Category Archives: 2013

Anything recent falls under here.

Exclusive Review: The Conjuring

The_Conjuring_1Director:  James Wan

Writers: Chad Hayes, Carey Hayes

Principal Cast: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Lili Taylor 

Horror, my favourite genre; well one of them. Yet it’s a genre in a terrible state of affairs at the moment. Especially mainstream horror, the bigger studios are playing safe, removing the shocks, controlling the gore and driving films into a ratings band that they shouldn’t be in. While US horror films are in a major lull, I look to the Indie and foreign language films to fuel my horror needs, they seem to be pushing the genre forward, France and Spain seem to be leading the way, while the East is always a good place to look for a decent horror film.

So you may be wondering how I’ve seen this film, a month before general release, well I have Frightfest and the infamous Sleepy Q to thank for that. This was our “Thank you” film for buying tickets to this years festival, braving the elements etc etc; though I only joined the queue at 6am. Some had been there all Friday ; hats off to them brave souls! We also got a video introduction by James Wan.

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The Conjuring, claims to be based on real case studies by Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) Warren, who’s most famous case study happens to be Amityville. Though a little research shows that while the Warren’s did investigate paranormal events at the Peron’s family home the story has been embellished for the big screen, we shouldn’t be surprised really, but on the plus side knowing this now makes no difference to how I feel about this film.

James Wan’s previous film Insidious was 2/3’s brilliant to 1/3 average, the average section being the final act. The build up and overall creepiness of this film showed a lot of potential in this young film maker. Yet he undoes some of his hard work with that final section and forced final scare. Though he has filmed a second Insidious, which I’m looking forward too.

Even more after The Conjuring,  for me this is Wan’s best film so far, he doesn’t let it fall apart at the end. The film builds nicely and then explodes into a relentless final act which really had me unsure of the fate of the Warren’s and the Peron’s. It opens  with a good introduction to what the Warrens do and how they see the paranormal world. Wilson (also the star of Insidious) and Farmiga are very good here, very solid in their roles. Then we meet the Peron family, the house and shortly after that the paranormal happenings start. From here the tension builds, the feeling of unease while we are around the Peron family grows and grows. There are obvious moments, but Wan also deals us some curve ball moments as well, and I admit I jumped a couple of times (and I never really jump!). Yet it was the creepiness of it all which got me, on numerous occasions I felt the hairs stand up on my neck; a great sign I am enjoying it.

As for the rest of the cast I have to praise Lili Taylor in her role as Carolyn Perron, she is brilliant, never over plays it and looks genuinely scared at times! The rest of the Perron family are all good, the kids especially. I really had no issues with much in this film at all;  maybe I was just happy that I was finally enjoying a horror film from America.

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Yet all this will be undone if you watch the trailer, even the hand clapping teaser,  the trailer which opened this weekend on the cinemas had 3 or 4 of the best scares in it, my advice is just see the film. If you are in the cinema and the trailer comes on close your eyes, it’s a much better experience if you don’t know what’s about to happen!

This is the best horror film I’ve seen this year, I am curious to see how well it plays on a 2nd viewing, and I will be there on opening weekend. This is a film to see with a full house and hopefully some people who haven’t seen the trailer!

Though my faith in US horror isn’t restored this is a big step in the right direction; yet for every really good film like this we have 5 or 6 bad ones like Texas Chainsaw 3D to drag us back down. I would have really enjoyed seeing The Conjuring on Empire’s screen 1 in the Frightfest festival – I really think it would have played very well.

5/5 – Maybe not – but in terms of the horror films this year it is!

The Conjuring @ IMDB

REVIEW: Fast & Furious 6 (2013)

Directed by: Justin Lin

Written by: Chris Morgan, Gary Scott Thompson

Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Luke Evans, Michelle Rodriguez, Gina Carano, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Jordana Brewster, Sung Kang

It’s hard to see how Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) and their merry band of illegal street-racing, bank-robbing, best buds can keep on getting even fastererer and furiouserer but, in their sixth film in the hugely successful Fast and Furious franchise, they’ve made a damn fine attempt at it. The sixth film in a franchise built ostensibly on tough guys driving fast cars has no right to be this exhilarating. A winning combination of audacious set pieces, outrageous stunts, brawny banter and plot twists, Fast & Furious 6 unleashes more than just an incongruous ampersand, blowing its predecessors out of the water on every count.

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REVIEW: Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

Directed by: J.J. Abrams

Written by: Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof

Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Benedict Cumberbatch, Simon Pegg, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Peter Weller

I need to get this out of the way first: I’m not a fan of Star Trek as a franchise. In fact, I can’t stand it. I’ve given the various TV series’ a go, as well as a couple of the original films (I forget which ones), and I just can’t get on with it. So you would be forgiven if you believed that anything negative I may have to say about it might come from some sort of negative bias against the franchise and concept of Star Trek. However that is simply not the case.

(From here on out I’m going to refer to the 2009 J.J. Abrams ‘reboot’ as the “first film”, being as it is the first part of a new timeline within that universe)

When I saw the trailers for the first Star Trek film, I was initially very hesitant seeing as it was a new film in a franchise that we’ve already established I don’t like; however on the other hand I thought that it looked like it could be an enjoyable sci-fi action romp, and so on that basis I went to see it. To my complete surprise, I absolutely loved it. This had nothing to do with the ‘Trek’ factor – as a film in its own right, ignoring its origins, it had the right mix of humour, action, sci-fi, adventure, plot and a great cast and characters. It was really fun to watch. I already knew enough about Star Trek to get a lot of the references peppered throughout, without getting bogged down by them. On this basis, I was extremely looking forward to the next installment, the newly-released Star Trek Into Darkness.

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REVIEW: Rock Of Ages (Blu Ray Extended) (2013)

Review by Mike

Directed by: Adam Shankman
Rock Of Ages

I do admit to a soft spot for musicals; and why not! So a musical featuring some of my favourite soft-rock songs of the 80’s was always going to play well for me. Though it’s not perfect and I know this film has some problems, but then again it pulls some surprises that really work for it.

The story see’s a small town girl Sherrie (Hough) arrive on Sunset Strip looking to make it as a singer. She ends up working at Bourbon Room as a waitress where she befriends Drew (Boneta) who’s is waiting for his big break as well. The Bourbon Room is run by Dennis (Baldwin) and his assistant Lonny (Brand); though the club is having financial difficulties; though a performance by the legendary Arsenal rocker Stacee Jaxx (Crusie) would benefit the clubs problems. But Jaxx has his own issues, drink, women, his manager Paul (Giamatti) and Patricia Whitmore (Zeta-Jones); who is intent on ruining Jaxx and the Strip in one go.

REVIEW: Dead Man Down (2013)

dead man down posterIn New York City, a crime lord’s right-hand man is seduced by a woman seeking retribution.

DirectedNiels Arden Oplev

Stars:  Colin FarrellNoomi RapaceTerrence Howard

What we think: If you’re looking for a film that is as dark and disturbing as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, you might be a little disappointed here.

Only a little however, director Niels Arden Oplev’s first English language feature produces effective results in what is a very good revenge thriller.

Farrell plays gangland enforcer Victor who during a shoot out saves the life of his boss Alphonse (Howard) who is being tormented by an unknown hell bent on making his life uncomfortable.

Victor has his own agenda, getting as close to Alphonse as possible before exacting revenge for the murder of his wife and daughter years earlier.

On the surface it looks like any bog standard Hollywood revenge thriller but dig a little deeper and therein lies an intricate story that weaves its way through to an explosive finale.

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REVIEW: Iron Man 3 (2013) – TAKE TWO

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So you’ve had the opinion of one of our writers – Jamie, on this fabulous film. (Read it here.) We now present a second review from another talented writer, Martin.

“You don’t know who I am. You’ll never see me coming”

Phase 2. This was where it was likely to go wrong for Marvel. Not only did they have to follow Avengers Assemble, one of the best superhero films ever in my opinion, but they chose to do it with the third film in a series, notorious for where series’ start to dip (Alien 3, Jaws 3 etc.) and in which the second film wasn’t exactly well received. Actually Iron Man 2 was a hell of a drop from the quality of the first film, we lost a lot of what made Tony Stark a great screen character and gained a muddled plot and weak bad guys.

With Jon Favreau no longer directing (though he starred and produced) it was left to Shane Black to write and direct, and this decision has reinvigorated the Iron Man franchise that his convoluted second film threatened to derail. Black has restored the humour which allows Tony Stark to be closer to his wise cracking Avengers character than the stunted Iron Man 2 one. Black keeps the wisecracks coming and also adds a good deal of slapstick as well, meaning a gag is never far off. Yet he also brings us action on a huge scale, drama and a feeling of loss as we see the most vulnerable side of Tony Stark. Like Superman stripped of his powers in Superman 2, Spiderman having performance issues in his sequel and other heroes who have gone through a powerless spell, here we have a great deal of Tony Stark as Tony Stark, not Iron Man. Having to do what he does (invent) but without the fancy house, Jarvis and usual comforts.

Continue reading REVIEW: Iron Man 3 (2013) – TAKE TWO

REVIEW: Iron Man 3 (2013)

Directed by: Shane Black

Written by: Shane Black, Drew Pearce

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Rebecca Hall, Guy Pearce, Ben Kingsley

Following up Joss Whedon’s marvellous Avengers Assemble was never going to be an easy feat, and considering that the last solo outing for Marvel’s metallic hero, Iron Man 2, was, lets face it, a bit rubbish, I don’t think it’s entirely unreasonable to say that expectations were lowered for Iron Man 3, the first of Marvel Studios’ Phase Two movies. Robert Downey Jr. teams up once again with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang writer/director Shane Black who replaces Jon Favreau on directing duties this time around (Favreau still appears as Tony Stark’s bodyguard/friend Happy Hogan). It has to be said that the choice of director was an inspired one, as Black really brings out the best in Downey Jr. for what is, despite having all the action set-pieces you would expect from a film like this, a far more intimate and personal story for Tony Stark.

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REVIEW: Evil Dead (2013)

Review by Mike Shawcross.

Directed by: Fede Alvarez

Written by: Fede Alvarez (Screenplay), Robo Sayagues (Screenplay)
Starring: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci,  Jessica Lucas and Elizabeth Blackmore

Evil Dead 2013 Poster
Another remake, another re-imagining of a so called classic horror film, yet to tell you the truth, I’m not too bothered this has been remade; I’m not a massive fan of the original film. That said they could very easily have made a complete mess of this one, thankfully they haven’t.A friend of mine Martin (who also writes for this site) won two tickets to see the film 2 weeks before release; how could I say no when he asked. There was a pretty decent turnout really at the screening, possible 2/3’s full and a very mixed crowd, and I mean a mixed crowd. This was not your a-typical horror fans, not your Frightfester’s that’s for sure. I was expecting a few walk outs, and a couple did leave half way through.I have to admit I was pretty excited about this film, firstly I was hoping I would enjoy it more than the original, which I did. Secondly my media blackout, no trailers, no reviews, no knowledge might just enhance the experience a little more; which I think it did, actually it made the experience a lot more rewarding for me. That said though I really didn’t need anything to get me that excited, it’s a horror film at the end of the day, and that is one of my favourite genres.

REVIEW: Dark Skies (2013)

Directed by: Scott Stewart

Written by: Scott Stewart

Starring: Keri RussellJosh HamiltonDakota GoyoKadan RockettJ.K. Simmons

One thing any good horror film should do is tap into the atavistic terror people can experience even when, rationally, there’s no reason to. There’s a particular strand of modern horror that aims to do this by concentrating on the domestic: taking comfortable, suburban family life and infiltrating it slowly with the creeping threat of the supernatural. Scott Stewart’s Dark Skies is the latest in this genre, a film which creates its impact not by throwing buckets of gore at the screen, but psychologically, by simply asking you to imagine feeling unsafe in your own home.

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REVIEW: G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013)

Directed by: John M. Chu

Written by: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, D.J. Cotrona, Channing Tatum, Jonathan Pryce, Byung-hun Lee, Elodie Yung, Ray Stevenson, Adrianne Palicki, Ray Park, Bruce Willis

With G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra making some money, but clearly not inspiring much enthusiasm, Paramount has gone for a pretty notable overhaul of the series with G.I. Joe: Retaliation. An unusual mixture of sequel and reboot, the new film does continue storylines and (a few) characters from the first movie, but also has some huge differences, both in terms of cast and crew and in the overall approach.

Continue reading REVIEW: G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013)