Monthly archives "June 2017"

EIFF 2017: Part III

Teenage Superstars: *****

Director Grant McPhee, UK. 2017. Running time 110 mins.

Grant McPhee returns with a follow up tohis EIFF award winning The Big Gold Dream, which focused on the Edinburgh based indie labels Fast Product and Postcard Records. This documentary focuses on 80’s Glasgow bands and labels including Creation Records, Teenage Fanclub, BMX Bandits, The Pastels, Jesus and Mary Chain,  Primal Scream and the Vaselines.

McPhee along with co-writer Angela Slaven have made an incredibly researched documentary which is comprised not only of interviews, but also archive footage and music videos charting the success and friendship amongst the band members. Enlighten get antic dotes from Stephen McRobbie, Alan McGee, Eugene Kelly, Duglas T Stewart and Norman Blake ranging from how they they started to being idolised by Kurt Cobain. The film is also narrated by Kim Deal from The Breeders / Pixies.

A minor flaw is some of the people mentioned, do not appear in the film notably Primal Scream’s Bobby Gillespie. However this is a throughly entertaining and educational piece of work even if not being aware of the bands or scene itself.

The Dark Mile **

Director Gary Love. UK. 2017. Running time 87 mins.

Veteran TV director Gary Love makes his feature film debut with a dark psychological thriller set in the Highlands. 

Claire (Deirdre Mullins) and Louise (Rebecca Calder) decide to take a holiday to spend more time together, onboard a small boat. Claire is a  workaholic who relies on modern luxuries, while Louise likes quiet and natural things as well as hiding a secret. During the journey they meet and even appear to be stalked bystrange local characters and are terrorised by a large black barge which is following the girls.

All the hallmarks of the genre are there and the filmmakers are clearly influenced by such classics including ‘Deliverance’ and ‘The Wicker Man’. However the pieces feel disjointed. The locals are depicted in a patronising stereotypical way as countryside folk out of touch with everything who abuse their family. The two leads who give great performances are so unsympathetic, as they belittle the other people they encounter and are fuelled by their selfishness that it is really hard to care what happens to them. 

The well executed tension that is built throughout the piece is wrecked by an anti climatic ending which is badly realised and makes no sense whatsoever. Which is a shame as the film is beautifully shot, some of the twists are interesting and the performances are good.

Reviewed by Paul Logan

EIFF 2017: Part II

Okja: *****
Director Bong Joon-ho UK, US, South Korea. 2017. Running time 118 mins.

The director of ‘The Host’ and ‘Snowpiercer’ returns with this bizarre, but fun fantasy piece made for Netflix.

CEO Lucy Mirando (Tilda Swinton) and her company the Mirando Corporation have bioengineered super pigs to provide the world with a new sustainable food source. Ten years later, one of the specimens, Okja has been raised into an enormous beast by Mija (An Seo-hyun) in the mountains of Korea. When Dr. Johnny Wilcox (Jake Gyllenhaal) claims back Okja for the corporation, Mija heads to Seoul to retrieve her friend.  She is joined  by the Animal Liberation Front (including Paul Dano, Lily Collins, Devok Bostik, Daniel Henshall and Steven Yeun) who assist in the fight to retrieve Okja  and expose the real activities of Mirando.  

The script  co-written by ‘The Men Who Stare At Goats’ Jon Ronson mixes  slapstick, dark humour, fantasy with environmental politics. The main theme being the dangers of genetic modification and the production of meat is a cruel business. 

Even compared to his last monster movie this film is bigger and crazier than Bong’s ‘The Host’, but also more grounded. The look of the film with colourful landscapes shot by legendary cinematographer Darius Khondji and the creature which is so realistic. 

Great performances from all the cast especially by An Seo-hyun who is the main heart of the film. While Swinton appears to relishing playing sisters who are evil in different ways. 

 By the end it is hard to hold back the tears with the emotional third act. It is a shame that this demented, but incredibly enchanting piece of work only has a limited time on the big screen before it is available for streaming for the masses. 

Cars 3 ***

Director Brian Fee . US. 2017. Running time 109 mins.

Is third time a charm for a franchise that was never really in demand or requested?
Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) has been winning races for years. Until new car Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer) arrives on the scene and takes over McQueen’s place on top and leading him to a fatal crash. McQueen retires to Radiator Springs, but is lured back into the racing game with the latest in high-tech training software. Along with his new trainer Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo), they try and reclaim success for McQueen.

After an entertaining introduction to the world of Cars in 2006, Pixar brought the characters back in an overblown sequel lead by their most annoying character Mater(Larry the Cable Guy). Thankfully they have gone back to the drawing board as well as giving Mater less screen time. 

First-time director Brian Lee deserves the praise in making this sequel a success, by making the focus more on McQueen. The story has more of a personal arc with an overall message that will resonate with families of all ages. The plot is fairly slow and does not really take off until the second act.  Ramirez is also a welcome addition and an aspiring role model to girls.

Pixar has for many years lead the way with each movie advancing in more groundbreaking animation, however this time apart from the racing scenes there appears to be no impressive changes. 

While only reason that Disney/Pixar still make films in this franchise it is solely for the reason of merchandise.  A pleasant journey, but kids will enjoy this journey more than the rest of their families.
Reviewed by Paul Logan

EIFF 2017 Part I

That Good Night: ***

Director Eric Styles. UK, Portugal. 2017. Running time 92 mins.

One of the best English actors to grace the silver screen bids a cinematic farewell in this poignant drama.
The film is based on a stage play by N. J. Crisp and actor Donald Sinden. In his final role, the late John Hurt plays Ralph Maitland, a terminally ill screenwriter who is trying to rebuild his estranged relationship with his son Michael (Max Brown) by inviting him for a visit. However Michael brings his girlfriend Cassie (Erin Richards) along who Ralph takes an instant dislike to.During this time, Ralph is visited by a mysterious man in a white suit (Charles Dance), who could be an Angel or a representative of a euthanasia organisation. Pleading with the stranger to end his life while still trying to make things right.
The picturesque setting of a sun filled Portugal makes an ideal setting for the proceedings. The story is compelling and evokes great emphathy with the characters involved. This may be due to the great performances especially from Hurt who has so much to display within the story.
However the film is directed in a very pedestrian style, which makes the film feel less cinematic and more like something aimed for The Hallmark Channel.
An engaging story with terrific performances, but as a final send off not as memorable as the film could have been.

Bad Kids of Crestview Academy: *

Director Ben Browder. US. 2016. Running time 100 mins.
Bad Kids of Crestview Academy is a sequel to Bad Kids Go To Hell (originally released in the UK as The Haunting of Crestview High), which was adapted from a comic book of the same name.

Siouxie (Sammi Hanratty), a white trash student in the “undercrust” of the prestigious Crestview Academy, infiltrates the rich students’ Saturday detention in an attempt to discover the truth behind her sister’s alleged suicide at a party the week prior. As she interrogates the bad kids, a gay drug addict Brian Marquez (Matthew Frias), son of local politician Senator Wilkes (Gina Gershon) Blaine (Colby Arps), cat obsessed Sara Hasegawa (Erika Daly), and naughty pastor’s daughter Faith Jackson (Sophia Taylor Ali). As Siouxie tries to uncover the truth, the other students are slowly killed off one by one.
Overall look of the film is to make it similar to the source material, blending comic style animation with live-action footage with a mix of Breakfast Club thrown in too. But this is all that really can be recommend.
The characters in the story are ridiculous stereotypes. At one point the Headmaster (Sean Austin) states “It’s time to break stereotypes, not reinforce them!”, unfortunately the story could not do the same.
Cheap unfunny humour, multiple flashbacks and silly over the top gore. The filmmakers appear to be trying to emulate Troma, but without the fun.
Reviewed by Paul Logan