Basement film review **

Asham Kamboj’s film directing debut is a blatant bid to create a low-budget British horror film that uses a sense of claustrophobia to unsettle and alarm. There simply isn’t the cash for the effects that would ordinarily provide the visual shocks, so Kamboj has opted to let the power of your imagination – plus a few clunkingly obvious clues in the script – drive the fear factor. Continue reading

DVD Review: Stuck

stuckDVDLike a nervous boyfriend on a first date some films just can’t get it right. The words don’t come out as intended or the moves are clumsy. Such is the way with Stuck. It’s “inspired” by true events; so isn’t actually a true story, and it’s neither the psychological thriller it is billed as, or the satire online reviewers have claimed it could be. Instead, file it under unintentional comedy – perhaps the worst of all film categories. Continue reading

Summer: DVD review

Summer is a short film about enduring friendship. It’s the kind of introspective British drama that floats around on the breeze of a short cinema release, before settling down for a life of DVD rental and occasional purchase from discount racks.

It’s a life unremarkable from many other British films and it probably expects no better – it’s certainly guaranteed of such in an American-film-dominated world. But it’s also the type of film the British make really well and which, in a kinder universe, would find a healthy audience outside an arthouse circuit.

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The Tattooist **

Even the most pedestrian, formulaic horror films still have an uncanny way of making you jump out of your seat. So it’s a testament to how wide of the mark director Peter Burger gets with The Tattooist that this supernatural thriller contains no actual thrills. This is a shame, as Burger, and screenwriters Matthew Grainger and Jonathan King (no, not that one) do at least attempt to bring interesting and fresh elements to the screen. Continue reading

Memories of Matsuko ****

Wildly inventive and visually rich, Tetsuya Nakashima’s ebullient, dramatic Memories of Matsuko is likely to have the Marmite effect – you’ll either love it or hate it.

Stylistically dipping its toe into ’50’s Technicolor and melodrama, as well as the weird, wacky and irreverent world of Japanese pop culture, it’s a movie that constantly challenges you with a narrative that reels backwards and forwards in time. Continue reading

What? (DVD) **

Folly = (definition) a whimsical or extravagant structure built to serve as a conversation piece. What? = a pretentious, self-indulgent mess of a movie that’s billed as a sexy, surreal comedy – but isn’t.

It’s irrefutable that Roman Polanski, as writer and director, has been involved in some of the most compelling and artistic movies served up to a cinema audience. Any auteur’s output that can include Repulsion, Rosemary’s Baby, Chinatown, Death and the Maiden, Frantic and The Pianist is to be admired and cherished. What? serves as a reminder that left unshackled even accomplished artists can deliver ponderous, patronising rubbish. Continue reading

Black God, White Devil (DVD) *

Haunting, hypnotic and lyrical, or pretentious, pedestrian and prosaic: Glauber Rocha’s 1964 film is absolutely certain to polarise opinion. Regarded by filmmakers such as Scorsese and Leone as inspirational, and lauded by critics worldwide, this is about as far from a traditional Hollywood blockbuster as you can possibly get. However, amid the socio-political posturing and long, lingering takes filled with much portent but little dialogue, there develops a strong argument that Rocha’s film is neither clever nor creatively satisfying. Continue reading

The Unit: Season 3 (DVD) ***

While it’s possible to argue that the world of TV needs another military gang show drama like it needs a hole in the head, the credentials and quality of the writing and performances in The Unit have seen it succeed where others falter. Created by revered playwright David Mamet and boasting stars of the calibre of Dennis Haysbert (24) and Robert Patrick (T2, TV’s The X-Files) it’s sharper, faster and leaner than many of its counterparts. Continue reading

King Lear (DVD) **

An intriguing hotpotch of contradictions: this version of the recent West End stage production of Shakespeare’s magnificent, powerful play has been shot in high definition at Pinewood Studios by director Trevor Nunn. It’s available on DVD now, will be screened by Channel 4 on Christmas Day, and will be on offer in a Blu-ray version on 26 December. Why? Stage and screen acting are so obviously different skills, so why put the play in this strange worst-of-both-worlds scenario. Continue reading

Female Agents (DVD) ***

This Word War II drama – based on true events – is a cut above your usual nancy-cigarette smoking and jackboot shenanigans, boasting a strong female cast, excellent period detail and creative, though not too flashy, direction from Jean-Paul Salomé. Shame on those who allowed it to be christened Female Agents, when its original French title, Les Femmes de l’ombre is unequivocally cooler. Continue reading