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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

T2 Trainspotting *****


Running time 117 mins Cert: 18

Synopsis: First there was an opportunity……then there was a betrayal. Twenty years have gone by. Much has changed but just as much remains the same. Mark Renton (McGregor) returns to the only place he can ever call home.They are waiting for him: Spud (Bremner), Sick Boy (Miller) Begbie Carlyle). Other old friends are waiting too: sorrow, loss, joy, vengeance, hatred, friendship, love, longing, fear, regret, diamorphine, self-destruction and mortal danger, they are all lined up to welcome him, ready to join the dance.
Almost 21 years since the release of the original made such an impact, there some  fearful in-trepidation whether the cast and crew could pull off a worthy sequel. The answer is thankfully a big Yes.

Screenwriter John Hodge  and Director Danny Boyle have made a great decision not not make the second film more of the same, but make the sequel a contained story that reminisces the first film. The are new scenarios which have glimpses of the past within images or even just through the music.

The central theme is one of regret within the script which partially based on Irvine Welsh’s sequel ‘Porno’ and also has elements from the ‘Trainspotting’novel itself. Each character no better off since Renton left them with the money.

Sickboy has lost the lust of life and adventurous spirit he always had, becoming a bitter and cynical middle aged man. Renton has self loathing and even has a new version of the Choose Life speech which is more powerful this time around. While Spud is still a junkie, he has lost his family, his home and what was left of his self respect. While Begbie has been locked up for killing a man and has not changed at all in all those years.

The film has more drama, but still has comedic elements which mostly revolve around Spud and Begbie. But Sickboy and Renton do have the best scene in the film revolving around the year 1690, which is hilarious. While the plot of the friends helping to assist Sick Boy with his new business venture in a Sauna is not as developed as it could be.

All the main cast provide the same great performances. Other characters from the original including James Cosmo, Shirley Henderson and Kelly MacDonald also return, but have very limited screen time. While this may seem to be pointless and bring no benefit to the story, they do serve purpose within the narrative.

Danny Boyle yet again provides bold and energetic direction inspired by the auteur Nic Roeg, by using all sorts of camera tricks which merge this new film with scenes from the original.

Even the soundtrack mixes the old with the new. In the present the sounds include Mercury-winning Edinburgh alt hip-hop trio Young Fathers, Brixton  rockers Fat White Family, alternative indie Londoners Wolf Alice and the funny demented Irish rappers Rubberbandits. While classic songs are provided by Blondie, Queen and Run DMC. Iggy Pop’s ‘Lust for Life’ makes a welcome return in the form of a Prodigy remix and Underworld’s make an alternative version of their hit song with ‘Slow Slippy’.

Not quite as dark or as funny as the original, but as sequels go this a welcome success and almost as good as the first. A bit long and sentimental at times. Nevertheless it is funny and entertaining. 

Reviewed by Paul Logan

Silence ****

Running time 161 mins Cert: 15

Synopsis
: The story of two Catholic missionaries (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) who face the ultimate test of faith when they travel to Japan in search of their missing mentor (Liam Neeson) – at a time when Catholicism was outlawed and their presence forbidden.



Director Martin Scorsese returns with his passion project which completes his religious trilogy after making ‘The Last Temptation of Christ’.

Based on the 1966 novel of the same name about Jesuit missionaries sent to 17th century Japan, where they endure persecution in the time of Kakure Kirishitan (“Hidden Christians”) that followed the defeat of the Shimabara Rebellion, an uprising of Catholic Christian peasants during the Tokugawa shogunate’s rule. 

The story was influenced by the Catholic Endō’s experience of religious discrimination in Japan.
The scope of the film is beautifully envisioned by Scorsese along with his production designer Dante Ferretti, cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto and editor Thelma Schoonmaker. All involved give the film a kind of Malick and Kurosawa influenced vision. Japan’s Edo period has been painstakingly recreated.

All performances are equally strong, although at times a bit distracting as the Priests give a not entirely convincing Portuguese accents There are some great supporting turns by Tsukamoto, Kubozuka aka the Inquisitor and Tadanobu Asano as the Interpreter. 

The pace is fairly slow & with a lengthy runtime may test the faith for any audience. But it must be said that it is worthwhile for ambitiousness and complexity of the piece, while not a film that could be revisited unlike Scorsese’s other masterpieces.
A beautiful piece of art crafted by a filmmaker like no other, however not as strong as his other works.

Reviewed by Paul Logan

The Good, the bad & the Ugly of 2016

The past year on the whole was an impressive year for films. Here is what we consider the best and the worst of 2016.

The Best:

1. Zootropolis: A fantastic, funny and beautifully realised animated masterpiece from Disney with a great moral message.



2. The Jungle Book: Who would have thought a remake of an animated classic would be as good as the original.


3. Hunt for the Wilderpeople: A hidden gem of a comedy from the person behind ‘Flight of the Concords’.


4. Spotlight: A shocking controversial true story made in the spirit of ‘All the Presidents Men’.


5. Arrival: Slow, but beautifully made Sci-Fi with great performances.


6. Room: Powerful drama on how a kidnapping affects a family.


7. Pete’s Dragon: Another remake which should have not worked, but this fun and less campy version of the classic original was a joy to watch.

8. Hell or High Water: Perfect Sense’s David MacKenzie directsthis humorous    modern day western with fantastic performances by all.


9. The Nice Guys: Shane Black’s 70’s set comedic action flick was under appreciated at the time of the release. But    is definitely worth a watch.


10. Moana: Disney Animation appears to be going through another Golden Age. This tropical adventure story from the directors of Aladdin is a funny and touching piece of entertainment.

The Worst

1. Batman vs Superman: A dull, overblown with bad CGI comic book movie. Believe it or not Affleck is the only one who rises above this mess.


2. Yoga Hosers: Not even Kevin Smith fans, could defend this terrible comedy which involves Nazi Sausages taking over the world.


3. Inferno: Yet another Dan Brown adaptation from Ron Howard and Tom Hanks and yet again another boring piece of cinema.


4. Warcraft: Duncan Jones followed his first 2 great films with a boring action flick filled with dodgy CGI in a genre that has never worked.

5. Independence Day: Resurgence: 20 years after the original, it was a sequel nobody wanted or needed.


6. Ice Age: Collision Course: A franchise running out of ideas, which should have been thawed out a long-time ago.


7. Nine Lives: Not as bad as critics made it out to be. Christopher Walken has a few funny moments. However a badly animated cat and underwritten sugary script, makes you wonder by all involved agreed to sign onto the project in the first place.


8. X-Men: Apocalypse: Another disappointing comic book flick, but this time with a weak villain and a drawn out storyline.


9. Ride Along 2: The first film was fun, but the sequel was overblown and loud, funnily enough not all due to Kevin Hart.

10. Neighbours 2: Sorority Rising: A rehash of the first film with more or less the same ideas from the original.

The BFG ****


Running time 117 mins Cert: PG


Synopsis
: When Ten-year-old Sophie (Barnhill) meets the Big Friendly Giant (Rylance), she is naturally  scared at first. However she realizes that the giant is actually quite gentle and charming. As their friendship grows, Sophie’s presence attracts the unwanted attention of Bloodbottler (Hader) Fleshlumpeater (Clement) and other giants. After traveling to London, Sophie and the BFG must convince Queen Victoria to help them get rid of all the bad giants once and for all.

Roald Dahl’s classic novel is adapted for the second time, after being first made an animated feature with David Jason. Now one of the masters of Cinema tries to bring his own magic to this classic childhood tale.

Steven Spielberg makes his first kids movie since Hook and also for Disney. With great source material and a script written by E.T. screenwriter Melissa Mathison, all things look set to be a successful mix.

The good news is this is a faithful interpretation of Dahl’s novel. Mathison’s script keeps all of BFG’s strange gobbledegook with his talk of “hippodumplings” and “tellytelly bunkum boxes”. After a brief introduction set around an Orphanage in a Victorian stylisation of Olde London Town, the main bulk of the narrative is set in Giant Country with the ‘Human Bean” eating creatures voiced by SNL’s Bill Hader and ‘Flight of the Concordes’ Jemaine Clement. Which then leads to the extremely silly, but highly amusing plot involving The Queen (Penelope Wilton) who assists with Sophie’s plan to try and remove the evil Giants . 

After only working with Mark Rylance for a day on ‘Bridge Of Spies’, Spielberg knew immediately that he had found his Giant. The actor brings a gentle, eminently loveable quality to The BFG, complete with his Cornish accent and overall impressive  and expressive CGI performance. Newcomer Ruby Barnhill is a revaluation and brings a sweet, innocent quality to Sophie and more than holds her own to this year’s Best Supporting Actor Oscar Winner.

The look of The BFG is quite faith To the look of Quentin Blake’s classic illustrations. However at times the creature along with the other giants have a creepy ugly look and some of the CGI effects do not work as well as they should.

It is easy to see why it flopped in the States as it is very quaint & bizarre.While not one of Spielberg’s best or even the best Roald Dahl adaptation (that’ll be The Witches), The BFG is good whizz popping fun, expertly directed by the auteur.

Reviewed by Paul Logan

Shadow World ****


U.S. / Director Johan Grimonprez /90 mins

Synopsis: An eye-opening journey exploring the international arms industry.

Based on the bestselling book by journalist Andrew Feinstein, the film shows the corruption behind the global weapons trade and how it is responsible for the policies of many governments, including the U.S. And the U.K.

Starting with the relationship between  Regan and  Thatcher, Director  Grimonprez explores dealings  with Saudi Arabia and the alleged bribery of leading Saudi Arabians. Even suggesting that some wars have been raised in order to keep the arms trade and government leaders have stopped the investigations for financial and political gain.

Comprised of archive footage and interviews with whistleblowers, military personnel, arms dealers and reporters that have exposed some of the scandals. 

Well researched with many interesting interviews. Shadow World cannot help but leave the viewer angry with suggestions made. 

This may be one of the most important documentaries ever made and also the most terrifying.

Reviewed by Paul Logan

Edinburgh International Film Festival announces award winners


 

Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF) has announced the Award Winners for this year’s 70th edition. 

Over 160 features and 130 shorts from 55 countries screened at this year’s Festival, with the jurors viewing an extensive and varied selection of shorts, documentaries and features since the start of the Festival.

THE MICHAEL POWELL AWARD FOR BEST BRITISH FEATURE FILM

The winner of the prestigious Michael Powell Award for Best British Feature Film went to Scottish filmmaker Ben Sharrock’s directorial debut, PIKADERO, which received its UK Premiere at the Festival. 

 The jurors also gave a special mention to BRAKES, directed by Mercedes Grower, which received its World Premiere at the Festival.

The winner was chosen by the Michael Powell Jury comprised of acclaimed actress Kim Cattrall, Edinburgh-based Spanish filmmaker and actress Icíar Bollaín and the iconic actor Clancy Brown.

The Michael Powell Jury said: “We wanted to recognise the very personal and individual voice of director Ben Sharrock for his film PIKADERO. In a year when the jury viewed a selection of very distinctive and different films his film really stood out.”

 Ben Sharrock said: “I am absolutely thrilled and honoured to receive the Michael Powell Award. It is an incredible feeling. It is so valuable to have this kind of recognition for PIKADERO in the UK. It is awards and recognition like this that help us get the film out to as wide an audience as possible. We have been lucky enough to screen PIKADERO in different countries around the world but it has been a very special experience having the UK Premiere here at EIFF and showing it to audiences in my home city. I am extremely grateful and I would like to thank the jury, the Festival team and Mark Adams. Finally, I want to thank everyone who was involved in this film for all their talent and hard work. What a journey!”

 

THE AWARD FOR BEST PERFORMANCE IN A BRITISH FEATURE FILM

 This award went to actress Catrin Stewart for her role in THE LIBRARY SUICIDES and was also selected by the Michael Powell jurors.

 The Michael Powell Jury said: “We wanted to recognise the striking performance by Catrin Stewart in THE LIBRARY SUICIDES (Y LLYFGELL). The complexities and subtleties of playing twin characters is challenging and she managed to achieve the rare feat of making each of the two roles she played truly distinctive.”

 Catrin Stewart said: “Thank you EIFF! I feel hugely honoured to be given this award. It was my first feature film role and a fantastic challenge to play two characters side by side. I loved working with the wonderful Euros Lyn and Fflur Dafydd’s exciting script. It was also very special for me to make a film in Welsh, and I’m very proud of what we have achieved. Diolch yn fawr!”

 The jury also gave a special mention to David Sillars for his role in SEAT IN SHADOW.

 THE AWARD FOR BEST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE FILM

 

The award for Best International Feature Film went to Argyris Papadimitropoulos’ SUNTAN, which received its UK Premiere at this year’s Festival. The winner was chosen by the International Jury comprised of actor Angus Macfadyen, actress and producer Sadie Frost and Editor of Screen International, Matt Mueller.

The International Jury said:

“While there were many outstanding films in the international competition, SUNTAN is the title that really resonated with us. Argyris Papadimitropolous’s film is a compelling and unflinching portrait of one man’s journey from infatuation to desperation, marked out by a truly great performance from its lead actor, Efthymis Papadimitriou.”

Argyris Papadimitropoulos said: “Back in the late ’90s I was a student in the UK. All the films that were awarded in the Edinburgh International Film Festival were part of the conversation among us. We would go and watch everything with an Edinburgh laurel on the poster. Little did I know that 15 years later I would be so honoured as to be the recipient of such an award. I can’t wait to print new posters. Thank you to the lovely people of the Festival and the amazing jury, I could not be happier.”

THE AWARD FOR BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE FILM

The award for Best Documentary Feature Film went to Johan Grimonprez’s eye-opening documentary SHADOW WORLD, which dwelt on the shocking realities of the global arms trade. This year’s jury comprised veteran producer Steve Abbott, Fife-native actor Dougray Scott and film executive Tejinder Jouhal.

 The Documentary Jury said: “The jury felt there was an exceptionally high quality of films presented in the documentary section this year but, for us, the clear winner was SHADOW WORLD. Quite simply, it is an extraordinary film. A particularly powerful, poignant and provocative documentary, this film asked critical questions that continue to resonate. Director Johan Grimonprez and writer Andrew Feinstein pose the essential question: will we be allowed to choose peace over the business of war?”

 Johan Grimonprez said: “In an interview James Baldwin once said: ‘What we call history is perhaps a way of avoiding responsibility for what has happened, is happening, in time.’ I hope that SHADOW WORLD somewhat is able to point at how we can actually rewrite that reality. And it’s so wonderful that EIFF honours the effort of so many people, not in the least Andrew Feinstein, the writer of The Shadow World, but also the whole team that was able to get this different story out there. A big tanx, truly!!!”

 THE AWARD FOR BEST SHORT FILM

 The award for Best Short Film went to BEFORE LOVE, directed by Igor Kovalyov, with Gavin Scott Whitfield’s MURDEROUS INJUSTICE receiving a special mention from the jurors. The jury was comprised of short film producer Rebecca Mark-Lawson, film development executive Hilary Davis and filmmaker Ashley Horner.

 The Short Film Jury said: “The film stood out to the jury because the director gave us a unique cinematic experience. Beautiful and stylish animation explored a bizarre love triangle with a fascinating female lead.”

 THE MCLAREN AWARD FOR BEST BRITISH ANIMATION

 Voted for by the Festival audience, the McLaren Award for Best British Animation, supported by the British Council, this year goes to SIMON’S CAT – OFF TO THE VET by director Simon Tofield. 

 The winner of the Festival’s Audience Award will be announced at the Closing Night ceremony.


 

 

The White King



U.K. / Directors Alex Helfrecht and Jörg Tittel /89 mins


Synopsis
: In a dystopian future a young boy (Lorenzo Allchurch) vows to find his imprisoned father.



Based on the novel of the same name by György Dragomán, who based his dystopian authoritarian tale on his childhood in Ceaușescu’s Romania.

A 12-year-old boy Djata, (Lorenzo Allchurch) watches as government agents take his father Peter (Ross Partridge). His mother Hannah (Agyness Deyn) pretends that Peter is away for a ‘special mission’. Peter is actually imprisoned for speaking out about the regime. After discovering the truth, Djata joins his mother in the search to find where Peter is being kept.

The film starts with an impressive animated credit sequence, unfortunately this is the only thing that dazzles. 

The script is dull with too many questions are left unanswered. How did this dystopian world happen, who are these people ruled by and why are guys in there twenties terrorising little kids? The actual world is not fleshed out enough and with little depth to the characters. Even worse is that the piece just ends with no resolution or explanation.

Everyone in the cast does their best with the material provided. Agyness Deyn, Jonathan Pryce and Fiona Shaw suffer from the underdeveloped characterisation and lacklustre dialogue. Newcomer Allchurch shows promise, but even he appears to struggle with the cliched script.

Theatre directors Helfrecht and Tittel have made their debut in the Young Adult dystopian area, which is now oversaturated and has seen better movies in this genre. Especially with The Hunger Games series. All that is shown of the world is grassy countryside, buildings with billboards showing the words Serve, Duty, Glory and Family and the odd computerised helicopter in the sky.

It is hard to believe the filmmakers took four years to develop this underwhelming cinema experience.
Reviewed by Paul Logan

Holidays ***


U.S. / Director Anthony Scott Burns, Kevin Kolsch, Nicholas McCarthy, Adam Egypt Mortimer, Gary Shore, Kevin Smith, Sarah Adina Smith, Scott Stewart, Dennis Widmyer /105 mins


Synopsis: Nine filmmakers present horror stories that revolve around Valentine’s Day, Saint Patrick’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Halloween, Christmas and New Year’s Eve.


An assortment of visions make up this horror comedy anthology in the same vein as V/H/S, based on various celebratory holidays throughout the year. 
 “Valentine’s Day” centres around a young, bullied high school girl who has a crush on her gym coach to grisly extremes. In “St. Patrick’s Day,” an primary school teacher (Ruth Bradley) wishes she has a child with wishes granted thanks to  black magic hell and a little ginger haired girl.  “Easter,” a little girl wakes up in the middle of the night to find the Easter Bunny. “Mother’s Day” revolves around a girl who gets pregnant every time she has sex and goes to a commune for psychedelic therapy. In “Father’s Day,” Carol (Jocelin Donahue) receives a cassette tape in the mail which contains her late father’s voice, urging his daughter to follow instructions so that they can be reunited. “Halloween” is based around the internet sex industry where an abusive boss (Harley Morenstein) gets a taste of his own medicine from his girl employees. In “Christmas,” Pete (Seth Green) is desperate to give his son the ideal gift hot with deadly consequences. The last segment  “New Year’s Eve” sees a first date between an lonely young woman (Lorenza Izzo) and a serial killer  (Andrew Bowen). 
As with most of these anthology films it is very much a hit and miss affair. Some of the stories work notably “St Patrick’s Day”, “Easter” and Kevin Smith’s wacky “Halloween”, while others like “Fathers Day” and “Mother’s Day” have really interesting premises but the payoff is disappointing and underdeveloped. None of the stories are very frightening or incredibly funny, but are more amusing, twisted and bizarre.
Thankfully there are more hits than misses. The most interesting part of the film is figuring out what each director has come up with on the specific occasion. 

Reviewed by Paul Logan


Zero Days ****

U.S. / Director Alex Gibney /116 mins

Synopsis: The malware worm Stuxnet, famously used against Iranian centrifuges, has been claimed by many to have originated as a joint effort between America and Israel.

Academy Award winning documentarian Alex Gibney tackles another intriguing subject after covering pieces on Frank Sinatra, Steve Jobs, Wikileaks,  Fela Kuti and Scientlogy. 

The film documents the potentially  lethal computer virus which was first detected back in 2010. Rumours have long circled that the virus may have been commissioned by the US and Israeli governments to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program. The virus  was eventually found by the anti-virus companies, and was named Stuxnet by the industry. While the official code name was ‘Olympic Games’. The malware was made to be used to paralyse the infrastructure of entire states in a split second without leaving any trace of those responsible.

Gibney interviews a range of professionals including coders from Symantec to government insiders, nuclear physicists and an anonymous NSA source. 

The film is loaded with technical information which could have been dull and boring, but is conveyed in a way that is compelling. The filmmakers have also tried to make the film as unpolitical as possible with finger pointing by never to a definitive source. 

By the end it is difficult to feel safe in a world where cyber warfare appears to be the next stage on the battlefield. 

As with ‘Going Clear’ and ‘We Steal Secrets’ Gibney shows again that he is one of the best documentarians in his field.

Reviewed by Paul Logan