Paranormal Activity 2 – Review

With a bigger budget and the pressure of building on a successful predecessor Paranormal Activity 2 tries too hard and fails to engage and scare.

The more camera angles we’re given the less time we have to focus on a particular frame and get all paranoid about what is about to happen. While the first film slowly crept up on you, the sequel is constantly try to grab your attention.

Also the amount of exposition is completely unnecessary as we don’t need to know what’s going on; that is why it is scary.

On the plus side the film has a few big scares and it fits the first quite neatly. The dog is a particular highlight.

Where this film will succeed is when watched alone at home when it’s dark outside and you’ve got the windows open. In a cinema the audience gets restless and giggling can ruin the effect.

No third film please.

Out Now – 29th October 2010

You’ve got to love autumn, good films are coming out on a regular basis. Today I’m adding three more to my watch list.

Burke and Hare
It’s going to be a pretty broad comedy with slapstick, toilet humour and comedy corpses but with this British comedy cast I can’t resist. Pegg and Stevenson reunite!

The Kids Are All Right
It’s and Oscar buzzed film with an indie feel. Two artificially inseminated children of a lesbian couple bring their biological dad into the mix.

Out of the Ashes
A documentary about the Afghan cricket team. I don’t like cricket… period.

Saw 3D
Gore and shocks, 3D and in your face. Guilty pleasure ahoy!

The Hunter limited release
A Persian language film in which a man kills some cops, then gets chased into a forest by two more cops. “They are lost in a maze, a desolate landscape, where the boundaries between the hunter and the hunted are difficult to perceive.” Blimey.

Involuntary (limited release)
A Swedish flick about people getting up to mischief.

Spiderhole (limited release)
A low budget horror featuring London student squatters as the victims. Bloody students.

This Prison Where I Live (limited release)
The Guardian says, “A brave documentary about a jailed Burmese comedian that is unfortunately stymied by the very censorship it is seeking to attack.”

Kaboom – Review

It took a while for me to settle into Kaboom with it’s “quirky” dialogue and overly boosted colours but I gradually settled into what seemed like a slightly above average sex comedy. Then it all got a bit weird and a global cult and a witch were introduced, the colours got brighter and the dialogue got quirkier.

According to the rest of the audience Kaboom is hilarious, not only the one liners got a laugh but sometimes just a scene change warranted a chuckle for no good reason. One man in front of me even did the full rocking back and forth and clapping routine twice. I think they were all plants because Kaboom is nowhere near as funny as all that.

If you’ve ever wanted to see the Thomas Dekker, Juno Temple, Haley Bennett or Roxane Mesquida naked then you’re in luck… otherwise I wouldn’t bother. It seems Mysterious Skin was a one-off bit of brilliance from Gregg Araki.

There’s a chance Kaboom was brilliantly stylised and I just didn’t get it, but more likely it’s a terrible film. Luckily there is no UK release date just yet.

Somewhere – Review

Sofia Coppola is not known for her faced paced thrillers but Somewhere really does take it to a whole new level of tedium. While the relationship between Stephen Dorff and Elle Fanning is sweet, subtle and real there is not enough meat on the film for it to be satisfying.

Coppola seems to have lost the plot, or rather simply forgotten to but one in. Her previous works are all slow paced but still do have a journey and are lyrical and beautiful in their telling. Somewhere may be well shot but seems like a mere snapshot of these characters and their story. What was on screen was good, it just needed a little bit more.

Somewhere is on general release on 4th March 2011 and I’d only go and see it if you’re in quite a mellow mood, just not so mellow that you might fall asleep.

Brighton Rock – Review

The Surprise Film is consistently the hottest ticket at the London Film Festival, previous years having included The Wrestler and No Country For Old Men, and after last year’s disappointment with Capitalism: A Love Story a real treat was expected last Sunday.

Somehow the internet decided that the surprise film was most likely Brighton Rock, but this was by no means guaranteed… until the opening credits rolled. What followed did not match the Coen Brothers, Aronofsky or even Michael Moore.

Brighton Rock is everything I was so pleased Submarine was not; a gritty, gangster filled period film with Helen Mirren. In theory the film followed the descent of young rogue Pinkie into organised crime and disaster, when in reality his arc ended after about twenty minutes and then failed to progress for the final hour and a half.

To say that Brighton Rock is terrible would be an exaggeration, it would make a fine addition to any ITV drama line-up. Sadly the film is simply unimpressive and a far cry from the quality you expect to be shown in what is one of the Festival’s top four events. Rather than creating huge hype, the screening felt like a trick, making people buy tickets for a film they would never have shelled out for had they known what they were getting themselves into.

After a rough start Brighton Rock does get better, though never quite finds a way of connecting with its audience and struggles to develop any character beyond their two dimensions. Considering Rowan Joffe, the writer/director, also penned The American he is responsible for more than his fair share of flops for one film festival.

Brighton Rock does not have a UK release yet, and after the backlash it has received this week it could be a good thing.

Black Swan – Review

I did not want to see The Wrestler. I don’t enjoy wrestling and only went to see it with the promise of Wagamama afterward. What I saw was not a film about wrestling but a powerful character study that had me gripped for the duration and left me in a happy daze.

Similarly Black Swan is not really about ballet, Darren Aronofsky return with another powerful character study, this time all the more tense, deranged, fragile and more than a little sexy. Like all great films it is incredibly involving, enveloping you in the film and keeping you on edge for the full 100 minutes.

Natalie Portman is at her best as the frail ballerina who gradually finds her confidence and loses herself in the process. Portman is no longer anyone’s dream girl, instead an actress on top of her game. Vincent Cassel and Mila Kunis offer able support, Kunis as the rival free-spirit ballerina and Cassel as the man who helps Portman to achieve perfection.

Views are split about whether Black Swan is a cinematic masterpiece or an over-theatrical mistake. I am firmly in the first camp. I’m sure it has its flaws, but I was too engrossed to notice.

Black Swan is on general release on 11th February 2011, so you can make your mind up for yourself. In the meantime you have our trailer dissection to study.

Catfish – Review

Catfish is a documentary that is best watched without knowing too much about it. It focuses on three friends who live in New York city and share an office. They are creative types and often film themselves in the aim of making short films.

The film begins by covering one of the friends, Yaniv, as he corresponds with a young girl who has started to paint his photographs. Before long he is chatting with her mum on the phone and flirting with her older sister on Facebook. What happens then is the bit that is worth discovering yourself as you follow the friends on a journey.

At times I was genuinely unsettled and a little scared. While Catfish may not be at all well shot for the most part it certainly has a story to tell that is unnerving but also quite moving.

Certainly one to watch if you’ve ever made friends online.

Submarine – Review

Submarine is pretty great.

Here we have a British film that is not gritty, involves zero gangsters and is not a bland romantic comedy. Instead we have a story of a young boy worried because his parents haven’t had their dimmer switch down halfway for months and who is forced into a relationship by a girl at school, who then dictates what he writes about her in his diary.

Submarine is written and directed by Richard Ayoade (Moss from The IT Crowd), and both are done in a playful way which show a love for film and a real raw talent.

The two young leads Craig Roberts and Yasmin Paige carry the film well, easily matching the more established supporting cast which includes Paddy Considine and Sally Hawkins.

Submarine is a fun and effortless watch that does not lack in heart. It has no UK release yet but when it does I suggest you go and try not to smile.

It’s Kind of a Funny Story – Review

I was looking forward to It’s Kind of a Funny Story, it looked like a funny heartwarming tale about people in a psychiatirc hospital possibly with an indie soundtrack, but it let me down and fell pretty flat.

The main problem is the main character Craig played by Keir Gilchrist, he is supposed to be depressed and suicidal but going by everything we’re shown he seems perfectly fine. This completely deflates the entire plot as he ends up completely fine too having no development at all, apart from discovering a love for making quite unimpressive paintings.

The film also features too may twee cutaways, far too deliberate efforts to make the film “quirky” that just come off as desperate. These include a pointless animated sequences and a glam rock music video for the entire duration of a lip-syncing performance of Under Pressure.

While Craig may be a dull character, some of the other patients provide much more intrigue. Both Emma Robert’s Noelle and Zach Galifianakis’ Bobby are interesting, fragile characters whose journeys inside the hospital would have been much better subjects for the film.

It has its moments but it a deeply flawed and overly self-conscious film.

The King’s Speech – Review

It’s the new biggest surprise of the festival. The King’s Speech is at first sight another stuffy period piece looking at a period of English history while in reality it is a touching and, most importantly, fun film with some soon to be award winning performances.

When did Colin Firth become so good? Firth, Helena Bonham Carter and Geoffrey Rush are all great in their roles, bringing a bit of humanity to historical figures. Timothy Spall, Guy Pearce and Michael Gambon aren’t too shabby either, and Ramona Marquez from Outnumbered pops up as a young Princess Margaret.

At the press conference following the screening director Tom Hooper described the historical story of abdication and war as the “A plot” and the relationship between Firth and Rush as the Duke/King underwent speech therapy as the “B plot” but I disagree. What sold the film was their sessions together and the fun the two actors had with it. I’ve never heard people laugh so hard at a period piece before.

That’s it really, the film is very good and more fun than you’d expect.

Here are some photos from the press conference which you can watch here:

The King’s Speech is on general release on 7th January 2010.