Reviews

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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

Life of Crime

  • Currently 3/5 Stars.

LIFE OF CRIME (USA/TBC/98mins)
Directed by Daniel Schnecter. Starring Yasiin Bey, Tim Robbins, Jennifer Ansiton, Isla Fisher, John Hawkes.
THE PLOT: Criminals Ordell (Yasiin Bey - AKA Mos Def) and Louis (John Hawkes) come up with a plan to make some quick money; kidnap Mickey (Jennifer Aniston), the wife of a rich man who has made some questionable investments, then retire on the ransom money. Their plan goes awry however, when it isdiscovered that Frank (Tim Robbins) plans to divorce Mickey, and may not pay the ransom money.
THE VERDICT: Based on the novel by Elmore Leonard, LIFE OF CRIME feels a little like AMERICAN HUSTLE Lite. The film centres around an elaborate crime, with those involved constantly switching sides and loyalties. The cast is a strong one, but they are let down by a script that feels at once too thin and too convoluted.
Jennifer Aniston takes a welcome step away from the toothless comedies she has been involved in of late to play Mickey, a woman in a loveless marriage who finds herself kidnapped. Aniston leaves all her quirks to one side, and allows Mickey to be a rather thin, but engaging character. Yasiin Bey plays a rather clichéd character, but one who has his own moral compass, John Hawkes is a gentler soul and brings some sympathy to this kidnap dramedy. Will Forte has a small role as a man besotted with Mickey, Tim Robbins taps into his cruel and angry side as Frank and Isla Fisher plays a scheming character - not unlike her role in THE GREAT GATSBY - and does well with what she is given.
The cast of the film do well, but they are let down by a muddled script. We are tossed between three different points of view, and loyalties switch so often and so fast that it is hard to keep up at times. There is a feel of American Hustle about the entire affair - perhaps this is because of the temporal setting - but a thinner and less engaging version of the same. That said, the film firmly has its tongue in cheek - with one of the kidnappers being a Nazi fanatic, how could it not? - and has fun with the scattered and messy story it tells.
Director Daniel Schechter appears to rely on sets and costumes for the film's style, and it is really only in the final moments of the movie that it comes into its own. That said, the chemistry between the couples in the film - Aniston and Hawkes, Robbins and Fisher - is engaging, and it is always fun to watch criminals turn on one another when things go wrong, even if their motivations are not always clear.
LIFE OF CRIME is a fun but slight imitation of American Hustle. The central cast struggle with how little they are given to do, but manage to keep the film moving. Aniston reminds us of her talent for drama, Hawkes shines through gently, and Robbins and Fisher make an entertaining double act. It's just a shame that this fantastic cast is let down by an uninspiring script and lacklustre direction.
RATING: 3/5
Review by Brogen Hayes 

Before I Go To Sleep

  • Currently 4/5 Stars.

BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP (USA | UK | France | Sweden/15A/92mins)
Directed by Rowan Joffe. Starring: Nicole Kidman, Mark Strong, Anne Marie Duff, Colin Firth
THE PLOT: Christine (Nicole Kidman) awakes every morning with no memory of her life before she was in her 20s. Now in her 40s, Christine was the victim of a violent incident 10 years previously that caused her anterograde amnesia, and, with the help of Dr Nasch (Mark Strong) she is trying to recover her memory and get to the bottom of what happened to her. When memories start to return, Christine is plagued with doubt and new fears about who she can trust.
THE VERDICT: Based on the best selling novel by S. J. Watson, BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP feels a little like 50 FIRST DATES meets MEMENTO, with a little less of the Nolan thriller and a little more of the Adam Sandler movie thrown in to balance it out.
Nicole Kidman manages to leave most of her usual kinks and quirks at the door for her performance as Christine, and it is through her eyes that we see the film. Kidman has not quite regained her glory days in terms of acting prowess, but she is believable, and gets the audience on her side. Mark Strong treads his usual line between good and bad, and it is in part his performance that keeps the audience guessing. Strong is far less manic and obviously evil than we have seen in a long time, and he manages the role of Dr Nasch with grace and ease. Colin Firth rounds out the central trio as Christine's husband Ben. Firsth's performance is careful; allowing Ben to be a caring and gentle man, with just touches of a man who is only just holding on to his temper and violent tendencies.
The script, adapted from the novel, by Rowan Joffe, BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP is a carefully rendered and tightly wound thriller. The dialogue is, at times, a little hokey, and the deus ex machina ending is more than a little twee, but Christine's days are carefully woven together, allowing the audience a glimpse into the character's terrifying world. As director, Joffe keeps the pace of the movie galloping along, meaning that the audience is given time to make their own theories about the person who attacked Christine, but the twists come fast enough to keep us guessing. That said, everything falls apart in the final act of the film, where the line between friend and foe becomes horrifically blurred and cliché rattles in to save the day. Still, there are some nice Shining-esque touches to the cinematography, and Anne-Marie Duff's performance as Claire is a vice of reason in a disordered world.
BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP is two thirds of a great thriller, the twists and turns come fast, keeping the audience on their toes, but the final act is sloppy and breathlessly trite. Kidman is the weak link in the central trio - and still gives her best performance in years. Firth and Strong tread the line between calm and rage with grace.
RATING: 4/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

The Hundred-Foot Journey

  • Currently 1/5 Stars.

THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY (India | United Arab Emirates | USA/PG/122mins)
Directed by Lasse Hallstrom. Starring Helen Mirren, Charlotte Le Bon
THE PLOT: When the Kadam family loses everything in a fire, they leave their native Mumbai behind. Finding themselves in a small French village, they decide to do what they are best at; run a restaurant. The trouble is that 100 feet across the road is Madame Mallory's (Helen Mirren) Michelin Star restaurant, and she is not too pleased about having competition
THE VERDICT: Those in the audience who have seen any of Lasse Hallstrom's films will have an idea of what's in store with THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY, those who were expecting something new and exciting, or innovative from the director may as well give up now.
The story is one that Hallstrom has told a million times before; a fish out of water has to find a way to survive in an unfamiliar world. The Kadam family are earnest enough in their desire to open a restaurant, but between Papa Kardam (Om Puri) being completely unwilling to adapt to the world he finds himself in, Mansur (Amit Shah) trying to bully his father and his whole family to be anything but the people they are and Madame Mallory (Hellen Mirren) being the stereotypical stubborn French woman, the film never really stood a chance.
The performances are fine - taking out Helen Mirren's disastrous and borderline insulting French accent - and the town that the film is set in looks pretty. There is also a germ of a good idea in the story - the clash of culture between east and west - but this has been done before, and in much more endearing ways. As well as this, the film is a food film, a romance, a rivalry film, a culture clash story and a story of racism... So much is going on that the film never really has a chance to form an identity, and as such, The Hundred-Foot Journey never truly becomes anything at all. As soon as the audience has an understanding of what's going on, the film twists out of our grasp.
As director, Hallstrom makes THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY so familiar and laden with sweetness, that it soon becomes trite and twee. Emotion is sucked out of scenes due to people behaving in a way we assume the character would not, and there is literally fireworks between two people at one point. No really, literally. Still, the cinematography is nice, and foodies will appreciate the attention to detail.
THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY is a film that has no idea what it's trying to be, and so ends up a tonally confused mess. The story is overly sweet, the characters act totally erratically and have no respect for one another, and the plot has more twists and turns than it knows what to do with. Another typical Hallstrom affair, but without any of the emotion that (almost) made the others work.
RATING: 1/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

The Guest

  • Currently 4/5 Stars.

THE GUEST (USA/15A/99mins)
Directed by Adam Wingard. Starring Dan Stevens, Maika Monroe, Ethan Embry, Jason David Moore.
THE PLOT: When a soldier turns up at the Petersen's house, claiming to have served with their son - who died in Iraq - the family welcome him with varying degrees of warmth. It is not long, however, before David (Dan Stevens) has won the family over, but when a series of deaths occur - seemingly connected to the mysterious soldier - Anna Petersen (Maika Monroe) begins to get suspicious about David, charming though he is.
THE VERDICT: When reading the synopsis for The Guest, you could be forgiven for thinking this is a by the numbers horror flick, with little new to offer. The truth, however, is that THE GUEST lovingly sends up the great 80s mystery/horror flicks, while being a surprisingly funny and engaging thriller.
Dan Stevens steps away from his most famous role in DOWNTON ABBEY, to play a soldier with secrets that he wants to keep. Playing rather like a Ken doll with a taste for blood and a strong sense of loyalty, David becomes a comedically creepy character, but never one that you would feel safe laughing at. Maika Monroe takes on much of the rest of the film, playing the slightly wild, but rightly suspicious daughter of the family. Monroe plays the disaffected teenager well, and is a great foil for the seemingly perfect David. The rest of the cast is made up of Joel David Moore, Candice Patton, Sheila Kelley and Ethan Embry.
The story is designed to unsettle the audience from the start; why would a soldier turn up on the door of a friend's family unannounced? From there, the film begins to feel a little like Season Four of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER - the one with the super soldiers and the government plot - with a sprinkling of DRIVE thrown in - through Stevens' performance and some great 80s tunes - for good measure. This may not be a completely original idea for a film, but the script feels natural, there are some great one-liners and the final action sequence is so '80s and over the top that it is hard not to love the film.
Director Adam Wingard plays up the intentionally campy elements of the film, making THE GUEST a hilariously sinister experience. Dan Stevens embodies the super soldier who feels and acts more like a robot than a human being, and is surrounded by people we know from our own lives; the burn out, the girl with the bad boyfriend, the girl with loose morals. Of course, the cloches are played up, but there is an air of mystery and menace that pervades the entire film, turning what could easily have been a caricature of a bad '80s movie into an homage of the great horror thrillers that have gone before. There are times where the tone of the film gets a little garbled, but this quickly gives way to a fantastic campy flick.
THE GUEST is a silly and over the top experience, filled with mystery, menace and dark comedy. The film gives nods to the great campy horror/thrillers of the past, while blending together some of the greatest elements of BUFFY and DRIVE. There are times where the film feels a little jumbled, but soon sorts itself out, blows away the dry ice, and gets on with the camp bloodfest.
RATING: 4/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

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