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EIFF 2012: Killer Joe: ****

Director William Friedkin / 103mins

William Fredkin returns to the big screen with this deeply disturbing dark comedy, that is not only tense and funny but marks a return to form from one of Hollywoods’s greatest directors.

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A young drug dealer Chris Smith (Emile Hirsch) is down on his luck, but things are go from bad to worse when he hires the unexpectedly charming hit man, Killer Joe (Matthew McConaughey ). He hires the charismatic killer to murder his own mother for her $50,000 life insurance policy. With barely a dollar to his name Chris agrees to offer his younger sister, Dottie (Juno Temple), as collateral in exchange for Joe’s services until he receives the insurance money.

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Based on playwright Tracey Letts’ original award winning theatrical production of the same name. Lett’s has also adapted the screenplay for the film as well. The piece is full of great dialogue and great setups which heighten the performances and the action, which will make the audience wonder and curious for how the story unravels. Where Lett’s script lets him down is in some of the characterisations of the minor characters. In particular the mobsters who are after Chris for his money only appear in one threatening scene and that is it. Anyone would think professional criminals would be desperate for their money, but not these guys apparently.

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Matthew McConaughey makes another great return to form with a performance, in which he appears to relish performing to the audience. Even though he was great in The Lincoln Lawyer he is even better in this film. This could be due to who is behind the camera this time. It is strange that he makes Joe who is initially a bent psychopathic cop, more a likeable loner who is desperate for his only part in the family. Hirsch also continues to give good performances making the rest of us forget that he ever did Speed Racer. There is a great comedy double act in Thomas Hayden Church & Gina Gershon who play the parents who have fallen out of love with each other a long time ago. But no matter how good these actors are, it is really Temple’s movie with her subtle naive performance .

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At times it can be hard to watch especially with the scenes of graphic violence, but Killer Joe is certainly unmissable and one of the films of the year. Although this film will definitely put anyone off eating chicken drumsticks for life. It will be interesting to see what Mr Friedkin will follow this twisted, but thoroughly entertaining work. 

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Reviewed by Paul Logan

Snow White & the Huntsman: ***

Running time: 127 mins Certificate: 12A

 

Synopsis: When the king is murdered by his new bride Ravenna (Theron), his daughter Snow White is locked up for seven years. After her escape, the teenage Snow (Stewart) is pursued by Ravenna, who hires a grieving, drunken Huntsman (Hemsworth) to bring her back. 

 

Based on the German fairytale Snow White by the Brothers Grimm, the film re imagines the legendary story with an all star cast.

 

The film looks good – it is shot well and the scenery is attractive. The colours are also nice and clear. However the story lets it down. It is not particularly interesting and drags on. It has very few twists and a lack of suspense to hold the viewer’s attention.

 

The fight scenes are not particularly action packed, with the outcome of each fight being somewhat predictable.It never really feels like the characters are in danger and the final outcome/conclusion is reached too easily.

 

There are scenes in the movie that seem pointless. In particular the scene in which a troll tries to attack the Huntsman does not have any place in the story, while the stag will leave the audience thinking “What was the point of that?”

 

The acting in the film is reasonably good. Chris Hemsworth performs well as the Huntsman and his Scottish accent is semi believable. Charlize Theron also acts well, however Kristen Stewart is mediocre and (aside from the English accent) appears very similar to her character in Twilight. The dwarves, played by well known actors including Bob Hoskins, Nick Frost and Ray Winstone, are entertaining while Sam Claflin gives a very poor performance as William.

 

Overall Snow White & The Huntsman is a mediocre film. Nice imaging and reasonably good acting may save it slightly, however the story is boring and predictable and will leave some viewers feeling relieved when the credits appear.

 

 

Reviewed by Lesley Watt


Men in Black 3 ***

Running time: 105 mins Certificate: PG

 

Synopsis: When Boris The Animal (Clement) escapes from a supermax prison on the moon, he swears vengeance on Agent K (Jones). He travels back in time and  erases K from history. His partner, J (Smith), heads into the past and  teams up with a younger K (Brolin).

 

The third film in the Men In Black series sees Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones return as Agent J and Agent K.  The effects in the film are excellent, particularly in 3D Imax. There are times when the viewer really feels like they are in the movie, particularly in action scenes that are “shot through the character’s eyes”. Men In Black 3 is the type of film that shows the audience what 3D movies are all about with these effects really adding to the experience.

 

Will Smith performs well as always, however Tommy Lee Jones has relatively few appearances in the movie with Josh Brolin taking his place as the young Agent K. Brolin puts a new spin on the character and gives the audience an insight into how K was prior to the events that changed him. In terms of supporting cast members, both Emma Thompson (Agent O) and Michael Stulhbarg (Griffin) perform well in their respective roles.

 

The film has an interesting plot that mixes sci fi with action and comedy. The action scenes are well filmed and there are a few comic moments in the film. There is also a “human interest” factor as we explore K as a person and get a glimpse of his mysterious past.

 

The soundtrack is enjoyable and fits in with the story. The sound in the movie is also very clear and adds to the overall viewing experience.

 

Although not as good as the original, Men In Black 3 is likely to be a pleasant surprise  and will appeal to viewers of all ages. It is a must see for those who enjoyed the previous films.

 

Reviewed by Lesley Watt

Moonrise Kingdom *****

Running time: 94 mins Certificate: 12A

 

Synopsis: In New England 1965, a Scout Master Ward (Norton) wakes to find his peaceful camp thrown into chaos by the disappearance of the Khaki Scout Sam (Gilman). Ward teams up with local sheriff Captain Sharp (Willis). They discover that he  may have absconded with Suzy (Hayward), daughter of two lawyers Mr. and Mrs. Bishop (Murray and McDormand).

 

With an all star cast, Moonrise Kingdom tells the story of two troubled teens on a small island off the coast of New Englan who run away together. Twelve year old Sam has lost his parents and does not fit in at his foster home, while Suzy  does not get along with her family and has been in trouble at school. When the pair take off together, various people in the village set out to find them.

 

The acting is brilliant in this film. Bruce Willis appears as a policeman who lives alone and craves company, while Bill Murray and Frances McDormand portray the parents of Suzy who are both lawyers. The film also stars Edward Norton as the scout leader and has appearances by Harvey Keitel and Tilda Swinton.

 

The film has many comic moments but also deals with serious issues. There are some parts of Moonrise Kingdom that seem a bit “off the wall” but there is a human element to it. Viewers can identify with the characters and their relationships with each other. 

 

Moonrise Kingdom makes good use of symbolism – for example the storm co-inciding with chaos – and puts a rather comic spin on the events that occur throughout the movie. Music is also used on a variety of occasions with different types of songs being matched to each character’s personality. The use of classical music works extremely, well with the 1960’s little town setting and the eccentric storytelling.

 

Cinemagoers who have encountered director Wes Anderson’s unique quirky style will know what to expect from his unusual story employed with bizarre characters and unconventional dialogue. Others may struggle with this different kind of filmmaking which will not be to everyone’s tastes. 

 

Overall Moonrise Kingdom is a joy to watch. A combination of comedy, realistic elements and believable characters makes it a 5 star movie that will appeal to viewers of all ages.

 

Reviewed by Lesley Watt

The Dictator ***

Running time: 83 mins Certificate: 15

 

Synopsis: General Aladeen (Cohen), a pampered ruler of Wadiya, travels to New York to deliver a speech on his country’s nuclear weapons programme. But after an assassination attempt goes wrong he finds himself alone, with only a health food-shop manager (Faris) for support.

 

Like Baron Cohen’s previous personas, The Dictator is very comic. However while the others were harmless, General Aladeen is modelled on real life dictators such as Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein so is a lot more controversial. There are countries in which the actor has been banned from appearing as this character and a high percentage of the film’s jokes may be offensive to some people.

 

The acting in the film is mediocre. There are times when Sacha Baron Cohen appears ridiculous and Anna Faris is rather annoying in her role as Zoey. In addition to this none of the supporting cast members really stand out in terms of performance. Ben Kingsley is underused and completely miscast as the Uncle.

 

The film is clearly a comedy and not meant to be taken seriously, however some of the jokes work and others do not. There are some comical moments and others that are just cringe worthy. The story feels like a bad version of Coming To America. It feels like Cohen should have gone back to the drawing board and followed the same framework that made his spoof documentary’s funny and enjoyable. This attempt seems like a case of shock and awe. Some people maybe shocked, but many will not be awed.

 

The film has a genuine moments where it works, but on the whole it just tries to hard to be shockingly funny. Without giving the character more purpose and more depth the story runs out of steam pretty quickly.

 

Reviewed by Lesley Watt

Prometheus ****

Running time: 124 mins Certificate: 15

 

Synopsis: Scientists discover a star-chart on ancient tablets. The crew of the ship Prometheus land upon LV-223, with hopes that they will meet their makers. Unfortunately they what seemed like an interesting scientific find turns into disaster.

 

First things first, this is not an Alien movie, although it does some aspects of that particular franchise it is a completely different beast as auteur Ridley Scott has maintained for a long time. It does go back to look at the Space Jockey  which appeared in Alien, but this character has now been changed to the Engineers.it still has H.R. Giger influenced designs. There are even chases down corridors in a spaceship, but this is where the familiarity ends. Even the planet is different, it is based on the planet LV223 and not the original alien planet of LV426.

 

In fact, this is the major flaw with the film as it would have worked better, as a completely original entity rather than trying to bring ties from the much loved franchise. While many fans will have a big kick out of spotting the occasional reference, it feels slightly forced and does not flow with the rest of the material.

 

It should also be noted that this is not a sic-si horror like the rest of the franchise. The film is more a sci-fi action film with some  horror elements. There are only a handful of gorey scenes, but nothing that will scare an audience familiar with the psychological 1979 original. But saying that these scenes are silly, but also extremely impressive at the same time.

 

This is Ridley Scott’s big return to the science fiction genre after an absence of twenty years, when he made the classic Blade Runner. As can be expected from the director the film is beautifully shot and passionately designed.The film is full of stunning  3D cinematography, which contrasts  white futuristic interiors with the black dull colours of the Engineer’s catacombs.

Everything is on a wide epic scale compared to the claustrophobic original. The other great thing is that Scott has made the decision to stick with physical set pieces and not overusing CGI effects. Not to mention casting the film with some impressive names.

 

Saying that some of the characters suffer from being underused and the minor ones are confusing and unmemorable. Although Noomi Rapace is no Weaver, she is completely believable as the scientist who becomes feminine action-heroine. If there was a comparison to the Ripley it would be Charlize Theron’s Vickers, who struts her stuff in a tightly in a witty silver-grey suit, while having a completely different agenda to the scientists. Idris Elba seems to be having fun with his cigar chomping ship’s captain, even although he is mostly confined to the one set. While the rest of the crew are sadly forgettable, which is a shame considering the talents of Kate Dickie, Rafe Spall and Sean Harris.

 

But it is essentially Michael Fastbender’s David the android who is the scene stealer of the whole movie. A complex character who is even more mysterious than the Engineers themselves. A gripping performance that brings so much to the story, even although his performance is rather reserved  using a variety of creepy and half baked smile expressions but it is all in the eyes that there is so much to this character’s train of thought.

 

The script is really the major problem with the film, with so many setups that several payoffs are not answered. Characters are underdeveloped and too similar to distinguish between. Where it does shine is with the dialogue, which is intelligent and funny. The theme of believing is also throughly explored, but there is too much of the characters telling the audience things rather than it being played out through action.

 

Ridley has yet again come up with a visually stunning sci-fi feature. The film is never boring and the action  along with the horror scenes are tense and exciting. The 3-D is subtly done as with Scorsese’s Hugo. Some fans will be left disappointed with the whole concept and the idea that it is a direct prequel to Alien. But to compare this to that classic film would be a mistake. Overall a good thrill ride that is slightly flawed due to an underdeveloped script.

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan

Edinburgh International Film Festival announces 2012 programme


Artistic Director Chris Fujiwara announced details of his inaugural programme for the 66th  Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF). This year the Festival, which runs from 20 June to 1 July, will host nineteen World premieres and thirteen International premieres.

The Festival will showcase one hundred and twenty-one new features from fifty-two countries, including eleven European premieres and seventy-six UK premieres in addition to the World and International premieres. Highlights include the World premieres of Richard Ledes’ FRED; Nathan Silver’s EXIT ELENA, Benjamin Pascoe’s LEAVE IT ON THE TRACK and European premieres of Lu Sheng’s HERE, THERE, Yang Jung-ho’s MIRAGE in the maiden New Perspectives section; and the International premiere of Benicio Del Toro, Pablo Trapero, Julio Medem, Elia Suleiman, Gaspar Noé, Juan Carlos Tabio and Laurent Cantet’s 7 DAYS IN HAVANA and the European premiere of Bobcat Goldthwait’s GOD BLESS AMERICA in the Directors’ Showcase. In addition to the new features presented, the Festival will also host twenty-nine older titles in Retrospectives and Special Screenings, bringing the total number of feature films to one hundred and fifty across the twelve-day event.

 

British films competing for the Michael Powell Award will include, for the first time, documentaries contending alongside narrative films. Among them are seven World premieres: Peter Strickland’s BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO, DAY OF THE FLOWERS by John Roberts, Katarzyna Klimkiewicz’s FLYING BLIND, Maja Borg’s FUTURE MY LOVE, Alex Barrett’s LIFE JUST IS; ONE MILE AWAY by Penny Woolcock and PUSHER by Luis Prieto. The Michael Powell Award contenders include Bart Layton’s THE IMPOSTER;  James Marsh’s SHADOW DANCER and Martin Wallace’s SMALL CREATURES, also compete for the Award for Best Performance in a British Feature Film.

 

The International Feature Competition, supported by Innis and Gunn, hosts a selection of outstanding new films from around the world and includes the World premieres of Mao Mao’s HERE, THEN and Alexandre O Philippe’s return to EIFF with THE LIFE AND TIMES OF PAUL THE PSYCHIC OCTOPUS. The International Feature Competition includes, for the first time, documentary films alongside narrative films. International premieres competing for the award are Jang Kun-jae’s SLEEPLESS NIGHT and Dan Sallitt’s THE UNSPEAKABLE ACT. While other titles include ONE.TWO.ONE by Mania Akbari, Oskar Alegria’s THE SEARCH FOR EMAK BAKIA, Yeon Sang-ho’s THE KING OF PIGS, David Zellner’s KID-THING; Maite Alberdi’s THE LIFEGUARD and TABU by Miguel Gomes. Two films are by co-directing couples: Clarissa Campolina and Helvécio Marins Jr’s GIRIMUNHO and Anka Sasnal and Wilhelm Sasnal’s IT LOOKS PRETTY FROM A DISTANCE. Gastón Solnicki’s PAPIROSEN and A WOMAN’S REVENGE by Rita Azevedo Gomes round out the International Feature Competition.

 

Focusing on two masters of their art, Spotlight on Shinya Tsukamoto and Spotlight on Wang Bing bring together a collection of their films, including Japanese cult director Tsukamoto’s latest project KOTOKO, and culminating in a Masterclass with Wang Bing, who will discuss his extraordinary documentary filmmaking career.  Accompanying their respective films, ¡VIVAN LAS ANTIPODAS! and CALIFORNIA SOLO, director Victor Kossakovsky and actor Robert Carlyle, EIFF Patron, will also have on-stage In-Person events, with Victor Kossakovsky presenting a Masterclass, while Robert Carlyle is the subject of 2012’s In Person: BAFTA Scotland Interview.

 

EIFF Artistic Director Chris Fujiwara commented: “Our programme reflects the exceptionally vibrant state of current cinema. Our audiences will be able to explore a wide range of outstanding films from around the world, including work by established masters and films from new and emerging talents. There are also some no less exciting discoveries to be made this year in our Retrospectives. Altogether it’s a rich and diverse programme that tells, I believe, a fascinating story about where cinema is today, what it can learn from the past, and where it is going in the future.”

 

Jules Bishop’s BORROWED TIME, Steve Rainbow’s NFA and Scott Graham’s SHELL are the three World premieres in the new British Scenes section, where it is joined by Bryn Higgins’ UNCONDITIONAL, in a strand introducing films from the UK that are made by new filmmakers, that try out non-traditional funding models or that venture into unusual thematic areas. WHAT IS THIS FILM CALLED LOVE? by Mark Cousins receives its World premiere alongside Nicholas Ray’s WE CAN’T GO HOME AGAIN and Susan Ray’s accompanying DON’T EXPECT TOO MUCH in the new Films on Film section.

 

The late-night Night Moves strand sees the World premiere of Ian Clark’s GUINEA PIGS and the European premiere of Jon Wright’s GRABBERS, both from the UK, and other titles include EDDIE – THE SLEEPWALKING CANNIBAL by Boris Rodriguez, Eric Wareheim and Tim Heidecker’s TIM AND ERIC’S BILLION DOLLAR MOVIE, the multi-directed V/H/S; Quentin Dupieux’s WRONG and Magnus Martens’ JACKPOT, based on a story by Jo Nesbo.

 

Highlighting EIFF’s global curatorial expanse, the Philippine New Wave examines the creativity of young independent Filipino filmmakers, and includes the World premieres of Emerson Reyes’ MNL 143 and PHILIPPINE NEW WAVE: THIS IS NOT A FILM MOVEMENT by Khavn De La Cruz among the twelve strong section. A special Focus on Denmark features Mads Brügger’s THE AMBASSADOR, Nicole N Horanyi and Heidi Kim Andersen’s AU PAIR and SIBLINGS – FOR BETTER OF WORSE by Max Kestner, Mikala Krough, Laila Hodell and Aage Rais-Nordentoft. Showcasing the vitality of filmmaking in Argentina, Chile and Uruguay, Looking South brings together a collection of films including Juan Ignacio Domìnguez’s RIDING ZORRO, MÚSICA CAMPESINA [COUNTRY MUSIC] by Alberto Fuguet; and Ana Katz’s LOS MARZIANO.

 

The Directors’ Showcase, presenting work from the established auteurs of our time, includes Denis Côté’s BESTIAIRE, Johnnie To’s LIFE WITHOUT PRINCIPLE, Peter Chan’s DRAGON, Asoka Handagama’s HIM, HERE AFTER, Gakuryu Ishii’s ISN’T ANYONE ALIVE?, RENT-A-CAT by Naoko Ogigami and THE REST OF THE WORLD by Damien Odoul. New Perspectives, boasting 40 titles, presents a global array of work by emerging directors also including Tetsuaki Matsue’s TOKYO DRIFTER, DJ Chen’s YOUNG DUDES, Patrik Eklund’s FLICKER, Gabe Torres’ BRAKE, Petros Sevastikoglou’s ATTRACTIVE ILLUSION and NUCLEAR NATION by Atsushi Funahashi.

