Film Reviews by ER

Welcome to ER's film reviews page. ER has written 87 reviews and rated 301 films.

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Loro

Impressionistic portrait of a titan

(Edit) 25/02/2021

Loro opens with a disclaimer telling the viewer that the content of this film is made up of guess work. What follows is a really well-made portrait of the former Italian premier and his world of privilege and megalomania. We also see the lavish parties that were thrown for him filled with models and dancers. It's all fantastically cinematic and wonderful to look at as you'd expect from a film by Paolo Sorrentino. Toni Servillo as Silvio Bersculoni is super and strange, and very watchable. However, he doesn't actually turn up in the film until 40 minutes in, and the film's early leads are faded into the background around this point (incl. Riccardo Scammarcio from John Wick 2) , this made me think that it could have been at least 30 mins shorter. The best scene for me is when Silvio, missing his days of selling real-estate cold calls a stranger to talk them into selling an apartment. It's electric. I gave it a three / five because it wasn't as engrossing as it could have been, the great scenes far number the pointless, boring ones but each scene / vignette is very long so if it's not hooking you, the film loses traction. Sorrentino is a great filmmaker, a visionary who creates visual spectacles - however, he was slightly off-game with this. This is more 'This Must Be The Place' than 'The Great Beauty' or 'Youth'....

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Dark Waters

Solid yet depressing law procedural

(Edit) 22/02/2021

Director Todd Haynes is known for his immaculately crafted films like Carol, and Wonderstruck, but on this occasion he allows his story and the actors to do all the heavy lifting. Mark Ruffalo plays a lawyer who uncovers environmental foul play by one of the USA's largest and most powerful chemical producing companies, DuPont - the makers of Teflon. Proving that the company are behind the deaths of workers, locals, and cattle in the area surrounding their Parkersburg, West Virginia plant due to the way it disposes of hazardous waste in the land is the task. It's very interesting material but it's not cinematic. When the drama is sexed-up, like a charging bull and some grandstanding speeches, the film feels forced but the film needs this to be relatable - it's in the quieter moments that the film comes into its own. It's depressing how big business always outsteps moral duty to secure profit, and this film nails some hard truths with aplomb. However, a documentary would have been much more satisfying as you suspect that even the filmmakers have been compromised when getting the full story to the screen. PS: WTF was going on in the wardrobe department? This film has bad fitting wigs and ill-fitted clothes for miles... and what the hell is going on with Bill Camp's fake eyebrows? He looks like he got dressed on Sesame Street.

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Muscle

UK Masterpiece

(Edit) 19/02/2021

Director Gerard Johnson's 3rd film is his best ( the first two Tony and Hyena are also very good). Centring around male mental-health, toxic masculinity, steroid abuse, and weight lifting, this is an electric and very scary film. Starring Craig Fairbrass in a career best as the personal trainer from hell, you can't take your eyes off this. The lead Cavan Clerkin (new to me) is very assured as the poor guy who falls under his trainer's spell when his life takes a turn for the worse. Recommended but it is very, very dark and relentless.

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A White, White Day

Incredible story about revenge and grief

(Edit) 18/02/2021

Icelandic character piece which is highly atmospheric and bleak, but ends on a note of hope. The film feels like a slowly clenching fist or waiting for a bomb to go off. The lead character of a widowed policeman who discovers that his late wife was having an affair is extremely complex. A taciturn force of nature, it doesn't take long to realise that our protagonist is losing his grip on his sanity and reality. It's a slow burn, but it's ultimately very persuasive, sad, and engrossing. Incredible.

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Sicario 2: Soldado

Expensive, lifeless

(Edit) 12/02/2021

This flat sequel lacks the vitality and life that coursed through the first one. It's dead behind the eyes and beyond a few great action flicks, I found the plot to be unnecessarily convoluted (it's all quite straight forward) and ultimately difficult to believe. Benicio del Toro's character's death-dodge doesn't ring true at all... The subject matter is very interesting but the whole thing feels jaded, bored with itself, and entirely frivolous. File this in the forgettable sequels box. Go back and watch the first one, the emotion and verve difference is staggering.

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Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Stirring romantic drama

(Edit) 05/02/2021

This film had a real beating heart and it really took me places. It's very subtle until the film's ending which hedges its bets with a double pay-off, where one would have been ample. Otherwise, this film was touching, emotional, and engrossing every step of the way. I wanted to see this at the cinema but lockdown came along. The film is virtually silent / very quiet passages, and I can imagine it would have been hell if there were people rustling sweep wrappers and talking throughout. LOL. Celine Sciamma and her cast have delivered 2020's masterpiece in my opinion.

Recommended.

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Peepli Live

Lively media satire

(Edit) 03/02/2021

This lively media satire stays interesting and ends on a curiously sombre note. India's media and politicians get into a feeding frenzy lionise an impoverished (stoner) farmer's decision to commit suicide in order to capitalise on a government compensation scheme that awards surviving family members 100,00 rupees. Occasionally funny, ever knowing, and sometimes emotional, this film underlines the madness of our times when readership numbers and votes are more important than whether a man lives or dies. Crazy, yet very cool to see a non-Bollywood style film from India with something interesting to show us.

Recommended but a one-watch visit (although I've seen it twice now - once at the cinema on release back in 2010.)

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The Frozen Ground

Gripping thriller

(Edit) 31/01/2021

Something of a cinematic 'page-turner', this fact-inspired serial-killer procedural offers up a pulpy mix. However, it's much better than it had any right to be and contains nicely restrained performances from Nicolas Cage (suitably muted), John Cusack (very creepy yet understated and expertly wrought), and Vanessa Hudgens. This is another exhibit proving that Cage can still deliver excellent performances and he's not all-out wacky in very film. I'm not sure how close to the facts this film plays - several plot-turns are sexed up for dramatic effect but most films based on fact are guilty of this. It's a minor film, but still a good thriller and reminder how good Cage and Cusack can be when given decent roles. 

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Sabotage

Old school OTT action film

(Edit) 28/01/2021

If you are planning to watch Sabotage, you probably already know what to expect. One of the characters refers to a meeting of Arnold Schwarzenegger's team of crack DEA agents as a 'bro-down'. The whole film is a bad-taste 'bro-down' with insane levels of male-posturing and action. There is an element of realism to the film as it's more Heat than Expendables, and there are some cheap thrills to enjoy. The central mystery keeps you watching and it has value as a whodunnit, and the final action sequences are breathtaking. This makes The Expendables look like a cartoon - however, that's not a recommendation. Terrence Howard is utterly wasted BTW.

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Roxanne Roxanne

Fast and loose with the facts

(Edit) 26/01/2021

A disappointing, flat biopic of the ferocious rapper of the mid 80s, Roxanne Shante. A trailblazing force who must go down in history as one of the best ever battle rappers to bless the mic, Roxanne Shante aka Lolita Gooden deserved a better film. It's surprising because she is listed as the producer so why some of the details are out of alignment doesn't make sense. For instance, the style of battle rapping is 90s style for the most part, and some of the fashions are a mistake too (nobody was rocking a cameo cut in the mid 80s until about late 87 - 88). Also Marley Marl he long-term DJ and producer is shown to ditched her in 86!?? When he worked with her up until about 1990!? Her manager Fly Ty begs her to sign to Cold Chillin' because his label hooked up with Warner Bros, yet she put Have a Nice Day out on the label way before the hook up! It's peculiar and a bit of a chronological mess.

However, it was cool to see tracks like Roxanne's Revenge, Def Fresh Crew, and Runaway in the narrative. The acting was fine but somewhat too laid back for the material: Mahershala Ali in particular is too mellow and muted for his role as the villainous Cross. Nia Long gets the acting honours as Shante's mother, but it's slim pickings in the main, as this struggles but ultimately fails to breathe. A shame.

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Archenemy

Interesting premise but this one flops early on

(Edit) 24/01/2021

An intriguing twist on the superhero in exile arc, this finds Max Fist selling his story for whisky in an assortment of LA bars. A down and out written off as crazy, he catches the attention of a digital-Gonzo journalist called Hamster, who attempts to turn his story viral. However, there's a few plot strands vying for attention and this intially interesting dynamic gets buried under a stolen money / drug barons story. It's difficult to understand Max Fist's motives helping his new friends (he doesn't kill people / then he does), then he cobble together weapons in a few mintues (out of nowhere) in order to go into battle for unconvincing reasons. I lost interest in the 'is he' or 'isn't he' a superhero or a loon, because the film does. The outcome is no surprise and you're left with a wasted opportunity, and half-hearted, half-baked K-Pax meets Kick Ass failure. It's a shame, because it starts brilliantly. AN EXTRA STAR for the animated sections which are off-their-face but ultimately work against the rest of the film, in putting the viewer at arms' length even more.

A waste of a good premise 

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Bubba Ho-Tep

The definition of a cult classic

(Edit) 20/01/2021

As the years go by this film is shaping up to be one of the true cult-classics of the 2000s. Bruce Campbell has never been better. Read the other great reviews on here for plot - all I have to add is that this is so funny with deadpan line delivery like no-other. There has been no better depiction of Elvis on the screen than Bruce's. The man should get better jobs, and major respect to Don C the director (known for Phantasm) and the late-great Ossie Davis who must have been so game to get into this madness. Mad ideas struck gold in all departments here. A low-budget gold standard for all.

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Mektoub, My Love

Light on plot but utterly immersive

(Edit) 18/01/2021

Abdellatif Kechiche's Mekhtoub My Love - Uno Canto is the first in a trilogy, and at 3 hours long this is an epic character study based on a close-knit group of friends living in the South of France. There's isn't much introspection or revelatory conversations between the characters but it's meditative and utterly engrossing if you just let it run and don't mind the lack of story. It's a mirror of life with some opera music thrown into the sound mix here and there. It will frustrate the majority of viewers hoping for a coherent story line (there is none) or action, but if you just like people watching, then this is an immersive treat. 8/10

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Hoop Dreams

Engrossing documentary - universal themes

(Edit) 10/01/2021

Has anybody seen this early 90s documentary about two inner-city kids striving to get into the NBA and a college education. It's a stirring piece that brings up race, class, the lack of opportunities, and the real reason why college basketball is a big money game in the USA. I've been aware of Hoop Dreams since it came out in the cinema and had rave reviews but I found it on BBC iPLAYER and finally watched it in chunks (It's nearly 3 hours long). It's a rewarding, immersive watch, and you don't need to like sports to enjoy and learn from this very interesting documentary. It shows what hard work is - and how to prevail (somehow) even when the odds are loaded against you.

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The Last Tree

Interesting but flawed

(Edit) 08/12/2020

The Last Tree gets off to a bumpy start with depictions of golden childhood, over sentimentalised by the filmmaker with application of heavily filtered sunny day scenes of play, a terrible score and thin characterisation. Then it gets better, much better. I can't fault the actors a jot, everybody in this film is brilliant, yet the tale of a Ghanaian boy, Femi, growing up in the UK struggles to find its feet for the first 15 minutes. It's a shame that the relationship between Femi and his foster parent, Mary (Denise Black) isn't developed enough. However, after Femi returns home to London with his birth mother the film gains traction and began to interest me. The box of tricks was still in full-effect, and at times I wished the filmmaker had more trust in her cast's abilities, and her script to let them do the work. Instead of trying to be the British version of Moonlight, this could have been so much more with better editing and less emphasis on the awkward window dressing. 

5/10 

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