Category Archives: On DVD and Blu-Ray

What movies should you have sitting on your shelf?

The House of Nic Rage

Ever feel like you want to just smash something apart? Like smashing a plate or hitting a wall?

Most of us do from time to time. But sadly public civility and pesky laws discourage most of us from really letting loose our frustrations…Until now that is.
To celebrate the release of Mom and Dad on DVD, Wreck Room UK have opened a new pop-up. The House of Nic Rage is the UK’s first Rage Room. The event allows participants to smash, hit, pummel and beat the heck out of objects in the safety of its small walls.
Mom and Dad stars Nicolas Cage and Selma Blair as a suburban couple who become infected with a mysterious virus. The outbreak causes those affected to turn violently on their nearest and dearest, in their case, their own children.
The event will get participants suited and booted, for safety and added coolness. Once in your jumpsuit, gloves and helmet you are given a few minutes and a selection of weapons to tear apart a small room, with plates, cups, vases, frames and a computer screen all provided.
The event is running on the 21st of July and a single session costs £35. It may be a high price for what you get but this is no doubt, a unique experience.

Mom and Dad is available on DVD and Blu-ray now. ~
You can book your session at The House of Nic Rage by following the link below.

I Kill Giants – Review

Barbara Thorson (Madison Wolfe) has issues. She has no friends at school and she is being raised by her sister, which means her home life is a little chaotic. But Barbara has a bigger problem. If she doesn’t maintain the rune spells and traps she’s set up around her home and her town, giants will come to destroy everything and everyone around her.

While Barbara believes wholeheartedly in the giants that threaten her life and community, we realise that they might be a mask for some insurmountable problem that she can’t bear to face head on, and a guilt that she can’t come to terms with.

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Based on a graphic novel, this film has beautiful moments of fantasy and imagination, mixed with the everyday life of a small seaside town. It’s a beautiful mix of the everyday, the small, and the fantastic. I loved the costume design and the little Nordic magical touches, the rune stones, the different kinds of giants, the tent Barbara chooses to sleep in. It’s a child’s magical world, threatened by the tragedies of growing up and grown up life.

The heart of the film is Barbara, a bespectacled awkward child, with her own way of dressing, out of step with those around her. Madison Wolfe plays her beautifully, making her both strong and vulnerable. A pugnacious child full of imagination and fire, but who is also genuine and likeable. She delivers some great one liners so beautifully. She’s joined by Zoe Saldana as the school counsellor tasked with getting through to Barbara, but struggling to help the closed off child. Imogen Poots is Karen, her older sister, who can’t keep the household together and tries to nurture Barbara but can’t always find the right way to be close to her. Barbara is a wonderful character to watch in a film, but would be a very hard person to live with.

Initially a little slow, the film builds as we are drawn into Barbara’s world. As she slowly and a little reluctantly makes friends with new girl Sophia (Sydney Wade), we learn about the giants, who they are and what they look like, about the traps and charms Barbara has set, but what we don’t learn is what Barbara is running and hiding from.

Perhaps that’s a little flaw of the film, because although the movie is full of emotion and genuine feeling, when you don’t know what that feeling is about, it’s harder to invest in it. It’s not that we need to know everything at once, but rather that there are not enough hints and titbits, not enough clues dropped. After all the reticence to talk about Barbara’s big secret, the reveal falls a little flat. This reluctance to reveal also means that there are some questions we’d love to know the answer to, but are not explored, though these are minor.

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The film is also a little bit too much like A Monster Calls, which is a shame. As it’s adapted from a graphic novel, we know that it’s not a copy or a cash in, but it still feels too similar to feel totally unique. But with it’s excellent special effects and design, it feels different and fresh, too.

But all of that said, it’s a really charming and heartfelt story, and Wolfe is a true delight as the odd and snarky Barbara. It’s a film that’s beautiful to watch, and creates a small, childlike world for us to enter into, reminding us of how we all feel sometimes, the way in which we can’t always face our pain and problems head on. Never is this more true than in childhood. It’s a charming film, with small, sweet delights, and well worth a look.

I Kill Giants is out on DVD & Blu-Ray now!  

Unpopped Kernels: Beach Rats (2017)

British actor Harris Dickinson is a star in the making. He has nabbed the lead role in director Danny Boyle’s new ten-part television series, Trust, in which he plays John Paul Getty III in the other screen version (after Ridley Scott’s All the Money in the World) of the infamous 1973 kidnapping. You’ll see him in September opposite Amandla Stenberg in director Jennifer Yuh Nelson’s film version of Alexandra Bracken’s young adult novel, The Darkest Minds, about young kids with superpowers placed in internment camps – fortunately beating the similarly themed, The New Mutants, to the screen. Before then and emphatically not suitable for viewers under the age of seventeen, you can catch him in the small screen release, Beach Rats, for which the London Critics Circle named him ‘Young British/Irish Performer of the Year’. OK, I would have given the award to Josh O’Connor (God’s Own Country) but we’ll let that pass.

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The follow-up by Brooklyn-born writer-director Eliza Hittman to her 2013 feature debut, It Felt Like Love, this tells the story of a deeply troubled young man. Frankie (Dickinson) has moved down to the basement of his home to visit a gay chat room website in private. He’s attracted to men, but in his words, ‘doesn’t know what he likes’. He is addicted to his father’s medication, which he grinds into powder and snorts. His father meanwhile is in a catatonic state, dying from cancer. Frankie hangs out with three other men on Brooklyn Beach near the fairground, picking people’s pockets and sharing weed. Frankie does not discuss his sexuality with them; in fact, there is very little conversation between them, full stop. They are a criminal gang on the watch, looking for victims and talking small. Frankie catches the eye of a young woman, Simone (Madeline Weinstein in her film debut) who beelines for him at the dodgems. She provides the perfect cover in front of the guys but, of course, he’s not attracted to her. Naturally, their relationship does not go smoothly. In the mean time, he meets up with men for casual sex, knowing at some point he’ll have to be open about his sexuality, once he is confident about it himself.

The result is knife-edge viewing. You watch Frankie as if he is in a state of constant danger. Yes, he’s young and works out – we see him photograph his own torso with an i-phone, one interestingly he doesn’t sell when he needs money. But he is vulnerable, emotionally and physically, certainly capable of causing emotional harm to others – notably Simone – and physical harm to himself.

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Beach Rats is not a gay ‘coming out’ film. Rather, it is about how inward you can turn yourself when you are with others. Frankie isn’t a talker, but a doer. He lives through physical action, whether playing hand tennis, inhaling in a vape bar or having sex. The story is entirely told from his point of view. We see how his young sister reacts to their father’s illness by exploring her own sexuality, asking for a belly button ring and wearing a bikini top to the beach and how, in his unspoken way, Frankie doesn’t want her to share his own sexual turmoil. We watch his mother (Kate Hodge) trying to get through to him, to get him to share, and his stubborn resistance to reveal himself through words.

Hittman’s film has been promoted for gay audiences, with images of the four men with their shirts off on the poster. It is a film that speaks to anybody who has had an identity crisis in the face of losing a parent. Utterly gripping and poignant, it is also uncompromising. It is not the kind of film to watch on your home computer – you feel almost like Frankie browsing through men who display themselves for future gratification, but it is certainly an emotionally honest drama that captures the turmoil of late adolescence.

Beach Rats is available on Netflix! 

Money Monster – Review


Money makes the world go round.

We can bounce around the idea that to live happily and free, we have to discard the loose change of coins and notes in our pockets and just, like, experience the world, man. These trilobites are passed around social media in an ironic attempt to convince folks that your hard earned cash is completely unneeded (ironic because everything needed to use social media costs money).

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It’s a fair enough platitude in the sense that our lives shouldn’t rely on fame, fortune, and shallow equities to be happy – love, friends, and family should populate your soul too. But unless you want to live in a cave and promote a truly rural existence away from any society, you are going to need money. The sentiment that you don’t need money, just love and travel, is also something passed down from the elite to help the poor scrape by with their means whilst then manipulating the income, savings, and money the working class actually have.

This theme is what catalyses Money Monster and drives the energy: That those with meagre income are idiots whilst the wealthy our geniuses – forgetting that the latter leeches off the former to survive. And our “antagonist” Kenny passionately encompasses the rage we have.

Money Monster revolves around Lee Gates, a popular but arrogant TV personality who focuses on Wall Street and finance, telling people when to buy and sell. However, an irate investor, Kyle, holds him hostage after losing all his money in a technical glitch from big firm IBIS. Trying to get answers, it seems IBIS has retreated into hiding. Alongside his producer Patty Fenn, Gates has to navigate this new situation and try to survive!

Directed by Jodie Foster, Money Monster is a driven and ambitious film that has a thrilling and tense atmosphere.

This nuanced piece captures society to a tee. Though not completely fleshing out the world’s reaction to Kyle holding a television show hostage, Foster and her team of script writers take aspects of the social lives we are living and makes the whole escapade feel completely real. The ideas of despondency (a man begging for his life to be saved and no one responds,) recording tragic events as though they were celebrity sightings, and making memes out of every possible situation allow Money Monster to be tuned into the world around them and that helps the film develop its exploits.

What Foster and the screenplay relies on, however, is the performances that kinetically enliven the film that, in parts, can feel rudimentary and clichéd. The driving force at the core of it is the chemistry between Clooney and Roberts. Whilst the parts away from one another are old-hand for seasoned performers such as these, together they reinvigorate the roles with an understanding unlike any other. Bouncing off plans to – not only escape from a bomb, a gun, and an enraged man – but to convey the events to the public via the television screen, the director and presenter pairing enraptures viewers and brings them into the action at the core of it. Clooney and Roberts feed off one another and it is fantastic to watch.

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As for Jack O’Connell. The Derby lad who stuffs his mouth with a convincing New York accent does well to layer the angered Kyle with a humanity, making his violence understandable and the motives accessible. His relatability and emotion makes him likeable to the audiences within the film and those watching the scenes flicker on. O’Connell peppers the character with many threads and the BAFTA winner is simple enthralling.

Money Monster isn’t a perfect film and at times the run time drags and becomes stuck in dull repetition. An hour feels like two and by the end, your arse will be thankful for the rolling credits. It’s also a common trend for actors turned directors to drench their films in clichés and Money Monster relies on a bundle of hostage movie tropes a little too much to walk its own path.

That being said, Money Monster is very gripping and engaging, helped by the provocative and impassioned performances at the centre.

Money Monster is available on Netflix now! 

Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool – DVD and Blu-Ray review

Sometimes a film comes along and smacks you in the face with how good it is; you see the trailer a dozen times and each time, it just doesn’t seem all that important. Then when your’e actually in that cinema, it’s impossible to believe how good it is. That was the experience Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool offered, and it was superb.

Based on his memoir of the same name, it follows Peter Turner (Jamie Bell), a Liverpudlian actor navigating his way through his professional and family lives when he’s suddenly struck with the news that his former lover, 50’s film star Gloria Grahame (Annette Bening) is back in the country and in need of care, and the film takes us through their passionate and rocky relationship.

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Everything about Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool is as charming as it’s title; from the writing to the direction, to the cinematography and performances, it wins on every level. Without wishing to spoil it, the narrative is presented in a far more non-linear sense than the trailers, and the method in which it transitions scenes is very impressive. It makes the story flow in a far more meaningful and effective manner that heightens the emotions and amplifies the impact of these events on Turner and Grahame’s later life. The performances all around are flawless; the likes of Stephen Graham and Julie Walters as Turner’s family members are brilliant, but it really comes down to the two leads. There was a lot of awards buzz around Bening, and though she didn’t score many nominations, her fragile and wondrous performance as Gloria Grahame is very tender and enlightening, though Jamie Bell is the true star of the film. He’s already so underrated, the fact that he couldn’t garner more love for what is easily his best performance is so disappointing. For a larger than life true story, he keeps everything on the ground with his stunted and emotional performance. Plus, listening to him talk in a scouse accent for an hour and forty-six minutes is somewhat infectious, especially if you can’t actually do the accent.

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It’s almost hard to believe this is a true story; the tale of an aged film star beyond her prime falling in love with a working class struggling actor, sounds like fiction. Even when watching it, it has such a sense of wonder and tragedy to it that it could only seem made up, but the film regularly drives the point home that this was real and grounds the film with it’s direction and it’s raw power, showing that it’s a truly remarkable story. Above all else, the film is a heartbreaking experience, in the sense that it literally plunges it’s hand through your chest and rips your heart straight out. Few films manage a tear out of me while I’m actually in the cinema, in the presence of many other cinema goers, but this one simply could not be helped.

What seemed like a very standard British romance turned out to be one of the best films of the year. Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool is an enchanting yet grounded portrayal of a fascinating true love, with excellent storytelling and killer performances all around.

Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool is available on DVD, Blu-Ray and digital now.

The Party – Review

by Ren Zelen 

The Party is a stinging satire written and directed by Sally Potter. A modern drawing-room comedy which like all good guests, doesn’t outstay its welcome. It lasts only 71 minutes, but packs in some short, sharp, shocking swipes before rolling up to a punchline which will bring a wry smile to your face and leave you chuckling on your way home.

A select soiree is being held in a London townhouse owned by Janet (Kristin Scott Thomas), an ambitious politician, and her academic husband Bill (Timothy Spall). The celebration is due to Janet being appointed Shadow Minister for Health – a prestigious position and a stepping stone to the ultimate post of Leader of the Party.

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Janet’s guests include old friend Jenny (confidently portrayed by Patricia Clarkson), a witty American cynic, adept at acidic one-liners, and her unlikely partner Gottfried (Bruno Ganz), an aggravating German new-age-guru, who has a stream of advice to cope with any crisis.

They are followed by Martha (Cherry Jones), a fellow academic and old university friend of Bill’s, who is in a lesbian relationship with her young partner Jinny (Emily Mortimer).

The last arrival is Tom (Cillian Murphy, in an uncharacteristically comical vein), a city banker in an expensive suit, who arrives nervy and sweating and proceeds immediately to the bathroom to sniff a goodly amount of cocaine and check his handgun. Tom has apparently been assisting Janet with private-sector partnership initiatives. His famously ‘lovely’ wife Marianne is Janet’s colleague, but is due to arrive at some point later on.

While Janet prepares food in the kitchen, husband Bill sits in the lounge, drinking steadily and only rising from his armchair to choose another vinyl disc to put on his turntable.

Unlucky incidents foreshadow some immanent event – a fox briefly enters through the doors to the garden, a window is smashed by a champagne cork, Janet’s entrée gets burned, and the fire alarm stubbornly continues to sound until silenced by force. Everyone congratulates Janet and raises a toast to her appointment… but then the revelations begin.

Martha’s partner Jinny reveals that she is pregnant with triplets, and Bill, finally emboldened by alcohol, has an announcement of his own which changes the tone of the whole proceedings and results in a torrent of angsty philosophizing from everyone present.

The ensemble offers opinions and platitudes on topics such as idealism versus realism, faith versus science, and conventional medicine versus homeopathy. Gottfried is ever-ready with his personal philosophy that all crises are an opportunity for ‘deep personal transformation’.

The academics, politicos, realists and idealists begin to turn on each other as the revelations, bombshells, accusations and disasters accumulate. The verbal pace becomes frenetic and the action farcical, as everyone’s principles come into question and insecurities and neuroses come to the surface.

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The action is starkly lit and shot in black and white by Russian cinematographer Aleksei Rodionov, giving illumination and emphasis to faces, especially in close-up. The Party often feels theatrical, like a one-act play by Simon Gray, Anthony Schaffer or Tom Stoppard. However, it also boasts smart dialogue which scrutinizes bourgeois pretentions and self-obsession and is the most enjoyable film yet from a director who is generally known for anti-mainstream films (such as the adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, verse drama Yes and talking-heads piece Rage).

The Party however, proves to be eminently entertaining, intelligent, and absurd, featuring delightfully gleeful performances from a prestige cast.

Filmed as the Brexit result was announced, The Party signifies a gathering of guests, but also indicates an analysis of left-wingers, intellectuals and feminists reappraising their ideals in a seemingly increasingly reactionary, materialistic and venal world. In The Party, Sally Potter entertains us with a farce, while slyly offering a commentary on the current ‘state-of-the-nation’.

The Party is out on DVD & Blu-Ray now!