Review: Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014)

Guardians Of The Galaxy

With a line of successful franchises already set up, Marvel take a risk with their latest, Guardians Of The Galaxy, a largely unknown comic book property. It’s safe to say their bet has paid off, with director James Gunn delivering a ludicrously entertaining space-set adventure that fizzles with humour, rat-a-tat interplay and marvellous action set pieces. Continue reading “Review: Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014)”

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Review: Ceremony (2010)

Ceremony is writer/director Max Winkler’s feature film debut, and stars Uma Thurman, Michael Angarano, Lee Pace, Jake Johnson, Rebecca Mader and Reece Thompson.

The film centers on a young guy (Angarano) who takes his best friend to crash the wedding of the thirty-something woman (Thurman) he wants back.

Traces of Wes Anderson are too frequent to note, but its clear director Max Winkler has developed his own style. He displays a much more brisk and confidently naturalistic technique, with his smooth camera movements and unobtrusive shots.

Winkler counterbalances this with a script comprised of complex, interesting and engrossing characters who speak with quick, snappy dialogue from the outset.

The trouble is, Winkler never takes the time to form believable backstories for his characters. It seems all too implausible that Zoe and Sam had a past relationship in the first place, much less one that’s worth trying to reclaim. At its heart, Ceremony is a character piece, but unfortunately one that constantly goes through the motions, as if trying to prove itself too much.

Saying that, there are some truly terrific performances to behold. Thurman forges a very real and tender Zoe, one who obviously has a deep understanding of Sam, but can’t quite justify the relationships future. Angarano is the true revelation, delivering a wholly adult performance – something with abundant personality and immeasurable depth.

The supporting performances, including turns from Thompson, Johnson, Pace and Mader provide much needed escapism from the throes of the central focus; Johnson and Mader especially throw themselves into their respective characters and make their screen-time worthwhile and a joy to watch.

Ceremony is an elegantly made, cajoling and well acted film that proves Winkler is just as capable, if not more so, than his peers – even if it isn’t the masterpiece it seems to believe it is.

Review: The Resident (2011)

The Resident, a home invasion thriller directed by Antti Jokinen, is Hammer second shot at commercial horror after the marginally successful Let Me In.

The film centers on Juliet (Hillary Swank), a doctor who, after a messy break-up with her boyfriend (Lee Pace), rents a spacious apartment in Brooklyn, subsequently finding herself beset on all sides by a mysterious, unseen force of evil.

Jokinen’s direction, from the offset, is shaky as he tries to build quiet suspense and an eerie atmosphere on the shoddy premise and haphazard script. That said, he does make effective use of CCTV security footage captured on motion-sensitive cameras, using them to instill some low-key terror. The problem is he’s too timid to take it anywhere.

What works, is the fine fine examples of Hammer’s classic horror film aesthetic embedded within the action; from ripe dialogue, and enthusiastic cast to fog-thick atmosphere and some tense camera-work. It’s a breath of fresh air to see these techniques being used once again, it’s just a shame so see them go wasted.

In terms of casting, Swank and Jeffrey Dean Morgan both bring adequate shading to their respective characters, delivering equally respectable performances. Neither of then, however, feel comfortable enough with the source material to truly captivate us, and make us sympathise with their characters.

Sadly, Christopher Lee – in his first Hammer film for close to three decades – is shamefully wasted as August, who immediately – despite his limited screen time – brings a smidgen of credibility to the film.

The Resident is not outright awful, but it’s nothing more than a routine Hammer horror film that fails to create any atmosphere around its premise.