Archive for 2008

Waltz With Bashir * * * * 1/2

Posted in Animation, Foreign Language, War with tags on September 8, 2013 by Mark Walker


Director: Ari Folman.
Screenplay: Ari Folman.
Voices: Ari Folman, Ron Ben-Yishai, Ronny Dayag, Shmuel Frenkel, Zahava Solomon, Ori Sivan, Dror Harazi.

The Israel & Palestine conflict never makes an easy topic for discussion and tends to bring passionate opinions to the surface. As a result, it’s difficult for anyone approaching the subject. Here, however, we are given a film that wisely doesn’t address the politics of the conflict, choosing instead to focus more on the atrocity and brutality of war.

On realising he has no memory of serving in the Israeli Army during the First Lebanon War in 1982, Ari Folman tracks down his old buddies to hear their stories of the conflict, and try to solve the mystery of his own psychological blindspot.

Thanks in large to it’s strikingly powerful artwork, this is a documentary that’s one of the most original of it’s kind. It consists of a serious of investigative interviews with director and war veteran Folman and his comrades who served with him during the conflict. Like the stories they relate, the interviews are also included in the animation and had this been done otherwise this may not have held our interest as much as it does. It helps bind the film into a coherent and visually stunning experience. Having served as an Israeli soldier, Folman wisely doesn’t justify his actions – if anything he abhors them. As he pieces the stories together, the revelation of his deep rooted memories are harrowing and it’s no wonder he developed temporary amnesia. He psychologically blocked his memories due to the atrocities and sheer brutality of the massacre – that he was involved in – of Palestinian men, women and children. Despite, this heavy subject matter, amidst the backdrop of war and barbarism, there are still many scenes of such power and surreal beauty.


Deservedly Oscar nominated for Best Foreign Language film, this is a provocative, gruesome and visually stunning movie, that captures an eerie and haunting feel throughout. Within it’s shocking delivery, it carries a very important anti-war message while echoing the work of Oliver Stone’s “Platoon” or Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now”. Absolutely superb and quite unlike anything you’ll have seen before.

Mark Walker

Wanted * * * *

Posted in Action, Fantasy with tags on November 25, 2012 by Mark Walker


Director: Timur Bekmambetov.
Screenplay: Michael Brandt, Derek Haas, Chris Morgan.
Starring: James McAvoy, Angelina Jolie, Morgan Freeman, Terence Stamp, Thomas Kretschmann, Marc Warren, Common, Kristen Hager, David Patrick O’Hara.

Action is not normally a genre I’m drawn to but when it’s done without reservation, I can completely enter into it. I, normally, find that the genre always goes a little too far. That being the case, if your going to go far you night as well go all out and be as innovative as you possibly can. This can certainly claim to do that.

Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy) is a bored and downtrodden office worker who gets bullied by his boss while his best friend is sleeping with his girlfriend. His life is a shambles. That is, until he is approached out of the blue by the mysterious Fox (Angelina Jolie), a highly trained assassin who is part of a secret society called the Fraternity. Wesley’s father was also a member and now that he’s recently deceased, Wesley is heir to the skills of a master hitman and the Fraternity bring him onboard.

In his first English language feature, director Timur Bekmambetov brings the similar style from his Russian vampire movies “Night Watch” and “Day Watch” and proves that he’s a director that can certainly stage an action scene or two. There are cars that do 360 degree flips, people that leap from skyscrapers, bullets that collide with each other mid-air and even ones that bend round corners, buy hey, it’s based on a comic-book by Mark Millar (also responsible for “Kick Ass“) so anything goes right? The action scenes are sublimely hyper-stylised and delivered with a breathtakingly fast pace. It also stages a lot of the action in glorious slow-motion, encapsulating the moment and allowing the audience the wallow and appreciate even further.
To begin with, the film may instil a certain deja-vu as it borrows heavily from “Fight Club” in it’s premise of a disheartened man, in a dead end job, that finds a new lease of life. Mainly what it incorporates though, is the balletic skills of Hong Kong action maestro John Woo and the gravity defying works of “The Matrix“. Quite simply, it’s ludicrous stuff but riotously enjoyable all the same.
McAvoy struggles a little with an American accent but for the most part he’s good and his performance captures both a sense of humour and an impressive and convincing action ability. A heavily tattooed and vampish Angelina Jolie also gets her fair share of action moments, all-be-it, without much in the way of dialogue. As good as they are though, this is not a film that spends a lot of time or focus on character development. It’s an action movie that doesn’t pretend to be anything else and is all the better for it.

Visually astounding with a breakneck pace that rarely let’s up. It’s exciting, innovative and enjoyable, but most of all it’s fun. Exactly how an action movie should be delivered.

Mark Walker


Hunger * * * * *

Posted in Drama, History with tags on July 15, 2012 by Mark Walker


Director: Steve McQueen.
Screenplay: Steve McQueen, Enda Walsh.
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Liam Cunningham, Liam McMahon, Brian Milligan, Stuart Graham, Karen Hassan, Helen Madden, Des McAleer, Frank McCusker, Rory Mullen.

In 2011, “Shame” was released. It was a powerful piece of cinema and one of the most provocative and controversial film’s of the year. It was also one of the very best. But if you look back to 2008 and this previous collaboration with director Steve McQueen and actor Michael Fassbender, you’ll realise that provocative and hard-hitting filmmaking is something these two, seemingly excel at.

In Northern Ireland, 1981, Irish revolutionary inmates in the Maze prison begin a protest to attain political status and not to be seen as criminals. Their demands are refused by the British Government so one man, Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender), leads a hunger strike. This was a defiant act against tyrannical British rule and one that would reverberate internationally.

I find it hard to be subjective in my views of the atrocities that the British Government imposed upon the Irish revolutionary movement. I’m disgusted and appalled at some of the parliamentary decisions and I make no excuses for my prejudices toward Margaret Thatcher either. The hunger strike of 1981, is a shameful and atrocious piece of history, of which, she was at the forefront. It’s a time in history that many will want to forget, but here, director Steve McQueen paints a vivid and unflinching portrayal of these harsh times and conditions. He starts by informing us that 2,187 people have been killed in “the troubles” since 1969 and that the British Govt have withdrawn the political status of all paramilitary prisoners. Irish republicans in the Maze Prison are on a ‘blanket’ and ‘no wash’ protest. We are then introduced to a prison guard, bathing his bloodied knuckles in water. Primarily, the warden we follow seems to be torn and struggling. However, it’s soon apparent that these prison wardens are only upholding the state, so sympathy wains. There is a struggle at heart here and the British Govt has a lot to answer for. Rearing her ugly head, Margaret Thatcher is overheard on a radio broadcast, refusing to accept any form of “political or criminal violence”. Anyone familiar with her time in office will be aware of her sheer hypocrisy here. She was known as “The Iron Lady“, no better than a fascist and throughout her time in power, was the very catalyst for many wrongdoings. My opinion may come across as biased but the atrocities that these young men faced in the fight for freedom is abhorrent. What this film has in it’s ultimate favour though, is that it doesn’t preach. It states the facts and for this, McQueen deserves the utmost credit and respect. Despite the grim material, we are afforded moments of artistic beauty; McQueen lingers long on shots and uses dialogue sparsely. At one point though, he film’s a highly impressive 22-minute conversation about semantics and political rhetoric and does 16-minutes of it without cuts. It’s a bold move that could stop the film in it’s tracks but actually, what it does, is reinforce the belief that this is a highly artistic and confident filmmaker you are witnessing. He even takes his time (about half an hour) to introduce our protagonist Bobby Sands and it’s here, he is aided immeasurably by his lead actor; Michael Fassbender’s transformation from a passionate healthy prisoner to one of starved frailty is astonishing and it’s easy to see why he made a name for himself after this. He truly is one of the very best and bravest actors around at present.
Rarely have political drama’s been so raw, unnerving and emotionally devastating. This is by no means easy viewing but it’s certainly important and essential viewing and it heralded the arrival of a visionary director and intense performer.

McQueen manages that rare achievement of delivering a piece of work that is both brutal and harsh yet touching and quite beautiful. This is raw and unflinching material that is told candidly and without reservation. Simply stunning.

Mark Walker


Cloverfield * * * *

Posted in Action, Horror, Science Fiction, thriller with tags on July 14, 2012 by Mark Walker


Director: Matt Reeves.
Screenplay: Drew Goddard.
Starring: Michael Stahl-David, Lizzy Caplan, Jessica Lucas, T. J. Miller, Mike Vogel, Odette Yustman, Chris Mulkey.

Having recently watched (and thoroughly enjoyed) the latest of found footage film’s in “Chronicle“, I decided to look back at one of the sub-genre’s most critically praised. Now, when “Cloverfield” was released in 2008, I couldn’t really give two shits. However, I feel that might have judged this film unfairly and wanted to go back and give it another chance. After all, director Matt Reeves and particularly producer J.J. Abrams have built a steady reputation on the back of this.

While documenting a friends farewell party on video camera, a group of New Yorker’s find themselves videoing something else entirely. Their send-off is interrupted by an attack on the city as a massive and terrifying monster creates incredible havoc and tears the city apart.

As the film opens, we are given the gist straight away; middle-class yuppie-types with too much money and nothing to talk about. They have irritating mannerisms and deliver their dialogue in a resemblance of the kooky characters from the long-running TV show “Friends“. In this, I wasn’t sold. In fact, the only reason I persevered was just too see if any of them eventually got their heads ripped off. Thankfully, that wasn’t too far from the truth. After the long and protracted opening, the film suddenly jolts you to attention as panic sets in on the realisation that New York is under attack from some foriegn entity. The allegory to 9/11 is very apparent. As is the comparisons with another monster classic “Godzilla“. It’s at this point that you realise the dull opening was forgivable. Deliberate even. This isn’t a film about character development or even story. This is an unashamed monster/horror film about thrills and it’s a fine one at that. I have often proclaimed my dislike to a lot of found footage film’s and that particular style does become a bit irritating, not to mention disorientating here. However, it also works very highly in delivering the confusion and tension. The special effects are very impressive indeed and allow forgiveness for many of the film’s shortcomings. As mentioned, I had a real problem with the grating and shallow characters but, like most film’s of the found footage variety, you can imagine my delight at the realisation that there are very few, if any, survivors. That’s not say that I didn’t find myself rooting for them on occasion. I did, but that’s down the creativity of the filmmakers. Matt Reeves, (who done “Let Me In” – the American remake of the Swedish vampire movie “Let The Right One In“) does a sterling job in only his second directorial outing. He manages to mount the tension in abundance and he does it all, without the use of music. It was only after it was over and the credits were rolling that I realised my perception of this film had not been manipulated in any way, with an overbearing score.

You can see the clout that producer J.J. Abrams brings to the table here but his backing only allows a talented director to flourish. And that he does. This is a stylistically crafted, adrenaline filled, modern B-movie that commands your attention.

Mark Walker


Zack And Miri Make A Porno * * 1/2

Posted in Comedy, Romance with tags on May 11, 2012 by Mark Walker


Director: Kevin Smith.
Screenplay: Kevin Smith.
Starring: Seth Rogen, Elizabeth Banks, Jason Mewes, Craig Robinson, Traci Lords Katie Morgan, Ricky Mabe, Jeff Anderson, Justin Long, Brandon Routh, Tom Savini.

Writer/director Kevin Smith used to be a bit of an indie god. His debut “Clerks” was made on a shoestring budget and his films have normally had a real freshness and originality. His last three films; “Red State” “Cop Out” and this, are starting to show that Smith is running out of ideas though.

Plutonic flatmates Zack (Seth Rogen) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks) are cash strapped with mounting financial debts. They struggle to even pay basic household bills. When their electricity and water are cut off, they decide to embark on a money spinning idea; to make a homemade adult film. Eventually, the long-time friends will need to have sex with each other but will they be able to keep their emotions in check?

