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The Good, The Bad & The Ugly of 2017

The past year on the whole was an impressive year for films. Here is what we consider the best and the worst of 2017.

The Best:

1. Blade Runner 2049: What should have been a disaster turned out to be a sequel almost as good as the classic 1982 original. Great script and fantastic stunning visual set pieces.

2. The Florida Project: Delightful coming of age drama with fantastic performances from mainly a young cast and a supporting role from Willem Defoe as a kindly motel owner.

3. IT: Finally a Stephen King adaptation that lived up to the novel. Not as scary, but as much fun as the original source material with a classic 80’s vibe.

4. T2 Trainspotting: 20 years in the making, the long awaited sequel was worth the wait with the story focusing on the original characters longing for the hope for the future they once had.

5. Detroit: Gripping and brutal true story revolving around riots and racial abuse in the 60’s from ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ director Kathryn Bigalow.

6. Paddington 2: Another sequel which is better than original with a surprisingly great performance from the smug Hugh Grant who plays a washed up theatrical actor.

7. The Levelling: A haunting tense drama revolving around death and the breakup of family set on a Somerset farm. Stunning feature debut from Hope Dickson Leach.

8. Okja: Charming, humorous and touching tale from one of Asia’s leading filmmakers, Bong Joon-ho. The tale of a young girl’s friendship with a genetically engineered pig.

9. Manchester by the Sea: Bleak, somber, but beautifully acted drama. Although very depressing it is also compelling at the same time.
10. Split: M Night Shyamalan returns to form with his best movie since Unbreakable and James McAvoy giving one of his best performances to date. Unsettling horroresque tale about a kidnapper with multiple personalities.

The Worst

1. Bad Kids of Crestview Academy: Extremely bad and insulting comic book inspired horror set in a posh American school.

2. The Emoji Movie: A really silly idea for an animated film which loses so much steam they have to incorporate Minecraft and Candy Crush as well as stealing story elements from the far superior ‘Wreck it Ralph’. Not even Patrick Stewart can save this turd of a movie.

3. Baywatch : A TV show ideal for a spoof, which results in a comedy without laughs.

4. The Snowman: Great source material, cast and director, even the trailer was great. But why is this adaptation so dull and predictable, we may never know.

5. Justice League: DC Comics gives audiences another boring , overloaded comic book movie.

6. The House: Will Ferrell is always hit and miss. This latest so called comedy is more of the latter with a pointless cameo by Jeremy Renner. Just watch the trailer all the amusing scenes are in that!

7. The Mummy: The much hyped Dark Universe franchise lands with a bump with this first feature. The movie really does not know what it should be apart, a Tom Cruise action movie with Tom Cruise playing Tom Cruise.

8. Fist Fight: One idea, one joke comedy about two teachers who hate each other. That is all.

9. C.H.I.P.S.: Another TV adaptation except unlike Baywatch this one does have a few laughs.

10. Cars 3: Pixar improves on their latest instalment of the franchise. However all they have done is made an animated film that is not annoying and tedious. Just pretty boring.

EIFF 2017: Part III

Teenage Superstars: *****

Director Grant McPhee, UK. 2017. Running time 110 mins.

Grant McPhee returns with a follow up tohis EIFF award winning The Big Gold Dream, which focused on the Edinburgh based indie labels Fast Product and Postcard Records. This documentary focuses on 80’s Glasgow bands and labels including Creation Records, Teenage Fanclub, BMX Bandits, The Pastels, Jesus and Mary Chain,  Primal Scream and the Vaselines.

McPhee along with co-writer Angela Slaven have made an incredibly researched documentary which is comprised not only of interviews, but also archive footage and music videos charting the success and friendship amongst the band members. Enlighten get antic dotes from Stephen McRobbie, Alan McGee, Eugene Kelly, Duglas T Stewart and Norman Blake ranging from how they they started to being idolised by Kurt Cobain. The film is also narrated by Kim Deal from The Breeders / Pixies.

A minor flaw is some of the people mentioned, do not appear in the film notably Primal Scream’s Bobby Gillespie. However this is a throughly entertaining and educational piece of work even if not being aware of the bands or scene itself.

The Dark Mile **

Director Gary Love. UK. 2017. Running time 87 mins.

Veteran TV director Gary Love makes his feature film debut with a dark psychological thriller set in the Highlands. 

Claire (Deirdre Mullins) and Louise (Rebecca Calder) decide to take a holiday to spend more time together, onboard a small boat. Claire is a  workaholic who relies on modern luxuries, while Louise likes quiet and natural things as well as hiding a secret. During the journey they meet and even appear to be stalked bystrange local characters and are terrorised by a large black barge which is following the girls.

All the hallmarks of the genre are there and the filmmakers are clearly influenced by such classics including ‘Deliverance’ and ‘The Wicker Man’. However the pieces feel disjointed. The locals are depicted in a patronising stereotypical way as countryside folk out of touch with everything who abuse their family. The two leads who give great performances are so unsympathetic, as they belittle the other people they encounter and are fuelled by their selfishness that it is really hard to care what happens to them. 

The well executed tension that is built throughout the piece is wrecked by an anti climatic ending which is badly realised and makes no sense whatsoever. Which is a shame as the film is beautifully shot, some of the twists are interesting and the performances are good.

Reviewed by Paul Logan

EIFF 2017: Part II

Okja: *****
Director Bong Joon-ho UK, US, South Korea. 2017. Running time 118 mins.

The director of ‘The Host’ and ‘Snowpiercer’ returns with this bizarre, but fun fantasy piece made for Netflix.

CEO Lucy Mirando (Tilda Swinton) and her company the Mirando Corporation have bioengineered super pigs to provide the world with a new sustainable food source. Ten years later, one of the specimens, Okja has been raised into an enormous beast by Mija (An Seo-hyun) in the mountains of Korea. When Dr. Johnny Wilcox (Jake Gyllenhaal) claims back Okja for the corporation, Mija heads to Seoul to retrieve her friend.  She is joined  by the Animal Liberation Front (including Paul Dano, Lily Collins, Devok Bostik, Daniel Henshall and Steven Yeun) who assist in the fight to retrieve Okja  and expose the real activities of Mirando.  

The script  co-written by ‘The Men Who Stare At Goats’ Jon Ronson mixes  slapstick, dark humour, fantasy with environmental politics. The main theme being the dangers of genetic modification and the production of meat is a cruel business. 

Even compared to his last monster movie this film is bigger and crazier than Bong’s ‘The Host’, but also more grounded. The look of the film with colourful landscapes shot by legendary cinematographer Darius Khondji and the creature which is so realistic. 

Great performances from all the cast especially by An Seo-hyun who is the main heart of the film. While Swinton appears to relishing playing sisters who are evil in different ways. 

 By the end it is hard to hold back the tears with the emotional third act. It is a shame that this demented, but incredibly enchanting piece of work only has a limited time on the big screen before it is available for streaming for the masses. 

Cars 3 ***

Director Brian Fee . US. 2017. Running time 109 mins.

Is third time a charm for a franchise that was never really in demand or requested?
Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) has been winning races for years. Until new car Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer) arrives on the scene and takes over McQueen’s place on top and leading him to a fatal crash. McQueen retires to Radiator Springs, but is lured back into the racing game with the latest in high-tech training software. Along with his new trainer Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo), they try and reclaim success for McQueen.

After an entertaining introduction to the world of Cars in 2006, Pixar brought the characters back in an overblown sequel lead by their most annoying character Mater(Larry the Cable Guy). Thankfully they have gone back to the drawing board as well as giving Mater less screen time. 

First-time director Brian Lee deserves the praise in making this sequel a success, by making the focus more on McQueen. The story has more of a personal arc with an overall message that will resonate with families of all ages. The plot is fairly slow and does not really take off until the second act.  Ramirez is also a welcome addition and an aspiring role model to girls.

Pixar has for many years lead the way with each movie advancing in more groundbreaking animation, however this time apart from the racing scenes there appears to be no impressive changes. 

While only reason that Disney/Pixar still make films in this franchise it is solely for the reason of merchandise.  A pleasant journey, but kids will enjoy this journey more than the rest of their families.
Reviewed by Paul Logan

EIFF 2017 Part I

That Good Night: ***

Director Eric Styles. UK, Portugal. 2017. Running time 92 mins.

One of the best English actors to grace the silver screen bids a cinematic farewell in this poignant drama.
The film is based on a stage play by N. J. Crisp and actor Donald Sinden. In his final role, the late John Hurt plays Ralph Maitland, a terminally ill screenwriter who is trying to rebuild his estranged relationship with his son Michael (Max Brown) by inviting him for a visit. However Michael brings his girlfriend Cassie (Erin Richards) along who Ralph takes an instant dislike to.During this time, Ralph is visited by a mysterious man in a white suit (Charles Dance), who could be an Angel or a representative of a euthanasia organisation. Pleading with the stranger to end his life while still trying to make things right.
The picturesque setting of a sun filled Portugal makes an ideal setting for the proceedings. The story is compelling and evokes great emphathy with the characters involved. This may be due to the great performances especially from Hurt who has so much to display within the story.
However the film is directed in a very pedestrian style, which makes the film feel less cinematic and more like something aimed for The Hallmark Channel.
An engaging story with terrific performances, but as a final send off not as memorable as the film could have been.

Bad Kids of Crestview Academy: *

Director Ben Browder. US. 2016. Running time 100 mins.
Bad Kids of Crestview Academy is a sequel to Bad Kids Go To Hell (originally released in the UK as The Haunting of Crestview High), which was adapted from a comic book of the same name.

Siouxie (Sammi Hanratty), a white trash student in the “undercrust” of the prestigious Crestview Academy, infiltrates the rich students’ Saturday detention in an attempt to discover the truth behind her sister’s alleged suicide at a party the week prior. As she interrogates the bad kids, a gay drug addict Brian Marquez (Matthew Frias), son of local politician Senator Wilkes (Gina Gershon) Blaine (Colby Arps), cat obsessed Sara Hasegawa (Erika Daly), and naughty pastor’s daughter Faith Jackson (Sophia Taylor Ali). As Siouxie tries to uncover the truth, the other students are slowly killed off one by one.
Overall look of the film is to make it similar to the source material, blending comic style animation with live-action footage with a mix of Breakfast Club thrown in too. But this is all that really can be recommend.
The characters in the story are ridiculous stereotypes. At one point the Headmaster (Sean Austin) states “It’s time to break stereotypes, not reinforce them!”, unfortunately the story could not do the same.
Cheap unfunny humour, multiple flashbacks and silly over the top gore. The filmmakers appear to be trying to emulate Troma, but without the fun.
Reviewed by Paul Logan

Alien Covenant ***

Running time: 123 mins Cert: 15

Synopsis: On the other side of the galaxy, members (Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup) of the colony ship Covenant discover what they think to be an uncharted paradise. While there, they meet David (Michael Fassbender), the synthetic survivor of the doomed Prometheus expedition. The mysterious world soon turns dark and dangerous when a hostile alien life-form forces the crew into a deadly fight for survival.

After the underrated “Prometheus.”  Ridley Scott’s returns to the science fiction series he established nearly 40 years ago. The auteur continues to explore the themes of creativity and faith while asking at what point does the creation because me the creator.
Screenwriters John Logan and Dante Harper, story mainly focuses on the relationship of the two android characters (Michael Fassbender). The tense scenes between the two animatronic brothersare gripping and well executed. While the character of Daniels gives more dimension to the tae. Waterson carrying forward the lone female protagonist Daniels, that Weaver accomplished just around 4 decades ago.

As with the most of the Alien franchise, the script falters with the secondary characters apart from Danny McBride who is memorable role as the caring pilot Tennessee, shows McBride is not just a comedic actor, but gives some emotional scenes which is needed along with gory excessive horror. Unfortunately the film has pacing issues with a much more interesting 3rd act that should have encompassed more of the film and increased the scare factor.

Not to mention 2 of the most shortest pointless cameos in living memory as well as being similar to the last film, the characters really do make some stupid decision so.

As anyone would excepted from Scott, the look of the film is stunning and new Alien creatures are impressive and fairly scary. 

Not a total disaster by any means, but with the talent on offer this should have been one of the best of the series. But look on the good side it is no Resurrection.
Reviewed by Paul Logan

Edinburgh International Film Festival announces opening & closing films for 2017

Edinburgh International Film Festival has announced that the will open with Francis Lee’s award-winning debut feature God’s Own Country on 21st June 2017. 

Shot entirely on location in West Yorkshire, God’s Own Country is a contemporary tale of self-discovery and emotional awakening.

Johnny (Josh O’Connor) is a young man running his family’s sheep farm alone until the arrival of Romanian worker Gheorghe (Alec Secareanu). Supporting the central pair are acting stalwarts Ian Hart and Gemma Jones, who play Johnny’s stroke-afflicted father and formidable grandmother.

EIFF also announced they would close with the World Premiere of England is Mine, about the early life of singer Morrissey on Sunday 2nd July 2017. 
This much-anticipated film explores the early years of Steven Morrissey’s (Jack Lowden) life in 1970s Manchester. An introverted, uncompromising teenager, Morrissey finds himself frustrated with his working-class existence. He finds solace in the city’s underground gig scene where he meets Linder Sterling – an intelligent, self-assured artist – who encourages him to make his ideas of superstardom a reality.

Both films will screen at Festival Theatre in Edinburgh.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 ****

Running time 138 mins Cert: 12A

Synopsis: The Guardians must fight to keep their newfound family together as they unravel the mystery of  who Peter Quill’s (Pratt) true father is.

For many filmgoers, the first Guardians of the Galaxy was a total surprise. They were weird and the characters involved a talking raccoon and tree. How could this possibly work? 

Thanks to James Gunn’s fun packed script and toe tapping music, it would become one of Marvel’s best movies. Although not as good, vol 2 is a lot of fun and uses many of the elements which worked before including another cracking 70/80’s soundtrack.

Gunn has chosen one of the oddest, but interesting character in Peter Quill’s (aka Star-Lord aka Chris Pratt) long-lost father, Ego the Living Planet (played by the mighty Kurt Russell). Russell is obviously enjoying himself and brings an energic and charismatic performance to a complex character. Another character added to the mix is the nervous Mantis (played by  Old Boy’s Pom Klementieff) who provides many of the laughs when she is onscreen with Drax (Baurista).

It’s also refreshing to see that while the returning cast brings the biggest emotional punches, those hits don’t all come from the main Guardians crew. In fact, former villians Yondu (Michael Rooker) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) have the most dramatic arcs, with the former leaning in hard on the underlying father/son dynamic he had with Quill in the first film, and the latter finally revealing the source of all her angst and anger toward her sister Gamora (Zoe Saldana). Yondu, it could be argued, is the beating heart of Vol. 2. 

Where it falters is the usual development of the villian and at no time do you sense that the gang are in any peril. The element of surprise has come and gone by this sequel is a roller coaster blockbuster of fun.
Reviewed by Paul Logan

Beauty and the Beast ****

Run time: 129 mins

Cert: PG

Summary: In the live action remake of Disney’s 1991 classic, Belle (Emma Watson) finds herself in a castle owned by a mysterious beast (Dan Stevens) and his unique staff. 

The movie begins in a remote village in France, where Belle (Emma Watson) is somewhat bored with her life and dreams of something bigger while warding off the attention of local ladies’ man Gaston (Luke Evans). When her father goes missing, her journey to find him changes her path completely and leads her to the Beast (Dan Stevens) and his castle filled with unusual objects. 

The story is similar to that of the original movie but elements such as Belle and her father Maurice’s (Kevin Kline) backstory and early life of the Beast are fleshed out more, both of which are interesting additions that hold the audience’s attention. 

While Emma Watson may not have been the first actress that sprung to the viewer’s mind to play the lead female, she plays the part well and performs the songs with a singing voice that does them justice. Dan Stevens is unrecognisable behind the effects that transform him into the Beast and is enjoyable to watch while the supporting cast has a wide range of performances from Kevin Kline’s deep portrayal of Maurice to Ewan McGregor’s comic but cringeworthy one as Lumiere. 

The soundtrack adds new songs whilst incorporating new versions of those that were featured in the animated version. Both the musical elements and performances by the cast are enjoyable and fit well with the scenes they feature in. In particular both versions of the title track, one of which is performed by Emma Thompson in her role as Mrs Potts and the other by John Legend and Ariana Grande are excellent pieces of music. 

As a remake of a Disney animated classic that won six Oscars, this movie has a lot to live up to. However it does this very well with its casting, a story that has some minor changes but remains true to the original and a good soundtrack.

Reviewed by Paul Logan

Cars 3 drives onto screens at Edinburgh International Film Festival 

The Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF) 2017 has announced that it will host the UK premiere of Disney.Pixar’s ‘Cars 3’ on Sunday, 25th June 2017 at 2pm at the Festival Theatre. 
 The film’s Story Supervisor, Scott Morse, will also be attendance.
To promote the event, the EIFF have set up a national art competition for children of up to 13 years. Children are asked to draw the ultimate racing car they would pitch against the movie’s main racing car protaganist, Lightning McQueen.  
Competition prizes will include tickets for the premiere and an opportunity to attend an exclusive story workshop with Scott Morse. Further details can be found on the EIFF website.  

Two schools performances will be held at Cineworld Fountain Park on Monday, June 26th; tickets cost £3 per pupil.

Directed by Brian Fee, (storyboard artist ‘Cars,’ ‘Cars 2’) and produced by Kevin Reher (‘A Bug’s Life,’ ‘La Luna’ short) the movie follows the continuing fortunes of Lightning McQueen. Owen Wilson reprises the role he voiced in previous movies.
 The original ‘Cars’ won a Golden Globe® for best animated feature film and two Annie Awards for best animated feature and best music in an animated feature production. Composer Randy Newman won a Grammy® for best song written for motion picture, television or other visual media (‘Our Town’). 
The film was nominated for an Oscar® for best animated feature film, as well as best achievement in music written for motion pictures, original song (‘Our Town’). ‘Cars 2’ was nominated for a Golden Globe® for best animated feature film, in addition to a large number of industry nominations. Between them ‘Cars’ and ‘Cars 2’ took over $1billion at the box office worldwide.
Mark Adams, EIFF Artistic Director, said: ‘Pixar Animation Studios is responsible for some of the greatest animated movies of our time and we’re thrilled to be continuing our relationship with the studio and providing such a treat for our younger audiences and their families in our 70th Anniversary Year with Cars 3.’

 Tickets go on sale tomorrow, Thursday 23 March 2017 and can be purchased via the EIFF website, or by calling 0131 623 8030. Ticket prices range from £12, £8 (concession), £5 (under 16s).   
The 71st Edinburgh International Film Festival runs from 21 June – 2 July, 2017. 
‘Cars 3’ goes on general release in the UK on 14th July 2017.

The Lego Batman Movie ****

Running time 104 mins Cert: PG

Synopsis: A spinoff of The LEGO Movie which focuses on Batman (Arnett). In order to stop the Joker (Galifianakis) from taking over Gotham City, the Caped Crusader may have to learn how to give being a loner and recruit the help of an orphan boy, Robin (Cera) and the new Commissioner (Dawson).

Warner Bros have decided to follow the success with not a sequel (however that is coming a few years time), but with a spin off revolving around the Caped Crusader.
The Lego Movie left a high watermark, but this spinoff thankfully does delivers on laughs through endless pop culture references and a irrelevant comedy style in the spirit of ‘Airplane’. 

Director Chris McKay has plenty of experience having previously made episodes of Robot Chicken. However the film runs into serious pacing issues and overloading the film with too many characters.

The screenplay was written by five different writers (Seth Grahame-Smith, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Jared Stern, and John Whittington) no wonder the script has suffered a bit from it. However there is a significant amount of character development between Batman and The Joker. But concentrating on these two, makes the other characters more one dimensional and with every new character from a different franchise showing up it becomes increasingly hard to focus on any of the other supporting acts.

The makers of this animated feature have surrounded themselves with a wealth of voice talent. Will Arnett uses a deep husky voice with his subtle, sarcastic lines of dialogue. While ‘The Hangover’s Zach Galifianakis. Gives a more vulnerable portrayal of The Joker rather than the usual persona of a narcissistic psychopath, but while still being silly and funny at the same time.

The soundtrack offers a range of classic tracks and new material. However “Who’s The (Bat)Man” composed and performed by Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump is good, but not nearly as memorable as the previous movies “Everything is Awesome!”.

At times the whole piece tips towards being an overcooked animated mess, but for the most part it is a highly surreal, funny and entertaining ride.

Reviewed by Paul Logan