Results for category "Film Reviews"

Star Trek Into Darkness ****

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Run time: 131 mins Cert: 12A

 

Synopsis: Starfleet is under attack from vengeful terrorist John Harrison (Cumberbatch). James T. Kirk (Pine) must find and apprehend the criminal, before it is too late.

 

Director J.J. Abrams returns to the Captain’s chair of a franchise that was reinvigorated the last time he was at the helm.

 

For the first film Abrams not only made one of the best Trek movies in years, but he also made the series more interesting to non Trekkies too.

 

In this follow up, the overall tone is darker with some more comedic moments than the first film.

 

Without the weight of establishing how these characters met and their individual timelines, the filmmakers have concentrated more on exploring the actual dynamics of Spock and Kirk’s relationship. While ramping up the relentless action sequences.

 

This is a minor complaint about the overall structure of the plot. In that with so much going on within the set pieces, it feels like there is too much to focus on at one time. An over sensory meltdown of never ending battles.
On the other hand it never feels long and extremely fun.

 

The returning cast work extremely well together. Chris Pine gives Shatner a run for his money, while Zachary Quinto was born to play Spock. Simon Pegg’s Scotty has more screen time and also some of the best lines.

 

The biggest improvement has been with the villain of the movie. In the first film the character of Nero felt weak and underdeveloped. The same cannot be said of John Harrison. This character is complex and calculating.

 

Benedict Cumberbatch underplays Harrison which gives the character a sense of mystery which is essential for a plot full of twists. He has the larger-than-life presence to play the foreboding enemy that Kirk needs.

 

The writers have stuck closely to the original television and film series with this story. Towards the end of does feel like a bit of a parody of those versions.

 

Nevertheless most audiences will be enthralled with this latest entry of the the series. This film shows that J.J. Abrams is a fantastic choice for the next episode of the Star Wars franchise.

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan

Iron Man 3 *****

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Run time: 130 mins Cert: 12A

 

Synopsis: Tony Stark (Downey Jnr.) finds his personal world destroyed by a new enemy called The Mandarin (Kingsley). A global terrorist who will stop at nothing to achieve world domination. Tony is left to survive by his own devices, relying on his ingenuity and instincts to protect those closest to him.

 

Mismatched buddies, snow, bromance and Christmas, it must be another movie from writer/ director Shane Black. After making his debut feature with the clever Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang, Black has decided to enter the world of superheroes as his follow up feature.

 

No mean feat, since Iron Man 2 was a complete train wreck with too many villains and dull set pieces. Thankfully the bad guys are anything but dull. While the action scenes maybe over the top, but they are exciting and fun at the same time.

 

The two villains in this instalment are Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) and The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley). Killian appears to be a rather one dimensional character, but Pearce plays the part with relish making this slimy, crazy baddie memorable.

 

With The Mandarin, Black has decided to go with an alternative version compared to the source material. In the comic books, the character is a kind of Ming the Merciless figure. Now he is a terrorist leader trying to bring terror to the west. Which works better for the film and with one great twist. Kingsley completely hams it up to the max in his performance.

 

In regards to the other characters, Pepper Potts (Gywneth Paltrow) is given more to do and even wears the Iron suit. Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) is given some of the funniest material. While Rhodes (Don Cheadle) and Stark have more time to bond in a Lethal Weapon style relationship. Which is funny considering that film was Black’s first screenplay. Stark is more reserved in this film at the start, but this does not stop Robert Downey Jnr’s slick trademark wisecracks.

 

The actual plot flows between the general comic arc to a spy influenced narrative, which gives the movie a unusual but unique take on the genre. It takes elements from the Extremis comic-book storyline. There are more humour and twists compared to the previous sequel.

 

A much better movie than the previous film and a better script than last year’s The Avengers. If rumours are true and this is Downey Jnr’s last Iron Man film, then he has gone out in style. Stay till the end of the credits for an amusing scene that Marvel fans will get a kick out of.

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan

21 Days: The Heineken Kidnapping (De Heineken ontvoering): ***

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Run Time: 127 mins. Cert: 15

 

Synopsis: A group of young men decide to kidnap lager mogul Freddy Heineken, will they get away with the one of the most daring crimes in Dutch history?

