Film Reviews by AER

Welcome to AER's film reviews page. AER has written 142 reviews and rated 474 films.

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Spiral

Game over

(Edit) Updated 29/07/2021

Given the pedigree of those involved in this sequel / reboot to the Saw cycle of horror films, you'd expect a bit more care to have been taken. As it is, it's probably the world's most expensive fan-made movie. This is Saw without the narrative invention, the smarts, or good ideas - instead we have a 'masterplansplaining' baddy, no suspense, bad acting, plotholes, no surprises and less gore. It's a shame as this was the film to draw fans back in but all it will do is provide a disservice to the earlier films. Bring back John Kramer (Tobin Bell) - this copycat killer was doing Kermit The Frog impressions (I wonder if Frank OZ provided uncredited voice work). Game Over.

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Cocoon

Honest yet slight

(Edit) 28/07/2021

Cocoon is a great little film out of time. It shares much in common with F**cking Amal aka Show Me Love that came out about 20 years old, a crush between two high school develops and flourishes into what? It's well-acted, lovingly scripted and presented; quite simply it feels a need to celebrate the beautiful things in life, and whilst this may not have the gravitas of more serious films, it's a lovely watch and very truthful with it. However, Cocoon doesn't offer anything new for us, and sometimes that can be important. Recommended for those looking for an easy-going, uncomplex, feel-good drama we can all relate too.

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The Forever Purge

More Purge dirge

(Edit) 27/07/2021

This series was one of the more interesting ones. The early films aped John Carpenter's classics like Assault on Precinct 13 and Escape from NY, but as time as gone on the emphasis on horror has lessened into the moves into gory action films has progressed. The side order of anti-right politics is welcome, but is it Hollywood's way of reaching right-wing movie fans and trying to educate them through these films? High hopes? But anybody coming through the cinema doors to see Purge films aren't there from the political insight/satire, they want thrill kills and scares.... By the fifth film and a TV series, it's a case of rinse repeat with another angle to hang the template on. This entry revolves around a new set of 'characters' who mainly live on a ranch near El Paso, TX and how they survive when the Purge continues after the legal 12 hour period is over. From there it's just a series of run, hide, shoot scenes without any thought or invention. The Mexican variation could have been used a bit more imaginatively, but by now the films are too straight-jacketed and established to think all that far beyond its own garden.

Out of the existing film this ranks as the fourth out of five for quality. Only the First Purge was worse than this.

3 out of 10

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Frantz

Delicately played romantic mystery

(Edit) 25/07/2021

Directed by France's Francois Ozon, the bi-lingual film is an exceptionally movie ode to pacifism and friendship. I won't detail the plot but I will say that I wasn't familiar with the source material, so I pretty much went to this film without knowing a thing about it's plot. Superficially, it reminded me of Michael Haneke's White Ribbon - that too is a B&W film that is set in rural Germany in that same war-wrecked decade of the early 20th century, however, a romantic mystery stands at the heart of this film. FRANTZ casts a peculiar spell over the view by weaving a lot of intrigue up until the halfway mark when the plot does an about turn and delves behind the reasons for all the pretence and mystery. It's a tantalising story and one enhanced by the cinematography, beautiful score, direction, and note-perfect performances.

This film was randomly selected from my 700+ pot of films, so this was a very welcome surprise. 10 out of 10.

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Old

Below average Shyamalan

(Edit) 25/07/2021

First of all, I am grateful that there are risk takers like director M. Night Shyamalan at work (still) in Hollywood. He is a rare breed, a story-telling auteur that can tell pretty much do whatever he likes (for better or for worse). Unfortunately, his output is very patchy for my tastes, from the heights of Unbreakable, The Village, and Split, to the drivel of The Happening, Glass, and The Last Airbender, he's never boring. Sadly, Old, whilst not unwatchable, is a minor work - brimming with amazing ideas and a very intriguing concept, (people get trapped on a beach where time is sped up and they grow old rapidly) - it is so full of plot holes. Nothing hang together and after a promising opening, the actors flounder with a preposterous script and nonsensical plot developments. The denouement is interesting but turns to sand running through your fingers the minute you give it any real thought. It's a shame, as M NIGHT SHYAMALAN is one of those bewitching directors I really root for. But he's misfiring again.... sorry.

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Europa Report

Solid pro-science movie

(Edit) 16/07/2021

Authentic science-fiction movie about a mission to establish life on Europa (one of Jupiter's moons). The choice to tell the story via cameras aboard the mission shop and video diaries is interesting and serves the narrative well, as opposed to being another found-footage horror howler. The acting is convincing and the characters authentic. There is little room for melodrama and big actor moments - terrifying problems arise on the mission to jepordise the success and the crew respond within the parameters of their roles - there's no heroes and wise asses on board. Some may think this renders the film dramatically under-powered but I enjoyed it for the way it strived for authenticity over Hollywood-flavoured tom-foolery.

The main negative is the obvious impact the small budget has had on the SFX. Whilst much of the visuals are appropriate to the camera technology in the film, some of the death scenes on Europa are confusing and disorientating, which is a shame. This might disappoint viewers who like this kind of film purely to see who dies how and when. Most of the characters die off-screen.

For a low-budget sci-fi it is streets ahead of most sci-fis. It is worth a look for its seriousness and an attempt to give us something a little bit different.

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Host

Effective horror

(Edit) 20/07/2021

What do you need from a good horror film? Great acting that sells the fear, a good concept, tension, fear of the unknown and originality (this is optional). This no-budget horror film is highly potent, very effective and works brilliantly within its own confines. The cast are great and convincing, the set-up economical and the concept brilliant. With a running time of less than 1 hour you won't get bored. If you are a horror film, you've probably seen a lot of films like this already, it's hardly original but it delivers what it set out bring to you; a ******* scary time.

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Come and See

The best anti-war war film I've ever seen

(Edit) 13/07/2021

This is a film about the death of humanity. One of the greatest war films of all-time, it's scary, horrifying, and upsetting in equal measure and a vital watch. I'd never seen it before but had been sent The Painted Bird by Cinemaparadiso a few months ago and read the comparisons (PB even features the lead actor from Come and See). Utter classic that makes Saving Private Ryan and others look like Sesame Street.

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The Big Ugly

Low expectations rewarded

(Edit) 08/07/2021

Director Scott Wiper last teamed up with Vinnie Jones for the Australian WWF movie The Condemned about a decade ago and that was another film that shouldn't have been as entertaining as it turned out to be based on its pedigree. This director and star have form, and The Big Ugly proves that they are a great match.

The Big Ugly may be a bit too ponderous for those that may usually pick a tough-guy movie like this to watch, but the characters, the acting, and some of the turns of the plot are a revelation. True, not everything fits together, whilst other parts feel slightly rushed, this is a thoughtful film with deeper layers hinted at along the way. Fine performances from the three famous faces, and from Brandon Skenlar as the baddie - doing good work with a one-dimensional part, elevate the well-worn material. This punches above its weight, is less predictable than you'd expect, and has some nice details at the fringes about life in West Virginia.

PS: I'm confused as to why Stephen Marcus got shot near the beginning though, anyone?

Recommended if you like slow burn, tough-guy movies. This is like a good version of Nowhere to Run, or Homefront.

5 out of 10

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Lake Mungo

Good start but the implausibilities sink it

(Edit) 02/07/2021

This Australian ghost story adopts the 'true-story' documentary format which works well initially but as time goes on the framing device betrays some unconvincing twists in the narrative. The faux-documentary device keeps the film inhabitants at arm's length and when the unconvincing twist turns up at the half-way mark it's too late to trust anyone. The performances are uniformly good but anybody that's seen enough talking heads documentaries will catch these guys acting here and there.

All things considered, the story is very good and hasn't been done before. It's very creepy in parts but the post-credit sequences are plain stupid and make the characters look like a bunch of idiots - and sadly the parting shots cheapen the exercise. It's definitely worth a look, as some aspects are chilling but its narrative was inconsistent at times and ultimately, this rendered the film unconvincing which is a shame because the makers were clearly striving for authenticity.

5 out of 10

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Freaky

Entertaining 90s-style comedy horror

(Edit) 06/07/2021

Freaky is one of those films you wished you'd have seen at a lively cinema screening (good luck if you are in the UK - our audiences are so quiet). I saw it at the cinema with about 6 people and I did hear a few people titter or mildly shriek, so that's a good sign. Freaky took a while to warm up, beginning with a rote prequel where the Blissfield Butcher wipes out a bunch of dopey teens, and then introduced our heroine, Millie, who is the school outsider/geek. Through some contrivance, they swap bodies via a piece of Poundland jewelry and then the high concept kicks into gear. A lot of fun is had with the murders, the confusion, the chases, and Vince Vaughn's convincing take on playing a 16 year-old woman... However, this is a one-off watch, something of a Big Mac movie that serves as a fun time-passer but doesn't excel itself beyond that (which is OK). It reminded me of a Scream sequel and Nightmare on Elm Street 2 (which was the first big Gay horror film). Also look out for Alan Ruck from Ferris Bueller's Day Off as a real douchebag of a teacher!

Fun times, watch with friends for maximum results.

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It Couldn't Happen Here

Good songs, great imagery, bad acting, no story, originality and madness

(Edit) 27/06/2021

Like a musical version of Derek Jarman's Last of Britain mixed with Terry Gilliam's early films, IT COULDN'T HAPPEN HERE is a true 80s oddity. Stranded in an 80s wasteland between arthouse and pop promo kitsch it's easy to say that the Pet Shop Boys didn't really know what kind of films their legions of fans liked when this was released. I remember a work colleague telling me that people were walking out in droves at the cinema screening she attended and that it was terrible. Taken on it's own terms, it's definitely marching to it's own drum, but when compared to other films that were playing in mainstream cinemas at the time, this was an inaccessible and woeful peace of entertainment to the masses. Nowadays the BFI have seen fit to restore it and reappraise in view of what England and the Pet Shop Boys have become. It's still pretty impenetrable but it's a film from a time and place in British history when British films were few and far between but still had a lot of heart and originality. There's lot of PSB songs and some striking imagery to recommend it like a zebra on a train, a commuter on fire, nuns in suspenders and Gareth Hunt with giant fake ears. However, there's no narrative, the acting is uniformly awful (even by the pros like Barbara Windsor and Joss Ackland) and it only really works as a curio for PSB fans who never got around to seeing it years ago. An oddity but an interesting one all the same.

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The Little Things

My Cousin Rachel redone as a cop thriller

(Edit) 26/06/2021

SPOILER ALERT

If you know My Cousin Rachel by Daphne DuMaurier then you will have seen this story before. Denzel Washington and Rami Malek team up to solve a murder mystery. Someone is killing girls in LA, and their prime suspect is Jared Leto. There's a tantalising mystery at play here, and it's unwillingness to go to bat for the slow ones in the class is commendable. It's worth a second watch to look for small clues and to shake out what our main characters might be hiding. It's also good because our 'good guys' have suitable murky motives and once it's all over and step back a few paces to see the big picture, it works very well as a very paranoid man covering his tracks to account for earlier mistakes. You leave the film wondering one thing though, why did so many people cover for him, this aspect was too elaborate.

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In the Heights

Aspirational and original but lacking story focus

(Edit) 26/06/2021

In the Heights is a very pleasant surprise in a world of endless sequels and reboots; it's a true original with lots of its own ideas. Throwing the spot light on the NuYorican community of Washington Heights in Manhattan, this has several characters with positive aspirations and ideals to follow. This wins for energy, it's charming leading man, great dance numbers and quite a lot of flare. Where it failed for me, was the lack of story thrust, and the sheer number of songs it packs into its running time. None of the songs stuck in my head like in other recent musics like The Greatest Showman, and La La Land, but the set-pieces are largely memorable. The dance in the swimming pool to celebrate a mystery lottery win is stand out, and a ghostly life-story told in flashback sepia tones is also great. The story isn't very original and the running time is excessive but the focus on Puerto-Ricans is interesting and largely new to a British audience. In The Heights is an awesome feel good movie that deserves an audience, although I feel it won't endure as much as those I mentioned above....

7 out of 10

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Three Identical Strangers

Thorough documentary with a sad centre

(Edit) 23/06/2021

Engrossing documentary about triplet brothers who were separated at birth and discovered each other in their late teens. What became of them after their initial flirtation with fame? Why were they separated? Why was the reason hidden from the families who adopted them? And what was the outcome? It's an interesting tale, although anybody that has studied psychology will know the outcome to this interesting documentary. Like all detective stories, the journey is as interesting as the destination, but its all about the reveal and this is good for one watch. A decent curio - but it has the page-turner qualities of a TV documentary, not a cinema feature. It's a headline grabber and not an education piece at the end of the day.

Moving story, an all too-human one. Recommended.

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