Results for category "Film Reviews"

Cloud Atlas ****

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Running Time: 172 Mins Cert: 15

Synopsis:

Six stories that connect a distant past to a bleak future. The adventure travels from a 19th-century Pacific island to a pre-War Edinburgh, ’70s San Francisco, present-day Britain, a dystopian Korea and apocalyptic Hawaii.

 

Based on the always thought of as infilmable David Mitchell novel of the same name. The Wachowskis and Run Lola Run director Tom Tykwer have decided to team up to try to make a complex story with many time linked stories entertaining.

 

Putting these visionaries of modern cinema together works extremely well. In that the film has a stunning look and that each of the directors have worked on their strengths. The period pieces being handled by Tykwer, while Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski tackle the more complex futuristic pieces.

 

The actual narrative itself is very complex and initially very confusing. The story strands are mixed together into a never ending concoction events.

 

Chronologically it begins in 1840’s Pacific Islands, where notary Adam Ewing (Sturgess) learns about the cruelty of slavery.

 

In Thirties Britain Ewing’s journals of his voyages inspire composer Robert Frobisher (Whishaw) who struggles with his opus and affections for his mentor Vyvyan Ayrs (Broadbent).

 

While in San Francisco 1973, an investigative journalist Luisa Rey (Berry) reads the letters that Frobisher once wrote to his lover Rufus Sixsmith (James D’Arcy).

 

In London 2012 publisher Timothy Cavendish (Broadbent) is on the run after swindling criminal author Dermot Hoggins (Hanks) out of royalties.

 

The New Seoul of the future, clone Sonmi-451 (Bae Doona) faces execution for her part in a rebellion against an dictatorial regime.

 

While the final tale sees a post-apocalyptic Hawaii tribesman Zachary (Hanks) is visited by Meronym (Halle Berry) who is one of the last survivors of a lost civilisation.

 

The strongest stories are The 1930s strand about a young composer and his less talented employer, the IRobot influenced futuristic Korean tale and a very funny present day story about a crooked publisher confined to an old folks home.

 

Halle Berry and Tom Hanks lead an all star cast in taking on multiple roles with Hugh Grant, Jim Sturgess, Ben Whishaw, Hugo Weaving and Jim Broadbent all appearing in different guises throughout the film.

 

The makeup effects are very hit and miss. At times it seems that the actors are using left over masks from Dick Tracy. This is ashame as the acting from everyone involved is great.

 

Ambitious and breathtakingly beautiful, this is Wachowskis’ best since Bound. Cloud Atlas is overlong and flawed, but never dull. Audiences will be amazed and thrilled by this intelligent adventure epic.

Reviewed by Paul Logan

Side Effects ****

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Run Time: 106 mins            Cert: 15

 

Synopsis: When psychiatrist Dr Jonathan Banks (Jude Law) prescribes an experimental drug to Emily (Rooney Mara) to treat her depression, there are profound consequences for all parties involved.

 

Directed by Steven Soderbergh and said to be his last project, “Side Effects” tells the story of Emily (Rooney Mara), a 28-year-old woman whose husband Martin (Channing Tatum) is released after four years in prison for insider trading. Emily becomes depressed and injures herself, resulting in her being taken to hospital and referred to psychiatrist Dr Jonathan Banks (Jude Law). Having unsuccessful tried several antidepressants, Dr Banks agrees to put Emily on a new drug called Ablixa that has been recommended by her previous psychiatrist Victoria (Catherine Zeta-Jones). At first it seems to have benefits for Emily but side effects soon occur and she kills her husband while sleepwalking. The remainder of the film centres around what really happened and whether Dr Banks is to blame as he prescribed the drug.

 

Thrilling and unpredictable, “Side Effects” keeps the audience in suspense until the very end. To begin with it seems a straightforward story: Emily is struggling with depression and is prepared to try any drug that will fix this so she and Martin can get on with their life. However as the film progresses it becomes clear things are more complicated and the twists lead to a surprise ending.

 

A theme that crops up repeatedly during the film is the extent to which the American health care industry focuses on money. There are scenes in which doctors are shown being offered large sums to try out drugs on their patients and when Emily requests the new drug, she is given it without proper discussion of the medication or its side effects. This leads the viewer to question Dr Banks’ motives: is her wellbeing his priority or is he seeing dollar signs?

 

Effects in the movie are minimal but Soderbergh creates a almost eerie feel by having the main scenes in very intimate settings such as bedrooms, doctors’ offices and a psychiatric hospital. There are times when the viewer will feel like they are literally in the room with the characters.

 

Rooney Mara gives a strong performance as Emily. Her character is portrayed as both the despairing and depressed woman who’s lost her rich lifestyle and the sly and twisted one that has everyone fooled. As the story unfolds, the audience will go from feeling sorry for Emily to questioning her true character. Catherine Zeta-Jones also performs well as psychiatrist Victoria who seems to conveniently “pop up”  at regular intervals and has mannerisms that could make the viewer’s skin crawl.

 

Of all the actors, Jude Law’s performance is probably the weakest. His character doesn’t show much emotion even when it appears he’s lost everything and Law seems rather wooden throughout the film. Despite being written out before the halfway point, Channing Tatum gives a reasonably good performance as Emily’s disgraced but concerned husband Martin. Vinessa Shaw also gives a realistic portrayal Dr Banks’ wife Deirdre, who wants to root for her husband but doesn’t know what to believe.

 

“Side Effects” is entertaining and has all the characteristics of a good psychological thriller. For those who enjoy films that keep them guessing it is a must see.

 

Reviewed by Lesley Logan

Oz The Great And Powerful ****

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Run Time: 130 mins         Cert: PG

 

Synopsis: Directed by Sam Raimi and starring James Franco as the Wizard, the prequel to the 1939 film “The Wizard Of Oz” combines classic Disney with elemnents of horror.

 

Much like the original, “Oz The Great and Powerful” begins in a 4:3 format and in black and white. We are introduced to Oscar Diggs (James Franco), a Kansas magician with ambitions. When the weather turns, Oscar finds himself in a colourful land in which he meets attractive witches Theodora (Mila Kunis) and Evanora (Rachel Weisz) who send him on a mission to destroy their rival.

 

The movie looks magnificent when viewed in 3D IMAX. While the effects used are gimmicky they give the viewer a thrilling experience and there are times when the audience will feel like objects are literally about to hit them. Although there were some copyright issues surrounding the level of resemblance the film could have to the original, the prequel manages to stay true to “The Wizard of Oz” by including familiar landmarks and characters such as the Wizard, Glinda and the Munchkins.

 

The movie could easily have been predictable but the writers have put their own spin on the classic story. There are a number of twists that will keep the audience entertained and aside from a slow period in the middle, the 130 minutes pass quickly with the excitement and effects. There are scenes that will have the entire audience jumping from their seats.

 

In terms of performances, Mila Kunis is the highlight. Her character starts off very naive but throughout the movie develops as she learns more about herself and the world around her. Kunis portrays Theodora’s journey of discovery perfectly and is a joy to watch. This is closely followed by Michelle Williams’ portrayal of white witch Glinda. James Franco is entertaining as the Wizard and works well alongside Williams and Kunis. Oscar Diggs is a balanced mixture of good and bad characteristics which make him seem human.  At first glance he seems too young for the role, but it works because the prequel is set 35 years prior to the original. Of all the actors, Rachel Weisz gives the weakest performance. She appears rather wooden and her character is two-dimensional.

 

Whether you’re a fan of the original, a Disney lover or just want entertainment, “Oz the Great and Powerful” is a must see for the whole family.

 

Reviewed by Lesley Logan

A Good Day To Die Hard **

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Run Time: 97 Mins Cert: 12A

Synopsis:

New York cop John McClane (Willis) goes to Moscow when his son is arrested for murder, only to discover that Jack (Courtney) is actually a CIA agent on an undercover mission. Father and son must put the past behind them in order to stop the bad guys.

 

The franchise leaves the States and goes to Russia with disappointing results.

 

Out of all the directors that were on the short list to helm this film, Fox and Willis decided to choose the worst one John Moore. His direction style consists of a jerky moving camera, endless explosions and noisy action scenes.

 

The next problem is with the script or lack of it. Screenwriter Skip Woods has constructed several action scenes, but completely forgotten about characterisation with plot holes throughout.

 

Not only that but the biggest mistake the writer has made is to include lifeless dull villains, who have a plan that is not really made clear until the last ten minutes of the film. There is also very little humour to be seen or heard.

 

Bruce Willis does his best with what he has to work with, but on the whole looks bored. This may be due to the little screen time, that both him and Courtney have.

 

Jai Courtney is well cast as McClane’s son and brings some enjoy to the overall piece. While Sebastian Koch is underused as a prisoner who Jack helps to escape from jail.

 

A great action piece at the start and finish along with the two leads make this at least watchable. But the franchise now seems dead in the water.

Reviewed by Paul Logan

I Give It A Year ***

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Run Time: 97 Mins     Cert: 15

Synopsis: Directed by Dan Mazer, the British comedy follows mismatched couple Nat (Rose Byrne) and Josh (Rafe Spall) as they navigate through the first year of their marriage.

The film begins when Josh (Rafe Spall) and Nat (Rose Byrne) get married. From the beginning, it’s obvious the couple are not particularly compatible. Nat is very proper and career focused while Josh is a chilled out and fun loving writer. Throughout the film the audience are given a rather comic insight into their marriage in the form of flashbacks while, in the present, the couple are unhappy and are visiting a rather wacky marriage counsellor (Olivia Colman) to try and sort out their problems.

There are some really funny scenes in the movie that include a cringe worthy game of charades, an embarrassing incident with a digital photo frame and a disastrous attempt at a threesome. Despite the good laughs, I Give It A Year is somewhat predictable with the outcome being fairly obvious from early in the film. The writers attempt a few twists and turns but there are no surprises in the ending.

While Rose Byrne is an attractive woman who puts on a flawless English accent, her character is not particularly likeable and spends most of her time moaning. Rafe Spall is entertaining but again his character is rather irritating and it’s hard to believe they got together in the first place. While there are some films in which you want the lead couple to make it work, the pair are hard to root for.

In terms of the supporting cast, Simon Baker gives an average performance as the businessman Nat becomes attracted to while Anna Faris is likeable and entertaining as charity worker Chloe. Stephen Merchant is hilarious as Danny, Josh’s inappropriate friend and best man while Minnie Driver gives a humorous but realistic performance as Nat’s sister Naomi.

While I Give It A Year is fun, full of light entertainment and has some good performances, the movie is let down by a predictable story and a couple that are not really believable.

Reviewed by Lesley Logan

Zero Dark Thirty *****

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Run Time: 157 Mins Cert: 15

Synopsis: After the 9/11 attacks in 2001, the CIA make al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden a prime target. Over a decade since the the 9/11 attacks, intelligence analyst Maya (Chastain) tracks a courier she senses will eventually lead to finding the location of Bin Laden.

 

Oscar winner Kathryn Bigelow returns with another war drama that is more fact than fiction this time around. The director along with screenwriter Mark Boal has crafted a tense and dark action packed drama. The narrative centres on one woman’s determination of striving for results at the cost of not only her reputation within Washington, but also her life.

 

The story covers almost a ten year period and never feels long or dragged out. Much has been made surrounding the controversy surrounding the torturing of the detainees, but this aspect is not glorified. If anything it is shown that nothing is achieved from torture and that no significant results were gained from doing this.

 

Jessica Chastain gives a subtle performance in the lead role. For some audiences it may be too lifeless and stern. But this is what is good about her acting. She portrays a woman who has seen so many horrific things,that she no longer feels anything. Maya is only passionate about her objective.

 

While the other supporting players are well portrayed, they are simply just that. Many characters are introduced, but there is little enough time for anyone to care about them. The only exception would be Seal Team 6.

 

When it comes to the finale, Bigelow shows flare and panache with a stunningly thrilling sequence of events. Even although audiences know exactly what happens, there is a tense, nail biting sensation that the siege will fail. If a movie makes you forget and become emotionally involved, it is something truly special.

Reviewed by Paul Logan

Hitchcock ***

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Run Time: 98 minutes Cert: 12A

Synopsis: Anthony Hopkins stars as the legendary movie director Alfred Hitchcock in this real life story of how the film “Psycho” came to exist.

 

Directed by Sacha Gervasi and boasting an all star cast, Hitchcock tells the story of Alfred Hitchcock’s (Anthony Hopkins) life during the production of his classic horror movie “Psycho”. As with all movies based on real life, the film had the potential to be predictable. However the writers combat this by adding other elements to the story such as the events leading up the making of “Psycho” and the exploration of Hitchcock’s relationship with his wife Alma Reville, a woman who spends her life supporting her husband’s career but clearly wants to make it in her own right.

 

Anthony Hopkins gives a great performance as the title character. Heavily made up and sporting a fat suit, he bears a strong resemblance to Alfred Hitchcock and is both convincing and entertaining. Helen Mirren’s performance as Alma is reasonably good but a bit bland at times. The supporting cast works well. James D’Arcy looks scarily similar to Anthony Perkins and Scarlett Johansson is both believable and likeable as Janet Leigh.

 

Although Hitchcock shows an interest in the young actresses he works with, the film is relatively tame in this area and portrays the director in a more positive light than previous attempts. Although he is seen telling Scarlett Johansson’s character dirty jokes and watching Vera (Jessica Biel) through a hole in the wall, it doesn’t go any further than that. The focus seems to be more on Hitch and Alma’s marriage and her friendship with fellow writer Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston) whereas other attempts at telling Hitch’s story have delved deeper into his attraction to the female stars.

 

The scenes in which Alma spends time with Whitfield are boring and cliched, while the scenes where Hitch has an imaginary confidante are entertaining but leave the viewer questioning whether the writer is hinting at deeper issues or just having fun.

 

Overall, the film was pleasant enough to watch and had some good acting but the story was disappointing and the ending rather cheesy.

Reviewed by Lesley Logan

Lincoln ****

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Running Time: 150 mins Certificate: 12A

Synopsis: An account of Abraham Lincoln’s (Day-Lewis) plan to sway the House Of Representatives and pass the 13th Amendment, which will outlaw slavery, but will it have reprecussions on his mission to end the war.

 

Spielberg revisits the theme of freedom and slavery after the disjointed and disappointing Amistad, with an epic film that is more rewarding. But do expect another War Horse or Saving Private Ryan as there are very few battle scenes with most of the carnage and destruction being displayed long after the civil war battles have ended.

 

The message is clear from the outset that nothing good comes out of wars, but ultimately talking can be more powerful than a gun. In a funny way this is what both the director have done for this movie with a though provoking ambitious drama with great dialogue. The discussions are never boring and are mostly enlightening.

 

This partly the problem with the biopic is the script is too dense and is full of detail, which at times feels a little confusing and hard to follow. Multiple characters are constantly established only to be forgotten. Tony Kushner’s script seems like it would have been better suited for the stage than the screen.

 

The acting is sublime with James Spader and John Hawkes bring much needed comedy to the proceedings. Tommy Lee Jones plays the likeable, but gruff opponent to Lincoln. Sally Field tries her best with an underwritten part, but she is ultimately forgettable.

 

But the scene stealer is the man himself. After a few minutes it is hard to believe that the person on screen is not Lincoln. Day Lewis absorbs the role like a chameleon, with his slow southern drawl and stooped posture.

 

Spielberg has made thought provoking epic with stunning photography, beautifully written dialogue and outstanding performances. It may be a bit talky for some, but given a chance audiences will find a hidden gem of a movie.

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan

 

Flight ****

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Run Time: 138 Mins         Cert: 15

Synopsis: When a plane falls apart in the sky, its pilot (Denzel Washington) performs an emergency landing that saves most of its passengers. Following the incident, the events prior to it come back to haunt him.

Directed by Robert Zemeckis (Back To The Future, Forrest Gump), “Flight” tells the story of William “Whip” Whitaker (Denzel Washington), a pilot who spends most of his time high on alcohol and drugs. He has a volatile relationship with his ex-wife and teenage son and is in a relationship with a flight attendant at the start of the film. On a short flight from Florida to Georgia, the plane he is flying malfunctions and Whip has to use extreme manoeuvres to land the plane.

The flight sequence is spectacular from the rainstorm to the mechanical problems that lead to the plane being expertly crash landed by Whip. After the flight at the start, the film becomes very character-driven and focuses on the moral question raised by these events: should Whip be recognised for his heroics or be condemned for his irresponsible behaviour? It also explores the issue of people’s trust in those who are responsible for their lives.

One thing that becomes clear throughout the film is that Whip is not a likeable character. As the story progresses, the audience sees him continue to engage in behaviours that destroy his life and have negative effects on others. This makes it difficult to wish for a good outcome despite having seen him save 100 people. At first it isn’t clear what Nicole’s (Kelly Reilly) role in the story is but her performance is good and the character is likeable. At first Whip appears to be the stronger of the two, but as time goes on it becomes obvious Nicole is the strong one.

Despite Whip’s destructive behaviour, he has support from his friend and union representative Charlie Anderson (Bruce Greenwood) and lawyer Hugh Lang (Don Cheadle). Both remain loyal and fight his case, which makes for good performances from both actors. Although John Goodman only appears for two scenes, his performance in the role of Whip’s drug dealer is entertaining and comic.

While it could have been predictable, the story unfolds in a way that leaves viewers unsure of the outcome until the very end. These twists and turns combined with a high standard of acting and a surprise ending make it a great movie and a must see for anyone that likes a mixture of action and character-driven drama.

Reviewed by Lesley Logan

Wreck-It Ralph *****

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Run Time: 108 mins      Rating: PG

Synopsis: Video game villain Ralph (John C Reilly) decides he wants to be a good guy after 3 decades of being the bad guy in his arcade game, sending him on a tour of other games with some unexpected twists and turns.

Due to be released in the UK on 8th February 2013, “Wreck-It Ralph” is Disney’s 52nd movie. The film is set in a games arcade and focuses on a group of video game characters.

In terms of animation, “Wreck-It Ralph” looks great in 3D. The colours are very sharp and at times it feels like the viewer could just walk into the screen. During Ralph’s journey between games, the audience will be taken from a very simple world in which a house is wrecked and rebuilt, to a complex shooting game to a beautifully crafted world of sweets and child car racers. The way in which the world has been crafted is also nothing short of genius, complete with a power strip that acts as a train station and trains that transport characters between games.

While the story follows a formula somewhat typical of Disney films, there are a few unexpected twists. The characters’ journey between the beginning and end of the film contains several surprises and a number of things in the game world are not as they first seem.

The characters are the main driver of the story and are top class. Ralph himself is a well-rounded character who wants to change things and will do anything to achieve this, even if it causes havoc for others in the game world. His desire to be loved and accepted is something the viewer can identify with and his relationship with game glitch Vannelope (Sarah Silverman) is one that is enjoyable to watch as they fight together for what they want. It becomes similar to a father-daughter relationship in which Ralph wants to help the child achieve her dream but also wishes to protect her from the consequences. There is also good support from Fix-It Felix (Jack McBrayer), Ralph’s main source of competition and from Jane Lynch as the shooting game heroine that steals Felix’s heart.

In addition to well-crafted main characters “Wreck It Ralph” does well in utilising those from retro games including Pac-Man, Sonic, Frogger and Q-Bert. While they don’t have a huge part in the story, they make the game world Disney has created more believable to the audience.  On the occasions where retro game characters make appearances, Disney attempts to mimic the originals by making the characters move in a similar way and using sounds similar to those used in classic games. This adds to the idea that some games have been in the arcade for a long time while others are new and more up-to-date.

With an enjoyable story, likeable characters, great animation and a bouncy soundtrack, “Wreck It Ralph” is a must see for viewers of all ages.

Reviewed by Lesley Logan