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Recent reviews

The Doors (1991) review

Posted : 2 days, 20 hours ago on 14 September 2019 02:06 (A review of The Doors (1991))

On his first lesser outing as director, Oliver Stone's disjointed biographical music film centres on the rise and fall of The Doors, one of the more successful genre-bursting rock bands of the 1960s, but in actuality targets their larger-than-life frontman, Jim Morrison, and therein lies the first of many missteps in the attempt to maximise on such a wealth of material. An opportunity wasted, in my opinion, whereby subtlety falls victim to the pursuit of pretentious self-indulgence and bombastic flair tailored for the MTV generation. Stylistically staid and historically inaccurate, Jim Morrison's early life is barely explored, with Val Kilmer's showy, disconnected performance failing to capture any component of his true personality. Instead of the sensitive poet he probably was, Jim Morrison is portrayed as a sociopathic hypocrite who appears to initially embrace the 1960s counterculture lifestyle before becoming an amoral, uncouth and puerile drunkard. Scarce essence of either the band or its driving force is felt, with Stone foregoing the intricacies of their personal interplay and unified creative output to dwell on convoluted hallucinatory motifs and the unfavourable personality traits of the band's iconoclast. Biographical dramas should endear rather than alienate their intended audience, and "The Doors" is a turgid recreation of actual events, with its fallacy-laden depiction of a rock star poet and overblown, cliched composites of real accounts and persons within a fictionalised cartoon atmosphere. Frankly, the film's script is too restricted to fully communicate or deliver its point, thus failing to achieve its lofty ambitions or even capitalise on its basic conceit, but it is worth a look if you can ignore its vast shortcomings, i.e. a weak, uninspired narrative and flawed characterisation.


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Blow Out (1981) review

Posted : 3 days, 2 hours ago on 14 September 2019 07:59 (A review of Blow Out (1981))

De Palma pours the sum total of his talents into what is now viewed by many to be his magnum opus, "Blow Out". John Travolta (in a career-best turn) impeccably portrays a movie soundman and surveillance expert who inadvertently records the assassination of a Presidential hopeful. Operating as an instigating progressive for the narrative, the electrifying murder itself, dissected and rewound within the film, boldly unveils the complex, mysterious, illusory and seductive power of filmmaking as the obsessive, fanatical process that it truly is.
By way of exploring a vast litany of themes including paranoia, voyeurism and technology, De Palma realises his most downbeat, loaded homage to Hitchcock, and yet, whilst derivative of American cinema of the 1950s and 1970s, "Blow Out" also references British cinema of the 1960s, particularly its namesake, Antonioni's art film "Blow-Up". Exposing the machinations of filmmaking and politics with reverberating narrative depth, "Blow Out" employs intricate, nuanced layering through a cynical, conspiratorial and carnal prism, meaning that De Palma's tendency to veer towards style over substance with his work does not apply here; his cinematic pathology, psychology and choreography converge flawlessly, achieving thematic resonance by navigating his fantasy world (divided personalities, porno set pieces, technical gimmickry, split-screens opening up a self-contained world and new perspectives of situations, movies-within-movies, socially relevant characters at cross purposes, variable identities, sensibilities and worldviews that match his own) whilst acknowledging stark, blunt-edged reality through gymnastic camera work, black-comic dialogue and emotion-laden imagery.
Coded, stunning photography, dense plot and suspenseful set pieces are all harnessed by De Palma to expound his trademark audacious perfectionism, sinister elegance and stylistic flair, but "Blow Out" crystallises its pop culture allusions in baroque, fluid form, sustaining alacritous momentum before adopting an unhinged pace at its heart-stopping climax and profoundly tragic end executed with precision detail. Scathing in its dissection of the very landscape it celebrates, the tonally sardonic examination of corruption and dissent within government pervades through every aspect of the film, which is generally unrelenting in its multi-faceted, voluptuousness, however, with more political overtones than sexual, De Palma is able to earnestly explore crime and horror through a new darkly poetic lens. "Blow Out" is a personal culmination of recurring ideas, themes and styles imbued with poignancy and ripened artistry that evokes all of De Palma's dynamic yet flawed previous work and expertly supersedes it, crafting a capacious, virtuoso aesthetic experience that will render you at once unequivocally destabilised, mesmerised and emotionally destroyed.




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Repo Man review

Posted : 1 week, 1 day ago on 9 September 2019 06:49 (A review of Repo Man)

Disclaimer: "Repo Man" is contentious and experimental in terms of exposition, form and tone; one must refrain from expatiating its shortcomings and deviations as this will directly impact the overall experience of its satirical underscoring and unrepentant subversive social commentary. Lacking a tightly written plot in the formal, strictest sense, the film's interrelated activity and consecutive, fluid scenes exist within a cumulative schematic, which is to say that its core values register progressively rather than from the outset. Despite its refusal to adhere to a definitive format or texture, surrender yourself to the characters and their bizarre, wacky interactions without scrutinising its style-over-substance construction and you will be rewarded with a de facto narrative that gloriously emphasises killer dialogue and pulsating visuals over staid, coherent cinematic conventionality. Director Alex Cox's intentions will be obvious to any student of film, but mainstream viewers will only perceive it as being "weird" or "strange", so be wary of its originality beforehand and thus you will hopefully watch it without prejudice.
Critically acclaimed due to its quotable dialogue and expedient, somewhat breakneck pace, "Repo Man" conveys its conceit without narrative depth, presenting its veiled science fiction themes as inferences to agencies, UFOs, aliens and a highly radioactive Chevy Malibu carrying top secret cargo, the vaporising effect of which is indelibly demonstrated whenever the trunk is opened by an unsuspecting cop or punk. Definitely of its time in terms of its inconspicuous exploration of 1980s socioeconomic issues and the hardcore punk movement, "Repo Man" nevertheless remains watchable on that level if one simply applies its themes to the current era. As singular as science fiction action comedies can possibly be, Alex Cox's propulsive cult masterwork captivates from the first frame, operating as an odyssey of sorts within grungy, nihilistic middle-class Los Angeles until it ventures into surrealism and establishes its own idiosyncratic punk identity.


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Johnny Guitar (1954) review

Posted : 2 weeks ago on 2 September 2019 12:12 (A review of Johnny Guitar (1954))

Cinema, at its core, extends the ordinary into the visionary; the exploration of an era or place that is unknown to us, the spectator, offering escapism into a perspicuous horizon, in this case antiquated, that differs wildly from our own. "Johnny Guitar", although wholly removed from the banalities of the everyday and realistic, scathingly probes modern human conflicts, obsessions and rivalries that simmer beneath the surface of the stoic, granite-jawed patriarchal Western model; these frailties are unearthed in the politically strained, subtext-laden interactions and veiled,  embittered revelations of its fully-realised main characters, all of whom alternately conform to and subvert the sartorial and behavioural ideal of their respective genders. Framework psychologism elevates "Johnny Guitar" beyond mere Hollywood fare, with its defiance of genre conventions and high-art vivid colour patterns, theatrical set pieces and a fractious, emotionally tenuous atmosphere saturated with repressed, undisclosed desire. Vienna, the most masculine and level-headed of female Western heroes, is lusted after by most of her swaggering patrons, with whom she engages in suggestive repartee, leaving local bank owner Emma Small seething with misplaced rage, a feud that builds towards a suitably dramatic climax demonstrating the more predominant components of the genre: hangings, double-crossings and shoot-outs.
"Johnny Guitar" may occasionally submit to the tropes and trappings of its staid genre, but its riveting dialogue, plot mechanisms and subliminal deviations are where its greatness lies, and such twisted beats of aberrant, perplexing drama and psycho-sexual verve assure that its bold, highly stylised quirks coalesce into something inscrutable yet slyly radical. Baroque and nuanced, the undertones permeating each frame warrant repeat viewings, and as such, this decrees "Johnny Guitar", in all of its noir spirit and romanticism, as a daring creative high point of Western cinema.


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A Clockwork Orange (1971) review

Posted : 3 weeks, 1 day ago on 25 August 2019 12:36 (A review of A Clockwork Orange (1971))

Pertinent, propulsive and controversial, Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange" was infamously banned upon its initial release, perhaps unfairly so, although such notoriety inevitably led to it languishing in obscurity for decades until critical reappraisal saw it being recognised as an overlooked, maligned work of art. Elevated in mainstream popularity by cultists and film buffs alike, "A Clockwork Orange" eventually found its audience, however, as with most of Kubrick's definitive oeuvre, turgid analysis of its themes, facets, layers and ideas ensure that it remains one of his most powerful, thought-provoking and divisive compositions, asserting that we are all cogs in a vast, inscrutable, mercenary machine.
Kubrick's prescient, visionary adaptation of Anthony Burgess' 1962 novel employs atmospheric, disturbing imagery to conjure an immersive near-dystopian future so vividly mesmeric and cogent, if not so starkly devised, realised and photographed, could be perceived as paradoxically artistic in its hyper-realistic, nightmarish conceit of a society devoid of morality and compassion, as reflected in the film's economical, barren-looking housing estates. Aesthetics aside, Kubrick's satirical, obscure dissection of society's polarising, equally damaging political forces - socialism and fascism - underpin the film's visual language, from the anarchism of the first section to the authoritarianism of the last act. Despite retaining a sharp, witty verve that tempers every scene, the final half of the film enters terrifying expanse with its bleak, uncompromising exploration of a standalone arena whereby the clinical removal of free will is a means to an end in an austere, cold environment. Steadfastly skewering the political and social landscape from a 1970s perspective, Kubrick's disillusioned viewpoint of British society is eerily accurate; the Russian-inflected depiction of gang culture, replete with teenage slang and violent, territorial displays of disenfranchisement and sheer hedonism, leads to the posing of moralistic questions in the form of an experimental brainwashing technique utilised by the new government to combat mass crime, high prison rates, recidivism and reform the overwhelming delinquent youth subculture.
"A Clockwork Orange" ends on a decidedly dark note in its investigation of the concept of behaviourism, with the blackly comic, foreboding final scene adding to the film's pervasive, surreal mood and unsettling symbolism, but Kubrick's forensically detailed yet hypnotically artful production design weds the didactic themes at its core to achieve a singular perception of an apathetic world that evokes a dream-like sense of uncertainty and ambiguity upon each viewing. It is a testament to Kubrick's genius that the film has supplanted the novel it was based on, in the same way that "The Shining" is not a byproduct of its source, but a superior, code-laden work. Concerning the definitive auteurist entries in Kubrick's filmography, one must view them as individual conceptualisations, even if some are more categorical in their thematic intent than others. "A Clockwork Orange" is the most vicious, politically charged of Kubrick's exemplary cinematic output, a somewhat veiled - owing to the intense, arresting set design and chillingly effective performances - indictment of society's totalitarian response to barbarism being just as brutal and thoughtless as the criminals.


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All About My Mother (1999) review

Posted : 3 weeks, 2 days ago on 24 August 2019 11:05 (A review of All About My Mother (1999))

Derived from several cinematic sources: the high-flown Hollywood style-over-substance ethos of Douglas Sirk and George Cukor; the psychosexual perversity of Alfred Hitchcock; the grubby transgressions of Warhol, "All About My Mother" is a lush sojourn into the banalities, crises and exoticism of a group of interconnecting Madrid women, the gender and identity of which the film ostensibly celebrates. Resplendent in its indelible, kaleidoscopic colour palette, the captivating theatrical pace, naturalistic yet demonstrative performances, hyper-realistic, sumptuous chronicle of transformation, deviation and altered states, from gender to family are propelled by authentic dialogue exchanges, visual exuberance and breezy situational, farcical comedy that can succeed tragedy. All of these themes and styles directly echo and correlate with Almodóvar's previous work, but unlike its more dramatic predecessors, "All About My Mother" is more vivid, perhaps driven by a need to design an artistic antidote to dramatic conceit, constructing an intoxicating series of acts that allow for a zealous new take on a forgotten film formula, whereby the scenery, characters and their interactions dominate the screen rather than the soapy plot; what unfolds is an accessible, distinctive, glossy modern melodrama that fully deserved its plaudits.


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Thelma & Louise (1991) review

Posted : 1 month, 1 week ago on 6 August 2019 04:14 (A review of Thelma & Louise (1991))

"Women who are completely free of all the shackles that restrain them have no place in the world". As per the musings of many misogynistic critics during its release, "Thelma & Louise" has long secured its position as a "feminist road movie" in celluloid history, but boxing the film into any category is to detract from its eminence and reduce its cinematic gravitas. "Thelma & Louise" is not "male-bashing" in its intent despite being written by one, nor is it subject to the male gaze courtesy of its director and cinematographer, all of that is incidental; the converging lives of two friends, both of whom happen to be women, head off on a freewheeling trip to liberation from their respective tyrannical, male-dominated worlds, and although it is men who derail their plans, they save each other, not because they are women, but because they are genuine friends. After a near-rape ends with the perpetrator being shot dead, the cops are on the protagonists' tail; only one is genuinely concerned for their plight, but when considering the twists, turns and revelations that follow, the action unfolds at a breakneck pace until its iconic finale that you really must interpret the film from an impartial perspective - yes, our heroines are ultimately overpowered by the male of the species, but that is reflective of society in general. In allowing the film to overcome you as its fiery power simmers into an uncontrollable flame, this only serves to heighten and intensify the film's sedate, serene mood, albeit punctuated with searing moments of violence, malfeasance and chauvinism, from elegiac, lingering shots of the sparkling light-blue T-bird piercing through the dust-stained desert and its sun-blistered highways, to the central adventure, trials, tribulations and consolidation of two women. Whilst Thelma undergoes a transformation from oppressed, naive housewife to gun-toting, empowered independent woman, Louise exorcises demons from her scarred past, but their individual personalities are what define the somewhat fragile edges of their friendship until it becomes almost symbiotic as they end up on the border of Texas, foreboding of the situation they find themselves in as they refuse to assume their subservient roles in the patriarchy. Crucially, Thelma's fickle innocence contrasts with Louise's astute wariness, and the characters are superbly realised on screen, to the point that the strength of their eventual bond is never questioned; they are interchangeable, and their conflating journey reaches such a stage that it eclipses the world around them and ensures that they cannot revert to their old selves - they are irrevocably changed by their shared and individual experiences and so far removed from civility and normality that what is deemed socially acceptable female behaviour no longer applies to them. Although humour peppers the script throughout, the labile nature of the action culminates in a suspense-laden dramatic finale that unexpectedly shifts into magic realism when a moment of pure cinema ensues; what follows is an exultant, immeasurable shot of such magnificence that upon viewing it for the first time, it takes your breath away in its assurance that our heroines remain free.







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Carry on Screaming! (1966) review

Posted : 1 month, 3 weeks ago on 28 July 2019 08:57 (A review of Carry on Screaming! (1966))

Utilising a distinct brand of dark humour and exemplary gothic settings, quotable dialogue and general absurdity, "Carry On Screaming!" parodies and derives its major plot points from "House of Wax" and yet manages to surpass it on every level. I cannot exaggerate how much of a hidden gem this comedy is, and to be frank, assert why it is so much more entertaining than the very films it spoofs; take my word for it, if you only see one highly satirical British production from the 1960s, ensure it is this particular work of overlooked comedy genius.


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From Beyond review

Posted : 1 month, 3 weeks ago on 27 July 2019 03:48 (A review of From Beyond)

Like any patchy horror firmly ensconced in its typically oblique premise and perfunctory reliance on style over substance, "From Beyond" expands on H.P. Lovecraft's story and applies the tacit, condensed conceit of its source to an amorphous, low-budget visual smorgasbord of gore and special effects. Although it never quite reaches the level of quality achieved with "Re-Animator", the film successfully maintains the somewhat belted thematic verve, clinical imagery and decent performances of its predecessor through slick visuals, concise and propulsive narrative pacing and an underlying commentary on science, i.e. exploring the possible link between an overactive pineal gland and the inducement of hyper-sexuality and audio-visual hallucinatory illness. "From Beyond" does veer off into no-holds-barred body horror territory (brains are consumed, some through a victim's eye sockets) for most of its running time, but does return to its underlying message, which is the looming threat of institutionalisation within the psychiatric and scientific community. Simply put, the crux of the film further expands on the previously explored dichotomy of sanity and scientific experimentation, the latter of which is encapsulated in the form of three doctors breaking the natural law for different reasons; gravitas, carnal pleasure and psychiatric remedy. In modern society, most methodical, groundbreaking innovation and audacious deviation in the name of science is derided until it is not, but when it goes beyond the realms of the senses, as presented here in the form of gross-out, metamorphic, otherworldly creatures, then prepare for the repercussions.


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Dead Man's Shoes review

Posted : 2 months, 1 week ago on 11 July 2019 03:48 (A review of Dead Man's Shoes)

Manoeuvring the revenge western template into modern day North West England, Shane Meadows' achieves this with voracious execution, deriving its palpable imagery and themes from fervently violent predecessors "Taxi Driver" and "High Plains Drifter", all the while measuring up to such influences even if it doesn't quite match them. Immersing the viewer from the outset in the plot with vague, somewhat limited establishing scenes or characterisation, Meadows operates on a guerrilla model in terms of cinematography, direction and script, allowing for an intimate, deeply affecting yet entirely stark and disturbing story to unfold at a progressive rate that never seems to override the integral aspects of the narrative. Meadows matches the hastened pace of the plot with low-budget, confounding savagery; certain pivotal scenes are aligned with the dark, powerful and uncompromising edginess reminiscent of early Martin Scorsese, albeit without adversely effecting its consummate self-contained volatility and originality.

Meadows composes a non-conforming thriller that defies its genre with verve, ensuring its more emotive values are communicated to the audience with plausibility, sincerity and authenticity. Meadows, as with other filmmakers who graduated onto higher production values, proves that budgetary constraints do not dictate the overall quality of a visual narrative; in fact, the vitality and potency of such alternative British films has rarely been replicated outside of independent cinema. Visceral, vicious and vital, "Dead Man's Shoes" fuses an alchemy of drama and thriller elements and succeeds in its attack on human evil in all of its forms, culminating in a harrowing final scene that fully hammers home the film's intent: revenge is not always sweet and the cold, clinical details illustrated in each of the vengeful executions are not gratuitously depicted, with our laconic, taciturn avenger being a dehumanised soldier who may or may not be motivated in his quest for retribution by his military training rather than out of deep love for his afflicted brother. Ingrained in the film's DNA is a sense of ambiguity and at its centre lies a tenuous morality, both of which are imperative for Meadows to imbue his characters with a semblance of three-dimensional development. "Dead Man's Shoes" is a short, sharp, shocking piece of independent cinema that firmly restrains, holding you in its grasp until releasing you at the final aerial shot.


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veganwarrior added 2 items to their collection
A Knight

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7/10

The Last Detail

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1 hour, 36 minutes ago
veganwarrior added 2 items to their collection
Gran Torino (2008)

have watched

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Dredd

16 hours, 53 minutes ago
1 day, 18 hours ago
2 days, 18 hours ago
veganwarrior posted a review of The Doors (1991)

“On his first lesser outing as director, Oliver Stone's disjointed biographical music film centres on the rise and fall of The Doors, one of the more successful genre-bursting rock bands of the 1960s, but in actuality targets their larger-than-life frontman, Jim Morrison, and therein lies the first o” read more

2 days, 20 hours ago
veganwarrior posted a review of Blow Out (1981)

“De Palma pours the sum total of his talents into what is now viewed by many to be his magnum opus, "Blow Out". John Travolta (in a career-best turn) impeccably portrays a movie soundman and surveillance expert who inadvertently records the assassination of a Presidential hopeful. Operating as an ins” read more

3 days, 2 hours ago
3 days, 19 hours ago
veganwarrior added 3 items to their collection
Braveheart (1995)

have watched

8/10

48 Hrs. (1982)

have watched

8/10

Addams Family Values (1993)

8/10


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veganwarrior added 2 items to their collection
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veganwarrior added 3 items to their collection
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1 week ago
veganwarrior posted a review of Repo Man

“Disclaimer: "Repo Man" is contentious and experimental in terms of exposition, form and tone; one must refrain from expatiating its shortcomings and deviations as this will directly impact the overall experience of its satirical underscoring and unrepentant subversive social commentary. Lacking a ti” read more

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veganwarrior added 9 items to their collection
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Them Thar Hills                                  (1934)

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The Chimp                                  (1932)

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1 week, 5 days ago
veganwarrior added 3 items to their collection
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Possession                                  (1981)

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Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation!                                  (2008)

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2 weeks ago

“Cinema, at its core, extends the ordinary into the visionary; the exploration of an era or place that is unknown to us, the spectator, offering escapism into a perspicuous horizon, in this case antiquated, that differs wildly from our own. "Johnny Guitar", although wholly removed from the banalities” read more

2 weeks ago
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veganwarrior added 9 items to their collection
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Creed II (2018)

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High Tension                                   (2003)

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3 weeks ago
3 weeks, 1 day ago

“Pertinent, propulsive and controversial, Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange" was infamously banned upon its initial release, perhaps unfairly so, although such notoriety inevitably led to it languishing in obscurity for decades until critical reappraisal saw it being recognised as an overlooked, maligned” read more

3 weeks, 1 day ago
veganwarrior added 8 items to their collection
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have watched

8/10

The Addams Family (1991)

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American Gigolo (1980)

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3 weeks, 2 days ago

“Derived from several cinematic sources: the high-flown Hollywood style-over-substance ethos of Douglas Sirk and George Cukor; the psychosexual perversity of Alfred Hitchcock; the grubby transgressions of Warhol, "All About My Mother" is a lush sojourn into the banalities, crises and exoticism of a g” read more

3 weeks, 2 days ago

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