Results for category "Film Reviews"

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

  

Bereave *

  

U.S./ Directors Evangelos Giovanis and George Giovanis / 2015 / 99 mins
 
Synopsis: Fatally ill, Garvey (McDowall) is dying and thinks he has figured out how to die alone. But when his beloved wife Evelyn (Seymour) goes missing on their anniversary, he must live to save her.

 

A low budget drama from brothers Evangelos and George Giovanis who raised the funds to make the film through Kickstarter.

 

Sitting on the edge of his bed on the morning of his 40th wedding anniversary, Garvey (Malcolm McDowall) contemplates his life with a revolver in his hand. He is struggling with his dark secret which is frustrating his wife Evelyn (Jane Seymour) who does not understand what is going on with her husband. Struggling with pressure of the secret and with the arguments between the two increasing, he runs away from home for a strange day of misadventures.

 

There may be be a good film somewhere, but this script hides any potential it may have. The problem is the multiple storylines involving Garvey’s family which do not connect with the central premise.

 

This is especially the case with the strand involving his brother (Keith Carridine), a character that appears to be some kind of gangster. But there is no character development and aspects about their lives are never fully explained. Not only that, but some of the dialogue is absolutely terrible.

 

With the actors involved in this film, it would at least be expected that the performances would be good. Unfortunately everyone overacts and give over the top amateurish performances. Only Garvey’s granddaughter (Rachel Egglestone) shows any promise and outshines the professionals.

 

Bereave may have some great actors in the cast, but the characters that are hard to emphasise with. This muddled mess is extremely challenging to watch.

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan

  

Chuck Norris vs Communism ***

  

UK, Germany, Romania/ Director Ilinca Calugareanu/ 82mins

 

Synopsis: In 1980s Romania, thousands of Western films were made available through a black-market VHS racketeer. With the assistance of a courageous female translator, they brought the magic of film to the people and sparked a revolution.

 

Romania was under the Communist regiment of Nicolae Ceausescu. All of the media was strictly controlled by the secret police, who used intimidation and violence. Entertainment was censored before being broadcast to citizens.

 

Then VHS tapes and VCRs appeared on the scene with films from the West being made available via a black-market ring led by a mysterious figure, Teodor Zamfir. In towns and villages secret underground parties would happen so people could watch the best and worst of Hollywood. From Sylvester Stallone to Jean-Claude Van Damme to Chuck Norris of course.

 

The film comprises of archive and film footage, reenactments and interviews with the people who attended these parties along with the entrepreneur Teodor Zamfir and his dub artist Irina Nistor who translated around 3,000 films.

 

Overall the material is extensively researched and the viewpoints from the individuals are interesting. However at the midway point these become incredibly repetitive, during the focus on the actual parties.

 

The most interesting aspect is the details about Zamfir’s organisation and how Nistor thought she would be caught by the Secret Police at anytime.

 

A fascinating and educational piece shows how the power of images can encourage people to take stand.

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan

  

Manglehorn ***

  

U.S./ Director David Gordon Green/ 97mins

 


Synopsis: Manglehorn, an eccentric small-town locksmith, tries to start his life over again with the help of a new friend.

 

Director David Gordon Green brings another character study after Prince Avalanche and Joe, with another star who has struggled with their career. This time it is the turn of the once great Al Pacino.

 

In a small Texas town, an eccentric locksmith Manglehorn (Pacino) writes letters to a girl he claims is the one that got away many years ago. He has few friends apart from his white person cat Fanny. While his estranged financially successful son Jacob (Chris Messina) will have little contact with him. Every week Manglehorn visits the local bank to see teller Dawn (Holly Hunter). But when he eventually goes out with Dawn, things do not go according to plan.

 

The film is marred by an episodic script and fails to match Pacino’s reserved fantastic performance. Random scenes including one where the Manglehorn walks past an accident involving a car crash are never explained and have very little to do with the overall narrative. Whether this is due to the script or whether it is part of Green’s vision is unclear, but the on the whole distracts from the story.

 

Green experiments with slow motion and flash-forwards, in order to give a sense of the man’s frustration with his own life, which to be honest is not really needed.

 

Not much is known about Manglehorn, only a few key details are given. He is man longing for his long lost love, what happened is very much left to the audience to fill in the gaps. What is detailed is his violent past with his own family.

 

However Pacino makes the film compelling, as he has not given this good a performance in years. Not once does he chew the scenery or go completely over the top as seen in recent features. Hunter gives warmth and quirkyness to her underwritten role as love stricken bank teller. While Harmony Korine who is known as a controversial Director and screenwriter brings some much needed humour as an old acquaintance.

 

Even although the film is not as good as Green’s previous works, it has brought a Pacino that many thought had vanished from our screens.

 
Reviewed by Paul Logan

  

Welcome to Me ****

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U.S./ Director Shira Piven/ 87mins

 

Synopsis: When a woman with borderline personality disorder wins the lottery, she decides to come off her medication and become a star. 

 

Alice Klieg (Kristen Wiig) is a woman with borderline personality disorder who lives alone and has not worked for a while. At the beginning of the movie, she wins $86 million in the lottery and decides to move into a casino and embark on being a TV star.

 

The film mainly looks at the exploitation of Alice by those she works with and does so in an interesting and sometimes comic way. The events of the story are unpredictable and give an insight into living with borderline personality disorder and the choices a person might make given the opportunity.

 

Kristen Wiig gives a gold standard performance as Alice. While the character can be a source of amusement to the audience, she also highlights a number of realistic issues that affect those with a mental illness. Her relationships with other characters, including the exploitation of the ideas she has by TV station owner Rich (James Marsden), her interactions with his brother Gabe (Wes Bentley) and the gradual alienation of the people close to her show how things can change when someone is unwell and the consequences that come with it.

 

The supporting cast also perform well. Tim Robbins is believable with a comic edge as a psychiatrist at the end of his tether while Linda Cardellini is very likeable as Gina, Alice’s supportive but despairing friend.

 

While the film may be viewed as a mockery by some people, it deals with heavy issues in an light hearted way that is still respectful and doesn’t sugar coat Alice’s illness.

 

Reviewed by Lesley Logan 

  

Inside Out *****

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U.S./ Director Pete Docter  & Ronaldo Del Carmen / 94mins

 

Synopsis: A pre-teen girl’s emotions work together to get her through life changes in Pixar’s latest animated movie.

 

When a little girl called Riley is born, a group of emotions appear in the “headquarters” of her mind and guide her through everything that happens. When she turns eleven, her family moves to San Fransisco and the emotions have to work together to make sure her happiness stays intact.

 

The story is enjoyable, comic and also sad at times. While it deals with the difficult changes children face in their lives, it does so in a light hearted way that will hold the audience’s attention. In terms of predictability,the viewer is likely to expect a good ending due to the nature of the film. However, there are a few twists and turns in the story that bring an element of doubt into the mix.

 

The emotions are the key players in the movie, with Amy Poehler and Phyllis Smith taking the lead as the two most prominent ones: Joy and Sadness. Both give performances that are both entertaining and likeable, while Bill Hader, Lewis Black and Mindy Kaling make up a good supporting cast.Riley’s character seems secondary to the emotions but Kaitlyn Dias plays the part well.

 

The animation is colourful and well designed, which will likely hold the attention of younger viewers while the deeper themes within the story will create extra interest from the adults amongst them. Overall, a great film for the whole family.

 

Reviewed by Lesley Logan

  

Precinct Seven Five ****

  
U.S./ Director Tiller Russell/ 102mins

 

Synopsis: A gripping documentary about corrupt NYC cops in the 1980’s.

 

The film focuses on the real-life story of dirty cops who worked at Precinct 75 in Brooklyn where they worked alongside notorious drugs gangs in New York in the 1980s.

 

A young patrolman Michael Dowd would develop from a smart young rookie into a criminal. He stole money and drugs with his fellow patrolmen as well as having a working relationship with a Dominican drug baron.

 

Interviews involve all the relevant parties who were involved at the time, from Federal agents to the drug gangs to Dowd and his crew. Giving an highly insightful and balanced point of view from all sides, along with interesting archive footage.

 

Dowd never makes any attempt to shy away from the deeds or make excuses for why he did it. He is a arrogant and greedy individual with no remorse.

 

Well researched and highly compelling, the whole story feels like some unmade Hollywood crime thriller.

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan
  

Love & Mercy *****

  

U.S./ Director Bill Pohlad/ 121mins

Synopsis: A biopic of The Beach Boys Brian Wilson which centres on 2 different time periods, one in the 60’s during the Pet Sound sessions the other during his problems in the 80’s.

 

A story of Wilson’s life seems to be a hard thing to bring to the screen with the amount of stories that had to be covered. Thankfully director Pohlad has focused on the two most interesting aspects of the time. The stories are interwoven between the time periods.

 

The 1960s story sees Wilson and the Beach Boys after their early successes. Brian decides to not go on the Japan tour to stay home and write something bold and new, which would eventually become “Pet Sounds.”

 

The 1980’s story involves Wilson (John Cusack) and his harmful relationship with Dr. Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti), a man who claims to be his legal guardian and the person who saved his life. Events take a dramatic turn when he meets a young car saleswoman Melinda Ledbetter (Elizabeth Banks) who tries to uncover Landy’s sinister motives.

 

Even although both leads look nothing like Brian, they take on the mannerisms which eventually makes anyone forget about the physical traits. The actors give a fragile and innocent complexity to the man who is torn between his music and the strange voices he hears in his head. In fact Cusack’s performance is a return to form after years of disappointing roles.

 

The 60’s sequences are shot ins filtered style which gives it an almost archival feel. The sound design is exceptional with music and effects being used to encapture what Wilson is feeling in his mind. Bringing some sense and understanding of mental illness.

 

The film brings justice on bringing one of the greatest musical icons story to the big screen with terrific music and powerful performances.

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan

  

Big Gold Dream: Scottish Post-Punk and Infiltrating the Mainstream *****

  

UK/ Director Grant McPhee/ 94mins
 
Synopsis: After the Punk explosion of 1976 shockwaves were sent throughout the United Kingdom’s youth. In Scotland, Fast Product and Postcard records would herald in the birth of indie music sounds and fashion and build the template for BritPop. This would all begin from two small tenement flats in opposite coasts of Scotland.

After making an impressive debut with Sarah’s Room, Director Grant McPhee returns with an informative and interesting documentary about the Scottish music scene from 1977-1985.
 
In a tenement flat in Edinburgh Bob Last and Hilary Morrison through their record label FAST Product, would go onto sign the Fire Engines, Scars and Boots For Dancing.
 
They would go on to produce acclaimed DIY releases including The Mekons, Gang of Four, Joy Division and the Dead Kennedys.
 
Fast Product would later expand into publishing and management and eventually be responsible for the 1981 Christmas No.1 ‘Don’t You Want Me’ and parent album ‘Dare’ by The Human League.
 
Meanwhile on the west coast, Glasgow based Postcard Records run by the enigmatic Alan Horne with Edwyn Collins would release Orange Juice singles.
 
With Postcard the music press would travel to see them. While it was claimed that every London based A&R representative was travelling to Scotland to sign anyone with a guitar.
 
Audiences may not be aware of all or any of the bands, but after watching this extensively researched and compelling documentary there senses will be enlightened to this interesting time for Scottish music.
 
Although the film is full of information, at 94 minutes never feels dull or dragged out. The overall structure is completely well balanced with a equal amount of screen time for both sides to convey their recollections of past events.
 
The film is compiled ofinterviews, music videos and stock footage. The interviews range from Fast owner Bob Last to colour characters in the bands to music critics to legends like Joy Division’s Peter Hook. Unfortunately there is no new interview from Orange Juice’s Edwyn Collins, only archived footage. Even the present day footage is given an aged effect look which gives the film an authentic feel.
 
It does not really matter whether audiences are Scottish Indie music fans or not, this fascinating documentary has something for everyone with great music to tap your feet to.

Reviewed by Paul Logan

  


Maggie ****

    

U.S./ Director Henry Hobson/ 95mins

 

Synopsis: A father (Schwarzenegger) decides to look after his daughter (Breslin) after she is infected by a Zombie attack.

 

An alternative take on the overused horror genre that brings a different take to the story.

 

Arnold Schwarzenegger is a loving Midwest farmer who is determined to bring his daughter Maggie (Abigail Breslin) home after she is infected by zombies. As the disease begins to take hold, her father decides to stay by her side, fending other zombies and local law enforcement.

 

Even although this has a narrative revolving around a virus outbreak and zombies, it is strangely not a horror story. There are very little scenes with the walking dead with virtually no scary aspects. It is more about a father and daughter reuniting and bonding before they have to say their last goodbyes, while questioning the humanity of individual souls.

 

Casting the Austrian Oak at first appears to be a really bizarre bit of casting. However Arnie is exceptional and for the first time in his career gives an amazing restrained heartfelt performance of a man trying his best to keep the last aspect in his life safe from harm. Breslin yet again gives a great performance showing emotional pain through the sadness in her eyes.

 

Stunningly shot with a surprising good turn from the Governator, this slow but tender thought provoking piece of melodrama.

Reviewed by Paul Logan