Monthly archives "July 2011"

Transformers: Dark of the Moon **

Running time: 154 mins  Certificate: 12A

Synopsis:  The between the Autobots and the Decepticons continues on Earth. Both sides discover that Optimus Prime’s predecessor, Sentinel Prime (Nimoy), has been located buried in the Moon Can Sam Witwicky (LaBeouf) and his new girlfriend help the Autobots save the world yet again?

 

The franchise made a promising start when it began four years ago with an over the top, but enjoyable action film that was quite faithful to the original cartoon series. Then director Michael Bay made a sequel which was dull, overlong, stupid, racist and included a Decepticon with a swinging pair of balls. Surely the third film would be an improvement, it could not be any worse than Revenge of the Fallen.

 

The answer to the question is yes it is better, but only slightly. The big problem with the film yet again is the duration, it is simply far too long and relies on too much exposition. The story is confusing, complicated and does not make much sense.

 

The acting is pretty bad as everyone will have come to expect from Shia LaBeouf, but he is not the only one. Megan Fox who played the girlfriend in the previous films has been replaced with former Victoria’s Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, who is absolutely terrible. There are manniquins in department store windows with more acting range. While the cameos bring the most fun with John Malkovich and Ken Jeong chewing the scenery. Frances McDormind in particular seems to be taking her role far too seriously with a very dramatic performance for a basic popcorn flick.

 

What should be commended for this film is the use of 3-D, which is the best since Avatar hit screens sometime ago. Somehow it makes the action far easier to follow and is worth it alone for the spectacular skydiving sequence. ILM have done another fantastic job with the special effects.

If the film had been significantly shorter it would have been more coherent and entertaining, but while it is better than the last one it is still pretty dull and definitely not one that meets the eye.

 

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan 

Bridesmaids ****

Running time: 124 mins  Certificate: 15

Synopsis:  Co-writer and SNL alumnus Kristen Wiig stars as struggling singleton Annie, who is manoeuvring her way through her late thirties without too much success.  Annie works in a jewellery store where she casts doubt on the romantic feelings the customers show for each other.  She has a fuck buddy called Ted (Jon Hamm), but he treats her with contempt.  Annie’s closest friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) is getting hitched and entrusts her with bridesmaids duties alongside blousy posho Helen (Rose Byrne), burly security expert Megan (Melissa McCarthy), and harassed mother of teenage boys, “there’s semen everywhere,” Rita (Wendi McLendon-Covey). 

 

  Much of the comedy in Paul Feig’s movie comes from the disasters that befall the women, but the screenplay by Wiig and her co-writer Annie Mumulo is wonderfully written.  The stand out sequence is a confrontation on a plane between a spaced-out Annie and an exasperated flight attendant.  Wiig makes the tirelessly self-destructive Annie sympathetic, even when she’s sabotaging a tentative new relationship with a charming Irish cop (Chris O’ Dowd), or abusing a thirteen year old girl who has the nerve to ask for ‘Friends Forever’ to be inscribed on a bracelet. 

 

‘Bridesmaids’ has been marketed as a female version of male buddy comedies like ‘The Hangover’ (Todd Philips 2009) but apart from a gross-out sequence in a bridal shop there is nothing particularly offensive about their behaviour.  Sure they drink too much and swear a lot but these girls are quite tame.  A film about the average British hen night would probably need Wes Craven and Katherine Bigelow co-directing to capture the full horror of events as they unfolded.  ‘Bridesmaids’ is actually rather sweet.  Essentially the message is having friends might be a pain in the ass, but they are worth the effort. 

 

Reviewed by Kevin Sturton  

The Beaver: ****

Running time: 91 mins  Certificate: 12A

Synopsis:  A once successful toy executive and family man, Walter Black (Gibson) is now clinically depressed and ready to end it all. But when an unwanted puppet ends up on his hand, it takes over his life and begins to turn his fortunes around.

 

There has been lots of coverage regarding this movie due to the unpleasant stories last year surrounding the main star Mel Gibson. This is unfortunate as not only is The Beaver a  great film, but Gibson’s performance is the best one that he has ever accomplished in his thirty year career.

 

  This film has been badly marketed though as the first impression given by the trailers and the poster is that it is a comedy. While there are black comedic elements throughout, it is more of a compelling drama. The funny parts are only when Mad Mel is having a conversation with the hand puppet. Many critics have ridiculed the choice of using a cockney accent for the beaver, but it does work very well.

 

  The story does suffer a little whenever the attention is turned away from Walter and his family. There is a subplot revolving around his teenager son  Porter (Anton Yelchin) and his new girlfriend an ex-graffiti artist (Jennifer Lawrence) called Norah, which is tedious and cliched at best. It would have been more powerful and interesting to centre on Walter Black for most of the movie.

 

  Jodie Foster’s direction appears rather pedestrian and unconfident in her approach to the material. Where she does appear to excel is with the performances not only Gibson, but with her whole cast. At the end of the day it is really Mel’s film, it is really difficult to tell if he is giving the performance of a lifetime or dramatically having a mental breakdown in front of the camera. It could be a bit of both worlds who knows.

 

For some audiences it may be a bit of a struggle with the story’s bipolar structure and difficult subject matter. But people who have suffered with depression at some time of their lives will sympathise maybe not with Gibson, but definitely with his character and his family. The film is flawed,  but it is also a brave piece of filmmaking with a strong central performance. If this is what Gibson can give to the film world, it would be ashame if this was his last role.

 

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan

Edinburgh Film Festival 2011/ Fin

Final Thoughts

After all the negativity surrounding the festival by the media, was it as bad as the press was making it out to be. The answer is yes and no. In reality it could have been far worse. The films shown this year were fairly interesting, but were not groundbreaking. The star names, red carpet premieres and awards were sadly missed out for this year. But that was not the true problem of the festival, the whole event was just badly organised with nobody taking responsibility for their actions.

It would have been good to see Kevin Smith’s Red State, The Wicker Tree and Lynne Ramsey’s We Need To Talk About Kevin. All of these films would have done wonders for the festival.  Here is a summary of the hits & misses of the festival.

 

Highlights

 

The Lion King 3-D:   Disney have done a fantastic job with the conversation. The film may be over 17 years old, but still packs an emotional punch.


Perfect Sense:   A bold, brave, Scottish apocalyptic love story which seemed to split the critics down the middle. The originality of the premise and the spellbinding sound design sets this apart from other British films.


Project Nim:   A great documentary that will not only make you laugh, but will also make you cry.


The King of Devil’s Island:   A bleak Norwegian true story with probably the best performances of any of the films in the festival.


The Guard:  Comparisons to In Bruges were always going to come up, but the film was generally funny if not original and had some of the best one liners of any film this year.

 

Lowlifes

 

Stormhouse:   A British horror that decided to change all the rules it had set out have way through the film. Bad dialogue and acting did not help matters. It is the most offensive piece of film ever show at the festival in it’s history.


Bob Marley: The Making of a Legend:   How can you screw up a factual documentary about an interesting musical figure? If the 34 walkouts of the press screening show quite easily. The movie was just plain boring with no really insight to the legend’s life.


Fast Romance:   A poorly conceived love story, with bad acting and a plot that would have worked better in River City.


By Day By Night:   An interesting idea for a sci fi film that would have worked better as a short rather than the turgid overlong feature it became.


Ghosted:   A cliched prison drama that has been done so many times before and better. Only the performances save it from being truly forgettable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edinburgh Film Festival 2011/ Take 11

Day 11

The Lion King 3-D *****

Director Roger Allers & Rob Minkoff/ 89 mins 

What would be the best way to close a troubled Film Festival? Showing the UK Premiere of The Lion King 3-D of course. Families across the country came in their droves to witness the fantastic spectacle for themselves.

 

Before the screening, viewers had the first glimpse of Pixar’s next animated masterpiece Brave. The film is set in the Scottish Highlands and revolves around Merida (Kelly MacDonald), a skilled archer and impetuous daughter of King Fergus (Billy Connolly) and Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson).  Determined to carve her own path in life, Merida defies an age-old custom sacred to the uproarious lords of the land: massive Lord MacGuffin (Kevin McKidd), surly Lord Macintosh (Craig Ferguson) and cantankerous Lord Dingwall (Robbie Coltrane).  Merida’s actions inadvertently unleash chaos and fury in the kingdom, and when she turns to an eccentric old Wise Woman (Julie Walters) for help, she is granted an ill-fated wish.  The ensuing peril forces Merida to discover the meaning of true bravery in order to undo a beastly curse before it’s too late.

 

Although the teaser trailer was extremely brief and did not give anything away, it did show off the stunning animation that we have accustomed to from Pixar. It also appears that they have been respectful to our Scottish culture and folklore.

 

After the trailer, the audience was treated to a special performance of the Circle of Life with Brown Lindiwe Mkhize  from the West End musical giving a breathtaking solo performance.

 

Then came the moment all Disney fans were waiting for, the main feature. Walt Disney Animation Studios have spent three years converting the animated classic into 3-D and it clearly shows. The job they have done here is fantastic and brings more depth and scope to the images. The backgrounds in particular are spectacular and work really well. The fire, rain, blowing leaves and flying sequences float out of the screen. While Scar’s chin seems to point directly to the audience. Unfortunately the stampede sequence does not work as well, but this is a minor problem as the film looks spectacular in 3-D.

 

The film is over 17 years old and is still The Disney Company’s best technically hand drawn animated movie. As they have already demonstrated with Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, a 2-D animated film can be converted to 3-D if the job is done right. With The Lion King 3-D they have given a whole new dimension of fun to families of all ages for years to come. What a great way to end the Edinburgh International Film Festival.

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edinburgh Film Festival 2011/ Take 10

Day 10

Bobby Fischer Against The World ****

Director Liz Garbus/ 92 mins 

Unless people are interested in chess or can remember the events in the early 70’s surrounding his life, very few have probably heard of Bobby Fischer.

 

American chess genius Bobby Fischer taught himself to play chess at six. He was the U.S. champion by the age of 14. Then in 1972, Fischer unseated reigning Soviet champ Boris Spassy for the world title in Reykjavik, Iceland, a match that dominated world headlines,. After his win, Fischer became increasingly eccentric and retires from professional chess in which he becomes angry recluse and fugitive from the law.

 

Another documentary becomes one of the most entertaining films of the festival with this fascinating case study of an interesting man with a fairly uninteresting profession. The film starts off by showing Fischer is a symphathic light showing his poor childhood. This changes towards his later years when he is portrayed as a demented nutcase who is convinced of conspiracy theories and in one act of particular madness applauds the Twin Towers attack on 9/11. It is hard to not dislike the guy by the end of the film.

 

The film is comprised on archive footage and one to one interviews new and old. It is an unbiased portrayal with insight from everybody in Fischer’s life and also from Bobby himself.

 

No one needs to be a chess fan to enjoy this movie, fans of the game and of Fischer will probably already know the facts behind the legend.

 

 

My Brothers ***

Director Paul Fraser/ 90 mins 

An unusual, fairly interesting take on the usual buddy road movie which involves siblings rather than friends.

 

After accidentally smashing his dying dad’s beloved cheap Casio watch during a fight at school, Sensitive Irish 17 year old Noel (Timmy Creed) decides to set out on a road trip to find another watch just like it. He borrows his employer’s bakery van and sets off with his cocky, chubby middle brother, Paudie (Paul Courtney) and young Scwally (T.J. Griffin), who seeks refuge in the universe of “Star Wars” despite having never seen the films.

 

Shane Meadows’ longtime collaborator Paul Fraser makes his feature directing debut. The most staggering thing about this film,  is that the young actors he has cast have never acted before and this is their first time in front of a camera. Especially the kids who are so natural and give an honest simplicity to their performances.

 

The script is not as good as it could be, while the overall concept is pretty believable, but the overall road trip is stuffed with too many characters and situations. The scenes with the girlfriend who runs a pub and the man Paudie has an unpleasant experience with are established then merely forgotten about with no explanation. While convenient plot points involving the whale and the tractor seemed to forced and an easy resolve to problems with the narrative.

 

At the end of the day the central premise and the acting is really what makes this film work. The film is accompanied with a fantastic soundtrack provided by Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody and his producer Jacknife Lee.

 

Reviews by Paul Logan

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edinburgh Film Festival 2011/ Take 9

Day 9

The Caller **

Director Matthew Parkhill/ 90 mins 

A horror mystery thriller which unites two different actors who will be infamous to audiences playing different sets of vampire characters.

 

Divorcee Mary Kee (Rachelle Lefevre) moves into a new apartment following a troubling divorce from her husband (Ed Quinn). She is starts to receive mysterious calls from a woman calling herself Rose and who states that she is calling from the 1950s. Mary becomes romantically involved with teacher John Guidi (Stephen Moyer), who helps protect her from her ex-husband and tries to help her with the abusive caller.

 

The plot is an interesting idea, which seems to blend ideas from movies like Frequency, One Missed Call and Psycho. But sadly the notion becomes more of a novelty item than intriguing one. The pacing is also rather sporadic in which as the film goes on, it becomes rather silly, boring and very predictable.

 

Both Lefevre and Moyer try their best with the material given, but the chemistry between them is sadly lacking. While the usually reliable Luis Guzman is completely miscast in the role of the friendly neighbour.

 

Twilight and True Blood fans may get a kick at seeing the vampires together in a film, but the intriguing hybrid of genres is sadly misjudged and tiresome.

 

Tomboy ****

Director Céline Sciamma / 81 mins 

After her impressive debut with Water Lilies, French auteur Céline Sciamma has done what what very few directors do after their first feature and that is to scale back with a low budget second film.

 

Ten year old tomboy Laure (Zoé Héran) moves to a new neighbourhood with her family.  She dresses as a boy and convinces her new friends that she’s ten-year-old Michael.  While pretending to be Michael, Laure wins admirers for his football skills and steals the heart of young Lisa.  But how long can she keep her secret?  

 

A story about transgender at such a young age could have gone so wrong, if it had not been handled delicately. Sciamma has crafted a film that is quite brave and bold with a difficult subject matter. She does not over-milk the sentimental value of the drama and does not judge any of characters by their actions

 

Newcomer Zoé Héran gives a bewitching impressive debut as the confused child. While the rest of the cast offer strong support with amusing low key roles.

 

The film does suffer a little from slow pacing and at times feels like it would have worked better as a 40 minute short. But the overall power of the film is the subject matter and the performances that will be in the audience’s minds for days after watching a subtle well made piece of filmmaking.

 

Reviews by Paul Logan

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edinburgh Film Festival 2011/ Take 8

Day 8

King of Devil’s Island (Kongen Av Bastoy) ****

Director Marius Hoist/ 112 mins 

A disturbing, claustrophobic true story, based around the 1915 uprising at a correctional facility on Bastøy Island, Norway. 

 

The story follows the arrival of alleged murderer Erling (Benjamin Helstad) who quickly butts heads with the guards and earns the respect of his fellow inmates. The warden (Stellan Skarsgård) rules over the  prison with an a combination of compassion and discipline. Through a tragic series of events initiated by a sadistic dorm master (Kristoffer Joner) the young men find their voice, overpower their captors and demand to be treated fairly. 

 

The film succeeds in telling this compelling story, mainly through the wonderful acting by not just the Scandinavian veterans, but also the young ensemble cast who give captivating, heart-aching performances.

 

Exemplary cinematography gives the film a stunning haunted look with the  use of  a subdued black, grey and blue colour palette. The script is a little bit uneven during the first act, but manages to find it’s feet once the conflict is throughly established and the final act is just simply breathtaking.

 

King of Devil’s Island is an emotionally touching impressive unforgettable piece of cinema. if only all dramas could be this good.

 

 

Stormhouse *

Director Dan Turner/ 90 mins 

During the Festival, there was a buzz surrounding this film being the next big thing. Could it be another The Descent or is it just another overhyped British film looking to make it’s mark? Sadly the answer is the latter.

 

In 2002 just before the invasion of Iraq, the Military have captured and imprisoned a supernatural entity at a secret underground base. This film covers the final four days of that experiment with Ghost whisperer  Hayley Sands being brought by the Government to make contact with the captured entity. But her arrival triggers a series of events which lead to the entity’s escape, plunging the base into a horrific nightmare. 

 

This attempt at making a decent scary horror film is so offensively misjudged, it is a wonder how the project received funding let alone was made in the first place.  Director Dan Turner takes an intriguing, if unoriginal premise and makes it cheap and exceptionally nasty.

 

It is hard to know where to start. The filmmakers set up rules regarding the ghost, which the change continually throughout the duration. The acting is terrible, the dialogue is laughable and the script is cliched. There is only one decent scare and that is five minutes at the start. The film is badly shot and features the worst dubbing and sound ever in a feature film.

 

A cinematic experience that is truly unforgettable due to how badly the whole package has been put together. A terrifying waste of time and money, which everyone should avoid at all costs.

Reviews by Paul Logan

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edinburgh Film Festival 2011/ Take 7

Day 7

Meet Monica Velour **

Director Keith Bearden/ 98 mins 

After spending some time with Sex in the City, Kim Cattrall returns to the big screen with this obscure, independent comedy.

 

An awkward teenager Tobe (Dustin Ingram) sets off on a road trip to meet Monica Velour, an ’80s porn star for a rare live appearance hundreds of miles away. He discovers that the 49-year-old single mom lives in a trailer in rural Indiana, performs at seedy strip clubs to make ends meet. A starry-eyed Tobe  befriends Monica, further complicating her difficult life. 

 

The role of Monica is perfectly tailored for Cattrall and she is easily the best thing in this very unbalanced film. Her character is more subdued and vulnerable than the role she plays in the hit HBO show. 

 

The biggest problem is with the character of Tobe. It is hard to understand why the filmmakers have picked an actor who looks like and acts like Jon Heder. In fact if the title wasn’t shown in the credits, it would easy to mistake this for a sequel to Napoleon Dynamite.

 

While the story can be quite sweet and quaint, it does not know which angle the audience is supposed to follow. By telling two different character stories it loses focus, it would have been better to concentrate on Monica’s life.

 

At the end of the day, the film is just to plain and only thing the audience will remember is the unsightly image of Brian Dennehy’s ass at the end of the movie.

 

 

Bob Marley: The Making of a Legend *

Director Esther Anderson & Gian Godoy/ 90 mins 

What should have been a fitting tribute to a musical legend turns out to be a dull, lifeless mess

 

The documentary explores the rise to fame of Bob Marley and the Wailers using archival footage and talking head interviews.

 

There are no words to describe how terrible this film is, but judging how many people walked out of the screening (34 if one critic is to be believed) should show how bad it was.

 

The footage that was shot during the 70’s by Esther Anderson is not only of bad quality, but is highly irrelevant as well. All the audience is provided with is images of Marley smoking lots of dope, talking rubbish and basically doing pretty much nothing. 

 

The narration provided by Anderson also gives us no insight into Marley’s character or personality and is delivered in a expressionless tone. While the audience is introduced to people in his life without being given any detail about who they are or what they did. Even the one to one interviews are overused. There are no cutaways or different camera angles, but just the same static shot during these pieces to camera.

 

Only die hard fanatics will enjoy this dire piece of filmmaking and even then it may be a bit of a struggle. If Bob could see this he would be spinning in his grave. A tribute? More like a tragedy.

 

Reviews by Paul Logan

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edinburgh Film Festival 2011/ Take 5 & 6

Day 5 & 6

By Day & By Night (De dia y de noche) **

Director Alejandro Molina/ 90 mins 

I wanted to enjoy this film with the description of ‘Gattaca meets Rollerball meets Blade Runner’, how could it possibly go wrong?

 

I came out disillusioned. The basic concept of this film is intriguing. In order to relieve population congestion, a totalitarian future government introduces a DNA altering enzyme dividing the human population into day-dwellers and night-dwellers. As the sun sets, half the people fall into a cataleptic state as the other half awake, and vice versa at dawn.

 

So far, so good. But the film-makers have taken an intriguing idea and laid on the high concept with a trowel. The camera lingers on long moments, concentrating on the actors’ faces past the point of artistic licence. The metropolis is shown from the air to consist of thousands of ungainly, average apartments, but the action (such as it is) all takes place in very stylised futuristic settings. And yet it also has a very dated feel. It is as if the director took the lengthy overdrawn moments from 2001AD to Solaris and used them as the inspiration for the production design and the pacing.

 

The actors come across well, the cinematography is lovingly presented, the sound world is highly crafted. And yet it just doesn’t make a satisfying experience. It is a 30 minute short drawn out to 90 minutes. Watch it for the style, but expect to be frustrated by the pacing. An updated Logan’s Run with a high concept, but ultimately unsatisfying in its plot and ending. 

 

Reviewed by Andy Connor

 

 

Troll Hunter (Trolljegeren) ****

Director André Ovredal / 104 mins 

Audiences have treated or some cases mistreated to various faux documentaries, from witches to alien abductions. Now a film crew heads to the fjords of Norway to hunt some Trolls.

 

A group of students investigate a series of strange bear killings, but uncover that there is a much more complex situation behind the scenes. They start to follow Hans, mysterious hunter who they discover has been hired by the government to capture what they thought were mythological creatures.

 

During the first twenty minutes of the film, it was hard to see where it was going. On the surface it started out as yet another Blair Witch Project, in which the audience is told that missing footage has been recovered from the site. But once we are introduced to Hans and the humour kicks in, it becomes a whole different entity. 

 

What makes the film really quite clever is that there are not just one species of troll, but several variations big trolls, small trolls, three headed trolls. Not to mention the impressive special effects that have been created on such a small budget for a film on this scale. The script even uses amusing in-jokes surrounding infamous folktales  like Trolls being able to detect Christians and Billy Goats Gruff references.

 

While the movie has similarities with previous films that have gone be here before, Troll Hunter is deliriously good fun and a joy to watch. It will be interesting to see what Hollywood will do for the planned remake.

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan