Monthly archives "June 2016"

Shadow World ****

U.S. / Director Johan Grimonprez /90 mins

Synopsis: An eye-opening journey exploring the international arms industry.

Based on the bestselling book by journalist Andrew Feinstein, the film shows the corruption behind the global weapons trade and how it is responsible for the policies of many governments, including the U.S. And the U.K.

Starting with the relationship between  Regan and  Thatcher, Director  Grimonprez explores dealings  with Saudi Arabia and the alleged bribery of leading Saudi Arabians. Even suggesting that some wars have been raised in order to keep the arms trade and government leaders have stopped the investigations for financial and political gain.

Comprised of archive footage and interviews with whistleblowers, military personnel, arms dealers and reporters that have exposed some of the scandals. 

Well researched with many interesting interviews. Shadow World cannot help but leave the viewer angry with suggestions made. 

This may be one of the most important documentaries ever made and also the most terrifying.

Reviewed by Paul Logan

Edinburgh International Film Festival announces award winners


Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF) has announced the Award Winners for this year’s 70th edition. 

Over 160 features and 130 shorts from 55 countries screened at this year’s Festival, with the jurors viewing an extensive and varied selection of shorts, documentaries and features since the start of the Festival.


The winner of the prestigious Michael Powell Award for Best British Feature Film went to Scottish filmmaker Ben Sharrock’s directorial debut, PIKADERO, which received its UK Premiere at the Festival. 

 The jurors also gave a special mention to BRAKES, directed by Mercedes Grower, which received its World Premiere at the Festival.

The winner was chosen by the Michael Powell Jury comprised of acclaimed actress Kim Cattrall, Edinburgh-based Spanish filmmaker and actress Icíar Bollaín and the iconic actor Clancy Brown.

The Michael Powell Jury said: “We wanted to recognise the very personal and individual voice of director Ben Sharrock for his film PIKADERO. In a year when the jury viewed a selection of very distinctive and different films his film really stood out.”

 Ben Sharrock said: “I am absolutely thrilled and honoured to receive the Michael Powell Award. It is an incredible feeling. It is so valuable to have this kind of recognition for PIKADERO in the UK. It is awards and recognition like this that help us get the film out to as wide an audience as possible. We have been lucky enough to screen PIKADERO in different countries around the world but it has been a very special experience having the UK Premiere here at EIFF and showing it to audiences in my home city. I am extremely grateful and I would like to thank the jury, the Festival team and Mark Adams. Finally, I want to thank everyone who was involved in this film for all their talent and hard work. What a journey!”



 This award went to actress Catrin Stewart for her role in THE LIBRARY SUICIDES and was also selected by the Michael Powell jurors.

 The Michael Powell Jury said: “We wanted to recognise the striking performance by Catrin Stewart in THE LIBRARY SUICIDES (Y LLYFGELL). The complexities and subtleties of playing twin characters is challenging and she managed to achieve the rare feat of making each of the two roles she played truly distinctive.”

 Catrin Stewart said: “Thank you EIFF! I feel hugely honoured to be given this award. It was my first feature film role and a fantastic challenge to play two characters side by side. I loved working with the wonderful Euros Lyn and Fflur Dafydd’s exciting script. It was also very special for me to make a film in Welsh, and I’m very proud of what we have achieved. Diolch yn fawr!”

 The jury also gave a special mention to David Sillars for his role in SEAT IN SHADOW.



The award for Best International Feature Film went to Argyris Papadimitropoulos’ SUNTAN, which received its UK Premiere at this year’s Festival. The winner was chosen by the International Jury comprised of actor Angus Macfadyen, actress and producer Sadie Frost and Editor of Screen International, Matt Mueller.

The International Jury said:

“While there were many outstanding films in the international competition, SUNTAN is the title that really resonated with us. Argyris Papadimitropolous’s film is a compelling and unflinching portrait of one man’s journey from infatuation to desperation, marked out by a truly great performance from its lead actor, Efthymis Papadimitriou.”

Argyris Papadimitropoulos said: “Back in the late ’90s I was a student in the UK. All the films that were awarded in the Edinburgh International Film Festival were part of the conversation among us. We would go and watch everything with an Edinburgh laurel on the poster. Little did I know that 15 years later I would be so honoured as to be the recipient of such an award. I can’t wait to print new posters. Thank you to the lovely people of the Festival and the amazing jury, I could not be happier.”


The award for Best Documentary Feature Film went to Johan Grimonprez’s eye-opening documentary SHADOW WORLD, which dwelt on the shocking realities of the global arms trade. This year’s jury comprised veteran producer Steve Abbott, Fife-native actor Dougray Scott and film executive Tejinder Jouhal.

 The Documentary Jury said: “The jury felt there was an exceptionally high quality of films presented in the documentary section this year but, for us, the clear winner was SHADOW WORLD. Quite simply, it is an extraordinary film. A particularly powerful, poignant and provocative documentary, this film asked critical questions that continue to resonate. Director Johan Grimonprez and writer Andrew Feinstein pose the essential question: will we be allowed to choose peace over the business of war?”

 Johan Grimonprez said: “In an interview James Baldwin once said: ‘What we call history is perhaps a way of avoiding responsibility for what has happened, is happening, in time.’ I hope that SHADOW WORLD somewhat is able to point at how we can actually rewrite that reality. And it’s so wonderful that EIFF honours the effort of so many people, not in the least Andrew Feinstein, the writer of The Shadow World, but also the whole team that was able to get this different story out there. A big tanx, truly!!!”


 The award for Best Short Film went to BEFORE LOVE, directed by Igor Kovalyov, with Gavin Scott Whitfield’s MURDEROUS INJUSTICE receiving a special mention from the jurors. The jury was comprised of short film producer Rebecca Mark-Lawson, film development executive Hilary Davis and filmmaker Ashley Horner.

 The Short Film Jury said: “The film stood out to the jury because the director gave us a unique cinematic experience. Beautiful and stylish animation explored a bizarre love triangle with a fascinating female lead.”


 Voted for by the Festival audience, the McLaren Award for Best British Animation, supported by the British Council, this year goes to SIMON’S CAT – OFF TO THE VET by director Simon Tofield. 

 The winner of the Festival’s Audience Award will be announced at the Closing Night ceremony.



The White King

U.K. / Directors Alex Helfrecht and Jörg Tittel /89 mins

: In a dystopian future a young boy (Lorenzo Allchurch) vows to find his imprisoned father.

Based on the novel of the same name by György Dragomán, who based his dystopian authoritarian tale on his childhood in Ceaușescu’s Romania.

A 12-year-old boy Djata, (Lorenzo Allchurch) watches as government agents take his father Peter (Ross Partridge). His mother Hannah (Agyness Deyn) pretends that Peter is away for a ‘special mission’. Peter is actually imprisoned for speaking out about the regime. After discovering the truth, Djata joins his mother in the search to find where Peter is being kept.

The film starts with an impressive animated credit sequence, unfortunately this is the only thing that dazzles. 

The script is dull with too many questions are left unanswered. How did this dystopian world happen, who are these people ruled by and why are guys in there twenties terrorising little kids? The actual world is not fleshed out enough and with little depth to the characters. Even worse is that the piece just ends with no resolution or explanation.

Everyone in the cast does their best with the material provided. Agyness Deyn, Jonathan Pryce and Fiona Shaw suffer from the underdeveloped characterisation and lacklustre dialogue. Newcomer Allchurch shows promise, but even he appears to struggle with the cliched script.

Theatre directors Helfrecht and Tittel have made their debut in the Young Adult dystopian area, which is now oversaturated and has seen better movies in this genre. Especially with The Hunger Games series. All that is shown of the world is grassy countryside, buildings with billboards showing the words Serve, Duty, Glory and Family and the odd computerised helicopter in the sky.

It is hard to believe the filmmakers took four years to develop this underwhelming cinema experience.
Reviewed by Paul Logan

Holidays ***

U.S. / Director Anthony Scott Burns, Kevin Kolsch, Nicholas McCarthy, Adam Egypt Mortimer, Gary Shore, Kevin Smith, Sarah Adina Smith, Scott Stewart, Dennis Widmyer /105 mins

Synopsis: Nine filmmakers present horror stories that revolve around Valentine’s Day, Saint Patrick’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Halloween, Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

An assortment of visions make up this horror comedy anthology in the same vein as V/H/S, based on various celebratory holidays throughout the year. 
 “Valentine’s Day” centres around a young, bullied high school girl who has a crush on her gym coach to grisly extremes. In “St. Patrick’s Day,” an primary school teacher (Ruth Bradley) wishes she has a child with wishes granted thanks to  black magic hell and a little ginger haired girl.  “Easter,” a little girl wakes up in the middle of the night to find the Easter Bunny. “Mother’s Day” revolves around a girl who gets pregnant every time she has sex and goes to a commune for psychedelic therapy. In “Father’s Day,” Carol (Jocelin Donahue) receives a cassette tape in the mail which contains her late father’s voice, urging his daughter to follow instructions so that they can be reunited. “Halloween” is based around the internet sex industry where an abusive boss (Harley Morenstein) gets a taste of his own medicine from his girl employees. In “Christmas,” Pete (Seth Green) is desperate to give his son the ideal gift hot with deadly consequences. The last segment  “New Year’s Eve” sees a first date between an lonely young woman (Lorenza Izzo) and a serial killer  (Andrew Bowen). 
As with most of these anthology films it is very much a hit and miss affair. Some of the stories work notably “St Patrick’s Day”, “Easter” and Kevin Smith’s wacky “Halloween”, while others like “Fathers Day” and “Mother’s Day” have really interesting premises but the payoff is disappointing and underdeveloped. None of the stories are very frightening or incredibly funny, but are more amusing, twisted and bizarre.
Thankfully there are more hits than misses. The most interesting part of the film is figuring out what each director has come up with on the specific occasion. 

Reviewed by Paul Logan

Zero Days ****

U.S. / Director Alex Gibney /116 mins

Synopsis: The malware worm Stuxnet, famously used against Iranian centrifuges, has been claimed by many to have originated as a joint effort between America and Israel.

Academy Award winning documentarian Alex Gibney tackles another intriguing subject after covering pieces on Frank Sinatra, Steve Jobs, Wikileaks,  Fela Kuti and Scientlogy. 

The film documents the potentially  lethal computer virus which was first detected back in 2010. Rumours have long circled that the virus may have been commissioned by the US and Israeli governments to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program. The virus  was eventually found by the anti-virus companies, and was named Stuxnet by the industry. While the official code name was ‘Olympic Games’. The malware was made to be used to paralyse the infrastructure of entire states in a split second without leaving any trace of those responsible.

Gibney interviews a range of professionals including coders from Symantec to government insiders, nuclear physicists and an anonymous NSA source. 

The film is loaded with technical information which could have been dull and boring, but is conveyed in a way that is compelling. The filmmakers have also tried to make the film as unpolitical as possible with finger pointing by never to a definitive source. 

By the end it is difficult to feel safe in a world where cyber warfare appears to be the next stage on the battlefield. 

As with ‘Going Clear’ and ‘We Steal Secrets’ Gibney shows again that he is one of the best documentarians in his field.

Reviewed by Paul Logan

Yoga Hosers **

U.S. / Director Kevin Smith /88 mins

Synopsis: Two 15-year-old yoga enthusiasts (Harley Quinn Smith and Lily-Rose Melody Depp) in Manitoba who work at a convenience store after school join forces with a legendary man-hunter (Johnny Depp) to battle an ancient evil and fight for their lives.

Kevin Smith returns with another part of his True North Trilogy after the demented and funny ‘Tusk’.

The Colleens (Smith and Depp) reluctantly work behind the counter at the convenience store owned by Colleen C’s dad (Tony Hale). The girls are constantly  on their phones and always  invent any excuse to put up a “temporarily closed” sign. When not working or attending high school they visit a strip mall yoga studio run by Yogi Bayer (Justin Long), who teaches moves like “Pretentious Frog” and “Dissatisfied Customer”. One night in the shop the girls are attacked by Nazis sausages (“Brat-zis”). They team up to uncover where these little monsters have come from and try and rid the town of them.

The story like Tusk was thought of by one of the Director’s Smodcast podcasts. Unlike ‘Tusk’ which was a self contained premise, this time there is too much going on and everything but the kitchen sink has been thrown in. 

In the past Kevin Smith has written some great funny observant films. Unfortunately Hosers is not very funny and most of the jokes are lazy stereotypes regarding Canadians using the phrases  “eh” and “aboot”. Although some of the wisecracks in the film do work.

The pacing is also all over the place with the first hour coming across as a Romy and ‘Michelle’s High School Reunion’ meets ‘Scott Pilgrim Versus the World’ with  Instagram 8bit graphics. It is only in the last 30 mins that anything really happens when the monsters are unleashed when the film becomes some sort of Troma inspired homage.

The girls are fun and have an incredible chemistry together. Johnny Depp’s private eye character Guy LaPointe is also different from his initial incarnation in ‘Tusk’ where he was played more like Columbo, while here he has changed the characterisation to being more like Inspector Closeau.

There are some elements of fun hidden in this mess. But after ‘Tusk’, this is a really disappointing piece of work from a unique auteur like Kevin Smith. Hopefully with the final part ‘Moose Jaws’ he can rein in the over imaginative ideas.

Reviewed by Paul Logan

Pikadero ***

U.K. & Spain/ Director Ben Sharrock/97mins

Synopsis: Two lovers Gorka (Joseba Usabiaga) and Ane (Barbera Geonaga) seek to find a private place only to be blocked or interrupted at every attempt. 

The title refers to a Spanish term for riding schools or places to have sexual relations at in this easy going quirky comedy from newcomer Ben Sharrock.

Gorka  (Usabiaga) and Ane (Goenaga) have just recently met. Both are polar opposites of each other. He works as an unpaid apprentice at the local tool factory, in the hopes it may become a full-time job just like his father used to do, but is too shy and reserved to have any other dreams. She is an outgoing student, studying art and yearning to advance her English language skills with an aim of working in Edinburgh to better herself. They do however have same aspirations for love and romance.
The piece is set during a European economic crisis and is shot beautifully in the Basque country 

Perfectly framed and filmed over numerous locations including a recurring Train Station where the lovers meet and say goodbye to each other. The situations the two find themselves in are subtle , but funny. The scenes that work incredibly well are the ones involving Gorka’s family who could become a whole other film set up by themselves. Notably the uncomfortable squashed living room where the family watches television while the mother continually  sorts their washing. All the cast give unique and quirky performances.

While entertaining the film is slightly let down funnily enough by the lead characters, but not by the actors. Even although the term opposites attract is used and is mainly right, here it the couple are too different that many questions arise.

Why does she regularly meet with him, when he rarely communicates with her. When they do talk neither appears to be interested in each others interests. Why do other men in the area not try to talk to Ane. The character herself also appears underwritten, nothing is really known about who she is, where she has come from or anything about her background.

Even with these problems, this debut is pretty impressive and has enough to keep even the most cynical person with the hardest of hearts entertained.

Reviewed by Paul Logan

Moon Dogs ****

U.K. / Director Philip John/90 mins

Synopsis: Two teenage step brothers (Jack Parry-Jones and Christy O’Donnell) head off on a road trip across Scotland in order for one of them to see his Girlfriend in Glasgow. Their relationship is challenged by the free spirited and enigmatic Caitlin (a charismatic Tara Lee) who comes between them. 

A stunning and fun feature debut with a fantastic soundtrack. 

Thor (O’Donnell) agrees to join his Step-brother Michael (Parry-Jones) for a road trip from Shetland to Glasgow, in order for the latter to see his girlfriend. Thor has an alterer motive he wants to meet his mother who has long since abandoned him. Before they even reach the mainland they manage to run into trouble until they meet Caitlin (Lee) who helps them out. She joins them on their adventure as she is also heading to Glasgow to play at Celtic Connections.

On the outset the film feels like a Celtic version of Todd Phillips ‘Road Trip’ (the main players are Scottish, Welsh and Irish. However it does not have the silly wackiness that movie has. What distinguishes the two is that’Moon Dogs’ has a cracking script by Derek Boyle and Raymond Friel blending funny situations with sensitive issues and interesting characterisations. Although climax feels rather rushed and uneven.

Director Philip John who recently has been directing period dramas with ‘Outlander’ and ‘Downton Abbey’ directs his first foray into features with visual panache and vigour with stunning cinematography of the Scottish landscapes. 

All involved give impressive performances especially Tara Lee who has the hard role of portraying someone who on the surface has unlikable characteristics, but who is trying to deal with her own insecurities.

All these elements are aaccompanied by unforgettable unique soundtrack by Anton Newcombe.

This tale of rebellious angst is uplifting, funny and never dull. It will interesting to see how everyone involved follows this accomplishment.

Reviewed by Paul Logan

Maggie’s Plan ***

U.S./ Director Rebecca Miller/ 98mins

Synopsis: A young woman (Greta Gerwig) longing to start a family becomes involved in a complicated love triangle with a professor (Ethan Hawke) and his theorist wife (Julianne Moore). 

Writer Director Rebecca Miller has decided in a change of genres after making the dramas like “Personal Velocity” and “The Ballad of Jack and Rose”, she has made a light comedy with mixed results. 

Gerwig plays Maggie, who really wants a child. She has been unlucky in love and has decided to seeks a sperm donor. Maggie asks Guy (Travis Fimmel), a former college friend who is now a Pickle business owner. However she falls in love with John (Hawke), an anthropologist and aspiring writer. Unfortunately he is married to the egotistical Georgette (Moore), but he decides to leave her to be with Maggie. Three years later,  Maggie now has a  daughter with John but their love for each other is waning. She decides to reunite Georgette and  John.

The film has a Woody Allenesque feel not only due to the location being New York, but also due to the awkward situations the protagonist lets herself be involved in and light comedic moments.

Story wise the plot is over familiar and very predictable. For a comedy it is also light on laughs with only SNL alumni  Maya Rudolph and Bill Hader, who play Maggie’s best friends providing most of the laughs. 

Greta Gerwig usually has great screen presence as seen in her previous roles in “Mistress America” and “Francis Ha”. Here her performance feels flat and uninteresting, this may have something to do with role being mainly straight laced.

While Julianne Moore steals the show with her thick funny Danish accent and outlandish outfits. She chews every scene with relish. Even Hawke impresses with his sympathetic confused manchild who dotes on women’s affection.

Overall not a memorable piece of cinema, the story may be easy going but it is the performances from the supporting cast that make the film entertaining.

Reviewed by Paul Logan

Finding Dory ****

USA / Director Andrew Stanton/ 100 mins

Synopsis: The forgetful blue tang fish Dory, along with her friends Nemo and Marlin  search for answers about her past. 

It has been over a decade since Pixar warmed people’s hearts with a story set under the sea, can lighting strike twice?

Taking place a year after Nemo’s return to the reef, the long awaited sequel flashes back to the heroine’s childhood, when she was a short-term-memory-challenged hatchling living with her mom (Diane Keaton) and dad (Eugene Levy). She wanders off one day, and searches for her family, however in typical Dory fashion forgets what she is looking for.  The revival of her quest sends her across the seas to the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California along with her friends Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Nemo (Hayden Rolence) encountering a new bunch of colourful characters.

The original ‘Finding Nemo’ was never screaming out for a follow up, but somehow Pixar has struck gold yet again. After the awful ‘Cars 2’and the disappointing ‘Monster’s University’, the Animation studio has successfully created a memorable sequel.

Rather than focusing on searching for a primary character, this time the search is for two secondary characters. Dory once again is voiced by Ellen DeGeneres, who has not changed at all in that she is still the quirky likeable fish that she was in the original. 

The story appears to struggle from the offset as it repeats elements from the original. Things pick up considerably when Dory reaches the  Marine Life Institute and the audience is introduced to a wealth of colourful characters. Once the story hits this point the pace and action is relentless, but never confusing or boring. As always with Pixar movies they come with an emotional and at times heartbreaking narrative and Dory is no exception.

The first new encounter is a stroppy  dry witted octopus, Hank (Ed O’Neill). Along with longtime whale shark ‘pipe pal’  Destiny (Kaitlin Olson), a hyper condriact beluga Whale, Bailey and the hysterical  sea lions Fluke and Rudder (The Wire co stars Idris Elba and Dominic West).

The animation as would be expected is stunning showing the ocean as a vast and terrifying place.
The film never feels like a lazy, cynical cash in. Which in this day and age is hard to believe after the onslaught of pointless sequels audiences have had to endure.
Reviewed by Paul Logan