The film starts brightly and yes, you guessed it, Rogen gets to crack a few dick jokes. He’s good at it though but when it’s Kevin Smith at the helm, you expect a bit more. The writing is not as fresh as his earlier stuff and the film resorts to some cheap gags. It also strays off the path of indie comedy and treads onto the well worn one of romantic-comedy. This may be rom-com with an adult twist to it but, ultimately, it’s still part of the genre that I don’t really care for. It’s the performances that keep it tolerable. The two leads in Rogen and Banks are very endearing and they are surrounded by a great supporting cast – Jason Mewes is, as always, hilarious and there is a brilliant cameo from Justin Long as a gravelly voiced, profane, gay porn star. I found it to be a film of moments though. It has several that are very funny – including a good “Star Wars” porn scenario with Hung Solo and R2 T-Bag – but it’s just not consistent enough and then resorts to hammering the love angle. When this happens, you just know the film has muffdived nosedived and it’s very unlikely that it will recover. As expected, it doesn’t. If you’re looking for a good comedy that delivers the same premise then I suggest “The Moguls“. A little seen Jeff Bridges film released in 2005 that dealt with similar material in a more tasteful and frankly, funnier way.

Not one of Smith’s better efforts and has been the start of a three film decline for him. It does have some qualities but squanders them in favour of a formula.

Mark Walker


Doubt * * * * 1/2

Posted in Drama, Mystery with tags on April 2, 2012 by Mark Walker


Director: John Patrick Shanley.
Screenplay: John Patrick Shanley.
Starring: Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, Viola Davis, Alice Drummond, Audrie Neenan, Joseph Foster II, Paulie Litt.

John Patrick Shanley is probably better known for the 1987 film “Moonstruck” which garnered Cher a best actress Oscar and also one for himself in the screenplay department. He went on to direct “Joe Versus The Volcano” in 1990, to mixed results, but here he’s back to his native New York, doing what he does best and taking only his second stab at directing.

In a Bronx Catholic school in the 1960’s, stern and moralistic school principal Sister Aloysius Beauvier (Meryl Streep) suspects that gregarious priest Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman) has shown an unnatural and indecent interest in one of the school’s alter boys. She is so certain of her suspicions but lacks the evidence to prove it, leading to a battle-of-wits between them.

There are, easily, three main reasons why I enjoyed this film so much and they are: the three actors involved. Amy Adams is one of the strongest young actresses around at present and Streep and Hoffman are two of my all-time favourites. I never tire of watching them and to see them go head-to-head, chewing up the screen with powerful roles, is dramatic gold as far as I’m concerned. Such choice material though, ultimately rests with Shanley. His writing, not only has the characters in doubt but the omission of integral plot developments cleverly leaves the audience with doubts also. Is Father Flynn guilty of such indecency? Or, is Sister Aloysius bitter and slanderous toward the outgoing priest in order to retain her hierarchy? It’s an intriguing confrontation, masterfully played out buy a relentless Streep and victimised Hoffman. Adams, meanwhile, is caught between the two in a wonderful show of innocence and hope. All three were Oscar nominated for their performances, and deservedly so. Viola Davis, as the alter boys struggling mother, also deserves mention with some strong displays of emotion. It’s a film of performances and everyone is up to the task. Roger Deakins is another deserving of praise, with his exquisite cinematography. As always, his use of the camera captures the mood beautifully with some simple but lush and quaint images.

Ambiguous and tantalising. Some may find the ambiguity frustrating but I found that it kept entirely in-touch with the theme of the film. That being, quite simply… doubt.

Mark Walker


The Brothers Bloom * * * 1/2

Posted in Comedy, Drama, Romance with tags on February 2, 2012 by Mark Walker


Director: Rian Johnson.
Screenplay: Rian Johnson.
Starring: Rachel Weisz, Mark Ruffalo, Adrien Brody, Rinko Kikuchi, Robbie Coltrane, Maximilian Schell, Max Records, Zachary Gordon, Andy Nyman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
Narrated by: Ricky Jay

Following on from his modern noir and impressive directorial debut “Brick” in 2005, director Rian Johnson faced the tricky second feature syndrome. After a three year wait he delivered this… another convoluted tale, but with altogether different results.

