BLU-RAY REVIEW: THE WHOLE TRUTH

 

The Whole Truth is a courtroom drama and thriller that spends its entire runtime getting to the truth of a matter. The film is one that – for the most part – keeps the audience guessing in much the same way as Doubt did. This ultimately makes for a story that is not a bad one to watch, even if there are areas needing improvement and the ending is a tad predictable.

Keanu Reeves stars as a hard-drinking, defence lawyer named Richard Ramsey. He also narrates the story but his delivery is so detached and flat and the content adds so little to the film that for the most part it seems like these are obtrusive elements are like a fly that you’d love to swat away. Reeves’ performance is also rather uneven and unconvincing as he attempts to play a guy trying to defend an open-and-shut case on behalf of a family friend.

A wealthy personal injury lawyer named Boone Lassiter (Jim Belushi in a rare dramatic role) is found dead. He was stabbed and has a knife protruding from his chest. His son Mike (a poker-faced, Gabriel Basso) kneels above his estranged, old man’s body and mutters, “Should have done this a long time ago.” The police take this as a confession and it is Ramsey’s job to try to defend the boy and possibly get him acquitted of murder.

The main problem is that Mike won’t talk, not even to his lawyer. So Ramsey adopts a strategy of making it look like the prosecution is winning the case until some extra, crucial pieces of information are revealed. But are some of these red herrings that have been planted or are they the actual truth?

Boone is painted as a philanderer and a tyrant who assaulted his wife (a troubled, Renée Zellweger). The information is revealed via a series of flashbacks with director, Courtney Hunt (Frozen River) attempting to keep the audience on their toes until the very end.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Concussion) also appears in this film. She plays Janelle and is brought in as a young, eager-to-prove herself co-counsel to assist Ramsey. Mbatha-Raw’s role is a largely thankless one. Janelle attempts to suss out the truth and discovers that there could be more to this story than meets the eye. The only thing that seems certain here is that there are many shades of grey and at least a few people are telling secrets and lies.

The Whole Truth is a drab-looking film. It’s shot mostly in-doors in the grey courtroom and is rather dull in depicting the events leading up to it so it’s really an unnecessary one to view on Blu-ray. It also tries to weave together a bunch of different subplots while forcing the audience to question just who Boone’s killer was and what was their motive. For a straight-to-video film it certainly has its movements but you also get the sense that with a few adjustments it could have been so much better.

Originally published on 8 March 2017 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/whole-truth-dvd-review/

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DVD REVIEW: CAFE SOCIETY

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It seems that La La Land is not the only film to look affectionately at some halcyon days in Hollywood. Woody Allen’s Café Society manages to do this as well as celebrating the jazzy nightlife of New York. This is a light yet fun film that is like a love letter to old money and its trappings, even though it is set in the thirties, a time where most would normally stop and think about the Great Depression.

Café Society once again sees the famed director doubling as the film’s narrator. It is also brimming with the kind of witty repartee that Allen and his work have become synonymous with. It also finds time for some navel gazing, posing some existential questions and sticking the knife into organised religion. This is a funny and romantic story but in true Allen fashion, it’s one that rules with the head rather than the heart.

Jesse Eisenberg does his best Woody Allen impression and stars as Bobby, a kid with stars in his eyes. He is seduced by Hollywood’s bright lights and leaves his family behind for L.A. Steve Carrell is a Hollywood heavyweight and Bobby’s Uncle Phil. The latter takes pity on his nephew and offers the boy some work doing odd job at the company he owns.

Bobby initially enjoys the girls, glamour and debauchery of la la land but eventually he comes to see through it all. He realises that a lot of it is excess, fakery and vanity. This sentiment is shared by his uncle’s secretary, Vonnie (Kristen Stewart who actually cracks a smile for once and puts in a decent performance.) The chemistry between these former cast mates is quite obvious and really makes the romance seem plausible.

The two youngsters bond over a mutual love of Mexican food. Vonnie initially plays her cards close to her chest because she’s intelligent and street-smart and because she has an elusive boyfriend she started dating shortly before meeting Bobby. The latter was always going to be hooked on his Uncle’s secretary, he was smitten early on and it’s almost inevitable that he will have his heart broken.

Eventually Bobby returns to New York to work with his gangster brother in a nightclub. It’s here that he meets a divorcee (a fresh-faced and bubbly, Blake Lively.) A new romance blossoms but this bliss doesn’t last for long because Vonnie soon visits New York and the club with another unwelcome visitor in tow.

Café Society celebrates style, youth and beauty. It’s a rather flimsy, predictable and lightweight film but it’s also one that offers enjoyment in spades thanks to its beautifully-shot scenes and witty dialogue. This is a look at a rich part of America in the thirties and it shows where professional dreams can clash with romance (although this is nothing new.) This is the sort of film that will not profoundly affect you but one where you can sit back, relax and enjoy as a sort of date with the society set with all of the trimmings.

Originally published on 6 February 2017 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/cafe-society-dvd-review/

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FILM REVIEW: ROSALIE BLUM

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French film Rosalie Blum is a new adaptation of the graphic novels of the same name by Camille Jourdy. It’s a quirky dramedy told across three separate parts, taking in the different viewpoints of three separate characters.
In act one we are introduced to Vincent Machot (Kyan Khojandi). He is the king of predictability, a man who lives with his overbearing mother in a flat, and who can divide his time neatly between that spent at work on his own business, and his encounters with his cousin, cat and parent.

One day, a series of circumstances forces Machot into a grocer’s shop in a provincial part of France. The shopkeeper is one Rosalie Blum (a dowdy-looking Noémie Lvovsky). Confronted with this mysterious older woman, Machot can’t help but shake the feeling that they already know each other – so, naturally, he becomes her stalker, going through her garbage in order to satisfy his curiosity, if not the audience’s. From her perspective, Rosalie is aware that she’s being followed, and enlists the help of her gorgeous young niece Aude (Alice Isaaz) to spy on her stalker.

First-time director Julien Rappeneau uses his time to slowly reveal how these three characters are really connected, and while the concept has potential, the actual execution is dull.

The Belle And Sebastian song ‘Get Me Away From Here, I’m Dying’ is a welcome distraction (though the sentiment of that title is probably going a bit far, even if this film struggles to maintain any momentum). Still, Rosalie Blum is little more than a flat and forgettable game of hide-and-seek in which nobody seems to win.

Originally published on 29 December 2016 at the following website: http://thebrag.com/arts/rosalie-blum

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FILM REVIEW: UP FOR LOVE (Un homme à la hauteur)

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Up For Love (Un homme à la hauteur) is a French film that isn’t sure whether it wants to be dramatic and have a serious message or to be lightweight and farcical. The story is a remake of an Argentinean film named, Corazón de León. It is about a tall woman who grapples with falling in love with a short man. The story is ultimately too flippant and exploitative to really cut through.

Jean Dujardin (The Artist) stars as Alexandre, a charming and witty architect. In real life, Dujardin is over six feet tall so here he is digitally enhanced to appear like a diminutive man (around four feet tall) who had problems with his pituitary gland whilst growing up. This alone feels entirely at odds with the film’s overall message of accepting people for who they really are.

A successful lawyer and blonde bombshell divorcee, Diane (Virginie Efira) leaves her phone at a monument one day and luckily it is picked up by Alexandre. The pair chat over the telephone and share a meaningful conversation before agreeing to meet in person. The two soon fall into a passionate relationship but Diane struggles with Alexandre’s height. Her feelings are compounded by the insensitiveness of the people around her. Diane’s ex-husband calls her “Snow White” at one point while her mother recklessly drives into on-coming traffic after hearing her daughter’s relationship is becoming serious.

This film, Up For Love by director, Laurent Tirard feels rather disingenuous. There are one too many cheap shots at short people and the storyline is quite predictable and clichéd. It’s a shame because this film is nicely-shot and could have been so much more. The actors are certainly charismatic and likeable enough and the story isn’t a completely throwaway one. The problem is that the tone is too light-hearted and flippant to be taken seriously and the jibes are often too awkward and cringeworthy, rather than funny.

 

***Please note: a free double pass to this film was given to the writer through a Beauty & Lace giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: http://entertainment.beautyandlace.net/user-reviews-up-for-love

BOOK REVIEW: TRICIA STRINGER – A CHANCE OF STORMY WEATHER

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A Chance of Stormy Weather was originally self-published in 2004 by Australian, rural romance writer, Tricia Stringer. It was also one of her most requested books, as some readers thought it was good at distilling what life in the country is really about. This fictional story is not Stringer’s best work but it is still a well-written and pleasant-enough novel.

This book is about the marriage between a Sydney girl named Paula and a farmer from South Australia named Dan. The two had a whirlwind romance and got married not long after they initially met (and why this was the case is not properly explored.) This then sets things up for a fish-out-of-water tale as the book takes in the events that surround their first few months of marriage.

Paula is a naïve city girl when it comes to her new life. She doesn’t know much about the country (even basics like what kind of meat mutton is allude her) and she’s not used to driving along dirt roads. Paula is sometimes a difficult character to warm to. She is pretty idle when she initially arrives at her new home (granted some of this could be chalked up to the culture shock that she experiences) and she is sometimes quite silly (it’s hard to believe that she was burned in a previous relationship only to rush into the arms of another man.)

Dan on the other hand is an easier person to like. He’s a hard-working guy who’s trying to forge out a living and be self-reliant. But he is also hiding some secrets from the past, most importantly the present status/nature of his relationship with his ex-girlfriend, Katherine. There is also Dan’s meddlesome aunt, Rowena who is always on hand to offer her two cents worth and Paula’s parents are occasionally present to interfere with their daughter’s relationship under the guise of “meaning well.”

A Chance of Stormy Weather glosses over some important elements in the main characters’ romance (as well as their lives before they met one other) and it is ultimately a rather predictable story of a fish out of water. It’s also a book where the characters are not the most endearing or easy to warm to. Stringer has a fine reputation for telling engaging stories about the lives of individuals living in rural Australia and while this book seems to tick some boxes well, there was also room in this vast country expanse for some additional improvements.

***Please note: a free copy of this book was given to the writer through a Beauty & Lace giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: http://bookgirl.beautyandlace.net/book-club-a-chance-of-stormy-weather

FILM REVIEW: CAFE SOCIETY

cafesociety

 

Woody Allen’s latest film should be renamed “High Society.” This beautifully-shot comedy is a nostalgic but throwaway look at the glitz and glamour of some halcyon days in Hollywood and the smoky nightlife of New York. It’s ultimately like a pleasant and lightweight dream that celebrates money even though the thirties was synonymous for some with the great depression.

Café Society is like most of Allen’s films in that it is full of snappy dialogue and features the famous director as a sleepy narrator. One of the best pieces of advice this film offers is to “Live everyday like it’s your last because one day you’ll be right” as well as other existential points and jabs at religion. This may be a romantic tale but in true Allen style this romance is one where your head is in charge, not your heart.

Bobby (Jesse Eisenberg doing his best Woody Allen impression) stars as a wide-eyed kid who is initially seduced by the bright lights of Hollywood. Bobby’s Uncle Phil (Steve Carell) is a Hollywood hotshot. He takes pity on his nephew and offers the kid some odd jobs. Bobby seems to enjoy elements of La-La land (his encounter with a first-time prostitute is hilarious) but he soon comes to hate the excess and fakery of it all. It’s a sentiment that is shared by his uncle’s secretary, Vonnie (Kristen Stewart who proves she doesn’t need to pout her way through every film.) Stewart puts in a fine performance where the chemistry with her former cast mate, Eisenberg is particularly obvious.

Vonnie is given the job of showing Bobby around town. The two youngsters bond over Mexican food and Bobby becomes completely smitten. But Vonnie holds her cards closely to her chest. The reason she does so is because she’s smart and savvy and because she also has an elusive boyfriend that she started dating a year before meeting Bobby.

Eventually Bobby returns home to New York. He takes a job working in a nightclub with his gangster brother. Bobby meets a divorcee at the club (an effervescent Blake Lively) and romance blossoms. The pair seem happy until Vonnie shows up at the club with someone Bobby knows all too well.

Café Society is like The Great Gatsby in that it celebrates youth, beauty and jazz. The story itself is quite flimsy and predictable but it’s a film that offers entertainment and enjoyment, pure and simple. This depiction of love triangles and professional dreams is one opulent ride and a fun look at a brief but rich period in the thirties in America. In Café Society’s world the depression never happened and everyone was free to enjoy themselves, rambling through the richness and splendour that was the society set. This is ultimately fun for audiences to watch but don’t expect it to change your life or your riches.

Originally published on 18 October 2016 at the following website: http://iris.theaureview.com/film-review-woody-allens-latest-cafe-society-usa-2016-offers-a-nostalgic-but-throwaway-look-at-the-great-depression/

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DVD REVIEW: REGRESSION

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Regression is a film that lives up to its name because for you to recall any of it you’d have to go back and watch it again and again. The film is a dark one set in 1990 in rural Minnesota. It’s also one that is based on real-life events. But the story and characters are ultimately too weak and underdeveloped to lift this beyond the realm of a mediocre thriller.

The film is written and directed by Alejandro Amenábar (The Others). It seems that Amenábar was a bit too close to the subject matter. The majority of the characters feel as light-weight as holograms. Regression also often has as much horror, suspense and tension as a wet blanket.

Emma Watson stars as a troubled, 17 year-old girl who accuses her alcoholic father, John Gray (David Dencik) of rape. The Dad spends a lot of time reassuring the investigators that his daughter is nice girl who would never make this up, despite his having no recollection of the crime. The police officer investigating the case (Ethan Hawke) is initially sceptical but he begins to change his tune after he witnesses some regression therapy sessions between a psychologist (David Thewlis) and the accused. These basically culminate in memories being planted.

At times it feels like the investigator has flipped a switch. He becomes so doggedly assured that the allegations are true and that Gray’s family must be involved in a ritualistic cult. Never mind if this implicates one of his fellow officers. The dark acts involve lots of sex, rape, human sacrifice and even the consumption of human flesh, yuck! The subject matter is provocative but the film is so formulaic and far-fetched that you can’t take it very seriously (even if the film itself tries to do so!)

This story is ultimately quite dubious, especially as the therapy is pure charlatanism. This flat film tries to be raw and mysterious but in many instances it seems quite predictable, ridiculous and forgettable. Some underwhelming performances (from quality actors doing the best they can with the turgid source material) make this regression session too dull and boring for its own good. Yawn.

Originally published on 24 July 2016 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/regression-dvd-review/

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iTunes Review: The Escort (Film)

TheEscort

 

If you combined parts of Pretty Woman’s plot with two characters using each other not unlike those in How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days then chances are you’d get The Escort. The film is a rom-com about two unlikely people finding each other. While the film is not an original one and it is predictable and clichéd at times, it is still rather pleasant and easy to watch.

Lyndsy Fonseca stars as Natalie, a sassy Stanford graduate who earns a crust by being a tutor by day and a high-class escort by night. She seems like a rather strong and independent woman until you learn her back story. While Natalie can hold her own at times, there are other moments when things can get a little out of hand, especially when she’s on the job.

Enter Mitch (Michael Doneger), a sex addict and unemployed 27 year old journalist. He is trying hard to get his foot in the door at a glossy magazine but in order to convince the editor that he’s the right candidate, he needs a good story. So Mitch calls on Natalie to be his subject matter and she in turn uses him as a bodyguard. But the pair soon get more than they bargained for.

This film is directed by Cold Turkey’s Will Slocombe and is written by Brandon A. Cohen and Doneger. It could have been terrible but it’s actually not that bad. It’s a nicely shot little number with scenes of LA and a spectacular mural providing some real highlights. The performances by Fonseca and Doneger are good as the two bring a certain vulnerability to their characters and the pair also share an obvious chemistry. The same praise cannot be said about Bruce Campbell who plays and acts like a caricature of a seventies, has-been rock star.

The Escort is a light-hearted and emotional rom-com that touches on important issues like cyberbullying, technology, sex, love and addictions. The two main characters are quite sweet and easy to root for (no pun intended) and the whole thing is surprisingly tasteful and charming. The film may not be the funniest or the most original rom-com out there but The Escort is saved by its big heart and some lighter moments.

 

Originally published on 21 June 2016 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/the-escort-itunes-review/

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BLU-RAY REVIEW: CUT BANK

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Cut Bank is the sort of film that if you go in with low expectations you may just be pleasantly surprised. The movie is a pastiche of noir thriller and is indebted to the work of the Coen brothers in more ways than one. Cut Bank is ultimately the sort of story that is hardly ground-breaking, but it could just be a pleasant enough ride for the most part.

The film is written by Roberto Patino (Sons of Anarchy). It also marks the feature debut for veteran TV director, Matt Shakman who has recently been working on the TV adaptation of Fargo (and this has certainly influenced this film). Cut Bank is set in the small town of the same name in Montana and it shows the events that surround the first murder to have ever taken place in the area.

The gorgeous, Liam Hemsworth stars as a hunky and restless motor mechanic who has big dreams of leaving this place for dust. He wants to bring his girlfriend, Cassandra Steeley (the sweet, Teresa Palmer) along for the ride. The latter is a natural beauty who is about to enter a local pageant. The pair were filming Steeley’s entry video in a picturesque field (this is one of many great settings that show off the excellent cinematography by Ben Richardson) but they also inadvertently capture a murder in progress.

Local mailman, Georgie Wits (Bruce Dern) is shot and there is a reward offered by the government for any information relating to the death of a federal employee. Local sheriff (a subdued, John Malkovich) is a little out of his depth because he vomits at the idea of undertaking a murder investigation. Thankfully he is ably assisted by Steeley’s father (Billy Bob Thornton). The town is also inhabited by a local weirdo and taxidermist (Michael Stuhlbarg who shares a few things in common with Robin Williams’ character in One Hour Photo). He seems like a prime suspect but to some people he may just seem like an enthusiastic US Post user who just wants his missing, “p-p-p-parcel!”

Cut Bank can be a tad outrageous and unrealistic at times. There are moments where things fall apart and the proceedings seem to veer a little too far off-course. At other times the film tries a bit too hard and fails, especially when the characters seem only half-formed. One positive however, is that the film is a brief one and it has an excellent, veteran cast that put in solid performances that keep things moving.

The special features on the Blu-ray are disappointing. There are no featurettes- all that is offered is simply the theatrical trailer and a handful of cast interviews with: Malkovich, Thornton, Stuhlbarg, Dern and Oliver Platt. For a Blu-ray containing such a short feature film this really misses the mark as there was room for the audience to enjoy so much more.

Cut Bank has its moments of decent, dark noir but it can be a bit predictable at times as it borrows a little too much from other films in the genre. If you want a story about a murder set in a small town with some simple curveballs and twists then this is a story for you. It’s not going to change your life or the world but you might just find some entertaining moments if you wade in deep enough.

 

Originally published on 4 June 2016 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/cut-bank-blu-ray-review/

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BOOK REVIEW: CHRIS PAVONE – THE ACCIDENT

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Chris Pavone should be commended for penning such an ambitious thriller. But The Accident is ultimately let down by a series of problems with its execution. It attempts to make a high-stakes game out of 24-hours in the publishing industry but it requires a very large suspension of disbelief in order for any of it to ring true. It also boasts a cast of thousands and this means it can be hard to know or care about the people involved for the majority of the tale.

This book is Pavone’s second novel. The author has had first-hand knowledge of the publishing industry, having worked in it for several decades and mostly as an editor. He is also no stranger to writing suspenseful stories, having won the Edgar award for his debut novel The Expats. Pavone’s first-hand knowledge of the publishing industry could be seen as both a help and a hindrance because it is quite possible that there are times when he is a little too close to the subject matter in this story and all of this does is tend to alienate the reader.

The novel begins with a discrete but influential literary agent named Isabella Reed receiving a typed manuscript from an anonymous author. The book is an explosive exposé about a media mogul who has links to the CIA. This unpublished manuscript offers a lot of potential- it could be a saving grace for some key players in the industry because it looks poised to sell by the truckload and revive some waning careers. But there are people like veteran CIA operative Hayden Gray who want the manuscript buried and they will stop at nothing less than murder to do so.

The Accident is a mish-mash of different perspectives including various literati, spies/security agents and the elusive, “author”. The novel offers up some excerpts from the unpublished manuscript and these contain some of the more explosive revelations. The Accident itself starts off rather slowly and it does tend to jump around between chapters headed up by major and minor characters, as well as different tenses and perspectives. This can make it a trudge for the reader because it can be difficult to weed out the important stuff from the over-written paragraphs. When you combine this with some predictable twists and an unsatisfying ending, it can make for one hard slog indeed.

This literary thriller has a great premise and it could make for an interesting film but it is a rather difficult read. While Pavone has crafted a book that is brimming with many different layers and dramatic elements when this is combined it can be a tad overwhelming for the reader. In all, this is a detailed mystery that offers up some drama and tension but there is also room for this story to be tightened and improved.

***Please note: a free copy of this book was given to the writer through a The Reading Room giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: https://www.thereadingroom.com/book/the-accident/8111709/

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