Results for category "Film Reviews"

Maleficent ***

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Run Time: 97 mins           Cert: PG

 

Synopsis: Betrayed and threatened, a fairy seeks revenge on a kingdom by cursing a young princess. 

 

The film begins when Maleficent (Angelina Jolie), a young fairy, becomes friends with a boy named Stefan (Sharlto Copley). As they get older, he betrays her and helps to destroy the land she lives in. This leads Maleficent to become evil and set on revenge.

 

The story is completely different from the original Sleeping Beauty and doesn’t really work. However if the audience are able to disregard the original story, this version is enjoyable. Despite being predictable at times there are a number of twists and the ending is not what the viewer is likely to expect.

 

Jolie gives an excellent performance as the title character. She looks the part, clearly enjoys the role and is both entertaining and fun. Elle Fanning is pleasant to watch as Aurora and the pair work well together. Sharlto Copley gives an average performance as King Stefan, but his Scottish accent is not particularly good.

 

“Maleficent” also has comic relief in the form of the fairies played by Imelda Staunton, Lesley Manville and Juno Temple. Temple in particular shines as the youngest of the three.

 

The 3D effects are subtle but nice to look at. Colours are also well used despite the film’s dark themes and the costumes are nicely designed.

 

Overall, Maleficent is an enjoyable film with some good performances but does not do the original story justice.

 

 

Reviewed by Lesley Logan

20 Feet From Stardom *****

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Run Time: 91 mins        Cert: 12A

 

Synopsis: Directed by Morgan Neville, the documentary tells the story of the backing singer and features long time session vocalists Darlene Love, Merry Clayton and Lisa Fischer amongst others. 

 

Based in the USA, “20 Feet From Stardom” covers a period from the 1960s to the present day and follows the careers of three African American backing singers.

 

The documentary is both informative and entertaining. In depth interviews with Love, Clayton and Fischer provide the audience with an intimate knowledge of their careers from start to finish and explore both their musical aspirations and feelings about life in general during those times.

 

While the three women clearly love what they do, nothing is held back during interviews. The downsides to being a backing singer such as lack of recognition and issues with record labels are openly discussed and, as time passes, changes in the music industry make it increasingly difficult to secure jobs.

 

Interviews with musicians such as Mick Jagger, Bruce Springsteen and Sting give an insight into their relationships with backing singers and what they feel they add to their music both on stage and in the studio. The film also features extensive footage of each singer performing alongside a variety of musicians which is enjoyable and will likely make the viewer want to sing and dance with the music.

 

With its great storytelling and top class soundtrack, “20 Feet From Stardom” is a gem that any music fan should watch.

 

Reviewed by Lesley Logan

Bad Neighbours: ***

bad-neighbours-seth-rogen-rose-byrneRun Time: 97 mins         Cert: 15

 

Synopsis: When a Frat House moves in next door to Mac and Kelly Radner (Rogen and Byrne) they find they get more than they can handle when relationships break down between the two parties.

 

Seth Rogen teams up with Zac Efron for a different take on the Animal House style frat movie. Also yet another movie that has been renamed by the studio, incase we are confused about a college comedy and a tedious Australian soap.

 

In that instead of adults moving into a fraternity or a fraternity running wild within the town, we have a fairly original concept of what happens if a Frat House moves into a suburban neighbourhood next to a family with a baby.

 

The humour as can be expected from both Rogen and director Nicholas Stoller is fairly low brow, but is very funny. Unfortunately it is a case that if viewers have seen the trailer then they have seen the movie as all the great gags are shown.

 

The script is seems very fractured as a rather than a well paced narrative with plenty of gags, what is presented is a series of sketches with a story that does
not flow coherently.

 

Nevertheless the concept is enjoyable with good performances by all, especially by Dave franco who has some of the best moments in the film. Rogen and Byrne have great chemistry together as the conflicted parents who want to party while raising a child.

 

Even Efron who is not known for his comic timing surprises with an energetic and funny performance. Hopefully he will do more comedies than bland romantic love stories from now on.

 

In essence what is presented is a comedy that has some great jokes, but by the end is fairly forgettable.

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan

Transcendence:***

transcendence-movie-johnny-deppRun Time: 118 mins         Cert: 15

 

Synopsis: When Computer Scientist Will Caster (Depp) is shot by an anti-technology activist group, Caster’s wife and fellow expert Evelyn (Hall) finds a way of uploading his mind into the mainframe of  a computer. Virtual Will aims to aid mankind, but is this still Caster or merely a form of artificial intelligence?

 

 

Director Wally Pfister is usually known as Christopher Nolan’s Cinematographer, however he has decided to make the giant leap and make a feature of his own with mixed results.

 

Johnny Depp seems very one dimensional and uninterested within his performance in the lead role. However his character is a man of science who may have control t his fingertips, but little control of the real world. The only interests he has are his wife and his work and appears to be very isolated. Which leads on to when he becomes one with the machine. his voice becomes more monotone as would be expected from a computer than can not show any emotion.

 

Even although Depp is the lead , the supporting players have more to do, therefore their performances are interesting compared to Castor. Both Rebecca Hall and Paul Bettany are sympathetic in different ways. Hall’s character is consumed with grieve that it clouds her judgement, while Bettany’s character is torn between doing the right thing and trying to help a friend in grieve. We believe in their performances throughout the piece. While Morgan Freeman and Cillian Murphy are wasted in very limited supporting roles, which do not enhance the narrative.

 

Pfister’s direction is beautifully shot with well framed images, which would be expected from a good cinematographer. By emphasising the Biblical elements within the story whether it is v, or raindrops leading to an eventual flood. He also keeps the pace of the narrative going on an even keel.

 

The script by Jack Paglen appeared on the 2012 “Black List” (the best  unproduced screenplays ) may seem like an interesting idea, however the idea has been done before in other forms. Namely in the  camp cheesy film Electric Dreams and has ideas from the classic altered States. The film raises interesting ideas for the first two acts until it becomes an overblown action movie that is more akin to the works of Michael Bay or Len Wiseman. Before bringing things back to the ground for a clever and subtle ending.  At the end it has lost the focus of what the story was trying to say about Humans playing God.

 

Extremely flawed, but is by no means the disaster than has been publicised within the media.

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan

Cavalry: *****

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Synopsis: In Sligo, Ireland, Father James (Gleeson) discovers that one of his congregation, who was abused by another priest, intends to kill him within a week. If that wasn’t enough for him to contemplate, he has his daughter (Reilly), who has recently attempted suicide, and  a range of locals who have differing reasons to hate the Catholic Church to deal with at the same time.

 

After making his debut with the hilarious comedy The Guard, director John McDonagh returns with another piece of genius filmmaking.

 

Brendan Gleeson also returns for the ride as the protagonist Father James, a priest in rural Ireland who is surprised by a death threat one morning as he takes confession. His performance he is a bit more somber and not as outrageous as his character in The Guard. Not to say that he does not have some cracking one liners.

 

As Gleeson spends what may be his final days tending to his villagers in a variety of ways, Calvary comes together as a terrific medley of tones and styles. It’s got the black comedy that’s been at the core of Irish writing for centuries, but also offers a deadly serious examination of faith and compassion.

 

He is supported by a range of Irish comedic actors from Chris O’Dowd’s disturbed butcher, Dylan Moran’s depressed banker and Aidan Gillen’s atheist doctor. All displaying some sort of crazy characteristics, that it is a wonder how Gleeson’s priest is so down to earth and calm considering how he has to deal with the madness around him.

 

While Kelly Reilly, gives a terrific performance as James’ troubled daughter who is trying to reconcile with her father.

 

There are two layers of tone to the script. It is a dark comedy, but has surprisingly few laughs. That is not to say that is a flaw, as the drama and characterisation blend well within the structure.

 

Beautifully written and wonderfully performed. Calvary may not be as funny as The Guard. But with the emotional punch it makes, the film is better than McDonagh’s debut.

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan

Captain America: The Winter Soldier: *****

Captain-America-2-Scarlet-Johansson-Black-Widow-Chris-EvansRun Time: 136 mins         Cert: 12A

 

Synopsis: Steve Rogers (Evans) uncovers a conspiracy involving S.H.I.E.L.D. Cap must race against time in order to save the world.

 

The weakest character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe returns and ends up being the biggest surprise of the franchise so far.

 

Community Directors Joe and Anthony Russo’s have concocted an interesting premise for a superhero movie. One part tense 1970s influenced political thriller and one part overblown effect filled fantasy blockbuster. It should not work but somehow it does.

 

The script by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely is clearly influenced by political films including Three Days of the Condor or All the Presidents Men. Three Days of the Condor. The story is more character based than previous superhero movies.

 

By doing this Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow and Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury, are given far more to do this time around and are not just action piece set ups. Anthony Mackie’s Sam Wilson a.k.a. Falcon is a welcome addition and provides many of the more humorous moments.

 

While Robert Redford is clearly having fun in his role. Where the film is letdown is by the one dimensional and forgettable bad guy The Winter Soldier. Evans is also far more likeable and not as annoying as he was in The First Avenger.

 

The action scenes are gripping and tense with thrilling car chases, well choreographed fight sequences.

 

If this is what Marvel has planned for future movies, then we can all look forward to more intelligent superhero movies for years to come.

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan

Muppets Most Wanted: ****

Muppets-Most-Wanted-3Run Time: 113 mins         Cert: U

 

Synopsis: The Muppets go on a European tour with agent Dominic Badguy (Gervais). As soon as they arrive Kermit has been kidnapped and replaced with  criminal mastermind , Constantine who looks like, but does not act like our favourite green amphibian. 

After a fantastic comeback, the Muppets are back again for a sequel, although as Dr Bunsen Honeydew states that “technically our seventh”.

 

Similar to The Muppets, the screenwriters have used a tried and tested idea. While the last film was saving the theatre, this one uses a plot similar to the best muppet film The Great Muppet Caper by using a jewel heist storyline. They have also added an additional character in a Kermit the frog doppelgänger Constantine, who has all the best lines and is incredibly funny.
The script does suffer a little from being crammed with too may ideas and plot-lines that it is sometimes difficult to follow what is going on. There are also many famous or in some cases not so famous faces making cameos that it takes away some of the Muppet magic. Saying that the Christoph Waltz sequence is inspired.

 

The Human characters are a mixed bag. Tina Fey’s silly prison guard, Nadya feels very underused and unnecessary within the story. Ty Burrell has really great chemistry with Sam the Eagle and have some great gags. While Ricky Gervais surprises with an energetic fun performance as constantine’s sidekick Dominic Badguy. He is clearly having the time of his life singing and dancing with Muppets and it feels infectious.

 

Songwriter Bret McKenzie returns with more toe tapping songs with ‘We’re Doing a Sequel’ and ‘Cockatoo in Malibu’ being the highlights. Not all the songs are as memorable as the ones from the last feature, but they are good nevertheless.

 

Director James Bobin throws everything at the screen in terms of gags and visuals and anyone who is a muppet fan will not be disappointed. It may not be as good as The Muppets, but it is by no means a disaster.

 

Reviewed by Lesley Logan

Under the Skin: *****

under-the-skinRun Time: 108mins         Cert: 15

 

Synopsis: A beautiful mysterious  woman (Johansson) drifts across Scotland, seeking men for dark encounters, before questioning the purpose of her existence.

 

Odd, disturbing, bizarre, captivating, experimental and totally hypnotic. Jonathan Glazer’s long anticipated adaptation of Michael Faber’s novel is a unique piece of filmmaking and is unlike anything that has been seen in the past few years.

 

Johansson is bewitching in the lead role which is completely improvised. Her performance entails wearing a black wig and red lipstick, while driving a van rigged with hidden cameras in which she approaches real members of the public. It has hard to think of an actress of her calibre and appearance that would approach a role and project like this.

 

The narrative focuses only on the point of view from this outsider, which makes the viewer feel like their the alien as we find it hard to understand what compels this creature to do what she does. It is only when she starts to question her existence and her own sense of humanity that we start to understand this complex individual.

 

Glazer appears to be heavily influenced by The Man Who Fell to Earth, not only in imagery but also in the whole composition with high pictured string siren like sounds and pale toned colourisation.

 

Anyone expecting a Hollywood science fiction thriller will be disappointed. The film is an amazing piece of filmmaking that will make the audience think and decipher for a long time to come, which makes this a rewarding unmissable masterpiece.
 

Reviewed by Paul Logan

Sarah’s Room: ****

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Run Time: 94mins                  Cert: N/A
 

Synopsis: When Joe (O’Brien) returns home after being away, he finds that his wife (Colquhoun) has taken in a mysterious lodger( Stanbridge). Is this stranger playing tricks on him or is he slowly going mad.

 

After spending over 10 years in the camera department on movies such as Cloud Atlas, World War & Under the Skin, Grant McPhee makes a giant leap into making his directing debut. Originally entitled ‘To Here Knows When’ this psychedelic ambient drama was filmed over five days at the cost of £4,000.

 

The first thing to notice in this remarkable film is the stunning cinematography. With blinding flashes and quick cuts, the film has a classic 70’s feel to each frame. In fact the piece has the look that is reminiscent of Donald Cammell, Dario Argento and Nice Roeg.

 

The performances of the stellar cast bring extra life to the film. After a fantastic turn in the horror Outcast Hannah Stanbridge shows that she is one of Scotland’s unique talents. Not to be outdone both newcomers Patrick O’Brien gives a powerful and sympathetic performance as Joe, while Colquhoun gives an emotional and compelling performance as his wife who is stuck in the middle of both sides of the situation.

 

The narrative of the story is complex and has many elements going on within the story. None of which are ever fully explained or revealed to the audience. Sadly this is where the film is letdown. While many movies from the 70’s followed this rule, they at least detailed one of story strands. There is nothing wrong with making a narrative ambiguous, but it just takes too many turns making the journey far too confusing to an audience.

 

Overall McPhee’s debut is a stunning piece of filmmaking, with memorable performances. It is hard to believe that a film of this calibre was made with such a small budget and in such a short amount of time. Everyone involved in this production should be incredibly proud of their achievements.

Reviewed by Paul Logan

Non-stop *

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Run Time: 110 mins         Cert: 12A

 

Synopsis: During a Transatlantic flight, an air marshal (Neeson) is taunted by an unknown terrorist who is threatening to kill passengers on the plane.

 

Liam Neeson returns with yet another terrible turgid thriller, after the dire Taken and Unknown movies.

 

As in those previous films, the actor grunts and squints by yelling in his instantly recognisable Irish brogue. Neeson has become the John Wayne of action films using the set up and plot with the same limited acting range. It is hard to believe that 20 years ago this is the same person that made the classic cult flick Darkman and the unforgettable  Schindler’s list. He is not the only one to blame for this the whole cast phone in their performances including an underused high profile performers including House of Cards Corey Stoll, Boogie nights Julianne Moore and even recent Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o from 12 Years A Slave.

 

The direction is sloppy and the whole pace of the piece is grossly mishandled by director Jaume Collet-Serra, who showed such promise with the chiller Orphan. The script is full of plot holes and involves mostly Neeson typing away at his pager, which becomes incredible tedious as anyone would expect. Even worse gives away the whole whodunnit plot with in the first 10 minutes the film. Not even that but the actual twist in the plot does not make any sense.

 

Lazy, boring and frustrating will make most audiences feel like they have encountered jet lag for 110 minutes.

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan