Thursday's Reviews

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The People's Republic of Clogher
It was quite strange seeing Andy Serkis doing an Omagh accent. From the little clips I've seen, it wasn't terrible.

The accent, that is, not the film. You've confirmed my suspicians.
"Critics are like eunuchs in a harem; they know how the Tatty 100 is done, they've seen it done every day, but they're unable to do it themselves." - Brendan Behan

Bunny and the Bull (2009)

You are spared the rant I was going to go on about the impossibility of finding a cinema that bothers to show smaller/independent films by the discovery made by one of my friends on Sunday afternoon that the charming Prince Charles cinema off Leicester Square was showing the film we wanted to see, Bunny and the Bull. Downstairs screen, £5. Bargain, I must say.

Bunny and the Bull, written and directed by Paul King, is a delightfully odd road trip comedy which opens with Stephen Turnbull (Edward Hogg, endearing in the lead role) attempting to leave the flat he hasn’t left for a year after his carefully stock piled freeze dried vegetarian lasagnes unexpectedly go off. Leaving the flat is difficult for Stephen and we find out why in a series of flashbacks to a disastrous road trip round Europe Stephen undertook with his friend Bunny (Simon Farnaby) the year before.

Stephen is a nervous, organised vegetarian who enjoys visiting shoe museums, at odds with the bon vivant Bunny, a self-centred gambler who likes to take the bull by the horns. Literally. Stephen falls for a spiky Spanish beauty (Veronica Echegui) he meets in a Captain Crab restaurant in Poland – but does he have the balls to go after what he wants, or will Bunny get there first?

This is a very funny film, full of surreal details. Along the way Stephen and Bunny encounter a succession of oddball characters including a dog-bothering tramp played by Julian Barratt (who has worked with King on cult TV comedy series The Mighty Boosh). The tramp scene was a little too gross-out for me, I have to say, it wouldn’t have been out of place in Borat. There is also an appearance by the other half of the Boosh, Noel Fielding, as a deluded Matador who, in possibly the film’s funniest sequence, attempts to train Bunny as a bullfighter in a car park using a shopping trolley with horns.

Funny as it is, though, there are also some quite poignant moments. Stephen’s obvious mental illness, the reasons for it and the way he attempts to overcome his fears and compulsions are really quite touching and lend an extra depth to the film.

The look of the film is the real highlight. Wonderfully quirky there is a mix of home-made seeming sets, animation and more traditional scenery. All the flashbacks are triggered by household objects – postcards, a takeaway box – and these objects form the sets for the scenes on the road trip – newspaper trees, bottle crate walls, even a fairground made from clock parts in one gorgeous sequence.

I think Paul King has done a really good job on his first feature film, it’s good-looking, it’s quirky, it’s thoughtful and it’s still funny. I only wish there were more films like this, and more cinemas which would show them.

Finally Lovefilm sent me this after what was that ? a year after I said it sounded like my kind of film on your review thread TN? anyway I loved it specially all the backgrounds, the modelling, the stop motion stuff. It has a very individual look and both the leads are great. Nicely eccentric film - thanks for recommending

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I never could get the hang of Thursdays.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (2011)

*may contain spoilers*

This was easily one of the best films I've seen for a long time. If this doesn't win all the awards going I will be... well, not surprised, honestly, but I think it's a serious contender and deserving of recognition. I haven't read the book by John Le Carre, nor have I seen the television series with Alec Guiness; in fact I knew very little about it before watching it and I think I enjoyed it all the more for that.

Gary Oldman gives a masterly, understated performance as Geroge Smiley, brought out of retirement to discover the identity of a mole among the top brass of MI6.

It was at times difficult to grasp what was going on, who knew what, who had betrayed whom... but I think that was the point. It was as much about atmosphere as it was about plot and it took my breath away. Slowly. Because this film is not a fast-paced action thriller of the Bond/Bourne variety and all the better for it. I like a good action flick as much as the next girl, but this is a different breed of film altogether, brooding and complex but not without moments of humour and unexpectedly touching, but understated, emotional scenes. The scene towards the end with Colin Firth and Mark Strong... well, I won't spoil it, but it was powerful stuff.

Directed by Tomas Alfredson, who directed the excellent Let the Right One In, the film looks fantastic, steeped in period detail with a gloomy brown palette. The acting from the supporting cast, including Benedict Cumberbatch, John Hurt and Colin Firth is top-notch. The weakest link, for me, was Tom Hardy's slightly more Bond-like subplot featuring a Russian blonde. Perhaps it was just his dodgy haircut, but it didn't quite convince.

There were three shocking moments in this, two of which featured the violent deaths of women (and the other the violent death of a pigeon) which left a bad taste in the mouth but those were the only wrong notes, for me.

I really can't recommend it highly enough.

there's a frog in my snake oil
Violent pigeon death is the scourge of modern cinema . Cheers for the review Thurs

(Are the lady deaths a bit spoilery tho? Or are there lots of covert ladies?)
Virtual Reality chatter on a movie site? Got endless amounts of it here. Reviews over here

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I never could get the hang of Thursdays.
Parked (2010)

Parked, the debut feature from director Darragh Byrne, stars Colm Meaney as Fred, a middle aged man who lives in his car in a Dublin car park. Unable to get any assistance from the state as he has 'no fixed abode', Fred has developed a routine involving watering the small plant he keeps on his dashboard and washing in the local public toilets while sometimes tinkering with watches and clocks.

The early scenes detailing Fred's car based routine are like the film itself - humorous and quirky and at the same time deeply sad.

Fred's life changes when another car, home to a young junkie called Cathal, pulls into his car park. Fred and Cathal strike up an unlikely friendship; Cathal introduces Fred to the local swimming baths, where he encounters a woman named Jules, a Finnish piano teacher with whom he embarks upon a tentative courtship. It is Fred and Cathal's friendship which provides the heart of the film, though, Cathal helping Fred recapture his hope and joie de vivre while being tragically unable to break free from his own downward spiral of drug addiction.

The film seemed to lose its pace a little towards the end, there's a scene at a wake which could have had more impact with less dialogue, for example, and there are times when the 'drugs are bad' message could have done with a bit of a lighter touch.

The central performances are strong; Colm Meaney lends a quiet dignity to the role of Fred, while Colin Morgan is all twitchy, nervous energy as Cathal. It's beautifully shot, too.

Overall it is a genuinely touching film, both funny and sad; I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it.

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I never could get the hang of Thursdays.
(Are the lady deaths a bit spoilery tho? Or are there lots of covert ladies?)
There aren't a lot of ladies full stop.

I don't think mentioning the deaths is necessarily spoilery, as I haven't specified whether these deaths are of significant characters or female bystanders, but I'll go back and put spoiler warnings if you think it necessary.

there's a frog in my snake oil
I've no idea that's why I asked (and coz I had the impression it was a man-heavy story )

I enjoyed oldboy alot. But when i ask people if they seen it, they usually say no. I recomend it to everyone.

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I never could get the hang of Thursdays.
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

If you were to sit down with a check list of Thursday's favourite things to see in a movie, you'd probably come up with something a lot like Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows. Costume drama? Check. Slick editing? Check. Cross-dressing? Check. Mild violence? Check. Humorous banter? Check. Ballroom scene on black and white tiled floor? Check. I could go on. All it's missing, really, is that it's not a musical. (Guy Ritchie, if you're looking for ideas for the third movie...)

This is not to suggest that it's the best film I've ever seen, but I've said before that the Sherlock Holmes movies are *my* comic book movies. I care about them the way other people care about Spiderman or Batman or other things ending in man. I love the original books, I like Sherlock Holmes in just about every incarnation I've seen and I thoroughly enjoy the way Ritchie has reinvented them as action thriller movies while retaining the core of the Sherlock Holmes we know. They're not serious, intelligent films, but nor are they completely dumb brute strength wins out movies either. Sherlock Holmes wins because he outwits his enemies with brains. How great is that?

Game of Shadows suffers slightly from the inevitable sequel disease of having to be bigger than the original and at times it overreaches itself a bit. More guns, more slo-mo, more everything (less Irene though). Here, instead of the great detective solving crimes in foggy old London, Holmes and Watson dash madly around Europe attempting to foil bombings and avert a war. It's less Sherlock Holmes and more a gay steampunk James Bond. Not that that is really a bad thing, but there is a decided lack of detecting which is a shame. We know whodunnit from the start, the only question is what he's going to do next.

I'm attempting to make this a coherent review in actual sentences rather than just a series of exclamations (Stephen Fry! The Reichenbach Falls! Torture! Moriarty!). Suffice it to say that everyone in it is brilliant. Stephen Fry's moments are some of the film's funniest, for which he is forgiven for being, on occasion, a little over the top. Jared Harris is a good counterpart for Downey's manic Holmes as the Napoleon of Crime, Professor Moriarty. Noomi Rapace isn't given a lot to do, and her story isn't really wrapped up in a satisfactory way, but the focus remains where it should be, on Holmes and Watson.

Both Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law are brilliantly entertaining (and believe me, I never thought I'd be so enthusiastic about any performance of Law's, but he seems to have found his niche in these movies). They have great chemistry together and the rapid-fire bickering with a side order of being willing to die for each other is back in full force. The obstacle of Watson having got married to Mary Morstan and retired from his crime-fighting life is gotten over pretty quickly in a hilarious train sequence, as she is pushed to safety by Holmes, leaving Watson free to pursue one last adventure before settling down into married life. At its heart, the film is really a love story, with Holmes going to extreme lengths to protect Watson, the person he cares about most, from Moriarty's deadly plans; despite his unhappiness over his best friend's plans to leave him and get married. There's a bittersweet note to Downey's performance, beneath all the humour and shooting, and a couple of really touching and poignant moments.

It looks gorgeous, it's very funny and very entertaining. I can't say it was a masterpiece, but there were times I laughed out loud in the cinema just from the sheer joy of it and I think that's something to be valued in a film, certainly.

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I never could get the hang of Thursdays.
Looper (2012)

I had high expectations of Looper - Joseph Gordon Levitt, Bruce Willis, action, time travel, what could go wrong? A lot, is the answer. (This review contains SPOILERS)

The basics: Joe (Joseph Gordon Levitt) is a 'looper', he kills people who are sent back from the future. One day his future self (Bruce Willis) turns up and gets the better of him, and Joe has to track him down and kill him, while running from his mob bosses who want to hobble him for letting his future self escape. He winds up on a deserted farm with a woman (Emily Blunt) and her son, waiting for Old Joe to turn up.

Now, no time travel film is without a few paradoxes, but this was full of more holes than Bruce Willis's victims after he's gunned them down. Which wouldn't have been such a problem if it had been a fun on-the-run movie. But then the mechanics of the time travel which are fudged over throughout the movie are then supposed to be integral to the ending. Which doesn't actually make sense. It's like a dodgy episode of Torchwood. And it's not fun, not at all.

On an action level - there really isn't all that much. There's one sequence where Bruce Willis (who is apparently and inexplicably indestructible) takes out a lot of mobster types, with one impressive shot of a bar being destroyed, if that's what you're into. There's a lot of people who shoot people for a living who are inexplicably terrible shots. Mostly it's just very loud bangs. It's always a bad sign when a film tries to sell you tension and action through the use of Loud Noises, it means it's not really there in the script.

On a character level – there's nobody to root for. Young Joe is basically an *******. He's a killer, he lets his friend get tortured and killed for money, he's on drugs and he drives a shiny car around a poor district generally being a jerk. There's a point where Old Joe points this all out to him and you think maybe what we've got happening here is some kind of redemption arc. I think that writer/director Rian Johnson thinks that's what we've got here, but it doesn't really work; Joe's too unlikable to start with, and not enough happens to actually redeem him.

And then there's Old Joe. Who's the same. He has a spiel about his wife having saved him from his life of crime (as if he ever even deserved a second chance). But then he's all out to either avenge or prevent (even the film doesn't seem to be sure which) her death. And to do this, he comes over all King Herod and starts murdering children just in case they grow up to be a mysterious crime boss in the future. At which point he loses any shred of sympathy, and the film loses my interest.

Sara lives on a farm and is interesting for about five minutes until it becomes apparent that contrary to first impressions, she really is going to be the typical Helpless Woman with Child. She has a gun but won't use it. (There are only three women in this film, by the way, the Whore, the Mother and the Dead Wife. It's practically text book misogyny.)

And at about this point the film decides it's actually a Stephen King adaptation, and the main focus of the film becomes the telekinetic boy, who is pale and stares a lot, in the way all creepy film children are required to do. There's a bit of uncomfortable and entirely inappropriate bonding between Joe and Cid the kid when Joe talks about his own unhappy childhood and how having a gun made him a Real Man. Sara and Joe sleep together (probably, the film is remarkably coy about sex even when it's happy to show little kids covered in blood, but hey, that's the MPAA for you). It's entirely improbable and accompanied by an equally improbable bit of music (Again, the score trying to tell us 'romance' when it just isn't there in the film).

There are some good things. Mostly interesting ideas and concepts that are never really followed up. It is at least grown-up and not predictable. The glimpses we get at the start of the dystopian future world the loopers live in are interesting, but then most of the film takes place at an abandoned farmhouse and surrounding fields that could be set in any time within a seventy-year radius. It's all well put together in a technical sense, no wobbly camera work, although there is some too-dark lighting at points, some decent shots and sets. There's also such potential in the idea of past and future self meeting - but then they're apart for most the movie. There's potential, too, in the way Old Joe starts to forget his life as what happens in the now changes the future, but again, it's wasted.

There's no charm, no humour. It's relentlessly nasty and brutish (but unfortunately not particularly short).

Wait for the DVD. Or better still, rewatch The Terminator instead.

Miss Vicky's Loyal and Willing Slave
Nice review Thursday. While I certainly liked it more than you (though I wonder if I was a little generous with my score) I had most of the same complaints and problems with the film that you did.

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I never could get the hang of Thursdays.
Jennifer's Body

Fun, camp high school B-movie.

After a fire at a small town gig, pretty, popular cheerleader Jennifer (Megan Fox) gets into a van with an evil indie band and comes back as a literal maneater, complete with fangs. Her nerdy best friend Needy (Amanda Seyfried) has to figure out what's wrong with Jennifer and try to save the boys of the school from gory deaths.

There are definite pacing problems and it could have been sharper, wittier, shorter. It's not quite Buffy, but it's a likable enough entry to the high-school comedy-horror genre.

There are some very amusing scenes -- the wannabe indie band trying to make a virgin sacrifice out of the decidedly unvirginal Jennifer, for one. The soundtrack is great, with music from Black Kids, Hole and White Lies among others. And, crucially, in a world of buddy movies and 'bromance', it's refreshing to see a film like this with female main characters and the relationship between them at the fore.

Gegen die Wand (Head On)

Gegen die Wand, which translates more literally as ‘against the wall’, a much more apt title, is a brilliant story of love and redemption.

Cahit (Birol Unel) is a washed-up 40-something German-Turkish ‘dosser’ with an alcohol problem. One night, he crashes his car into a wall. Sent to a clinic for the suicidal, he meets Sibel (Sibel Kekilli), who will do anything to escape her oppressive Turkish family, including asking Cahit to enter into a marriage of convenience. At first surly and distrustful, Cahit inevitably falls in love with Sibel, even though she is enjoying her new found freedom by pursuing one night stands and drugs.

So far, so Greencard, albeit with more sex and drugs. The first half of the film is very funny – Cahit’s visit to his prospective in-laws, complete with fake uncle and non-alcoholic chocolates, is a highlight. But one fatal mistake in a bar sends the film spinning off into another direction, and the second half is much more downbeat with Sibel’s flight to Istanbul and the problems she encounters there, leading to a bittersweet conclusion.

Written and directed by Fatih Akýn, Gegen die Wand manages to feel real and life-affirming, without ever becoming too heavy and miserable or too light and cheesy. It is a fine balance which is difficult to pull off, but Akýn succeeds, assisted by some very believable performances from his cast. The love story is very convincing, with the characters slowly realising their feelings for one another. The soundtrack, a fusion of traditional Turkish music and the kind of goth-rock you would expect to hear in German nightclubs, is perfect for the film.

This is not just the best German film ever made, it is one of the best films ever made anywhere in the world. It is impossible to praise this film highly enough.

I really liked this movie and the director, Fatih Akin, who also directed " Edge Of Heaven ", which I liked even more, if that's possible.


Let’s get one thing straight right from the start. Australia is a very silly film. If you don’t mind that, though, you may well enjoy it. Just don’t go in expecting anything insightful or profound. Take some popcorn. This is an old fashioned epic (note: for ‘epic’ read ‘three hour long’) romantic drama complete with sweeping score and moustache twirling bad guys. Realism and historical accuracy take a back seat to engineered situations to create drama for the main characters. But then who goes to see a Baz Luhrmann film expecting realism?

This is very much Baz Luhrmann’s Australia, just as William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet was really Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet. While marking a departure from his red curtain trilogy, the Luhrmann trademarks are visible throughout. The Australia of the film is a colourful, not-quite-real world where magic is possible and love makes all things possible. The names – The Drover, ‘King’ Carney (carne) the meat company owner, ‘Poor Fella’ whisky – are suggestive of a fairytale. The image of a Nicole Kidman in a red dress kissing a floppy-haired Hugh Jackman in the rain is reminiscent of Luhrmann’s earlier work – including that perfume ad. It has the recycling of old songs to new effect of Moulin Rouge in its use of Somewhere Over the Rainbow.

Australia lacks the pace of Luhrmann’s previous films. He was notoriously still editing the film hours before its premiere. Perhaps he should have given himself more time, because it is still about an hour too long.

Nicole Kidman plays Lady Sarah Ashley, who arrives at the Australian ranch owned by her husband determined to sell up and get out quick, until an encounter with a mixed race child who reveals how her manager has been cheating her changes her mind. She determines to drive the cattle to town with an assorted bunch of characters including Hugh Jackman’s Drover. They initially don’t get on at all, but it’s hardly spoiling the surprise to say they soon change their minds. In the meantime, Sarah Ashley bonds with the orphaned boy and hopes to stop him being taken away to the mission. Kidman handles the later drama much better than the earlier comedy. Jackman is suitably laid back and rugged. And Brandon Walters as the boy Nullah is good enough to keep the sentimental drama from becoming too mawkish.

If you want a more genuine account of the tragedy of Australia’s ‘stolen generation, watch Rabbit Proof Fence. If you want an entertaining adventure/romance/drama, you could do worse than watch Australia.

When you said Rabbit Proof Fence and Australia's stolen generation, it reminded me of a stolen generation in a New Zeland movie: Once Were Warriors. I can't reccomend it highly enough.

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I never could get the hang of Thursdays.
I really liked this movie and the director, Fatih Akin, who also directed " Edge Of Heaven ", which I liked even more, if that's possible.
Glad to find another fan! I liked Edge of Heaven a lot too, must watch that one again.

The world doesn't you owe you a damn thing
ah, the joys of wandering and finding a great thread, the greater joy was finding reviews on many flicks i have not yet seen and/or heard of.
Like the opening of a good movie, the fact that you started with Oldboy let me know i was in for a rather enjoyabe fare, and it was!

Reps for the movies i have seen, but Reps all around for great reviews!

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I never could get the hang of Thursdays.
Thanks, glad you enjoyed. I must get round to writing some more reviews, I've been a bit lazy about it recently.

The recent Sherlock Holmes movies are two of my all time favorites, but the sequel was just a little better in my opinion for one reason: Moriarty. I liked Lord Blackwood in the first film, but he was pretty cliched overall. Jared Harris played the part almost as a turn of the century Hannibal Lecter, but with a different appetite.
Also, I never noticed the resemblance to Bond until I saw you mention it here. Still, it doesn't bring the film down at all for me.

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I never could get the hang of Thursdays.
Skyfall (2012)

If Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes in Game of Shadows was a little more Bond than Holmes; here, it’s the other way around. Bond does the Reichenbach in the opening sequence, plunging to his supposed doom over a waterfall, and even indulges in a little detecting, telling Bérénice Marlohe’s Severine exactly what sort of gun she’s got hidden under her dress. Javier Bardem’s cartoon-psycho villain is reminiscent of Moriarty in the BBC’s modern day Sherlock, too.

But there is no doubt that this is Bond, even if the action is sparing and the gadgets minimal. Suspension of disbelief is already stretched to breaking point before the ridiculous opening credits, by an implausible rooftop motorcycle chase. And the film is stuffed full of tongue-in-cheek references to its own identity as a series, from Q telling Bond they don’t go in for exploding pens anymore to a familiar car making an appearance in the final half an hour.

Bond has always been a slightly insufferable celebration of imperialist heterosexual manliness, travelling the world and shooting the evil foreigners while every woman who crosses his path drops her knickers at the sight of him. This is mitigated somewhat in this instalment by several factors – the prominent role of Judi Dench’s M, Naomie Harris as an actual agent (even if her knickers don’t stay up long), and the villains not hailing from any particular country. There’s still an amount of exoticism, though, and there’s something uncomfortable about Bardem’s 1970s camp in his portrayal of Silva. (Most eye-rolling moment, though, was when Bond walks up behind Severine in the shower, uninvited, and she’s apparently fine with that. Of course.)

The key to Bond’s longevity as a series is its ability to regenerate without either retreading old ground or losing sight of its history (as with so many ‘reboots’ these days), as well as making each film so entirely standalone that it’s not at all necessary to have seen the previous ones.

Skyfall also seems to capture a certain 2012 zeitgeist of a culture of inquiries and accountability alongside worries about security, terrorism and our reliance on technology which can be easily hacked, topped off with a layer of Britishness. Which is really quite clever (or lucky) of it.

After returning from what appears to be a belated gap year, Bond is allowed back on active duty to help hunt down a missing list of undercover agents and the person who has infiltrated MI6’s computer systems and blown up their headquarters. The film jumps from impressively rendered location to impressively rendered location on the flimsiest of pretexts, encompassing Silva’s lair (apparently located in Inception’s limbo), a shoot-up at the (Leveson) inquiry and a chase sequence on the underground.

The dialogue is smarter than the actual plot, especially Bond’s interactions with M and Q, more than a few lines that made me smile. Even the cheesy lines are delivered with a sort of irony that is worlds away from the smugness of Pierce Brosnan’s tenure. Judi Dench and Ben Whishaw are both excellent (they always are). I felt Bardem’s villain was misjudged in many ways, but he was much more effective in the final showdown, leather coat contrasting with his silver hair as he stalks Bond and M accompanied by his posse of goons and an implausibly low flying helicopter.

The film’s real strength, though, is its cinematography. It looks absolutely dazzling.

Although it’s got its issues, this is the best Bond film I’ve seen. I enjoyed it more than I expected.