Monthly archives "June 2012"

The Angel’s Share ****

Running time: 101 mins Certificate: 15

 

Synopsis: While doing community service, Glaswegian young offender Robbie (Paul Brannigan) is mentored by a whisky-loving social worker (John Henshaw). He soon discovers that he has a nose for fine malts. Becoming increasingly worried that he is trapped in a cycle of poverty and violence the only way Robbie sees a way to escape is to make a fortune with a whisky-related crime.

 

Ken Loach returns with this Cannes award winning feature that focuses on a group of individuals who seek something more to their lives.

 

The story is very entertaining. There are a lot of comic moments that will make the audience laugh, particularly those familiar with Scottish humour. Although primarily a comedy, the film also deals with serious issues faced by young people in Scotland which adds to the story.

 

In terms of acting, all of the main actors perform well. In particular, William Ruane (Rhino) has come a long way since his time as psychotic teenager Brian in River City. The other three youngsters are both entertaining and realistic in their performances and the characters are people the average Scottish viewer can probably identify.

 

There were times when The Angel’s Share seemed a little bit slow but overall the story flowed well and had enough small twists to keep viewers interested. Throughout the film the audience are kept wondering what the outcome will be and the ending is not too predictable.

 

Overall it was a pleasure to watch. It is always good to see Scottish films and The Angel’s Share did not disappoint.

 


 

Reviewed by Lesley Watt

EIFF: Take 4

Day 4

Fred **

Director Richard Ledes/ 74 mins 

An extremely slow story of family life with an excellent performance by the one and only Elliott Gould.

 

Fred (Elliot Gould), an elderly man who has lived in his house for over fifty years with his wife, Susan (Judith Roberts) who suffers from Alzheimer’s.  His grown-up children (Fred Melamed and Stephanie Roth Haberle) try to convince him to move to a care home with Susan, but he is determined that he is not ready to leave yet.  

 

A simple tale that has some beautiful cinematography, great acting by the main leads, but the script is just not engaging enough even if the characters are sympathetic. The actual plot is nothing more than children going to see their parents over a couple of days. Even the Alzheimer’s angle is glossed over in favour of focussing on a stubborn old man. Writer/director Ledes does not know when scenes drag on to long, especially in one scene where the family are singing along to different songs that Susan likes which lasts for ten minutes with no progression of the character’s situations.

 

Gould may be perfectly cast in the role, but the film sadly is as exciting as a cardigan.

 


Dr Seuss’ The Lorax ***

Director Chris Renaud & Kyle Balda / 86 mins 

Another adaptation of a classic Dr Seuss story which is colourful, but seems to be lacking something for all the family.

 

The film tells the story of  a young boy Ted (Zac Efron), who in order to impress a girl (Ms. Swift) sets out to find an actual living tree. He goes to find a mysterious character called the Once-ler (Ed Helms) who knows about Thneedville’s missing trees. The hermit tells the tale of his own encounter with the cranky orange guardian of the forest the Lorax (Danny DeVito).

 

The animation looks great as anyone would expect from the studio who brought us Despicable Me. The songs are fun and very catchy. While the characters and the voice cast including the Granny (Betty White) and the villain (Rob Riggle) are all memorable, the film feels a bit flat even in 3D.

 

This could be that like the other adaptations, the filmmakers have tried to make a short story longer in order to make it feature length. But the story tends to drag as it goes along and several plot holes appear to show. They have also decided to add some additional characters which may annoy fans of the book. But the overall problem is unlike Pixar or even Dreamworks films, it does not appeal to adults as well as children with humour being more catered for a preschool audience.

 

There is nothing wrong with this, but it is disappointing that The Lorax could not be as enjoyable as The Grinch Who Stole Christmas or Horton Hears A Who.

 

Brake **

Director Gabe Torres / 91 mins 

Audiences will have dispense with disbelief and memories of a certain other film about a man trapped in an enclosed space in order to enjoy this average thriller.

 

Federal Agent Jeremy Reins (Stephen Dorff) is about to have a very bad day. He wakes up in total darkness, confused and disoriented. The only light comes from the blood-red digital numbers ticking away above his head. It’s hard to breath. He can barely move and no one answers his cries for help. The sound of an engine can be heard, Jeremy discovers that he is trapped in the trunk of a moving car trapped in a glass box.

 

First of all the fact that someone can be put into a box and then a trunk is just ridiculous, especially since it would be impossible to fit that object into the back of a car . Even if we gloss over this fact, it is hard not to forget the movie Buried which had a normal civilian being trapped in a coffin. The character in that film was more sympathetic and was intensely claustrophobic.

 

Screenwriter Richard Mannion packs enough intriguing predicaments for the character, but the ending is not only predictable but is a complete letdown of all the work that has gone on before that moment. Doriff gives a great powerful performance and it is also nice to see Tom Berenger still seems to be getting work.

 

If the film had come out before the magnificent Rodrigo Cortés film, then Brake would thrill rather than stall at the cinema.

 

Reviews by Paul Logan

EIFF: Take 3

Day 3

Grabbers ****

Director Jon Wright/ 94 mins 

This year’s Trollhunter is a comedy horror from the Emerald Isle which may not be in the least bit original, but sure is a whole lot of fun.

 

Ciarán O’Shea (Richard Coyle), is a washed up policeman of sleepy Erin Island, his daily routine consisting mainly of hanging out at the pub with the local drunks. That is until a workaholic policewoman Lisa (Ruth Bradley) arrives from the Irish mainland to assist him, while his superior goes on holiday. They suddenly find themselves dealing with dead whales, decapitated fishermen and weird alien creatures or “grabbers”. The unlikely pair must overcome their differences to save the town from these extraterrestrial squid.

 

The film is best described as a cross between Tremors, Local Hero, Shaun of the Dead with a blend of humour from last year’s great comedy The Guard. The acting is excellent from all involved especially by Coyle and Bradley who have excellent chemistry together. Although Being Human’s Russell Tovey is exceptionally annoying in every scene that he is in.

 

Director Jon Wright’s film is exciting with better special effects than the previous British CGI movie Monsters. Recommended to all fans of comedic creature features.

 


 

Either Way (Á annan veg) ****

Director Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson / 84 mins 

An Icelandic melodrama with not only heart, but with also some unexpected humour thrown in to the mixture for a refreshing piece of cinema.

 

Two friends, Alfred (Hilmar Guðjónsson) and Finnbogi (Sveinn Ólafur Gunnarsson) work together painting the dividing lines on Icelandic public roads. They only each other for company, apart from the odd visit by a jovial trucker plying them with drink . The two men’s personal differences are the source of equal parts laughter and frustration.

 

Firstly the film is beautifully shot with a panoramic shots of an inhabited landscape, which could also count as the fourth character in the film. The acting from the two leads is good and the action is never dull considering that the film is mainly just of road workers talking to each other about their personal lives.

 

A unique piece of filmmaking and an impressive feature film debut  from writer director Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurdsson.

 

Guinea Pigs **

Director Jim Clark / 85 mins 

A new claustrophobic horror film  set in a research facility from a new writer/director Ian Clark is a throughly confusing and frustrating experience.

 

Eight strangers volunteer to take part in a two-week trial of a new drug called Pro9. The group are forbidden from using phones, internet and even leaving the building, before the tests have finished. The subjects settle in for what they think is a straight forward fortnight, but on the very first night something starts going horribly wrong as side effects from the drugs start taking over. 

 

An interesting idea is let down by  some poor acting, bad directing and  a script full of plot holes. All the characters are completely unlikeable, there is no one to root for other than the infected humans who are killing other members of the cast. The decisions made by the characters at times do not make any sense at all and there are too many things that are never fully explained. The performances are very stilted and soap like. While the director does too much of the shaky camera style of action that it is hard to see what the eye is supposed to be drawn to. The sound and the ending save it from being unwatchable, but even the finale has been done before in Frank Darabont’s last film.

 

Reviews by Paul Logan


EIFF 2012: Take 2


Day 2

Fukushima: Memories of a Lost Landscape ***

Director Yojyu Matsubayashi/ 109 mins 

A fascinating, but flawed documentary that centres on a group of families who have managed to be evacuated from the disaster area in Japan. Most are retired couples, who are confused and frightened by what has happened by the nuclear disaster. Even although the director Matsubayashi was denied permission due to him being a freelancer, he decides to carry on filming while posing as an aid worker.

 

The film is full of interesting quirky genuine characters, especially with the old man expresses his concern about running out of the sake that drinks every day. But unfortunately the documentary is let down by a lack of material towards the end and slowly becomes less and less intriguing. Once Matsubayashi goes back to Tokyo and covers the nuclear protests it loses focus of who the film is supposed to be focusing on. This would have worked better with a shorter running time, it is still worth a look however.

 

Pusher **

Director Luis Prieto / 86 mins 

A by the numbers remake of  Nicolas Winding Refn’s 1996 debut Pusher, which is similar to most in that it is pointless and does not live up to the original.

 

The film tells the story of a week in the life of  Frank (Richard Coyle), is a small time drug pusher in inner city London. Frank’s life soon spins out of control, when he owes a debit is owed to kingpin Milo (Zlatko Buric). Frank must pay the debt within a couple of days, otherwise Milo will get his money one way of another.

 

The plot follows closely to the original, but the characters have been downgraded in that they are not as conflicted or particularly threatening. The dialogue at times poorly written and some scenes do not flow as well as they did in Refn’s version. In fact it is hard to understand why he would even produce a second imitation of one of his own films. Prieto has used every cliché in the English gangster movie book from  strobe-lit nightclubs to images of poor areas of  London.

 

It is not all bad however, the performances are good especially by the fashion model Agyness Deyn who is the highlight. Although comedian Paul Kaye seems completely out of place. The music by Orbital also works well with the chase and nightclub sequences.

 

At the end of the day the film just goes back to the thing that it should have escaped from in the late 90’s, repetitive boring clichéd gangster films.

 

Lovely Molly **

Director Eduardo Sanchez / 99 mins 

Sanchez who was one half of the directing team for The Blair Witch Project returns with an eerie psychological horror about demonic possession which lacks scares and is full of plot holes.

 

An ex heroin addict Molly (Gretchen Lodge) moves into her old family home with her hardworking truck driver Tim ( Johnny Lewis). They start to hear strange sounds from deep in the house and something starts to set off their alarm system. When Tim later departs to work, Molly begins to lose her sanity, frightening her sister and raising serious concerns from her boss. Though suspicions of a relapse into drug abuse soon surface, the reality of Molly’s situation brings back terrifying childhood memories.

 

For a film that bills itself as a horror, it seems strange that there is only one good scare and even that is near the start of the movie. There are scenes of real tension essentially in the moments at night in the house this is due to the great sound and editing in the film, but the payoff is always disappointing.  The story has some interesting ideas in it, but similar to the supposed apparitions are completely unbelievable especially in Molly’s revelation in what happened to her as a child.

 

Everyone in the cast gives good performances, Lodge and Alexandra Holden who play her sister work well together. Not to mention the great haunting score by Tortoise. The audience will feel for Molly, but unfortunately characterisation is focused on more than the actual story.

 

Reviews by Paul Logan

 

EIFF 2012: Killer Joe: ****

Director William Friedkin / 103mins

William Fredkin returns to the big screen with this deeply disturbing dark comedy, that is not only tense and funny but marks a return to form from one of Hollywoods’s greatest directors.

