Friday, 24 June 2016

Watchmen Review

"the blinding pinnacle of comic book cinema"

My ★★ review of Watchmen is now live over at New On Netflix UK:

https://uk.newonnetflix.info/reviews/film/watchmen/

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies Review – Elizabeth Bennet: Zombie Slayer

Jane Austen is the latest to undergo the Seth Grahame-Smith treatment after Abraham Lincoln’s history was rewritten with vampires. But, instead of bloodsuckers, Elizabeth Bennet & co. are faced with the undead horde. The results aren’t as fun as that sounds, I’m afraid. The Pride and Prejudice bits work better than the zombies ones, but I’m passed caring about Austen’s over-told tale.


The cast is hardly short of talent, and they seem committed throughout, but they’re left fighting against Burr Steers script. Matt Smith has fun as the bumbly Mr. Collins (more fun than us, I might add), Jack Huston is all charm as Lt. George Wickham and Sally Phillips is amusing as the over-eager daughter-dealer Mrs. Bennet. Lily James is also solid in the lead role and she has the necessarily sass to pull off this bizarro Austen figurehead. That’s not to mention Charles Dance, Sam Riley and the other classy names.

But, Steers’ writing is just too boring to ever grant them much to do. He instills (presumably as does Grahame-Smith) a welcome feminist streak, dialing up Austen’s work with swords and smoking muskets. It works, at times, but the corsets and garters seem to confuse the message somewhat.

Talented cast and a funky pop-up book history lesson sequence aside, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies simply doesn’t work. Steers never fully wrangles the mashup, and we’re just left with boring schlock.

★★

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is out now on Digital Download, DVD, Blu-Ray & VOD.

Screener and images courtesy of Fetch Publicity.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

ÉLUDER – Short Film Review

A man (Fabien Lucciarini) sits down on his hotel bed with a book. He cleans his glasses, inspects his glass of scotch and proceeds to read. He is interrupted by the gentle swoosh of a letter being slid under his door. He closes the book and opens the letter. It contains a photo of an unsuspecting younger woman (Mouna Bouchouk). On the back is her name, a “classified level 5” code and a three hour timeframe.


So goes the set up to Simeon Lumgair’s 10-minute London-set thriller, ÉLUDER (translated as “to evade”). It’s a stylish piece of work, from the classy Hitchcockian title animation to the soft focus glow of the lighting. Lumgair’s camera moves with confidence in both the compact hotel interiors and the sleek exteriors. London looks fabulous and Vijey Anant (cinematographer) handles the low light levels well.

The production value is high throughout, and Lumgair selects five effective classical pieces for the film’s score. While they provide real dramatic purpose, their use can come across as a tad heavy, at times. Likewise, the story twists and turns nicely, without ever really offering too many surprises. 

On this basis, ÉLUDER’s inclusion in the Cannes Film Festival’s Short Film Corner seems deserved. And even if the thriller plotting does nothing for you, the film is a real delight to look at.

Screener and image courtesy of Simeon Lumgair and Quirky Motion.

If you have a short film you'd like reviewing, don't hesitate to contact me: benedict.seal@gmail.com or via Twitter.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Emelie Review – Messed up but unsurprising

The home invasion movie has long been a staple of horror cinema and, with Emelie, director Michael Thelin takes a logical step to the dangerous babysitter.

Parents, Dan (Chris Beetem) and Joyce (Susan Pourfar), are treating themselves to an evening meal alone to celebrate their 13th wedding anniversary. Their regular babysitter is unavailable, but she points them in the direction of her trusted friend, Anna (Sarah Bolger). But, when the parents leave, the eldest child, 11-year-old Jake (Joshua Rush), soon starts to suspect that something may be up with their new sitter.


It’s a novel set-up, and one that delivers a number of effectively uncomfortable scenes as Anna’s behaviour gets increasingly sinister. There are some really messed up moments, played with real confidence by Bolger and the three children (Rush, Carly Adams and Thomas Bair).

That doesn’t, however, quite make up for the fact that the primary arc plays out exactly as one might expect. If anything, the reveal that Anna’s ulterior motive is firmly rooted in the real world elicits shrugs rather than gasps. Like The Visit before it, I would have appreciated some sort of supernatural explanation over the grounded revelation we’re given.

Which is strange, I’ll admit, because the chilly realism elsewhere is a real draw. But the intertwining of that with an otherworldly thread would have arguably proved more satisfying. In the end, the explanation we’re given may have sufficed, if only more time had been given to a brief, but appealing, Home Alone/Straw Dogs sequence.

Thelin is more confident with the visuals and he utilises a series of eerie slasher-esque POV long shots. They capture the sense of suburban threat in an instant, and leave us unsure about the identity of the watcher or the watched.

Emelie is well made, and I anticipate interesting things from Thelin in the future, but it just plays too obvious to generate any lasting surprise.

★★★

Emelie is out now on DVD via FrightFest Presents.

Screener and images courtesy of Fetch Publicity. Thank you!