Results for category "Film Reviews"

Cave of Forgotten Dreams ***

Running time: 89 mins  Certificate: PG

Synopsis: Werner Herzog becomes the first filmmaker to shoot the Chauvet caverns in France, where preserved cave drawings are shown in all their glory.

 

After making a couple of feature films in the past couple of years, eccentric auteur Werner Herzog makes a return to documentary filmmaking. This time he explores the Chauvet cave system and in the process shows the incredible art work created by prehistoric man around 32,000 years ago, to cinema audiences for the first time.

Throughout the documentary Herzog talks to a range of various, quirky eclectic bunch of experts including archaeologists, palaeontologists, art historians. There is also a perfume specialist, who is trying to discover the smells that would have been around at the time   in order to recreate them. 

Werner’s narration brings a philosophical and an almost hypnotic sense of wonder to the proceedings. He also adds humour by slightly mocking some of the experts and also talking about albino crocodiles and their insight into the world around them.

While the visuals are interesting and the actual piece has been well researched, there does not appear to be enough substance to cover the running time. His latest venture into documentaries is intriguing, but not as entertaining or as interesting as either Grizzly Man or Encounters at the End of the World.

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan

13 Assassins ****

Running time: 125 mins  Certificate: 15

Synopsis: In Japan, 1844. Lord Naritsugu (Inagako), the Shogun’s illegitimate brother rises to power, but is an insane sadist. Shinzaemon (Yakusho) has to assemble a small band of men in order to assassinate Naritsugu and defeat his samurai army.

 

Takashi Miike has directed some shockingly violent movies and his reputation for gore tends to overshadow his quieter, more understated films like ‘Blues Harp,’ ‘Rainy Dog,’ and his masterpiece ‘Dead or Alive 2 – Birds.’  Even his most famous film ‘Audition’ is remembered for its gruesome finale, rather than the restrained, almost tender courtship that precedes it.  It is a love story in its own strange way, with a devastating consummation, but people remember the needles and the missing limbs.  

 

’13 Assassins’ sees Miike delivering his most mainstream film to date; a crowd-pleaser that mixes both sides of Miike, the showman and the artist.  After a respected samurai commits Hari-Kari in protest at the rising influence of the cruel Lord Naritsugu (Goro Inagaki), Shogun officials approach ageing warrior Shinzaemon (Koji Yakusho) and ask him to put together a team to assassinate Naritsugu.

 

These include the tall, powerful Ronin, Hirayama (Tsuyoshi Ihara), a former pupil of Shinzaemon who longs to repay his master; gambling addict Shinrokuro (Takayuki Yamada) who loves the idea of gambling with his life, and the pick of the bunch, peasant Koyota (Yusuke Iseya), who dislikes Samurai for their arrogance, but is always up for a fight. 

 

13 Assassins is a remake of a 1963 film directed by Eiichi Kudo. Miike replicates the old fashioned classical style of the original and of its main influence, Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai ((1954).  However there are still plenty of moments that are unmistakably the work of Miike Takashi, a director who is capable of creating haunting imagery, a particular example being a close-up of a survivor of Naritsugu’s attentions as she gives out a blood-curdling scream that will send shivers down your spine.

 

While Miike honours the bravery of the Samurai he is scathing about their politicking and their outdated notions of behaviour. You get the feeling the wild, anarchic livewire Koyota is more to Miike’s taste. “Do only Samurai matter in this world?” he asks wearily, while smacking Naritsugu’s henchmen around the head with what appear to be giant drumsticks. Though it begins to drag a little during the second act, the climactic battle is outstanding with Miike bringing the viewer right into the action as 13 men battle 200 in a variety of inventive and exhilarating ways. 

 

Reviewed by Kevin Sturton

Thor ****

Running time: 114 mins  Certificate: 12A

Synopsis: Thor (Hemsworth) is cast out of Asgard by his father Odin (Hopkins) and banished to Earth. There he must discover himself and face his jealous brother, Loki (Hiddleston).

 

Marvel unleash it’s latest assault on audiences with a someone that may not be as familiar to audiences as their more popular creations. This hero is is no ordinary man, but is a God. This character was always going to be the most difficult to adapt for the big screen.

Kenneth Branagh was always a controversial choice to direct this movie as he has very little experience in Hollywood blockbusters apart from dealing with the underrated Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. But somehow the camp over the top jokey direction seems to work with the striking visuals on display. The action scenes are exceptionally well choreographed.

The story is in itself a bit of a mess from start to finish. Because this is a unfamiliar new character to cinemagoers, there needs to be a bit of explanation to set up the story world. But there is a bit too much exposition, that drags out the running time which initially makes the whole piece to be overlong. Also the opening scene with the moment where Thor crashing down to earth feels very out of place in context to the narrative. But the film has some cracking one-liners and in-jokes relating to other Marvel related comic books.

The human characters appear to be one dimensional and not as interesting as the Asgard characters. Natalie Portman, Stellan Skarsgård and Kat Dennings all try their best with the material they are given, but the roles are just plain dull. While the gods are given some of the best lines and key scenes. Australian newcomer Chris Hemsworth makes a good leading man, but does lack the charisma of Robert Downey Jnr. 

The end result is deeply flawed and ridiculous, but is incredibly fun. After the hit and miss The Incredible Hulk and the atrocious  overcooked mess that was Iron Man 2, it is good that Marvel Studios seemed to have found their feet again. Stay till the end of the credits for an intriguing scene that sets up for next year’s must see blockbuster, The Avengers.

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan

Scream 4 ***

Running time: 111 mins  Certificate: 15

Synopsis: Sidney (Campbell) returns to Woodsboro on the anniversary of the first batch of murders.  Now a successful writer, Sidney is back in town for a book signing, but it isn’t long before somebody dons the Ghostface outfit and starts their own killing spree.  Dewey (Arquette) has somehow become sheriff of Woodsboro, while his wife Gail (Cox) struggles with small-town life and writer’s block.  There’s a new batch of disposable teens in town too, including Sidney’s cousin Jill (Emma Roberts), Kirby (Hayden Panettiere), and film geek Charlie (Rory Culkin).  

 

The best late night showing I ever went to was a raucous screening of ‘Scream 2’ back in 1998, so I have a strong feeling of nostalgia towards this franchise.  The horror genre has moved on since then, or rather it has regressed, becoming more gore-fixated and less interesting.  These days the Scream movies seem rather quaint in comparison to torture porn movies like ‘Saw’ and ‘Hostel,’ which linger over every gaping open wound.  At least Ghostface made his point quickly; usually with a knife.  

 

Producers Dimension Films have been pushing for a fourth instalment for a while.  You get the feeling Harvey Weinstein and his brother Bob made a lot of threatening phone calls to get all the main players back for ‘Scream 4,’ so unlike most belated sequels it does feel like a follow up to the earlier films.  Wes Craven once again directs; original screenwriter Kevin Williamson returns after skipping ‘Scream 3,’ composer Marco Beltrami’s music is vital to the franchise so it’s great to have him back, and Neve Campbell, David Arquette and Courtney Cox all reprise their respective roles.  

 

Sadly ‘Scream 4’ feels tired and closer to the lacklustre ‘Scream 3’ than the excellent first two films.  There were rumours of a troubled production schedule and the film certainly seems to have suffered.  There are moments during the third act that seem to hint towards a darker finale, but I’m guessing the filmmakers were prevented from carrying out their intentions by the money men.  It would have been a killer ending had they chosen to go down this path, but there are still hints of what might have been.

 

There’s plenty for fans to enjoy though.  Ghostface is still voiced by the irreplaceable Roger Jackson, and Craven’s direction still manages to wrong foot the audience at crucial moments.  You know the shock is coming, but not when.  It’s all in the editing, which is as sharp as the knife Ghostface wields.  The Meta commentary on the genre and the pop culture references are often funny, especially when they involve ‘Stab,’ the film within a film series based on the Woodsboro murders.  Having the once privacy obsessed Sidney sell out and turn her troubled life into a misery memoir is a nice touch.  If only Craven and Williamson had been free to wreak the kind of smart, funny, and playfully malevolent havoc both are capable of.  

 

Reviewed by Kevin Sturton

Winnie The Pooh ****

Running time: 73 mins  Certificate: U

Synopsis: Pooh and his friends search for a replacement tail for Eeyore, go on a quest to save Christopher Robin from an imaginary creature, while  Pooh sets out to find some hunny. Inspired by five stories from A.A. Milne’s books in Disney’s classic.

 

Walt Disney Animation returns to what it does best, a hand drawn feature inspired by five stories from A.A. Milne’s books. The film captures the spirit of the original Pooh films with the only difference being that the animators have used a more varied and vibrant coloured palette. 

They have kept all the elements that have worked previously from the use of the narrator (voiced by John Cleese) to the characters jumping from page to page to go places. While the catchy toe tapping music by Zooey Deschanel is in the style of the old songs, but has been given a slightly modern twist. 

The animation is as anyone would expect it to be, stunning and faultless. There is something about hand drawn animation that feels more impressive than most of the dull and sterile CGI animated movies that come out of Hollywood these days.

There is no real story or structure to the piece, it is just a series of threads which one way or another flow into each other. This is not really a problem as each tale is enjoyable and often funny. The story team was in fact headed up by Disney veteran, Burny Mattinson who worked on many animated classics. 

The voice cast are fantastic, especially Jim Cummings who gives a spot on impersonation of both Pooh and Tigger. While Craig Ferguson brings a funny dry wit to the character of owl.

A clever hand drawn short inspired by the classic animation by Disney in the 50’s and is narrated by comedian Billy Connolly also accompanies the movie. The Ballad of Nessie is about the Loch Ness Monster being forced from its original home by a tycoon intent on turning Scotland into a garish golfing theme park. 

Winnie The Pooh in itself is extremely short with only just over an hour of entertainment. But it is better that this whimsical, pleasant well made animated movie is this length rather than being an overlong mess. Both adults and kids alike could do worse than taking an enjoyable trip into the Hundred Acre Wood.

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan

Rio ***

Running time: 95 mins  Certificate: U

Synopsis: A neurotic macaw, Blu(Eisenberg) moves from the comfort of his Minnesota home to Brazil in order to find a mate and save his species. But things go badly wrong when he and his new adventurous girlfriend Jewel (Hathaway) are stolen.

 

Yet another computer animated movie hits our screens this time from the team who brought us Ice Age, Blue Sky Studios. While it may not be of Pixar standard, the animators have created a fun, colourful and enjoyable movie.

There is nothing really special or original going on in this film. The story in itself is very generic and also very predictable. We have had several different incarnations of a protagonist not being able to do what they should be able to do , in this case a bird who cannot fly. It is a tried and tested formula that has worked before, so we can’t really blame the animators for playing it safe.

Where the film excels is in the voice-casting, the use of colour and the spectacular use of 3-D. The flying scenes especially are exhilarating and what the 3-D format is really made for. While Jesse Eisenberg is a really good choice for playing a talkative nervy freak. Anne Hathaway brings life to the dominant headstrong female macaw. But it is really Nigel, the smuggler’s evil cockatoo, played by Flight of the Conchord’s Jemaine Clement that steals the show. He has the best song and some cracking one liners.

Both kids and adults will enjoy this musical spectacle. While it may not have a strong story or as much of an emotional journey as other films in this genre, it is still delightful fun for all the family.

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan

Sucker Punch **

Running time: 110 mins  Certificate: 12A

Synopsis: Babydoll (Browning) is sent to a mental institute for young women after attacking her evil stepfather with a gun and accidentally killing her younger sister in the process. She and four inmates plans to escape via the power of her imagination.

 

Zack Snyder returns with another visually stunning piece, it is a shame that there is no substance behind the striking images. This time he has conceived an original story, which was one described as Alice in Wonderland meets One Flew of the Cuckoo’s Nest. But not even Lewis Carroll himself could make sense of this nonsense.

The plot revolves around three aspects, the first being reality inside the institution. The next revolves around an alternate reality where the patients are now Burlesque dancers, while the chief guard is the one who owns the club. The final piece is based on fantasy elements, where the girls fight robots, zombies and dragons. In these elements there are many different genres  established ( War, Sci Fi, Western, Kung Fu).

This is where the problem lies, there are too many different things going on, with no real characterisation. Apart from the central character, there is nothing to differentiate the other girls. It feels that Snyder has nothing really to tell, as we go from one set piece to another. The clunky dialogue also does not help matters.

The soundtrack is full of different takes of popular songs, which works reasonably well with the action set-pieces. 

It is difficult to believe that something that looks striking can be so incredibly dull and lifeless. But all in all this basically is an overlong music video that outstays it’s welcome.

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan

Source Code ****

Running time: 93 mins  Certificate: 12A

Synopsis: A former helicopter pilot Colter Stevens (Gyllenhaal) is drafted as a test subject for a scientific experiment in time travel. Stevens repeatedly lives through the last eight minutes of the life of a passenger on a train which has just been destroyed by a terrorist bomb.

 

The last time Duncan Jones (aka Zowie Bowie) graced our screens was with his terrific debut Moon. The son of David returns with this clever and complex science fiction tale.

The story will be familiar to anyone who has watched Groundhog Day, Frequency or Deja Vu. The structure replays the same eight minutes before the train explodes. It also has elements of the classic 90’s series Quantum Leap, as Gyllenhaal’s character inhabits a complete stranger in order to complete his mission. Not to mention the cracking cameo that plays a pivotal part of the story.

While on the outside the structure of the script appears to have been cobbled together from different pieces of other films. However, the mechanics inside have been assembled with clever twists and turns that may need multiple views in order to fit the puzzle together. 

Jake Gyllenhaal has never had much luck in breaking out into the mainstream. Hopefully this movie will change things for him, as he gives passionate, powerful sympathetic performance to someone who knows just as much as the audience does. While his female co-stars Vera Farmiga  and Michelle Monaghan may have been given a limited amount of screen time, they are just as memorable giving extra depth to the character of Colter Stevens. But, Jeffrey Wright’s character seems a bit one dimensional and more of a bond villain than an quantum physicist. 

 Fun, exciting and intellectually stimulating. Why can’t all Hollywood blockbusters be like this?

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan

 

Hop ***

Running time: 94 mins  Certificate: U

Synopsis: Rebellious teen rabbit E.B. (Russell Brand) ditches Easter Island & goes to Hollywood to become a drummer. That is until he’s injured and unable to hop after being hit by a car driven by Fred (Marsden). Will the unlikely pair become friends and save Easter?


Over the years, movie goers have been ini-dated with Christmas movies. For some reason (only known to the studios), there have been very few Easter films, that may change with this live action feature mixed with animation.

These films can either succeed (Who Framed Roger Rabbit) or fail miserably (Yogi Bear). This one is almost successful and at times ingenious. The plot is pretty unoriginal and appears to have been lifted directly from The Santa Clause movies. In that Fred is someone who lacks commitment, until an alternative and unusual job choice comes up. Even the villain, goes the same route by trying to take over Easter Island. 

What brings this movie up to scratch is the voice-work and the animation. The characters are well designed and are very impressive, especially when reacting to real life objects. 

Brand is clearly having fun by making E.B. a wisecracking rabbit, that is more Bugs than Thumper. While Hank Azaria’s hilariously evil Easter chick Carlos almost steals the show with his performance. That is until The Hoff shows up. Unfortunately Marsden is given little to do, but to look extremely goofy.

Some of the gags are hit and miss, but how can anyone not laugh at a protagonist that craps candy. Crude some might say, but incredibly funny at the same time. There is enough here to keep both Adults and Kids entertained throughout.

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan

Hall Pass **

Running time: 105 mins  Certificate: 15

Synopsis: Rick (Wilson) and Fred (Sudeikis) are granted a week’s hall pass from marriage by their wives. With the pass they set out to live out their sexual dreams.But will their marriages arrange this strange arrangement?

 

After delivering comedic gold with the movies Dumb and Dumber, Kingpin and There’s Something About Mary, the Farrelly Brothers were looking like the new Zucker brothers. Then came the misfires of Me, Myself & Irene, Shallow Hal and The Heartbreak Kid. Films which had a few good ideas, but outstayed their welcome. 

Unfortunately the Farrelly Brothers return to the big screen is just more of the same half baked ideas. The actual premise initially sounded quite promising and original. The problem is not really the idea, but more the actual script which seems to loose interest in the supporting characters which are almost forgotten about. Especially the wife characters feel very underdeveloped, when they should be essential to the plot.

The other problem is that the lead characters are not sympathetic or likeable enough. Jason Sudeikis is mildly amusing, while Owen Wilson is just plain annoying with his one tone delivery of the dialogue. Even Stephen Merchant role is treated as a mere cameo with no real purpose to the story.

With any Farrelly movie comes the gross out humour, which on the whole is quite funny. But there are not enough jokes adequate enough to stretch to the films over welcome running time. 

Sadly this was not the return to form, that audiences were all hoping for. Hopefully with the Farrelly’s version of The Three Stooges they can return to their former glories.

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan