Results for category "Film Reviews"

The Dictator ***

Running time: 83 mins Certificate: 15

 

Synopsis: General Aladeen (Cohen), a pampered ruler of Wadiya, travels to New York to deliver a speech on his country’s nuclear weapons programme. But after an assassination attempt goes wrong he finds himself alone, with only a health food-shop manager (Faris) for support.

 

Like Baron Cohen’s previous personas, The Dictator is very comic. However while the others were harmless, General Aladeen is modelled on real life dictators such as Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein so is a lot more controversial. There are countries in which the actor has been banned from appearing as this character and a high percentage of the film’s jokes may be offensive to some people.

 

The acting in the film is mediocre. There are times when Sacha Baron Cohen appears ridiculous and Anna Faris is rather annoying in her role as Zoey. In addition to this none of the supporting cast members really stand out in terms of performance. Ben Kingsley is underused and completely miscast as the Uncle.

 

The film is clearly a comedy and not meant to be taken seriously, however some of the jokes work and others do not. There are some comical moments and others that are just cringe worthy. The story feels like a bad version of Coming To America. It feels like Cohen should have gone back to the drawing board and followed the same framework that made his spoof documentary’s funny and enjoyable. This attempt seems like a case of shock and awe. Some people maybe shocked, but many will not be awed.

 

The film has a genuine moments where it works, but on the whole it just tries to hard to be shockingly funny. Without giving the character more purpose and more depth the story runs out of steam pretty quickly.

 

Reviewed by Lesley Watt

Prometheus ****

Running time: 124 mins Certificate: 15

 

Synopsis: Scientists discover a star-chart on ancient tablets. The crew of the ship Prometheus land upon LV-223, with hopes that they will meet their makers. Unfortunately they what seemed like an interesting scientific find turns into disaster.

 

First things first, this is not an Alien movie, although it does some aspects of that particular franchise it is a completely different beast as auteur Ridley Scott has maintained for a long time. It does go back to look at the Space Jockey  which appeared in Alien, but this character has now been changed to the Engineers.it still has H.R. Giger influenced designs. There are even chases down corridors in a spaceship, but this is where the familiarity ends. Even the planet is different, it is based on the planet LV223 and not the original alien planet of LV426.

 

In fact, this is the major flaw with the film as it would have worked better, as a completely original entity rather than trying to bring ties from the much loved franchise. While many fans will have a big kick out of spotting the occasional reference, it feels slightly forced and does not flow with the rest of the material.

 

It should also be noted that this is not a sic-si horror like the rest of the franchise. The film is more a sci-fi action film with some  horror elements. There are only a handful of gorey scenes, but nothing that will scare an audience familiar with the psychological 1979 original. But saying that these scenes are silly, but also extremely impressive at the same time.

 

This is Ridley Scott’s big return to the science fiction genre after an absence of twenty years, when he made the classic Blade Runner. As can be expected from the director the film is beautifully shot and passionately designed.The film is full of stunning  3D cinematography, which contrasts  white futuristic interiors with the black dull colours of the Engineer’s catacombs.

Everything is on a wide epic scale compared to the claustrophobic original. The other great thing is that Scott has made the decision to stick with physical set pieces and not overusing CGI effects. Not to mention casting the film with some impressive names.

 

Saying that some of the characters suffer from being underused and the minor ones are confusing and unmemorable. Although Noomi Rapace is no Weaver, she is completely believable as the scientist who becomes feminine action-heroine. If there was a comparison to the Ripley it would be Charlize Theron’s Vickers, who struts her stuff in a tightly in a witty silver-grey suit, while having a completely different agenda to the scientists. Idris Elba seems to be having fun with his cigar chomping ship’s captain, even although he is mostly confined to the one set. While the rest of the crew are sadly forgettable, which is a shame considering the talents of Kate Dickie, Rafe Spall and Sean Harris.

 

But it is essentially Michael Fastbender’s David the android who is the scene stealer of the whole movie. A complex character who is even more mysterious than the Engineers themselves. A gripping performance that brings so much to the story, even although his performance is rather reserved  using a variety of creepy and half baked smile expressions but it is all in the eyes that there is so much to this character’s train of thought.

 

The script is really the major problem with the film, with so many setups that several payoffs are not answered. Characters are underdeveloped and too similar to distinguish between. Where it does shine is with the dialogue, which is intelligent and funny. The theme of believing is also throughly explored, but there is too much of the characters telling the audience things rather than it being played out through action.

 

Ridley has yet again come up with a visually stunning sci-fi feature. The film is never boring and the action  along with the horror scenes are tense and exciting. The 3-D is subtly done as with Scorsese’s Hugo. Some fans will be left disappointed with the whole concept and the idea that it is a direct prequel to Alien. But to compare this to that classic film would be a mistake. Overall a good thrill ride that is slightly flawed due to an underdeveloped script.

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan

Piranha 3DD *

Running time: 83 mins Certificate: 18

 

Synopsis: A year after a prehistoric piranha attack, Chet (Koechner) opens an adult-themed water park despite the advice of his marine biologist stepdaughter Maddy (Panabaker). At the grand opening, where celebrity lifeguard David Hasselhoff makes an appearance, the fish attack again.

 

A sequel to the 2010 comic horror film Piranha 3D, the film begins with a report stating the deadly fish have been eradicated from the original lake, but questioning whether they will re-appear. 

 

Throughout the film, we see Maddy’s friends attacked one by one by the deadly piranhas in a nearby lake. It is revealed the lake is connected to the waterpark, and the viewer does not have to be a genius to know what will happen next.

 

The actors in the film are below average, the highlight being guest appearances by David Hasselhoff and Gary Busey. The characters are also very one-dimensional and do not appear to have much depth. At times it feels like the audience is watching a spoof version of a “real” horror film.

 

There are some comic moments, although there seems to be a larger proportion of attacks than the audience would expect in a film of that length. The special effects are also good in 3D, but when coupled with a lack of story and poor acting these just make the film watchable at best.


 

Reviewed by Lesley Watt

Jeff Who Lives At Home ***

Running time: 82 mins Certificate: 15

 

Synopsis: A 30-year-old Jeff (Segel) loser, heads out to buy some wood glue for his long-suffering mother (Sarandon), only to become involved in the marital breakdown of his brother (Helms) and his partner (Greer).

 

An independent comedy film, Jeff Who Lives At Home shows a day in the life of 30 year old Jeff who does not work and still lives in his mother’s basement. The film follows Jeff, his mother and his brother (Ed Helms) throughout that day.

 

There are times when the audience will laugh during the film, particularly at the relationship between the two brothers and their pursuit of Jeff’s sister in law, when she is seen with a male work colleague. However the story is rather predictable and there are several occasions in which the viewer will think “I knew that would happen”. The subplot involving Jeff’s mother is amusing but also predictable. When the writer’s attempt at keeping the audience in suspense comes to an end there are no surprises.

 

As expected with well known cast members including Jason Segel and Susan Sarandon, the acting in the film is above average. However the story is very basic and does not really appear to have much point, meaning there is a lack of opportunity for the actors to shine. Throughout the film, the characters do not really develop or move forward. Despite having had an eventful day they are still in the same place at the end of the film as they are at the beginning.

 

Overall the film was pleasant to watch, but the predictability and lack of point to the story make Jeff Who Lives At Home decidedly average.

 

Reviewed by Lesley Watt

Dark Shadows ****

Running time: 113 mins Certificate: 12A

 

Synopsis: In 1752, Maine Barnabas Collins (Depp) spurns the love of witch Angelique Bouchard (Green). She sends his beloved Josette DuPres (Heathcote) to her death, turns Barnabas into a vampire and then buries him alive. Flashforward to 1972, Barnabas returns and vows to restore the family name to its former glories.

It has taken many years for Johnny Depp to bring his pet project to life, but with his friend Tim Burton’s help the film based on Dan Curtis’ late-60s supernatural soap has finally seen the light of day.

 

This is not the silly comedy that the enjoyable trailer makes this film out to be, but rather a weird blend of gothic quirkiness with serious black melodrama. In essence it is really a mishmash of The Addams Family, Death Becomes Her and even in some part Burton’s own classic Beetlejuice.

 

The movie is a really strange adaptation as tonally it is all over the place. At times it can be dark and foreboding, then completely shift gear to a farcical type comedy. Best selling author Seth Grahame-Smith (Pride And Prejudice And Zombies, Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter) appears to struggle with the multiple character scenarios and what strand of the stories should take precedence within the overall piece.But on thinking the plot is fractually structured just like a soap opera would be and this could be the intention. But by doing this some of the minor characters are slightly waisted.

 

Depp’s Barnabas is a brilliantly fantastic creation that is definitely up there with his best creations and delivers most of the best lines. The vampire is a funny, charismatic monster who not only is struggles to figure out how to live in this time, but also what it means to be human.Pfeiffer brings a touch of class as the head of the household and is seems to be more concerned by the state of the family name than her own teen daughter Carolyn (Chloë Grace Moretz). While Bonham Carter and Earle Haley give memorable performances which appear to be influenced on Simpsons characters. Unfortunately both   the characters of uncle Roger (Miller) and his troubled son David (McGrath) make little impression with their underwritten roles.

 

The film is stunning shot with scenes reminiscent of Sleepy Hollow and fantastic costumes. The best thing is that Burton has relied less on CGI effects this time and focused on more a physical look. Danny Elfman haunting score is beautifully blended with some great classic 70’s songs.

 

While the film has faults mostly due to script problems and underused characters, it is a very enjoyable experience and sees Burton turn back to strange, funny character pieces that he used to make at the start of his career.

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan

Beauty & the Beast 3-D

Running time: 84 mins Certificate: U

 

Synopsis: The animated classic returns to screens in 3-D. When Belle’s inventor father goes missing, she tracks him down to a castle inhabited by a fearsome beast. Belle agrees to take her father’s place as hostage and soon starts to love the Beast.

 

Based on a fairytale written in the 18th century, Beauty & The Beast is an animated musical that tells the story of Belle (voiced by Paige O’Hara), a young woman who is bored with life in a French village. When her father, Maurice (voiced by Rex Everhart) gets lost in the woods and is held captive in a castle by the Beast (voiced by Robby Benson), Belle pleads with the Beast to take her instead so her father can be free, unaware he is a prince in disguise.

 

Despite being primarily a children’s film, the story has some darker themes beneath the surface. Watching the film as an adult, there is clearly the underlying message that people should look beneath the surface when choosing who they fall in love with.

 

The 3D version of the film is superb. The scenes in which the castle and the village are shown make the viewer feel as if they could jump into the screen. In addition to this, the sound is much clearer and the animation is sharper. The hand drawn characters look particularly stunning in 3D.

 

As with the original version, the songs in the film are excellent and will hold the attention of both children and adults. The characters are also very entertaining, particularly the talking objects that populate the castle.

 

With a great story, lovely artwork and a catchy soundtrack, Beauty & the Beast is a joy to watch. Regardless of whether the viewer has seen the original version or is completely new to the film, the 3D version is a must see.

 

Reviewed by Lesley Watt

African Cats ****


Running time: 89 mins Certificate: U

 

Synopsis: Disney’s latest documentary which follows two families of animals, a coalition of cheetahs and a pride of lions across the Maasai Mara game reserve in Kenya.

 

Filmed in the Kenyan savanna, the documentary tells the story of two families of cats. The first is a family of lions consisting of male head Fang, lionesses Layla and Malika and their cubs. The second is a female cheetah called Sita and her cubs. The film follows the cats as they hunt for food, fight for their territories and experience loss.

 

In the UK version, the film is narrated by Patrick Stewart (Star Trek, American Dad). The description of events and facts about the animals really adds to the film. The manner in which Stewart describes the emotions that may be felt by the cats helps the audience identify with the cats despite the fact that they are completely different species.

 

The way in which African Cats is filmed allows the audience to see the animals both up close and from a distance. Throughout the film, the audience is shown how the cats interact with other animals living in the same space and with each other. In particular there is conflict between Fang’s family and another group of lions. There are also scenes in which Sita the cheetah struggles to protect her cubs from other animals.

 

Overall, the audience are shown a combination of “family life” in the animal world and action scenes in which the cats fight each other and hunt their pray. This combined with Stewart’s narration makes for an enjoyable viewing experience.

 

Reviewed by Lesley Watt

American Reunion **

Running time: 113 mins Certificate: 15

 

Synopsis: It has been 13 years since Jim (Biggs), Michelle (Hannigan), Kevin (Nicholas), Oz (Klein), Finch (Thomas), Stifler (Scott) have graduated from school. They reunite for a delayed class reunion, to discover that nothing has really changed.

 

American Reunion is the 4th in the original “American Pie” series. It tells the story of the characters that previously appeared in American Pie (1999), American Pie 2 (2001) and American Wedding (2003) when they meet up for a reunion 13 years after leaving high school.

 

The opening scene involving main characters Jim and Michelle  is very comical and gives the audience the impression the film will be good. Unfortunately the next laugh does not come for 30 minutes when Stifler plays a rather disgusting prank on a group of teenagers. With the exception of those two scenes, the film lacks comedy.

 

The film also lacks story. Nothing really seems to happen and the appearance of high school sweethearts and teenage admirers does not seem to pose much of a threat. The characters seem to lack emotion and no one really stands out in terms of acting.

 

Jim’s Dad (Levy)  is particularly annoying this time round. His going off on a tangent whenever Jim asks his advice has become old and the pairing between him and Stifler’s mom (Coolidge) is predictable and cringe worthy.

 

While a reunion movie was a good idea, the script has been poorly written. The resulting film is watchable but not particularly entertaining. Compared to the previous ”American Pie” films it is disappointing.


 

Reviewed by Lesley Watt

Carnage ****

Running time: 79 mins Certificate: 15

 

Synopsis: After their two 11 year-old sons fight in a local park, two families gather in one of their apartments to discuss the issue. But the talks becomes more and more out of control as the day goes on.

 

Adapted from the play “God of Carnage” by Yasmina Reza, the film is co-written and directed by Roman Polanski. It takes place in the New York apartment of Michael (John .C. Reilly) and Penelope Longstreet (Jodie Foster) whose son has been hit in the face by another child in a squabble between kids. Following the incident Alan (Christoph Waltz) and Nancy Cowan (Kate Winslet) meet the Longstreets in their apartment to discuss it.

 

The film begins with a perfectly civil conversation between the two sets of parents, however when Michael  invites the pair to stay for coffee, the conversation turns into an argument as differences between the couples start to come out.

 

The arguments between the couples range from the original issue (i.e. the boys fighting) to differences in opinion regarding work, violence and parenting. Towards the end the arguments shift in dynamic from couple vs couple to men vs women, which makes for some entertaining scenes. The scene in which Nancy vomits spectacularly over the apartment is a cracker… particularly the look on Penny’s face when she realises her precious art books are covered in it. The constant ringing of Alan’s phone, which eventually leads to an infuriated Nancy throwing it in water is also laughable but realistic at the same time.

 

One criticism I do have is the fact that each time the Cowans attempt to leave, the Longstreets find a reason for them to stay. In a real life situation, the couples would likely wish to part ASAP, but in this case the meeting continues for the duration of the film.

 

Set in one room over a period of less than two hours, Carnage could easily have been boring. In this case, however, good performances by the actors and the use of comedy make it work.

 

Reviewed by Lesley Watt

The Avengers ****

Running time: 142 mins Certificate: 12A

 

Synopsis: When Loki (Hiddleston) launches an attack on Earth,  S. H. I. E. L. D. boss Nick Fury (Jackson) decides to assemble the talents of Captain America (Evans), Bruce Banner (Ruffalo), Thor (Hemsworth) and even Iron Man (Downey Jr.) together into one elite fighting team. 

 

Based on Marvel’s original comic series, the Avengers tells the story of a group of Superheroes brought together to save the world from aliens. The main characters are played by an all star cast that includes Scarlett Johansson, Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr and Mark Ruffalo with a Samuel L Jackson in a supporting role as Fury.

 

The highlight of the film for sure is Mark Ruffalo’s performance as the Hulk. The mannerisms and facial expressions shown by Ruffalo are similar to those of the original Hulk and the makeup used to transform him into “the other guy” is well done. While no one acts badly in the film, none of the other actors really stand out in terms of performance.

 

The Avengers has great action scenes with the beginning and end of the film being made up of 20-minute action sequences. The use of guns, aeroplanes and elaborate moves from the superheroes give these scenes the “bang pow” effect members of the audience would have visualised when reading the original comics.

 

Special effects in the film are top notch, particularly in 3D. Scenes featuring the alien army and the destruction of New York city look very realistic, as do the explosions that occur during the movie. Sporting 3D glasses allows the viewer to see objects such as arrows and planes jumping out of the screen which adds to the experience.

 

While these effects and action packed scenes make the Avengers a must see for all fans of action movies and comics, the thing that lets it down is the lack of story. There is not a lot of dialogue or character development. However this works as the film is driven by events as opposed to characters.

 

Reviewed by Lesley Watt