Film Reviews by Alphaville

Welcome to Alphaville's film reviews page. Alphaville has written 389 reviews and rated 336 films.

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Avengers: Endgame

Jaw-droppingly awful

(Edit) 13/09/2019

A surfeit of silly superheroes fight for screen time in this overlong 22nd film in the Marvel franchise. It’s said to be the last. We can but hope. If you’ve not seen any previous, forget it. As a stand-alone film this would be incomprehensible. First the superheroes have to kill cgi baddie Thanos (from a previous instalment). He’s got the infinity stones, you see. Don’t laugh, this isn’t meant to be funny. But no, he hasn’t got the stones, he’s destroyed them. They kill him anyway. Now he’s out of the way we can get to the film’s opening titles and jump 5 years into the future for the superheroes to spend the next hour moping around bemoaning their lot to mournful music. Who wrote this script? Did no-one suggest it might be a dud?

Even if you accept all this as typical Marvel guff, the film loses all credibility when the superheroes eat their sandwiches in white bread. Surely any superhero worth their salt would use wholemeal? Unfortunately there are still another two hours to fill out, so the superheroes decide to invent a time machine and go back in time to get the stones. Yep, it’s those stones again. And – oh no! – now cgi Thanos is alive again!

Cue seemingly endless scenes of the usual biffing and bashing. None of the superheroes has any character, the plot’s an utter mess, the drama completely non-existent, the Tom and Jerry music as awful as ever. Most horrific moment? Robert Redford turns up for a very brief cameo, as if to administer the coup de grace to a Hollywood that really has run out of ideas.

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Welcome to Marwen

Easy-going, technically interesting watch

(Edit) 13/09/2019

Having lost all his memory after a vicious attack, Mark (Steve Carell) spends his days staging and photographing Second World War scenarios with dolls and action figures. It’s based on a true story and the real Mark still exhibits in galleries. He is the hero of the scenarios and the fantasy village he lives in (Marwen) is populated by dolls representing the real women who look out for him.

Expanding on the photographs, the film brings the action figures to life with animated action scenes based on motion capture of the real-life actors acting out the scene. Renowned director Robert Zemeckis is brilliant at this kind of thing. To ensure that the expressions of the dolls and action figures are more realistic than ever, he has even pioneered a step forward in motion capture. The eyes and mouths of the real-life actors are retained on the animated dolls. Watch the DVD extras and be impressed.

Given this, it a tad disappointing that the two-hour film ambles along without any highpoints, but it remains a gentle, easy-going, well-meaning piece that’s worth catching.

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Domino

Disappointing De Palma

(Edit) 05/09/2019

This Euro-based thriller from Brian De Palma was reportedly hacked down to 86 minutes by the producers and is one of his most disappointing. It’s hard to see how it could ever be any good, with a dud of a screenplay that sags irretrievably in the middle as the good guys drive endlessly around Europe. They’re after an Islamic terrorist in a plot that feels totally at odds with De Palma’s trademark lush camerawork and an equally lush soundtrack that could have been composed by Bernard Hermann himself (which some reviewers here don’t seem to get).

The opening set-piece at least is vintage De Palma, with a rooftop chase paying homage to Hitchcock’s Vertigo, but it’s downhill from then on. Even the book-ending set-piece at a bullfight is drawn out to little effect, despite a Bolero-type orchestral crescendo intended to build up tension. Perhaps the reportedly low budget didn’t help. Every De Palma film has his beautiful camerawork going for it, and it’s good to see him still working well into his 70s, but this is nowhere near his best work.

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Colette

Captivating biopic

(Edit) 05/09/2019

If you’re in the mood for a period piece with a touch of scandal, this is a very watchable film about the early life of French writer and performer Colette. It’s not the kind of film that has any great cinematic moments, but it works well as a high-class bigger-budget Sunday night TV drama. Keira Knightley and Dominic West carry the film as Colette and her husband, who fronts as the author of her books. Both are such charismatic characters that, after following their escapades through turn-of-the-century Paris, you may well want to read the books.

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The World Is Yours

Dull hokum

(Edit) 05/09/2019

Lacklustre lead Karim Leklou is on one last drugs transportation job for money to set up an ice lolly franchise in Morocco, but good luck to you in following the scattergun plot. Billed as an action comedy, it’s more of a madcap drama that’s too piecemeal to care about. Goodness knows what Isabelle Adjani and Vincent Cassel are doing in it as support characters. Adjani, once such a magnetic screen presence, is a camp caricature as Leklou’s blowsy mother. Cassel is his usual charismatic self and the best thing in the film, but he only plays Leklou’s dim partner. The film has a certain madcap charm and a rocking soundtrack, but that’s about it.

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Vox Lux

Not just boring, irritating as well

(Edit) 24/08/2019

It opens with a shock but from then on it’s downhill all the way. Celeste becomes a pop singer. Fortunately we don’t have to sit through too many of the ditties she warbles, but unfortunately there’s little else going on except tons of pointless dialogue shot with bog-standard over-the-shoulder camera positions. Part I, with a teenage Celeste, is bad enough but, when Natalie Portman takes over for a thirty-something Celeste in Part 2, it’s awful. She acts her socks off in a grating voice while bonding with her teenage daughter and preparing for a concert.

Jude Law goes through the motions as her cliché of a manager, and Stacy Martin, so good in Redoubtable, is wasted as her sidekick sister. Only Raffey Cassidy, playing both the teenage Celeste and the older Celeste’s daughter, comes out of this with reputation enhanced. As for the songs, provided by Sia, well let’s just say that if you haven’t hit fast forward by the final concert, you will then.

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Destroyer

Unconvincing downbeat character study

(Edit) 24/08/2019

Positive reviews of this film have focussed on Nicole Kidman’s “brave” performance as a downbeat detective in search of a murderer. Why brave? Because she wears no make-up. Wow! What an actress will do for her art! But focussing on her sullen face as she sits in her car and stares into space soon palls. The plot is painfully slow and is stalled even further by numerous flashbacks to a connected case 18 years ago (always a sign there’s something wrong with the script).

The title makes it sound as though Nicole’s going around on a vengeful killing spree, but instead we get a series of conversational vignettes with passing characters. There’s even a cliché of a subplot with her stroppy teenage daughter, which is best fast-forwarded. The narrative is so badly structured that the flashbacks build to a bank heist whose outcome we already know. The ending in the present is an even worse damp squib, deliberately devoid of thrills. Halfway through, there’s a well-shot bank heist that shows what the film could have been, otherwise it’s a long 2hr haul.

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Glass

Another tedious Shyamalan

(Edit) 24/08/2019

The sort-of joint sequel to Breakable and Split expects you to remember everything about those films but makes it not worth the effort. Bruce Willis has little to do and looks too old to do it anyway, Samuel L. Jackson literally says nothing for an hour and James McAvoy’s motormouth multi-personality character is simply annoying. They’re cooped up in a psychiatric hospital for an encounter group with a shrink who doesn’t believe they have supernatural powers. And they talk and talk and talk.

When they do get out there’s some brief fisticuffs before we get bogged own again in tons more exposition and discussions about superhero tropes and clichés. It sounds like writer/director M. Knight Shyamalan lecturing the audience and is laughably bad. He seems to have forgotten how to make movies. This is tedious from start to finish.

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The Favourite

Overhyped but watchable

(Edit) 15/08/2019

This is a skewed take on Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) and her court in the early eighteenth century, complete with “scenes of a sexual nature”, as they say on TV. She’s frail and irascible, while her favourite Rachel Weisz runs affairs… until maid Emma Stone comes along. It’s as well made as any English heritage drama, with an added quirkiness that makes it constantly watchable. The dancing, for instance, is more Pulp Fiction than Jane Austen. Colman won an Oscar for her showy role, but if it’s an acting piece you’re after, there are more arresting performances here, especially Nicholas Hoult as the foppish leader of the opposition.

Film lovers will relish the “making of” short on the DVD Xtras. Director Yorgos Lanthimos explains how he uses wide angle and deep focus to give the picture a painterly look, and how he distorts the frame by using a convex lens. And yet… it all adds up to an historical drama that never gives us anyone to root for, never engages the emotions and fails to linger in the memory as anything other than a curiosity.

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All Is True

Morose and depressing

(Edit) 15/08/2019

This worthy film must be the dullest ever made about Shakespeare. It’s set in 1613, when he gave up writing to return home to his family in Stratford. To do what? Gardening. He and his wife mope about in candlelit interiors to plinky-plonk piano music. They mourn their dead son and fret about their grown-up daughters, one of whom is stroppy and annoying.

The script by Ben Elton is equally moribund and make you wish for something with the dynamism of his Upstart Crow sitcom about Shakespeare. Despite the film’s title, this feels no truer than the sitcom. Sometimes you can here the writer pontificating. There’s even a subplot, would you believe, of female empowerment.

Kenneth Branagh stars and directs and is disappointingly reverential and bland in both roles. For instance, he chooses to film with no camera movement except pan and tilt. Why? The film comes alive only in one scene, when Ian McKellen as the Earl of Southampton visits Shakespeare and they share a scene of longing and unrequited love based around one of the sonnets. Otherwise, the DVD Xtras are more interesting, especially a fascinating on-stage Q&A where Branagh (describing the Southampton scene as a chess match) shows more animation than in the whole film.

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Happy Death Day 2U

Disappointing sequel

(Edit) 10/08/2019

The formula is as per the entertaining original, with our heroine forced to relive the birthday, Groundhog Day style, which ends with her being killed. The sequel tries to vary the formula by introducing a second version of reality into the time loop, but it all gets a bit repetitive, with more emphasis than before on unfunny adolescent high school humour. Waiting for the killer to pounce again soon palls and even worse – pass the sick bag – our heroine learns some life lessons, complete with plinky-plonk piano soundtrack.

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Alita: Battle Angel

Comic Con nerd fodder

(Edit) 10/08/2019

Like many films about dystopian futures, this is another aimed at “young adults” reared on mindless combat video games. The plot revolves around another silly game. This time it’s called Motorball – a variation of Rollerball. The main character is also cgi-generated – a cyborg girl who can eat food despite having no digestive tract for waste disposal. Her combat technique is Panzer Kunst, a technique lost since the battle with the URM. No, don’t laugh. It’s based on a best-selling Japanese manga franchise. This film hopes to be the first in a corresponding film franchise. It’s a shame that all filmmakers can think of doing with modern computer technology is making this kind of nonsense.

The cgi is as flawless as you’d expect, but there would be more engagement with the action if the lead character was a real person, like many of the other characters. A cartoon Alita just looks weird beside actors with the calibre of Christoph Waltz, who is as charismatic as ever and the best thing in the film, even if it’s hard to take him as a hunter-warrior. There’s also a city in the sky, and an evil villain in it, but we never get to see more than brief glimpses of them because that’s held back for the planned sequel. But then, nothing about this fabricated universe makes sense anyway.

Story, character, dialogue and drama are all infantile, making for a bland 2hr watch for anyone with a brain. The fact that the filmmakers choose to regale us with a ditty by warbling popster Dua Lipa over the end credits tells you exactly who the target audience is. Even more depressing, on the DVD extras producer James Cameron, once such a great action director, tells us he’s going to spend the rest of his career making Avatar sequels. How has Hollywood come to this?

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The Isle

Seen it all before

(Edit) 04/08/2019

Ghostly 19th century shenanigans on a Scottish island. Generic, clichéd nonsense. Hasn’t this been done a hundred times before? Watch the trailer and laugh.

1 out of 1 members found this review helpful.

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Ray and Liz

Absolutely abysmal

(Edit) 04/08/2019

This so-called “film” displays everything that is wrong with modern British cinema. The fact that it’s developed from a 5-minute video artwork piece tells you all you need to know about it. If you’re nevertheless intrigued, just watch the equally abysmal trailer. Based on the artist’s background, it’s a 1980s slice-of-soap set in a Birmingham council flat and worse than any soap you’ll ever see on TV. Sample dialogue: “Pass a fag, Ray”. The “artist” hasn’t a clue about how to make a film. In case he makes another, remember the name: Richard Billingham. Avoid like the plague.

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The Oath

Good thriller-drama

(Edit) 04/08/2019

Watchable Icelandic thriller-drama about a doctor who tries to rescue his daughter from drugs and the dealer she’s in love with. How far will he go against his Hippocratic not to harm anyone? Well, let’s just say there are some bloody moments. Unlike a rampaging Liam Neeson, our hero is an everyman doing his best in increasingly perilous situations, beset by baddies on one side and investigating detectives on the other. While it could do with more dramatic highs, the film is a class above miserable Scandi-noir and you’ll be rooting for a happy ending for writer/director/star Baltasar Kormakur.

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