Monthly archives "April 2012"

The Avengers ****

Running time: 142 mins Certificate: 12A


Synopsis: When Loki (Hiddleston) launches an attack on Earth,  S. H. I. E. L. D. boss Nick Fury (Jackson) decides to assemble the talents of Captain America (Evans), Bruce Banner (Ruffalo), Thor (Hemsworth) and even Iron Man (Downey Jr.) together into one elite fighting team. 


Based on Marvel’s original comic series, the Avengers tells the story of a group of Superheroes brought together to save the world from aliens. The main characters are played by an all star cast that includes Scarlett Johansson, Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr and Mark Ruffalo with a Samuel L Jackson in a supporting role as Fury.


The highlight of the film for sure is Mark Ruffalo’s performance as the Hulk. The mannerisms and facial expressions shown by Ruffalo are similar to those of the original Hulk and the makeup used to transform him into “the other guy” is well done. While no one acts badly in the film, none of the other actors really stand out in terms of performance.


The Avengers has great action scenes with the beginning and end of the film being made up of 20-minute action sequences. The use of guns, aeroplanes and elaborate moves from the superheroes give these scenes the “bang pow” effect members of the audience would have visualised when reading the original comics.


Special effects in the film are top notch, particularly in 3D. Scenes featuring the alien army and the destruction of New York city look very realistic, as do the explosions that occur during the movie. Sporting 3D glasses allows the viewer to see objects such as arrows and planes jumping out of the screen which adds to the experience.


While these effects and action packed scenes make the Avengers a must see for all fans of action movies and comics, the thing that lets it down is the lack of story. There is not a lot of dialogue or character development. However this works as the film is driven by events as opposed to characters.


Reviewed by Lesley Watt

Marley ****

Running time: 144 mins Certificate: 15


Synopsis: A documentary about the godfather of reggae’s godfather, Bob Marley, which tells his story through  friends, family and his musical collaborators.


Kevin MacDonald returns to the world of documentary with a film that should be on every music fan’s lists of  films to watch this year.


The film tells the story of Bob Marley’s life from his childhood in Jamaica to his early music career, pursuit of Rastafarianism and death from cancer. Interviews with his family, friends and colleagues tell the story of his career and personal life first hand and give the audience a real insight into how Marley lived. Throughout the film, the audience learn about his family background, how he made it into music and his family life.


The soundtrack, naturally made up of Marley’s music, will have some viewers fighting the urge to dance right there in the cinema. In particular the gospel version of “No Woman No Cry” is very powerful and reminds music loving viewers why they love music in the first place. The only criticism that could be made is that more of Marley’s songs could have been included in the film.


At almost 2 and 1/2 hours, the documentary is long but does not drag in any way. It includes plenty of detail and has a lot of interesting stories, which makes the time pass very quickly. “Marley” is a must see for all music lovers and fans of Bob Marley. 


Reviewed by Lesley Watt

Being Elmo *****

Running time: 80 mins Certificate: U


Synopsis: A documentary following puppeteer Kevin Clash from his childhood in Baltimore to a career in the Jim Henson’s company and the man behind the muppet Elmo.


Fans of Jim Henson and Sesame Street are in for a treat with this moving documentary about the man behind the cutest character in the Children’s Television Workshop series.


The film tells the story of Kevin Clash, the man who brings to life the much loved Elmo character. Kevin’s passion for puppets and the time and effort he puts in to making them just right is admirable. Having started out as a teenager who made puppets as a hobby, the film follows him as he works his way up from local TV to movies and finally to Sesame Street.


While the film gives the audience a laugh on many occasions (who couldn’t have a giggle at the loveable Elmo), it also has many touching moments when the audience are shown what puppets like Elmo mean to children that are ill or disabled. Kevin’s kindness and consideration for these children is particularly touching and it is lovely to see the smiles on their faces when they meet Elmo. The film also informs about how the puppets are made and performed.


For anyone who likes Sesame Street, the Muppets or just wants a “feel good” movie, this documentary is a must see. 


Reviewed by Lesley Watt

We Need To Talk About Kevin: ****

Running time: 112 mins Certificate: 15

Synopsis: Eva (Swinton), the mother of a teenager (Miller) struggles to cope with the aftermath of his devastating actions. The story reflects on the boy’s childhood and the breakdown of her relationship with both him and her husband (Reilly).


Don’t expect any laughs as this drama about the relationship between a mother and her disruptive son is extremely serious and is very hard to watch with the film’s slow moving pace. But audiences will be rewarded with a powerful experience from a great director like Lynne Ramsey.


Tilda Swinton showed a very convincing performance in Eva, with her lack of feelings towards her son. The character also appears self-centred as she curses her son for making her unhappy, blames her husband for moving them to another house and becomes pregnant again and  does not tell her husband. Eva does love her husband and her daughter, but her main concern always seemed to be herself.


The character of Kevin is well played by Ezra Miller and will actually make your skin crawl at times. Particularly the scene in which his sister has just lost an eye and he eats lychees in a rather creepy manner. There is no doubt that from an early age, the boy does have a lot of malice in him. The scene where he deliberately sabotages his mother’s maps shows he wants to hurt her, and the fact that he is “nice as pie” to his father shows he is a very two-faced individual.


The events of the film will lead the audience to question whether Kevin was born bad or did his mother’s behaviour send him in that direction? It is true that from early on Eva seems to have bad feelings about Kevin, but by resisting toilet training, vandalising his mother’s stuff and generally being unpleasant he makes the viewer see both sides of the story. Was the bad feeling she had a premonition or a self fulfilling prophecy? Did she, as a mother, have natural instincts something was wrong (what I would call maternal intuition) or did she subconsciously make her son behave that way by believing there was something wrong and giving off certain vibes?


Heavy and thought provoking, the film is very well made.  But at times it is hard to follow as it jumped between times regularly but the story is very deep and moving.


Reviewed by Lesley Watt

The Woman in Black ****

Running time: 95mins Certificate 12A

Synopsis: A solicitor Arthur Kipps (Radcliffe) is sent to clear up the affairs of a recently deceased woman who lived in a remote house. When Arthur arrives he finds that the house and the nearby village have been terrorised by an entity.

Audiences were a bit skeptical about the Woman In Black, due to Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe’s casting. But people will be impressed with his performance as Arthur, a young lawyer who is sent to the north of England to investigate a dead woman’s estate.

One criticism  is that Radcliffe appears too young for the role. At 22, he still appears very youthful and it is  hard to believe he was the widowed father of a 5 year old child. Putting that aside, he acted well in the film despite having a relatively small amount of dialogue.

While these days there is tendency to scare viewers using blood and guts, the Woman in Black made use of more traditional scare tactics. There were a few scenes in which objects that jumped out at the viewers, terror-filled screams and particularly the face of the title character will have many people clinging to their seats with hearts racing.

As the events unfold, the viewer can’t help but question why the villagers continued to live there if they had children. However the attitude of Arthur’s friend suggests there was still an element of disbelief amongst people in the village and those who had not experienced a loss still wanted to believe the deaths were co-incidence.

Dark, scary and entertaining, why do they not make more horror films in this vain. A classic return for Hammer and ghost story filmmaking at it’s best.

Reviewed by Lesley Watt

Killer Joe Set To Kick Off 66th Edinburgh International Film Festival

The Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF) announced today that William Friedkin’s thriller KILLER JOE will be the Opening Gala at the 66th edition of the Festival on Wednesday, 20 June. The film stars Matthew McConaughey, Emile Hirsch, Juno Temple, Gina Gershon and Thomas Haden Church.


22 year-old Chris Smith (Emile Hirsch: INTO THE WILD; MILK) is a drug dealer down on his luck, but things are about to go from bad to worse when he hires the unexpectedly charming hit man Killer Joe (Matthew McConaughey: THE LINCOLN LAWYER; HOW TO LOSE A GUY IN 10 DAYS; A TIME TO KILL) to murder his own mother for her $50,000 life insurance policy. With barely a dollar to his name Chris agrees to offer up his younger sister, Dottie (Juno Temple: upcoming DIRTY GIRL; THE DARK KNIGHT RISES; ATONEMENT), as sexual collateral in exchange for Joe’s services until he receives the insurance money.  That is, if it ever does come in.


Chris Fujiwara, EIFF Artistic Director, said: “We’re delighted to be opening this year’s Festival with KILLER JOE. For my first year as Artistic Director, I intend to deliver a diverse programme that will spotlight filmmaking of real artistic distinction. William Friedkin’s exhilarating, intense, and brilliantly crafted film is absolutely in keeping with this ambition.”


The film will have its UK premiere at Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre on Wednesday, 20 June, with William Friedkin and cast in attendance, and will open nationwide on 29 June.


KILLER JOE director William Friedkin said:  “KILLER JOE is about the Good and Evil in everyone, the struggle for our better angels to triumph over our demons. Often lost. The thin line between the policeman and the criminal. It’s also a riff on the Cinderella story, wherein she finds her prince, but he turns out to be a hired killer. I would also like to thank the Edinburgh International Film Festival for honouring our film with this screening, uncut. Of a film the Motion Picture Association of America has expressed a desire to censor.”


KILLER JOE will be released on 29 June. As previously announced, EIFF’s Closing Gala will be the European premiere of Disney-Pixar’s BRAVE on 30 June. The EIFF runs from 20 June to 1 July 2012.

Shinji Somai EIFF Retrospective

This year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival Retrospective will be the works of Japanese director Shinji Somai. The films of Shinji Somai (1948-2001) are a constant source of inspiration for Japanese filmmakers. His body of work spans the 1980s and 1990s, a period in Japanese film history that remains little explored by Western film scholars and largely inaccessible to Western audiences. Yet without an understanding of this period, and of Somai’s significance, it is impossible to understand the transition from the golden age of Japanese studio filmmaking to the recent explosion of personal, independent filmmaking in Japan.

A unique stylist in a variety of popular genres, Somai made films that were well received in Japan by both critics and the general public. Among the films to screen at EIFF will be SAILOR SUIT AND MACHINE GUN (1981); P.P. RIDER (1983); THE CATCH (1983); TYPHOON CLUB (1985); MOVING (1993); THE FRIENDS (1994) and WAIT AND SEE (1998). Further Retrospective titles will be announced at a later date.

Chris Fujiwara, EIFF Artistic Director, said: “Shinji Somai is one of the most personal and original Japanese filmmakers, and a master whose work has been almost completely neglected outside Japan. Just over ten years after his passing, I believe the time is right for Somai. Audiences and critics will be amazed by what they discover in this body of work, which I’m delighted to bring to the UK.”

Kanako Hayashi, director of TOKYO FILMeX, collaborator on the Retrospective with EIFF, said: “Last November, TOKYO FILMeX held a full retrospective of Shinji Somai’s films at the 10th anniversary of his passing. A large audience, including our filmmaker guests from abroad, enjoyed them a lot. He was one of the most important filmmakers in Japan at the end of the 20th century, and his films should be introduced all over the world at present, just as if he were continuing to make films today. (In fact, Somai was just one year younger than Takeshi Kitano.) I urge lovers of film not to miss this chance to follow Somai’s unique artistic trajectory throughout his works at Edinburgh.”

The Muppets *****

Running time: 103 mins Certificate: U

Synopsis: When an evil oil man Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) discovers black gold beneath Muppet Theater, Kermit, devoted Muppets fan Walter, his brother Gary (Segel) and his girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams) gather up the gang for a telethon that will save the venue from being replaced with a giant oil pump.

The story’s mean theme is about being forgotten in a cynical modern world. This aspect is perfect as the characters had been long forgotten by the fans that adored them and by the kids of today. There are nods and winks to the past movies and enough things to entice younger audiences with cameo roles (Jack Black and Dave Grohl).

The best thing is that the filmmakers have been incredibly careful not to mess with a well tested, if it ain’t broke formula. It helps that Segel is like Walter a devoted fan himself and knew exactly what to do with the ailing franchise.They have also decided to focus on The Muppets themselves, rather than the human characters.

It has taken Disney, years to figure out how to revive The Muppets franchise. Now Jason Siegel and his frequent collaborator Nicholas Stoller have brought the beloved puppets back from the dead, with a fantastic nostalgic, witty, moving script that Muppet fans will absolutely love.

The musical numbers composed by Flight of the Conchords Bret McKenzie are toe-tappingly catchy which will have the audience singing the songs on the way home. The use of Nirvana and Cee Lo Green are reinvented brillantly into the context of The Muppet Show.

There are some things that do not work so well, Amy Adams in particular appears to be underused. Her song “Me Party”, while memorable seems out of place. While a few of the cameos do not entirely work within the film.

These are minor complaints in what is a fantastic return of The Muppets. It will appeal more to an older age group, but there is plenty here to keep the whole family entertained for years to come.

Reviewed by Paul Logan

The Descendants *****

Running time: 115mins Certificate:15

Synopsis: A Hawaiian property magnate Matt King (Clooney) is overseeing the sale of his family’s last piece of land, his wife is rendered comatose in a jet ski accident. Now the father must become a single parent to his daughters (Woodley, Miller), as well as deal with a devastating revelation about his private life.

Director Alexander Payne makes another beautifully touching film after seven years making the fantastic Sideways. This long awaited beautifully crafted redemptive moving journey will take the audience on a trip filled with laughter and tears.

Clooney is at his best in a role that shows off his acting skills with greying hair and a variety of loud shirts. Gorgeous George carries the weight of Matt’s problems through the performance in his body movement, eyes and his distressed voice, as he discovers that his life is not everything he thought it was. his eyes, posture and weary voice. With a head full of gray hair and a surf-shop wardrobe, he carries the weight of Matt’s problems in his eyes, posture and weary voice.

The star does not take all the credit as he is surrounded by a superb supporting cast especially by the actresses who play his two daughters, teen Alexandra (Shailene Woodley) and 10-year-old Scottie (Amara Miller). They practically steal the movie from Clooney, Woodley gives one of the most credible adolescent performances in recent memory.

As with his previous films, Payne has made a memorable sharp, funny, generous, and engaging piece of filmmaking that is an unforgettable experience.

Reviewed by Paul Logan