Reviews

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ID:A

  • Currently 5/5 Stars.

IDA (Poland | Denmark/TBC/82mins)
Directed by: Paweł Pawlikowski. Starring: Agata Trzebuchowska, Agata Kulesza.
THE PLOT: Ida (Agata Trzebuchowska), a young novitiate nun is on the verge of taking her vows, when she is sent out of the convent to meet her aunt; her only living relative. Wanda (Agata Kulesza) tells her niece that she is actually Jewish, and her parents were killed in the war. Wanting to see where her parents are buried, Ida takes Wanda on a journey across Poland that uncovers dark secrets about the family she never knew.
THE VERDICT: Agata Trzebuchowska is mesmerising in the titular role; her stillness and seeming desire to be unseen by the world only increases our - and the camera's - desire to observe her. Agata Kulesza plays Wanda as a woman hardened by her experiences, seeks love in the wrong places but who still has a caring heart, and Dawid Ogrodnik plays Lis, a gentle and sensitive soul.
The story, as mentioned, is one that we have heard tell of before; a young woman forced to accept that everything she thought was true has actually got a shadow across it, and the fallout from this revelation. The difference with Ida, however, is the stillness that comes from having a deeply pious protagonist. There are very few arguments, and although emotions run high, they are quickly stilled. The dialogue is minimal, so much of the communication in the film is non-verbal, adding to the silence and stillness of the film, and adding weight to the seriousness of the central character.
Paweł Pawlikowski directs with a steady and confident hand, allowing silnce to happen, allowing the camera to be static much of the time, and allowing many of the shots to almost looks like still images. Beautifully and crisply shot in black and white, Ryszard Lenczewski and Lukasz Zal's cinematography is often deliberately off kilter; showing characters in the corner of the frame, or having them swamped in their surroundings. This serves to highlight the fact that something is not right in Ida's world, as well as reinforce the fact that Trzebuchowska is a young woman with presence, as the audience - and the camera - is consistently drawn back to her.
In all, IDA is a familiar tale told in a beautiful and engaging new manner. Trzebuchowska is magnetic in the lead role, but an equally strong supporting cast surrounds her. The cinematography is beautiful and, while there are times when the film lacks surprises, this also serves to make a comment about Ida and the world she inhabits.
RATING: 5/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

What We Did We On Our Holiday

  • Currently 3/5 Stars.

WHAT WE DID ON OUR HOLIDAY (UK/12A/95mins)
Directed by Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin. Starring: Billy Connolly, David Tennant, Rosamund Pike
THE PLOT: Doug (David Tennant) and Abi (Rosamund Pike) take their three kids on a holiday to Scotland, to visit Doug's father Gordy (Billy Connolly), to celebrate Gordy's 75th birthday. During the course of the trip the kids struggle with the idea of lying to their grandfather about their parents' impending divorce, and old tensions flare up when the kids take matters into their own hands.
THE VERDICT: WHAT WE DID ON OUR HOLIDAY may have a terrible title, but it is actually a rather sweet - if totally over the top - look at the twisted nets that families weave around themselves. Davis Tennant and Rosamund Pike both do a great job of playing parents whose marriage is on the rocks, but have decided to put on a front for the sake of an elderly and unwell man's feelings. Both manage to capture the feel of a couple who can do nothing but argue when they are together, even though they adore their kids and are truly not bad people when they are apart. Billy Connolly brings some perspective to life as the ailing Gordy, and his scenes with the kids are a delight to watch.
The three kids, played by Harriet Turnbull, Bobby Smallbridge and Emilia Jones completely steal the show; it is obvious that they were given a lot of room to ad lib their lines, but this only serves to make the film warm and sweet. The fact that one has pet rocks, one is obsessed with the Norse god Odin and one is deeply paranoid and worried about every detail of life rounds the characters out nicely.
The story, written by Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin - the people behind the BBC show OUTNUMBERED - is a little on the silly side, with the kids taking matters into their own hands when life takes an unexpected turn. That said, although there is more than one moment where things err on the side of the mawkish and the silly, tragedy leads to the characters finally seeing the error of their ways.
As directors, Hamilton and Jenkin allow the kids to take centre stage, with back up from Connolly, and their scenes together are a joy to behold. The rest of the cast come off weaker - Pike and Tennant the best of the lot - with the rest of the ‘grown ups' little more than stereotypes brought to life. 
WHAT WE DID ON OUR HOLIDAY is a sweet if surreal and over the top film that makes stars out of the three young leads. Connolly shows a surprising level of tenderness, and Pike and Tennant do well with what they're given. The message of the film may be over simplified and a little saccharine, there is a warm heart beating at the centre of WHAT WE DID ON OUR HOLIDAY that makes up for some slightly clichéd choices.
RATING: 3/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

I Origins

  • Currently 4/5 Stars.

I ORIGINS (USA/15A/105mins)
Directed by Mike Cahill. Starring: Michael Pitt, Brit Marling, Astrid Bergès-Frisbey 
THE PLOT:
 Ian (Michael Pitt) is a research scientist who has always had a fascination with the eye, so when he meets - and loses - Sofi (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey) at a costume party, he tracks her down using the photos he took of her eyes. After a tragic accident, Ian and his lab assistant Karen (Brit Marling) start tracking down iris scans from people around the world, and uncover something that defies scientific explanation.
THE VERDICT: 
Michael Pitt plays Ian as a romantic man whose experience of the world around him is deeply rooted in what can be seen and proved. Pitt makes Ian a gentle but passionate character, whose life view is completely at odds with Sofi's. Astrid Bergès-Frisbey plays Sofi at the manic pixie dream girl end of the spectrum, which is completely fine, and she does a great job with the character. The good news is that the film has the common sense to realise that characters like Ian and Sofi would not be together forever and ever; their views are simply too different. Brit Marling rounds out the central trio as Karen; a woman who falls somewhere between Ian and Sofi on the science vs god argument, and Marling plays the role with her usual sense of weight and charm.
The story, written by Cahill, has a central idea similar to ones we have seen before, the difference here is that Ian, as the film's sceptic, is the voice of reason for the audience, but is is in fact the last to be convinced of the evidence of his eyes. Cahill observes both the romantic and academic passion well, and the chemistry between Pitt and his female co-stars is sparkling and bright.
As director Cahill fares slightly less well; leaving it far too late in proceedings for the miraculous element to be introduced, which means that the second act of the film feels sluggish after the energetic feel of the first. The film picks itself up again in the final act, and the end scene is one that is both moving and startling. Cahill has coaxed strong performances from his cast however, and they are a joy to watch on screen.
I ORIGINS is a smart and engaging sci-fi romance. The title gives the idea that this is another featureless dystopian tween film, but in truth, I Origins is a film filled with curiosities and, like Cahill's previous work, does not talk down to the audience by giving them all the answers. Pitt, Marling and Bergès-Frisbey shine and, although the film's pacing leaves a lot to be desired, I ORIGINS is an engaging and rewarding watch.
Rating: 4/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

The Equalizer

  • Currently 3/5 Stars.

THE EQUALIZER (USA/16/131mins)
Directed by Antoine Fuqua. Starring Denzel Washington, Marton Csokas, Chloe Grace Moretz, David Harbour, Haley Bennett, Bill Pullman, Melissa Leo, David Meunier, Johnny Skourtis.
THE PLOT: "You gotta be who are, no matter what," says Washington's stoic, strong, largely silent Robert McCall to Chloe Grace Moretz's bedraggled teen prostitute Teri at his regular latenight diner. When Teri ends up battered and hospitalized by her Russian pimp, Robert tracks down the Russian Nights escort service HQ in order to negotiate Teri's freedom. Only things get a little out of hand. Which tends to happen when you're dealing with a retired government killer like Robert McCall. And the good deeds don't stop there. Soon, other damsels in distress find their problems have been solved - sometimes with a sledgehammer, sometimes with just a well-aimed ninja jab - without so much as a Tarzan cry. Brick by brick, body by body, our boy is going to methodically reek revenge on behalf of the helpless victim...
THE VERDICT: Having taken that Liam Neeson turn 13 years ago from Serious Actor to Serious Ass-Kicker with TRAINING DAY (this 2001 debut collaboration with director Fuqua earning Washington his second Oscar), and hitting it hard with Tony Scott's gleefully violent MAN ON FIRE and Ridley Scott's AMERICAN GANGSTER, Denzel Washington is a pretty dab hand at this cool, calm and collected killer stuff. And as Neeson's action man splurge has begun to wobble and wane (A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES bombing in the US last week), Washington looks poised to become Hollywood's favourite fatherly knight in shining armour. It helps too that the man has basically become a Morgan Freeman every man, woman and child wants to shag. Based on a popular American TV series that ran for four seasons back in the late eighties, THE EQUALIZER embraces rather than tries to hide its cliches, resulting in the sort of guilty pleasure that makes you giggle under your breath. Still, you got to feel for Jason Statham, what with all these Oscar-winning heavyweights muscling in on his B-movie revenge porn territory.
RATING: 3/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

Magic in the Moonlight

  • Currently 4/5 Stars.

MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT (USA/PG/97mins)
Directed by Woody Allen. Starring Colin Firth, Emma Stone, Marcia Gay Harden, Eileen Atkins, Catherine McCormack, Simon McBurney, Hamis Linklater.
THE PLOT
: A man with no patience for the spirit world, renowned magician Stanley (Firth) knows that there are always hidden strings attached. Otherwise, he wouldn't have become one of the world's leading magicians. When his old friend and fellow magician Howard (McBurney) comes to him with news of yet another spiritualist going down a treat with a wealthy family, Stanley is only too happy to put off his planned holiday with his very sensible fiance (McCormack) in order to do a little debunking in the South of France. Only trouble is, the spiritualist in question, Sophie (Stone), quickly proves herself to possess inexplicable powers. Such as knowing intimate details about Stanley's background and family history. Could this self-confessed misanthrope be wrong after all? Could there really be magic in this world...?
THE VERDICT: 
The critics have been pretty rough on Woody Allen's latest - his 4,327th feature, in the last ten years - but, truth be told, even a low-watt outing from everyone's favourite messed-up little New Yorker has more than enough charms to seduce.
And here, with another period piece seemingly lit entirely by old radio valves, the charms are plenty. Stone is stunning, whilst the rest are pretty much perfectly cast. And if some have found Firth wanting, I thought his wounded misanthrope schtick worked for me. And, more importantly, it worked for the film. 
Dealing with all the usual Allen obsessions - the warm glow of the past, the mistrust of modernity, the eternal pull of the younger woman, the seething hatred for mankind - Magic In The Moonlight is, like so many of Allen's later films, akin to a New Yorker short story with a sting in its finale. It's also a film that will be loved in years to come. 
RATING: 4/5
Review by Paul Byrne

A Walk Amongst the Tombstones

  • Currently 2/5 Stars.

A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES (USA/16/113mins)
Directed by Scott Frank. Starring Liam Neeson, Dan Stevens, Astro.
THE PLOT: 
Retired police officer Matt (Liam Neeson) has found a second career as a private investigator, and is drafted in by a drug trafficker, when his wife is kidnapped and killed. As Matt investigates the men behind the attack, he uncovers a series of murders, and finds an unlikely ally.
THE VERDICT: 
Liam Neeson takes his action hero status down a notch as Matt Scudder, instead opting to play a man who walked away from the job he loved, and one who is unwilling to try new technology or take on any new friends. Neeson excels at playing the outcast loner, so is firmly in his comfort zone here. Dan Stevens plays the trafficker whose wife was kidnapped, and is perhaps the most gentrified drug dealer ever seen on screen. This is not to say that Stevens is not good in the role, the character is just slightly unbelievable. Astro - recently seen in EARTH TO ECHO - plays Matt's self appointed sidekick TJ, and while he is perfectly fine in the role, it just feels as though we have seen this story before.
Perhaps it is because the book was released in 1992, or perhaps because the film is made out to be something other than what it is, but A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES feels incredibly familiar and unoriginal. Scott Frank's screenplay tries to tie together several different plots and subplots, but this results in an unappealing and hard to follow mess. There is also undue focus given to the world's paranoia in the lead up to Y2K, with absolutely no pay off, or none that makes sense anyway.
As director, Scott Frank does not seem to challenge his actors, meaning that Neeson, Stevens and the rest of the cast give performances that are just about convincing enough to get by. The film does not feel as though it has a steady or distinctive voice, and the final set piece is dragged out to the point of boredom. In fact, the entire film would be rather forgettable, if it were not for the odd story choices and inconsistent characters.
A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES is not the Liam Neeson action film we have been waiting for. What it is, however, is a fairly decent thriller that will be forgotten by the time you reach the doors of the cinema. Neeson is fine, as is Stevens and Astro, but this is not a film that is going to spark discussion or do anything more than provide a distraction for a couple of hours.
RATING: 2/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

Wish I Was Here

  • Currently 4/5 Stars.

WISH I WAS HERE (USA/15A/106mins)
Directed by Zach Braff. Starring Zach Braff, Kate Hudson, Mandy Patinkin, Josh Gad.
THE PLOT: Aidan Bloom (Zach Braff) is a struggling actor with no prospect of a job on the horizon, and a young family. When his father (Mandy Patinkin) announces he is dying - and can therefore no longer financially support him - Aidan must find a way to connect with his family and the life he has built around himself.
THE VERDICT: Braff plays Aidan with a lovely blend of tenderness and frustration, both of which ebb and flow as the film progresses. Braff also manages to capture the feeling of a man who is amazed at how his life has turned out, and the seeming lack of control that he has over his destiny. Kate Hudson takes a welcome step away from her recent roles in rom-coms, and makes Sarah a warm and patient woman. Joey King and Pierce Gagnon play the Bloom kids, and each bring their own insecurities and strengths to the role. Braff and Hudson interact well with the kids, making this chaotic family dynamic believable. Mandy Patinkin channels previous roles as the gruff father figure, but there are flashes of genuine warmth and emotion that make the process worthwhile, and Josh Gad plays the man-child incredibly well.
The story, written by Braff and his brother Adam, may feel chaotic at times, and as though too much is being thrown at Aidan, the central character. The truth behind this chaos, however, is that life is not ordered or tidy, and often when one thing goes wrong, others quickly follow suit. Braff and Braff capture the family dynamic incredibly well, and there are moments of genuine warmth and fun throughout. The sci-fi sequences fit less well with the story; it is clear what the Braffs were trying to do in making Aidan the hero of his own life, but these sequences happen too infrequently to work properly.
As director, Zach Braff directs with the same careful hand that was evident in GARDEN STATE; the emotional scenes are treated with tact and care, the performances are strong and, while some of the montages and scenes set to music feel a little more like music videos than movie scenes, this is what we have come to expect from a ZB big screen outing. The songs are great too, which helps. Braff himself is not afraid to play a grown up character with flaws and traits that make him less than perfect, which help him to shake off the remnants of SCRUBS' man-child JD.
At times, WISH I WAS HERE is slightly more self conscious than GARDEN STATE, but in the end, it is a film filled with warmth and heart. The family scenes are a joy, and it is clear that this cast and crew bonded through the unconventional manner in which the film came together. There are elements to the film that don't always work - Josh Gad's character could easily have been cut entirely - but WISH I WAS HERE is a decent follow up to GARDEN STATE, and as warm and engaging as Braff fans could hope.
RATING: 4/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

The Riot Club

  • Currently 2/5 Stars.

THE RIOT CLUB (UK/16/108mins)
Directed by Lone Scherfig. Starring Max Irons, Freddie Fox, Holliday Grainger, Natalie Dormer.
THE PLOT: Named after the revered, and tragically murdered in a brawl over a woman - Lord Riot, The Riot Club was established at Oxford University to keep the dead man's name going. Miles (Max Irons) finds himself drawn into The Riot Club, but one dinner changes his perception of the club - and his life - forever.
THE VERDICT: Based on Laura Wade's stage play Posh, THE RIOT CLUB paints a very unpretty picture of the upper class, and those who find themselves living in the bubble of Oxford University.
Max Irons plays Miles, the centre of the story, and the young man who finds himself with a foot in both camps; young and privileged, but wanting to stand out from the shadow of his parents. Irons does an adequate job of playing the character and manages to make Miles likeable for the first half of the film. When the script turns against him, however, Irons struggles to help the audience remember why they liked his character in the first place. Holliday Grainger plays Miles' love interest Lauren, and she tries to be the voice of reason when Miles becomes involved with the Riot Club. Grainger does fine in the role but, like the rest of them, hers is totally underwritten, and only gives us a glimpse into the character. The rest of the cast is made up of Douglas Booth, Freddie Fox, Sam Reid and Olly Alexander. Most of these young men do an adequate job of showing an ugly side of a prestigious university, but none of them really get to create a character of their own.
The story is actually a rather powerful one; the young, rich and privileged feel hatred for those poorer than them, and presumably for being born into their parents' shadows. Instead of talking to a counsellor or dealing with their emotions in a civilised manner, on a night out, THE RIOT CLUB lives up to its name; pulling a quiet pub asunder and setting on those who will not them behave as they want. There is a definite parallel being drawn between these lads and less privileged youths who are drawn to destruction in the same manner, and there are moments of greatness in the film. That said, however, the film is so drawn out to be tedious, with the point - ‘the rich are bastards too!' - being hammered home so often and so forcefully that the film becomes a chore, rather than entertaining.
Director Lone Scherfig has produced some interesting works in the past -  WILBUR WANTS TO KILL HIMSELF and AN EDUCATION - and some that didn't live up to their promise (ONE DAY). Sadly for a film with so much potential, THE RIOT CLUB falls into the latter category. Scherfig does not give any of the actors to create a fully rounded character, instead hoping that enough will be given away through singular character traits and repeated behaviours. Everything feels so laboured and drawn out that by the time the gut punch of the story happens, the audience has lost interest in the tale of these destructive and demanding men.
THE RIOT CLUB has the kernel of a strong point hidden in a tale of entitled and spoiled Upper Class Twits of the Year. With no strong moral voice to root for, THE RIOT CLUB sadly lives up to its name and as unruly and lacking in focus as the young men at the centre of the story.
RATING: 2/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

In Order of Disappearance

  • Currently 5/5 Stars.

IN ORDER OF DISAPPEARANCE
Directed by Hans Petter Moland. Starring Stellan Skarsgard, 
THE PLOT: 
As model citizen Nils Dickman (Skarsgard) is picking up his Citizen of the Year award, his airport luggage carrier son is being bundled at gun-point in the back of a car, his co-worker escaping just before the lethal drug overdose is injected. Turns out that co-worker messed with the wrong guy, taking a bag of coke from the regular shipments he let pass through, and it's revenge time. Convinced his clean-living son couldn't have died from a drug overdose, Nils is soon on his own quiet rampage of revenge, as he goes full Liam Neeson, tracking down those responsible. As the body count mounts, we get title cards listing the dead, in order of disappearance. All roads lead to an ineffectual young crime boss known as The Count, a crime boss whose crumbling confidence isn't helped by a hard-nosed Danish ex-wife threatening to take his young son away from him. Dickman is a practical guy, and it doesn't take him long to go Blue Peter on his son's killers, convincing the Count that the Serbs are trying to muscle in on his patch...
THE VERDICT: 
Goddang, this is good. FARGO, far, far away, IN ORDER OF DISAPPEARANCE is another snow-covered noir treat, where all the usual thrills of a vigilante and robbers drama are counterbalanced with the sweet melancholia of everyday life. Out in the icy cold desert, life can turn blackly tragic or comic in a heartbeat. There are no shadows, but plenty of places to hide - or bury a body - in this blinding white Wild West. Something direcotr Hans Petter Moland understands perfectly.
There's so much to love here. The stoic, stealthy Stellan Skarsgard, the eerie, ambient, frozen landscape, the sweet comic bliss of seeing a criminal kingpin slowly unravelling... This is The Killing with a much swifter kick, Headhunters with a father and son heartbeat, OLDBOYon Ice. This film is bewitching, beguiling, Bruce Lee bastard cool, and then, just to top it all, the mighty Bruno Ganz turns up. Beautiful. Meticulously crafted revenge porn doesn't come much better than this. 
RATING: 5/5
Review by Paul Byrne

A Most Wanted Man

  • Currently 4/5 Stars.

A MOST WANTED MAN (UK | USA | Germany/15A/122mins) 
THE PLOT: Issa Karpov (Grigoriy Dobrygin), a Chechen Muslim, enters Germany illegally, and immediately arouses the suspicion of a German counter terrorism espionage team, led by Gunther Bachmann (Philip Seymour Hoffman). As Issa tries to track down his father's money, he becomes involved with immigration lawyer Anabel Richter (Rachel McAdams), who the team soon use to their advantage in tracking down those who fund terrorism around the world.
THE VERDICT: Although A MOST WANTED MAN is not to be Philip Seymour Hoffman's final film, it is his last performance in a leading role, and for that, A MOST WANTED MAN is a film to be remembered. Not only is this the last time Hoffman will take centre stage in a film, but it is one of his best performances in recent years. Hoffman plays Gunther as a man with a certain weight to him; world weariness combined with a passion and skill for his job is what defines the character, and it is one that Hoffman throws himself into. Although he plays a German character, his accent is not over the top - the same goes for McAdams - and he captures the essence of a man who is willing to play the waiting game to get what he wants.
Rachel McAdams also has an air of stillness about her - although not as much as Hoffman - and she manages the German accent well. She brings weight and conviction to the role, without ever overplaying her hand. Robin Wright does the same in her role as a CIA agent but Willem Dafoe slightly overdoes it as a bank manager with secrets.
The story is based on a John le Carré novel of the same name, and is as much a slow burn as le Carré's Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, The Lives of Others or any of the great espionage movies; James Bond this ain't, and the film goes a long way to remove the glamour and glitz from the story. In this way, A Most Wanted Man reminds the audiences that espionage is often a drawn out affair, while allowing the tension to build.
Anton Corbijn directs with a steady hand, never allowing any one actor to dominate the screen - although Hoffman steals the show - while allowing suspicions, anger and fear to bubble under the surface. A Most Wanted Man is utterly gripping, for the most part; if there were to be a complaint, it would be that perhaps the story is allowed to burn too slowly, with some of the pieces remaining out of play for a lot of the film. This sometimes leads to confusion on the part of the audience, even if you have been paying attention.
In all, A MOST WANTED MAN is a fitting final film for Phillip Seymour Hoffman; his performance reminds us why he is such a loss to fans of great acting, and why he was such a powerful force to be reckoned with. The film is engrossing, but at times, can be slightly too slow on the burn.
RATING: 4/5
Review by Brogen Hayes 

Pride

  • Currently 4/5 Stars.

PRIDE (UK/15A/120mins)
Directed by Matthew Warchus. Starring Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Andrew Scott, Paddy Considine
THE PLOT: During the miner's strike of the 1980s, a group of gay and lesbian activists decide to support the miners and their families, by raising money. When it seems that no-one will accept the money they have raised, they go direct to the people that need it; the residents of a small mining town in Wales. Their presence shakes up some old prejudices, but ultimately creates some unlikely bonds.
THE VERDICT: Based on a true story, PRIDE is a surprisingly touching story of people putting themselves in one another's shoes, and finding a way to work together. The film boasts an impressive ensemble cast, including Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Andrew Scott, Joseph Gilgun and Paddy Considine.
PRIDE does not focus on one person's story, instead, Stephen Beresford's script allows each character to have their moment to shine, weaving their tale into the greater story as a whole. Joe (Freddie Fox) is a young man who hides his identity from his parents, Mark (Ben Schnetzer), an activist who sees that miners and gay people have a surprising amount in common, Gethin (Andrew Scott), a man who has run away from confronting his mother, Cliff (Bill Nighy), a man who has been denying himself for many years. Each actor gives a great performance, and allows the others to shine through. In this way, PRIDE is truly an ensemble film.
Stephen Beresford's script does not focus on the politics of England in the 1980s, other than to make the point that this era was a difficult one for minorities around the country. Instead, the script focuses on the relationships with people, and the true idea of the Labour movement; you support me and I will support you. The dialogue is touching, witty and rather sweet, and while there are moments where the ensemble nature of the film means that some subtleties are left to fall by the wayside, the whole of the film is engaging, funny and warm.
Director Matthew Warchus skilfully combines the stories of the miners and gay activists, while allowing the underlying themes and fears to filter through. The celebratory scenes are a joy, and the emotional ones incredibly touching. That said, however, the film does suffer from some messy pacing; meaning that smaller moments are drawn out, and ones with far reaching and disturbing consequences are almost abandoned.
In all, PRIDE is a touching, engaging and funny film about an unlikely alliance between two groups of people who would not normally come together. The film is a snapshot of Thatcher's Britain, and the human reaction to her austere measures. The pacing is a little messy, and some of the subtleties almost too subtle, but Ben Schnetzer, Andrew Scott, Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Jessica Gunning and Jonathan West shine through in this huge and delightful ensemble cast.
RATING: 4/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

The Boxtrolls

  • Currently 5/5 Stars.

THE BOXTROLLS (USA/PG/97mins)
Directed by: Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi. Starring Simon Pegg, Ben Kingsley, Richard Ayoade, Tracy Morgan, Nick Frost, Elle Fanning, Jared Harris.
THE PLOT: At night, the Boxtrolls come out of their home underneath the town of Cheesebridge and forage through the town's rubbish for things they can use. When a young boy is taken by the Boxtrolls, the town is thrown into a state of fear, and Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley) is tasked by Lord Portley-Rind (Jared Harris) to rid the town of the Boxtrolls once and for all. It is up to Eggs (Isaac Hempstead Wright) to convince the townsfolk that the Boxtrolls are not evil, but kind and gentle, before it is too late.
THE VERDICT: Laika - the animation house that brought us CORALINE and PARANORMAN - have created a reputation of making beautifully realised, warm and engaging stop motion animated films, and The Boxtrolls is no exception. The world of the film looks like a steampunkian dream, with wonderful clanking machinery, gaslights and tons of atmospheric fog. The Boxtrolls themselves are like Coraline or Norman; completely misunderstood by the world around them, while being fun, complex and warm.
The voice cast of the film reads like a who's who of great actors; Ben Kingsley, Jared Harris, Richard Ayoade, Nick Frost, Simon Pegg and Futurama's Maurice LaMarche all have roles in the film, with the voices of the Boxtrolls provided by voice acting legends Dee Bradley Baker, Steve Blum, Nika Futterman and Pat Fraley. Each gives a great performance; Kingsley oozes evil and sleaze, Ayoade captures the concerns of a henchman, and Pegg makes Herbert Trubshaw a funny and complicated character. Elle Fanning and Isaac Hempstead Wright provide the voices of the kids at the heart of the film, and they have wonderful chemistry.
The story, based on Alan Snow's novel Here Be Monsters! is one of misunderstanding and delusions of grandeur, of fear of the stranger and questions never asked, of fear and kindness, all of which blend together to create a warm and engaging tale with a huge heart and tons of not too scary scares. Kids and adults alike will be able to relate to the outcasts of the film - the Boxtrolls themselves - as they struggle to survive and as Eggs tries find a place where he truly belongs.
Directors Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi have created a world that feels as though it truly exists; that if we stretched our hands out far enough we could reach out and touch the world of The Boxtrolls. The actors are carefully directed, giving the world a well rounded feel, and much of the comedy comes from flipping expectations on their heads, and some well timed words from the more mono-syllabic characters. Emotion and fear run hand in hand in The Boxtrolls, as do love and bravery, all of which come together to make a beautiful and heartfelt film.
THE BOXTROLLS is a gorgeous stop motion animated film that carefully balances the technology of 3D, beautiful sets and characters, and brilliant voice performances to make a steampunk dream come true. While it would have been nice to spend a little more time in the Boxtrolls' world, this is place most audience members would be happy to revisit time and time again.
RATING: 5/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

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