Results for category "Film Reviews"

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

Ted 2 ***

  

Run Time: 116mins  Cert: 15

Synopsis: When Ted (MacFarlane) decides he wants to have a child with his new wife, Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth), he faces the realisation that in the eyes of the law he is not a human, he is just a toy.

 

The toy with the dirty habits and filthy mouth returns. As can be expected from Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane, Ted 2 is full of crude humour and some great visual gags.

 

For the sequel, MacFarlane has tried to take the film in another direction with the theme of legal citizenship and mistreating individuals who are different.

 

While it is commended that such issues are raised, this key area does not really fit well within the world of a living breathing teddy bear. Somehow it takes the believability of the character and turns it into something that is funny, but ridiculous.

 

Mark Wahlberg returns as Ted’s childhood friend, John and has excellent comc timing. Amanda Seyfried replaces Mila Kunis due to her being pregnant at the time of shooting as the Ted’s lawyer Samantha. Although Seyfried is good, the chemistry between her and Wahlberg does not work as well as the dynamic with Kunis. However as with the first movie, the bear steals the show.

 

MacFarlane has also brought a wealth of funny cameos including appearances by Morgan Freeman, Tom Brady, Jay Leno and Liam Neeson.

 

Not as good as the first film, it is however funnier than most comedy sequels especially in recent years.

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan

Terminator Genisys **

  

Run Time: 125mins  Cert: 12A

Synopsis: John Connor (Clarke) sends Kyle Reese (Courtney) back to 1984 to save Sarah Connor (Clarke) and finds himself in a whole new timeline.

 

After the disastrous Terminator Salvation Arnie is back with a mixed bag of a reboot to the franchise.

 

Laeta Kalogridis (Shutter Island) and Patrick Lussier (Drive Angry) have come up with an interesting way of reinvigorating the series, by bringing an alternative timeline which mixes things up with the plots of the previous films.

 

However they also make the story too confusing and convoluted with ever changing characters and a pace that is fast but too hard to follow.

 

Alan Taylor uses the same kinetic style technique that he used in ‘Thor: The Dark World’. Which is great for pacing, but the action sequences are fairly lifeless.

 

The casting is also extremely uneven. Jai Courtney once again proves that he is no leading man. The usually reliable Jason Clarke gives a one dimensional performance. Emilia Clarke is impressive in the role made famous by Linda Hamilton. While J K Simmons gives a memorable comedic cameo. While Schwartznegger does what he does best by chewing the scenery.

 

The main problem is that there too many ideas and not enough answers. Hopefully the Terminator saga will be given another chance as some of the ideas are interesting as long as the final result has been clearly thought out.

 

Flawed by it is no where near as bad as Terminator Salvation, which funnily enough suffered from the same problems as well as having no Arnie feature in the movie.

 Reviewed by Paul Logan

The Wolfpack ****

  

U.S./ Director Crystal Moselle/ 2015 / 90 mins

 
Synopsis: A couple raise and homeschooled their seven children in the confinement of their apartment in the Lower East Side of New York City.
 
Shot over five years, the film captures the lives and experiences of the Angulos family. The children comprise of six teenager brothers and a sister who are trapped in a cramped apartment by an overprotective  father. But they yearn for their own independence and to have some sort of normal existence. They learn everything about the outside world from the thousands of Hollywood movie DVDs.

The film is almost like a warped  version of Michael Apted’s Up documentary series mixed with Be Kind Rewind as it opens with the kids reenacting scenes from Reservoir Dogs then shows them going onto do scenes from The Dark Knight and Pulp Fiction. 
Throughout the course of the documentary we learn more about how the kids have been treated in the past and how the family is slowly breaking up.
The kids were given Sanskrit names including Bhagavan, Govinda, Narayana, Mukunda, Krsna and Jagadisa, and the sister Visnu. Their father is an alcoholic with beliefs rooted in Hare Krishna who can show signs of untolerable cruelty.

Things start to change when one of the boys escapes is briefly arrested and then institutionalized. At that stage the family’s secret no longer involved just them.

The unusual thing is that although they are mostly confined to social isolation and homeschooled by their hippie mother, they appear to behave and react to things any geeky teenagers would be like. They will joke and revert to movie quotes in order to convey their feelings in awkward moments.
The kids are very forthcoming regarding their story even when their father is in the apartment. Which is also amazing in itself when compared to other stories where individuals are kept away from society. 

 
Unusual, compelling and disturbing all at the same time. Hopefully Director Crystal Moselle will make another instalment so we can all see what happens next in the lives of the Angulos family.
 
Reviewed by Paul Logan