Daily archives "July 5, 2011"

Red Hill ****

Running time: 95 mins  Certificate: 15

Synopsis: A young city cop takes a post in the quiet sleepy Outback community only to come face to face against a vengeful notorious aborigine on his first day in the job. 

 

A first day in any job is always traumatic.  Especially if a badly scarred psychopath wants to kill your new work colleagues.  Patrick Hughes debut feature is essentially a modern-day Western.  A small town police force tries to stop a murderous outlaw with a grudge against the local sheriff.  Ryan Kwanten, best known for playing dumb hick Jason Stackhouse on HBO’s ‘True Blood’ stars as Cooper, a city copper who moves to a small town so his pregnant wife can get away from the stress of urban living.  

 

Instead Cooper finds himself caught up in a grudge match between a tough escaped convict (Tommy Lewis) who wants to take revenge on Old Bill (Steve Bisley) and the townsfolk.  It’s stirring confrontation given extra weight by the casting of Lewis and Bisley, two key players in the emergence of Australian cinema in the late 70’s.  Bisley played the Goose who gets cooked in ‘Mad Max’ (George Miller 1979), while Lewis is the vengeful young man who goes on the rampage after his mistreatment at the hands of racists in ‘The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith’ (Fred Scepisi 1978).

 

Kwanten is a likeable presence and makes us care about the gun-shy Cooper and his struggle to survive.  Patrick Hughes directs with confidence showing plenty of cinematic flair and an ability to direct tense action set-pieces.  Like John Hillcoat’s ‘The Proposition’ (2005) it alludes to Australia’s troubled history and makes stunning use of the landscape.  There is also a wonderful deus ex machina which suggests the film might go in a whole other direction.  Make sure you stay in your seats for the audacious final shot after the credits have rolled.  

 

Reviewed by Kevin Sturton

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides ***

Running time: 136 mins  Certificate: 12A

Synopsis: Captain Jack Sparrow (Depp) finds that someone claiming to be him is raising a crew to seek the Fountain Of Youth. Not only that but he must find it before Captain Barbossa (Rush), Captain Blackbeard (McShane), an old acquaintance Angelica (Cruz) and the Spanish fleet discover it first.

 

Almost 8 years ago both moviegoers and also film critics were taken surprise by a film based on theme park attraction, which starred an actor many studios regarded as box office poison. This followed with two critically revered sequels that may have been complex, but not as many critics claimed as confusing. A fourth instalment promised to be a return to the fantastic original, but unfortunately it is the worst in the series.

What differs from the previous films is the supporting cast and a new director in Rob Marshall (Chicago). Keira and Orlando who are no longer involved as the romantic leads, but are now replaced by a mermaid called Serena (Astrid Berges-Frisbey) and Missionary Phillip (Sam Claflin). Jack also has a romance with an old flame, Angelica.The only familiar faces apart from Sparrow are first mate Joshamee Gibbs (Kevin McNally) and long time adversary Captain Hector Barbossa who is now working for the King. 

These changes along with some of the story seem to be the major problem as at times it does not feel like another Pirates movie at all. The characters that fans have liked appear to be tainted, in that Barbossa appears to be more evil than the villain, Gibbs is smarter than before and the worst part of it by making Jack a bit more unlikeable. While the mermaid character works well, the two love interests are not as interesting as Elizabeth Swann and Will Turner. It doesn’t help that Clafin is more wooden than Barbossa’s leg either.

Rob Marshall was always a strange choice for director with his mainly musical background. He succeeds for the most part with well choreographed comedy and action scenes. It is a shame that he cannot create suspense or provide better pacing which during some of the jungle scenes slows the film down.

The 3-D is also a letdown with only swords, mermaid attacks, fog and a skeletal hand coming right of the screen making an impression on the audience.

There seems like a lot of negative aspects, but there are also a lot of things to enjoy. The opening scene in London is clever and exciting with a great cameo and the return of Keith Richards. Also the mermaid attack is one of the best scenes in the series so far. While the wreckage and palm tree scenes are highly amusing. 

