Results for category "Film Reviews"

Les Miserables ***

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Running Time: 158 minutes       Cert: 12A

Synopsis: In 19th century France, an ex-convict breaks parole and sets out to change his life. Along the way, he agrees to bring up the child of a factory worker turned prostitute who has died and she becomes his priority. 

 

Based on Victor Hugo’s novel, the film begins in the early 19th century as prisoner Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) is being released having served his time. Finding he is unable to find work or be accepted due to his history, a chance encounter with a bishop prompts him to destroy his documents and break parole. For the next few years, he is hunted by policeman Javert (Russell Crowe) who eventually tracks him down as the mayor of a town in France where he is well respected and employs a large number of workers. One of his workers, Fantine (Anne Hathaway) is removed from the factory in which she is employed when it is discovered she has a child whom she is sending money to. Unable to support herself or her child, the young woman resorts to measures that eventually lead to her being arrested by Javert (Crowe) but saved by Valjean (Jackman) when he realises he was partly responsible for her situation.

 

Les Miserables is first and foremost a musical so the viewer expects music to be a huge part of the film. While some of the songs featured are enjoyable, others are sub-standard and seem like they don’t know when to end.  Russell Crowe in particular is an awful singer in this film. While some of his musical work is good, he’s a rock singer and doesn’t adapt his voice to fit the situation. Although some may argue this can’t be done, performances by other actors elsewhere suggest it can be. The problem with Crowe is he lacks adaptability and isn’t able to sing any other way.

 

The story is very drawn out. At 158 minutes the film is a lot longer than necessary and there are sections that could easily be cut from it. There are also a number of plot holes that leave the viewer with questions about why a particular event happened or what caused a character’s death. There is also the question of why a large majority of the cast talk like they’re straight out of Eastenders. Considering the story is set in France, this doesn’t make sense. The viewer can accept that French accents might not be easy for an English speaking audience to understand, but the Eastenders-style accents give the film a rather cheesy feel.

 

In terms of performance by the actors, Anne Hathaway stands out as Fantine, a single mother forced into prostitution. Despite only being in the film for a short period, the character is believable and her performance of “I Dreamed A Dream” is one of the better ones in the film. While Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter provide comic relief as the rather dodgy Thenardiers, Helena Bonham Carter acts in a similar manner to previous roles. The similarity between Madame Thenardier and her character in Sweeney Todd means her performance doesn’t particularly stand out in the film.

 

While Hugh Jackman does a reasonably good job in the role of the main character, he doesn’t particularly stand out and seems slightly miscast while Russell Crowe seems rather bland throughout the film. Both are strong actors, but their performances raise the question of whether they were cast appropriately. Amanda Seyfried (Cosette) also gives a very average performance as does Eddie Redmayne as Marius. While the love at first sight theme is necessary for the story, the viewer can’t help but question why Marius chooses Cosette rather than Eponine (Samantha Barks), an attractive girl who loves him unconditionally.

 

Overall, Les Miserables was disappointing. The story had too many plot holes, the acting was sub-standard and the movie was simply too long. While this running time works for some films, Les Miserables dragged on and felt like 6 hours as opposed to almost 3.

 

Reviewed by Lesley Logan

The Sessions ****

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Running Time: 95 mins            Certificate: 15

Synopsis: In this true story Mark O’Brien, a polio survivor with an iron lung (John Hawkes) employs the services of a sex surrogate (Helen Hunt) in order to lose his virginity. 

 

Virginity seems to be a recurring theme in movies – whether it’s losing it, keeping it or dealing with inner conflicts surrounding it. However The Sessions, based on a true story, provides a unique take on the subject through the eyes of polio survivor Mark O’Brien. 38 years old, confined to a gurney and connected to an iron lung for most of his day, Mark decides he wants to lose his virginity. With the help of his carers and priest, he seeks out a sex therapist who recommends he use a sex surrogate.

 

The film is very moving. While the subject matter had the potential to be rather clinical and preachy, the development of the characters and use of comedy adds a warmth to it. Mark is a character the audience can empathise with. While he is severely disabled, he is shown dealing with an issue that is universal: discovering his sexuality and learning to act on it. The situations he encounters along the way are real, from his initial awkwardness and embarrassment to his idealistic expectations of what the experience will be like.

 

Cheryl Cohen-Green (Helen Hunt) is a great character. During her sessions with Mark, her patience and good humour as well as her lack of shyness about her body allow Mark to explore things and eventually lose his virginity. Helen Hunt plays the character well, however John Hawkes is the actor that really stands out in this movie. Despite his character being confined to a gurney and unable to move, Hawkes’ portrayal of Mark is such that the audience will be rooting for him throughout the film.  The supporting cast also add to the viewing experience. Moon Bloodgood is entertaining and enjoyable to watch as Mark’s carer Vera, while William H Macy provides a lot of comic but heartfelt moments as Father Brendan, the supportive priest who encourages Mark to explore his sexuality despite being of a faith that would normally be against this.

 

Overall The Sessions was a great film to watch. Sex and disability don’t normally go hand in hand in the media so it was nice to see this dealt with in a sensitive but quirky way. A must see for anyone who likes films with “the human edge”.

 

Reviewed by Lesley Logan

 

Django Unchained *****

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Running Time: 165 mins Certificate: 18

Synopsis: In 1858, bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Waltz) frees a slave called Django (Foxx) to help him track down three outlaw brothers. The bounty hunter agrees to help his new companion rescue Django’s wife (Washington) from a plantation owner (DiCaprio).

 

After returning with the great Inglorious Bastards, Tarantino makes his long talked about western which is extremely fun and in true style as you would expect from this auteur very violent. As can be expected the story is less historical fact and more played out like a comic book, but this is no bad thing. The only major change is that the director follows a linear narrative instead of his usual time twisting plot. Unfortunately the length of the piece is still too long, but does not hamper the movie as a whole.

 

The script is full of funny moments for instance the scene involving the Klu Klux Clan. But Tarantino also puts in enough factual things including Mandingo fighting to keep the balance from making it completely ridiculous in tone.

 

Yet again the director has lined up a wonderful cast mixed with actors that he has used in previous films with stars that have long since been forgotten by audiences, in particular Don Johnson.

 

The main antagonist, Leonardo DiCaprio takes on his most interesting role as a despicable racist incestuous, Calvin J. Candie.  DiCaprio brings a terrifying unbalanced mixture of menace and humour to the character. While Samuel L. Jackson as Stephen, the ‘Uncle Tom’ head servant at Candie’s plantation scene steals at every opportunity he is on screen. Jackson comes across a sadistic Benson and is certainly his best role in years.

 

While Christoph Waltz steals from the lead. Jamie Foxx is disappointingly bland and underplays Django by just playing every action and line straight.

 

Tarantino is like Marmite. Love him or hate him, this film is simply a breathtaking and undeniable accomplishment. Overall a fantastic addition to the director’s work.

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan

Quartet ***

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Running Time: 98 mins Certificate: 12A

Synopsis In an old country house,  former opera singers live out their retirements and in harmony. But the arrival of one of the residents’ ex-wife, a diva named Jean (Maggie Smith), brings back bad memories for mild mannered Reginald (Tom Courtenay).

 

It has taken decades for Dustin Hoffman to finally go behind the camera to direct after several failed attempts in the past, including one incident where he was actually fired from the set. What seems strange is that an accomplished actor would tackle a slow English drama as his debut.

 

The story on the whole is too light with little character development for an audience to feel and respond to these characters. There is only conflict between the two main characters of Jean and Reg.  There is also the problem that there are too many secondary characters who we see from time to time, but they may as well be in the background.

 

Where the film adds an extra note is in the performances. Smith and Courtenay  are the  heart and soul to the piece. While Billy Connolly and Pauline Collins completely steal the show as the other members of the quartet. Connolly brings some much needed humour, most of which is ad-libbed.  Collins also brings humour and sympathy to a character who is in the early stages of dementia.

 

An entertaining and charming movie, but without the actual quartet would have been tuneless.

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan

Gangster Squad ***

Running Time: 113 mins Certificate: 15

Synopsis A group of police officers in post-war Los Angeles get together to take down Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn), the gangster that dominates the city.

The film begins in Los Angeles, four years after the end of World War 2. In the first scene, we are introduced to John O’Mara, a police seargant on a mission to destroy the local mafia boss. At first, his actions are opposed by his boss. However he is soon called upon by Chief Parker (Nick Nolte) to oversee Mickey Cohen’s downfall.

While there are some good action scenes in the film, it lacks story. The title and general plot do suggest violence is a big part of the story, however there doesn’t seem to be a lot going on apart from shooting and the rather cringe worthy sub plot involving smooth talking cop Jerry (Ryan Gosling) and the mobster’s “etiquette coach” Grace (Emma Stone).

In terms of acting, Sean Penn’s is probably the best performance. Although he does not look like the real Mickey Cohen, he adopts the mannerisms of a cold and ruthless gangster and is believable in the role. Despite only having a small role in the film, Nick Nolte also performs well. Unfortunately the rest of the cast are somewhat disappointing. With an all star cast including Josh Brolin and Ryan Gosling, the viewer would expect better performances. However Brolin’s character comes across as rather wooden and emotionless while Gosling’s appears to be nothing more than a token womaniser.

As ‘Gangster Squad’ is based on a true story, as a viewer it would be interesting to learn more about how authentic the film actually is. The accuracy of events is questionable, particularly as the film progresses. Towards the end there is a rather ludicrous scene that makes the film lose most of its credibility.

Overall ‘Gangster Squad’ is watchable but disappointing. Although the idea had the potential to be a good movie, the lack of story and mediocre performances let it down.

 

Reviewed by Lesley Logan

 

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Winners & Losers of 2012

 

 

2012 overall was a better year for movies than previous years. Here is a selection of the best and worst of the year.

 

Winners.

1. Ted: Simply one of  the funniest films to emerge from Hollywood in recent years. Seth MacFarlane took a massive gamble and it work. Rude, crude and very funny.

2. The Imposter: Disturbing and fascinating documentary about an unbelievable event.

3. Frankenweenie: Tim Burton is back on form with his most personal project.

4. The Muppets: The return of everyone’s favourite puppets was filled with nostalgia for adults with enough moments to keep the kids entertained too.

5. Room 237: A documentary with speculation and revelations about Stanley Kubrick’s classic horror, The Shining.

6. Brave: Whimsical and entertaining entry from the folk at Pixar.

7. Life of Pi: Subtle 3D and wonderful performances of an adaptation which on paper should never have worked.

8. Argo: Tense and gripping drama with great performances throughout.

9. Moonrise Kingdom: Another eccentric entry from Wes Anderson, which could be his best work to date.

10. The Dark Knight Rises: A disappointment after the fantastic The Dark Knight, but there was enough to make Nolan’s film the best superhero movie of the year  and a great end to the trilogy.

Losers

1. Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie: Just terrible. Any film that has a sequence of kids crapping into a bathtub, while some one is it for ten minutes should be avoided at all costs.

2. Piranha 3DD: The first one was so bad it was entertaining, this was just plain dreadful. Not even Gary Busy could save this mess.

3. Snow White & the Huntsman:  A case of style over substance of this fairytale bore.

4. John Carter: Andrew stanton could not carry the magic from pixar to this boring Star Wars looking sci-fi epic.

5. Cold Light of Day: Willis and Weaver must have needed the money to appear in this predictable tired thriller.

6. The Iron Lady: A fantastic performance by Streep, but this biopic lacked any details or facts about the Prime Minister’s life and concentrated more about a fictious account of old age Thatcher.

7. Man on the Ledge: Interesting concept, let down by a predictable and silly script.

8. Cabin in the Woods: Whedon may have made a fun superhero flick, but this delayed mismash of horror and comedy was overhyped, incredibly silly and just redid most things that the mediocre Scream franchise did over a decade ago.

9. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter: Great visuals, but where’s the story?

10. The Amazing Spider-Man:  New direction, but the plot was just rehashed from the first entry.

 

 

 

Ted *****

Running time: 106 mins Certificate: 15

 

Synopsis:  When Eight year-old loner John Bennett finds a stuffed bear under the Christmas tree, he wishes it would come alive.The little boy and his family are shocked when his wish comes true. 25 years later, John (Wahlberg) and Ted’s slacker antics are fast getting under the skin of John’s girlfriend (Kunis). Someone has to go, but who will it be?

 

After many years of doing animated television work, Seth MacFarlane makes the giant leap into the world of live action feature filmmaking. And what a debut it is. A great story, fantastic actors, impressive effects and enough risky humour to make a nun blush.  

 

In fact with the humour it feels very much like how good Family Guy was when it started on air over a decade ago. Since that time it has gone the way of The Simpsons and the show is not as good as it used to be. But fans of the series can rejoice as it is everything that a Stewie fanatic had hoped it would be.

 

The story while basic is never silly or stupid (only in humour). The audience will totally believe that the bear can walk and talk with no one taking the blind bit of notice, that a stuffed animal is doing everything the human’s can do. There are the usual things audiences will be familiar with Family Guy from random cameos to cutaways spoofing certain well known films. The only bad thing is the second act seems to slow the proceedings down with the romance storyline, but it is never dull.

 

All the leads are perfectly cast, Mark Wahlberg proves again that he is good at doing comedy. Mila Kunis is a beautiful leading lady. Community’s Joel McHale is fantastically creepy as Kunis’ sleazy boss as is the king of creepiness himself Giovanni Ribisi who plays a demented father who wants to buy Ted for his obese son.

 

Not for the sensitive, but Ted is the funniest films to come out of Hollywood in years. Here’s hoping the invitable Ted 2 will be as funny and entertaining to watch.

 

 

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan

Revenge of the Electric Car ****

Running time: 90 mins Certificate: PG

 

Synopsis: Documentarian Chris Paine follows up his 2007  film Who Killed the Electric Car? with another look at the world of the automotive industry. The question remains the what is preventing the development of a mass-produced electric car?

 

This is the follow up to director Chris Paine’s 2006 documentary, Who Killed The Electric Car?, which showed how General Motors built prototype EV-1 electric cars – loved by drivers but which were ultimately recalled and destroyed by the company.

 

Paine takes his film crew behind the closed doors of Nissan, GM, the Silicon Valley start-up Tesla Motors, and an independent car converter named Greg “Gadget” Abbott to investigate the resurgence of electric cars.

 

An optimistic look at what was regarded by many as a dead technology due to high prices and limited interest from car buyers. Paine has picked an interesting set of people, who all have different agendas, with personalities to match. The documentary is never dull due to the excellent pacing and editing.

 

Although the use of celebrity interviews seems somewhat out of place. Paine seems to be more interested with famous people’s options rather than the average Joe on the street. It feels very much like a marketing ploy for the trailer rather than adding anything interesting to the conversation.

 

Whether audiences will agree with the filmmaker’s view, no one can deny that Paine has made another captivating and interesting film about this remarkable vehicle which has been brought back from the dead.

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan

Magic Mike ****

Synopsis:  When 19 year old college dropout Adam (Alex Pettyfer) moves to Tampa to live with his sister Brooke (Cody Horn), he meets “entrepreneur” Mike Lane (Channing Tatum) while working on a building site. A chance meeting between the two then results in a new career for Adam and begins Mike’s road to realising what he really wants.

 

The film begins when Adam (Pettyfer) and Mike (Tatum) meet on a building site. Having left the job after one day, Adam runs into Mike on a night out and persuades him to get him into a nightclub. It is revealed Mike is a stripper working alongside four other dancers for manager Dallas (Matthew McConaughey). On that night, Adam is pulled in to help with props, resulting in him getting a job with the strippers.

 

The film is entertaining from the beginning. However there is also a deeper storyline as the film focuses on the seedy side of Mike’s world, his desire to succeed beyond stripping and his relationships with women. Although the trailer gives the impression this is a fun film about a male stripper, there is a dark side to the story that shows how a seemingly fun and carefree career can have serious impacts on an individual’s life.

 

The main characters in the movie are very three-dimensional. They all have goals they want to achieve and their own issues/reasons for holding back. From desperate-to-succeed Mike to immature Adam to cautious Brooke, these characters are people the audience can identify with. While it would have been easy for a film of this nature to focus on the comic/entertainment side, well developed characters really add to the viewing experience.

 

Despite the darker elements, Magic Mike has a number of light hearted moments that will make the audience laugh. The soundtrack is also enjoyable and the dance routines well choreographed.
With its well written plot, three-dimensional characters and the mix of fun and real life, Magic Mike is a must see.

 

Reviewed by Lesley Watt

Rock Of Ages **

Based on the broadway musical, Rock Of Ages follows Oklahoma girl Sherrie (Julianne Hough) and bartender Drew (Diego Boneta) as they chase their dreams of becoming rock stars. The film is set in Los Angeles in 1987 where the pair meet. This results in Sherrie getting a job in a rock club run by Dennis Dupree (Alec Baldwin) and his right hand man Lonny (Russell Brand). As the film progresses, we are introduced to characters such as rock star Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise), conservative protestor Patricia Whitmore (Catherine Zeta Jones) and journalist Constance Sack (Malin Ackerman).

The story seriously lacks and, if rated solely in terms of story, the film would be very poor. It is obvious what will happen throughout the film and there are no real surprises for the viewer. While there are some comic moments, the audience are more likely to cringe in response some of the writers’ attempts at comedy.

The acting is in the film is also sub standard. Hough and Boneta resemble characters from the TV series Glee both in sound and personality. Catherine Zeta Jones is unconvincing as the female antagonist while Russell Brand’s accent is nothing short of awful. Tom Cruise’s performance is slightly better but only just watchable.

The film’s saving grace is the music. It includes songs that were originally performed by Def Leppard, Foreigner, Journey, Poison and David Lee Roth. Some of the songs are performed well while others are performed in a cheesy manner reminiscent of Glee. However fans of 80s rock will enjoy the movie and will likely move their feet in time to the music.

Rock Of Ages is watchable based on the soundtrack but the story, characters and acting are very poor.

Reviewed by Lesley Watt