Film Reviews by jb

Welcome to jb's film reviews page. jb has written 6 reviews and rated 44 films.

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Mug

The world's first face transplant comedy

(Edit) 05/02/2021

Blackly humorous, yet moving, story set in rural Poland. Jacek, a speed metal freak (and Aphex Twin lookalike) works on a construction site erecting the world's tallest statue of Jesus. After a terrible accident, he receives a face transplant, the first in Poland, and becomes both a celebrity and a local pariah, 'Mug' to the village kids. Artfully shot, authentically cast, with a sense of both the absurd and a very human understanding of difference and rejection, Mug is definitely worth looking at.

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Fanny Lye Deliver'd

A midden

(Edit) 19/11/2020

A deeply disappointing film from Thomas Clay, director of the intriguing, intelligent Soi Cowboy. Clay's stated aim was to make a 17th century Western. But in essence this is just another trot through the home invasion trope. We’re in Shropshire, just after the Civil War. Ageing, god-fearing folk John and Fanny Lye (Charles Dance and Maxine Peake) live on a smallholding with their young son Alex. Enter, naked, a young couple (Freddie Fox and Tanya Reynolds) seeking sanctuary from the law and what they say are unjust accusations of riot and lechery. We quickly discover that the pair are adherents to new-fangled ideas of liberation and self-expression, to a life of sensuality and freedom from guilt. What follows could have been a tense, claustrophobic struggle between two ways of life, two philosophies, old and new. Think ‘Performance’. Think ‘The Servant’. Think ‘Misery’, ‘Hard Candy’, ‘Funny Games’. But what we get is a muddled cartoon. Fox leers and preens to no effect. Reynolds is all sauce and skirts. The script is verbose; for the good of film, can someone please blacklist Tarantino and re-animate Harold Pinter? A swelling, lushly orchestrated score by Clay belongs to another film entirely. There are Blackadder-type antics from the lawmen. Clay has - laughably - referenced Days of Heaven and Once Upon a Time in the West but there is none of the former’s other-worldy atmosphere and none of the latter’s slow-burn dramatic pacing. The film was plagued with problems, mainly financial (three years in post-production) but the principal issue is a desperate lack of focus and intent.

1 out of 1 members found this review helpful.

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Bait

Brill

(Edit) 30/01/2020

‘They’ve got a porthole!’

 Stephen and Martin Ward, two siblings of Cornish fisherman stock have sold their coastal village property to middle-class city-dwellers the Leighs. But younger brother Martin Ward cannot abide these prosecco-swilling, manchego-munching intruders, the changes they represent, and the way they have turned the house into a twee parody of Cornish life.

 Shot in black-and-white on clockwork cameras, with sound and dialogue dubbed in post-production, and editing from the Nic Roeg ‘Er, What Year Is It Now?’ school, Marc Jenkin's 'Bait' is singular and compelling, full of technical bravura, only let down by the caricatured nature of its characters. The film is an eerie hybrid of Humphrey Jennings-style documentary and jolting affect, conveying a picture of a traditional world that no longer makes sense to its inhabitants. Times are changing: Stephen Ward now uses the family fishing boat to take lairy tourists on thirty-minute booze cruises. Cultures are clashing, and not only over interior design: the romance that the Leighs’ diffident daughter Katie is having with Stephen Ward’s son Neil disgusts Katie’s brother Hugo. Meanwhile Martin, still clinging to the buoy of the past, nets pathetically small hauls from the local beach.

 Violence fills the air like the smell of rotting mackerel. The issues raised are current and vital. But the characterisation can be blunt and lazy. The Wards, grizzled, gruff, monosyllabic, are more than a tad sitcom-ish. The Leighs, with their Apple macs, 4x4, lycra, and cave-aged cheeses are too obviously set up as figures of ridicule. A more subtle film might have made them an implicit presence and simply concentrated on the locals and the struggle to deal with economic forces that bring both good and ill (witness the continuing battle in St Ives to find a solution to the issue of second homes). It’s not the era-defining masterpiece that some reviewers would have you believe, but Bait still hooks you. 

3 out of 5 members found this review helpful.

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Loveless

Meet the new Russia, same as the old Russia

(Edit) 14/08/2018

Zhenya and Boris hate each other. Married for 12 years, they both now have new partners, and are bitterly divorcing. Caught in the middle is their young son. Lonely and unhappy, the boy seems to be little more than an inconvenience for both parents.

One day the boy disappears. The police, understaffed and overworked (is the opposite ever the case?) abnegate responsibility to a highly organized volunteer search force. All parties now have to work together. In a different film the parents might find some sort of accord, but director Zvyagintsev is not one for easy comforts; Zhenya and Boris's mutual loathing only deepens.

Beginning with shots of a frozen, tree-bordered river, Loveless takes a cold, hard look at contemporary Russia and its new middle class. Beauty salon manager Zhenya is addicted to her mobile. Boris works in sales, his office modern and open plan. They have things; Brazilian waxes, decent cars - 'freedom' - but there seems to be something deeply poisonous about Russia that nothing can detoxify. Yes, both parents have found love again but neither seem able to escape the crushing effect their country still exerts; towards the end we see Zhenya, clad in a Russian national tracksuit, running on a treadmill, going nowhere. Boris has to keep up the appearance of being happily married in order to please his religious boss. Russia doesn't change, the film suggests; it can ruin you at any time.

Loveless does perhaps brush a little too closely up against the cliches of 21st century society with its jibes at narcissism and spiritual emptiness. And yes, there are many, perhaps too many films about the disappearance of children. But Zvyagintsev's ability to make familiar themes his own puts him at the top of world cinema.

9 out of 9 members found this review helpful.

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The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Not for the faint-hearted

(Edit) 02/07/2018

Celebrated Cincinnati heart surgeon Steven Murphy (Colin Farrell) has struck up an odd friendship with 16 year-old, greasy haired Martin, (Barry Keoghan). As we discover why, Murphy's troubled past is revealed and he and family thrown into an escalating, existential crisis.

The line between saving lives and ending them becomes increasingly faint (think how a heart patient is butchered on the operating table).

As with all of Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos's films, the tone moves, often in the same scene, from puzzling to deeply unpleasant, from horror to farce, never allowing the audience to settle. Dialogue, often seemingly pointless or trivial (the water resistance of a watch, for example) is clipped and expressed almost blankly by the actors: this sense of the characters' deadness is perhaps over-obvious.

Martin, a mixture of vulnerability, manipulative evil and spaghetti-sucking goofiness (a cousin, perhaps, of The Children of Dynmouth's Timothy Gedge) is played quite brilliantly by (the 25-year-old) Keoghan. Nicole Kidman, her Stepfordian perfection weirdly unchanged by time (and so great casting for Lanthimos), plays Anna, Murphy's wife and co-participant in their doctor-patient boudoir antics. The film borrows its empty, oddly lit hospital corridors from David Lynch and certain scenes, for example the Murphy's youngest son Bob undergoing an MRI scan, are reminiscent of The Exorcist. Occasionally you wish Lanthimos would knock back the archness (The Lobster suffered badly in this respect) but his idiosyncrasies continue to offer strong meat in contrast to the vanilla, fat-free milkshakes of Hollywood.

3 out of 4 members found this review helpful.

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Beach Rats

A different kind of bromance

(Edit) 25/06/2018

Understated portrait of a young Coney Island bro struggling with his sexual identity.

Pretty boy Frankie (East Londoner Harris Dickinson), buff in wife-beater, hi-tops and big shorts, aimlessly cruises the beach one summer, potato-headed pals in tow. He pilfers his dying dad's drugs. He blows smoke rings in a vape bar. He meets a girl, Simone. But late at night in the basement of his home he poses for shirtless selfies and cruises on line for gay hook-ups. 'I don't know what I want,' he says, but knows his life cannot longer be what it was.

Restrained and insightful 'Beach Rats' captures well the violent confusions of adolescence. Characters are plausible and and Harris Dickinson excellent as Frankie.

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