Penélope Cruz is a welcome addition to the franchise with great chemistry interaction with Sparrow. While the always reliable Ian McShane is a complex memorable villain and clearly enjoying every moment.

The soundtrack by Hans Zimmer as always is fantastic bringing along famed Spanish guitarist Rodrigo y Gabriela along for the ride.

Many people have complained that it is just the same formula repeated again, but no one seems to protest when both Indiana Jones and James Bond films have been doing this for years. The film is not a complete sunken shipwreck as it is a fun ride most of the time, but not the return to form all fans and critics were hoping. Savvy.

 

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan

Attack the Block ****

Running time: 88 mins  Certificate: 15

Synopsis: A gang of hoodies and a trainee nurse (Whittaker) unite, when an mysterious alien race attacks their South London tower housing block.

 

Radio presenter and comedian Joe Cornish makes an impressive debut into feature films, which is clearly inspired by monster movies from the 80’s including Critters, Gremlins and An American Werewolf in London. 

This film was always going to be compared to Shaun of the Dead, basically a horror homage comedy based in the U.K. But apart from this generalisation and the appearance of Edgar Wright regular Nick Frost, this is where the similarity ends. 

Cornish has engineered a clever witty script with well researched authentic South London teenage slang. Not only that, but he has managed to pick a bunch of young upcoming actors who bring memorable energetic performances to their defining roles. 

Thankfully the film is not effect heavy, even the aliens are men in black furry suits with glowing blue teeth, which appear to be inspired by the Alien movies. The soundtrack is provided by Steven Price and the Basement Jaxx, which drives the action in each scene.

While the film is thoroughly entertaining, the pace does suffer slightly once the gang are confined in the tower block. This may be due to the intensity and excitement occurring in the chase scenes involving bikes and vans.

A ambitious gamble which pays off on almost every level. It will be intriguing to see not only what Joe Cornish’s brings to his next project, but also what he and Edgar Wright have brought to the script of Spielberg’s upcoming Tintin movie. Simply it’s wicked bruv, innit?

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan

Adele Blanc-Sec ***

Running time: 107 mins  Certificate: 12A

Synopsis: An intrepid young reporter, Adèle Blanc-Sec (Bourgoin) must face many obstacles including Egyptian mummies and a a pterodactyl who is terrorising Paris in her quest to find a cure for her severely ill sister.

 

Sadly ‘Les Aventures Extraordianaires d’ Adele Blanc Sec’ is not quite a return to the heady days of the 80’s and early 90’s when every Luc Besson film was something to look forward to, but it is easily his best film since ‘Leon’ (1994). An adaptation of a French comic book by Jacques Tardi, ‘Adele Blanc Sec’ mixes Lara Croft style adventures with slapstick comedy and period drama.

 

It is 1911 and Adele (Louise Bourgoin) is the spirited heroine on a quest to save her beloved sister whom she mortally wounded in a tennis match (seriously). To accomplish this she has to grave rob the tomb of Ramses II and reanimate the mummified corpse of the Pharaoh’s personal physician. On her trail is Dieuleveult, played by Mathieu Amalric who is given so little screen time you wonder why he agreed to do the film. Especially as his prosthetic make up makes him appear uncannily like Roman Polanski.

 

Like all Besson movies ‘Adele Blanc Sec’ looks great. Olivier Beriot’s costume design and Hugues Tissandier’s production design all capture the look and style of the comic. There is a twee ‘Amelie’ style voiceover that grates during the opening sequences. It seems very lazy for a visually accomplished director like Besson to resort to telling the audience rather than showing them what is going on. 

 

‘Adele Blanc Sec’ whizzes along nicely without ever coming close to being an extraordinary adventure. It does however have a pterodactyl and a delightfully urbane Egyptian Mummy. You can’t lose with a combination like that.