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A young drug dealer Chris Smith (Emile Hirsch) is down on his luck, but things are go from bad to worse when he hires the unexpectedly charming hit man, Killer Joe (Matthew McConaughey ). He hires the charismatic killer to murder his own mother for her $50,000 life insurance policy. With barely a dollar to his name Chris agrees to offer his younger sister, Dottie (Juno Temple), as collateral in exchange for Joe’s services until he receives the insurance money.

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Based on playwright Tracey Letts’ original award winning theatrical production of the same name. Lett’s has also adapted the screenplay for the film as well. The piece is full of great dialogue and great setups which heighten the performances and the action, which will make the audience wonder and curious for how the story unravels. Where Lett’s script lets him down is in some of the characterisations of the minor characters. In particular the mobsters who are after Chris for his money only appear in one threatening scene and that is it. Anyone would think professional criminals would be desperate for their money, but not these guys apparently.

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Matthew McConaughey makes another great return to form with a performance, in which he appears to relish performing to the audience. Even though he was great in The Lincoln Lawyer he is even better in this film. This could be due to who is behind the camera this time. It is strange that he makes Joe who is initially a bent psychopathic cop, more a likeable loner who is desperate for his only part in the family. Hirsch also continues to give good performances making the rest of us forget that he ever did Speed Racer. There is a great comedy double act in Thomas Hayden Church & Gina Gershon who play the parents who have fallen out of love with each other a long time ago. But no matter how good these actors are, it is really Temple’s movie with her subtle naive performance .

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At times it can be hard to watch especially with the scenes of graphic violence, but Killer Joe is certainly unmissable and one of the films of the year. Although this film will definitely put anyone off eating chicken drumsticks for life. It will be interesting to see what Mr Friedkin will follow this twisted, but thoroughly entertaining work. 

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Reviewed by Paul Logan

Snow White & the Huntsman: ***

Running time: 127 mins Certificate: 12A

 

Synopsis: When the king is murdered by his new bride Ravenna (Theron), his daughter Snow White is locked up for seven years. After her escape, the teenage Snow (Stewart) is pursued by Ravenna, who hires a grieving, drunken Huntsman (Hemsworth) to bring her back. 

 

Based on the German fairytale Snow White by the Brothers Grimm, the film re imagines the legendary story with an all star cast.

 

The film looks good – it is shot well and the scenery is attractive. The colours are also nice and clear. However the story lets it down. It is not particularly interesting and drags on. It has very few twists and a lack of suspense to hold the viewer’s attention.

 

The fight scenes are not particularly action packed, with the outcome of each fight being somewhat predictable.It never really feels like the characters are in danger and the final outcome/conclusion is reached too easily.

 

There are scenes in the movie that seem pointless. In particular the scene in which a troll tries to attack the Huntsman does not have any place in the story, while the stag will leave the audience thinking “What was the point of that?”

 

The acting in the film is reasonably good. Chris Hemsworth performs well as the Huntsman and his Scottish accent is semi believable. Charlize Theron also acts well, however Kristen Stewart is mediocre and (aside from the English accent) appears very similar to her character in Twilight. The dwarves, played by well known actors including Bob Hoskins, Nick Frost and Ray Winstone, are entertaining while Sam Claflin gives a very poor performance as William.

 

Overall Snow White & The Huntsman is a mediocre film. Nice imaging and reasonably good acting may save it slightly, however the story is boring and predictable and will leave some viewers feeling relieved when the credits appear.

 

 

Reviewed by Lesley Watt


Men in Black 3 ***

Running time: 105 mins Certificate: PG

 

Synopsis: When Boris The Animal (Clement) escapes from a supermax prison on the moon, he swears vengeance on Agent K (Jones). He travels back in time and  erases K from history. His partner, J (Smith), heads into the past and  teams up with a younger K (Brolin).

 

The third film in the Men In Black series sees Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones return as Agent J and Agent K.  The effects in the film are excellent, particularly in 3D Imax. There are times when the viewer really feels like they are in the movie, particularly in action scenes that are “shot through the character’s eyes”. Men In Black 3 is the type of film that shows the audience what 3D movies are all about with these effects really adding to the experience.

 

Will Smith performs well as always, however Tommy Lee Jones has relatively few appearances in the movie with Josh Brolin taking his place as the young Agent K. Brolin puts a new spin on the character and gives the audience an insight into how K was prior to the events that changed him. In terms of supporting cast members, both Emma Thompson (Agent O) and Michael Stulhbarg (Griffin) perform well in their respective roles.

 

The film has an interesting plot that mixes sci fi with action and comedy. The action scenes are well filmed and there are a few comic moments in the film. There is also a “human interest” factor as we explore K as a person and get a glimpse of his mysterious past.

 

The soundtrack is enjoyable and fits in with the story. The sound in the movie is also very clear and adds to the overall viewing experience.

 

Although not as good as the original, Men In Black 3 is likely to be a pleasant surprise  and will appeal to viewers of all ages. It is a must see for those who enjoyed the previous films.

 

Reviewed by Lesley Watt

Moonrise Kingdom *****

Running time: 94 mins Certificate: 12A

 

Synopsis: In New England 1965, a Scout Master Ward (Norton) wakes to find his peaceful camp thrown into chaos by the disappearance of the Khaki Scout Sam (Gilman). Ward teams up with local sheriff Captain Sharp (Willis). They discover that he  may have absconded with Suzy (Hayward), daughter of two lawyers Mr. and Mrs. Bishop (Murray and McDormand).

 

With an all star cast, Moonrise Kingdom tells the story of two troubled teens on a small island off the coast of New Englan who run away together. Twelve year old Sam has lost his parents and does not fit in at his foster home, while Suzy  does not get along with her family and has been in trouble at school. When the pair take off together, various people in the village set out to find them.

 

The acting is brilliant in this film. Bruce Willis appears as a policeman who lives alone and craves company, while Bill Murray and Frances McDormand portray the parents of Suzy who are both lawyers. The film also stars Edward Norton as the scout leader and has appearances by Harvey Keitel and Tilda Swinton.

 

The film has many comic moments but also deals with serious issues. There are some parts of Moonrise Kingdom that seem a bit “off the wall” but there is a human element to it. Viewers can identify with the characters and their relationships with each other. 

 

Moonrise Kingdom makes good use of symbolism – for example the storm co-inciding with chaos – and puts a rather comic spin on the events that occur throughout the movie. Music is also used on a variety of occasions with different types of songs being matched to each character’s personality. The use of classical music works extremely, well with the 1960’s little town setting and the eccentric storytelling.

 

Cinemagoers who have encountered director Wes Anderson’s unique quirky style will know what to expect from his unusual story employed with bizarre characters and unconventional dialogue. Others may struggle with this different kind of filmmaking which will not be to everyone’s tastes. 

 

Overall Moonrise Kingdom is a joy to watch. A combination of comedy, realistic elements and believable characters makes it a 5 star movie that will appeal to viewers of all ages.

 

Reviewed by Lesley Watt

The Dictator ***

Running time: 83 mins Certificate: 15

 

Synopsis: General Aladeen (Cohen), a pampered ruler of Wadiya, travels to New York to deliver a speech on his country’s nuclear weapons programme. But after an assassination attempt goes wrong he finds himself alone, with only a health food-shop manager (Faris) for support.

 

Like Baron Cohen’s previous personas, The Dictator is very comic. However while the others were harmless, General Aladeen is modelled on real life dictators such as Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein so is a lot more controversial. There are countries in which the actor has been banned from appearing as this character and a high percentage of the film’s jokes may be offensive to some people.

 

The acting in the film is mediocre. There are times when Sacha Baron Cohen appears ridiculous and Anna Faris is rather annoying in her role as Zoey. In addition to this none of the supporting cast members really stand out in terms of performance. Ben Kingsley is underused and completely miscast as the Uncle.

 

The film is clearly a comedy and not meant to be taken seriously, however some of the jokes work and others do not. There are some comical moments and others that are just cringe worthy. The story feels like a bad version of Coming To America. It feels like Cohen should have gone back to the drawing board and followed the same framework that made his spoof documentary’s funny and enjoyable. This attempt seems like a case of shock and awe. Some people maybe shocked, but many will not be awed.

 

The film has a genuine moments where it works, but on the whole it just tries to hard to be shockingly funny. Without giving the character more purpose and more depth the story runs out of steam pretty quickly.

 

Reviewed by Lesley Watt

Prometheus ****

Running time: 124 mins Certificate: 15

 

Synopsis: Scientists discover a star-chart on ancient tablets. The crew of the ship Prometheus land upon LV-223, with hopes that they will meet their makers. Unfortunately they what seemed like an interesting scientific find turns into disaster.

 

First things first, this is not an Alien movie, although it does some aspects of that particular franchise it is a completely different beast as auteur Ridley Scott has maintained for a long time. It does go back to look at the Space Jockey  which appeared in Alien, but this character has now been changed to the Engineers.it still has H.R. Giger influenced designs. There are even chases down corridors in a spaceship, but this is where the familiarity ends. Even the planet is different, it is based on the planet LV223 and not the original alien planet of LV426.

 

In fact, this is the major flaw with the film as it would have worked better, as a completely original entity rather than trying to bring ties from the much loved franchise. While many fans will have a big kick out of spotting the occasional reference, it feels slightly forced and does not flow with the rest of the material.

 

It should also be noted that this is not a sic-si horror like the rest of the franchise. The film is more a sci-fi action film with some  horror elements. There are only a handful of gorey scenes, but nothing that will scare an audience familiar with the psychological 1979 original. But saying that these scenes are silly, but also extremely impressive at the same time.

 

This is Ridley Scott’s big return to the science fiction genre after an absence of twenty years, when he made the classic Blade Runner. As can be expected from the director the film is beautifully shot and passionately designed.The film is full of stunning  3D cinematography, which contrasts  white futuristic interiors with the black dull colours of the Engineer’s catacombs.

Everything is on a wide epic scale compared to the claustrophobic original. The other great thing is that Scott has made the decision to stick with physical set pieces and not overusing CGI effects. Not to mention casting the film with some impressive names.

 

Saying that some of the characters suffer from being underused and the minor ones are confusing and unmemorable. Although Noomi Rapace is no Weaver, she is completely believable as the scientist who becomes feminine action-heroine. If there was a comparison to the Ripley it would be Charlize Theron’s Vickers, who struts her stuff in a tightly in a witty silver-grey suit, while having a completely different agenda to the scientists. Idris Elba seems to be having fun with his cigar chomping ship’s captain, even although he is mostly confined to the one set. While the rest of the crew are sadly forgettable, which is a shame considering the talents of Kate Dickie, Rafe Spall and Sean Harris.

 

But it is essentially Michael Fastbender’s David the android who is the scene stealer of the whole movie. A complex character who is even more mysterious than the Engineers themselves. A gripping performance that brings so much to the story, even although his performance is rather reserved  using a variety of creepy and half baked smile expressions but it is all in the eyes that there is so much to this character’s train of thought.

 

The script is really the major problem with the film, with so many setups that several payoffs are not answered. Characters are underdeveloped and too similar to distinguish between. Where it does shine is with the dialogue, which is intelligent and funny. The theme of believing is also throughly explored, but there is too much of the characters telling the audience things rather than it being played out through action.

 

Ridley has yet again come up with a visually stunning sci-fi feature. The film is never boring and the action  along with the horror scenes are tense and exciting. The 3-D is subtly done as with Scorsese’s Hugo. Some fans will be left disappointed with the whole concept and the idea that it is a direct prequel to Alien. But to compare this to that classic film would be a mistake. Overall a good thrill ride that is slightly flawed due to an underdeveloped script.

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan