The latest film reviews


REVIEW: Arrival (2016)


We have seen it all before. Aliens come down, humans fear them, the ones in charge are eager to press the button. Yet Denis Villeneuve never does anything straightforward. Instead, the director uses the classic format to tell a touching story that harnesses a universal and profound message. It’s not take me to your leader; more like take me to your lecturer.

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Review: Nocturnal Animals (2016)


Nocturnal Animals follows Susan Morrow, a successful art gallery owner struggling for emotional and creative satisfaction in her life. Suddenly, she receives the manuscript for a novel written by her ex-husband, Edward; a violent tale of murder, revenge and the darkest moral questions. As she moves through the book, she finds herself looking back on her past and her relationship with Edward, desperately seeing symbolic associations and perceived attacks within the dark tones of his tale, leading to her malaise reaching a level of crisis as she seeks catharsis for her past transgressions.

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Review: Train to Busan (2016)


The zombie genre is one that, for the love of an obvious pun, never seems to die. From the Romero classics, through to the increasingly aware works of reinterpretation and homage at the start of the new century, represented most iconically by 28 Days Later and Shaun of the Dead, the zombie horde comes back, again and again. However, like the zombies themselves, the genre has once again fallen into another tired stumble for a familiar, and predictable, formula. As such, the arrival of a film as vital and compelling as Yeon Sang-ho’s Train to Busan feels not simply like a true revival, but one of the most impressive and satisfying experiences in the history of the genre.

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REVIEW: Darling (2016)


Darling follows a young woman known only as “Darling” who becomes the caretaker of a large apartment in New York. She slowly descends into madness as the house’s horrific past seeps into her dreams and her reality, leading her to struggle to differentiate between truth and fiction.

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REVIEW: In a Valley of Violence (2016)


When Ti West announced he would be moving from horror to western, many were surprised that it would be his next feature. Horror and westerns are centred around similar themes: vengeance, violence, masculinity and generally cynical in the past three decades. In a Valley of Violence is an interesting turn from a director whose authorial vision even leads to him editing his own pictures. Editing your own films can cause the risk of self-indulgence, especially when an outside pair of eyes can tighten everything, but this is a trap that Ti West doesn’t fall into. In all his feature films, brevity – if perhaps budget related – is prevalent and is in fact one of his directorial strengths. This proves that once again.

In a Valley of Violence takes you to a town, nicknamed the ‘Valley of Violence’, with Ethan Hawke as its mysterious stranger. With only a pet dog as a companion, one he confides to and is his only conversation, there is a sense of danger around him from the offset with actions early on. From there, the character is already well-defined and Hawke explores him to his full capacity. An act of violence takes Hawke’s mysterious stranger caving into his personal demons that want violent vengeance.

West is clearly romantic about the western genre, throwing in a reference with a classic western zoom early on and honing in on a well-told, well-worn story of a wayward stranger showing his true character to the arrogant town-folk, proud of their own masculinity through self-affirmation and intimidation. Hawke’s doesn’t fall to those demanding immediate fear, causing a competition to prove one’s self in an escalating rivalry. As the camerawork ogles the Old West with the same starkness of its 35mm predecessors, West pays homage all the while crafting an adept visual style. If anything, its visual style – which is perfectly fine – is a weakness in its own lack of creativity. Through the simplicity of its visuals, there’s a need for more interesting visuals to elevate it over the homages and give power to the picture through pictures.

In a Valley of Violence: John Travolta, Taissa Farmiga, Karen Gillan and James Ransone

The cast is strong, Taissa Farmiga a specific standout in the chattering, nervously confident hotel clerk with conflicted commitments.  Her exploration of her character is portrayed with precision, all the while remaining integral and interesting throughout the film. James Ransone plays a strong arrogant bastard with real gravitas to his scenes, his frame that’s thinner than the Eastwoods or Waynes of yesteryear manages to remain menacing through his dedication to masculinity portrayed through violence. The strongest standout is one that it’s a great relief, letting out a sigh and a potential hopeful ‘He’s back…’ rattling around your head. John Travolta plays the town’s sheriff, a complex coward who forces bravery and mindfulness to achieve a real resolution. Travolta’s performance is honest, strong, a little reminiscent of Stallone in Cop Land. The weakest, by quite a margin, is Karen Gillan who needs a director to tone her down as her performances sometimes lean into being inconsumable for over 1.6bn people in the world due to its hammy-ness. It works in Oculus, it’s passable in Guardians of the Galaxy, but it’s beginning to grate and needs working on since there is real talent there to explore.

Overall, In a Valley of Violence is a revisionist western in its cynicism as it is romantic about the films that inspired it. West explores the west and all of its themes with ease, allowing for a critical eye to find appetising food for thought while the narrative entertains and thrills. The casting is interesting and generally successful, especially with the Travolta comeback that’s felt overdue. Hopefully this is the first in a sleugh of the Trevolution (coining it now in case it catches on). The film’s visuals really do let it down from being a bit more excellent since their simplicity is the same downfall of Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight – but at least this didn’t waste 65mm film on an indoor set to look so average and reverential. In a Valley of Violence is a thrilling, thoughtful revisionist western with an emptiness permeating from it that stops it from being truly special.

A trailer for Ti West's latest film, In a Valley of Violence, starring Ethan Hawke, John Travolta and James Ransone
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Review: Orion (2016)


I always leave my expectations at the door when watching a film – I tend not to read reviews or let other people’s opinions sway me into thinking that a certain film will be either amazing or something that can be scraped from the bottom of my shoe. So, with not really knowing what to expect, I did soon realise that I was soon to become a dribbling mess due to the onset of boredom and total confusion.

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REVIEW: The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)


After the body of a woman is found partially buried in the basement of a bloody crime scene, a father and son team of coroners take on the task of examining the body to discover the cause of death. However, in peeling away the layers in search of the truth, increasingly bizarre anomalies arise in the post mortem, suggesting something beyond belief … something that is beginning to take a hold on the world around them, with a vengeful evil.

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REVIEW: The Windmill (2016)


Director Nick Jongerius delivers his first feature, The Windmill, and it is a total joyous massacre of bloody proportions. With old style mayhem, we are served up a decent dose of gruesome deaths that will surely reignite old passions for blood lust.

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REVIEW: Selling Isobel (2016)


In America, everything is for sale…

“Every year, at least 20.6 million adults and children are kidnapped to be bought and sold into the illegal sex trade industry world wide. To put things into perspective, in 2015 Burger King’s annual net sales came in at about $1.1bn. The annual estimated revenue for sex slavery is $”

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