Results for category "Film Reviews"

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

The BFG ****

Running time 117 mins Cert: PG

: When Ten-year-old Sophie (Barnhill) meets the Big Friendly Giant (Rylance), she is naturally  scared at first. However she realizes that the giant is actually quite gentle and charming. As their friendship grows, Sophie’s presence attracts the unwanted attention of Bloodbottler (Hader) Fleshlumpeater (Clement) and other giants. After traveling to London, Sophie and the BFG must convince Queen Victoria to help them get rid of all the bad giants once and for all.

Roald Dahl’s classic novel is adapted for the second time, after being first made an animated feature with David Jason. Now one of the masters of Cinema tries to bring his own magic to this classic childhood tale.

Steven Spielberg makes his first kids movie since Hook and also for Disney. With great source material and a script written by E.T. screenwriter Melissa Mathison, all things look set to be a successful mix.

The good news is this is a faithful interpretation of Dahl’s novel. Mathison’s script keeps all of BFG’s strange gobbledegook with his talk of “hippodumplings” and “tellytelly bunkum boxes”. After a brief introduction set around an Orphanage in a Victorian stylisation of Olde London Town, the main bulk of the narrative is set in Giant Country with the ‘Human Bean” eating creatures voiced by SNL’s Bill Hader and ‘Flight of the Concordes’ Jemaine Clement. Which then leads to the extremely silly, but highly amusing plot involving The Queen (Penelope Wilton) who assists with Sophie’s plan to try and remove the evil Giants . 

After only working with Mark Rylance for a day on ‘Bridge Of Spies’, Spielberg knew immediately that he had found his Giant. The actor brings a gentle, eminently loveable quality to The BFG, complete with his Cornish accent and overall impressive  and expressive CGI performance. Newcomer Ruby Barnhill is a revaluation and brings a sweet, innocent quality to Sophie and more than holds her own to this year’s Best Supporting Actor Oscar Winner.

The look of The BFG is quite faith To the look of Quentin Blake’s classic illustrations. However at times the creature along with the other giants have a creepy ugly look and some of the CGI effects do not work as well as they should.

It is easy to see why it flopped in the States as it is very quaint & bizarre.While not one of Spielberg’s best or even the best Roald Dahl adaptation (that’ll be The Witches), The BFG is good whizz popping fun, expertly directed by the auteur.

Reviewed by Paul Logan

Shadow World ****

U.S. / Director Johan Grimonprez /90 mins

Synopsis: An eye-opening journey exploring the international arms industry.

Based on the bestselling book by journalist Andrew Feinstein, the film shows the corruption behind the global weapons trade and how it is responsible for the policies of many governments, including the U.S. And the U.K.

Starting with the relationship between  Regan and  Thatcher, Director  Grimonprez explores dealings  with Saudi Arabia and the alleged bribery of leading Saudi Arabians. Even suggesting that some wars have been raised in order to keep the arms trade and government leaders have stopped the investigations for financial and political gain.

Comprised of archive footage and interviews with whistleblowers, military personnel, arms dealers and reporters that have exposed some of the scandals. 

Well researched with many interesting interviews. Shadow World cannot help but leave the viewer angry with suggestions made. 

This may be one of the most important documentaries ever made and also the most terrifying.

Reviewed by Paul Logan

The White King

U.K. / Directors Alex Helfrecht and Jörg Tittel /89 mins

: In a dystopian future a young boy (Lorenzo Allchurch) vows to find his imprisoned father.

Based on the novel of the same name by György Dragomán, who based his dystopian authoritarian tale on his childhood in Ceaușescu’s Romania.

A 12-year-old boy Djata, (Lorenzo Allchurch) watches as government agents take his father Peter (Ross Partridge). His mother Hannah (Agyness Deyn) pretends that Peter is away for a ‘special mission’. Peter is actually imprisoned for speaking out about the regime. After discovering the truth, Djata joins his mother in the search to find where Peter is being kept.

The film starts with an impressive animated credit sequence, unfortunately this is the only thing that dazzles. 

The script is dull with too many questions are left unanswered. How did this dystopian world happen, who are these people ruled by and why are guys in there twenties terrorising little kids? The actual world is not fleshed out enough and with little depth to the characters. Even worse is that the piece just ends with no resolution or explanation.

Everyone in the cast does their best with the material provided. Agyness Deyn, Jonathan Pryce and Fiona Shaw suffer from the underdeveloped characterisation and lacklustre dialogue. Newcomer Allchurch shows promise, but even he appears to struggle with the cliched script.

Theatre directors Helfrecht and Tittel have made their debut in the Young Adult dystopian area, which is now oversaturated and has seen better movies in this genre. Especially with The Hunger Games series. All that is shown of the world is grassy countryside, buildings with billboards showing the words Serve, Duty, Glory and Family and the odd computerised helicopter in the sky.

It is hard to believe the filmmakers took four years to develop this underwhelming cinema experience.
Reviewed by Paul Logan

Holidays ***

U.S. / Director Anthony Scott Burns, Kevin Kolsch, Nicholas McCarthy, Adam Egypt Mortimer, Gary Shore, Kevin Smith, Sarah Adina Smith, Scott Stewart, Dennis Widmyer /105 mins

Synopsis: Nine filmmakers present horror stories that revolve around Valentine’s Day, Saint Patrick’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Halloween, Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

An assortment of visions make up this horror comedy anthology in the same vein as V/H/S, based on various celebratory holidays throughout the year. 
 “Valentine’s Day” centres around a young, bullied high school girl who has a crush on her gym coach to grisly extremes. In “St. Patrick’s Day,” an primary school teacher (Ruth Bradley) wishes she has a child with wishes granted thanks to  black magic hell and a little ginger haired girl.  “Easter,” a little girl wakes up in the middle of the night to find the Easter Bunny. “Mother’s Day” revolves around a girl who gets pregnant every time she has sex and goes to a commune for psychedelic therapy. In “Father’s Day,” Carol (Jocelin Donahue) receives a cassette tape in the mail which contains her late father’s voice, urging his daughter to follow instructions so that they can be reunited. “Halloween” is based around the internet sex industry where an abusive boss (Harley Morenstein) gets a taste of his own medicine from his girl employees. In “Christmas,” Pete (Seth Green) is desperate to give his son the ideal gift hot with deadly consequences. The last segment  “New Year’s Eve” sees a first date between an lonely young woman (Lorenza Izzo) and a serial killer  (Andrew Bowen). 
As with most of these anthology films it is very much a hit and miss affair. Some of the stories work notably “St Patrick’s Day”, “Easter” and Kevin Smith’s wacky “Halloween”, while others like “Fathers Day” and “Mother’s Day” have really interesting premises but the payoff is disappointing and underdeveloped. None of the stories are very frightening or incredibly funny, but are more amusing, twisted and bizarre.
Thankfully there are more hits than misses. The most interesting part of the film is figuring out what each director has come up with on the specific occasion. 

Reviewed by Paul Logan

Zero Days ****

U.S. / Director Alex Gibney /116 mins

Synopsis: The malware worm Stuxnet, famously used against Iranian centrifuges, has been claimed by many to have originated as a joint effort between America and Israel.

Academy Award winning documentarian Alex Gibney tackles another intriguing subject after covering pieces on Frank Sinatra, Steve Jobs, Wikileaks,  Fela Kuti and Scientlogy. 

The film documents the potentially  lethal computer virus which was first detected back in 2010. Rumours have long circled that the virus may have been commissioned by the US and Israeli governments to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program. The virus  was eventually found by the anti-virus companies, and was named Stuxnet by the industry. While the official code name was ‘Olympic Games’. The malware was made to be used to paralyse the infrastructure of entire states in a split second without leaving any trace of those responsible.

Gibney interviews a range of professionals including coders from Symantec to government insiders, nuclear physicists and an anonymous NSA source. 

The film is loaded with technical information which could have been dull and boring, but is conveyed in a way that is compelling. The filmmakers have also tried to make the film as unpolitical as possible with finger pointing by never to a definitive source. 

By the end it is difficult to feel safe in a world where cyber warfare appears to be the next stage on the battlefield. 

As with ‘Going Clear’ and ‘We Steal Secrets’ Gibney shows again that he is one of the best documentarians in his field.

Reviewed by Paul Logan

Yoga Hosers **

U.S. / Director Kevin Smith /88 mins

Synopsis: Two 15-year-old yoga enthusiasts (Harley Quinn Smith and Lily-Rose Melody Depp) in Manitoba who work at a convenience store after school join forces with a legendary man-hunter (Johnny Depp) to battle an ancient evil and fight for their lives.

Kevin Smith returns with another part of his True North Trilogy after the demented and funny ‘Tusk’.

The Colleens (Smith and Depp) reluctantly work behind the counter at the convenience store owned by Colleen C’s dad (Tony Hale). The girls are constantly  on their phones and always  invent any excuse to put up a “temporarily closed” sign. When not working or attending high school they visit a strip mall yoga studio run by Yogi Bayer (Justin Long), who teaches moves like “Pretentious Frog” and “Dissatisfied Customer”. One night in the shop the girls are attacked by Nazis sausages (“Brat-zis”). They team up to uncover where these little monsters have come from and try and rid the town of them.

The story like Tusk was thought of by one of the Director’s Smodcast podcasts. Unlike ‘Tusk’ which was a self contained premise, this time there is too much going on and everything but the kitchen sink has been thrown in. 

In the past Kevin Smith has written some great funny observant films. Unfortunately Hosers is not very funny and most of the jokes are lazy stereotypes regarding Canadians using the phrases  “eh” and “aboot”. Although some of the wisecracks in the film do work.

The pacing is also all over the place with the first hour coming across as a Romy and ‘Michelle’s High School Reunion’ meets ‘Scott Pilgrim Versus the World’ with  Instagram 8bit graphics. It is only in the last 30 mins that anything really happens when the monsters are unleashed when the film becomes some sort of Troma inspired homage.

The girls are fun and have an incredible chemistry together. Johnny Depp’s private eye character Guy LaPointe is also different from his initial incarnation in ‘Tusk’ where he was played more like Columbo, while here he has changed the characterisation to being more like Inspector Closeau.

There are some elements of fun hidden in this mess. But after ‘Tusk’, this is a really disappointing piece of work from a unique auteur like Kevin Smith. Hopefully with the final part ‘Moose Jaws’ he can rein in the over imaginative ideas.

Reviewed by Paul Logan

Pikadero ***

U.K. & Spain/ Director Ben Sharrock/97mins

Synopsis: Two lovers Gorka (Joseba Usabiaga) and Ane (Barbera Geonaga) seek to find a private place only to be blocked or interrupted at every attempt. 

The title refers to a Spanish term for riding schools or places to have sexual relations at in this easy going quirky comedy from newcomer Ben Sharrock.

Gorka  (Usabiaga) and Ane (Goenaga) have just recently met. Both are polar opposites of each other. He works as an unpaid apprentice at the local tool factory, in the hopes it may become a full-time job just like his father used to do, but is too shy and reserved to have any other dreams. She is an outgoing student, studying art and yearning to advance her English language skills with an aim of working in Edinburgh to better herself. They do however have same aspirations for love and romance.
The piece is set during a European economic crisis and is shot beautifully in the Basque country 

Perfectly framed and filmed over numerous locations including a recurring Train Station where the lovers meet and say goodbye to each other. The situations the two find themselves in are subtle , but funny. The scenes that work incredibly well are the ones involving Gorka’s family who could become a whole other film set up by themselves. Notably the uncomfortable squashed living room where the family watches television while the mother continually  sorts their washing. All the cast give unique and quirky performances.

While entertaining the film is slightly let down funnily enough by the lead characters, but not by the actors. Even although the term opposites attract is used and is mainly right, here it the couple are too different that many questions arise.

Why does she regularly meet with him, when he rarely communicates with her. When they do talk neither appears to be interested in each others interests. Why do other men in the area not try to talk to Ane. The character herself also appears underwritten, nothing is really known about who she is, where she has come from or anything about her background.

Even with these problems, this debut is pretty impressive and has enough to keep even the most cynical person with the hardest of hearts entertained.

Reviewed by Paul Logan

Moon Dogs ****

U.K. / Director Philip John/90 mins

Synopsis: Two teenage step brothers (Jack Parry-Jones and Christy O’Donnell) head off on a road trip across Scotland in order for one of them to see his Girlfriend in Glasgow. Their relationship is challenged by the free spirited and enigmatic Caitlin (a charismatic Tara Lee) who comes between them. 

A stunning and fun feature debut with a fantastic soundtrack. 

Thor (O’Donnell) agrees to join his Step-brother Michael (Parry-Jones) for a road trip from Shetland to Glasgow, in order for the latter to see his girlfriend. Thor has an alterer motive he wants to meet his mother who has long since abandoned him. Before they even reach the mainland they manage to run into trouble until they meet Caitlin (Lee) who helps them out. She joins them on their adventure as she is also heading to Glasgow to play at Celtic Connections.

On the outset the film feels like a Celtic version of Todd Phillips ‘Road Trip’ (the main players are Scottish, Welsh and Irish. However it does not have the silly wackiness that movie has. What distinguishes the two is that’Moon Dogs’ has a cracking script by Derek Boyle and Raymond Friel blending funny situations with sensitive issues and interesting characterisations. Although climax feels rather rushed and uneven.

Director Philip John who recently has been directing period dramas with ‘Outlander’ and ‘Downton Abbey’ directs his first foray into features with visual panache and vigour with stunning cinematography of the Scottish landscapes. 

All involved give impressive performances especially Tara Lee who has the hard role of portraying someone who on the surface has unlikable characteristics, but who is trying to deal with her own insecurities.

All these elements are aaccompanied by unforgettable unique soundtrack by Anton Newcombe.

This tale of rebellious angst is uplifting, funny and never dull. It will interesting to see how everyone involved follows this accomplishment.

Reviewed by Paul Logan

Maggie’s Plan ***

U.S./ Director Rebecca Miller/ 98mins

Synopsis: A young woman (Greta Gerwig) longing to start a family becomes involved in a complicated love triangle with a professor (Ethan Hawke) and his theorist wife (Julianne Moore). 

Writer Director Rebecca Miller has decided in a change of genres after making the dramas like “Personal Velocity” and “The Ballad of Jack and Rose”, she has made a light comedy with mixed results. 

Gerwig plays Maggie, who really wants a child. She has been unlucky in love and has decided to seeks a sperm donor. Maggie asks Guy (Travis Fimmel), a former college friend who is now a Pickle business owner. However she falls in love with John (Hawke), an anthropologist and aspiring writer. Unfortunately he is married to the egotistical Georgette (Moore), but he decides to leave her to be with Maggie. Three years later,  Maggie now has a  daughter with John but their love for each other is waning. She decides to reunite Georgette and  John.

The film has a Woody Allenesque feel not only due to the location being New York, but also due to the awkward situations the protagonist lets herself be involved in and light comedic moments.

Story wise the plot is over familiar and very predictable. For a comedy it is also light on laughs with only SNL alumni  Maya Rudolph and Bill Hader, who play Maggie’s best friends providing most of the laughs. 

Greta Gerwig usually has great screen presence as seen in her previous roles in “Mistress America” and “Francis Ha”. Here her performance feels flat and uninteresting, this may have something to do with role being mainly straight laced.

While Julianne Moore steals the show with her thick funny Danish accent and outlandish outfits. She chews every scene with relish. Even Hawke impresses with his sympathetic confused manchild who dotes on women’s affection.

Overall not a memorable piece of cinema, the story may be easy going but it is the performances from the supporting cast that make the film entertaining.

Reviewed by Paul Logan