Film Reviews by Alphaville

Welcome to Alphaville's film reviews page. Alphaville has written 481 reviews and rated 432 films.

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Cold Blood Legacy

Underpowered thriller

(Edit) 30/10/2020

Jean Reno plays a grizzled hitman (what else?) holed up in a cabin in the snowy wastes of Washington state (filmed in Ukraine). A mysterious woman has a snowmobile accident and gate-crashes his solitude. Meanwhile a clichéd cop is on his tail. The various strands don’t hang together, the plot treads water and the slow pace leads only to a brief and unconvincing action ending. Still, if you’re in an unforgiving mood, the snowy scenery may just about be enough to keep you watching.

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The Invisible Man

Beautifully creepy action thriller

(Edit) 24/10/2020

Two years after Upgrade, writer/director Leigh Whannell returns with another stonking sci-fi-based thriller that’s wrongly and off-puttingly promoted as horror. The set-up? Imagine if the horrible husband of Julia Roberts in Sleeping With the Enemy was an optics genius who could make himself invisible. Instead of resorting to boring horror-film tropes (OTT gore, baddie jumping in from side of screen etc.), Whannell plays with the notion of what is visible/invisible in-frame. What if the baddie might be in shot but neither the heroine nor the audience can see him?

This makes for some intense scenes given extra heft by extensive use of smooth steadicam shots (no irritating jerky hand-helds here). There are some nice creepy moments as the stakes become higher and our suffering heroine becomes a resourceful action woman fighting great special effects. In an immaculately directed film, Whannell never puts a foot wrong.

Worth watching also are a great set of DVD Xtras, including a director commentary. Shame the imaginative hand-overs he attempted in the car chase never made the final cut.

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Master Z: Ip Man Legacy

Watch and wonder

(Edit) 17/10/2020

If you enjoy Donnie Yen’s IP Man franchise you’ll really enjoy this well-written and beautifully directed spin-off, which if anything is even better. The flying fists this time belong to Jin (Max) Zhang, who makes an engaging hero even in the dramatic scenes. Muscling in on the action are also Michelle Yeoh and gentle giant Dave Bautista, who make formidable foes. Even Tony Jaa puts in a guest appearance to strut his stuff. The plot and acting are more involving than in most Hong Kong martial arts films and the action doesn’t disappoint. There’s an eye-popping balletic fight on the side of a building and a series of explosive confrontations between the principal characters. Watch and wonder.

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Fantasy Island

Undemanding nonsense

(Edit) 15/10/2020

On a tropical island a group of annoying guests have their fantasies magically come true… but be careful what you wish for. It’s complete nonsense but it does get better as it bowls along, with dollops of thriller, action, humour and light horror. If you’re in an undemanding mood, it’s silly enough to be watchable with picturesque Fiji locations and unexpected plot twists to keep things entertaining.

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The Rhythm Section

Interminably dull would-be thriller

(Edit) 09/10/2020

It makes its first mistake right at the beginning, with a spoiler scene from the end followed by the dreaded title ‘8 months earlier’. Mind you, if they didn’t show our heroine holding a gun in an end-scene you wouldn’t stick with this bore of a film. You probably won’t stay the distance anyway. Staid direction, hand-held camera, a focus on close-ups of talking heads, one-note acting, protracted plot, no pace, an almost total lack of action… it would take too long to list everything that’s wrong with this.

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Radioactive

Well-mounted biopic

(Edit) 09/10/2020

Interesting biopic of Marie Curie, although as the title implies it’s equally a history of radium, polonium and radioactivity, which she discovered. There are even brief dramatic reconstructions of future events such as Hiroshima 1945. The science could be better explained and, as with most biopics that cover the subject’s whole life rather than focus on the most interesting part of it, the tone is uneven. After we’ve become involved in Curie’s personal and scientific life in Paris with her colleague and husband Pierre, the events of her later life with her eldest daughter, though equally important in reality, come across as an anti-climax on screen. Still, it’s a fascinating story of a remarkable woman and a very watchable film.

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The Tube

Misfiring actioner

(Edit) 01/10/2020

Korean would-be all-action blockbuster fails on all levels, with a predictable plot set on a hijacked subway train, amateurish characterisation and silly action. The opening set-piece sets the trend, with loads of extras gunning each other down but unable to shoot straight at any of the main characters. It’s all shot with a hectic hand-held camera and micro-edited into a jigsaw-puzzle of disjointed images. Doona Bae, so good in A Girl At My Door, is wasted in a thankless supporting role.

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Motherless Brooklyn

Atmospheric film diminished by dull plot

(Edit) 01/10/2020

After a mysterious and exciting beginning, this develops into a protracted and less-than-engrossing political drama about a housing scam with racial undertones in 1950s New York. It’s something of a noir vanity project for writer/director/star Edward Norton, but he makes a good job of all three roles. As actor he plays a gumshoe with a Tourette’s problem and as director he contributes some winning moments. There’s an atmospheric scene in a jazz joint, for instance, where co-star Gugu Mbatha-Raw dances with him to calm down his tics. It’s just a shame it’s such a convoluted, overlong and not very interesting plot.

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Heroic Duo

Mediocre Hong Kong action thriller, good DVD Xtras

(Edit) 29/09/2020

With a poorly constructed plot, sketchy characterisation and scattergun direction, it’s hard to drum up any interest in whatever’s going on. The climax is more involving, but overall it’s not one of director Benny Chan’s best. Standout action scenes on rooftops and the Tsing Ma bridge are too short due to tight filming constraints, but the exciting ‘Making Of’ features on the DVD show that what brave star Ekin Chang had to do would never be allowed in Hollywood.

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Strangled

Serial killer with a difference

(Edit) 25/09/2020

A serial killer’s on the loose in 1960s communist Hungary and the cops are on his trail. It ain’t Hollywood, that’s for sure. In unnecessarily gruesome detail we see what the killer does to his female victims after he kills them. You may find some of the sadistic detail disturbing. It’s also confusing. An innocent man, who looks exactly like the real killer, confesses for no apparent reason. It might help to know that this is merely an error in casting.

Yet there’s much to like here. At last we have an East European film that isn’t bogged down in historic social realism. At last we have a director (Arpad Sopsits) who knows what to do with a drone and a steadicam. The plot bowls along from murder to murder and, if you have a strong stomach, the whole piece is different enough to be interesting.

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The Endless

Talky lo-budget sci-fi

(Edit) 25/09/2020

Another endless talky home-made film (after Resolution and Spring) from writers/directors/stars Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson. The concept, as ever, is small-scale spooky sci-fi with little plot development and minimal special effects. In this one a couple of guys (guess who) revisit a cult they once belonged to. Cue lots of talk. On the DVD Xtras they seem like nice guys, but their films are a trial to sit through for little pay-off. Last line of this effort: ‘You figure it out’.

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Water and Sugar: Carlo Di Palma, the Colours of Life

Film buff heaven

(Edit) 15/09/2020

A warm-hearted documentary about the great Italian cinemaphotographer Carlo di Palma, from his early work in post-war monochrome neorealism, through his contributions to the great Antonioni films such as Red Desert and Blow-up, to the dozen films he made with Woody Allen. With contributions from lots of famous directors and loads of film clips, this is a treasure trove for anyone interested in film. As di Palma himself says : ‘Life is less beautiful without a good film.’

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Vivarium

Watchable small-scale sci-fi

(Edit) 04/09/2020

A young couple are stuck in a suburban nightmare. They’ve been lured onto a deserted, labyrinthine housing estate that has no way out. You probably know more than that anyway from the Cinema Paradiso blurb. (Do avoid the trailer and the CP 'critic review’ below – they’re even more tell-tale.) The less you know the better as it will keep you watching to find out what the heck is going on. It’s sci-fi on a small scale. It ultimately makes no sense and it could do with more incident along the way, but there are some unsettling moments and the journey will keep you watching.

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Charlie's Angels

Abysmal and distasteful

(Edit) 30/08/2020

Abysmal teen fodder featuring a bunch of over-sexualised young women caked in make-up and designer fashion outfits (as in the signature Ariane Grande video on the DVD Extras). The clichéd plot lurches from atrocious attempts at humour to generic over-edited action scenes. Woke-friendly diverse skin tones? Tick (see DVD Extras). Female empowerment has never been so negatively portrayed. Hard to believe it was produced, written and directed by a woman, who also gives herself a role. Elizabeth Banks, you should be ashamed of yourself.

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In the Line of Duty

Will irritate your socks off

(Edit) 27/08/2020

The first quarter-hour features one of the best foot chases you’ve ever seen, with a resourceful kidnapper pursued by cop Aaron Eckhart. After that the film plummets to the gutter with misguided attempts at humour that make all ensuing attempts at action laughable for the wrong reasons. Worst of all, Aaron gets saddled with one of those hyper-irritating idiot teen girls who tend to pop up in films such as this. Usually it’s a daughter in trouble, but here it’s a social media nerd who live-streams everything and goes Whoo at appropriate points. Pity the killer can’t seem to shoot straight when she’s around. When the film ends with happy-clapping and cheering, the film’s decline into absurdity is complete. Such a shame after such a brilliant opening sequence.

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