 

Reviewed by Kevin Sturton

Hanna ***

Running time: 111 mins  Certificate: 12A

Synopsis: Hanna (Ronan) has been trained to be an assassin by her father. She’s goes on the run from the CIA in and is closely followed by Marissa (Blanchett), who knows who or what she really is.

 

Director Joe Wright changes course after Atonement and The Soloist with a modern day fairy tale orientated action flick. But unfortunately the end result is a mixed bag of tricks and strangely rather boring at the same time.

The major problem with the film is the script, which has too many plot-holes and asks more questions than it answers. Why do Hanna and her father not just keep on living the way they have been, essentially under the nose of Blanchett’s witch character? Why give Hanna the choice of flicking a switch to become detectable? Out of the resources available to the C.I.A., why does Marissa resort to hiring a blonde camp assassin with a skinhead thug? Surely these characters would stand out a mile?

Also the family that Hanna encounters are supposed to be funny and kooky, but are just plain annoying. The stroppy teen daughter in particular is irritating and it is a wonder that Hanna doesn’t want to break her neck in the end. These scenes also slow the pace of the film down.

What does work are mainly the performances with both Eric Bana and Cate Blanchett giving bringing a heightened intensity to the game of cat and mouse that their characters are playing. Tom Hollander as the blonde assassin is given the best lines. While Saoirse Ronan proves again that she has a great career ahead with her mesmerising turn in the lead role.

Another aspect that works is the soundtrack by The Chemical Brothers which drives the action sequences. Although it is not nearly as good as the work Daft Punk contributed towards the Tron Legacy Soundtrack. 

There was a good idea somewhere within the Run Lola Run, Bourne Identity, Leon with a touch of Brothers Grim mash up. But there are too many problems with the overcooked plot. However Wright shows that he can direct action scenes and the performances shine throughout.

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan

Cave of Forgotten Dreams ***

Running time: 89 mins  Certificate: PG

Synopsis: Werner Herzog becomes the first filmmaker to shoot the Chauvet caverns in France, where preserved cave drawings are shown in all their glory.

 

After making a couple of feature films in the past couple of years, eccentric auteur Werner Herzog makes a return to documentary filmmaking. This time he explores the Chauvet cave system and in the process shows the incredible art work created by prehistoric man around 32,000 years ago, to cinema audiences for the first time.

Throughout the documentary Herzog talks to a range of various, quirky eclectic bunch of experts including archaeologists, palaeontologists, art historians. There is also a perfume specialist, who is trying to discover the smells that would have been around at the time   in order to recreate them. 

Werner’s narration brings a philosophical and an almost hypnotic sense of wonder to the proceedings. He also adds humour by slightly mocking some of the experts and also talking about albino crocodiles and their insight into the world around them.

While the visuals are interesting and the actual piece has been well researched, there does not appear to be enough substance to cover the running time. His latest venture into documentaries is intriguing, but not as entertaining or as interesting as either Grizzly Man or Encounters at the End of the World.

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan

13 Assassins ****

Running time: 125 mins  Certificate: 15

Synopsis: In Japan, 1844. Lord Naritsugu (Inagako), the Shogun’s illegitimate brother rises to power, but is an insane sadist. Shinzaemon (Yakusho) has to assemble a small band of men in order to assassinate Naritsugu and defeat his samurai army.

 

Takashi Miike has directed some shockingly violent movies and his reputation for gore tends to overshadow his quieter, more understated films like ‘Blues Harp,’ ‘Rainy Dog,’ and his masterpiece ‘Dead or Alive 2 – Birds.’  Even his most famous film ‘Audition’ is remembered for its gruesome finale, rather than the restrained, almost tender courtship that precedes it.  It is a love story in its own strange way, with a devastating consummation, but people remember the needles and the missing limbs.  

 

’13 Assassins’ sees Miike delivering his most mainstream film to date; a crowd-pleaser that mixes both sides of Miike, the showman and the artist.  After a respected samurai commits Hari-Kari in protest at the rising influence of the cruel Lord Naritsugu (Goro Inagaki), Shogun officials approach ageing warrior Shinzaemon (Koji Yakusho) and ask him to put together a team to assassinate Naritsugu.

 

These include the tall, powerful Ronin, Hirayama (Tsuyoshi Ihara), a former pupil of Shinzaemon who longs to repay his master; gambling addict Shinrokuro (Takayuki Yamada) who loves the idea of gambling with his life, and the pick of the bunch, peasant Koyota (Yusuke Iseya), who dislikes Samurai for their arrogance, but is always up for a fight. 

 

13 Assassins is a remake of a 1963 film directed by Eiichi Kudo. Miike replicates the old fashioned classical style of the original and of its main influence, Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai ((1954).  However there are still plenty of moments that are unmistakably the work of Miike Takashi, a director who is capable of creating haunting imagery, a particular example being a close-up of a survivor of Naritsugu’s attentions as she gives out a blood-curdling scream that will send shivers down your spine.

 

While Miike honours the bravery of the Samurai he is scathing about their politicking and their outdated notions of behaviour. You get the feeling the wild, anarchic livewire Koyota is more to Miike’s taste. “Do only Samurai matter in this world?” he asks wearily, while smacking Naritsugu’s henchmen around the head with what appear to be giant drumsticks. Though it begins to drag a little during the second act, the climactic battle is outstanding with Miike bringing the viewer right into the action as 13 men battle 200 in a variety of inventive and exhilarating ways. 

 

Reviewed by Kevin Sturton

Thor ****

Running time: 114 mins  Certificate: 12A

Synopsis: Thor (Hemsworth) is cast out of Asgard by his father Odin (Hopkins) and banished to Earth. There he must discover himself and face his jealous brother, Loki (Hiddleston).

 

Marvel unleash it’s latest assault on audiences with a someone that may not be as familiar to audiences as their more popular creations. This hero is is no ordinary man, but is a God. This character was always going to be the most difficult to adapt for the big screen.

Kenneth Branagh was always a controversial choice to direct this movie as he has very little experience in Hollywood blockbusters apart from dealing with the underrated Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. But somehow the camp over the top jokey direction seems to work with the striking visuals on display. The action scenes are exceptionally well choreographed.

The story is in itself a bit of a mess from start to finish. Because this is a unfamiliar new character to cinemagoers, there needs to be a bit of explanation to set up the story world. But there is a bit too much exposition, that drags out the running time which initially makes the whole piece to be overlong. Also the opening scene with the moment where Thor crashing down to earth feels very out of place in context to the narrative. But the film has some cracking one-liners and in-jokes relating to other Marvel related comic books.

The human characters appear to be one dimensional and not as interesting as the Asgard characters. Natalie Portman, Stellan Skarsgård and Kat Dennings all try their best with the material they are given, but the roles are just plain dull. While the gods are given some of the best lines and key scenes. Australian newcomer Chris Hemsworth makes a good leading man, but does lack the charisma of Robert Downey Jnr. 

The end result is deeply flawed and ridiculous, but is incredibly fun. After the hit and miss The Incredible Hulk and the atrocious  overcooked mess that was Iron Man 2, it is good that Marvel Studios seemed to have found their feet again. Stay till the end of the credits for an intriguing scene that sets up for next year’s must see blockbuster, The Avengers.

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan

Scream 4 ***

Running time: 111 mins  Certificate: 15

Synopsis: Sidney (Campbell) returns to Woodsboro on the anniversary of the first batch of murders.  Now a successful writer, Sidney is back in town for a book signing, but it isn’t long before somebody dons the Ghostface outfit and starts their own killing spree.  Dewey (Arquette) has somehow become sheriff of Woodsboro, while his wife Gail (Cox) struggles with small-town life and writer’s block.  There’s a new batch of disposable teens in town too, including Sidney’s cousin Jill (Emma Roberts), Kirby (Hayden Panettiere), and film geek Charlie (Rory Culkin).  

 

The best late night showing I ever went to was a raucous screening of ‘Scream 2’ back in 1998, so I have a strong feeling of nostalgia towards this franchise.  The horror genre has moved on since then, or rather it has regressed, becoming more gore-fixated and less interesting.  These days the Scream movies seem rather quaint in comparison to torture porn movies like ‘Saw’ and ‘Hostel,’ which linger over every gaping open wound.  At least Ghostface made his point quickly; usually with a knife.  

 

Producers Dimension Films have been pushing for a fourth instalment for a while.  You get the feeling Harvey Weinstein and his brother Bob made a lot of threatening phone calls to get all the main players back for ‘Scream 4,’ so unlike most belated sequels it does feel like a follow up to the earlier films.  Wes Craven once again directs; original screenwriter Kevin Williamson returns after skipping ‘Scream 3,’ composer Marco Beltrami’s music is vital to the franchise so it’s great to have him back, and Neve Campbell, David Arquette and Courtney Cox all reprise their respective roles.  

 

Sadly ‘Scream 4’ feels tired and closer to the lacklustre ‘Scream 3’ than the excellent first two films.  There were rumours of a troubled production schedule and the film certainly seems to have suffered.  There are moments during the third act that seem to hint towards a darker finale, but I’m guessing the filmmakers were prevented from carrying out their intentions by the money men.  It would have been a killer ending had they chosen to go down this path, but there are still hints of what might have been.

 

There’s plenty for fans to enjoy though.  Ghostface is still voiced by the irreplaceable Roger Jackson, and Craven’s direction still manages to wrong foot the audience at crucial moments.  You know the shock is coming, but not when.  It’s all in the editing, which is as sharp as the knife Ghostface wields.  The Meta commentary on the genre and the pop culture references are often funny, especially when they involve ‘Stab,’ the film within a film series based on the Woodsboro murders.  Having the once privacy obsessed Sidney sell out and turn her troubled life into a misery memoir is a nice touch.  If only Craven and Williamson had been free to wreak the kind of smart, funny, and playfully malevolent havoc both are capable of.  

 

Reviewed by Kevin Sturton

Winnie The Pooh ****

Running time: 73 mins  Certificate: U

Synopsis: Pooh and his friends search for a replacement tail for Eeyore, go on a quest to save Christopher Robin from an imaginary creature, while  Pooh sets out to find some hunny. Inspired by five stories from A.A. Milne’s books in Disney’s classic.

 

Walt Disney Animation returns to what it does best, a hand drawn feature inspired by five stories from A.A. Milne’s books. The film captures the spirit of the original Pooh films with the only difference being that the animators have used a more varied and vibrant coloured palette. 

They have kept all the elements that have worked previously from the use of the narrator (voiced by John Cleese) to the characters jumping from page to page to go places. While the catchy toe tapping music by Zooey Deschanel is in the style of the old songs, but has been given a slightly modern twist. 

The animation is as anyone would expect it to be, stunning and faultless. There is something about hand drawn animation that feels more impressive than most of the dull and sterile CGI animated movies that come out of Hollywood these days.

There is no real story or structure to the piece, it is just a series of threads which one way or another flow into each other. This is not really a problem as each tale is enjoyable and often funny. The story team was in fact headed up by Disney veteran, Burny Mattinson who worked on many animated classics. 

The voice cast are fantastic, especially Jim Cummings who gives a spot on impersonation of both Pooh and Tigger. While Craig Ferguson brings a funny dry wit to the character of owl.

A clever hand drawn short inspired by the classic animation by Disney in the 50’s and is narrated by comedian Billy Connolly also accompanies the movie. The Ballad of Nessie is about the Loch Ness Monster being forced from its original home by a tycoon intent on turning Scotland into a garish golfing theme park. 

Winnie The Pooh in itself is extremely short with only just over an hour of entertainment. But it is better that this whimsical, pleasant well made animated movie is this length rather than being an overlong mess. Both adults and kids alike could do worse than taking an enjoyable trip into the Hundred Acre Wood.

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan