Film Reviews by Alphaville

Welcome to Alphaville film reviews page. Alphaville has written 314 reviews and rated 261 films.

Bland documentary

Composers talk about their film scores, but we learn little. The gist? Music is emotional and there are no rules. It’s hardly ground-breaking stuff. Don’t blame the composers, but watching talking heads telling us what music they like for 90 mins isn’t engrossing, even interspersed with film clips of movies they like. What would be interesting is to hear why some scores work better than others. Let’s hear just one voice who doesn’t think overblown orchestral superhero music is brilliant. This film is pure hagiography, like Oscar night for composers. The only real interest is in seeing the faces behind the names on the end credits.

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Unwatchable soap

Typically dire Ken Loach film. Film? The critics who like this are having a laugh, as though all that matters is the underlying socialist polemic content. It’s like watching a soap with the same level of visual interest and on-the-nose dialogue. The paucity of cinematic imagination is gobsmacking. Come back, superhero films, all is forgiven.

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For folkies only

It’s about a folk singer down on his luck. He plays an acoustic guitar. Many times. We follow his progress. There’s a lot of folk music. As with the Coen Brothers’ O Brother Where Art Thou, if you’re immune to such simple stylings, you won’t get past the first few minutes.

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Don't waste your time

Bland tale of a young woman in the French countryside, told for no reason in flashback. She’s bored by petty rural life and so is the viewer. Compare the brilliant evocation of rural Italy in the wonderful Call Me By Your Name. It’s the kind of film that focusses on irrelevant inconsequential things. When it opens with close-ups of food being eaten by a family in a car, you know what you’re in for. There’s not much to say about it except to describe the oh-so-slowly developing plot, and if you know that there’s no point in watching the film at all. In fact watch the tell-all trailer and save two hours of your life.

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So-so children’s film

Very silly, expensive, cgi-heavy kids’ movie that’s hard to stay awake for unless you’ve got a kid to watch as well. Adults will find it hard to sit through the inane plot, paper-thin characters, cartoon animals, juvenile dialogue and childish drama. But maybe only kids should review their films.

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Soporific drama

Slow, stately drama of love and deception set in 1930s Korea. More of a mood piece than a gripping tale. It has garnered praise for its acting, especially the two female leads, who indulge in some graphic sex scenes. These may be ground-breaking for mainstream Asian cinema, but the portentous orchestral soundtrack makes them unintentionally ridiculous. Divided into parts, you may well find that the by the time the film reaches a major plot point after an hour, to launch us into a Part 2 flashback, you no longer care.

Film critics who rave about acting and ‘brave’ sex scenes should stick to the theatre. Film is so much more than that and so, generally, is much of modern, exciting Korean cinema. As if the trailer makers understand this, they try to lure viewers to The Handmaiden by fast editing and an exciting soundtrack that is at total odds with the dullness of the film itself.

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Above-average superhero movie

Less boring than most superhero efforts, this is almost a proper film with real characters and drama beyond silly special effects. Paul Rudd is an appealing lead, as he usually is, and Michael Douglas offers in-depth support. Compared to miniaturisation classic The Incredible Shrinking Man, it’s lightweight stuff, but it’s above average superhero fare and, especially at the climax, boasts some imaginative imagery.

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Soapy drama

Teenager Saoirse Ronan moves from working in a shop in Ireland to working in a shop in New York in the 1950s while rooming in a boarding house run by Julie Walters. Still want to see it? After half an hour she meets Emory Cohen and their relationship develops. I could go on. The film certainly does, and the trailer will tell you all of it much more succinctly. Shot like a TV talkie by ex-theatre director John Crowley, it’s completely unmemorable both in content and style.

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Gory cult movie

Although vastly over-rated by critics, Revenge is nevertheless worth a look once you get past the film’s distasteful first half-hour. In a desert house, Matilda Lutz wears skimpy clothes and teases three men until she gets raped and left for dead. That’s no spoiler because the film’s title and trailer tell us as much, so that’s half an hour wasted.

The remainder of the movie (the revenge part) is totally unbelievable, but it’s so well paced and shot that it’s one of those ‘so bad it’s good’ films that, late night after a few pints, could easily become cult viewing. It’s impossible to care about any of the characters, but it races along to a pulsating soundtrack with scenes so gory it almost verges into horror. Best thing about it? The lovingly photographed Moroccan desert, where all the action take place.

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Engrossing old-fashioned thriller

The poor title hides a fascinating subject. It’s 1940 and Germany is invading Holland, where the old Kaiser from World War 1 (played sympathetically by Christopher Plummer) is in exile. Who knew that? Which side is he on? Lily James is an Allied spy in his household. She and the German officer assigned to keep tabs on him (Jai Courtney) fall in love. Will Lily carry out her mission? What will her German lover do? What will happen to the Kaiser? What’s Himmler, played by a memorably chilling Eddie Marsan, up to?

This is an old-fashioned thriller with a terrific premise and a plot that keeps you hooked. The pacing will be too stately for Marvel universe fanboys, but as intrigue piles on intrigue the film delivers a tense third act that will have you rooting for the star-crossed lovers and others too.

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Tense thriller marred by silly ending

It’s 1976 and a group of Palestinian and German terrorists hijack a plane carrying Israelis and land it in Uganda. Even if you know the ending of this thriller based on true events, it’s still tense stuff. We see events mostly from the point of view of the hijackers, which makes it somewhat biased. There are scenes set in Israel, added at a later stage of script development to try and redress the balance, but they mostly concern politicking and rescue planning. The hijackers are the film’s emotional heart and the thrust of the film is anti-capitalist and anti-Zionist.

It’s well acted and directed but, as well as the bias, there are some ruinous flaws. Several flashbacks to the hijack’s planning slow the pace and contribute no information that couldn’t have been slotted into the present. But worst of all, the rescue attack by Israeli soldiers, to which the plot has been building, is intercut with scenes of an Israeli dance troupe performing on stage. It’s supposed to be a metaphor but it turns the otherwise tense attack into a laughing matter.

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I Am Not a Serial Killer Online DVD Rental

Affable time-passer

Lo-key small-town thriller in which Max Records plays a teenager with sociopathic tendencies who stalks ageing serial killer Christopher Lloyd. The tone is one of black humour, which detracts from any excitement or thrills. Over-praised in the press, it’s an affable time-passer but no more.

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Overlong but has its moments

With more clarity of plot and some judicious editing this could have been a worthy sequel to Blade Runner. Unfortunately the wearing first hour is full of gloomy intensity, slow-moving plot, overly deliberate camerawork and characters drained of emotion. All of which makes blank-faced Ryan Gosling the perfect leading man. Not a lot of it makes much sense (robots giving birth?!), which turns the sci-fi aesthetic of the original into fantasy. Watch the DVD extras, for instance, if you want to know more about spinners, pilotfish and barracudas.

After the first hour matters improve as a clearer plot kicks in, there are more exciting scenes, visuals and score, and the film builds to a brilliantly-realised final fight. According to director Denis Villeneuve (again on the DVD extras), the subtext is all about memory: ‘Are we humans without memories?’ Ignore that, plod through the first hour and enjoy the spectacle of the rest. The best things in it are the two female leads: Gosling’s holographic companion Joi and the chief replicant badgirl he fights at the end. Cut out the dross and this would have been a film to remember

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The Suspect Online DVD Rental

Confused would-be thriller

This is a confusingly-plotted thriller about a North Korean special forces operative on the run in South Korea from an equally capable North Korean officer. It’s a good premise, but scenes seem to have been cobbled together in almost random fashion and the frenetic hand-held action sequences, fast-edited and filmed too close in, pass in a nauseating whirl.

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Wonderful Elegy on Love and Longing

Trust no reviewer who finds this film boring.

Timothee Chalamet is a 17yo in Northern Italy coming to terms with his feelings for girlfriend Marzia and visiting American archaeological intern Armie Hamer. There are sex scenes with both and also a solitary scene that will ensure you never look at apricots the same way again. But it’s his burgeoning relationship with Hamer that forms the focal point of the movie. This may make it sound like just another gay film, but it’s much more than that.

The lazy days and warm summer nights of rural Lombardy are so lovingly evoked that it’s like spending a two-hour holiday there. You can almost smell the countryside. Chalamet is riveting as we watch him try to navigate his confused feelings, while his father (Michael Stuhlbarg) has a wonderful speech about living life to the full that makes you wish all parents had such wisdom. The heart-warming, heart-breaking final shot is the most powerful since Truffaut’s 400 Blows. With a deserved Best Picture Oscar nomination in 2017, this is a film that will suck you in and stay with you long after the final credits have rolled. And for DVD fans there’s a bunch of fascinating extras that add to the film’s impact.

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