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Review : Battle Los Angeles

Described ad nauseum as “BLACK HAWK DOWN WITH ALIENS” by bloggers and its own filmmakers, Battle Los Angeles arrives onscreen with a resounding lack of flair or passion. Being that the film's entire point seems only to evoke other pop-culture memories, it makes sense that what we get is a utterly limp action picture. Ridley Scott's aforementioned film (which was inspired by The Battle of Algiers itself) used semi-cinema-verite with plot and characters driven entirely by action to comment on the confusion and brotherhood of war. Being that those themes are hardly original, the subtle integration of them within an action-extravaganza made them feel actually powerful and not maudlin or cheesy. But of course since Battle Los Angeles has nothing actually on its mind other than entertainment, it feels almost offensively hollow.

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BFI London Film Festival Review: Submarine

Directed by Richard Ayoade
Starring Craig Roberts, Yasmin Paige, Paddy Considine & Sally Hawkins

by Jack Gregson
Score: 4/4

There is truly something wonderful about this movie. Oliver Tate (Roberts) is a neurotic Welsh teenager in the 80’s. It’s a difficult time for young Mr. Tate, he’s fallen in love with the mysterious Jordana (Paige), his parents are having marital troubles and his mother (Hawkins) is looking to her ex-boyfriend (Considine) for comfort, now Oliver feels that he needs to take action. The plot is a typical coming of age story but it is the way the story has been told and the style that the director has brought to the picture that make it so stunning. It’s a lovely comedy that nails the agony of being a child and wanting the world to work around our needs.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VdPW98ZKF-A[/youtube]

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BFI London Film Fest Review: Let Me In

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by Jack Gregson
Score: 2/4

Directed by Matt Reeves
Starring Chloe Moretz, Kodi Smith McPhee and Richard Jenkins

I really liked Let The Right One In, I thought it handled the vampire genre in a new and interesting light and it was easily one of the most chilling films I’ve seen in the last few years. When I heard they were remaking it, I was nonplussed, of course it was going to happen, most popular foreign movies get American remakes (especially horror movies) and I wasn’t really interested until I saw who was involved, I’m pretty much a fan of most the cast and definitely the director (I really liked Cloverfield too) so the film did end up peaking my interest. I wish it hadn’t. The plot follows young, troubled Owen (McPhee) going through the motions in his life, he is bullied, his parents are getting a divorce, his life sucks. Soon he is befriended by Abby (Moretz), a vampire.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=reRRAEVHq8E[/youtube]

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BFI London Film Fest Review: Mars

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by Jack Gregson
Score: 1/5

Directed by Geoff Marslett
Starring Mark Duplass, Zoe Simpson and Paul Gordon

I do not have a lot to say about this movie so I’ll make it a quick one. I do not know a lot about “mumble core”, I haven’t seen a film that falls under that banner (unless you count Monsters or Cyrus, which I don’t), but I think this might be the closest thing so far (though it might just be the involvement of one the Duplass brothers that has made me jump to that conclusion). The film is a rotoscope animation based around a mission to Mars with 3 dysfunctional astronauts at the helm of the space ship. We join our main character Charlie (Mark Duplass) in his quest to become a better astronaut (and maybe along the way he’ll become a better man).

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8DASBmOnuCI[/youtube]

I was once invited to a cinema screening of Robot Chicken for 2 hours and for a while it was funny but pretty soon the novelty wore off, I feel the exact same way about this film. Mars is an extended [adulatswim] cartoon that more than outstays its welcome by being dull, unfunny and mumbly for 90+ minutes, at 15 minutes it would have been fine. There is no plot, none of the characters actions have consequences and all the animation looks like rejected test footage from Waking Life. I am impressed that it was made on an estimated $450,000 budget, but I guess you get what you pay for (though there was a bizarre peeing joke that did grind a chuckle from me).

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BFI London Film Fest Review: Never Let Me Go

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by Jack Gregson
Score: 3/4

Directed by Mark Romanek
Starring Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, Keira Knightley and Sally Hawkins

 NOTE:  By necessity, this review will contain some spoilers.  Read at your own discretion.

Never Let Me Go is an interesting movie, it is set in an alternate version of Britain where cloning has been perfected and is used regularly for the prevention of most diseases (something about organ donations, they never go into it much as this is only a backdrop). The film follows the life of a clone, Kathy H (Carey Mulligan), and the people intertwined in her life (mainly, two other clones, Knightly and Garfield). The premise is a very fascinating one but sadly it comes with barriers. Can an audience relate to this new world that’s been created, does anyone know the pain of what it is to be a clone? Perhaps it is just my age, but I was unmoved by the ideas that these clones were made just to die… maybe I have just come to terms with my own mortality (morbid much), but something tells me wide scaled audiences might have the same issue.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cPYF0vUoYQY[/youtube]

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BFI London Film Festival Review: The Arbor

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by Jack Gregson
Score:  2.5/4 

Directed by Clio Barnard
Starring Manjinder Virik, Neil Dudgeon, Monica Dolan & Jimi Mistry

Knowing nothing of the plays written by Andrea Dunbar, I had no idea what to expect from The Arbor. The film is a docu-drama focusing on the family of the British working class playwright (author of “The Arbor” and “Rita, Sue & Bob Too”), it uses a unique style in which all the actors are simply lip synching to interviews held with the actual figures giving the film some dramatic gravitas. This technique is interesting (though every now and then the lip synch goes wrong and it completely takes you out of the movie), yet why they didn’t decide to add some more action into the scenes rather than just have the actors look at the camera and read the lines as if they were just giving an interview is beyond me.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TyNqRdM0Y4g[/youtube]

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BFI London Film Festival Review: Sensation

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By Jack Gregson
Score:  1/4 

Director: Tom Hall
Starring: Domhnall Gleeson, Luanne Gordon, Patrick Ryan & Kelly Campbell

This was my first film of the festival, not really the best way to start it off. Sensation is a dark Irish comedy based around loneliness, death and the Irish sex trade, I know right? Really comedic subjects. Don’t get me wrong, I love most types of comedy, but sometimes the laughs just don’t come.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uzsfPHsJ9Fc[/youtube]

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New ScreenGeeks Rating Standards

After talking with the other members of the site, we’re going to be making a change with how we review movies at ScreenGeeks.com.  We’ve decided that we’ll now be rating films on a 4-point scale instead of a 10-point scale.  The reason behind this is that the 10-point scale became too cumbersome.  Instead of just telling you, the reader, if I liked a movie or not, I personally found myself trying to justify a single point or even half-point.  We’re simplifying things now.  Here’s how the points will break down.

4/4 – A great film.  This movie will either be on our Top 10 list or at least an honorable mention
3/4 – A good film.  A good time was had and it’s well worth your time to check out
2/4 – A mediocre film.  The movie wasn’t dreadful, but is probably worth waiting for DVD
1/4 – A bad film.  Avoid it unless you want to see a bad movie.

Hopefully, you’ll get more out of our reviews from a rating standpoint.  Please let us know what you think of the changes.

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TIFF Day 1 – The Informant! and Passenger Side

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Score : 7/10

Two 90’s indie wunderkids Steven Soderbergh and Quentin Tarantino putting out movies so close to each other in the same year got me thinking. Why isn’t Soderbergh regarded in the same way as Tarantino? I mean, they’re both obviously well-regarded. But why does nobody see that Soderbergh is obviously just as much of a cinephile? With every movie he clearly wears his influences on his sleeve. Many of his arthouse experimental films and even mainstream Hollywood films are clearly influenced by French New Wave cinema. And Soderbergh’s newest is one that also harkens back. But instead this is a direct homage to 60’s and 70’s espionage films. And hell, even somewhat of a love letter to John Grisham novels that you read in the airport.

Matt Damon is The Informant! The Informant being Mark Whitarce. A biochemical engineer/executive turned corporate whistleblower. The whistleblower part being very clear seeing as how I was given a free whistle after the movie with Damon’s face on it. Anyway, Whitarce spends a lot of the movie narrating. Much of this having to due with corn, an area of expertise for him. But there are also ruminations on paranoia, the truth, good guys/bad guys and other deep things. But also put through the filter of his bipolar mind. Soderbergh uses the retro spy music and font to highlight Whitarce’s state of mind as he travels around the world, wearing a wire and getting the “bad guys”. Whitarce even refers to himself as “0014”, since he’s “twice as smart as 007”. But this all comes to bite him in the behind.

The Informant! then shifts into a cycle of Whitarce admitting that he lied and his FBI agent handlers looking horrified. This makes up about a good 15-20 minutes of the movie. By the third act it completely turns into Whitarce trying to cover his behind and telling only more lies. Eventually millions of dollars are at stake. But he keeps on digging himself deeper into a hole. Even when you think a deal has been broken and everything is going to be all right…it only gets worse. This is compelling, but as I alluded to before, the movie seems to be hitting the same beats over and over again. But on the other hand I appreciated how it almost made everything more and more deliciously convoluted. This represents the frustration that everyone has dealing with Whitarce.

Now onto the cast, Damon hits all the right notes. I’m sure most people who know nothing about acting will just think his role was just eating a lot of pizza and acting goofy. But this is an incredibly challenging role. Yes, you have to be goofy. But yet at the same time you have to be based in a hard reality. You can never go into caricature. You have to sell that narration. And he does it. And most of the supporting cast consists of comedians such as Joel McHale, Tony Hale, Scott Adsit, Patton Oswalt and Paul F. Tompkins. It’s hard to think that this isn’t on purpose. While this is a comedy based in reality, the funny people mostly playing it straight only highlights the satire of the situation and the main character.

Overall, The Informant! doesn’t hit any particular highs. But it’s completely worth seeing for Damon’s performance and Soderbergh’s interesting stylistic choices.

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The second film I saw tonight was a small little film called Passenger Side. It concerns two brothers spending the day riding around Los Angeles. The movie is completely decent. It’s well-written with sharp dialogue, good performances and a surprisingly powerful ending that touched me a lot. There are a lot of shticky things along the way that detract from the overall film, but it didn’t ruin it for me. I’d write more, but to be hoenst, I’m reallllllllly tired.

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DVD Review: Summer School – Special Hall Pass Edition

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If you were following ScreenGeeks last year when we went to StarFest, you’ll note that we put up a blurb about a great little film we stumbled across called Summer School. I’ve personally had the Extra Credit Edition since then and have been telling everyone I can who will listen that they need to check this film out if at all possible. Well, you can now pick it up on Amazon.com (at the time of this review, it’s on backorder) or rent it on Netflix. The short version is that this little gem from Random Creatureface Films is well worth checking out.

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