 

EIFF’s animation tradition continues with THE 99 UNBOUND by Dave Osborne and a Special Screening of Chris Renaud and Kyle Balda’s 3D version of DR SEUSS’ THE LORAX. In addition to the animated films and shorts at the Festival, EIFF continues to showcase the best of Scottish, UK and international shorts in a series of programmes which include Romola Garai’s directorial début SCRUBBER; FUNTIMES by Joe Carter and REVOLUTIONARY MEMORIES OF BAHMAN WHO LOVED LEILA by Sarahnaz Sharifi. The experimental Black Box section also presents a series of shorts programmes from innovators of the visual art world, as well as Abigail Child’s feature-length THE SUBURBAN TRILOGY.  The world of art is also represented by four free exhibitions and events across Edinburgh, through collaborations with Collective, Stills, Inspace and the Ingleby Gallery in Beyond EIFF.

 

Special Screenings and Festival Events throughout EIFF include the new digital restoration of LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, marking the 50th anniversary of this masterpiece. The process of restoring the classic will be discussed by multi-Oscar®-winning editor Thelma Schoonmaker and Grover Crisp of Sony Pictures Entertainment at the panel event FILM RESTORATION IN THE DIGITAL AGE. Returning due to popular demand will be the SURPRISE MOVIE and EIFF – UNDER THE STARS 2012, a prelude to EIFF the weekend before the Festival kicks off, when family-friendly films will get an airing in St Andrew Square Garden.

 

The Shinji Somai Retrospective section will be joined by a second Retrospective exploring the creations of screen comedy genius Gregory La Cava including: MY MAN GODFREY (1936), two films starring Claudette Colbert, PRIVATE WORLDS (1935) and SHE MARRIED HER BOSS (1935), and the rarely seen masterpiece UNFINISHED BUSINESS (1941).  EIFF will screen six of La Cava’s films, and the Retrospective will continue at Filmhouse throughout July, with a further six films.

 

Special Screenings also include Penny Woolcock’s ONE DAY, Margaret Tait’s BLUE BLACK PERMANENT, Harmony Korine, Aleksei Fedorchenko and Jan Kwiecinski’s THE FOURTH DIMENSION and the World premiere of the London 2012 Festival-commissioned films by Lynne Ramsay, Mike Leigh, Asif Kapadia and Max Giwa and Dania Pasquini.

 

Other Special Events include MIDNIGHT SUN, accompanying a screening of the original Norwegian INSOMNIA which will give audience members an experience of the late light northern sky to celebrate summer solstice. THE BROCKAS IN FILM CONCERT will present Philippine art-rock improvisers The Brockas performing their first Edinburgh gig against the backdrop of GENGHIS KHAN, a Philippine film that originally screened at EIFF in 1952.

 

To help guide audiences in their exploration, for the first time this year EIFF is introducing Pathways. Each Pathway is a group of films, selected from across the different strands of the EIFF programme, that are linked by common themes or that appeal to particular tastes. Pathways include Teenage Kicks (films for 15-year-olds and upwards); Played for Laughs (films for comedy lovers); Relationships (films on love, couples and relationships) and Community & Conflict (films on themes of power, responsibility and history).

 

The 66th Edinburgh International Film Festival opens with William Friedkin’s KILLER JOE and closes with the European premiere of Disney/Pixar’s BRAVE.

Piranha 3DD *

Running time: 83 mins Certificate: 18

 

Synopsis: A year after a prehistoric piranha attack, Chet (Koechner) opens an adult-themed water park despite the advice of his marine biologist stepdaughter Maddy (Panabaker). At the grand opening, where celebrity lifeguard David Hasselhoff makes an appearance, the fish attack again.

 

A sequel to the 2010 comic horror film Piranha 3D, the film begins with a report stating the deadly fish have been eradicated from the original lake, but questioning whether they will re-appear. 

 

Throughout the film, we see Maddy’s friends attacked one by one by the deadly piranhas in a nearby lake. It is revealed the lake is connected to the waterpark, and the viewer does not have to be a genius to know what will happen next.

 

The actors in the film are below average, the highlight being guest appearances by David Hasselhoff and Gary Busey. The characters are also very one-dimensional and do not appear to have much depth. At times it feels like the audience is watching a spoof version of a “real” horror film.

 

There are some comic moments, although there seems to be a larger proportion of attacks than the audience would expect in a film of that length. The special effects are also good in 3D, but when coupled with a lack of story and poor acting these just make the film watchable at best.


 

Reviewed by Lesley Watt

Jeff Who Lives At Home ***

Running time: 82 mins Certificate: 15

 

Synopsis: A 30-year-old Jeff (Segel) loser, heads out to buy some wood glue for his long-suffering mother (Sarandon), only to become involved in the marital breakdown of his brother (Helms) and his partner (Greer).

 

An independent comedy film, Jeff Who Lives At Home shows a day in the life of 30 year old Jeff who does not work and still lives in his mother’s basement. The film follows Jeff, his mother and his brother (Ed Helms) throughout that day.

 

There are times when the audience will laugh during the film, particularly at the relationship between the two brothers and their pursuit of Jeff’s sister in law, when she is seen with a male work colleague. However the story is rather predictable and there are several occasions in which the viewer will think “I knew that would happen”. The subplot involving Jeff’s mother is amusing but also predictable. When the writer’s attempt at keeping the audience in suspense comes to an end there are no surprises.

 

As expected with well known cast members including Jason Segel and Susan Sarandon, the acting in the film is above average. However the story is very basic and does not really appear to have much point, meaning there is a lack of opportunity for the actors to shine. Throughout the film, the characters do not really develop or move forward. Despite having had an eventful day they are still in the same place at the end of the film as they are at the beginning.

 

Overall the film was pleasant to watch, but the predictability and lack of point to the story make Jeff Who Lives At Home decidedly average.

 

Reviewed by Lesley Watt

Dark Shadows ****

Running time: 113 mins Certificate: 12A

 

Synopsis: In 1752, Maine Barnabas Collins (Depp) spurns the love of witch Angelique Bouchard (Green). She sends his beloved Josette DuPres (Heathcote) to her death, turns Barnabas into a vampire and then buries him alive. Flashforward to 1972, Barnabas returns and vows to restore the family name to its former glories.

It has taken many years for Johnny Depp to bring his pet project to life, but with his friend Tim Burton’s help the film based on Dan Curtis’ late-60s supernatural soap has finally seen the light of day.

 

This is not the silly comedy that the enjoyable trailer makes this film out to be, but rather a weird blend of gothic quirkiness with serious black melodrama. In essence it is really a mishmash of The Addams Family, Death Becomes Her and even in some part Burton’s own classic Beetlejuice.

 

The movie is a really strange adaptation as tonally it is all over the place. At times it can be dark and foreboding, then completely shift gear to a farcical type comedy. Best selling author Seth Grahame-Smith (Pride And Prejudice And Zombies, Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter) appears to struggle with the multiple character scenarios and what strand of the stories should take precedence within the overall piece.But on thinking the plot is fractually structured just like a soap opera would be and this could be the intention. But by doing this some of the minor characters are slightly waisted.

 

Depp’s Barnabas is a brilliantly fantastic creation that is definitely up there with his best creations and delivers most of the best lines. The vampire is a funny, charismatic monster who not only is struggles to figure out how to live in this time, but also what it means to be human.Pfeiffer brings a touch of class as the head of the household and is seems to be more concerned by the state of the family name than her own teen daughter Carolyn (Chloë Grace Moretz). While Bonham Carter and Earle Haley give memorable performances which appear to be influenced on Simpsons characters. Unfortunately both   the characters of uncle Roger (Miller) and his troubled son David (McGrath) make little impression with their underwritten roles.

 

The film is stunning shot with scenes reminiscent of Sleepy Hollow and fantastic costumes. The best thing is that Burton has relied less on CGI effects this time and focused on more a physical look. Danny Elfman haunting score is beautifully blended with some great classic 70’s songs.

 

While the film has faults mostly due to script problems and underused characters, it is a very enjoyable experience and sees Burton turn back to strange, funny character pieces that he used to make at the start of his career.

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan