Saturday, 16 December 2017

Detectorists Series Three - DVD Review

All ruddy lovely things must come to an end.

Andy (Mackenzie Crook) and Lance (Toby Jones) are back in Detectorists Series Three doing what they do best, wandering around a field trying to find a fortune while having witty conversations and charming banter.

In the third series of the low key comedy things have changed ever so slightly for our dynamic detectorist duo. Andy, his wife Becky (Rachael Stirling) and their young son have had to move in with his mother in law Veronica (Diana Rigg). Lance has a new lodger in the shape of his daughter Kate (Alexa Davies) while trying to keep his current girlfriend Toni (Rebecca Callard) happy.

Meanwhile the field the pair have been scanning for treasure for the past five years is due to become a solar panel site in six weeks. The clock is quite literally ticking for Andy and Lance as they do all they can to keep their claim on the land.

Regular readers of this little blog will probably know I'm a bit of a fan of this show, following two brilliant series and a Christmas special this most likely is the final chance to bask in the wonderful glow of the characters created by Crook. But if this is the last series it goes out with a beautifully put together six episodes, not so much a bang as an awwwwwww.

Viewers are able to simple sit back, relax and bask in the glow of the wit of the D. M. D. C and company. As the show focuses on the plight of Andy and Lance not much time is left focused on the supporting characters who only have a few moments to shine compared to series two. Although there is plenty of fun to be had from the moments featuring rival detectorists Paul Casar and Simon Farnaby aka Paul and Art.

I adore this show and while it is a shame to see it come to a close it has been a consistently charm filled comedy. The DVD contains a behind the scenes documentary, a brief featurette on the mother and daughter pairing of Stirling and Rigg and a couple of further interviews filmed in the back of a book shop in London.

Also if you're new to the show then you're also in luck as a complete box set of the show is also available and should do more than give you a chuckle or five.

In conclusion, a warm hug of a show, Detectorists Series Three and the complete boxset is out on DVD from the 18th of December.

Monday, 20 November 2017

New Life - Review

Life; you've got to take the good with the bad.

Ben met Ava at a very early age, in that moment they became practically inseparable and even the usually difficult long distance relationship didn't stop them from remaining a strong and committed couple. But life isn't always easy and eventually architect Ben (Jonathan Patrick Moore) and teacher Ava (Erin Bethea) must endure several hardships and hurdles in their life together.

Directed by Drew Waters, New Life, could be just one of those TV movie dramas with a couple of attractive people dealing with the usual problems that everyone else regardless of attractiveness must face. Within the first twenty minutes Ben and Ava have a meet cute, a prom, an argument, a break-up, a make-up, a sweet marriage proposal and a wedding.

Yet once the couple have walked down the aisle the real drama starts and far more familiar faces begin to crop up to assist them in their life together.

James Marsters, Barry Crobin, Terry O'Quinn and Bill Cobbs give a little bit more star power to the film. Moore and Bethea make for a nice enough pair of leads, but having Spike and Locke for company on screen is a bonus.

At 85 minutes long New Life is a very brisk film with a lot of charm to it in spite on an over reliance on narration, predictable dramatic beats and a somewhat cloying musical score.

The films message of seeing the good in even the worst that life can bring is a smidge simplistic but given the way the world is at the moment, a little bit of simplicity is nice.

In conclusion, a small but nicely formed life affirming drama New Life will available to watch on Digital Download from the 20th of November 2017.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

The Ritual

Don't take short cuts in a horror film....ever!

Following the violent death of one of his best friends in a convenience store Luke (Rafe Spall) and three of his mates (Robert James-Collier, Arsher Ali & Sam Troughton) head out for a hiking adventure in Sweden to honour his memory.

But when the rough unforgiving terrain takes it's toll on the four guys who would rather be having a pint or could have gone to a significantly more sun drenched locale they opt to take a detour through a forest.

When the trees are filled with runes and fresh animal carcasses dripping with blood and offal signs are not good for these cheeky chaps the further they wander in. With their friendship already fractured due to the blame dealt to Luke for their mutual mates death being stalked by an evil presence seems to be only one of their woes.

Director David Bruckner gives all the usual visual and audio cues expected in a horror flick in The Ritual. Long shots showing foreboding landscapes, "quiet, quiet, bang" beats and the obligatory running around in the dark screaming. Which for the first two thirds of the film are pretty effective. The quartet of lads make for an interesting set of character to follow, there is banter between the bloodletting and the air of mystery is palpable.

Where things got a smidge squiffy is during the third act, no spoilers here, but much of the intrigue and build-up is deflated by the final twenty or so minutes.

Spall is great, he carries the film as Luke deals with the guilt he suffers from cowardice in not protecting a friend from harm. This is shown in an interesting way by Bruckner by bringing in elements of the store with all it's fluorescent lights and shop shelves with nature. 

Gore hounds won't get much to revel in but those who like a nice jump scare or three should manage to get their heart pumping a couple of times.

In conclusion, The Ritual is a straightforward, no frills chiller that should distract viewers from the real world horrors for 90 or so minutes.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Loving Vincent

Quite literally every frame is a painting.

Utilising the skills of over 100 artists directors Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman explore the life of artist Vincent van Gogh through the eyes of Douglas Booth's reluctant investigator Armand Roulin.

Armand is tasked by his father (Chris O'Dowd) to deliver a letter to Vincent's brother Theo which is somewhat hampered due to Theo having also recently died. 

Taking it upon himself Armand goes on a journey searching for a suitable recipient for the letter. He travels the last few places where van Gogh spent time before his tragic death meeting a variety of familiar faces throughout (John Sessions, Helen McCrory, Eleanor Tomlinson, Aidan Turner, Saoirse Ronan and Jerome Flynn).

With each meeting of those whose lives were touched by the troubled artist a complicated series of events becomes even more complex and mysterious. Did a sane man end his own life or was there something more sinister afoot?

Loving Vincent is a living, moving (in both senses of the word) oil painting. Actors have their performances encased in paint but their emotions seep out of every inch of the 4:3 frame while a typically wonderful score by Clint Mansell adds to the charm, wonder and feels.

The drama takes mere minutes to get into the unusual visual style, fans of A Scanner Darkly and/or Waking Life will be in sorta kinda familiar territory.

There is an occasional oddness to the visuals, especially when a familiar face crops up on oil based form yet it is a subtle yet moving tale of art, madness and tragedy.

In conclusion, not just a film for art aficionados Loving Vincent is a wonder of sights, sounds and should not be missed. 

Friday, 8 September 2017

It (2017) - Review

Clowns are scary? Who knew?

1989, a year has passed since George, the younger brother of Bill (Jaeden Lieberher) went missing.

Well, not missing so much as the viewer is shown exactly what happened to him. He was a victim of an evil entity seen mostly as a sinister dancing clown Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) who preys on the youth of American small town Derry.

Bill and his friends of self named losers quickly discover they're all being targeted by sinister and attempt to fight their fears to defeat the evil clown.

Adaptations of Stephen King stories are to put it mildly a bit of a mix frickin' bag. For every Misery there is a Dreamcatcher, for every The Shawshank Redemption there is a Hearts of Atlantis and the bitter taste of disappointment of The Dark Tower still lingers on.

The tale of a town under siege from an evil murderous presence has obviously been made before in the form of the TV mini-series most remember, quite rightly, for the fantastic performance by Tim Curry but television at that time wasn't really the best place for horror and aside from a little bit of blood and death it was a rather sanitised take.

In this update director Andy Muschietti makes a creepy, funny, thrilling tale that focuses on childhood fears. His frame is filled with wonderful details that add to the unsettling nature of things. Derry as a place is odd and slightly off as if the evil from It has permeated into every corner of the town as this is reflected in Muschietti's film.

Much like the best of King's adaptations the key is in the casting and the characters.

The young kids are practically perfect, quality time is spent at the start with Bill, Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor), Beverly (Sophia Lillis), Richie (Finn Wolfhard), Mike (Chosen Jacobs), Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer) and Stanley (Wyatt Oleff) so that by the time things truly get bad for them they feel real and their peril is palpable.

Meanwhile Skarsgård is fantastic in his chilling portrayal of on a malevolent timeless every present entity fuelled by fear.

Shifting the timing of events from the fifties to the eighties is perfectly suited for someone of my (old) age. It harks back to those classic coming of age stories The Goonies and King's own Stand by Me feel like very strong influences. The innocence of youth is still very much there just with added references to films released by Warner Brothers and New Line. It is also difficult to dislike a film that throws in some nifty NKOTB references too, #HanginTough.

Pure horror fanatics may find the scares a little soft but as a self confessed wuss the well crafted jump scares and ratcheted tension work for me throughout and I cannot wait to see Chapter 2.

In conclusion, led by a brilliant cast of youngsters It blends those warm & fuzzy 80s nostalgia with an effective chiller by making clowns even more scary than they already are.

Monday, 4 September 2017

The Boy and the Beast - DVD Review

Father figures come in all shapes, sizes and hairiness.

Orphaned and alone to roam the city streets young Kyuta accidentally discovers another world filled with beasts.

He meets Kumatetsu, a grumpy, angry warrior reluctantly looking for an apprentice, a role which Kyuta with almost equal reluctance accepts.

A bond grows between the two to the point where the line between teacher and student blurs as each is able to inspire and improve the other.

But with a darkness growing it could bring an end to both our world and the world of the beasts.

Written and directed by Mamoru Hosoda, The Boy and the Beast is a charming and wonderfully animated tale that blends the real with the fantastical using traditional 2D animation enhanced with some nifty computer graphics.

The story moves and twists and turns in unexpected but always gripping ways as Kyuta grows from a young smart mouthed youngster to a strong willed tough young adult all the while Kumatetsu is bellowing and barking at everyone within earshot.

The DVD includes both the original language and English dub and the voice-work on both is great even though we all know #SubsNotDubs.

It has been a cracking few years for animation with the likes of Your Name, The Red Turtle and My Life as a Courgette and The Boy and the Beast sits nicely along with them.

In conclusion, warm, emotional and wonderfully animated The Boy and the Beast is out on DVD, Digital Download and Blu-ray from the 4th of September.

Monday, 28 August 2017

The Limehouse Golem - Review

Gothically grizzly.

1880 London and a series of gruesome murders are taking place with a mythical creature stalking the streets is presumed to be the perpetrator of these crimes and Inspector John Kildare (Bill Nighy) has been tasked to uncover the truth.

Meanwhile an actress Lizzie Cree (Olivia Cooke) charged with the murder of her husband could be the only person able to help Kildare with his case to uncover the identity of the so-called Limehouse Golem.

Directed by Juan Carlos Medina The Limehouse Golem has all the obligatory foggy, shadowy, dark moodiness required for this sort of Gothic yarn.

Played practically straight and poe-faced by a top notch cast only a smattering of moments of lightness shifts the grim tone in what should be a thrilling who-dunnit. Unfortunately it is closer to a mean and moody why-dunnit instead.

The story, almost cyclic in its telling and adapted by Jane Goldman, bounces back at forth from Kildare's search for the Golem and Cree's re-telling of her tragedy filled life that brought her to her current predicament via the bawdy London theatre with star of the show Dan Leno (Douglas Booth), sneaky Aveline Ortega (María Valverde) and the seemingly caring Uncle (Eddie Marsan). As Kildare digs deeper into events instead of uncovering the truth, more secrets and hidden desires of everyone involved is uncovered.

For all the melodramatic courtroom and prison cell sequences and nasty blood and offal drenched crime scenes there is something missing from The Limehouse Golem. Mainly a true sense of mystery. Red herrings are clearly red herrings, the resolution is pretty predictable for anyone paying attention or spent many an hour watching Columbo or practically any TV crime procedural.

A sub-plot involving Kildare's past hints at potential interest but it is seemingly forgotten in favour of watching his mind reconstruct the murders with almost every possible culprit. It becomes less a case of clever detective work and more running out of viable candidates for the Golem.

As ever reliable in watch-ability Nigh performance is subtle and engaging, his face rarely changes emotion as the put upon Inspector dropped into a case he is almost expected to fail at solving, set up as a scapegoat by his career minded superiors for their own ineptitude. Cooke gives yet another immensely watchable performance and gives a very mature and layered performance as a woman trying to define herself beyond her upbringing and gender.

It does offer an alternative at the muliplexes from all the loud, explosion heavy summer fare it is just a shame it is neither as mysterious or murderous as it could have been.

In conclusion, The Limehouse Golem is a great looking, well acted period yarn that won't tax the mind palace of most fans of murder mysteries.