Our Idiot Brother

October 8th, 2013

ouridiotbrotherOur Idiot Brother is one of the latest comedies to be released onto DVD, offering a wide range of slapstick humour, starring Paul Rudd.

Ned is jailed after supplying a police officer with cannabis. After a whirlwind of drama, including being dumped by his girlfriend, denied custody of his dog and nowhere to go, Ned spends his time moving between his sisters’ homes.

Needless to say, Paul Rudd pulls off his character well, with little time between one laughable moment to the next. What should be noted is the comical all-star cast, featuring Zooey Deschanel and Steve Coogan, who have both proved their comedic value in the past, making this film fairly promising.

As trouble follows Ned around, causing turmoil between his three sisters and their all American dream families, it’s difficult not to laugh at how dysfunctional this indie character really is.

Despite his failings and hilarious misfortunes, Ned begins to become an aid for his sisters, helping them realise their problems in their own lives, which seems to dampen the comedic vibe from time to time.

However, with the help of the other comical characters, the pace is soon picked up again, making this film energetic and full of satirical jibes.

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The Host

September 12th, 2013

The-Host-Movie-PosterFollowing the success of The Twilight Saga being adapted for the big screen, Stephanie Meyer’s The Host is the next of the author’s books to be released onto DVD.

The science fiction romance begins by establishing that aliens have taken over Earth, using human bodies as a host to colonise, to avoid extinction. Melanie Stryder is one of the few humans left but then comes across Jared Howe, where a romance soon develops. While hunting for provisions, Melanie is captured and is taken over by an alien species.

Throughout the film, Melanie fights her internal intruder while battling to convince Jared that she is still partly alive.

To watch a film like The Host, imagination and a slightly open mind is encouraged due to its strange plot twists and obscure outlook on what the world could become in the future.

Saoirse Ronan, who plays the lead of Melanie, must be noted for her commitment to the role, developing different relationships with each character, including the alien who quickly becomes her conscience throughout the film.

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February 25th, 2013

Any film that opens with silent, grainy Super 8 footage of a family being slowly hanged by an unseen force utilising the ample leverage supplied by a massive tree branch, is obviously not exactly reaching for the rom-com crowd.

Sinister sees true crime writer Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke), wife Tracy (Juliet Rylance) and their children Ashley and Trevor move into the house of a murdered family, whilst he investigates the circumstances of their brutal demise, hoping to craft a bestseller.

Once he finds a box in the attic containing a projector and several reels of harrowing Super 8 footage, things take a turn for the tense and grisly. He becomes obsessed with the creepy films and increasingly ignorant to his family’s concerns, and when a certain Mr. Boogie starts making his unnerving presence known, the film sprints towards a terrifying climax.

It’s completely possible that the filmmakers of Sinister were trying to brainstorm a title, then reviewed their terrifying ‘family hanging’ home movie created for the first two minutes, and came up with just about the single-most apt word available in the English language.

Sinister is exactly that; an evil, malevolent encapsulation of horror and fear. However, don’t be concerned that this falls into the ‘torture porn’ category ruled and regulated by the Saw movies. There is in fact very little in the way of gore, and far more of an intense psychological edge, with some truly frightening images given an original spin through that grainy footage. Read the rest of this entry »

Chernobyl Diaries

November 28th, 2012

In 1986, the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine offered a savage reminder of the destructive force and volatile nature of nuclear energy. An explosion at the power plant contaminated a huge area with high lethal, devastating levels of radioactivity, which stand to last for thousands of years. So, in all fairness, going there is probably not wise. It certainly isn’t something which most would count as a fun day out.

Workers in the area are limited in the amount of time the can stay because of the radiation levels, and there is a 19-mile exclusion zone with almost no inhabitants.

Chernobyl Diaries tells the somewhat unlikely story of several holidaymakers who actually want to take a day trip inside the exclusion zone to Prypiat, a deserted town not far from the disaster site.

Chris and his girlfriend Natalie, along with their friend Amanda, are moving through Europe as so many horror movie protagonists choose to do, and they meet up with Chris’ fun-loving care-free and plentifully irritating brother Paul, who lives in Kiev. This genius is the one who suggests an ‘extreme tour’ with local guide and generally large man, Yuri. They take little convincing, and set off with another couple joining them In Yuri’s rickety van which, incidentally, inspires about as much confidence as the sight of a mushroom cloud on the horizon.

We get plenty of shaky-cam treatment, in an attempt to give the whole thing a documentary-style authentic feel, and once they discover a mutated fish you can pretty much guess where it’s going.

The plot is extremely thin, like a brutally starved wafer, so let’s just say they find themselves stuck there and from that point it all gets a bit nasty.

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iLL Manors

October 19th, 2012

Clearly not content with writing, performing and producing hugely successful multimillion-selling records, and adding acting to his CV when he’s not busy, Ben Drew, or Plan B, has chucked in filmmaking for good measure.

As a huge Tarantino fan (who isn’t?), Drew was always going to give linear, fluid storytelling a miss in favour of something more staggered and challenging. It’s a tricky feat; if it goes well then you feast with Pulp Fiction at the table of tasty treats, but if it goes badly then you eat from the bin with John Carpenter’s Ghosts of Mars.

Somewhat predictably, Drew has opted to tell an interweaving story based on the streets of London, specifically Forest Gate, where he grew up. iLL Manors examines the mindsets, morality and actions of several different characters, with plenty of grit and intensity, manifesting in both mental and physical form.

This might already sound a little similar to other Brit efforts such as Bullet Boy, Kidulthood and the sequel Adulthood, which featured Drew as a supporting actor, but there are plenty of issues to tackle and stories to tell on the streets and estates of London.
During the course of iLL Manors, we meet Kirby (Keith Coggins), a middle-aged drug dealer fresh from a prison term, and his former protégé Chris (Lee Allen), who now runs things around town, clearly possessing the intimidating physique to do so. The two are no longer allies, which has more than a little to do with Kirby’s treatment of Chris at a younger age.

Meanwhile, Ed (Ed Skrein), a drug dealer with a spiky temperament, and his friend Aaron (Riz Ahmed) are in search of the former’s phone, which seems to have been stolen by prostitute and crack-fanatic Michelle (Anouska Mond). As they hunt her down, it becomes clear that she will have to find another particularly grim and harrowing way to replace the cost of the phone, which she denies ever stealing in the first place.

On top of this we have Katya (Natalie Press), a new mother on the run from Russian mobsters who have been using her in a sickening sex trafficking scheme, whilst early teen Jake (Ryan De La Cruz) finds himself accepted into a violent gang, led by a criminal looking to test his young recruit’s immediate loyalty with a brutal task.

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Avengers Assemble

October 2nd, 2012

Avenger's AssembleBack in 2008, the release of Iron Man garnered rave reviews from audiences and critics alike.  This opened the door for Marvel to move forward with bringing its epic universe to the big screen.

The grand plan of having Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and Hulk springboard from their own movies into a single all-out action fest, with scope to continue their own stories afterwards, has come to fruition, with the big green guy’s recasting proving the only real continuity blip.

Downey Jr.’s wise-cracking, arrogant but hugely likeable Tony Stark has made for a great Iron Man, even if the second movie was a little weak. Chris Hemsworth has also proved a genius piece of casting for Thor, blending brash with stoic to give viewers a hugely watchable embodiment of the mythological god, and the film was a fast, fun affair.

Chris Evans as Captain America is certainly better than the film itself, as the second half struggles to deliver on a promising start. Evans does a great job of merging the all-American action hero with a man driven purely by his morals, so he looked a smart choice for the role.  It was just a shame that the film came loose.

Edward Norton was entrusted with the role of Bruce Banner. The Incredible Hulk was itself a reboot after the dullard, lifeless effort Hulk from Ang Lee, and whilst Norton’s movie was a stark improvement, Marvel obviously felt he didn’t fit going forward, and recast him with Mark Ruffalo. Rumours suggest it was actually about money, but surely, in Hollywood, the land of charity and low wages, this cannot be true.

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The Hunger Games – Killing time

September 6th, 2012

One of the biggest movies of the year has been yet another adaptation, with Suzanne Collins’ young adult novel The Hunger Games getting the blockbuster treatment.

In a post-apocalyptic North America, one boy and girl from each of the outer regions of a rich city are drawn to fight each other until only one remains, in a gladiator-style arena bloodbath ruckus. Once drawn from this annual lottery of death, the children and teenagers take part in glitzy ceremonies, presentations and training as a prelude to the ultimate death match, which is watched with glee by the rich city-dwellers.

Bow and arrow enthusiast Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) lives with her mother and sister in region 12, and when her sister is drawn to take part in the Hunger Games she volunteers to take her place. She not only has to leave her family, but also her best friend Gale (played by Liam Hemsworth, Thor’s younger brother).

The plus point is that she’s actually pretty good at hunting things with legs.

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Take Shelter – Heavy rain or crazy brain?

August 22nd, 2012

If you’ve seen the excellent Boardwalk Empire then you will probably be familiar with Michael Shannon. His performances in that, the award-winning adaptation of Revolutionary Road and a multitude of other films have more than demonstrated his outstanding talent, and he can be seen as the villain General Zod in the new Superman mega-budget film Man of Steel next year.

He has made great moves in his career, choosing roles that offer a genuine challenge and real test of talent. His decision to take on the role of Curtis LaForche in Jeff Nichols’ modestly-budgeted Take Shelter proved another masterstroke.

Set in Ohio, Take Shelter sees local family man LaForche develop an increasingly disturbing paranoia regarding storms. The intensity of his apocalyptic dreams begin to cause a rift in his family, and he starts focusing all his efforts on building an über-bomb shelter outside their home.

The fact that his mother was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia at his present age does not bode well, and as family, friends and employer all raise concerns regarding his peculiar behaviour, his dream drive his actions, and he stands firm on his belief that a storm of biblical proportions is heading their way.

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Blinkbox – Simple, subscription-free movies and TV on demand

June 27th, 2012

Whilst Blinkbox might sound like a new form of non-contact fighting based entirely around aggressive eyelid manipulation, it is in fact a popular online movie and TV episode rental service.

Blinkbox removes the subscription element, and you don’t receive movies by post. You can watch straight away online, and the titles available include both brand new releases and popular films from a variety of genres.

Blockbuster is known for its exclusives, whilst LoveFilm has an enviable library that is hard to match, but Blinkbox is an upfront, clear and simple service which makes it easy to get films instantly.

You can watch with Blinkbox online via laptop, PC or whatever takes your fancy that will do the job. You can also watch through certain Smart TVs using the Blinkbox app. Either way you do need a good broadband connection or you can pretty much forget the instant watch option.

If you’re stuck with ‘up to 14Mb’ broadband, and your realistic speeds are around 5-7Mb, then you can probably forget it. However, if you have fibre-optic broadband with speeds of at least 25-30Mbps then you should enjoy smooth, buffer-free viewing.

We watched The Woman In Black on a Samsung Smart TV, and the Blinkbox user process was pretty simple and fluid, just requiring user email address and password to login. The film, in case you were wondering, is as good as it gets for pure jumpy shocks. Daniel Radcliffe is convincingly spooked by the freaky occurrences, and having the antagonist’s scary face pop up regularly never gets less terrifying. The story is thin, but you aren’t watching it for storyline, and too many horror haunting films stumble when they try to pack in explanation and exposition.

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The Grey – Nesson goes howling mad

June 13th, 2012

Ah, Liam Neeson. The trusty Irish powerhouse is always a safe bet, and even in weaker films like The Phantom Menace, Clash of the Titans and Unknown, he still comes out as the star performer and a major redeeming quality of the movie.

His starring vehicles include the vastly underrated A-Team, as well as the excellent Michael Collins, superior thriller Taken and Kinsey, which saw him showered with well-deserved awards and nominations.

As for his smaller parts in films like Batman Begins and Gangs of New York, he serves to add some extra quality which heightens the overall excellence of the finished product.

In survival-thriller The Grey, Neeson plays John Ottway, a man hired by an oil firm to eliminate the threat of wolves to their drilling team in Alaska. We are introduced to him as he considers suicide, writing in quite poetic fashion to his wife to inform her of his general state of mind. He comes pretty close to blowing his head off, but in a nick of time he is needed to do his wolf-culling thing.

Once work is completed, Ottway and the drilling team hop on a flight, but the plane decides to take a short detour downwards, and crashes horribly leaving a handful of survivors.

As if a lack of food or drink, no real shelter, unlikely rescue, several corpses and a relentless blizzard weren’t enough to create a truly grim and challenging situation, a pack of savage wolves decide they don’t like their new neighbours, and begin picking off survivors at will.

Of course, Neeson’s Ottway, the man originally so close to suicide, takes it upon himself to try and guide the men through their predicament, making good use of his extensive wolf knowledge to try and fend off their would-be killers.

Neeson is excellent, embodying the struggle that is buried within a natural survivor who has considered taking his own life. His unflinching morals, impressive instincts and sheer will to fight make for a fascinating character, and help The Grey to become a triumph beyond other similarly-themed survival movies which fail to offer anything genuinely involving.

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