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Summer in February Review


Grim

A simplistic approach undermines this intriguing true story about a romantic triangle among artists in pre-WWI England. The actors do what they can to liven things up, but the writing and direction let it down, never injecting the spark of artistic invention that the project so badly needs. So while there's a certain amount of drama in what happens, the flatly cliched way it's assembled leaves us cold.

The story takes place in 1913 Cornwall, where a group of free-thinking artists live and work on the dramatic coastline. Away from the city, they also get up to all sorts of mischief, usually led by the roguish painter AJ Munnings (Cooper), who seems to be on a mission to seduce every woman in sight. His best pal is the dashing army officer Gilbert (Stevens), who is much more reticent about women. Then aspiring painter Florence (Browning) arrives, and both men are captivated by her. She's the sister of AJ's artist friend Joey (Deacon), and is flattered by the attention. But when she makes a pivotal decision she changes all of their lives.

Director Menaul and writer Smith continually smooth the edges of this story. Sure, there are plenty of naked antics, including a woman (Austen) who's happy to drop her clothing for any painter she sees, but it's shot and edited with the same coyness as a leery Carry On movie. We never get a proper sense of the anarchic nature of this community: they're all mopey stereotypes stuck in the one or two personality traits the filmmakers give them. Gilbert and Florence are particularly dull, giving Stevens and Browning little to do to catch our sympathy. By contrast, Cooper makes AJ both charismatic and cocky, and we like him even though it's clear from the script that we shouldn't.

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Chalet Girl Review


Good
With virtually the same plot as Pretty Woman (minus the prostitution), this bright and enjoyable rom-com wins us over without challenging us at all. A sharp cast, a gorgeous setting and lively filmmaking make up for the thin plot.

At 19, Kim (Jones) has retired from her promising career as a pro-skateboarder, due to her mother's death in a car crash. Working tedious jobs to care for her unemployed dad (Bailey), she jumps at the chance to earn more money in a posh ski chalet in Austria for four months. Working alongside experienced chalet girl Georgie (Egerton), she makes two discoveries: first the wealthy owners (Nighy and Shields) arrive with their gorgeous son Jonny (Westwick), and then a Finnish guy (Duken) introduces her to snowboarding.

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Heartless Review


Weak
Layered and dense, there's clearly a lot going on in this dark thriller, although it's not easy to figure out what that might be. It's hypnotically perplexing, like a David Lynch movie without the emotional resonance.

Jamie (Sturgess) is a shy photographer who avoids contact with people because of the large birthmark on his face. Working with his brother (Salinger) and nephew (Treadaway), he longs for a normal life. Then a series of events propels him into a nightmarish new reality in which a demon-like man (Mawle), his young assistant (Mistry) and their intense weapons expert (Marsan) offer him freedom from his scars in exchange for an act of chaos. He also falls in love with a girl (Poesy) who seems too good to be true.

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Beyond The Gates Review


Good
The enormity of what is depicted in Beyond the Gates is hard to even comprehend, but unlike many works of art about atrocity, the film makes a good faith effort to bring it across with a minimum of false drama. In the spring of 1994 in Rwanda, there are murmurings of trouble, but at the Ecole Technique Officielle, a European-run secondary school in Kigali where a number of UN peacekeepers are temporarily based, all seems peaceful. The kids go through their routines and lessons while the white staff remains mostly ignorant of the storm brewing outside, the school's oasis providing a mostly untrue sense of safety to those residing within. The warning signs are there of course, for audiences with the benefit of historical hindsight; the meaningful glares from a Hutu worker at the school, a Hutu politician who comes by to scope out the school and to ask leading questions about exactly how many UN soldiers are quartered there. Then the massacres begin.

Like in 2004's Hotel Rwanda, the bulk of Beyond the Gates is about the establishment of a safe zone within the homicidal abyss that the country so precipitously fell into. As Hutu militia roam the countryside -- drunk, mad with power, and waving bloody machetes like creatures from a nightmare -- and massacring any Tutsis they come across, the school becomes a haven for refugees, with the guns of the few blue-helmeted UN soldiers the only thing keeping the killers at bay. It is also about the lengths to which a number of good people will go to in order to save the lives of the innocent. John Hurt plays the school's resident priest, Father Christopher, with his customary blend of scratch-throated gravitas and self-deprecating wit. Hugh Dancy (somewhat flat here) co-stars as Joe Connor, a sort of Oxfam poster boy, the handsome and well-meaning European spending his gap year teaching in a third world school; like a more moral version of James McAvoy's doctor in The Last King of Scotland. Both are stunned into near-incomprehension by the butchery going on outside the gates, but act in extremely different ways. This is not a film that allows an audience the easy out of providing them a character who does the right thing and is rewarded for it.

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The Gathering Review


Unbearable
I'm always fascinated by those movies that get shot, cut, and finished... then sit "in the can" for years and years, unreleased. Why not just throw them to the theater world and see what happens?

Well, spend a few quality minutes with The Gathering and you'll see, in short order, just how bad one of these canned atrocities can be. Despite starring Christina Ricci, this genre pic is dead from its very first frames, wholly unwatchable at any point during its running time.

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The Hole Review


Grim
When you were young and in boarding school, how did you like to spend your free time? If you're like the characters in the disastrous yet train wreck-compelling direct to video feature The Hole, you like to hang out for days at a time locked in an abandoned bomb shelter.

Or do you!?

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