Sin City: A Dame to Kill For Review

Still from Sin City: A Dame to Kill For 1

In 2005, Robert Rodriguez amazed the action going audiences with his bold and flashy adaptation of Frank Miller’s Sin City graphic novel. It pushed the comic book style with an impressive all computer generated environment and a heavy pulp appeal. Nine years later, Rodriguez and Miller return to their metropolis of sex and violence once more with A Dame to Kill. This is a welcoming return to form for both directors after Rodriguez’ far-too-over-the-top Machete Kills and Frank Miller’s far-too-ridiculous rendition of The Spirit. They don’t exactly recreate or outdo themselves with the world they created so long ago, but they do maintain it’s lush visual appeal and the savage grit which made it so notable in the first place.

Similar to the first film, this is indeed another anthology of overlapping stories, but not an entirely original collection that takes the gritty tales in a different direction. Instead we’re treated to a series of prequels, side-stories and sequels to the various characters of the first film. We see a younger Dwight (now played by Josh Brolin) running and gunning around town as a detective. We see a bitter and battered Nancy (Jessica Alba) seeking revenge on Senator Roark (Powers Boothe) for his corrupt reign that took away the only cop that protected her. And we get to see the big and burly Marv (Mickey Rourke) roam the streets and alleyways for trouble.

The only segment not directly related to the original Sin City comics is The Long Bad Night. The story follows Johnny (Joseph Gordon Levitt), a cocky gambler who bites off more than he can chew in a poker game with Senator Roark. Johnny can beat him at cards, but Roark can beat him with a gun. After losing his best girl to the sore loser, Johnny works his way back into the dark poker room for another round to humiliate Roark one more time to prove it was not just a fluke. This is one of the few stories that was written specifically for this movie and I was very pleased to see it presented here in two parts.

Immediately there’s a lack of tension with most of the stories as we know for the most part what is going to happen to these characters, as is the problem with any prequel. But what ultimately lifts the film out of these pitfalls is the fantastic cast assembled for this macho comic book noir. They’re given a shot at the same type of stories where one protagonist goes on a crusade to either blow some brains out or protect a dame with a truckload of self-narration over every scene. They’re clearly having a ball with such outlandish roles in a cartoonishly gruesome comic book world and it translates well to the screen. Seeing some of these actors like Mickey Rourke, Powers Boothe and Bruce Willis reprise these roles was a pleasant reminder of how engaging the 2005 film made me feel in the theater. These are great actors putting their all into a campy romp through a bloody playground of familiar stories.

But with so much time having passed since the original, one may wonder if the novelty wore off especially since Frank Miller attempted a similar style with 2008’s The Spirit. I must admit that there isn’t much new here as A Dame to Kill For treads down the same path as the original, flash and all. The city still looks like the same darkened graphic, the violence is still a fast wash of white blood and the general tone is maintained with characters cracking wise in the face of almost comical gore. Most notably is that the stories themselves are not as punchy not just for the overly-familiar characters, but for the uneven tone. Several of these stories feel like they end far too abruptly on a rather sharp note where you feel like a reel was missing.

Still from Sin City: A Dame to Kill For 2That being said, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For still delivers on its promise for everything the original set out to accomplish. Needless to say, if you didn’t dig Sin City, you’re certainly not going to find anything in A Dame to Kill For to change your mind. It’s just as brutally unapologetic about its hyper-stylized world of sensational noir and often silly levels of violence. I find it rather surprising how other critics found themselves bored and tired by Rodriguez’ style having seen it all before. My reaction was the exact opposite. I have not seen a film quite like Sin City in a very long time and was rather excited to make another return to the giddy urban landscape of vigilantes, gangsters, corrupt politicians and bitterly vicious prostitutes. A Dame to Kill For may not pack as heavy a punch as its predecessor, but it still manages to knock out a few teeth.

Rated 3 out of 5

Reviewed by Mark McPherson, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

Posted in Film Reviews | Leave a comment

Planes: Fire and Rescue Review

Still from Planes: Fire and Rescue 1

So, it turns out that Disney are not quite done with this franchise. This is a spin-off to Disney’s Cars series, and a sequel to Planes, released in 2013. I know this is not targeted towards my demographic – early 20s – but I am really getting sick and tired of these computer-animated kids films that are the same thing over and over again. They might entertain the little kids, but they are a far-cry from the old Disney films that entertained numerous generations and are still enjoyable today.

What began with Dusty Crophopper learning to overcome his fear and racing around the world, is now the famous air racer joining a team of aerial firefighters. Together, they battle massive wildfires and learn about themselves, and what a real hero looks like.

It takes a special actor to bring a character to life with only their voices. They cannot convey anything through body movements or facial expressions, making it a job for a talented selection. Though the children in the audience will not be able to pick-out the names of the actors voicing their loveable onscreen characters, the adults will find a large number of them recognisable. The cast list includes Dane Cook, Ed Harris, Julie Bowen, Brad Garrett, and Teri Hatcher.

For films to be truly successful, they need to be relatable to kids, parents, and grandparents. If it can do that, it has a better chance at having longevity. Planes: Fire and Rescue had a couple of instances that seemed to be targeted to the adults in the audience. These were mostly comedic one-liners, but might not be enough to compensate for them being dragged along by their kids.

The film’s story is quite general and not complex, though some of the fire scenes and topic might be a bit intense for the younger children watching.

Still from Planes: Fire and Rescue 2Especially with some recent animated children’s films, it feels more like a marketing opportunity than a film with meaning. It has been pointed out that Planes: Fire and Rescue has a theme reminiscent of ‘the little engine that could’ and perseverance, but it feels kind of flat. As per usual, the shops will be releasing a plethora of toys, bed sheets, and everything else imaginable. They have already announced a video game based on the film to be released on a number of consoles.

The response from critics and audiences have been mixed. The majority of the reviews agree the little kids will fall in love with the characters and be dazzled by the animation, but also that it is not a film for anyone else.

If you have to take the kids to the cinemas, Planes: Fire and Rescue will keep them entertained, and you can be sure they are not being subjected to coarse language and inappropriate themes.

Overall, not the best film, but not the worst, either.

Rated 3 out of 5

Reviewed by Michelle Sommerville, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

Posted in Film Reviews | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Film Reviews | Comments Off

Ass Backwards Review

Still from Ass Backwards 1

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

Posted in Film Reviews | Comments Off

The Congress Review

Still from The Congress 1

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

Posted in Film Reviews | Comments Off

Dracula Untold Review

Still from Dracula Untold 1

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

Posted in Film Reviews | Comments Off

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

Posted in Film Reviews | Comments Off

White Reindeer Review

Still from White Reindeer 1

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

Posted in Film Reviews | Comments Off

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

Posted in Film Reviews | Comments Off

Repentance Review

Still from Repentance 1

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

Posted in Film Reviews | Comments Off