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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

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