Stephen (Mark Ruffalo) and younger sibling Bloom (Adrien Brody) are a couple of con-men who criss cross the globe shafting the unwary. Their latest mark, however, is something new: wealthy recluse Penelope (Rachel Weisz) who, having spent her life mastering a miscellany of random skills (break dancing, banjo plucking, juggling chainsaws), is only too happy to follow them and their mute munitions expert ‘Bang-Bang’ (Rinko Kikuchi) to Prague where a priceless antique is ripe for the taking.

With this second feature it looks like Rian Johnson enjoys a good puzzling story. His debut was full of twists and turns and more than a nod or two to crime writers Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. This time he employs a subtext with nods to several classic literary novels and authors. The references are subtle but cleverly dropped into his tangled and intricate flim-flam story. Added to which are bags of visual flourishes and fine performances by the four leads. However, what is a strong and satisfying hustle soon becomes a bit too clever for it’s own good and as it draws to a close it ends up tying itself in knots. Leaving us with an unsatisfactory (and unnecessary) conclusion. Getting there is loads of fun though and Rian Johnson is shaping up to be a more than competent new director.

Four fun, enjoyable and sharply dressed characters play out their scams in an impressive and stylish addition to the Bunco genre. It’s just a shame it cons itself out of a convincing ending.

Mark Walker


Killshot * *

Posted in Crime, Drama, thriller with tags on February 2, 2012 by Mark Walker


Director: John Madden.
Screenplay: Hossein Amini.
Starring: Mickey Rourke, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Thomas Jane, Diane Lane, Rosario Dawson, Lois Smith, Don McManus, Hal Holbrook.

Novelist Elmore Leonard’s writing is always sharp with snappy dialogue and well drawn characters. His stories are so descriptive that he’s practically already written the script, making his books easy to adapt to the screen. This was one that had all the ingredients for being another successful transfer from page to screen, but for the fact that it’s mediocre and lifeless.

Wayne Colson (Thomas Jane) and his estranged wife Carmen (Diane Lane) are placed in the Federal Witness Protection program after witnessing an extortion scheme go wrong. Under the protection of the F.B.I isnt enough though, when experienced hit-man Armand “Blackbird” Degas (Mickey Rourke) and psychopathic young upstart killer Richie Nix (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) are determined to track them down.

Notable successful adaptations of Leonard’s novels have been Steven Soderbergh’s “Out of Sight”, Barry Sonnenfeld’s “Get Shorty” and Quentin Tarantino’s “Jackie Brown” but this actually achieves something that none of them managed to do and something thats not easy to do either… making Elmore Leonard’s writing seem dull. This is devoid of any excitement at all. They have taken any form of suspense out and made a slow, lethargic excuse for a thriller. Rourke (as usual) is great in his brooding role and Gordon-Levitt adds some edge to the film as his pyschotic sidekick – roles that were originally intended for Robert DeNiro and Quentin Tarantino – but “Shakespeare in Love” director John Madden gets it all wrong. His treatment is flat, but I’m assuming that the fact the screenplay went through uncredited rewrites and the film itself was held back from release due to extensive cuts (Johnny Knoxville playing a crazy sheriff being a major one) that the whole troubled production has not been kind to its director. It all shows in the end result.

If it wasn’t for Rourke and Gordon-Levitt, this would be a complete waste of time. A wasted opportunity and an example of how a good story can be muddled in the wrong hands.

Mark Walker


Redbelt * * * *

Posted in Drama, Sport with tags on February 2, 2012 by Mark Walker


Director: David Mamet.
Screenplay: David Mamet.
Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tim Allen, Alice Braga, Emily Mortimer, Rodrigo Santoro, Joe Mantegna, Ricky Jay, David Paymer, Max Martini, Rebecca Pidgeon, Ray Mancini, Jose Pablo Cantillo, John Machado, J. J. Johnston, Jack Wallace.

After the arguably awful “Spartan”, writer/director David Mamet delivered this. It could be called a genre picture but if you know Mamet, you’ll know he doesn’t really follow conventions.

Mixed-martial-arts instructor Mike Terry (Chiwetel Ejiofor) has money problems. He could earn $50,000 in a competition, but honour precludes him from fighting for money. Then a series of chance encounters leaves him no choice but to step into the ring.

The film opens dramatically, introducing several of it’s key characters in quick succession and manages to maintain this drama for a lenghty period. In fact, for almost the entire film. The acting is marvellous with Chiwetel Ejiofor’s central, dynamic performance a real highlight. He’s a fine actor, deserving of more major leading roles. As always, David Mamet’s dialogue is sharp and natural, helping his characters come to life. At first, so many strands to the story are introduced, with no explanation, before eventually bringing them all cleverly together. Mamet is known for his writing skills and again they are on display here. Despite the undeniable power though, as it progresses, it starts to veer toward the formulaic side (which I suppose is difficult considering it’s subject) and ties it’s many strands up rather quickly, in a nice red bow (or quite literally ‘belt’). It was far too neatly done and gave the feeling of being rushed, letting down an otherwise superb film.

Although flawed, it’s still absorbing and one of David Mamet’s better films. It’s not a major demerit but I found it to be a bit short, I was enjoying it so much that I could have done with an extra half an hour. Then again, maybe there is no higher compliment than this.

Mark Walker


Surveillance * * * 1/2

Posted in Crime, Mystery, thriller with tags on January 30, 2012 by Mark Walker


Director: Jennifer Chambers Lynch.
Screenplay: Jennifer Chambers Lynch, Kent Harper.
Starring: Julia Ormond, Bill Pullman, Pell James, Ryan Simpkins, Cheri Oteri, Michael Ironside, French Stewart, Kent Harper, Caroline Aaron, Gill Gayle, Hugh Dillon.

Jennifer Chambers Lynch (daughter of the great trancendental David Lynch) made her directorial debut in 1993 with “Boxing Helena”. That film received some scathing reviews and if my memory serves it was an absolute turkey. However, this second shot at directing is a vast improvement.

Hunting a vicious serial killer, FBI agents Hallaway (Bill Pullman) and Anderson (Julia Ormond) pitch up at a police station to question three survivors and the cops who saved them. But with the stories failing to match up, can anyone be trusted – and is anybody safe?

You can tell that Jennifer Lynch’s auteur filmmaker father has had a heavy influence on his daughter. She employs a similiar eerie atmosphere; similiar characters with odd, unexplained behaviour and similar small, remote american settings like “Twin Peaks”, or “Wild at Heart”. Although she’s still a far cry from the genius or intelligence of her father, she can be proud of what she’s crafted with this one. The performances are spot on from a cast that has obviously put their trust in their director and Lynch’s visual style complements the cast. It’s not without it’s flaws however, and sometimes verges on implausibility but I really liked it. Certainly not for all tastes but it’s very effective and disturbing feeling of dread lingers long after viewing it. The fact that it’s set in a deserted rural American town adds to the lonliness and fear from the characters and the audience.

In only her second film, it looks like Jennifer Lynch still has a bit to learn but with this unusual serial-killer thriller it looks like she may still have something to offer, despite living in her fathers shadow.

Mark Walker


How To Lose Friends And Alienate People * *

Posted in Comedy with tags on January 29, 2012 by Mark Walker


Director: Robert B. Weide.
Screenplay: Peter Straughan.
Starring: Simon Pegg, Kirsten Dunst, Jeff Bridges, Megan Fox, Gillian Anderson, Danny Huston, Thandie Newton, James Corden, Chris O’Dowd, Max Minghella, Miriam Margoyles, Toni Collette, Kate Winslet, Daniel Craig.

Now that Simon Pegg has broken into the American market, he is getting offered more meatier roles. This was his first stab at a leading comedic part amongst an impressive star studded cast but despite the weight behind this one, it never quite gets off the ground.

Sidney Young (Simon Pegg) is a down-on-his-luck British journalist offered the chance of a lifetime at glossy US magazine ‘Sharps’. However, his plans to conquer New York hit speedbumps in the shape of a glamorous starlet (Megan Fox), her ruthless publicist (Gillian Anderson) and his increasingly irate co-workers (Kirsten Dunst, Danny Huston & Jeff Bridges).

This lightweight comedy has it’s moments; Pegg is as endearing and buffoonish as ever and the rest of the cast also deliver fine performances – particularly Bridges who chews up his role – but unfortunately, the very talented lineup are wasted in a poorly written and sometimes desperate execution. The culture-clash scenario of a lone Brit tackling America, supplies enough gags for a while, but it soon grows tiresome and relies too heavily on this premise to get by. Other than this, we are offered a few slapstick Farrelly brothers moments which are, at best, mildly amusing. It is actually based on the real life experiences of Toby Young who wrote his book as a scathing attack on the vanity and shallowness of celebrity culture and if the film had stuck to a satirical approach, it might have worked. Instead, we get a predictably uninteresting, formulaic effort that wastes a very talented cast.

Promises so much yet delivers so little. Only Jeff Bridges manages to make something of his role and come out relatively unscathed, but then… he is Jeff Bridges after all.

Mark Walker


The Secret Of Kells * * * 1/2

Posted in Animation, Family, Fantasy with tags on January 28, 2012 by Mark Walker


Directors: Tomm Moore, Nora Twomey.
Screenplay: Fabrice Ziolkowski.
Voices: Evan McGuire, Brendan Gleeson, Mick Lally, Christen Mooney.

Hand painted artwork is such a treat these days, considering most animation is computer generated and the hand crafted imagery in this one is some of the finest you’re likely to see.

It tells the story of Brendan, a young lad living in a monestry in Ireland, and his interest in the arrival of Brother Aidan, who is writing an almost magical looking manuscript. However, the Brother can’t finish his writings until he can get more bramble berries, to use for ink, that can only be found in the dangerous forest beyond the Abbey walls. Brendan takes it upon himself to venture out and retrieve the berries and becomes embroiled in a whole new world of possibilities.

I had high expectations for this film but it didn’t capture my imagination as much as I thought it would, although the animation is second to none and absolutely gorgeous in it’s hand painted intricate beauty. It truly is captivating.
The illustrations of the real “Book of Kells” are captured and brought to life in their complexity with this film. The traditional Christian iconography with swirling motifs and animals and mythical beasts, together with Celtic knotwork and interlacing patterns are as close a representation of the book as your likely to get. Despite the visual feast, however, there is something missing. The dialogue is stilted and it doesn’t engage you the way it should. I found myself drifting throughout it, when really I should have been glued to the screen with the marvellous Christian and Pagan symbolism.

If they had put as much effort into a flowing narrative as they did with the animation this would have been a masterpiece. Unfortunately, it’s not. But it’s a damn good looking attempt at one.

Mark Walker


City Of Ember (x)

Posted in Adventure, Family, Fantasy with tags on January 28, 2012 by Mark Walker


Director: Gil Kenan.
Screenplay: Caroline Thompson.
Starring: Saoirse Ronin, Harry Treadaway, Toby Jones, Martin Landau, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Mary Kay Place, Mackenzie Crook, Tim Robbins, Bill Murray.

Is it really possible that a kids adventure film can be dull and uneventful? Well… “City of Ember” is proof that, yes, it can be.

Based on the novel by Jeanne Duprau, it tells the story of Lina (Ronan) and Doon (Treadaway) who live in an underground city named ‘Ember’. It is lit only by electric lamps, whose inhabitants have no light sources. The darkness beyond their city hold unknown things and possible salvation, so they decide to find a way out, as ‘Ember’ is falling to pieces and what little power supply they have left, is running out.

There is next to nothing to recommend here, with the one exception being a nice and almost unrecognisable appearance from Martin Landau. What the hell Tim Robbins and Bill Murray where thinking of by getting involved in this stinker, I’ll never know. They are way above this tedious nonsense.

One for definite avoidance unless your suffering a bout of insomnia.

Mark Walker


In Bruges * * * 1/2

Posted in Comedy, Crime, Drama with tags on January 27, 2012 by Mark Walker


Director: Martin McDonagh.
Screenplay: Martin McDonagh.
Starring: Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Ralph Fiennes, Clemence Poesy, Jordan Prentice, Jeremie Renier, Zeljko Ivanek, Thekla Rueten, Eric Godon, Matt Smith, Ciaran Hinds.

After winning an Oscar for his short film “Six Shooter”, director Martin McDonagh’s first feature length dares to combine a crime thriller with comedy and the results are surprisingly good.

Ray (Colin Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson), are two Irish hitmen, laying low in the medieval Belgian town of ‘Bruges’ to evade the police after a botched job back home. While awaiting instructions from their furious boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes), they take in the sights of the town and Ken braces himself for bad news as Ray stuggles with his conscience.

It’s no easy task to mix genres and manage to pull it off but McDonagh has done an admirable job and that’s party due to the fact that he doesn’t seem to care who he offends, in order to wring out the laughs. The main source, being a lack of political correctness with Farrell’s character Ray and his opinion and choice of words when addressing the fact that Jimmy (Jordan Prentice) is a dwarf. He never seems to say the right thing, due to ignorance, but there’s no denying it provides the goods and Prentice is a good sport for being in on the joke. However, some of the jokes are strained and contrary to other opinions, I think Farrell struggles with the delivery of the humour at times and shows some signs of overacting. This is certainly not the case with Gleeson though. He’s as solid as usual and plays the straight-man to Farrell’s fool. The star of the show for me though, was Ralph Fiennes. It’s been said before but his performance is definitely reminiscent of Ben Kingsley in “Sexy Beast” but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. He’s foul mouthed, volatile and completely unhinged but it’s hilarious to watch and it looked like Fiennes had a lot of fun with the role. The town of Bruges itself, is also a character, looming around the actors, looking ominously gothic and steeped in history. Wisely, McDonagh chooses to use it well and give the audience a tour of it and Cinematographer Eigil Bryld deserves special mention for his work here, in capturing it’s medieval beauty.

An impressive and unexpected delight from all involved, with good chemistry from the actors and darkly comic, razor sharp dialogue. Worth visiting.

Mark Walker


The Wackness * * 1/2

Posted in Comedy, Drama with tags on January 26, 2012 by Mark Walker


Director: Jonathan Levine.
Screenplay: Jonathan Levine.
Starring: Ben Kingsley, Josh Peck, Famke Janssen, Olivia Thirlby, Mary-Kate Olsen, Jane Adams, Talia Balsam, Method Man, Aaron Yoo, David Wohl, Bob Dishy.

With chameleon-like versatility, Ben Kingsley went from peace-loving pacifist in “Gandhi” to intimidating pychopath in “Sexy Beast”. Here, he finds a juicy role that slots somewhere

Luke Shapiro (Josh Peck), is a small-time dealer who literally carts weed around in an ice-cream wagon. He thinks he’s depressed; his therapist, Dr. Squires (Ben Kingsley), thinks he just needs to get laid. Trouble is, the girl Luke’s into is Squires’ step-daughter Stephanie (Olivia Thirlby), a fact he keeps secret from his mentor. The movie follows the evolution of these relationships – Luke and Squires, Luke and Stephanie, and Squires and his cold wife (Famke Janssen).

A fine little coming-of-age/rite-of-passage film that’s elevated above the norm due to fine performances from the two leads. Peck perfectly captures the endearing, but dumb as a bag of hammers, nature of Luke. Director Jonathan Levine does well in keeping the 90’s style flowing and nostalgic, with great use of hip-hop soundtrack but really this film is about one thing and one thing only…Ben Kingsley! Is this really Gandhi we are watching, sucking on bongs, smoking blunts and shagging one of the Olsen twins in a phone box? As it appears, yes it is, and it’s fun to see Kingsley letting loose again and proving how good an actor he is. The problem is though, when he’s not on screen the film suffers and becomes a tad tedious until he appears again.

A decent effort by all involved but the material is nothing new and relies a little to heavily on Kingsley’s eccentricity carrying it home.

Mark Walker