Monthly archives "July 2012"

Revenge of the Electric Car ****

Running time: 90 mins Certificate: PG

 

Synopsis: Documentarian Chris Paine follows up his 2007  film Who Killed the Electric Car? with another look at the world of the automotive industry. The question remains the what is preventing the development of a mass-produced electric car?

 

This is the follow up to director Chris Paine’s 2006 documentary, Who Killed The Electric Car?, which showed how General Motors built prototype EV-1 electric cars – loved by drivers but which were ultimately recalled and destroyed by the company.

 

Paine takes his film crew behind the closed doors of Nissan, GM, the Silicon Valley start-up Tesla Motors, and an independent car converter named Greg “Gadget” Abbott to investigate the resurgence of electric cars.

 

An optimistic look at what was regarded by many as a dead technology due to high prices and limited interest from car buyers. Paine has picked an interesting set of people, who all have different agendas, with personalities to match. The documentary is never dull due to the excellent pacing and editing.

 

Although the use of celebrity interviews seems somewhat out of place. Paine seems to be more interested with famous people’s options rather than the average Joe on the street. It feels very much like a marketing ploy for the trailer rather than adding anything interesting to the conversation.

 

Whether audiences will agree with the filmmaker’s view, no one can deny that Paine has made another captivating and interesting film about this remarkable vehicle which has been brought back from the dead.

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan

Magic Mike ****

Synopsis:  When 19 year old college dropout Adam (Alex Pettyfer) moves to Tampa to live with his sister Brooke (Cody Horn), he meets “entrepreneur” Mike Lane (Channing Tatum) while working on a building site. A chance meeting between the two then results in a new career for Adam and begins Mike’s road to realising what he really wants.

 

The film begins when Adam (Pettyfer) and Mike (Tatum) meet on a building site. Having left the job after one day, Adam runs into Mike on a night out and persuades him to get him into a nightclub. It is revealed Mike is a stripper working alongside four other dancers for manager Dallas (Matthew McConaughey). On that night, Adam is pulled in to help with props, resulting in him getting a job with the strippers.

 

The film is entertaining from the beginning. However there is also a deeper storyline as the film focuses on the seedy side of Mike’s world, his desire to succeed beyond stripping and his relationships with women. Although the trailer gives the impression this is a fun film about a male stripper, there is a dark side to the story that shows how a seemingly fun and carefree career can have serious impacts on an individual’s life.

 

The main characters in the movie are very three-dimensional. They all have goals they want to achieve and their own issues/reasons for holding back. From desperate-to-succeed Mike to immature Adam to cautious Brooke, these characters are people the audience can identify with. While it would have been easy for a film of this nature to focus on the comic/entertainment side, well developed characters really add to the viewing experience.

 

Despite the darker elements, Magic Mike has a number of light hearted moments that will make the audience laugh. The soundtrack is also enjoyable and the dance routines well choreographed.
With its well written plot, three-dimensional characters and the mix of fun and real life, Magic Mike is a must see.

 

Reviewed by Lesley Watt

Chris Fujiwara set to be Artistic Director for EIFF for another three years

Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF) has announced the continuation of Artistic Director Chris Fujiwara’s tenure, initially for a further three years. The appointment was announced following 2012’s successful EIFF that saw admissions of just over 40,000 across the 12-day event.

 

The 66th EIFF, Fujiwara’s first Festival as Artistic Director, hosted an international programme with 120 diverse new feature films, alongside two retrospectives, shorts programmes, a full industry programme, talent development labs, education initiatives and special events. Fujiwara also oversaw the return of the Michael Powell and International Awards to the Festival, as well as high-profile red carpet premieres at Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre.

 

Commenting on his future at EIFF, Chris Fujiwara said: “Working on this year’s EIFF has been one of the most challenging and fulfilling experiences of my career. The interest and enthusiasm of the Festival audience and the dedication and professionalism of the Festival staff and volunteers have transformed my view of the importance cinema can hold in people’s lives. I’m deeply grateful to the Board for their confidence in me, and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to expand our relationships with our audiences and with international filmmakers, distributors and sales agents. I’m very excited about working to shape the future of EIFF.”

 

On behalf of the EIFF Board which confirmed the appointment, Chair, Leslie Hills said: “EIFF is an institution with a reputation for reinvention over decades. Chris Fujiwara gave us a superb reinvention in EIFF 2012. Chris, along with the excellent support of staff and volunteers delivered, with his signature intelligence, knowledge and humour, a multi-faceted programme which engaged filmgoers and professionals, students and critics alike. We are utterly delighted that he has accepted our offer to build on this very promising first edition. “

Winners announced at Edinburgh International Film Festival awards ceremony

The 66th Edinburgh International Film Festival announced the winners of this year’s awards. The Award for Best Film in the International Feature Competition was won by HERE, THEN, which received its World Premiere at EIFF. The Jury gave a Special Mention to PAPIROSEN by Gastón Solnicki. 

 

The Jury citation read: “The Jury acknowledges the festival and its Artistic Director, Chris Fujiwara, for an outstanding, challenging and brave selection of films that included both fiction and documentaries and enabled us to watch the best of the world’s new cinema. Every work we had the privilege to see brought something new and extraordinary to us and choosing the best was a difficult task. After the final deliberations the jury unanimously decided to give the main prize to HERE, THEN by Mao Mao that had its World Premiere here at the EIFF. The special mention goes to the documentary PAPIROSEN by Gastón Solnicki from Argentina. PAPIROSEN is a real paradigm for why cinema remains relevant. There is beauty, pain and urgency in this film. For humanity to survive, the world must not forget. This film tells us that the greatest struggle of man is the struggle for the truth.”

 

Director Penny Woolcock was awarded The Michael Powell Award for Best British Feature Film  for her film ONE MILE AWAY which also received its World Premiere at the Festival.  Woolcock said: “ONE MILE AWAY is about transforming and saving lives. Winning the Michael Powell award is a tremendous boost for us to help get the film and its message out to where it needs to be in our inner cities.”

 

 The Jury citation read: “ONE MILE AWAY by Penny Woolcock is a brave and honest film tackling a huge problem with sensitivity and skill, not only charting the efforts to reconcile a community but also showing the great wealth of creativity that is part of that struggle. We are delighted to be able to recognise such a singular achievement.

 

ANDREA RISEBOROUGH and BRÍD BRENNAN jointly won Awards for Best Performance in a British Feature Film for their performances in James Marsh’s SHADOW DANCER, which had its UK Premiere last night.

 

In the shorts category, DINOSAUR EGGS IN THE LIVING ROOM by Rafael Urban (Brazil) won Best Film in the International Short Film Competition as voted for by Jury members Erwin Houtenbrink, Programme Consultant for the International Film Festival Bratislava, actor Ewen Bremner, and Javier Porta Fouz, Programmer of the Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema.

 

In addition to the Best Film in International Short Film Competition Award, the Jury also commended two other films. The first Special Mention went to CARBON, directed by Craig Webster. Picking up two awards was director Will Anderson for his film THE MAKING OF LONGBIRD for which he won both Best Film in the British Short Film Competition and The McLaren Award for New British Animation. The Jury also gave a special acting commendation to TOM PHILLIPS in FUN TIMES by Joe Carter. The Student Critics Jury Award was awarded to Jang Kun-jae’s SLEEPLESS NIGHT. 

 

 

Rock Of Ages **

Based on the broadway musical, Rock Of Ages follows Oklahoma girl Sherrie (Julianne Hough) and bartender Drew (Diego Boneta) as they chase their dreams of becoming rock stars. The film is set in Los Angeles in 1987 where the pair meet. This results in Sherrie getting a job in a rock club run by Dennis Dupree (Alec Baldwin) and his right hand man Lonny (Russell Brand). As the film progresses, we are introduced to characters such as rock star Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise), conservative protestor Patricia Whitmore (Catherine Zeta Jones) and journalist Constance Sack (Malin Ackerman).

The story seriously lacks and, if rated solely in terms of story, the film would be very poor. It is obvious what will happen throughout the film and there are no real surprises for the viewer. While there are some comic moments, the audience are more likely to cringe in response some of the writers’ attempts at comedy.

The acting is in the film is also sub standard. Hough and Boneta resemble characters from the TV series Glee both in sound and personality. Catherine Zeta Jones is unconvincing as the female antagonist while Russell Brand’s accent is nothing short of awful. Tom Cruise’s performance is slightly better but only just watchable.

The film’s saving grace is the music. It includes songs that were originally performed by Def Leppard, Foreigner, Journey, Poison and David Lee Roth. Some of the songs are performed well while others are performed in a cheesy manner reminiscent of Glee. However fans of 80s rock will enjoy the movie and will likely move their feet in time to the music.

Rock Of Ages is watchable based on the soundtrack but the story, characters and acting are very poor.

Reviewed by Lesley Watt

The Five Year Engagement ****

Written by Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller, The Five Year Engagement tells the story of Tom (Jason Segel) and Violet (Emily Blunt). At the beginning of the movie, the couple get engaged and start planning their wedding. However each time they are about to get married, different events occur that delay it.

The story is well written and entertaining. There is a lot of comedy and viewers will laugh out loud on a few occasions. In particular some the events that occur during the couple’s time in another state are very random and will leave the audience thinking “Wtf?”

The actors perform well. Jason Segel is entertaining as always. Emily Blunt is rather irritating but performs to a high standard throughout the film. In terms of supporting cast members, Rhys Ifans (Notting Hill) is convincing as a Welsh professor who seems are more realistic match for Emily Blunt’s character than Segel. There are also some entertaining scenes involving the friends and family of the two main cast members.

At 124 minutes, the film is a little too long and could probably have been concluded in around 90 minutes. Some of the scenes do drag on slightly, which gives viewers the impression they are watching over a long period of time. This may be the intention of the writer/producer as (given the title) the film is obviously set over five years, but some viewers may get bored towards the end.

Reviewed by Lesley Watt

Red Lights ***

The film follows psychologist/lecturer Margaret Matheson (Sigourney Weaver) and her assistant Tom (Cillian Murphy) as they study paranormal activity in an attempt to disprove the existence of it. When psychic Simon Silver (Robert De Niro) returns to the limelight after 30 years of lying low, the pair decide to investigate him.

As the viewer would expect from a cast including Weaver, Murphy and De Niro there are some great performances in the movie. De Niro in particular stands out in his portrayal of the blind psychic who appears to be responsible for the events that occur. Weaver also performs well as the cynical professor who strongly believes those who claim to have psychic powers are frauds.

The story appears promising for the first half of the movie, but seems to lose its way in the second half. The events are somewhat “all over the place” and the conclusion does not make sense. While twist endings are often appreciated by the audience, the ending of Red Lights left a lot of questions unanswered and was completely out of place given how the story had played out prior to this.

Overall the film starts off great but is let down by a weak second half and poor ending. While it has some strong plot points and great acting, this makes Red Lights a mediocre film.

Reviewed by Lesley Watt

Brave – *****

In Disney Pixar’s latest film, young Scottish princess Merida (Kelly MacDonald) feels she is being pushed into a life she does not want and attempts to change it. This results in a chain of events that force the princess to fight for what is important to her.

The film has an all star cast including Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Julie Walters, Robbie Coltrane and Craig Ferguson. As expected with such a cast, the voices are superb. Kelly MacDonald is believable as a young teenager and Coltrane, Ferguson and Grey’s Anatomy star Kevin McKidd are entertaining as the clan chiefs. While both Thompson and Walters hail from south of the border, both their characters have very believable Scottish accents.

The animation in Brave is also excellent. The landscapes are very similar to real life areas of the Highlands and look stunning in 3D. For viewers familiar with the area, the film will bring back memories of climbing hills and running through fields.

In terms of story the film is entertaining. There are a few unexpected twists and plenty of comedy. Although all audiences will find the film funny, there are elements of Scottish humour that will have Scottish viewers laughing every 2 minutes.

The soundtrack, which includes songs by Julie Fowlis and Mumford & Sons, is enjoyable and very appropriate for the film. Anyone familiar with Scottish music will be tapping their feet in time to the music early in the film.

Although Disney Pixar films are primarily aimed at children, Brave is a film that can be enjoyed by viewers of all ages. For anyone that likes animated films, likes Scotland and appreciates good comedy this is a must see.

Reviewed by Lesley Watt

EIFF: Take 5

 

Day 5

Eddie – The Sleepwalking Cannibal ***

Director Boris Rodriguez/ 83 mins 

A Canadian/Danish co-production that tries to balance comedy and drama with a bizarre quirky story, which people would expect Tim Burton or Sam Raimi to make.

 

A former painting protégée Lars (Thure Lindhardt),  has taken a teaching post at a struggling art school in remote Koda Lake. He falls for the school’s resident sculptress, Lesley (Georgina Reilly) and befriends disabled student Eddie (Dylan Smith). Lars agrees to look after Eddie in order, but he soon discovers that Eddie not only sleepwalks but eats people in the process. Lars finds the inspiration to begin painting again, covering Eddie’s tracks in order to keep on painting and reclaim his reputation.

 

The film is strange as it is not funny enough to be a comedy and the drama within the plot does not really go anywhere. The tone would work if the two elements were finely balanced, but the writer/director focuses either on comedy or drama for certain scenes. The acting is perfectly fine, but the only sympathetic character is Eddie himself, the others are deeply loathsome all trying to make their names or try to get something from somebody. 

 

The film is enjoyable, but also forgettable at the same time. When it is funny it is funny, if more humour had been ejected more humour into the piece it would have worked better. 

 


The Fourth Dimension **

Director Harmony Korine, Aleksei Fedorchenko and Jan Kwiecinski / 106 mins 

A trilogy of stories told by some of the world’s unique filmmaking talents told all in their own unique style.

 

Korine’s The Lotus Community Workshop, stars Val Kilmer as Val Kilmer. In the alternate reality of the film, he has quit acting to become a spiritual guru and motivational speaker. He lives in a giant mansion where he swims in the pool and plays video games with his young girlfriend (Rachel Korine). 

 

Fedorchenko’s time travel story Chronoeye revolves around a man who is preoccupied with the past, and can see into it for short periods of time in very limited locations. But by focusing all his energy on his memories, he is missing out on the present and his future. 

 

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.

 

Kwiecinski’s Fauns is about a group of teenagers acting like they are the only people on Earth. But the town they live in has been evacuated and is about to be under water and they have decided not to leave. 

 

The thing about this collection is that each story degrades in quality as it goes along. Korine’s film is easily the best as it is pretty fun to see Val Kilmer act as a more straightforward cartoon version of himself and is just the right length. Chronoeye has an interesting subject matter but simply loses what it is trying to say and goes on way too long. While Fauns is just simply boring and never seems to go anywhere with any of it’s loathsome characters.

 

An interesting experimental feature that at the end of the day is just not as exciting asa it sounds.

 

God Bless America****

Director Bobcat Goldthwait / 105 mins 

After the fantastic World’s Greatest Dd, Bobcat makes a triumphant return to our screens with a tale of antihero we can all root for.

 

Frank (Joel Murray) has had enough of the downward spiral of American culture, which he sees as overrun with cruelty, stupidity and intolerance. Divorced, recently fired, and possibly terminally ill, Frank truly has nothing left to live for. But instead of taking his own life, he buys a gun and decides to take out his frustration on the cruelest, stupidest, most intolerant people he can imagine, starting with some particularly odious reality television stars. Frank finds an unusual accomplice in a high-school student named Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr), who shares his sense of rage and disenfranchisement, and together they embark on a nation-wide assault on our country’s dumbest, most irritating celebrities..

 

The film is similar to Killer Joe, expect that the tone is clearly more comedic and works better as a dark comedy. With Killer Joe it was hard not to feel really uneasy about the amusing things that happened to those characters. This movie is the complete opposite with every moment of over the top violence feeling more like a Tom and Jerry cartoon than anything that would be deemed offensive in the real world.

 

The performances are completely sublime with Murray and Barr making a great comedy pair. The characters are so likeable and funny it is really easy to root for them, even though no one should be supporting the act of killing another due to others thoughtlessness. But what makes the screenplay work is that things that Frank really becomes angry about, everyone can sympathise with.

 

The only minor flaw is once Frank and Roxy start to bond it starts to feel like another story. But overall a thoroughly rewarding and hilarious experience by a gifted writer director.

 

Reviews by Paul Logan