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Lost River Review


Grim

With his writing-directing debut, Ryan Gosling shows audacious skill as a visual artist but never quite manages to recount a story that grabs hold of the audience. It's a stunningly gorgeous film packed with strong, earthy performances from a starry cast playing against type. But there's no momentum at all to the narrative, which is packed with random symbolism that never quite resolves into anything either meaningful or emotionally engaging.

Lost River is a decaying, abandoned city on the edge of a lake created by damming up a river and flooding another town. In what's left of their neighbourhood, Billy (Christina Hendricks) lives in her family home with her sons: a toddler and a teen named Bones (Iain De Caestecker), who helps support the household by scavenging for copper in the vacant buildings nearby. But he's encroaching on the turf of self-proclaimed gangster Bully (Matt Smith), who is intent on exacting vicious revenge. Meanwhile, next-door neighbour Rat (Ronan) is caring for her delusional granny (Barbara Steele) and trying to help Bones. And when the new bank manager Dave (Ben Mendelsohn) turns down Billy's cry for help, she takes a job at his seedy underworld nightclub alongside Cat (Eva Mendes).

Aside from some blood-soaked cabaret, what goes on in this nightclub remains rather mysterious, as Billy finds higher-paying work in the purple-hued basement fetish rooms. But then everything in this film is enigmatic, as Gosling deliberately refuses to connect the dots. This gives the film an intriguing David Lynch-style tone, although it lacks Lynch's eerie resonance. There's also a touch of John Waters-style trashiness and Terrence Malick-style natural beauty, plus the clear influence of Gosling's heavily stylised past directors Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive and Only God Forgives) and Derek Cianfrance (Blue Monday and The Place Beyond the Pines). In other words, almost everything in this film feels like a reference to another movie, but it's expertly assembled to look fabulous from start to finish, with some seriously striking sequences along the way.

Continue reading: Lost River Review

Whiplash Review


Extraordinary

It's hard to think of another film that leaves us quite so out of breath. Adapting his short film, first-time feature filmmaker Damien Chazelle grabs hold of the audience and never lets up, pounding us into submission with an exhilarating pace, blistering performances and never-flagging energy levels. It's an astonishing movie that reminds us of the visceral power of cinema in a story about the tenacity required to make it to the top.

At the centre of the storm is Andrew (Miles Teller), an aspiring drummer who is attending New York's most prestigious and cutthroat conservatory. His goal is to get into the elite jazz band led by Professor Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), whose brutal reputation is well-earned. A demanding, often cruel teacher, he belittles students with vein-popping diatribes. And he seems to have an extra well of bile just for Andrew, who is willing to put up with anything to be in his band. The question is whether Fletcher is trying to break him or push him to achieve even more. If Andrew hopes to survive, he might not be able to maintain a relationship with his new girlfriend Nicole (Melissa Benoist). But maybe it's worth the pain.

This is the blackest comedy imaginable, so harsh that our only response is to laugh bitterly at every hideous insult Fletcher heaps on his young musicians. Chazelle directs the film with such a brisk pace that it sometimes feels difficult to hang on for the ride, and even though some of the plot turns feel rather contrived, it's moving so quickly that we don't have time to worry about that. The entire film charges forward with the rhythms and energy of a powerful jazz riff, and even though it's often terrifying the ride is so much fun that we don't want it to end.

Continue reading: Whiplash Review

Nightcrawler Review


Excellent

A gently comical undertone makes this thriller even creepier than expected, bolstered by sharp writing and directing from Dan Giloy and an especially clever performance from Jake Gyllenhaal. Comparisons to Taxi Driver have been obvious, as the lead character is a potentially dangerous sociopath on a very personal quest. And the film also taps into the current zeitgeist: how the media panders to a public that increasingly screams for blood. It's a thoroughly unnerving film that often feels more like a very grim satire than a proper thriller.

Gyllenhaal plays Lou Bloom, a loner who is desperate to make his mark on the world. Searching for something to do, he stumbles across the people who prowl the city streets after dark in search of an event they can film and sell on to a TV news outlet. Learning from a veteran (Bill Paxton), Lou gets his own camera and a police scanner and starts chasing car crashes, house fires and violent crimes all over Los Angeles. And when he finds that TV news director Nina (Rene Russo) wants to buy his footage, he hires Rick (Riz Ahmed) as an assistant, getting even more aggressive about arriving on the scene before the competition. But Lou isn't willing to settle for that, and starts manipulating the news to get even better stories.

Where this goes from here is pretty unimaginable, as Lou reveals himself to be utterly unencumbered by any hint of a moral compass. Of course, this is a central theme of the movie, as it explores the way audiences clamour for more explosive footage, which pretty much eliminates any sense of human decency in the way events are covered. Gyllenhaal portrays Lou as gaunt and hungry, but with an eerie charm that lets him get away with each audacious manoeuvre. Watching him snap at anyone who crosses him is truly terrifying. Although the way he quietly manipulates situations is even scarier.

Continue reading: Nightcrawler Review

Picture - Karl Urban , Jennifer Haufler,... , Thursday 6th September 2012

Karl Urban and David Lancaster - Karl Urban , Jennifer Haufler, Jodie Terrio and Co-President of Bold David Lancaster Thursday 6th September 2012 2012 Toronto Film Festival - 'DREDD 3D' - Post Premiere Reception

The Hole Review


Excellent
Director Dante knows a thing or two about making teen thrillers, and this film gets the atmosphere just right without indulging in cheap movie gimmicks.

Except for the 3D of course, which is used both sparingly and with a lot of wit.

Teenager Dane (Massoglia) is seriously annoyed that his mother (Polo) has uprooted him and his little brother Lucas (Gamble) yet again. But at least there's a cute girl, Julie (Bennett), living next door to their new house. Then Dane and Lucas discover a seemingly bottomless hole in the basement, and enlist Julie to figure out what it is. Soon all manner of scary things start happening, so they consult the house's creepy former resident (Dern), but he's no help at all.

Continue reading: The Hole Review

Legion Review


OK
There's nothing wrong with being preposterous, but this guilty pleasure thriller has a tendency to be pretentious as well. Despite a few winks at the camera, the emphasis on po-faced, nasty brutality wears rather thin.

The angel Michael (Bettany) has fallen from heaven, cut off his wings and armed himself to the teeth. Soon he's holed up in a remote desert diner run by Bob (Quaid) and his son Jeep (Black). Michael encourages the rag-tag group in the diner (including Gibson's shady tough guy, one-armed chef Dutton and bickering family Walsh, Tenney and Holland) to fight an invading horde of zombies, apparently sent by God to destroy humanity. And mankind's only hope is to save the unborn child of a waitress (Palicki) from the snarling angel Gabriel (Durand).

Continue reading: Legion Review

The Breed (2006) Review


Terrible
The cover has a picture of two snarling dogs and a girl in a bikini, facing off with them on all fours. Looks like a tasty werewolf movie... but no, The Breedi is Cujo 2: Electric Bugaloo. At best. A gaggle of twentysomethings take a trip to a cabin in the woods and are beset upon by some exceptionally rabid, aggressive mutts (later revealed to be genetic experiments), and they quickly find themselves being feasted upon... when they aren't busy accidentally maiming themselves severely. Headliner Michelle Rodriguez proves here that her acting ability is actually getting worse as time wears on, and Taryn Manning is grating (as usual) from frame one. The script is about as absurd as they come, stuffed to the breaking point with "We gotta stay together." cliches and warmed-over action sequences pilfered from every horror movie under the sun.

Continue reading: The Breed (2006) Review

The Breed (2006) Review


Terrible
The cover has a picture of two snarling dogs and a girl in a bikini, facing off with them on all fours. Looks like a tasty werewolf movie... but no, The Breedi is Cujo 2: Electric Bugaloo. At best. A gaggle of twentysomethings take a trip to a cabin in the woods and are beset upon by some exceptionally rabid, aggressive mutts (later revealed to be genetic experiments), and they quickly find themselves being feasted upon... when they aren't busy accidentally maiming themselves severely. Headliner Michelle Rodriguez proves here that her acting ability is actually getting worse as time wears on, and Taryn Manning is grating (as usual) from frame one. The script is about as absurd as they come, stuffed to the breaking point with "We gotta stay together." cliches and warmed-over action sequences pilfered from every horror movie under the sun.

Continue reading: The Breed (2006) Review

Persons Unknown Review


Grim
While I futilely try to figure out the ending of Persons Unknown means, I'm left to wonder why this film saw no real theatrical release, and why it took 11 years to make it to DVD. Maybe the fact that it's fairly ludicrous or nonsensical? The circuitous plot gives us a kind of cool beginning, with a security pro (Joe Mantegna) being hustled by a girl (Kelly Lynch) who's heading up a big heist. Eventually he tracks her down, figures out what's going on, runs off with their loot, and watches bodies pile up in the mountains. The last half of the film is alternately filled with typical shoot 'em up/run 'em down scenes and kind of silly plot twists. The top shelf cast is uniformly wasted, including Naomi Watts in an early role.

A Woman Undone Review


Grim
Like me, you're probably saying to yourself: Oh boy, another woman in jeopardy thriller! Did Mary McDonnell kill her cold-hearted husband in the desert??? If you can believe that Randy Quaid is married to her, you just might care. Fairly awful.

Consequence Review


Unbearable
First the bad news: Armand Assante.

Good news: Lesbian shower scene.

Continue reading: Consequence Review

A Love Song For Bobby Long Review


Weak
In a year-end blitz of small films about dysfunctional, broken families (e.g., Around the Bend) comes this variation on the theme set in a tacky section of New Orleans. While a confident cast ultimately makes something of the drama, a certain awkwardness in the storytelling sets up discordant side tracks as it attempts to live up to its title.

Purslane "Pursy" Hominy Will (Scarlett Johansson) has lived most of her 18-year life without the mother from whom she's estranged but whose memory she cherishes. As a teenage independent she's become hardened and jaded beyond her years. When her live-in boyfriend tells her that he received word of Lorraine's death several days after the fact, she rages at the dumbshit for neglecting to let her know right away. She storms out of the house with all her possessions and buses her way from Florida back to the town she grew up in and to her childhood home, a day too late to make the funeral.

Continue reading: A Love Song For Bobby Long Review

Caracara Review


Grim
Wow, this HBO thriller started off as interesting, with Henstridge playing a lonely scientist whose sole companion is a caracara (a type of hawk). I was expecting The Falcon and the Snowman. But no, soon enough, "FBI agents" take over her apartment but they turn out to be phonies! Oh dear! They're actually a hit squad out to kill [drum roll] Nelson Mandela!!! By the time Johnathon Schaech starts shooting at people with a contraption that fires arrows instead of bullets, you will long since have tuned out.

Second Skin Review


Terrible
Angus MacFadyen stars in Braveheart. Peter Fonda gets an Oscar nod for Ulee's Gold. And as an encore, they both star in Second Skin, a direct-to-video mess about an amnesiac hit-woman and, as the case says, "a series of suspenseful twists and turns that will keep you guessing until the end."

Sure, I was guessing. Guessing that nothing good was ever going to happen.

Continue reading: Second Skin Review

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