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DVD Review: Finding Vivian Maier

 

vivDirected by John Maloof & Charlie Siskel

Finding Vivian Maier continues the recent trend of documentaries about inadvertently influential individuals. Similarities between this documentary and A Band Called Death,  Beware of Mr. Baker and Seaching for Sugarman are ripe but whereas some retrieved about said artists, Vivian Maier was truly a mystery even to those that knew her.

Doing research for his book director John Maloof ends up winning a box of old negatives at a local auction. After going through all the contents, he realises how amazing the pictures are and searches for information on the artist but literally finds nothing online about the photographer. Maloof then decides to build a dark room and present the pictures in their best form to be exhibited at museums, but none respond successfully. After posting online and asking for any information on Maier eventually he was able to find family members, friends and associates. The audience gets to witness his journey in coming across an unknown innovative street photographer and explore her mysterious character.

 

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DVD Review: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Extended Edition

hobbit2dDirected by Peter Jackson

Starring:  Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage

Box Set contains:  3D Extended Edition, Blu-ray Extended Edition, Digital Extended Edition, Special Feature Discs

It’s almost that time of year again, folks. Yep, the nights are drawing in, small skeletons and ghouls will have knocked on your door, pestering you for E numbers, and the great big festival of materialism – I mean, peace and goodwill – is just around the corner. Which can only mean one thing; we’re due another visit to Middle Earth, fast. Those of you who cannot wait until mid-December to rejoin Bilbo’s quest can satiate your thirst for dwarves, adventure and miniature burglars by investing in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Extended Edition on 3D and common/garden Blu-ray. The cool kids all have 3D TVs these days, do keep up. Even if you’ve only just transferred from VHS to Digital Versatile Disc, invest in this box set anyway. £20 doesn’t buy much these days, but when it can buy you a rip-snorting film in three mediums, nine hours of special features and 25 minutes of never-before-seen footage, it does seem a bit of a no-brainer, even if you’re a Hobbit-hating Nazgûl.  In my opinion, this extended edition represents one of the best value for money box sets ever.

 

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‘Year of the Mockbuster’: Kickstarter Interview

f1b8d3b3-1180-4d1e-83aa-59dd09312f63Franchises have never had it so good. Next year, there are 12 major franchise installments coming out in the cinema- sequels from big hitters, like old giants Star Wars and young up-and-comers Hunger Games, reboots from Mad Max and Jurassic Park (ish), and another installment in an endless set from James Bond or Fast and Furious (now with increased brevity, as simply ‘Furious 7′). Plus, the endless Marvel machine judders on with Avengers 2. 

Critical opinions are divided. Sure, some have been well-received, like the Marvel series as a whole. But others- perhaps rightly- reject what they see as a colonization of the multiplexes by loud, brash and boring blockbusters. Aside from the aesthetic problems presented by the films, another problem remains: how are you to keep track of what’s showing when?

 

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Film Review: Whiplash

WLDirected by Damien Chazelle

Starring Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Melissa Benoist & Paul Reiser

Ambition, dedication, determination. How far will people go to achieve their ultimate passion in life? It’s a question raised in many films but in such a conventional manner that one just tends to forget about it and concentrate on the other aspects. When it’s made the main focus though, that’s when the true verification is present. Sometimes something as simple as drive or ambition can prove to be just as intense as the use of violence or action in a film. Whiplash is a great example as to why.

Andrew Neyman (Teller) is a promising young Jazz drummer who enrolls himself into a competitive music school because according to him it’s the best one in the world and he wants to be the best Jazz drummer that ever lived. He also wants to impress tough-to-please music instructor Fletcher (Simmons) who initially inspires Andrew but pushes his students to the limit to reach their full potential.

 

 

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DVD Review: Only Lovers Left Alive

81wHOPQDudL._SL1500_Directed by Jim Jarmusch

Starring Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston & Anton Yelchin

It’s about- because of course it is- eccentric loners having pithy conversations about mostly meaningless, cool-sounding junk. It’s by Jim Jarmusch, what did you expect? The more pertinent question is whether there’s something beneath it. In this case, there is.

Adam (Hiddleston) lives in dilapidated Detroit, in a run-down home on the outskirts of town. Surrounded by rock-and-roll bric-a-brac, the closest thing he has to a friend is Ian (Yelchin) – a well-meaning fellow, but not exactly on Adam’s level. Meanwhile, in Tangier, Eve (Swinton) wakes in her book-filled flat and walks to her local café, to meet with Kitt, who provides her with her fresh blood. By the way, that’s the reason they have so much cool stuff, are so cultured, and only hang around at night- they’re vampires. After a brief call with Adam, Eve realizes he is depressed, and decides to join him in Detroit. Unfortunately, her sister joins them soon after, with dire consequences.

 

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Cartoon Network DVD Round Up

A complaint we hear all too often these days is “cartoons just aren’t as good as they used to be.” Putting aside how ridiculous this statement is when it comes to movies (How To Train Your Dragon 2 is arguably one of the best films to come out all year), lets look at TV. Growing up I was obsessed with shows like Animaniacs, Tiny Toon Adventures and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, great imaginative and just the right mix of kid and adult humour. Guess what? Cartoons today still have these great factors and more. This month, Cartoon Network releases 3 DVDs that prove why we should all still be watching cartoons. Check after the jump for reviews. (more…)

Film Review: ’71

Screen shot 2014-10-05 at 12.37.43Directed by Yann Demange

Starring Jack O’Connell, Killian Scott, David Wilmot and Sean Harris

‘71 tells the story of Gary Hook (Jack O’Connell), a young British soldier that is left behind by his unit in Belfast after a small riot. We follow hook’s survival to return back to his barracks before he is captured by ruthless Provisional Irish Republican Army members.

Yann Demange is a person that should be on everybody’s ‘directors to look out for’ list. It may come as a surprise to many after viewing ’71 that it is Demange’s cinematic debut (he also directed a large chunk of Channel 4’s acclaimed Top Boy) His great sense of intense urgency is one to be recognised, the sophistication and confidence conveyed in the handling of the material is that of a veteran filmmaker. Demange manages to achieve the near impossible, of creating an informative action packed adrenaline induced film while upholding the political intent and awareness without becoming preachy. The characters are so well developed that they seem to drive the action forward rather than the other way around.

Jack O’Connell’s portrayal of the young, oblivious but determined everyman Gary Hook is one of the best of the year, O’Connell almost makes it seem effortless in going smoothly from naivety to dismay, reflecting Hook’s shocks and revelations through subtle facial expressions and realistic reactions to the horrors and corruption of war.

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Film Review: Violette

VioletteDirected by Martin Provost

Starring Emmanuelle Devos, Sandrine Kiberlain & Olivier Gourmet

Hands up anybody who knows who Violette Leduc is? Anybody? Nobody? Calm down you in the front, you’re the only one with your hand up, be patient. Luckily one can still watch the film with limited knowledge of its subject matter and still take a lot from it.

Violette Leduc (Devos) is living with writer Maurice Sachs (Olivier Py) during the later years of the Second World War. Despite her forceful, desperate advances Sachs is not attracted to Leduc which contributes to her low self-esteem stemming from being an illegitimate daughter and very critical mother. Sachs eventually runs away but encourages Leduc to be an author, which she pursues. After developing a relationship with fellow writer Simone de Beauvoir (Kiberlain), who introduces her to other intellectuals such as Jean Genet (Jacques Bonnaffé), Ludec starts to fall for Beavoir which starts to affect her work as she struggles to gain confidence and tries to come to terms with her own image and identity issues.

 


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The film is an intriguing, sometimes overwhelming, character analysis mainly consisting of Leduc suffering with many artistic demons that a modern audience would possibly associate with creative people today. However, these very same traits made Leduc out to be an outcast and unusual among her peers at the time. Dealing with unstable reservations about the quality of her work, being open about her sexuality, pushing the boundaries of French feminism among other struggles affected Leduc physically and mentally.

Director Provost portrays these character flaws in what appears to be an ordinary but actually quite sophisticated approach, using literary techniques such as chapters to introduce different turning points in Leduc’s life and emphasises the subject matter. Provost’s knack for concentrating on narrow, awkward spaces is an intelligent effective technique that reflects Leduc’s troubled psychological moods of somebody only feeling at ease through their work and praise from fellow peers. One could say using these visual aspects, Provost at times seems to channel the past work of other directors such as Oliver Stone. It should be noted that Devos captures these slight nuances and characteristics perfectly in a strong performance that makes the audience yearn for Violette to find the satisfaction she so deserves no matter where it comes from.

This aspect is however, a double-edged sword as what was a highlight eventually becomes a glaring flaw. A formula is formed in which we see Leduc faced with a dilemma and try to overcome it a number of times, the film starts to feel too episodic and one can almost guess what the forthcoming scenes entail.

Violette is a memorable film due to the excellent performances which and high point of the film. Emmanuelle Devos in particular excels, embodying Leduc’s mannerisms and persona. Cinematography is visually engaging for the most part and has a delicate coldness to it. It slightly seems to drag towards the end and while the subject matter can be heavier than expected at times, within reason, it’s managed well by the Provost with some humorous moments to lighten the mood.

3/5

Film Review: The Internet’s Own Boy

MV5BMjgwOTgwNjQ5MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzk1NTQ2MTE@._V1_SY317_CR0,0,214,317_AL_Directed by Brian Knappenberger

If the name Aaron Swartz doesn’t mean much to you, watch The Internet’s Own Boy. Brian Knappenberger’s intense, through-provoking documentary might make your brain melt with its subject matter, but you’ll be grateful nevertheless. Assange, Snowdon and Manning have taken all the headlines recently, but The Internet’s Own Boy suggests Swartz’s legacy could well be more powerful.

Like all good documentaries, Knappenberger’s film tells a compelling yet tragic story well. Fitting into the political tech-thriller niche made popular by Hollywood releases The Social Network and The Fifth Estate, The Internet’s Own Boy traces the life of Swartz from precocious toddler and schoolboy computer whizz to rebellious hacktivist. Of We Are Legion and Not Your Average Travel Guide fame, Knappenberger successfully mixes slick graphics, candid interviews and poignant archive footage in order to tell Swartz’s tale. It’s easy to watch films like this and get carried away with the impassioned pronouncements made, not to mention the stirring soundtrack and haunting home video clips. Yet The Internet’s Own Boy reminds you of what Swartz himself would have said – always question, always think, always ask why.

 

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Competition: Win Brick Mansions on DVD!

BMBefore Paul Walker’s tragic and untimely death last year he starred in Brick Mansions – an American remake of French parkour extravaganza District 13.

The film is released on DVD and Blu Ray on 8th September and you could be the lucky  owner of a free DVD copy.

All you need to do is head to twitter and retweet this  tweet and if you’re name is selected we’ll pop your prize in the post and have it delivered right to your door.

This competition closes on Sunday 7th September at 9pm so get retweeting!