Results for category "Film Reviews"

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

Alien Covenant ***

Running time: 123 mins Cert: 15

Synopsis: On the other side of the galaxy, members (Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup) of the colony ship Covenant discover what they think to be an uncharted paradise. While there, they meet David (Michael Fassbender), the synthetic survivor of the doomed Prometheus expedition. The mysterious world soon turns dark and dangerous when a hostile alien life-form forces the crew into a deadly fight for survival.

After the underrated “Prometheus.”  Ridley Scott’s returns to the science fiction series he established nearly 40 years ago. The auteur continues to explore the themes of creativity and faith while asking at what point does the creation because me the creator.
Screenwriters John Logan and Dante Harper, story mainly focuses on the relationship of the two android characters (Michael Fassbender). The tense scenes between the two animatronic brothersare gripping and well executed. While the character of Daniels gives more dimension to the tae. Waterson carrying forward the lone female protagonist Daniels, that Weaver accomplished just around 4 decades ago.

As with the most of the Alien franchise, the script falters with the secondary characters apart from Danny McBride who is memorable role as the caring pilot Tennessee, shows McBride is not just a comedic actor, but gives some emotional scenes which is needed along with gory excessive horror. Unfortunately the film has pacing issues with a much more interesting 3rd act that should have encompassed more of the film and increased the scare factor.

Not to mention 2 of the most shortest pointless cameos in living memory as well as being similar to the last film, the characters really do make some stupid decision so.

As anyone would excepted from Scott, the look of the film is stunning and new Alien creatures are impressive and fairly scary. 

Not a total disaster by any means, but with the talent on offer this should have been one of the best of the series. But look on the good side it is no Resurrection.
Reviewed by Paul Logan

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 ****

Running time 138 mins Cert: 12A

Synopsis: The Guardians must fight to keep their newfound family together as they unravel the mystery of  who Peter Quill’s (Pratt) true father is.

For many filmgoers, the first Guardians of the Galaxy was a total surprise. They were weird and the characters involved a talking raccoon and tree. How could this possibly work? 

Thanks to James Gunn’s fun packed script and toe tapping music, it would become one of Marvel’s best movies. Although not as good, vol 2 is a lot of fun and uses many of the elements which worked before including another cracking 70/80’s soundtrack.

Gunn has chosen one of the oddest, but interesting character in Peter Quill’s (aka Star-Lord aka Chris Pratt) long-lost father, Ego the Living Planet (played by the mighty Kurt Russell). Russell is obviously enjoying himself and brings an energic and charismatic performance to a complex character. Another character added to the mix is the nervous Mantis (played by  Old Boy’s Pom Klementieff) who provides many of the laughs when she is onscreen with Drax (Baurista).

It’s also refreshing to see that while the returning cast brings the biggest emotional punches, those hits don’t all come from the main Guardians crew. In fact, former villians Yondu (Michael Rooker) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) have the most dramatic arcs, with the former leaning in hard on the underlying father/son dynamic he had with Quill in the first film, and the latter finally revealing the source of all her angst and anger toward her sister Gamora (Zoe Saldana). Yondu, it could be argued, is the beating heart of Vol. 2. 

Where it falters is the usual development of the villian and at no time do you sense that the gang are in any peril. The element of surprise has come and gone by this sequel is a roller coaster blockbuster of fun.
Reviewed by Paul Logan

Beauty and the Beast ****


Run time: 129 mins

Cert: PG

Summary: In the live action remake of Disney’s 1991 classic, Belle (Emma Watson) finds herself in a castle owned by a mysterious beast (Dan Stevens) and his unique staff. 

The movie begins in a remote village in France, where Belle (Emma Watson) is somewhat bored with her life and dreams of something bigger while warding off the attention of local ladies’ man Gaston (Luke Evans). When her father goes missing, her journey to find him changes her path completely and leads her to the Beast (Dan Stevens) and his castle filled with unusual objects. 

The story is similar to that of the original movie but elements such as Belle and her father Maurice’s (Kevin Kline) backstory and early life of the Beast are fleshed out more, both of which are interesting additions that hold the audience’s attention. 

While Emma Watson may not have been the first actress that sprung to the viewer’s mind to play the lead female, she plays the part well and performs the songs with a singing voice that does them justice. Dan Stevens is unrecognisable behind the effects that transform him into the Beast and is enjoyable to watch while the supporting cast has a wide range of performances from Kevin Kline’s deep portrayal of Maurice to Ewan McGregor’s comic but cringeworthy one as Lumiere. 

The soundtrack adds new songs whilst incorporating new versions of those that were featured in the animated version. Both the musical elements and performances by the cast are enjoyable and fit well with the scenes they feature in. In particular both versions of the title track, one of which is performed by Emma Thompson in her role as Mrs Potts and the other by John Legend and Ariana Grande are excellent pieces of music. 

As a remake of a Disney animated classic that won six Oscars, this movie has a lot to live up to. However it does this very well with its casting, a story that has some minor changes but remains true to the original and a good soundtrack.

Reviewed by Paul Logan

The Lego Batman Movie ****

Running time 104 mins Cert: PG



Synopsis: A spinoff of The LEGO Movie which focuses on Batman (Arnett). In order to stop the Joker (Galifianakis) from taking over Gotham City, the Caped Crusader may have to learn how to give being a loner and recruit the help of an orphan boy, Robin (Cera) and the new Commissioner (Dawson).



Warner Bros have decided to follow the success with not a sequel (however that is coming a few years time), but with a spin off revolving around the Caped Crusader.
The Lego Movie left a high watermark, but this spinoff thankfully does delivers on laughs through endless pop culture references and a irrelevant comedy style in the spirit of ‘Airplane’. 

Director Chris McKay has plenty of experience having previously made episodes of Robot Chicken. However the film runs into serious pacing issues and overloading the film with too many characters.

The screenplay was written by five different writers (Seth Grahame-Smith, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Jared Stern, and John Whittington) no wonder the script has suffered a bit from it. However there is a significant amount of character development between Batman and The Joker. But concentrating on these two, makes the other characters more one dimensional and with every new character from a different franchise showing up it becomes increasingly hard to focus on any of the other supporting acts.

The makers of this animated feature have surrounded themselves with a wealth of voice talent. Will Arnett uses a deep husky voice with his subtle, sarcastic lines of dialogue. While ‘The Hangover’s Zach Galifianakis. Gives a more vulnerable portrayal of The Joker rather than the usual persona of a narcissistic psychopath, but while still being silly and funny at the same time.

The soundtrack offers a range of classic tracks and new material. However “Who’s The (Bat)Man” composed and performed by Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump is good, but not nearly as memorable as the previous movies “Everything is Awesome!”.

At times the whole piece tips towards being an overcooked animated mess, but for the most part it is a highly surreal, funny and entertaining ride.

Reviewed by Paul Logan

T2 Trainspotting *****


Running time 117 mins Cert: 18

Synopsis: First there was an opportunity……then there was a betrayal. Twenty years have gone by. Much has changed but just as much remains the same. Mark Renton (McGregor) returns to the only place he can ever call home.They are waiting for him: Spud (Bremner), Sick Boy (Miller) Begbie Carlyle). Other old friends are waiting too: sorrow, loss, joy, vengeance, hatred, friendship, love, longing, fear, regret, diamorphine, self-destruction and mortal danger, they are all lined up to welcome him, ready to join the dance.
Almost 21 years since the release of the original made such an impact, there some  fearful in-trepidation whether the cast and crew could pull off a worthy sequel. The answer is thankfully a big Yes.

Screenwriter John Hodge  and Director Danny Boyle have made a great decision not not make the second film more of the same, but make the sequel a contained story that reminisces the first film. The are new scenarios which have glimpses of the past within images or even just through the music.

The central theme is one of regret within the script which partially based on Irvine Welsh’s sequel ‘Porno’ and also has elements from the ‘Trainspotting’novel itself. Each character no better off since Renton left them with the money.

Sickboy has lost the lust of life and adventurous spirit he always had, becoming a bitter and cynical middle aged man. Renton has self loathing and even has a new version of the Choose Life speech which is more powerful this time around. While Spud is still a junkie, he has lost his family, his home and what was left of his self respect. While Begbie has been locked up for killing a man and has not changed at all in all those years.

The film has more drama, but still has comedic elements which mostly revolve around Spud and Begbie. But Sickboy and Renton do have the best scene in the film revolving around the year 1690, which is hilarious. While the plot of the friends helping to assist Sick Boy with his new business venture in a Sauna is not as developed as it could be.

All the main cast provide the same great performances. Other characters from the original including James Cosmo, Shirley Henderson and Kelly MacDonald also return, but have very limited screen time. While this may seem to be pointless and bring no benefit to the story, they do serve purpose within the narrative.

Danny Boyle yet again provides bold and energetic direction inspired by the auteur Nic Roeg, by using all sorts of camera tricks which merge this new film with scenes from the original.

Even the soundtrack mixes the old with the new. In the present the sounds include Mercury-winning Edinburgh alt hip-hop trio Young Fathers, Brixton  rockers Fat White Family, alternative indie Londoners Wolf Alice and the funny demented Irish rappers Rubberbandits. While classic songs are provided by Blondie, Queen and Run DMC. Iggy Pop’s ‘Lust for Life’ makes a welcome return in the form of a Prodigy remix and Underworld’s make an alternative version of their hit song with ‘Slow Slippy’.

Not quite as dark or as funny as the original, but as sequels go this a welcome success and almost as good as the first. A bit long and sentimental at times. Nevertheless it is funny and entertaining. 

Reviewed by Paul Logan

The Accountant **

Running time 127 mins Cert: 15

Synopsis: Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) is a mathematics savant with more affinity for numbers than people. Using a small-town CPA office as a cover, he makes his living as a freelance accountant for dangerous criminal organizations. With a Treasury agent (J.K. Simmons) hot on his heels, Christian takes on a state-of-the-art robotics company as a legitimate client. As Wolff gets closer to the truth about a discrepancy that involves millions of dollars, the body count starts to rise.
 

The Blacklisted script by Bill Dubuque who wrote the equally frustrating “The Judge’ has produced a story with some intriguing themes, but ends up with a silly plot that tries to make Autism simplistic. The writer keeps on making comparisons with the disability as some sort of wondrous superpower, When the story works it is usually with the intriguing flashbacks of Christian’s childhood.
 

Affleck does what he can to make the character sympathetic, but the script does not make the character likeable. The scenes where he nervously interacts with Anna Kendrick are nicely realised with the charming actress bringing some much needed humour to the scenes. The cast is complted by a range of actors J K Simmons,John Lithgow and Jeffrey Tambor, but even these great performers have very little to do.

An interesting premise with a great cast and a worthy director, however something is wrong with this figures.

Reviewed by Paul Logan

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children ****

Running time 124mins Cert: 12A

 

Synopsis:When his beloved grandfather leaves Jake (Asa Butterfield) lues to a mystery that spans different worlds and times, he finds a magical place known as Miss Peregrine’s School for Peculiar Children. But the mystery and danger deepen as he gets to know the residents and learns about their special powers – and their terrifying enemies. Ultimately, Jake discovers that only his own special peculiarity can save his new friends.

 Based on the book series by Ransom Riggs, Director Tim Burton tries his hand at the Young Adult adaptation.

The material appears to be ideal to the auteur’s sensiblities with a blended mixture of emotional drama and eccentric horror. He brings his unique visual and quirky performance lead style to make probably the best film he has done since the underrated ‘Sweeney Todd’.

Even although Butterfield is the main protagonist and gives a highly likable performance, it is really, Eva Green who is the scene-stealer as the mysterious, Mary Poppin’s inspired Miss Peregrine. The thought of Sam Jackson in a tim Burton movie seems like an odd concotion, however he makes a hilarious and delightfully creepy villian, in which he appears to be physically chewing the scenary in every sequance.
The supporting cast of peculiars, however apart from Emma Bloom (Ella Purnell), a teenage girl who defies gravity and wears metal shoes in order to stop floating away) are not as established as the rest of the characters. Some of these characters are more visually striking in concept than others.The little screen time that they have makes the audience have less empathy.

The script by ‘Kickass’ screenwriter Jane Goldman is a faithful adaptation apart from the final act in which things  go a little crazy, but make for a fun  climatic act set in the picturesque and exciting destination of Blackpool. It has to be seen to be believed.

It isn’t Burton’s most ambitious or rousing work to date but it is great to see the director back to his darkly comic roots.
Reviewed by Paul Logan