Film Review: Personal Shopper

Olivier Assayas’ mystery drama Personal Shopper is strange, ponderous and frequently compelling.

Maureen is a personal shopper to a wealthy client, and well as a medium. Maureen wishes to stay in Paris as she is waiting for a message from beyond the grave from her twin brother…

Personal Shopper mixes mystery, drama, and suspense to create a memorable film. There is an air of mystery exudes throughout film. The film is not really a typical ghost story, and works all the better for offering an un-formulaic approach. Writer-director Olivier Assayas astutely transforms the focus of this mystery as film progresses. There is a theme of duality that permeates the film. Most obviously, the protagonist is a twin. However, there is the dual sense of mystery; the spirit contact and the very modern text contact. Furthermore, there is also duality of a very superficial lifestyle depicted through Maureen’s job, and the spirituality of her preoccupation.

Protagonist  Maureen is well written, and effectively conveyed. She is a lost soul; the feeling of waiting is both overtly mentioned as well as present in the film’s subtext. The film keeps other characters on the periphery. This is a smart move, as their motivations remain necessarily ambiguous. Viewers may guess who is contacting Maureen, but this does not spoil the enjoyment of mystery as the narrative unfolds. The finale of film feels fitting, exemplifying the theme that has been bubbling to the surface for some time.

Sound design in the film is great. The supernatural elements are rationed; the less is more approach works well. Kristen Stewart has made some interesting choices post-Twilight with Camp X-Ray, The Runaways and others. Personal Shopper continues this run. Stewart’s performance becomes more convincing as film progresses.

Personal Shopper is an unconventional film which offers a light touch tackling the supernatural. An enjoyable watch, and one of Kristen Stewart’s best performances so far.

Stuff To Look At

The post in which I wax lyrical about new movie trailers. And inform you of the films set for release this summer. And get annoyed when I find out film characters share my name. The audacity…

Summer of Cinema 2013

Two weeks ago I went to the launch of ‘Summer of Cinema 2013’ to hear about upcoming releases and enjoy a mini burger (I love miniature food). There is lots to see this summer, from the big blockbusters (Man of Steel, Star Trek Into Darkness) to films by Robert Redford and Sofia Coppola. Check out the compilation above.


Epic has a rather impressive cast voicing its characters. Among others, Colin Farrell, Amanda Seyfried and Christoph Waltz lend their voices. Beyonce voices a character called ‘Princess Tara’. Contrary to popular belief, this is not actually by nickname. Although I am not happy about the use of my name, I will reserve judgement until I see how this character plays out. Epic is released is UK cinemas on 22nd May 2013.

Much Ado About Nothing

A departure from vampires and superheroes, Joss Whedon directs a contemporary update of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. Shot in twelve days and starring some of Whedon’s previous collaborators, the film is a far cry from the filmmaker’s recent output. I am looking forward to this foray into Shakespeare; it will be interesting to see if Whedon can handle it as well as he does big-budget comic book fare. Much Ado About Nothing is released on 14th June 2013.

The Seasoning House

Well, The Seasoning House is certainly not about the abode of spices. This revenge thriller looks pretty brutal. The Seasoning House is the directorial debut of special effects designer Paul Hyett. The film is out in cinemas on 21st June 2013.

In Fear

This trailer is almost haunting. It’s definitely the music. In Fear is a British horror film starring Alice Englert. It looks like a warning never ever to go on a car journey, and not just because they make you feel a bit queasy. Perhaps this is just me. In Fear is due for release in Autumn 2013.


Neil Jordan knows vampires. That’s why I am looking forward to Byzantium, unlike some other recent vampire flicks *cough Twilight cough*. Starring Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan, Byzantium is released in UK cinemas on 31st May 2013.

Thor: The Dark World

For the first minute-plus of this trailer I must have been in the majority of people thinking ‘yeah, but where the hell is Loki? I know Tom Hiddleston is in this film’. Looking rather bedraggled, Avenger Assemble‘s fantastic antagonist finally makes an appearance. Thor: The Dark World hits the big screen in the UK on 30th October 2013.

Film Review: Abduction

As an action thriller, Abduction sits at the cheesy end of the scale. Notwithstanding, John Singleton’s film is still an enjoyable enough ride.

Nathan is a regular teenager attending high school, who has a crush on his neighbour. When searching online for a school project, Nathan discovers his picture on a website for missing children. He confronts his mother about it, but there is a knock on the door before she is able to provide any details…

Abduction focuses on a fascinating concept; discovering your parents are not who they say they are. Rather focusing on the enormity of this revelation, the film is a faced-paced action thriller. John Singleton deftly directs the film’s action sequences. They are often frenetic, and work well to engage the audience.

The plot of Abduction borders on fantastic, and occasionally leaps over this line. Viewers are required to suspend their disbelief for the twists that ensue. This is not necessarily a bad thing; the silliness is rather enjoyable. Nonetheless, those with a healthy dose of scepticism may find the film tiring.

Where the film descends into a cheese-fest is in its dialogue. There is a palpable corniness to the film, particularly the budding relationship between Nathan and Karen. Even in other aspects of the film, the cheesiness breaks through. The flashback sequences late in the film are hard to take seriously.

Abduction sometimes comes across as a children’s television show masquerading as a spy thriller. The film is riddled with espionage clichés, acting almost how it thinks a thriller of this nature should behave. The film is filled with spurious incidents; it is essential that concentrate on the action rather than the plot in order to see the fun in Abduction.

Abduction is clearly a vehicle for Twilight star Taylor Lautner. The film has a 12A certificate, which reflects the intended audience. The main characters are teenagers; again reflecting who the filmmakers think the movie will appeal to. Notwithstanding, the film is quite violent at times, and these scenes may be unsuitable for young viewers.

Performances in Abduction vary. The film features a well-known cast, including Sigourney Weaver, Alfred Molina and Maria Bello. While Bello and Molina are decent, Weaver does not match her usual standard. Taylor Lautner is adequate as lead Nathan, while Lily Collins fulfils the love interest role with her natural beauty.

Abduction is far fetched, and does not have a lot going for it in the narrative department. But the action sequences are entertaining, and overall the film is sufficiently distracting.

Film Review: Fright Night

This new version of Fright Night does not match the 1985 original. Having said that, it is still tremendous fun, and one of better films in the recent spate of horror remakes.

High school student Charlie Brewster is dating the popular and beautiful Amy. He has left behind his geeky ways, much to the annoyance of former best friend Ed. When a new neighbour moves in next door, Charlie becomes suspicious of the things he hears in the night. He suspects that new neighbour Jerry is a vampire, but no one believes him…

Director Craig Gillespie and screenwriter Marti Noxon eschewed the option of producing a faithful update of Tom Holland’s 1985 film. Thankfully they chose to alter the screenplay significantly. The changes made offer a sense of unpredictability to those familiar with the 1985 film. Although the film seems a little preoccupied with the social hierarchy of high school, for the most part these alterations work well.

The characters have also been changed for this remake. Perhaps most interesting of the updates in Peter Vincent. Holland wisely chooses not to emulate the Roddy McDowell character in terms of stature and personality. Instead, the character is much younger and more comparable to Criss Angel than McDowell’s Vincent Price-type legend. This makes the film more distinguishable from its predecessor, which is only a good thing.

Fright Night offers the same blend of comedy and horror as the original. There are some jumpy moments in the film, as well as a healthy dose of gore. The comedy, however, keeps the tone of the film light for the duration. There are also some amusing references to Twilight, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and even the original film, as well as a great cameo appearance.

The special effects are sometimes lacking, but even this is in keeping with the overall jovial tone of the movie. The 3D seems to have been employed purely for novelty value. Nonetheless, this doesn’t really matter, as it is fun in a throwback, schlock kind of way.

Colin Farrell is well cast as Jerry. The actor is perfectly suited to the role, bringing the right combination of menace and allure. Anton Yelchin once again offers a solid performance; the actor is quickly becoming one of the brightest young talents in Hollywood. David Tennant is wonderfully outlandish as Peter Vincent; he clearly seems to be having much fun with the role.

Fright Night should satisfy those with a hankering for comedy horror, and shouldn’t offend fans of the original film. An enjoyable watch.

Film Review: Stake Land

Stake Land is a post-apocalyptic road movie, which works a little like a cross between The Road and Zombieland. It is relentlessly bleak, which can be a bit of a chore as the film progresses.

Martin was a regular teenage boy living with his family. When vampires slaughter them, like millions of others, the teenager is rescued by Mister. Martin travels with Mister, fighting back against any vampires that attack them. Mister trains Martin in combat, as they head towards the safe haven of New Eden…

Stake Land ultimately feels a bit unsatisfying. There are some tense moments and gory action sequences, but little else to sustain the film. The combination of horror and drama can work to great effect, but in Stake Land it just feels staid. There is no humour in the film, which is a shame as the mood could have done with lightening for at least some interludes. It is the comedy in Zombieland that makes it such an enjoyable watch. Eschewing this option, Stake Land is unlikely to become a film that will be revisited again and again.

The narrative is fairly run-of-the-mill, offering no surprises to those familiar with post-apocalyptic movies. The voiceover works well, but the bleakness overshadows any promise of something different. There is a lack of imagination in both the story and the characters. New characters who enter during the course of the film are never developed; presumably it is all about the journey rather than the players.

Stake Land‘s art direction is good. The de-saturation of colour is seemingly synonymous with post-apocalyptic bleakness. The soundtrack also works well, and is very effective in conveying the bleak tone. Some of the montage sequences, which feature Martin being trained, are reminiscent of The Karate Kid. It is unclear whether this is an unintentional homage or not from director Jim Mickle.

Performances are fine but unremarkable in Stake Land. Connor Paolo is appropriately cast as teenager Martin. Nick Damici is suitably sombre as Mister, while Kelly McGillis is adequate as Sister. As Jebedia Loven, Michael Cerveris is a one-dimensional villain. This is perhaps down to a lacking script, rather than the individual performance, however.

With its vile, repugnant antagonists, Stake Land’s vampires are the antithesis to the sparkly kind featured in Twilight. Sadly, Stake Land lacks the buoyancy or drive to make it a truly memorable film. Not at all a painful watch, but not a inspired one either.

Film Review: Red Riding Hood

Sustaining a simple fairy tale over feature-length duration is no mean feat, but for the most part Red Riding Hood pulls it off. By no means one of the great fairy tale adaptations, nonetheless the film should satisfy the audience it is intended for.

Valerie is a beautiful young woman caught between two men. Her childhood friend Peter is a woodcutter who can offer little in terms of wealth. Valerie’s parents wish her to marry Henry, whose family has good standing in the village. Before Valerie can make a decision her sister is killed by a wolf that plagues the village. The villagers seek revenge, but the culprit may be closer than they think…

Screenwriter David Johnson has done a good job of transforming Red Riding Hood from a fairy tale into a mystery. The film functions as a whodunit, with the identity of the wolf remaining a secret until the final act. A number of characters are put in the frame; Valerie’s mistrust of those close to her is mirrored by the audience.

Suspense is duly built up as Red Riding Hood progresses, but the film is let down by the final act. The climax of the film is a bit of a mess, with too many aspects needing to be concluded at once. Moreover, the explanation given at this point appears at odds with the events that have taken place up to this point. While there was never going to be a rational explanation, the reasoning offered is highly spurious.

Whilst altering the fairy tale to something more appropriate for an older audience is understandable, it is a pity that Catherine Hardwicke’s film is infused with another strong mythology. The wolf is actually a werewolf; someone in the village is behind the murders. While a human culprit is necessary for the mystery aspect of Red Riding Hood, there is not such a need to root the story so deeply in the werewolf mythology. The film would have been stronger without this detour into hallowed ground and silver. With Hardwicke directing, the influence of Twilight is clear.

Amanda Seyfried makes an adequate heroine as Valerie. Shiloh Fernandez makes an appropriate love interest as Peter; although the actor is not called on to do much else other than brood. Gary Oldman brings some brevity to proceedings as Father Solomon, but this is not one of his finer roles.

Red Riding Hood is visually sumptuous, with its striking contrast of red and white. Some of the slow motion sequences are overdone, but overall the film is polished. Red Riding Hood can be posited somewhere between Sleepy Hollow and The Crucible thematically, although it does not match either of these films in terms of quality.

Film Review: The Wolfman

“Even a man who is pure in heart”, the remake begins, instantly impressing the weight of the original on this new version of the lycanthropic tale. In the current climate of the modern gothic in films such as Twilight and television series’ like True Blood, it is refreshing to see a Victorian-set gothic horror. Comparisons will be made to the recent Sherlock Holmes, of course, although The Wolfman feels distinctly unmodern.

Johnston’s film presents a highly stylised vision of late nineteenth-century Britain; all brooding mansions and London fogs. Much of the exterior London footage in CGI, however this does not detract from the fantastic realm that the audience is plunged into. The effect is heightened by the carefully controlled palette, contrasting the monochrome of the Talbot residence with the colour of the gypsies.

The story is inevitably predictable. There are no clever twists or shocks to surprise viewers. The film, however, does function as a gothic horror (as opposed to just gothic a la Bram Stoker’s Dracula), providing a handful of cheap frights that will easily unnerve jittery audience members. The transformation sequences fall on the side of grotesque rather than chilling, paying debt to the 1941 original.

Although the dialogue is at times grating in its attempt at the grandiose, Del Toro’s portrayal of Talbot is successful insomuch as it provokes sympathy. As the tragic gothic protagonist, Talbot struggles with the most seminal of the genre’s preoccupations: duality. The Wolfman invokes that traditional Victorian depiction of reservedness, which is most prevalent through the relationship between Talbot and Gwen. Despite their obvious love and affection for one another, the pair share a single kiss in the film; Talbot stares longingly at Gwen’s neckline rather than any further south.

The Wolfman is perfect as a slice of Victorian gothic escapism. But those searching for an intricate plot or a vein of originality are better off looking elsewhere.