Results for category "Film Reviews"

Inside Llewyn Davis *****

 

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Run Time: 105 mins                  Cert: 15

 

Synopsis: Joel and Ethan Coen’s latest film follows a week in the life of 1960s folk musician Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac). 

 

The film begins in February 1961 when folk musician Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) is drifting from place to place following the death of his music partner. Over the next week, the audience follows the character as he attempts to gain recognition.

 

The story has a number of twists and remains interesting throughout. Oscar Isaac gives an entertaining and believable performance and remains likeable despite his increasing frustration and anger. The ginger cat proves to be a good accessory on his journey and provides both entertainment and comedy.

 

With her dark hair and aggressive nature, Carey Mulligan’s performance is much darker than her previous roles but works well. Justin Timberlake is pleasant to watch as her mild mannered and unsuspecting partner Jim, while John Goodman threatens to steal the show as obnoxious ageing musician Roland.

 

Isaac, Timberlake and Mulligan all sing live during the movie and perform to a high standard in that respect. The music is reminiscent of the 1960s folk scene and adds realism to the story.

 

The film’s abrupt ending doesn’t conclude anything and leaves the viewer with more questions than answers. Despite this, a well written story and top performances make “Inside Llewyn Davis” a masterpiece that is not to be missed.

 

Reviewed by Lesley Logan

August: Osage County ***

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Run Time: 120 mins                      Cert: 15

 

Synopsis: Following the death of Beverly Weston (Sam Shepard), his family gather at the house he shares with his wife Violet (Meryl Streep) in rural Oklahoma. 

 

The movie begins when ageing alcoholic poet Beverly Weston (Shepard) hires a young native American woman named Johnna (Misty Upham) to look after his drug addicted wife Violet (Meryl Streep). He disappears soon after and is later found dead, prompting his family’s return to attend his funeral and provide support for his wife.

 

The initial 30 minutes are long, drawn out and could easily have been cut. The film then becomes more interesting as we explore the relationships between the family members. Julia Roberts gives a great performance as eldest daughter Barbara, a woman clearly at the end of her tether with those around her. Middle daughter Karen (Juliette Lewis) is self-centred and irritating while Ivy (Julianne Nicholson) is likeable but flat.

 

While not Oscar worthy, Streep’s performance is entertaining and hilariously over the top. Violet shows the harsh realities of addiction and her brutal honesty fuels the story by providing comedy and scenes of intense conflict.

 

In terms of the male cast members, Charles (Chris Cooper) and Little Charles (Benedict Cumberbatch) have a good father-son dynamic that is enjoyable to watch, while Ewan McGregor gives a decidedly average performance that portrays the cliched “mid life crisis” and sports a poor American accent.

 

Despite the writer’s attempts at adding twists to the story, none of the characters’ revelations are likely to surprise the audience and the ending is disappointing.

 

Reviewed by Lesley Logan

American Hustle: *****

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Run Time: 138mins
Cert: 15

 

Synopsis: In 1978 two con artists Irving Rosenfeld (Bale) and Sydney Prosser (Adams) cut a deal with FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Cooper) to help him catch other offenders in return clemency. However, Irving’s loose-cannon wife Rosalyn (Lawrence) threatens to derail the plan.

 

The movie is loosely based upon an FBI operation called Abscam. In 1978, where they recruited a convicted con artist, Melvin Weinberg assist them in their pursuit of two stolen paintings. Through continued collaboration with the art and insurance fraud expert, the organization’s operation evolved into an investigation of political corruption. To pull off the operation, Weinberg created a fake company, “Abdul Enterprises,” funded by two wealthy Arab sheiks. The term “Arab scam” became “Abscam.”

 

David O’Russell has decided to rename the characters in this true life event. So Melvin Weinberg becomes Christian Bale’s Irving Rosenfeld. Similar in tone to Goodfellas and Wag The Dog. Rosenfeld narrates the crazy story with a resentful and self obsessed point of view.

In fact all the characters in this story appear to be obsessed with themselves some way or another. DiMaso (Cooper) only worries about his career, Rosalyn (Lawrence) worries about her lifestyle, Sydney worries about being herself and Carmine worries about his image. Only DiMaso’s boss (the fantastic Louis CK) appears to be more grounded and less worried himself.

 

The film is clearly influenced by the works of Martin Scorsese and Paul Thomas Anderson especially by Goodfellas and Boogie Nights with the sweeping camerawork and funky soundtracks.

 

The performances are spectacular with Bale, Cooper and Adams all playing off each other with exquisite comic timing. In particular Lawrence cements her current can-do-no-wrong status in an extraordinary scene, just shows she is no passing fancy and is hilarious in a comical scene, which uses McCartney’s classic Live and Let Die to great effect.

 

The pace is slow to start, however given time is a wonderful enthralling piece of filmmaking at it’s best. After the disastrous I Heart Huckabees, O’Russell has regained his status as one of the best independent directors of his generation.

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan

The Wolf of Wall Street: ****

0w2GVB4wpDBPr1yTHWsqezl72eJkfbmt4t8yenImKBVvK0kTmF0xjctABnaLJIm9Run Time: 180 mins         Cert: 18

 

Synopsis: Jordan Belfort (DiCaprio) dreams of being a rich stockbroker, but after losing his Wall Street job in the crash of 1987 he falls on hard times. While working in a local dealership, which sells cheap stocks to working-class people, Belfort is inspired to go into business by himself, by manipulating the finance market. 

Adapted from Belfort’s memoirs by Boardwalk Empire’s Terrence Winter, the film plays more like Goodfellas rather than another Wall Street. In that the main character narrates the story, while constantly breaking the fourth wall in order to try and explain the complicated financial dealings.

 

However the most unappealing aspect of the movie is unfortunately the lead character. This part of Scorsese’s genius. While any other filmmaker would turn this into a problem, he ramps up the dwarf throwing, helicopter crashes, cocaine consumption and wild antics keeps the audience engaged in the over the top larger than life true story.

 

Leo DiCaprio returns to work with the auteur for a fourth time, while not his best performance it is a fun charismatic and engaging turn. With his perfect white teeth and wacky fashion sense, Jonah Hill steals Leo’s thunder with a crazy portrayal of Jordan’s bestfriend. Matthew McConaughey’s chest-thumping, coke snorting mentor is the best piece within the film, but feels vastly underused in what is nothing more than a memorable cameo.

 

It is not a Scorscese masterpiece, due to the fact it could be trimmed down to a shorter duration. It does feel like the filmmaker was racing against the clock to finish this film for the studio for awards season. Nevertheless it is incredibly entertaining and a wild ride.

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan

Grudge Match ***

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Run Time: 113 mins                    Cert: 12A

 

Synopsis: Thirty years after the retirement of boxer Henry “Razor” Sharp (Sylvester Stallone), he and his rival Billy “The Kid” McDonnen (Robert De Niro) embark on a rematch. 

 

The film begins in 1983 when two boxers tie in a match. Prior to the rematch, Henry “Razor” Sharp (Stallone) decides to retire, which ruins both his career and that of his opponent Billy “The Kid” McDonnen (De Niro). Thirty years later, both are approached by promoter Dante Slate Junior (Kevin Hart) about both a video game and a rematch between them. Despite his initial reluctance, circumstances lead Razor to accept the offer and the pair get in training for their “Grudge Match”.

 

The movie features a number both of entertaining and comic scenes in which the ageing boxers publicly embarrass themselves and make their promoter’s job increasingly difficult. While the story follows a common formula and does not have a lot of twists, these antics will keep the audience interested and waiting to see what Razor and Billy get up to next.

 

Stallone and De Niro are both fun to watch and work well together. The supporting cast also perform to a high standard with some additional comic relief from both Kevin Hart and Alan Arkin. The subplot featuring Sally Rose (Kim Basinger), a woman who has both the fighters’ affections, and her son BJ (Jon Bernthal) is pleasant enough to watch but very predictable.

 

Overall, “Grudge Match” is by no means a masterpiece but a good form of light entertainment.

 

Reviewed by Lesley Logan

12 Years A Slave ****

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Run Time: 134 mins                   Cert: 15

 

Synopsis: Directed by Steve McQueen and based on the real life memoirs of Solomon Northup, the movie follows the musician’s life as a slave after he is kidnapped and sold. 

 

The story begins when carpenter and violinist Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is offered a short music tour by two white men. Believing this will be good for his career, Solomon accepts but soon finds himself drugged and taken to New Orleans where he is sold as a slave and given a whole new identity.

 

Following being sold, Solomon works for plantation owners William Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender). Despite his relatively small role in the film, Cumberbatch is enjoyable to watch and remains semi-likeable. Fassbender has a more significant role and gives an excellent performance as a man who clearly has no conscience and takes great delight in abusing his slaves.

 

As the lead actor in the movie, Chiwetel Ejiofor is both interesting and believable to watch. While Solomon does not talk openly about his feelings, they are made very clear through his facial expressions, hunched shoulders and the way in which he hangs his head. In contrast to this, female slave Patsey (Lupita Nyong’o) openly discusses how she feels about her life. This not only adds depth to the character but illustrates how different people dealt with their situation in completely different ways.

 

The scenes of violence in the film are truly brutal and nothing is left to the viewer’s imagination. Although this may distress some viewers, it adds to the level of realism by showing just how horrific life was for those living as slaves.

 

While the story does not have many twists, the film is both enjoyable and authentic with top class performances.

 

Reviewed by Lesley Logan

Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom ****

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Run Time: 141 mins         Cert: 12A

 

Synopsis: A chronicle of Nelson Mandela’s (Elba) journey from his childhood in a rural village through to his inauguration as the first democratically elected president of South Africa.  

 

Finally the adaptation of Mandela’s best selling autobiography makes it to the silver screen. Initially the film was supposed to star Denzel Washington, now Idris Elba has the daunting task of trying to portray such a larger than life figure.

 

The performances by Elba and Harris are great. Naomie Harris gives a powerful and tragic performance of a wife who has to struggle while her husband is in prison.

 

It is a shame that there was not more emphasis put on the time in this period between the two parties. This adaptation may have been better set as a mini series as Mandela’s life is so interesting that a 2 1/2 hour feature.

 

The film is beautifully shot with some amazing sunsets. While the tranquil sounds of traditional African music give an authentic feel of late 20th Century South Africa.

 

A compelling life story of such a intriguing is letdown by underdeveloped screenplay. It is never less a good biopic with impressive towering performances.

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan

All Is Lost *****

 

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Run Time: 106 mins         Cert: 12A

 

Synopsis: Directed by J.C. Chandor, “All Is Lost” follows the survival attempts of a lone sailor (Robert Redford) lost at sea in a remote location. 

 

At the beginning of the movie, the audience is introduced to an older man sailing on his boat in the Indian Ocean. As the story progresses, the weather worsens and the anonymous sailor makes use of the limited resources available to try and save himself.

 

The movie only contains eight lines of dialogue and relies on the actions of its sole character to tell the story. While this could easily have made for a boring film, it is made interesting both by Redford’s creative attempts to stay alive and the mystery surrounding his backstory. Every scene raises questions in the viewer’s mind and the outcome remains uncertain until the last minute.

 

Redford gives an excellent performance throughout the movie. The role had the potential to be difficult due to the lack of dialogue and character history, however Redford’s actions and facial expressions say a lot about the character without actually telling the audience anything.

 

The ending is unpredictable and has a strong element of mystery. If anything, the viewer is likely to leave the cinema with more questions than they arrived with.

 

Overall, the film is a great piece of writing with plenty of suspense and a top performance from Redford.

 

Reviewed by Lesley Logan

Paul’s Best & Worst Movies of 2013

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Best Movies of 2013 – Top 5

 

1. Gravity – A long time in development, but the wait was worth it. Not only the best 3D movie ever made, but possibly the greatest sci-fi movie since 2001: A Space Odyssey.

 

2. Filth – Darkly comic with fantastic performances. Another Scottish classic from an Irvine Welsh novel.

 

3. Zero Dark Thirty – Gritty, compelling and tense portrayal of the infamous moment when Bin Laden was found.

 

4. The Lone Ranger – Forget all the bad press, this was the most under appreciated film of the year. A fun, silly blockbuster that was definitely the highlight of a disappointing Summer season.

 

5. Rush – Based on the rivalry between two of the best drivers racing during the 70’s. Great performances & a gripping story.

 

Worst Movies of 2013 – Top 5

 

 

1. We Are The Freaks – How this terrible dark comedy set in early 90s ever received financing is anyone’s guess. Dreadfully unfunny.

 

2. Diana – What might of been an interesting idea is ruined by a boring plot & the worst dialogue ever committed to a feature film.

 

3. About Time – Another movie full of ideas, lacking in ideas & even worse breaks all the rules it sets out to explain about time travel.

 

4. After Earth – Dull, poorly acted rubbish. Dear Hollywood, please stop giving M Night Shamalamadingdong work. It encourages him.

 

5. Scary Movie 5 – A franchise that should have stayed dead. Barely a chuckle can be found in the film’s overlong 80 minute duration.

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Lesley’s Best And Worst Movies of 2013

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Best Movies of 2013 – Top 5

 

1. Gravity – Great science fiction movie with a tiny cast and big effects. The best film of the year in my opinion.

 

2. Rush – Excellent biopic by Ron Howard. The actors resemble the people they portray and the story is entertaining and accurate.

 

3. Django Unchained – A humorous and action packed look at slavery in the USA. Great acting and awesome screenwriting. Didn’t feel like almost three hours.

 

4. The Lone Ranger – Although it didn’t do well in the box office, this is a masterpiece in my opinion. Great story, top class acting and plenty of action.

 

5. Filth – A dark comedy with some great twists. Not for the easily offended but a must see for those that enjoy humour with the dark realities of life mixed in.

 

Worst Movies of 2013 – Top 5

 

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1. We Are The Freaks – A horrendous low budget movie set in early 90s Birmingham. Avoid at all costs.

 

2. Diana – The acting wasn’t bad, neither was the story. The script, however, was atrocious. A big disappointment.

 

3. About Time – A nice idea, but done terribly. No conflict, very little story, just a bland romantic comedy.

 

4. The Big Wedding – This should have been a good movie with the big names featured but a weak script and poorly developed characters made it awful.

 

5. The Guilt Trip – Lacked humour and was easily forgotten.