Results for category "Film Reviews"

Hunt for the Wilderpeople *****



New Zealand/ Director Taika Waititi /102mins

Synopsis: A national manhunt is ordered for a rebellious kid and his foster uncle who go missing in the wild New Zealand bush.

Writer/director Taika Waititi returns with his fourth feature after his vampire mockumentary ‘What We Do in the Shadows’, with a broad visual comedy based on Barry Crump’s novel ‘Wild Pork and Watercress’.

Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison), a troubled city teen is placed into the care of Bella (Rima Te Wiata) an old fashioned outgoing woman who loves the countryside. However her shy unwelcoming husband Hector (Sam Neill) is not to happy with the new addition to the family. When tragedy strikes the authorities insist  the boy goes back into the system. Ricky decides to run out into the wilderness, but Hector catches up with him. Both parties go on the run with the authorities in hot pursuit.

This charming, nostalgic, wacky, offbeat comedy is driven by a hilarious script and fantastic performances by all. The deadpan humour comes thick and fast with the narrative. The twists are well placed and the overall story never drags. 

The look of the film has a very Eighties feel, which is funny as it would not be out of place as a double bill with one of that time periods classic family adventure movies The story is broken down into 11 episodic chapters every time Ricky encounters a new situation. 

What really makes the film work is the overall dynamic between the two protagonists who have great chemistry together. Dennison is a true revelation with accurate comedic timing and likeable screen presence. It is not very often that Neill shows his funny side, so it is a refreshing treat to see this veteran actor in a different genre.

A warm, funny, heartfelt, coming of age, buddy movie  will warm the hardest of hearts.

Reviewed by Paul Logan 



 

The Nice Guys ****

Running time 115 mins Cert: 15

Synopsis: In 1970’s Los Angeles, Washed-up private eye Holland March (Gosling) and hired enforcer Jackson Healy (Crowe) must team up to investigate the case of a missing girl (Margaret Qualley) and the connected death of a porn star.

After showing that he can handle big action blockbusters with Iron Man 3, screenwriter and director Shane Black returns to a smaller but incredibly enjoyable action comedy.

Black has always had a way with pacing and clever dialogue, The Nice Guys is no exception in which audiences is given well balanced action with witty wisecracks. Not really surprising considering he is the genius behind Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Last Kiss Goodnight, The Last Boy Scout and even Lethal Weapon.

Black along with co-screenwriter  Anthony Bagarozzi provide classic noir aspects, channelling such classics as L.A. Confidential in particular the scene reuniting Crowe and Kim Basinger together. 

Neither Crowe or Gosling are particularly well known for their comedic chops. However both actors play off incredibly well towards each other as the  odd-couple protagonists.

While it is Crowe and Gosling’s platform, acknowledgment should also be given  to  Angourie Rice, who plays Gosling’s savvy teenage daughter. Rice holds her own with leading men.

If there is any flaws it is the MacGuffin that has been chosen, which is  interesting however this element never really flows particularly well within the confines of storyline. Also while the film is funny, there not as nearly as many comedic moments as the exceptional Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

Fortunately, Black and his cast make it easy to get swept away in the wild ride that The Nice Guys offers its audience, and the enjoyment one gets from watching Crowe and Gosling bumble their way through a perfectly re-created 1970s LA far outweighs any storytelling issues in the film.

Flawed, but incredibly smart, the question is why Shane Black is not making more movies, when his current output is almost flawless. Hopefully his next foray into blockbuster country with The Predator will be equally good.

Reviewed by Paul Logan

Captain America: Civil War ****


Running time 147 mins Cert: 12A

Synopsis: After a mission goes horribly wrong, the Avengers are told they must be regulated by the UN. Steve Rogers (Evans) resists, while Tony Stark (Downey Jr.) agrees with the decision. The team soon tears each other apart when Rogers’ friend Bucky (Sebastian Stan) aka The Winter Soldier resurfaces.

The last entry in the Captain America franchise, Anthony and Joe Russo’s The  Winter Soldier was surprisingly great. Making a comic book movie into a classic political drama with a 70’s feel was a refreshing take on a genre that has become increasingly overstuffed.

Unfortunately their follow up, Civil War which is based on a great graphic novel can not live up to the source material. 

The major problem with the latest instalment is the length. Too much time is taken with exposition, which makes the film drag until almost the second half of the film. Until a spectacular set piece on an airport runway involving most of the characters that have been introduced to the Marvel Universe so far.

Also as expected when dealing with an ensemble piece is that some characters are given less screen time than others, making the purpose of having them in the narrative seem a bit redundant.

The villain Zemo (Daniel Bruhl) is refreshing in that his motivation is not the usual world domination storyline that is usual seen in comic book movies. However the actual character himself is not really memorable as a great bad guy compared to other films.

What the filmmakers have done right is as stated before providing some jaw dropping action set pieces. Introducing two new characters that will be given their own franchises in the next few years. Chadwick Boseman gives a regal sensibility to Black Panther. While the real master stroke is revealing  the new Spider-Man (Tom Holland), whose enthusiasm and inexperience provides some excellent backchat towards the main players.

Not nearly downbeat or dull as Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, however Marvel’s Cinematic Universe’s really needs to evolve in order to make itself less repetitive than what they have been doing since Guardians and Iron Man 3.

Reviewed by Paul Logan

The Jungle Book *****

  

Running time 106 mins Cert: PG


Synopsis: Mowgli (Sethi), a man-cub is raised by a family of wolves. But when he is no longer welcome in the jungle due to the fearsome tiger Shere Khan (Elba), Mowgli must abandon the only home he’s ever known and embarks on a journey of self-discovery meeting a new friend Baloo (Murray) along the way.

After the success of Alice in Wonderland, Malificient and Cinderella, Disney continues remaking their classic animated features into live action pictures with the most beloved classic.

It was always going to be a huge gamble for the studio to tackle another version of The Jungle Book. But it could have been either good or a complete mess. Thankfully director Jon Favreau has delivered an unforgettable piece of family entertainment.

He has been careful to be faithful to the original novel as well as being respectful to the well loved 1967 animated movie. Favreau even uses dialogue and songs from the film with Bill Murray delivering a fun jazz infused ‘Bare Necessities’ and Christopher Walken singing a crooner version of ‘I Wanna Be Like You’.

The voice cast has been well chosen. Scarlett Johansson’s Kaa is unsettling and hypnotic. Ben Kingsley provides a strong impassionate voice to the panther Bagheera. Idris Elba is intense and scary as Shere Khan. Walken makes King Louie who is no longer a Orangutan, but a Gigantopithecus (extinct giant ape) into a Mafia Don which is funny and works well. SNL fans should look out for more Cowbell in the Monkey Temple scene. While Murray provides some much needed humour as well as stealing the show.

Newcomer Neel Sethi is remarkable as Mowgli. Not only does he look like the animated character but he also makes the same movements and gestures as seen in the movie. At times however he becomes a bit annoying, but this may not be due to the young boy’s performance, but rather that the character is full of his own self confidence.

The most unbelievable aspect is that almost everything expect Mowgli has been created by CGI. In fact at the end of the credits it is stated filmed in Downtown Los Angeles. The characters and scenery are so believable it is hard to forget it was all created by a computer. The images look even more spectacular in  3D and may be the most impressive F/X movie since Gravity.

The Jungle Book could have gone so horribly wrong, but is truly a delight to watch. It will be interesting to see if they can carry on with the success with Bill Condon’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’ next year.

Reviewed by Paul Logan

Zootropolis *****

    
Run Time: 108mins  Cert: PG
Synopsis: A freeless rabbit Judy Hopps (Goodwin) goes to the city to join the police, where she teams up with suave con artist fox Nick  Wilde (Bateman) on the trail of a missing otter. 

 Walt Disney Animation appears to be in the middle of another reinassance after a trail of successes with Tangled, Frozen, Wreckit Ralph and Big Hero 6. With their latest sure fire hit they have gone back and done a completely human less animated feature which has not been seen since The Lion King.
 
The great thing about this film is the script which is clever and witty, as well as being full of film and pop culture references including L. A. Confidential, 48 Hours, The Godfather, Chinatown and believe it or not a clever inclusion of Breaking Bad. Not only that but who would have believed a Disney kids movie would feature aspects of feminist, racism, and discrimination. 

Even although these topics are on the whole heavy going, the scriptwriter’s are never reach your with the subjects and it does actually bring more depth to the animal characters stories. The only minor point is the who dunnit plot is a little to easy to figure out.

The whole world has been given a great deal of thought. From little things on how the smaller animals are able to leave a crowded train to how each creature has there role. Elephants serving ice cream with their trunks to the hilarious scene involving sloths working at the DMV.
 
Disney’s animators have outdone themselves in creating  a colourful vibrant  world with funny, sympathetic characters. 

All the voice cast make each character memorable, especially by the two leads ‘Once Upon A Time’s’ Ginnifer Goodwin and ‘Arrested Development’s’ Jason Bateman who have great chemistry together.

Not to mention Michael Giacchino’s 70’s noir influenced score which gives the piece an even more dramatic presence.
 
Who would have thought that an inventive, clever, stunningly creative, fun  animated feature with a strong adult message would be a contender for film of the year.
 

Reviewed by Paul Logan

Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice **



Running time 151 mins Cert: 12A


Synopsis
: Eighteen months after the destructive battle with General Zod in Metropolis, Superman (Cavill) has become a controversial figure. Bruce Wayne (Affleck) who witnessed the death and destruction vows revenge on the Man of Steel.
 
Director Zack Snyder has had mixed results with his films. His first film the remake of ‘Dawn of the Dead’ was an impressive debut. While ‘Watchmen’ and ‘300’ were faithful, but incredibly dull adaptations. ‘Sucker Punch’ had a great concept and soundtrack but was a complete mess. ‘Man of Steel’ was fairly entertaining, but the plot is dragged on for far too long and the finale just becomes an overblown special effects fest.
 
Unfortunately the filmmaker has still not learned from his mistakes and if anything ‘Batman Vs Superman’ suffers even more problems. The character of Superman is even more dour, arrogant and unlikeable since the last time. This movie has even more complex special effects, and an over complicated plot which only reports to really being a setup for a Justice League movie (a DC version of the Avengers).
 
Screenwriters David S. Goyer (Man of Steel) and Chris Terrio (Argo) make a good decision building the movie around the collateral damage of ‘Man Of Steel’s’ climax. But the motivation for why both parties dislike each other makes little sense. The other thing is did we really need yet another Bruce Wayne backstory which has already been highlighted in every reiteration. They have also added too many characters with hardly anyone apart from the two leads given enough screen time past 10 mins.
 
Henry Cavill certainly looks the part and there is nothing really wrong with his performance it is just the way the character has been written and the way he has been directed.
 
On the other hand what is impressive is considering what he has to work with, Ben Affleck makes a great, vindictive and brooding Batman that it is completely different to Bale’s interpretation.
 
Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman is a wonderful addition, but very underused. Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor appears to want to out perform Kevin Spacey and Gene Hackman with a fairly annoying performance, but at least he and Jeremy Irons who plays Alfred bring much needed humour and fun to this lifeless comic book movie.
 
Instead of The Dark Knight Returns adaptation, that comic book fans longed for they have been treated to a convoluted mess.

Review by Lesley Logan

Hail Caesar ****



Running time 100 mins Cert: 12A

Synopsis: in 1950’s Hollywood, Capitol Pictures is making prestige picture Hail, Caesar. When the star of the film (Clooney) disappears, the Studio’s boss Eddie Mannix (Brolin) has to bring him back, while  dealing with the other daily issues on the lot.

The Coen Bros return with another part of their so called Idiot franchise with George Clooney, after ‘O’ Brother Where Art Thou’, ‘Intolerable Cruelty’ and ‘Burn After Reading’.

For this film they have cast a variety of top names working in Hollywood today. Michael Gambon narrates. Scarlett Johansson is the pregnant starlet. Newcomer Alden Ehrenreich makes an impressive performance playing Hobie Doyle, the singing cowboy. Tilda Swinton has a double role playing identical twin gossip columnists. Ralph Fiennes is the fiery and precise Auteur. Channing Tatum, a singing and dancing sailor. George Clooney is the clumsy and goofy leading man.

However all these stars are nothing more than bit parts that build up to a bigger and intriguing take who the classic mystery drama. It is really Josh Brolin’s studio fixer who is the real key to the story as he solves problems, while tiring to locate the missing star.

The film feels like an authentic period piece thanks to Cinematographer Roger Deakins always impressive visual imagery, as well as the wonderful production designer and costume design.

Although the structure of the script is very episodic and never really flows, the film seems to work. The dialogue as would be expected is exquisitely written and the action set pieces move at a brisk place without ever being dull.

The Coen’s latest may not be for everyone, but given a chance this funny and intelligent love letter to a bygone era in movie making is a very rewarding cinematic experience.

Review by Lesley Logan

Star Wars: The Force Awakens: ****

  
Run Time:136mins Cert:12A

Synopsis:
Luke Skywalker (Hamill) has vanished, with both the Resistance and the First Order are looking for him. Pilot  Poe Dameron (Isaac) obtains a clue to Skywalker’s whereabouts, until the First Order find Poe. He hides the clue in a droid called BB-8, with scavenger Rey (Ridley) and stormtrooper deserter FN-2187 (Boyega), helping the droid to deliver the clue to the Resistance.

After the disappointment from many fans regarding the previous trilogy, director J.J. Abrams brings the balance back to the force with a thoroughly entertaining blockbuster.

In fact he accomplishes what Lucas could not do with his own franchise. In that Abrams honours the legacy of Lucas’ fantasy world, while delivering better dialogue and plot to anything Lucas himself did with his so called prequels. This is due mostly by bringing back ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ veteran Lawrence Kasdan. 

Familiar themes are incorporated throughout the story, involving questions of family, fatherhood and loyalty. While this may appear to be lazy, they do give their own spin to the proceedings while delivering what the audience wants to see. Lucas’ attempted something new but became lumbered with unnecessary background filler for a sci fi action flick. Although the second act is not as strong as the first and the emotional final act appears to be slightly rushed.

The new cast more than holds their own against the old timers. In particular Daisy Ridley who brings an energy and innocence to Rey. Ford as would be expected steals the show as the legendary space pirate Hans Solo with his growling overgrown rug Chewbacca. Although new droid BB-8 almost outshines the classic character. The main villain Kylo Ren played by Adam Driver is an interesting take on a bad guy, as he is conflicted, confused  and lacks confidence in any of his actions.

Abrams also steers away from the stale CGI effects that were used in the last trilogy, by using mostly practical in camera effects which are incredibly impressive. 

Flawed, but exciting piece of entertainment with spectacular set pieces and compelling characters. Hopefully ‘Looper’ director Rian Johnson can deliver for the next sequel.

Reviewed by Paul Logan

Black Mass ****

Running time 123 mins Cert: 15

Synopsis: In 1970s South Boston, FBI Agent John Connolly (Edgerton) persuades Irish mobster and old acquaintance James “Whitey” Bulger (Depp) to collaborate with the FBI and eliminate a common enemy: the Italian mob. 

Based on Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill’s book of the same name, the movie follows the true events of Bulger’s two decades as an Informant for the F.B.I. The man himself is an interesting character, even Scorcese used him as a reference for Jack Nicholson’s mobster in “The Departed”.

Director Scott Cooper who previously made the slow burning ‘Crazy Heart’ and the intriguing ‘Out of the Furnace’ shows Bulger as a sensitive, likeable, human being , but violent delusions of frequent paranoia.  

He also makes a great decision only to focus on the informant years rather being a full on biopic as this is the most interesting period of Bulger’s life. Although the movie does feel like only part of the story is being told, especially with the events took place after the film.  He has also brought one of the greatest actors back from fantastical roles which have been relentless in the past few years. 

Johnny Depp reminds the audience of how good he used to be. From the very first scene he disappears completely into the role with convincing age makeup and  filtered lens giving him a dangerous, murderous sociopathic look. There is not a hint of weird quirkiness in his performance.

It is not just Depp’s movie though as Joel Edgerton, as the story also centres on the agent who let Bulger get away with running things in Boston his way. Edgerton plays John Connolly  as a naive, but identifiable flawed man.

Both  actors is also supported with a cast of great actors. Rory Cochrane  as Bulger’s  second-in-command, Breaking Bad’s  Jesse Plemons as killer Kevin Weeks’. Ant-Man’s Corey Stoll as a by the book prosecutor, Dakota Johnson as Jimmy’s partner, Adam Scott and Kevin Bacon as  FBI agents and Benedict Cumberbatch as Bulger’s more upstanding congressman brother.

Like Connolly the film is also flawed. The piece appears to have been in look and editing with previous gangster classics ‘Goodfellas’ and ‘The Departed’ But this is forgivable considering the pacing, performances and the overall storytelling.

Reviewed by Paul Logan

The Walk ***


Running time 123 mins Cert: PG

Synopsis: As a boy, Philippe Petit dreams of performing daring feats for dazzled crowds. As an adult (Gordon-Levitt), his life’s ambition comes true when he becomes a high-wire artist who stares death in the face with every step. Under the guidance of mentor Papa Rudy (Kingsley), the French daredevil devises a plan to walk on a tightrope attached to the north and south towers of the World Trade Center. With help from his team and against all odds, Petit attempts the seemingly impossible stunt on Aug. 7, 1974.

The story is based on the true events as as the memoir ‘To Reach the Clouds’ . This is not the first time Petit’s story has been brought to the big screen as the brilliant documentary “Man on Wire” screened around 8 years ago to overwhelming critical and audience praise.
 
This live action version follows the same structure as the documentary with a heist picture with biographical flashbacks thrown in. However unlike the documentary this version is not nearly as compelling.
 
One of the things contributing to this is the unnecessary voice-over provided by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. He constantly explains the motivations and his feelings regarding his actions, which anyone can clearly decipher for themselves. This criticism is nothing against the actor’s performance as he mimics Petit’s speech and mannerisms to a tea.
 
The focus obviously is on Petit, but none of the supporting cast are particularly memorable, which makes little sense considering the cast director Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future). 
His mentor Papa Rudy played by Ben Kingsley briefly appears to offer advice and support. James Badge Dale is the French speaking New York local who joins Petit’s crew. While Charlotte Le Bon has almost nothing to do except for playing the girlfriend without much of any real development about their relationship.
 
These problems make the film drag until the final act which is truly spectacular especially in 3D IMAX, which is not for the faint hearted who have a fear of heights. Once the thrilling spectacular is over there is nothing to explain the interesting developments which were seen in the documentary.
 
The Walk is a unique cinematic experience, but considering the story and the talent involved the film should have been more than a sideshow act.
 
Review by Lesley Logan