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Rango ****


Running time: 107 mins  Certificate: PG

Synopsis: A pet lizard (Johnny Depp) falls out of a car in the desert, and becomes a sheriff in the town of Dirt. Dirt’s water-supply is controlled by a turtle mayor (Ned Beatty) and his gang. Rango must uncover the conspiracy, before the community will be destroyed forever.

 

Gore Verbinski has re-teamed with his old Pirate pal to make a CGI animated movie like no other. But unlike previous efforts this is definitely more aimed at an adult audience. In fact it could easily be described as Pixar on acid.

The animation developed and brought to life by effects house ILM is absolutely breathtaking. They have even managed to bring on veteran cinematographer Roger Deakins as a consultant for the lighting. 

The composition is made up from motion capture performances by the actors. It is quite ironic that after years of Depp giving chameleon like turns, he actually gets to become one. This may also be his best performance in years giving lots of emotion and expression to a rather odd looking character.

The story appears to have been lifted from the classic movie Chinatown. Even the mayor character is a deliberate reference to John Huston’s character in the same picture.

The film is full of film references mainly old Western movies. The Spirt of the West is clearly Clint Eastwood in The Man With N Name role, while Bill Nighy’s villain Rattlesnake Jake is based on a mixture of Lee Van Cleef and Jack Palance.  Even Raoul Duke and Dr Gonzo make an appearance are the start. 

Mix all these ingredients with a soundtrack by Hans Zimmer and Los Lobos and the end result is one of the best CGI animated films ever made. While the story may not be original, the look of the characters and the overall visual images make this something very special.

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan

True Grit *****

Running time: 110 mins  Certificate: 15

Synopsis: After a hired hand Tom Chaney (Brolin) kills her father and flees, 14 year-old Mattie Ross (Steinfeld) hires a one-eyed, tough, heavy-drinking U.S. Marshall, Reuben J. ˜Rooster” Cogburn (Bridges). They are joined by La Boeuf (Damon), a Texas Ranger on their manhunt.

 

When the Coen Bros. announced that they would be tackling another remake, there was a fear that the end result would turn out to be another Ladykillers. By attempting something that is widely regarded, it was a big gamble. But thankfully it has paid off in many ways.

John Wayne’s memorable performance of Rooster was always going to be intimidating for any actor to try to live up to. But Bridges has made the role his own, even giving more expression to what was let’s be honest a one dimensional performance from the Duke himself. 

Damon also excels, but this would not be hard given his role was last performed by the wooden Country singer, Glen Campbell. While Hailey Steinfeld is just astonishing, it is hard to think not only that it is her movie debut, but that she is only fourteen years old. The supporting roles from the fantastic Josh Brolin and Barry Pepper should also be mentioned as the main villains of the film.

The scenery is breathtakingly shot by Roger Deakins who blends the landscapes with a mixture of blacks, browns and greens, very little colour is presented. While Carter Burwell’s gospel influenced soundtrack will keep audiences tapping their feet throughout.

The script is witty, dramatic, powerful and oozes with delicious dialogue that only the auteurs can write. 

The Coens’ have done it again with another masterpiece. In fact they may have outdone themselves this time. By sticking with Charles Portis’, they have made a remake that is far superior to the original in every way. This is as close any cinemagoer can wish for in terms of perfection.

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan

Neds ****

Running time: 124 mins  Certificate: 18

Synopsis: A clever Glaswegian teenager John (Conor McCarron) has to grows up in the shadow of his thug of an older brother and an alcoholic father. It is not long before he swaps the classroom for violent streets of the city.

It has been a long time since Peter Mullan made the gripping Magdalene Sisters and his latest effort does not disappoint.

The Scottish director turned star has made a gripping, tense dramatic piece, that is far more violent than his previous film or Orphans. It captures the setting of the 70’s perfectly, with bright colours, bold fashions and Glam Rock. But it is in the acting the film really excels.

Everyone in the film is exceptional, impressive since most of the actors are amateurs and have never even been in front of a camera. It is raw naturalistic acting at it’s finest. Everyone plays their part and is equally memorable. McCarron’s powerful portrayal of a teenager who has lost his way is one of the best debut performances in recent years.

The suffers a little due to it’s length, the ending especially feels like a last minute decision made by the director even although it is an intriguing way to finish a film.

In a perfect world, it would be this British effort that would be sweeping the award ceremonies instead of a damp Royal effort. Hopefully in time, this will become more praised. 

Reviewed by Paul Logan

Black Swan *****

Running time: 100 mins  Certificate: 15

Synopsis: A fragile ballet dancer Nina (Portman) is promoted to central role in Swan Lake. Her director Thomas (Cassel), urges her to explore her dark side so that she can better embody the dual role of the Swan Queen and the Black Swan. This along with a new arrival appearing at the company, Lily (Kunis), pushes Nina towards breaking point.

 

Darren Aronofsky over the years has been making films all about the human psyche. Whether it has been in the dull Pi, the intriguing Requiem for a Drea, the over-bloated The Fountain or the overrated The Wrestler. But now the auteur has made his masterpiece. But a word of warning this movie is not for the faint hearted.

He has been clearly influenced by the works of DePalma, Cronenberg and Polanski. In fact the best way to describe the movie is if Dario Argento were to remake The Red Shoes this would possibly be would audiences would encounter. A mixture of body horror, suspenseful scares and artistic dancing.

The story revolves very much like the film’s palette, which is kept to blacks and whites with very little colour shown throughout. The plot goes through the familiar structures of black versus white or good versus evil.

The cast is extraordinary with Portman in particular in true form. She not only makes a believable dancer ( in both ballet and looks), but also gives a multi layer performance which hinders from vulnerability to dominance with the viewer never knowing which version of Nina is going to appear next. Barbara Hershey’s mother is absolutely terrifying, while Cassel and Kunis are given light hearted moments within the story.

The only piece of the puzzle that slightly lets down the whole drama is Winona Ryder who seems to be overacting like a pantomime dame in her role as the jilted  retired dancer.

While the film is absurd, over the top and lacks originality, it is incredibly enjoyable. The movie is also one that will attack every one of the viewer’s senses. In some essence it is an indescribable cinematic experience.

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan

The King’s Speech ***

Running time: 118 mins  Certificate: 12A

Synopsis: Prince George (Firth), known as Bertie trust overcome his stammer, when his brother abdicates the throne and war looms. He reluctantly turns to Aussie speech therapist Lionel Logue (Rush), whose methods are unconventional.

 

After much hype and glowing reviews the biggest question is, does it live up to the hype. Unfortunately the answer is a resounding no. While there is some things that work very well within the piece. THe film suffers from the same problems that made The Queen a dull run of the mill biopic.

The performances are good, but not outstanding, Colin Firth who seems to be a shoe in for the Best Actor Oscar gives a sympathetic performance, although he appears to have copied Michael Palin’s role in A Fish Called Wanda. Bonham Carter tries her best with what has been given to her. While Geoffrey Rush is the best thing in this film. He is given the best funny lines and makes more of a screen impact than Firth. If there were any justice he would be the one winning the Oscar.

The script is comprised of two way conversations and mini scenes that are linked together. If the film were thirty minutes shorter this may have been a powerful drama. But it feels like something that would have worked better on stage rather than in the cinema.

If it were not for Rush this would be an average TV movie of the week, instead of a good TV movie of the week.

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan