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Shinji Somai EIFF Retrospective

This year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival Retrospective will be the works of Japanese director Shinji Somai. The films of Shinji Somai (1948-2001) are a constant source of inspiration for Japanese filmmakers. His body of work spans the 1980s and 1990s, a period in Japanese film history that remains little explored by Western film scholars and largely inaccessible to Western audiences. Yet without an understanding of this period, and of Somai’s significance, it is impossible to understand the transition from the golden age of Japanese studio filmmaking to the recent explosion of personal, independent filmmaking in Japan.

A unique stylist in a variety of popular genres, Somai made films that were well received in Japan by both critics and the general public. Among the films to screen at EIFF will be SAILOR SUIT AND MACHINE GUN (1981); P.P. RIDER (1983); THE CATCH (1983); TYPHOON CLUB (1985); MOVING (1993); THE FRIENDS (1994) and WAIT AND SEE (1998). Further Retrospective titles will be announced at a later date.

Chris Fujiwara, EIFF Artistic Director, said: “Shinji Somai is one of the most personal and original Japanese filmmakers, and a master whose work has been almost completely neglected outside Japan. Just over ten years after his passing, I believe the time is right for Somai. Audiences and critics will be amazed by what they discover in this body of work, which I’m delighted to bring to the UK.”

Kanako Hayashi, director of TOKYO FILMeX, collaborator on the Retrospective with EIFF, said: “Last November, TOKYO FILMeX held a full retrospective of Shinji Somai’s films at the 10th anniversary of his passing. A large audience, including our filmmaker guests from abroad, enjoyed them a lot. He was one of the most important filmmakers in Japan at the end of the 20th century, and his films should be introduced all over the world at present, just as if he were continuing to make films today. (In fact, Somai was just one year younger than Takeshi Kitano.) I urge lovers of film not to miss this chance to follow Somai’s unique artistic trajectory throughout his works at Edinburgh.”

The Muppets *****

Running time: 103 mins Certificate: U

Synopsis: When an evil oil man Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) discovers black gold beneath Muppet Theater, Kermit, devoted Muppets fan Walter, his brother Gary (Segel) and his girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams) gather up the gang for a telethon that will save the venue from being replaced with a giant oil pump.

The story’s mean theme is about being forgotten in a cynical modern world. This aspect is perfect as the characters had been long forgotten by the fans that adored them and by the kids of today. There are nods and winks to the past movies and enough things to entice younger audiences with cameo roles (Jack Black and Dave Grohl).

The best thing is that the filmmakers have been incredibly careful not to mess with a well tested, if it ain’t broke formula. It helps that Segel is like Walter a devoted fan himself and knew exactly what to do with the ailing franchise.They have also decided to focus on The Muppets themselves, rather than the human characters.

It has taken Disney, years to figure out how to revive The Muppets franchise. Now Jason Siegel and his frequent collaborator Nicholas Stoller have brought the beloved puppets back from the dead, with a fantastic nostalgic, witty, moving script that Muppet fans will absolutely love.

The musical numbers composed by Flight of the Conchords Bret McKenzie are toe-tappingly catchy which will have the audience singing the songs on the way home. The use of Nirvana and Cee Lo Green are reinvented brillantly into the context of The Muppet Show.

There are some things that do not work so well, Amy Adams in particular appears to be underused. Her song “Me Party”, while memorable seems out of place. While a few of the cameos do not entirely work within the film.

These are minor complaints in what is a fantastic return of The Muppets. It will appeal more to an older age group, but there is plenty here to keep the whole family entertained for years to come.

Reviewed by Paul Logan

The Descendants *****

Running time: 115mins Certificate:15

Synopsis: A Hawaiian property magnate Matt King (Clooney) is overseeing the sale of his family’s last piece of land, his wife is rendered comatose in a jet ski accident. Now the father must become a single parent to his daughters (Woodley, Miller), as well as deal with a devastating revelation about his private life.

Director Alexander Payne makes another beautifully touching film after seven years making the fantastic Sideways. This long awaited beautifully crafted redemptive moving journey will take the audience on a trip filled with laughter and tears.

Clooney is at his best in a role that shows off his acting skills with greying hair and a variety of loud shirts. Gorgeous George carries the weight of Matt’s problems through the performance in his body movement, eyes and his distressed voice, as he discovers that his life is not everything he thought it was. his eyes, posture and weary voice. With a head full of gray hair and a surf-shop wardrobe, he carries the weight of Matt’s problems in his eyes, posture and weary voice.

The star does not take all the credit as he is surrounded by a superb supporting cast especially by the actresses who play his two daughters, teen Alexandra (Shailene Woodley) and 10-year-old Scottie (Amara Miller). They practically steal the movie from Clooney, Woodley gives one of the most credible adolescent performances in recent memory.

As with his previous films, Payne has made a memorable sharp, funny, generous, and engaging piece of filmmaking that is an unforgettable experience.

Reviewed by Paul Logan

The Artist ****

Running time: 100 mins Certificate: PG

Synopsis: In the late 1920s. George Valentin (Dujardin) a silent-movie legend falls for a upcoming starlet named Peppy Miller (Bejo) after a chance encounter at a premiere. At first he finds Peppy’s fame-by-association funny, but the arrival of sound turns her into a serious rival in his career.

After all the praise and hype that this so called silent film has received it is sad to say that it is abit of an overall disappointment. So much so that it feels like The King’s Speech all over again, but with a bit more class and style.

The problem is that the story has been done before by a much better movie in the classic Singin’ in the Rain. The premise revolves around the death of silent cinema in the wake of the popularity of talkies with a love story attached. That is it nothing much else happens. It feels more like a parody film made from the 50’s rather than pre 1927 movie. A feel-good happy experience is what writer/director Michel Hazanavicius has intended to make, but somehow it feels hollow and lifeless.

Not to say that the film is well acted from everyone involved, but Uggie the dog outacts everybody and is the most memorable performance here. Hazanavicius has crafted a beautiful looking film that pays a faithful homage a bygone era. Scenes involving Valentin slowly loses his mind as he realizes he’s still silent is potent and also another where he shakes his fists as even his shadow gives up on him, is extremely well conceived done. Elaborate sets, dazzling costumes and stunning choreography bring the whole piece together to make a fantastic spectacular.

It feels odd that The Artist has been dubbed a modern day silent movie, it is not a true movie of this genre as characters talk. The score is repetitive and annoying, it would have been better to have music from that era like The Entertainer.

Compared to the classic silent films of the golden age of cinema that it is supposed to be a tribute to, The Artist is just not in the same theatre never mind ballpark. Audiences should save their time and money by revisiting the classics rather than something that is fairly flawed movie experience.

Reviewed by Paul Logan

Disney/Pixar’s Brave set to close the 66th Edinburgh International Film Festival

Disney/Pixar’s Scotland-set animated film, Brave, is to have its European premiere on the closing night of the Edinburgh International Film Festival  on 30 June.

The film features mostly a Scottish cast, including Billy Connolly, Kelly MacDonald, Kevin McKidd, Robbie Coltrane and Craig Ferguson. Previously known as The Bear and the Bow, the movie follows Merida, an impetuous princess who defies an age-old custom and inadvertently unleashes chaos, forcing her to discover the meaning of true bravery before it is too late.

First Minister Alex Salmond announced news of the premiere during his speech at VisitScotland’s Winning Years Conference in Perth today.

He said: “This will present us with an immense opportunity when Scotland will be centre stage in the film with all the tourism and business opportunities this will bring.

“I fully expect that as the film launches across the world, so will awareness of Scotland increase.”

He added: “Brave will be the most high-profile film ever set in, and themed around, Scotland, featuring Scottish stars.

“We are looking at a film which comes from the award-winning team behind such box-office smashes as Toy Story, Finding Nemo and Up, and will create global buzz when it is released.”

The film premiere announcement comes days after VisitScotland revealed it has joined forces with Disney Pixar in a campaign designed to promote Scottish tourism across the world and boost the Scottish economy.

Chris Fujiwara, artistic director of the Edinburgh International Film Festival, said: “We’re delighted to host the premiere of Brave and continue the festival’s long relationship with Disney.

“Though we are an international film festival, we’re mindful that we have a special responsibility to Scotland’s cinematic image.

“It makes perfect sense that this film, which is so strongly tied to the cultural mythology of Scotland and the beauty of the Scottish landscape, and in which Scottish talent has such a significant involvement, should be part of our festival.”

Brave is to be released across the UK on 17 August.

Popcorn Horror

Popcorn Horror is a mobile phone application by horror fans for horror fans. The app is full of bite sized horror movies and provides a cinematic experience on your phone. The app also includes horror quotes, news/reviews, wallpaper, ring tones and much, much more. 

 

They accept all short horrors as long as they stick to the guidelines and each film will be assessed for the possibility of joining Popcorn Horror. They will over filmakers $200 for their short horror film, as well as promoting and putting it onto the app.

 

Popcorn Horror are trying to build a rapport with a digital audience to develop a technical and innovative relationship with both filmmakers and fans. Their ultimate goal is to create a community funded/developed horror feature film.It is available through ITunes and Android markets.

 

www.popcornhorror.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/PopcornHorror

Blog: http://popcornhorror.tumblr.com/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Popcorn-Horror/264741880209275

 

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly 2011

 

Well, it was a yet again another bad year for movies. Here is my list of the best, the worst and the disappointing from last year.

The Good

1. True Grit: The Coen Bros faultless remake of a rather dull John Wayne western with fantastic  performances.

 

2. Perfect Sense: Daring and original thoughprovoking Scottish sci-fi film from Sigma Films.

 

3. Project Nim: Touching documentary about the story of the Chimp Nim, which shows humans in a very bad light.

 

4. Black Swan: Demented, but genius ballet movie that feels like The Red Shoes was directed by Cronenberg.

 

5. Senna: Another superb documentary revolving around one of the greatest sportsmen of the last century.

 

6. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo: Who would have known that the Hollywood remake was better than the original.

 

7. Tree of Life: Love or hate it, Malick’s latest makes audiences think while showing off beautiful imagery.

 

8. The Guard: Funniest film of the year from the makers of the fantastic In Bruges.

 

9. Rango: The weirdest looking animation in years, but also the most fun even although the story was slightly unoriginal.

 

10. The Beaver: Underrated comedy drama with an unforgettable performance by Mel Gibson.

 

The Bad

1. Stormhouse: No wonder the British film industry is in a state with an appalling horror film like this.

 

2. Bob Marley: The Making of a Legend: Disappointing documentary comprises of one shot interviews and boring footage.

 

3. Sucker Punch: Alice in Wonderland meets Cuckoo Nest it was not. Another tedious effort from Zach Synder.

 

4. Green Lantern: One of the worst superhero movies in recent years with too much CGI.

 

5. Cars 2: The reason why this failed is purely just that Larry the Cable Guy is not funny.

 

6. Yogi Bear: The voices and animation were fine, the experience was just bad.

 

7. The Next Three Days: A remake which felt like it was three days.

 

8. Limitless: Great premise, poorly executed.

 

9. Hereafter: Apart from the stunning opening sequence, there was little to recommend from Clint Eastwood’s latest.

 

10. Transformers: Dark of the Moon: It was slightly better than the last terrible installment, but that was it. Although the 3-D was the best since Avatar.

 

The Ugly (Disappointments of the year)

In no particular order:

Hanna, Fast Five, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Red State, The Hangover: Part II, X-Men First Class, Horrible Bosses, Kill List, Captain America and Cowboys & Aliens

 

 

The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn ****

Running time: 106 mins  Certificate: PG

Synopsis: Belgian reporter Tintin (Bell) is on the trail of a lost family fortune with his new friend Captain Haddock (Serkis).

 

It has been a few years since Spielberg has made a movie. Some will think that he was hiding for making the atrocious fourth installment of Indiana Jones, when in fact the director has been crafting his first foray in the world of 3-D motion capture.

 

A young reporter, Tintin buys a model ship called the Unicorn is approached by a sinister gentleman Sakharine who also wants the ship. Tintin learns that the Unicorn was a 17th-century warship captained by Sir Francis Haddock, and that Sakharine may be trying to locate Sir Francis’s treasure. Tintin and the alcoholic Captain Haddock (a descendant of Sir Francis) along with his faithful dog, Snowy must try and solve the mystery before Sakharine can reach the treasure first.

 

What a vast improvement from Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. This is what the last Indy film should have been, a rollicking humorous rollercoaster ride with stunning set pieces. Not only that but it also feels like an Indy movie with several references to the archaeologists previous installments.

 

Spielberg also appears to be giving nods to his other movies from a Jaws gag to the Catch Me If You Can style credit sequence. This is a clearly a rejuvenated director who is showing that he is still as creative as he was in the 80’s.

 

The plot is based on various elements from Belgian artist Herge’s famous Tintin graphic novels, The Secret of the Unicorn, The Crab With the Golden Claws and a Red Rackham’s Treasure. The screenplay by Moffat, Wright and Cornish is humorous and inventive, but some fans of the comic strip maybe upset that they have taken a few liberties with some areas. At times it can be a little confusing to follow especially during the action scenes.

 

Performance wise, Jamie Bell makes the usually dull central character pretty interesting. Andy Serkis yet again shows he is the king of motion capture performance art with his funny and wacky take on Captain Haddock. While Daniel Craig appears to be having lots of fun in his villainous role of Sakharine. The real star has to be said is Snowy who has the best comic and action orientated moments.

 

Motion capture has always been a fairly lifeless affair in the movies. Robert Zemeckis tried to breathe life into his characters, but they suffered from the infamous dead eyes look. Thankfully Spielberg and Weta have resolved this problem with characters that show more emotion than Harrison Ford and Shia LaBeouf did throughout Indy 4. There are moments that the animation is so convincing that it is easy to forget that the movie is an animated film.

 

Herge had always maintained that Steven Spielberg was the only director capable of making a successful adaptation of his work. It appears that he was right, as the end result is a charming, fun old-fashioned action adventure. Peter Jackson has a lot to live up to for the planned sequel.


Reviewed by Paul Logan 

You Instead **

 

Running time: 80 mins  Certificate: 15

Synopsis: Two feuding Indie rock stars Adam (Treadaway) and Morello (Tena) get handcuffed together for 24 hours at a music festival where they are both due to perform.

 

It must of seemed like a good idea at the time. Basically to make a movie based around one of the most popular past times over the Summer months, going to a music festival. But the film is more damp than a Glastonbury farmer’s field.

 

The basic premise is intriguing enough and could have been quite interesting. But the filmmaker’s really don’t really know what the movie is supposed to be. Is it a Woodstock style documentary revolving around Scotland’s T in the Park festival or is a romantic comedy. There is more stock footage showing bands and audiences than anything else. This could be the reason why the script is so underdeveloped.

 

Apart from the two leads, the secondary characters are more like scenery than drive the plot forward. Although the boy group The Make’s manager Bobby played by Still Game’s Gavin Mitchell, is probably the most fleshed out character here. He is also the most amusing and entertaining.  While Horrible Histories’ Mathew Baynton tries hard to make something interesting with his role as Tyco, but the material lets him down. The leads are a mixed bag of talent with only Harry Potter’s Natalia Tena giving a memorable performance, while her co-star Luke Treadaway has one of the most uncovincing American accents in the past year.

 

Even the music is pretty forgettable, but quite well performed. The decision to make the sound of both bands to be 80’s influenced seems like a strange decision. Surely having different styles of music would bring more tension to the complicated relationship between the two rock stars. It all seems dated as reinassiance in 80’s style music happened several years ago with Franz Ferdinand and the Kaiser Chiefs.

 

Sigma films usually make unusual intersesting choices in what they bring to the screen, but unfortunately this is not one of them. No plot, underdeveloped boring characters and a predicatable romance. Not even the music will help you remember this film. 


Reviewed by Paul Logan 

News Reel (W/e 18th September 2011)

 

Tony Scott’s Top Gun is being converted to 3-D.

 

Ghostbusters will be back in cinemas this Halloween!

 

28 Days Later’s Juan Carlos Fresnadillo will direct the Highlander reboot.

 

Alcon Entertainment has announced plans to remake Kathryn Bigelow’s Point Break.

 

Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Michael Gambon, Billy Connolly & Pauline Collins to star in Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut, Quartet.

 

Jason Bateman reveals that the Arrested Development movie is “on course to be shot next year” & will be filled with celebrity cameos.

 

Tokyo film critic Chris Fujiwara has been appointed as the new artistic director of the Edinburgh International Film Festival.

 

Van Damme & Chuck Norris join the cast of The Expendibles 2.

 

Hugh Grant joins Tom Hanks for the David Mitchell novel adaptation Cloud Atlas.

 

Kevin Costner drops out of Quentin Tarantino’s next, Django Unchained, due to scheduling conflicts.