Monthly archives "July 2011"

X-Men: First Class ***

Running time: 132 mins  Certificate: 12A

Synopsis: In 1962, Sebastian Shaw (Bacon) plots to create nuclear war turning all of Earth into  armageddon. Genetics student Charles Xavier (McAvoy) joins forces Erik Lehnsherr (Fassbender) and they work with a secret US government organisation in order to stop him, but will they’re kind be accepted into society?


Hollywood appears to be in reboot fever at the moment with new versions of everything from Mission: Impossible to Tomb Raider being planned. Franchises that may have been lucrative, but have somehow lost their way. With the sole exception of James Bond this very rarely works. Marvel has decided to follow 007 with a back to basics reinvigoration of the series.

After the lacklustre The Last Stand and the poorly conceived spin off Wolverine, it surely would be easy to improve on those disappointments. For the most part the filmmakers succeed in giving a much needed shot in the arm to everybody’s favourite mutants.

The best thing about this reinvention is the casting which is pretty much spot on. Michael Fassbender is a worthy successor to follow in the footsteps of McKellan bringing intensity to the complex role of Lehnsherr. Although it has to be said that it is a mystery why his accent turns Irish within the last twenty minutes of the film. James McAvoy may have a strange choice for a younger Patrick Stewart, but is a suave and sincere Xavier. While Kevin Bacon is fantastic show-stopping, scenery chewing villain. There is even a fun short cameo from a famous regular of the series.

Where the movie suffers is with the script and supplying too many different characters that are easily forgotten about in the expansive running time. The scriptwriters take too long in setting up characters that have already been established in earlier films. Did the audience really need another long exposition piece regarding Erik’s time in the concentration camp, when this story was already told in X2. 

The special effects are also not really up to scratch and appear to be rushed and incomplete in many key scenes. But the 60’s theme around the Cuban missile crisis is executed well and the whole thing has enough charm and wit to keep the momentum going.

With a less detailed story and fewer characters this could have been one of the best comic book movies to grace the silver screen. But ultimately what the end result has become is an enjoyable perfectly cast, but overlong action film, but at least it is light years better than Wolverine.



Reviewed by Paul Logan

The Hangover Part II ***

Running time: 102 mins  Certificate: 15

Synopsis: The wolfpack is back with Alan (Galifianakas), Stu (Helms) and Phil (Cooper) waking up in Bangkok unable to remember the events leading up to that morning.  What they uncover is another messy night involving a monkey, a gangster, a monk and a bunch of ladyboys.


Another sequel and also another major disappointment for this summer. To be fair it was always going to tough to top an original comedy which not only was incredibly good, but also took everyone by surprise.

The major flaw with this follow up is that not only has the storyline been completely recycled, but the events surrounding the night in question are almost exactly the same except this time in a different city. Instead of the friend being missing it is the bride’s brother, the tiger has been replaced by the monkey, the baby is now a silent old Tibetan monk and Stu ends up with another stripper. Even Mr Chow and Mike Tyson reappear in the film.

Tyson is not the only cameo appearance in the film. Indie director Nick Cassevetes (The Notebook) plays the now infamous role of the tattooist, which was originally going to be played by Liam Neeson and also by Mel Gibson who was initially linked to star in this particular role before the cast and crew objected to him appearing in the movie. It would have been interesting to see what these heavy hitters would have brought to a role which is essentially forgettable and is only there to deliver exposition.

Despite all these many problems though, it is still very funny. The humour is darker, raunchier and meaner than the original. The standout scene with the ladyboys is so disturbing, but hilarious at the same time. Galifianakis yet again is the scene stealer of the movie and is given some of the best lines making the character of Alan stranger than before. The soundtrack is wonderfully eclectic, especially with comedic use of Billy Joel songs. Also the chemistry between the three leads still works incredibly well. 

It was probably too much to hope for that the follow up would be as clever or original as the first. It maybe an extremely lazy attempt in making a sequel, but fans will enjoy and laugh at the return of the wolf pack.


Reviewed by Paul Logan

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