Film Reviews by Steve Mason

Welcome to Steve Mason's film reviews page. Steve Mason has written 210 reviews and rated 6115 films.

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The Great Beauty

A Great Beauty.

(Edit) 22/02/2016

Sumptuous art film, dense with wit and visual imagination. I'm not a big Fellini enthusiast, who this film repeatedly references, but that was no impediment to liking this film, one of my favourite of the century. An Italian state-of-the-nation film whose bitter world view works for anywhere in the west. Be sure to watch the beautiful, poignant closing credits.

0 out of 0 members found this review helpful.

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Prisoners

Does the end justify the means?

(Edit) 22/02/2016

Lengthy but gripping kidnapping drama is quite bleak for a mainstream American film. Well acted, particularly by Paul Dano in a support role. Slow to get moving but imaginative and empathetic once in its stride, while not giving up all of its secrets. Note: such a realistic recreation of child abduction has the power to be quite upsetting.

1 out of 1 members found this review helpful.

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Now You See Me

Bad magic.

(Edit) 22/02/2016

Caper film about a heist carried out by street magicians is exciting until, typical of illusion, it all falls apart when the trick is explained, upon which it becomes a frustratingly idiotic anticlimax. Maybe worthwhile for the ride, but be prepared to be hugely disappointed.

1 out of 1 members found this review helpful.

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The Two Faces of January

Not as talented as Mr Ripley.

(Edit) 22/02/2016

Handsome, touristic (set in Greece), leisurely psychological thriller is well acted and well set up, but suffers for lack of an interesting conclusion. Good for enthusiasts of Patricia Highsmith. Better watch the similar Plein Soleil with Alain Delon.

1 out of 1 members found this review helpful.

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Room

Let down.

(Edit) 22/02/2016

Shallow and rather voyeuristic indie from the point of view of a kidnapped mother and son is probably a sincere recreation, but has little to say, and fails to follow though on its ideas. Well acted by Brie Larson, who deserved a better script.

4 out of 5 members found this review helpful.

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How I Live Now

Not quite a bomb.

(Edit) 22/02/2016

Starts off with a nostalgic recreation of seventies dystopian post nuclear event films, but Saoirse Ronan's alienated teen lead made it difficult to care.

1 out of 1 members found this review helpful.

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The Hateful Eight

Make that nine.

(Edit) 22/02/2016

Very long, poorly scripted, pointless revisionist western. I'm still angry. Maybe ok for lovers of gratuitous violence.

4 out of 6 members found this review helpful.

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Whiplash

Must try harder.

(Edit) 22/02/2016

Utterly ridiculous, implausible melodrama somehow crosses Fame with Full Metal Jacket. Works a bit if you find some elements of allegory in what is at face value an unbelievable situation. Well made (hence three stars) but not actually worth making.

1 out of 3 members found this review helpful.

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A Streetcar Named Desire

Screen triumph.

(Edit) 13/06/2015

Tennessee Williams' American theatre classic was transferred to Hollywood by its stage producer Elia Kazan somewhat reluctantly as he felt he had achieved as much as he could with the play on Broadway. He was persuaded to direct by Williams, perhaps alarmed at suggestions that his great heroine, Blanche Dubois, was to be played by Bette Davis or Olivia De Havilland.

The play was controversial for New York, but in Hollywood it was a cause celebre. Streetcar was the first film to feature a jazz soundtrack, and the Catholic League of Decency successfully had some of it suppressed for being too sexy (it is pretty hot!). Language and insinuation formed battle lines. While the play is about changes in the American South, the corrupting nature of human violence, and the motivating influence of sex and death, it is just as true to say the play/film is about Williams' own heart, and he felt violated by the furore.

But his play survives remarkably intact (some censored lines have been subsequently returned to the film) and his script is pure gold. It is hard to conceive now what a great leap forward this was for Hollywood, in it's depiction of sexuality, making it a historically important production. Kazan took three of his main players to Warners with him, Karl Malden, Kim Hunter, who is superb, and Marlon Brando. Brando was a sensation. We'll never experience what a shock his performance was for audiences. Nothing like it had been seen on the screen before. I love Bogart, but it's crazy Brando didn't win the actors Oscar ahead of him that year.

The other three stars won Oscars (as did Kazan) including Vivien Leigh as Blanche (she had played a southern belle before!). Her and Brando's scenes are breathtaking. In this film, these actors made two of the great lead parts in drama their own. It is tremendously atmospheric. And it is the best cinematic work of everyone involved.

2 out of 2 members found this review helpful.

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The Fire Within

Sad and Lovely.

(Edit) 13/11/2014

Maurice Ronet moves through a photogenic 60s Paris and its beautiful artists and philosophers in search of a reason to live. Effective use of the music of Erik Satie by Louis Malle, in a sort of suicide note to the enervated post war intellectual scene. A stylish, but inevitably downbeat experience. My pick as the director's best film.

1 out of 1 members found this review helpful.

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Criss Cross

Haunting classic

(Edit) 24/10/2014

Robert Siodmak's b&w heist film is so beautiful, so perfect. Burt Lancaster and Yvonne De Carlo, handsome/beautiful as the doomed, deceitful lovers, lost in the wrong turns on the lonely roads of film noir.

1 out of 1 members found this review helpful.

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Cat People

Original and best.

(Edit) 20/10/2014

This fantasy-noir is a Freudian story about a New York immigrant's strange sexual curse. The first of producer Val Lewton's moody, pessimistic and literary 1940s horror films, which were never better than when working with Jacques Tourneur who delivers many brilliant suspenseful set pieces.

1 out of 1 members found this review helpful.

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This Is the End

This is a Low.

(Edit) 23/09/2014

James Franco, what have you done. You were in 127 Hours. You were great.... But this... Obviously a heavy amount of money was thrown at this piece of US religious right propaganda, in which a load of actors playing frat-jocks and nerds/etc get to meet their maker for having sinned. The stars rather smugly play themselves as stars, but that's the least of its problems. One day, will they have to answer for this?

1 out of 1 members found this review helpful.

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Hostel

Bottom feeding.

(Edit) 23/09/2014

All horror films ask you the same question. Is it right that I should be watching people reenact suffering and fear for my own entertainment? Good horror films leaven this guilt with intelligence, imagination and sensitivity. This piece of trash just offered torture for it's own sake, just to push the experience of screen brutality that little bit further. With no reward. Just the sensation of humanity bumping along the bottom of the extremes of possible depravity.

2 out of 2 members found this review helpful.

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Looper

And then?

(Edit) 23/09/2014

Time travel film for computer engineers, surely proves that not everything that notionally make sense in a flow diagram is a suitable subject for a cinema release, and really, a multiverse what-if film too far. The talented Joseph Gordon Levitt, and Bruce Willis, chase versions of themselves through the future. There was a memorable scene in a field of corn that made me wish I was watching North by Northwest.

2 out of 2 members found this review helpful.
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