 

Rutger Hauer returns with his first Dutch Language film in many years. The movie is loosely based on an incident in Holland in 1983, when a local beer magnate was kidnapped from outside his home and held in a small cell.

 

Rem (Reinout Scholten van Aschat) is a small time street thug looking for an easy way out of poverty. When he overhears his brother-in-law Cor (Gijs Naber) plotting a kidnapping, Rem suggests that their target should be the multi-millionaire brewery president Freddy Heineken. It is not just the businessman’s wealth that attracts Rem to this plan. He also blames him for his father’s failing health due to alcoholism after being fired as a Heineken salesman.

 

Heineken is only released 21 days later after the ransom has finally been paid. With the police closing in only Rem and Cor manage to flee to France. Freddy Heineken begins his own quest for revenge, but will he be able to negotiate with the legal authorities for extradition?

 

The narrative is split into two sections, the first half being Rem’s story and the second act is all about Heineken’s anger and what affect this has on his life. But despite a well balanced idea, there is a distinct lack of any character development apart from the protagonist who we learn more about as the story goes on. Apart from a few personal moments with Rem’s family, there is very little known about the kidnapper’s themselves. In fact the kidnapping occurs within the first twenty minutes of the film.

 

There is also too much going on within the piece, with little or no information about the plans. The ransom just seems to happen, nothing is seen from the Heineken family’s point of view or of the actual negotiation. Even the final confrontation is a bit underwhelming, which leaves no resolution for either character.

 

Hauer as always does not disappoint with an emotional and complex portrayal of a man who struggles to understand what has happened to him, but realises what kind of person he has been to the people around him. The character is almost in tone with Ebenezer Scrooge. While Scholten van Aschat brings intensity to his performance, but unfortunately there is no sympathy for his character even with the back story about his father.

 

An interesting kidnapping drama that feels a little rushed even at two hours, but there is enough to keep audiences entertained.

Reviewed by Paul Logan

Spring Breakers ****

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Run Time: 93 mins. Cert: 18

Synopsis: Directed by Harmony Korine, “Spring Breakers” tells the story of four college age girls who go to Florida over Spring Break and find themselves involved in various crimes.

 

The movie begins when friends Faith (Selena Gomez), Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Brit (Ashley Benson) and Cotty (Rachel Korine) take extreme measures in order to raise money for their Spring Break to Florida. Having succeeded without being caught, the girls head to Florida where they get involved in a party lifestyle and meet rapper and local criminal Alien (James Franco).

 

The film is completely different to what the viewer would expect from its trailer. While the trailer gives the impression “Spring Breakers” will be a rather cheesy movie with young women in bikinis, the actual film goes a lot deeper and is a truly messed up art house movie.

 

The story is entertaining and has a number of twists. While it could easily have been predictable, the final outcome is surprising and leaves the audience wondering happened next. Having planned a wild and carefree holiday, the girls find themselves in situations they never expected.

 

James Franco gives a great performance in the movie. The way in which Alien dresses and talks makes the actor almost unrecognisable and shows how versatile he is. The girls also give good performances with Selena Gomez as innocent, churchgoing Faith and the Hudgens, Benson and Korine as three rebellious young women who will go to great lengths to enjoy life while not thinking of the consequences.

 

The soundtrack includes dance music, rap and a rather eery version of Britney Spears’ “Every Time”. After seeing the scene in which the song is performed, the audience is unlikely to view it in the same way. Along with the rest of the soundtrack, this works well with the film.

 

Overall, “Spring Breakers” is interesting and entertaining. For those who like art house films with a messed up side, the movie is a must see.

Reviewed by Lesley Logan

The Place Beyond The Pines *****

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Run time: 141 mins Cert: 15

 

Synopsis: A Sideshow stunt rider Luke (Gosling) meets Romina (Mendes), who he discovers is now mother to a son he never knew he had. Luke decides the quickest way to provide for his son is to become a bank robber.

 

Director Derek Cianfrance reunites with Ryan Gosling after his stunning romantic feature, Blue Valentine.

 

This time Cianfrance focuses on father issues and breaking up of families in this slow paced film that follows different characters in each of the three acts in the film.

 

The first act follows Gosling’s character from discovering that he is a father to planning bank robberies in order to provide for him. The second involves Bradley Cooper’s heroic cop who is caught in the middle of a situation when he discovers that his colleagues are corrupt. The final part goes full circle when Cooper’s son meets Gosling’s kid.

 

An intricate and ambitious piece of cinema, which over a 17 year period brings together two different social generations into one movie. The narrative goes between a traditional American epic drama and a Greek tragedy.

 

The first two acts are believable and realistic in tone. In the third act the story descends into a path, which involves the audience taking a step back and believing in the coincidence of these two characters meeting. The final stage almost has a dreamlike quality to the drama.

 

Storytelling is enhanced by a variety of performances from a talented cast. Gosling gives a mesmerising turn playing a complex moody individual, by using looks rather than aggressive actions.

 

Cooper is also memorable as a man caught between ethics and loyalty. The two leads are supported by a great cast including Ray Liotta, Eva Mendes and Rose Byrne.

 

A haunting, memorable beautifully made piece of cinema, but feels slightly flawed and strained towards the finale. However the film will leave a lasting impression on the audience.

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan

Trance ****

 

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Run Time: 101 mins                   Cert:15

 

Synopsis: In Danny Boyle’s latest movie, art gallery worker Simon (James McAvoy) is unsure of the whereabouts of a painting when he wakes up from a coma. With the help of hypnotist Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson), he realises there is more to his story than he ever knew.

 

At the beginning of the movie, the audience is shown an art gallery and are introduced to its procedures for stolen paintings by auctioneer Simon (James McAvoy). Following this, a painting is stolen and Simon ends up in a coma while apparently trying to rescue to the painting. On waking from the coma, Simon is pursued by gangster Frank (Vincent Cassel) and his henchmen demanding he tell them where the painting is. Unable to recall events due to the head injury, Simon seeks out hypnotherapist Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson) to help him remember.

 

In terms of story, Trance keeps viewers guessing throughout the film. Every time the audience think they have it figured out, the writers surprise them with another twist. At first each of the characters seem to have a clear role in the story but as things progress, the audience begin to question each person’s involvement. Due to Simon’s (McAvoy) amnesia the events prior to the beginning of the movie are unclear and are shown in an illogical order as he starts to remember them.

 

The way in which Simon’s memories return means the story is not told in chronological order, giving Trance a similar feel to Christopher Nolan’s thriller Memento. The films also explores the use of hypnosis to play tricks on the mind and leaves the audience questioning whether Simon’s memories are real or false ones resulting from the therapy.

 

James McAvoy gives a great performance as a confused man who is suffering from amnesia. Throughout the film, he remembers different parts of his life but struggles to piece them together. It’s not until the end scene that both he and the audience know the truth about events leading up to his head injury. Vincent Cassel also gives an enjoyable performance as Frank, the ringleader of Simon and the others. Despite being powerful and intimidating, he appears to care about Elizabeth and shows a softer side. Rosario Dawson is mysterious and intriguing as hypnotherapist Elizabeth. From the outset the audience can see there’s more to her than meets the eye but the twists and turns mean they spend the entire movie trying to figure it out.

 

Overall, Trance is a well written movie with superb twists and well developed characters. For those who love a good thriller that messes with the mind it is a must see.

 

Reviewed by Lesley Logan

Identity Thief **

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Run time: 111 mins Cert: 15

 

Synopsis: Con woman Diana (McCarthy) is living it up in Florida, using the identity of a timid Denver businessman Sandy Patterson. (Bateman). When he discovers what she’s done, he has to drive down to the Sunshine State to find her and stop her.

 

Over the years there have been several buddy movies involving criminals assisting their pursers, with Bulletproof and the classic Midnight Run coming to mind for this genre. This time Horrible Bosses’ Seth Gordon brings a film uniting two of the most funny current comedic actors at the moment.

 

Unfortunately this dream team brings the chemistry but sadly lacks the spark that this movie promises.

 

Both Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy work perfectly together. They have both proven their worth with Arrested Development and Bridesmaids. Even their characters are the perfect balance of straight versus crazy personalities.

 

The plot is also well structured. Where the film falls apart is that for a comedy it is sadly lacking in laughs. Both actors try and make the best with the material, but the lines and the actions are just simply not funny.

 

Normally in these types of films, the audience would normally feel sympathy for the antagonist, but McCarthy’s character comes across as a vicious bully with no sense of remorse.

 

This comedy could have been the best film of the genre since Bridesmaids, sadly the makers forgot if needs to be funny.

Reviewed by Paul Logan

The Guilt Trip **

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Run time: 95 mins                Cert: 12A

 

Synopsis: Organic chemist Andy (Seth Rogen) goes on a tour to promote his new product and is joined by his irritating widowed mother Joyce (Barbra Streisand). 

 

The film begins with chemist Andy (Seth Rogen) flying from California back to the East Coast to visit his mother Joyce (Barbra Streisand). The visit is only supposed to be a short one prior to embarking on sales pitches throughout the USA, however on hearing his mother has “unfinished business” on the West Coast, he invites her along on his road trip. Having been widowed when Andy was in his early teens, Joyce is a woman who spends most of her time alone and scoffs at the idea of relationships due to being set in her ways. The two clash before they even make the road trip and the viewer has to wonder what will happen when this pair are in the confined space of a car for several days.

 

Despite being a comedy, the film is seriously short of laughs. The jokes are very weak and attempts to get a laugh from the audience result in virtually no reaction. Even scenes which the viewer feels should be funny are cringe worthy and disappointing. While all parents have the potential to be both comic and embarrassing, the conversations between the mother and son seem unrealistic and the dialogue seems forced. At times it feels like the writer has tried too hard to make the film funny while not putting much effort into the story and characters.

 

The two lead actors are watchable but not great. While Seth Rogen tries to be funny as Andy, it doesn’t really work and his performance is substandard compared to previous roles. The character lacks depth and seems like a cardboard cut out. Barbra Streisand succeeds in playing the annoying mother role but lacks humour and gives a very average performance. Joyce (Streisand) also comes out with some rather ludicrous statements, particularly the reasons why she hasn’t pursued a relationship. The supporting cast are insignificant and easily forgotten.

 

Overall, The Guilt Trip is a disappointing and unfunny movie. There are no particularly memorable moments in the whole 95 minutes and members of the audience who took another person to see it may end up getting a guilt trip themselves for choosing it.

 

Reviewed by Lesley Logan

The Croods ***

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Running Time: 98 Mins Cert: U

Synopsis: Caveman Grug (Cave) is obsessed with keeping his family safe especially his daughter (Stone). But when his home is buried during an avalanche, he must guide his family with the help of a stranger (Reynolds) to a new home.

 

Director Chris Saunders has made some of the most memorable animated films in recent times. Both Lilo & Stitch and How To Train Your Dragon captured audiences hearts. Can he do it a third time?

 

Unfortunately this film is not a charm, even though it is perfectly adequate as a piece of entertainment.

 

The bright visuals and colourful characters are letdown by a lacklustre script, which wanders about as aimlessly as the cavemen do. Which is a shame considering it is based on an original premise by Monty Python’s John Cleese.

 

There is no real character development and the journey is predictable. The cast bring life and humour to an unoriginal plot, but Nicolas Cage’s voice just does not go with his character. In fact it is the usual phoned in performance by the crazy haired one.

 

Kids will love the bizarre creatures and the slapstick humour. But this could have been so much better considering the talent involved.

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

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Run Time: 100 mins Cert: 15

 

Synopsis: Burt Wonderstone (Carell) and Anton Marvelton (Buscemi) are successful Las Vegas magicians. When Anton is injured in a performance, Burt see off competition from a street magician called Steve Gray (Carrey) who relies on shock than cheap tricks.

 

There have been a few competing magician movies, notably Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece The Prestige. Now we have a comedy that seems to be having comedians outdoing each other.

 

The film has brought together an impressive cast. Each showing a variety of skills. Jim Carrey is the scene stealer of the piece as a crazy over the top concoction of David Blaine meets Penn and Teller. Steve Buscemi gives an equally memorable performance with some of the best laughs in the film. While Alan Arkin does what he does best with a showboating cameo role as a veteran magician.

 

Unfortunately Steve Carrell disappoints, but this is purely down to the script. The character is just so unlikeable and boring compared to the others. At no point is there any empathy shown towards Burt, even when he turns from being a smug idiot to being a protagonist who has seen the errors of his ways.

 

Audiences will be routing more for the shocking Steve Gray, than the lifeless Burt Wonderstone. The film is fun, but the plot is as predictable as Burt’s tricks.

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan