A Serbian Film Review

Now it has been out for a while, A Serbian Film has not really lived up the controversy, and seems to have fallen by the wayside. The plot follows a retired porn star named Milos as he gets involved in one last production, with dire consequences.  This film is disgusting, and extremely violent. But I refuse to accept it is shocking. Much like the other big “gross out” film of the year, The Human Caterpillar it is simply all too ridiculous to actually have a real emotional impact. The fact that the BBFC have decided to cut over four minutes from it has only added to the needless controversy. Again, I’m being honest when I find it confusing to imagine what has been cut- there is nothing we haven’t seen before.

The most surprising aspect of A Serbian Film is how well made it is. The cinematography and direction are good, and Srdjan Todorovic as Milos gives a passionate, if over exuberant performance as Milos. There are a couple of nice moments, and some really creepy scenes.  But anyone with a good interest in horror can list of dozens of much more interesting titles. This certainly is not a new Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Salo.

There really isn’t a great deal to say about the movie, which considering its supposed films is a big disappointment.  Overall, if you are a gorehound you will check this out, and not be disappointed. But wait till DVD at most. This is not a classic of the genre, and certainly not cinema’s zenith of controversy and shock.

5/10

Catfish Review

To confirm, I’m giving nothing away about this film’s plot. Just go see it- there will be plenty to discuss.

The most exciting part of this film is the sheer exuberance of the filmmakers. They have stumbled across an amazing story, and the freedom, kit, and technical know-how to pull it off.  This really pays off when it comes to the cinematography, and even the most impromptu filming is beautiful. There have been doubts about its authenticity, and it would seem that some scenes have been manipulated for extra drama .However, in my own experience situations like this can arise in documentary filmmaking, and though some scenes do seem a little forced, it’s worth remembering this is ninety minutes from thousands.

There are points where the filmmakers do slip into exploitation, but it is forgivable. It shows the dangers of the virtual world, not just social networking, but even emails and text messages. This is pure voyeurism, where a beautiful man is better than an ugly woman, and the latter is stalked from all angles. She may have deceived but ultimately it is her who is now a worldwide laughing stock.  This is just as much a story about them exploring as it is the consequences. The final result isn’t actually that amazing; it is much more the fact it actually happened. Catfish’s real awkwardness is that it can be hard to choose who to cheer for.

As with all good documentaries, it’s the little truths found in every scene that make it a classic. Three New York hipsters wondering round an empty farmhouse is both remarkable and chilling. Abigail’s disabled children are heart breaking. It is the film that has physically affected me most this year, and I can’t recommend it enough.

9/10

Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of The Dawn Treader Review

The Narnia trilogy have been a strange series of films. They have never received the prestige bestowed on Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, and have suffered from criticism of their Christian themes. With Disney pulling out of co-producing, and at the time of writing Dawn Treader is slipping down the box office, the continuation of the series seems in the balance.

The plot follows Edmund and Lucy from the first two films, and their obnoxious cousin Eustace, as they splash down in to Narnia aboard The Dawn Treader. A new evil has arrived, and it’s up to them to bring peace to the land once again.

What narrative there is sticks together, but its real problem is the lack of any true threat. The main baddie is nothing more than an evil mist, and despite claiming to make your worst nightmares come true, in reality seems to deal more with minor insecurities. The peril never gets beyond Saturday morning cartoon level, and this is the series planting its flag purely in the children’s market.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, but must be judged as such.

As with Harry Potter, the franchise got lucky with its child actors. Prince Caspian is a bit of a wet blanket, but Reepicheep and the other Narnians are very strong . Eustace could so easily have just been silly, but has real moments of humour that shine through.  The best part of the Narnia films have always been the special effects and this instalment is no exception. Aslan looks better than ever, and there is a real weight and life to all the talking animals. Dawn Treader may be light, but it builds a great atmosphere. The editing seems a little choppy in places, but the whole “islands with different dangers” archetype is a strong one, and really works. If only there was little more risk to the adventures, and this could have been a top notch picture.

This is very light fare, but good special effects and  a half decent plot keep it going .This film is not a classic, and not even the best of the series. But as an enjoyable Christmas movie, it’s worth checking out.

6/10

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale Review

Having watched the original short film only two weeks before (see link below), Rare Exports was top of my list to see this Christmas. The plot follows a young boy as he and a group of Finnish hunters get embroiled with a large corporation that releases an evil Santa from his mountain prison.

It’s true madness from start to finish. This turns out to be the film’s greatest strength. Elves, magic, and Santa are dealt with absolute sincerity, and what could have been such a goofy movie keeps the illusion of the situation going. For a movie about Father Christmas, surely no bad thing.

The acting is great from the whole cast, but special praise should go to Onni Tommila as Pietari the young boy. His charming and engaging performance is crucial for the film to work, and keeps the slower parts from getting boring or odd.

Although some critics have said the ending is a little lacking, the final showdown with evil Santa provides a very satisfactory conclusion.  It brings together a lot of themes from throughout the piece, and although I don’t want to give anything away, keeps true to the characters being hunters.

This film does have a dark soul, and is very strange indeed. However, Rare Exports has created some wonderful scenes, and is in its own way, beautiful. You won’t leave the cinema scared, but roaring with laughter, and very much looking forward to Christmas.

8/10

Of Gods And Men Review

The plot of Of Gods and Men didn’t exactly enthrall me on the way to the screening. It follows a group of French Monks in Algeria, whose peaceful existence is shattered when Islamic extremists threaten their lives.

I was expecting a rather slow look at the meaning of faith, and long discussions on religion. Instead, the film look at the monks as humans, and the perfectly normal reactions that death can bring. They don’t want to leaves their friends just as much as they don’t want to abandon their God, and the long scenes of their simple life go from banal to nostalgic to upsetting as the danger increases.

What a lot of reviews have missed out on in parts Of Gods and Men is absolutely chilling. We do see the consequences of staying behind and facing the extremists, and the first meeting between the two groups is incredibly tense.  A lot has been made of the  “Swan Lake” meal scene. For me the most moving part was when an army helicopter hovered near the monastery during prayers. The men hug each other, and continue their songs, despite the rattling on the machine utterly dominating the soundtrack.  For a film where not a lot happens for large periods of time, there is absolutely no filler.

So although the plot may sound difficult, this is beautifully simple filmmaking that does have momentum. It is not just another art house film, and although challenging, is never boring. I am of a totally secular nature, but this story delves deep into the heart of humanity, and touches themes that affect us all.

9/10

Film Vs Book #8: A Clockwork Orange

Here it is!

The 405- In Tribute To Leslie Nielsen: Shirley You Can’t Be Serious?

An article I contributed to.