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EIFF: Day 4

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Monsters University ****
USA/Director Dan Scanlon/110 mins

 

A direct prequel to the original “Monsters Inc”, the movie tells the story of how Sully (John Goodman) and Mike (Billy Crystal) met and came to work in the factory.

 

The film begins when Mike (Crystal) visits the factory on a school trip and decides he wants to become a scarer. Years later, Mike begins studying at Monsters University where he meets Sully (Goodman), a monster with an established family history.

 

The story is enjoyable and relates to the original while still providing a good level of suspense to the audience. Throughout the movie, Mike and Sully experience the highs and lows of University life and have a turbulent relationship prior to joining forces.

 

Both Goodman and Crystal give great performances as the lead characters. The supporting cast includes Steve Buschemi as Randy and Helen Mirren as Dean Hardscrabble, both of whom also perform to a high standard.

 

The animation is top class and looks great in 3D. The soundtrack is also fun and appropriate to the film.

 

While “Monsters University” is not as good as the original, it is an entertaining and fun movie that ties things up nicely.

 

Old Stock ***
Canada/Director James Genn/85 mins

 

Stock Burton (Noah Reid) is a young man who has spent the last 2 years in a retirement home following traumatic events. At the beginning of the movie he is asked to leave the residence, forcing him to face his demons.

 

Throughout the film, Stock tries to get his life back on track by getting a job, dating dance teacher Patti (Melanie Leishman) and trying to fix the issues from his past. While it doesn’t flow particularly well, the story has a reasonable amount of depth and doesn’t reveal everything right away.

 

There is also a subplot involving his grandparents’ relationship which adds some comedy to the story, particularly the antics of Stock’s grandfather Harold (Danny Wells).

 

The actors all give reasonably good performances, the highlight being Gene Mack as comic pensioner Wendel. The other residents of the retirement home are also entertaining and give a realistic portrayal of their generation.

 

While the story is poorly structured and does not really go anywhere, “Old Stock” is a pleasant movie to watch.

 

Oh Boy ***
Germany/Director Jan Ole Gerster/83 mins

 

Starring Tom Schilling as the lead character, “Oh Boy” tells the story of Niko Fischer, a young man who has dropped out of University and is drifting through life in Berlin.

 

The film is shot in black and white and is in German with English subtitles. This gives it a somewhat “arthouse” feel which appears promising.

 

Throughout the movie, Niko comes into contact with a variety of people including his father, an actor friend and a girl he went to school with. While the interactions would be interesting if there was a link between them, they seem rather pointless as each character appears once and is never mentioned again.

 

The story lacks structure and doesn’t go anywhere. Niko drifts in and out of situations with no explanation. This creates plot holes and leaves the viewer questioning why each scene is included. The ending is also disappointing as nothing gets tied up and Niko is no further forward.

 

While “Oh Boy” is nicely shot and reasonably pleasant to watch, the story is all over the place and has too many loose ends.

 

Reviewed by Lesley Logan

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EIFF: Day 3

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The Great Hip Hop Hoax ****
UK/Director Jeanie Finlay/88 mins

 

Jeanie Finlay’s documentary tells the story of Billy and Gavin, two young rappers from Arbroath who create personas to help secure a record deal. The film follows their journey from their life back home to their success as rappers and their eventual decline.

 

Looking back on the footage from Billy and Gavin’s career, viewers are likely to wonder how they fooled so many people. Neither had their backstories worked out prior to making their decision, resulting in inconsistencies.

 

One to one interviews feature heavily, giving the audience an in depth look at the story from both the participants’ points of view and those of their friends, family and people in the music industry. This makes the documentary both authentic and unbiased.

 

The only minor criticism that could be found is that the film leaves the audience hanging with regards to Billy and Gavin’s friendship. Having followed them through the entire story, it is slightly disappointing not to see the outcome.

 

Overall, a very enjoyable and entertaining movie.

 

We Are The Freaks *
UK/Director Justin Edgar/80 mins

 

Written and directed by Justin Edgar, “We Are The Freaks” follows three teenage friends living in Birmingham in 1990.

 

The first five minutes of the film in which we are introduced to lead character and narrator Jack (Jamie Blackley) appear promising, however it quickly descends into a poorly structured story with one dimensional characters.

 

Despite Edgar’s attempts to create an enjoyable teen comedy, the story is bland and immature. As the events of the characters’ lives unfold, it becomes somewhat like the Inbetweeners gone wrong and the audience will likely cringe rather than laugh.

 

While the idea was good, the actual film is a huge disappointment.

 

Hawking ****
UK/Director Stephen Finnigan/86 mins

 

Written and narrated by Stephen Hawking himself, the documentary follows the scientist from birth to the present day, focusing on his rise to fame and battle with motor neurone disease.

 

Featuring one on one interviews with Hawking’s family, care staff and former students, the film begins with Hawking’s early life in Oxford then progresses to his life as a student in Cambridge and diagnosis of Motor Neurone Disease.

 

Despite being given a short time to live in his early 20s, Hawking goes on to live a full and active life in which he completes a PHD and gets married. To this day he continues to work and doesn’t let his declining health define him.

 

Hawking himself is admirable, however his ex wife Jane truly shines as a loyal and supportive figure in his life. Despite knowing about his illness she sticks by him and the eventual breakdown of their marriage is unrelated. Throughout his career, he also has great support from his staff and students.

 

Overall, “Hawking” is a great documentary that gives a “fly on the wall” insight into his life. Hawking’s narration is by far the best thing about the movie and adds a personal touch that no other narrator could.

 

Reviewed by Lesley Logan

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Newsreel (W/e 16 June 2013)

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Warner Bros has officially exited the Farrelly Bros’ Dumb & Dumber To.

 

Paramount Pictures is to distribute Terminator 5, while Arnold Schwarzenegger announces that shooting will start in January 2014.

 

Michael Bay might be directing the movie version of Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon.

 

Breaking Bad’s Krysten Ritter joins the cast of Tim Burton’s Big Eyes.

 

Downton Abbey’s Sophie McShera will be a stepsister in Disney’s live action version of Cinderella.

 

Carey Mulligan has turned down the role of Hillary Clinton in an upcoming biopic.

 

Chris Columbus’ remake of the Korean supernatural comedy Hello Ghost is set to star Adam Sandler.

 

Formerly titled The Muppets… Again!, the James Bobin film will now be named as Muppets Most Wanted on March 21, 2014.

 

Walt Disney Pictures & Marvel Studios have set release dates for two mystery Marvel projects that will hit May 6, 2016 & May 5, 2017.

 

Man of Steel soars to the top of U.S. box-office.

EIFF: Day 2

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Shooting Bigfoot: ****
US/ Director Morgan Matthews /90mins

 

Shooting Bigfoot is a documentary, however it feels more like a mockumentary with humourous & colourful characters. The movie is directed and presented by award-winning documentary filmmaker, Morgan Matthews.

 

The movie follows three different humters. Dallas and Wayne are two old men who have devoted their lives to finding the creature. Dallas has been retired since an injury at work, and claims he was attacked by a Bigfoot. The two friends who play cassettes of animal noises in the wilderness in order to attract the monster. Tom Biscardi, a Bigfoot documentarian who comes across as an egotistical maniac who verbally abuses people even his wife. Finally Rick Dyer who has been involved in a recent hoax and even manipulates his own little daughter into believing the creature is real.

 

The focus is primarily on Dyer’s adventure into Texan woods. The other strands are really entertaining, but when they end unexpectedly and without any satisfactory conclusion it is a little frustrating.

 

Matthews has made a compelling and extremely entertaining documentary. It is hard to say if the film is truly non fiction or a work of fiction as the interviewees and what they say are so hilarious, it feels like it is too good to be true.

 

Svengali: **
UK/ Director John Hardwick / 90mins

 

Based on writer and actor Jonny Owen’s original five-minute webisodes, the film is about Paul ‘Dixie’ Dean (Owen) who stumbles across unsigned band The Premature Congratulations (eventually shortened to ‘The Prems’) and heads to London with his girlfriend Shell (Vicky McClure). He wants to become their manager and make them famous. He confuses the industry by giving out audio-cassettes, but attracts interest of from various people including Alan McGee (as himself). But in order to succeed he must overcome financial, family and band problems in order to make his dream to be a music Svengali to become true.

 

What might of worked as a short web based idea, certainly does not work as a full length feature. The plot feels very episodic, rather than cinematic.The main character is continually ridiculed for being Welsh and stupid. This kind of humour would have been funny in the 60’s and 70’s TV sitcoms of yesteryear, but not now.

 

The other problem is that celebrity names (Martin Freeman, Katy Brand and The Libertines’ Carl Barat) are brought in to the story in roles that are not necessary to the story. It feels more like a commercial exercise.

 

If it was not for McClure as the feisty girlfriend, the film would be an absolute disaster. An unoriginal idea that has been done before in a better version notably in Still Crazy.

 

Frances Ha ****
US/ Director Noah Baumbach / 86mins

 

The Squid and the Whale auteur Noah Baumbach returns with a black and white comedic melodrama which totally feels like a 1960’s French New Wave cinema piece.

 

An aspiring dancer 27 year old Frances (Greta Gerwig) hopes of becoming a professional dancer are becoming less successful. She is broke, and has no fixed abode. Making matters even worse her best friend Sophie (Mickey Summer) is spending all her time with her boring boyfriend.

 

A surprisingly uplifting and fun film with superb performances by all, most notably from Gerwig. Strangely audiences will feel sympathy for a character who is not entirely likeable. All her problems are of her own doing. The awkwardness of her experiences can be felt by everyone as most people have encountered these situations in life at one time or another.

 

Greta Gerwig’s performance is Oscar-worthy. She gives subtle facial expressions that show a range of mixed emotions while conveying something different to a character she is interacting with.

 

The highlight of the film is a beautiful extended tracking shot of Frances dancing and running down the street, while David Bowie’s ‘Modern Love’ plays in the background. This sequence will make even the hardest heart smile. A powerful and touching piece of work.

Reviewed by Paul Logan

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EIFF: Day 1

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The East: ****
US/ Director Zal Batmanglij / 116mins

 

Brit Marling’s makes her second film with director/co-writer Zal Batmanglij with an original thought provoking political thriller.

 

Sarah is a private intel spy sent to undercover among to find a gang of anti-corporate terrorists. She finally infiltrates the hippie terrorist commune headed by Benji (Alexander Skarsgård).
Sarah soon ends up having the group’s trust & helps them with their plots.

 

Marling and Batmanglij have made an intriguing and original premise about the problems with capitalism.

 

The filmmakers have enlisted a fantastic bunch of actors to the mixture. Ellen Page plays the usual tomboy with attitude character, Skarsgård is the mysterious unconcerned leader of the group, while Toby Kebbell brings heart and soul to the piece as the caring and tortured Doc. However it seems a strange decision to make Shiloh Fernandez’s character look like a Johnny Depp impersonator.

 

Batmanglij composes each scene with close ups and tight shots which gives the film a claustrophobic, but more personal experience. There are no bright lit backgrounds or colours, but dull monotonous shades which gives a 1970’s movie feel.

 

The plot has a slow pace, but never feels long or dragged out. It is similiar in tone to The Purge. Unfortunately
The story becomes convulted predictable and cliched within the third act. When Sarah’s arc becomes more about romance and giving a rather pointless lecture to her boss.

 

However the movie has enough drive going for it to be an enjoyable, tense and intelligent piece of cinema.

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan

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Behind The Candelabra ****

matt-damon-and-michael-douglas-get-intimate-and-fight-in-behind-the-candelabra

 

Run Time: 118 mins Cert: 15

 

Synopsis: Directed by Steven Soderbergh, “Behind The Candelabra” tells the real life story of pianist Liberace and his relationship with Scott Thorson.

 

The film begins in 1976 when Scott Thorson (Matt Damon) meets Bob Black (Scott Bakula) in a bar. The two men become friends and Bob takes Scott to see Liberace (Michael Douglas) perform in Las Vegas. After being taken backstage to meet the musician, Scott forms a friendship with him and accepts his offer to work as his companion and personal assistant. This leads to a relationship between them, which the movie follows from start to finish.

 

Over the next few years, Scott and Liberace embark on a relationship that is intense and somewhat bizarre from the pianist’s side. While it’s clear he has sexual feelings for Scott, his desire to adopt the young man as his son leads the audience to question what he really wants. In the early part of the film he showers Scott with expensive presents and buys him a house nearby, saying this will give him security. As things go downhill, Scott is reminded of the gifts when he expresses dissatisfaction and the house is eventually taken back.

 

From the outset it’s obvious Scott has genuine feelings for the older musician and will go to great lengths to please him. This is particularly apparent when he agrees to undergo plastic surgery to make him look more like his partner. He is also led down the path of drug addiction by Dr Jack Startz (Rob Lowe) who convinces him that a cocktail of drugs known as “The California Diet” will make him more attractive. While it appears to work initially, things go pear shaped as Liberace craves attention from other men and Scott becomes dependent on drugs.

 

Despite it being a biopic, there is a lot of comedy throughout the film. Michael Douglas is entertaining and camp as the lead character. Sporting a dark wig and spectacular outfits he bears a strong resemblance to Liberace and adapts his voice to the role which adds both realism and comedy to his performance.

 

Out of all the actors, Matt Damon is the one that truly shines in this movie. Throughout his transformation from the young animal trainer who dreams of being a vet to the trophy boyfriend that will do anything to keep his famous lover happy, he gives an enjoyable and deep performance as Scott. This makes the audience care about the character and despite knowing the outcome in advance, the audience is likely to feel disappointment when things don’t work out.

 

The supporting cast perform well with Dan Aykroyd appearing as Liberace’s manager and Rob Lowe as his plastic surgeon. His image will make the audience laugh while providing a realistic portrayal of an individual obsessed with enhancements. Scott Bakula also gives a good performance as Bob, the man who introduces the main characters. Apart from Debbie Reynolds’ role as Liberace’s mother and a brief appearance by Scott’s foster mother, there are no women to be seen.

 

Overall “Behind The Candelabra” gives viewers an insight into the final years of Liberace’s life whilst remaining interesting and fun throughout.

 

Reviewed by Lesley Logan

Newsreel (W/e 9 June 2013)

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Benicio Del Toro joins the cast of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy.

 

The Expendables 3 is set for a August 15, 2014 release.

 

The Wizard of Oz to return to theatres in IMAX 3D.

 

Mia Wasikowsa is in talks to replace Emma Stone in Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak.

 

Chevy Chase will return as the repairman in Hot Tub Time Machine 2.

 

Black List script The Outsider is moving forward with Audition director Takashi Miike planning to helm with Tom Hardy starring.

 

Hugh Bonneville has joined the cast of Paddington Bear, as Henry Brown, the head of Paddington’s adoptive family.

 

Tim Minchin has signed up to work on an DreamWorks Animation’s Larrikins, a comedy musical film set in the Australian outback.

 

The Purge raids the U.S. box-office.

The Big Wedding **

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Run Time: 89 mins              Cert: 15

 

Synopsis: With an all star cast, “The Big Wedding” shows the audience what happens when a dysfunctional family gets together for a wedding.

 

Set in a small American town, the movie begins when Ellie (Diane Keaton) arrives at the house lived in by her ex husband Don (Robert De Niro) and his long term girlfriend Bebe (Susan Sarandon). It is revealed she has come back for the wedding of she and Don’s adopted son Alejandro (Ben Barnes) and his fiance Missy (Amanda Seyfried), who are seen meeting with a rather comic priest (Robin Williams) prior to their marriage.

 

At the same time, Ellie and Don’s oldest child Lyla (Katherine Heigl) arrives on the maternity ward where middle child and 30-year-old virgin Jared (Topher Grace) works as a doctor. Despite her fainting at the site of the babies, she and Jared head for dinner with the rest of the family and a series of comic but cringeworthy events begins.

 

Since his biological mother is arriving from Colombia and is a devout catholic, Alejandro requests his parents pretend to still be married. This results in a fallout between Don and his girlfriend Bebe, and some particularly ludricrous scenes as the family attempt to hide her existence. While the main arc does provide amusement, it just seems ridiculous from start to finish.

 

Other subplots within the movie include Jared’s quest to lose his virginity and Lyla’s infertility. Attempts by the writers to give either of the siblings depth fail miserably and while neither Grace nor Heigl is unpleasant to watch, both their stories feel somewhat like a bad soap opera mixed with a sketch show.

 

While De Niro, Keaton and Sarandon are entertaining enough to watch, none of them seem to put a lot of effort into playing their characters. Robin Williams gives a very good comic performance as Father Monighan but is under utilised while Amanda Seyfried basically reprises her “Mamma Mia” character. With a big name cast like this, performances are disappointing. However this is more down to a weak story and poor character development than the actors themselves.

 

Overall, “The Big Wedding” is disappointing. Despite a well known cast and amusing premise, the film has very little story and feels more like a stage play.

 

Reviewed by Lesley Logan

Newsreel (W/e 2 June 2013)

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Attack the Block’s Joe Cornish is in the running to direct Star Trek 3.

 

Lionsgate have hired visual effects specialist Zach Lipovsky to direct the Leprechaun reboot with WWE’s Dylan “Hornswoggle” Postl to star.

 

Josh Brolin is set to join the cast of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice.

 

Shrek Forever After’s Mike Mitchell is set to direct Dreamworks Trolls.

 

Nicolas Winding Refn, Ang Lee, Tom Hooper, David Yates, Shane Black & Sam Mendes are in the short list to direct Bond 24.

 

Danny Huston is in talks to join the cast of Tim Burton’s Big Eyes.

 

Control’s Anton Corbijn is to direct Life, the dramatisation of James Dean & photographer Dennis Stock’s relationship.

 

Kon-Tiki’s Joachim Rønning & Espen Sandberg are set to direct Pirates of the Caribbean 5.

 

Glenn Close has joined the cast of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy as a leading member of the intergalactic Nova Corps. While Doctor Who’s Karen Gillan will play the villain.

 

The Flintstones will return as an animated movie featuring the voices of WWE wrestling talent in 2015.

 

Grumpy Cat the movie is on the way.

 

The Muppets’ James Bobin in talks to direct in Alice in Wonderland 2.

 

Melissa Leo is joining the cast of director Antoine Fuqua’s The Equalizer.

 

Entourage creator Doug Ellin will rewrite the current screenplay and is in line to potentially direct Bad Santa 2.

 

Forest Whitaker is in talks to take on the role of Martin Luther King Jr in Memphis.

 

Johnny Depp has left the gangster Whitey Bulger biopic, Black Mass.

 

Green Lantern screenwriter Michael Green in talks to rewrite Blade Runner sequel.

 

Fast & Furious 6 tops, but After Earth bombs at the U.S. Box-office.

Fast & Furious 6 ***

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Run Time: 130 mins Cert: 12A

 

Synopsis: Following the revelation that Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) is alive and working for master criminal Owen Shaw (Luke Evans). Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his team of are hired by Agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) to rescue her and foil Shaw’s plans.

 

After finally being successfully rebooted with Fast Five, the never ending car chase franchise makes a return with mixed results.

 

The series has gone from being about racing and gang warfare to be being about heists and family. The biggest problem with this particular episode is that everything has been revealed in the trailer, apart from the scene in the credits. There is no surprises.

 

The storyline while formulaic is entertaining. It is set before Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift’s timeline. Having a gang going against another gang is a novel twist. Unfortunately there are just too many characters with underdeveloped stories. Evans villain is a victim of this as his bad guy is just plain dull with about as much charisma as he has useful henchmen.

 

While the Letty comeback seems like it is too easy a solution, the comedic sparring between Diesel’s team and The Rock is amusing. While the dialogue is full of terrible puns and catchphrases that seem to have been left over from an 80’s action movie.

 

The action sequences are probably the most exhilarating and exciting moments of this franchise, no matter how ridiculous the scenario (how long is a runway?).

 

Over the top, edge of your seat entertainment which is flawed, but fun.

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan