can no longer get away with bad visual effects. The good thing for this film, is that its designers were amazing, therefore making the visual effects just as good.

For the most part, reviews haven’t been too good. While there are some that see and love all of the points that I did, there are others that wanted more; though I don’t know what they were exactly wanting.

The two-hour runtime just flew past, and I was mesmerised by the visual effects, action, acting, and story the entire time. I honestly didn’t know what was going to happen next, and that’s something that I look for in a film.

It’s also interesting to note that this film is slated to become part of the ‘Universal Monster’ franchise, which is a reboot of all these classic monsters, with The Mummy rumoured to come shortly.

All in all, this is definitely a film to add to your collection.

Rated 5 out of 5

Reviewed by Michelle Sommerville, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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Before I Go to Sleep Review

Still from Before I Go to Sleep 1

There’s a collective wince every time a novel is adapted into a film, with the literary fans protective of the work. Before I Go To Sleep – starring well-known Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth – is based on the novel of the same name, and is sure to continue the novel-versus-film debate.

The topic of ‘amnesia’ has been done so many times before, and is a good story element that allows the audience to learn about the world they’re entering as the lead character does. This is only good if done right, but the film needs to also have character progression, and in a film like this, proper grasp of the ‘thriller’ genre.

Before I Go To Sleep follows Christine (Kidman), who awakens every morning with no memory of the last number of years. Her husband (Firth) dutifully tries to calm her, and explain to her about the accident that caused her injury. It is only when Christine begins to remember things contrary to her husband’s retelling, that she no longer knows who she can trust. Was she involved in an accident, or something more sinister? Is her doctor really there to help her? And is her husband the caring spouse he claims to be?

Sometimes you can quite easily classify a film as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. But then there are times when it’s not so black and white, and instead a rather unsatisfactory shade of grey. Unfortunately, this is where this film sits.

Kidman and Firth have been in the film industry for many years, and have shown that they can handle the pressure of feature films. Both have also had their fair share of mixed reviews. For Firth, his characters are usually popular, charming, gentlemen who makes women’s knees weak. This role is quite interesting for him, and he manages to play it very well. Kidman is also doing well in this darker genre, as she was in The Others.

Still from Before I Go to Sleep 2There are some plot holes and character progression issues. These are all carried over from the novel, but still should have been fixed in the scripting process. In regards to the story, picking a topic like ‘amnesia’ has been done so many times before, and this film then needs to be as good as those that have come before it. Memento was, and still remains, quite popular. Unfortunately, I don’t see Before I Go To Sleep as being as successful.

For the last few years, cinemas worldwide have been overrun by superhero films with out-of-this-world story lines, explosions, and extensive visual effects. It is good to see a genuine thriller film among the titles, and, however loosely, holding its own.

Critic reviews have also shown a mixed response, with the most common complaint being that the film’s action is too slow to be truly engaging.

This film had promise and good moments, but falls short in more ways. It is clear how these actors have progressed and will be interesting to see how they continue into the future.

Rated 3 out of 5

Reviewed by Michelle Sommerville, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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White Reindeer Review

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In the spirit of Bad Santa and It’s a Wonderful Life, Zach Clark’s White Reindeer is a film that likes to kick a character down a Christmas themed hole where they can’t climb out of so easily. They make it a few feet by grasping on to the sticky candy canes, but eventually slip down further for which we laugh at the tragedy. But with White Reindeer our protagonist is kicked so far down the hole with even less to work with. How can it be made funny when so dark? Just throw in some silly scenarios while the character wallows in depressions and refuses to seek help.

Suzanne is a happy-go-lucky Christmas girl who adores the holiday from her suburban home. And with her husband recently landing a new job in Hawaii, life could not be better. So naturally it all has to come tumbling down and does so rather hard when her husband is murdered in their own home by burglars. The attackers are never found or addressed all that much by the police as that’s not the center of our story. We observe the aftermath of her ordeal in which too much is dumped on to her at once. She discovers her husband watched a lot of porn and had relations with stripper Fantasia. Curiously, she watches the pornographic videos and connects with Fantasia. She ultimately forms an unlikely friendship and joins in with Fantasia’s friends while they steal from shops, get drunk and do drugs.

That right there would be enough to see her descent from the commercialism that comforted her, but the movie piles on much more. Suzanne goes on an online shopping spree where she buys $5,000 worth of clothing. She ventures next store to take part in her neighbors swinger orgy, but feels incredibly awkward. Her parents visit to argue about the family and talk of divorce right in front of their daughter. I’d also like to point out that director Zach Clark felt the need for Suzanne to sleep on a couch and fart. This is a dark comedy that may be unexpected, but also baffling in its own progression.

For this reason, the film comes across very uneven and never really took off. It’d build one particular segment for awhile that started to get me smiling and then cuts away to another absurdity before we have a chance to indulge in the first one. Every other piece also comes off too awkward and amateur for its own good. This is partially due to Suzanne surrounding herself with some characters that are cartoonishly oblivious to her plight. Who visits their grieving daughter to tell her you’re getting a divorce? Who takes a depressed widow out for a night of drinking and cocaine? These are areas that would warrant a telling tale of depression, but it’s all kept internal as Suzanne struggles to find something during the Christmas season besides stutter and loaf about the house.

Still from White Reindeer 2Perhaps we’re supposed to identify with Suzanne’s plight and laugh at her stone-faced ability to approach these ridiculous situations. But the tragedy was just too much for me to find humor in a bizarre orgy, a drunk night of partying and the last resort of bodily function gags. Even with all this, the whole direction just comes off as flat and the only thing I could find to laugh at was the premise of how much it sucks losing a loved one in December. It wants to be that darkly comedic jab at how ineffectual and hollow Christmas can be in the grieving process. To its credit, the film achieves this goal, but not exactly in the comedic fashion that was intended. This is a movie that I could only recommend to those with extreme vitriol for the Christmas season as a sort of twisted nicotine patch to hold them over until they find something more positive to focus on.

Rated 2 out of 5

Reviewed by Mark McPherson, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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Into the Storm Review

Still from Into the Storm 1

This is far from the first time a story has revolved around ‘the biggest storm we’ve ever seen’, and with audiences demanding unique and fresher entertainment, Into the Storm has quite the challenge on its hands. You can pretty much guess the kinds of things you are going to see – flying houses, screaming children, torrential rain – but the story needs to prove itself with more than just visual tricks. The good thing for Into the Storm, is that it has Richard Armitage.

Never has a day been more exciting, and chaotic. The senior class of Silverton high school are ready and raring for their graduation. Vice Principal Gary Fuller (Armitage) has arranged for his two sons to video-record messages from the seniors to put in a time capsule to be opened in twenty-five years. But the cameras capture a lot more than they were expected to. The small town is mercilously battered by numerous tornadoes, collapsing buildings and decimating the town bit-by-bit. Storm chasers reveal that this onslaught is only the beginning, and things will get worse before they get better. Some run for their lives, while others run for the perfect shot.

Movies like these, especially with the progression of technology, have to have exceptional visual effects. Into the Storm has this in bucketfulls. Despite all other critiques, this is the one area that everyone seems to agree. You can tell a lot of time and detail was put into these effects, and I can’t even begin to imagine how long it took for the animators to make all of the smaller pieces of flying debris that added to the atmosphere just as much as the large flying objects.

Let there be no mistake, I love Richard Armitage. The characters, I’m not overly fond of. I find it hard to think it’s the result of the acting – because I know this cast can all act – so maybe it’s the writing and/or directing. Either way, something feels a bit lacking in the performances.

Still from Into the Storm 2Additionally, I think the days of ‘found footage’ films are out. Though it is understandable in the story why it was done in this way, it has been done too many times before, and this film didn’t add anything extra to it to make it stand out and unique. It also doesn’t completely make sense why some are continuing to record in such volatile and life-threatening moments (excluding the storm chasers). Yes, we live in a horrible age where people go to concerts and spend the whole time looking at their camera phones instead of actually watching the performer, but I don’t think too many people would risk their lives like this. Also, they wouldn’t have cameras, they would have smartphones. Lastly, it’s also hard to believe their screens are not getting wet and dirty, when mine would be wrecked instantly, not including out of battery.

It would have been nicer to have more character development, but overall, it’s an entertaining film that will be liked by most audiences.

Rated 4 out of 5

Reviewed by Michelle Sommerville, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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Repentance Review

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Repentance is the kind of drama with a plot and tone as schizophrenic as its antagonist. What starts out as a man struggling to deal with death soon transforms into a psycho hostage situation. If it took the logical steps to get to that point, this could’ve been a very interesting story. Instead the movie veers off course abruptly into a moral ditch. It almost feels as though you were misled into seeing a completely different movie where the reels were messed up.

Forest Whitaker plays Angel Sanchez, a mentally unstable father reeling after the death of his wife. He seeks the guidance of self-help guru Tom Carter (Anthony Mackie), but Tom declines as he’s more of a writer than a coach. However, when Tom falls on hard financial times with his deadbeat brother, he finally agrees to help the tortured soul. It turns out that Angel is far more damaged than he previously thought with his constant visions of his dead wife. No matter how hard Tom tries, Angel is still haunted by his wife’s visage at nearly every turn. Tom even goes so far as to restage her funeral hoping to give Angel some closure, but to no avail. It makes Angel a deeply troubled individual that you start feeling pity and intrigue for his life.

But then the movie switches gears almost completely and turns into a horror film echoing Misery. Angel reverts to a completely different personality when he knocks out Tom and drags him down to his basement. He wraps him up in plastic and tortures the author by slitting his skin and screaming at him. His motivation is to peel back Tom’s life of sin and break him down to a lesser human being using his own self-help books as a reference. You’d think at this point in the movie Angel would be the antagonist because that’s how he appears. And yet the script still wants us to feel enough sympathy for this character while making Tom appear more shameful. This is just a baffling development and asks too much from the audience for what’s essentially a hostage-in-my-basement scenario with Whitaker preaching about karma while trying to keep the author hidden in his basement.

I think Forest Whitaker is an exceptional actor capable of great range which is why it feels like I’m watching him in two different movies with Repentance. We get to see Whitaker as both a quiet, sad father and an obsessed psychopath. He does such a fine job at playing both I wish the movie focussed on one specifically to give him some arcs to play with. Anthony Mackie has far better scenes to work with here, but he still has a rather unorthodox evolution in the second act. The conclusion he reaches after being physically beaten almost to death is such a bleak and awful perspective of life. And yet the way that scene is directed it almost sounds as if the movie wants us to see him go down that road of despair. This is a man who has done many things wrong in his life, but nothing so bad that he deserves to have his face cut open.

Still from Repentance 2This movie is just such a mess with characters that are hardly developed or given proper arcs, yet we’re supposed to feel so much for them. It also becomes savagely grizzly with Angel constantly carving Tom’s flesh and forcing him into scenes where his skin is burned and his fingers removed. Remember, now, you’re supposed to sympathize with Angel’s plight. You keep getting the impression of a certain moral being preached, but it just ends up getting lost in the muck of a despicable plot with ill-defined characters. The entire final act of the movie is a bloody mess of laughably bad dialogue with an ending which feels like a made-for-TV movie. Forcing melodrama into a torture movie is not exactly my idea of entertainment and I pity anyone who truly feels that this is what makes a provocative psychological thriller.

Rated 1 out of 5

Reviewed by Mark McPherson, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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True Detective: Series 1 Review

Still from True Detective: Series 1 1

Cop dramas and procedurals for television have never been of a particular high interest to myself, but True Detective manages to rise far above the subgenre. Here is a dramatic detective story that doesn’t stick to the routine formula of an unlikely pair on the hunt for a serial killer. It develops real and deep characters as opposed to plot puppets with stock motivation. It creates an alluring mystery that relies more on the creep factor of the killer’s ideas rather than the shock of his actions. The result is a drama that hits you hard and never lets go in one of the most absorbing detective shows I’ve seen in years.

Taking place in rural Louisiana, detectives Martin Hart (Woody Harrelson) and Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) investigate the murder of a woman murdered near a tree with antlers attached to her head. The case of the killer known as the Yellow King is told non-linearly between 1995 when the first murder takes place and 2012 where the two detectives find themselves on the case once again. While the killer’s web of motivations gradually unfold, it’s the personal lives of our two protagonists that hold our attention more. Hart is a family man with issues maintaining his marriage while Rust is an insomniac obsessed with trying to understand the philosophy of life. We’re given a personal look into these characters’ private moments where they find themselves beaten down by the world and questioning their own existence.

That’s not to say the Yellow King storyline isn’t interesting as it is a very terrifying mystery. Each layer unraveled reveals a much darker and twisted path of satanic themes related to the murders. Chilling clues of stick figures and spiral tattoos may seem common for darker detective stories, but here it’s rather effective in how grim the trail slowly builds to the grisly resolution. There are naturally some gunfights and stabbings along the way from vicious suspects, but they’re kept to a minimum and the few present are very brutal in the depiction of violence. The narc job gone horribly wrong is an unforgettable sequence and some of the best TV ever shot.

I especially dug how through the perspective of Rust, a man so obsessed with the futility of life in his drug-induced lifestyle, we start seeing strange symbols in the oddest places. This keeps the whole supernatural angle of the show so very appealing in how you’re never quite sure if what Rust is seeing is real or a hallucination. The challenge is maintained up to the very point where they finally catch up to the killer which reveals some startling visuals. The vague nature may seem infuriating for those who demand hard answers, but any TV show that leaves you questioning and deciphering long after the ending is a program worth watching in my book.

The crowning achievement of True Detective is without a doubt the acting of both Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey. Harrelson’s bottled desperation paired up with McConaughey’s nihilistic approach to the twisted appearance of reality makes for an unbeatable acting duo. Their characters have such a perfect chemistry that resonates well for their flawed nature. When they’re doing their job, they’re very dark individuals who go far beyond the call of duty with a semi-vigilante style of detective work. At one point Rust talks down a witness into confessing to which he leaves the witness with his own wisdom of killing yourself in prison to avoid the horror.

But the best parts are by far the passages when the two are off the clock. Some of my favorite moments in the series occur when they’re just driving to a crime scene discussing their lives and philosophy on human nature. These are not just another two mismatched cops entirely focused on the case at hand. They feel like real human beings deeply troubled by their work and the lives they’ve carved out. Even those around them receive just as much detail as in the case of Hart’s family which are far more than accessories for defining our protagonist.

Still from True Detective: Series 1 2True Detective takes the cop drama genre into a realm usually reserved for Oscar-worthy movies. These are two great actors at the top of their game with a stellar script to boot. It’s also one of the most unconventional cop dramas ever made for television with its brilliant weave of southern gothic and neo-noir elements. Not a single shot is fired until the fourth episode and you’ll find yourself far more engrossed by the three-dimensional development of the characters, being honest to its title. Eight episodes just isn’t enough for this miniseries and you just may find yourself agreeing when you hit that season finale.

Rated 5 out of 5

Reviewed by Mark McPherson, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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Draft Day Review

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Kevin Costner is back, and he has picked an excellent project for his return. Draft Day balances the line between sport and drama, and manages to keep both sides happy and entertained. Don’t worry if you do not know much about American football, the sport vernacular is not too complex, and it is viewable by a wide audience.

The story follows Sonny Weaver Jr. (Costner), who has quite a load on his shoulders. His girlfriend (Jennifer Garner) is pregnant with their first child; he has fired his father, who then died; and he is torn between the draft pick he is expected to make, and that which he feels in his heart. Will he choose the obvious choice? Or will he take a chance on the underdog, step out from his father’s former shadow, and make a name for himself?

There has not been much talk of this film, so I was surprised to find it quite interesting. When it comes to films with these mixed themes, it is important for there to be a good balance between the general story drama, and the sports action. It is something that has been done so well in the 2000 film Remember the Titans, and the TV show Friday Night Lights (2006 to 2011). Of course people want to watch the game, but it is the connection to the characters that makes them care. There are times when the story can become stale because, after all, it is not a real team that we are seeing constructed. Team spirit is such a strong element in sport, and is why something so dull as trading business is so enthralling during the NFL draft. Without this important element of allegiance to a player or team, it is harder to make the audience care.

The acting pool is also quite deep. I was perhaps one of the few that liked Waterworld (1995), so I knew that Costner could carry a film, but it was the female characters that entertained me the most. Garner and Ellen Burstyn (who plays Costner’s mother Barb Weaver) were compelling and really added to the non-sport parts of the film. Barb was witty and lightened some scenes. She expertly delivered her dialogue, and the other actors (including Terry Crews, Dennis Leary, and Smallville’s Tom Welling) were right on par with her.

Still from Draft Day 2Director Ivan Reitman (who has directed predominately drama/comedy films) also made some interesting visual effect choices. There are going to be some who watch this movie who are not much of a sports fan, so this will help to keep them entertained. It is also just cool to see this experimentation with visuals in a non-sci-fi and fantasy film.

For the most part, the reception has been pretty positive. Kevin Costner has not always been the most popular actor, and though I do not think this will be a multiple award winner, it is definitely a good watch.

Rated 4 out of 5

Reviewed by Michelle Sommerville, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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