Reviews

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Map to the Stars

Reviewed by Seldom_Seen_Kid

  • Currently 4/5 Stars.

Map to the Stars

Reviewed by emer

  • Currently 3/5 Stars.

“Maps To The Stars” is the latest black comedy thriller from director David Cronenberg and in comparison to his disappointing “Cosmopolis”, this does a far better job at exposing the horrors of the American movie business. As is typical for Cronenberg, this is a strange and non conventional film - comic at times, stimulating at other times and downright bizarre for most of the time. The grimly amusing script was written by Bruce Wagner and it’s fair to say that the movie is a real jibe at Tinseltown - a brutal and savage Hollywood satire, leaving very little about life in LA unscathed. We are brought into the lives of a family of monsters living in a virtual glass-house! Dr Stafford Weiss (John Cusack) is a domineering self-help guru of sorts whose concern for his family is consistently eclipsed by his forthcoming book tour. He and his fragile wife Christina (Olivia Williams) are parents to 13-year-old child star Benjie (Evan Bird) who is the superstar of the massively successful “Bad Babysitter” franchise. Benji is obnoxious, smug and superior and spends his time bossing and dismissing his fawning sycophants, hurling insults at everybody he meets. He is just out of rehab which has done nothing to mellow his vile character. His parents want his lucrative career and reputation restored. However, their lives are further complicated by the release from the psycho ward of their pyromaniac daughter Agatha (Mia Wasikowska) who gets a job as a PA to Havana Seagrand (Julianne Moore) based on a recommendation from Carrie Fisher (played by herself). Havana is a neurotically unhinged, selfish and deeply damaged actress living in the shadow of her mother, an iconic movie star who died in a blaze at a young age but who sexually abused her daughter. She is also a client of Dr Stafford Weiss, who practices a weird form of kooky massage therapy. Havana is unaware that Agatha is a dark Weiss family secret, which they have battled to keep hidden. Havana is desperately fighting for a role to play her mother in an upcoming biopic while at the same time being stalked by a creepy chauffeur Jerome (Robert Pattison), an aspiring actor and screenwriter. If anything, Agatha emerges as the most vulnerable, sympathetic figure in the industry defined by her twisted family. The various strands of the plot begin to link together for a series of violent conclusions. The chaotic finale is sure to shock you but I thought it really captured the mayhem and madness plaguing their grotesque world. Each of the glittering and impressive cast members embrace their sadistic and bizarre roles with delight. Pattison has a small but crucial role, relishing the constant jibes at the glitterati in Hollywood. He even thinks he might join scientology – “as a career move”. I think he was under utilized for the most part. Moore is hilarious as the hysteric, vapid, coarse wannabe starlet who never lets an opportunity pass her by. Wasikowska makes a dramatic shift from her usual material and successfully brings us her creepy psycho, living on a knife’s edge. Bird (from The Killing) plays the disgustingly privileged son to perfection. The movie business is depicted as an incestuous, dark and dirty place and I thought this was a truly masterful dissection of that world. What works with this film is just watching everyone struggle in their total moral chaos. We are given a picture of a nightmarish Hollywood, far removed from the utopia we imagine in our heads. There are countless outrageous scenes, some good gags (most of it is pure filthy – don’t go with your parents!), ghosts haunt swimming pools and luxury villas, sex, drugs and murder are all factored in to the zany plot. What is so shocking is the utter devotion to money and celebrity - it pervades and overrides every aspect of the lives of this warped and self-delusional community. With a superb premise, starry cast, and edgy script, I think this movie will do well, particularly amongst the curious (like me!). This is a movie that breaks every rule in the book but it knows where it is going. Every major plot point underscores the downward spiral enveloping the empty lives of these Hollywood nutters. It is undoubtedly an angry movie, a full on assault and exposure of every aspect of commercial stupidity in the vapid, destructive and chaotic modern world of commercialism. It is an extraordinary film and could conceivably bring Cronenberg his first Palme D’Or. It’s certainly different and not like what you will have seen before but I do think the nature of this material will be off putting for some. For example, we are witness to one extended bathroom scene with Moore which is likely to be a source of disgust for many viewers. Arguably, there are large sections where nothing much of consequence happens but there are so many layers and so many horrors emerge during this tumultuous journey, that I’d recommend you check it out and make up your own mind.

What We Did We On Our Holiday

Reviewed by filmbuff2011

  • Currently 2/5 Stars.

Arriving a little late for summer is What We Did On Our Holiday, a gentle British family comedy from TV directors Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin. Doug (David Tennant) and Abi (Rosamund Pike) are going through a divorce and live in separate houses. Their three young children are quite aware of what's going on, especially the youngest, Lottie (Emilia Jones). To keep up appearances, they take off to the Scottish Highlands to celebrate the birthday of Doug's father Gordie (Billy Connolly). Gordie is terminally ill though, something which affects the children deeply and they resolve to give him a worthy send-off. They get more than they bargained for though... What We Did On Our Holiday is a nice little film, with some great child performances. It helps that writer/directors Hamilton and Jenkin write a child's perspective on grown-ups so accurately (they argue all the time). The child actors are the best thing about it, but that's all there really is to recommend about this underwhelming film. It's not really a film - more like an extended sitcom without the canned laughter that somehow made its way onto cinema screens. It's backed by BBC Films, so it's got TV written all over it. This kind of story might be fine for TV but cinema audiences expect a bit more than a few cheap gags such as a YouTube video in which Gordie's wife Agnes (Amelia Bullmore) loses it completely in a supermarket. It all feels rather staid and formulaic, like a recycled TV pilot that originally never got off the ground. The usually reliable Tennant and Pike are off form here, barely registering as parents who notice their children only when they need to. A bit more backstory to understand why Doug and Abi ended up like this would have helped. Hamilton and Jenkin will need to do a lot more work if they want to make the full transition from TV to film directors. There's enough here to suggest that there's potential if they put their minds to it. What We Did On Our Holiday is probably best watched on TV, but if you're going to see it in the cinema, then it's going to be mostly for the charming child performances.

Map to the Stars

Reviewed by filmbuff2011

  • Currently 4/5 Stars.

David Cronenberg has always kept a remote distance from Tinseltown, instead preferring to work in the Hollywood North of his native Canada. His new film Maps To The Stars is actually his first film to be shot in the US. With typical flair, he's taken out his surgeon's knife to peel away at the corrupt skin of Hollywood. Like many wannable starlets, Agatha (Mia Wasikowska) arrives in Hollywood on a bus and befriends limo driver/actor/writer Jerome (Robert Pattinson). However, she's not here to become a star - something which her burn scars would prevent. She's been referred by Carrie Fisher to work for needy, insecure actress Havana (Julianne Moore). Havana is lobbying for the lead part in a remake of her mother's art film Stolen Waters. Meanwhile, spoilt, bratty child star Benjie (Evan Bird) is trying to be kept on the straight and narrow by his parents Stafford (John Cusack) and Christina (Olivia Williams). Each of these characters will have to face up to their checkered pasts - and the ghosts that haunt them... It's easy to take pot-shots at Hollywood life, amid all the excesses of wealth, fame and egos the size of Los Angeles itself. Don't expect anything conventional from Cronenberg though. Working from Bruce Wagner's razor-sharp script, the cerebral Canadian has delivered a more disturbing film where many characters are just teetering over the edge of madness. All it takes is a trigger to make one of them snap. The one to pull the trigger here is Agatha - seemingly normal, but with a troubled past that makes her just right for Hollywood life. The acting here is flawless, with Moore a stand-out. Just watch the scene where she quietly holds it all in over a crucial phone call, then lets it all out with a teenage-style tantrum. It's a pity you can't reach through the screen, Videodrome-style, and tell these characters to wise up to their situation. A much more satisfying film than the dull-as-dishwater Cosmopolis, Maps To The Stars is a must-see for Cronenberg fans - and anyone who loves movies about movies.

The Giver

Reviewed by mindaugas

  • Currently 2/5 Stars.

The Giver is one of those teen-oriented "high-concept" films that shows no interest in the basic narrative principles of coherence, yet demands to be taken seriously. And it's boring!

The Guest

Reviewed by mindaugas

  • Currently 5/5 Stars.

The opening locates us easily and confidently in space, time, mood, and genre. "The Guest" delivers on that initial promise.

Pride

Reviewed by laume

  • Currently 5/5 Stars.

A movie you can laugh along and dance to, and may well become the very first musical in London's West End to bring disco to the grim Welsh coal mines.

A Most Wanted Man

Reviewed by laume

  • Currently 5/5 Stars.

It was shot in dark, lurid, vital Hamburg; Hoffman is the star; and I was completely held.

The Grand Seduction

Reviewed by Patrick Rock

  • Currently 3/5 Stars.

I had the pleasure of seeing this at the Jameson Film festival. Not a perfect film, But still rather funny. A date movie if anything. Watch out for the Cricket match Scene. Very Funny

The Giver

Reviewed by Patrick Rock

  • Currently 2/5 Stars.

The Giver is a movie with a lot of opportunities to shine. It's plot alone is quite dark, but Budget restrictions (a 25 Million budget to build a dystopian world is nowhere near enough ) and Uneven direction make this a muddled mess. Director Philip Noyce (Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger, Salt, TV's Revenge) is known for making entertaining, memorable films but this one is completely forgettable. Two stars. Is GOTG still playing???

A Walk Amongst the Tombstones

Reviewed by Starbuckie

  • Currently 3/5 Stars.

I was expecting another Taken knock off but it is actually a decent film.

I Origins

Reviewed by filmbuff2011

  • Currently 4/5 Stars.

Mike Cahill's highly original feature debut Another Earth posed some interesting questions about humanity and its place in the universe. His second feature I Origins is equally ambitious in that its main theme is re-incarnation. Molecular biologist Ian (Michael Pitt) and his co-worker Karen (Brit Marling) are scientists who are seeking to disprove religious theories of creation by researching the evolution of the eye. One night, Ian meets an extraordinary pair of eyes belonging to Sofi (Astrid Berges-Frisbey). They have a one night stand... but then encounter each other again. They start a passionate romance, but then Sofi dies in tragic circumstances. 7 years pass and then Ian makes a startling discovery: a pair of eyes matching those of Sofi's. But every pair of eyes is unique... or are they? Re-incarnation is always a debatable topic and when depicted on film, it can have mixed results (e.g. Birth). However, Cahill smartly avoids a lot of film clichés about re-incarnation by keeping the story grounded on scientific fact. As the story progresses, Ian accepts that not everything in the human world can be explained away with a mathematical equation or a glimpse through a microscope. Maybe it requires that thing called faith. Just when the story starts to get really interesting, it actually ends. However, this is not to the film's detriment. It reaches a point where we don't really need to know more. We've seen enough to accept what has happened. I Origins is likely to slip quietly in and out of cinemas, but you really should seek it out as there's a lot to admire here. Cahill is improving with each step forward. This reviewer can't wait to see what he delivers next.

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