Review: Victor Frankenstein

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DIR: Paul McGuigan • WRI: Max Landis • PRO: John Davis • DOP: Fabian Wagner • ED: Andrew Hulme, Charlie Phillips • DES: Eve Stewart • MUS: Craig Armstrong • CAST: Daniel Radcliffe, James McAvoy, Andrew Scott, Jessica Brown Findlay

Sometimes less is more, but evidently no one told director Paul Guigan that. Overstuffed, over acted and over written, Victor Frankenstein is the reimagining of Mary Shelley’s classic work that no one asked for. The film offers glimmers of potential throughout its first half, but quickly descends into the realm of melodramatic nonsense. Now and again, moments of substance float to the surface, which suggest that McGuigan could have had a decent film on his hands if only he had not been so heavy-handed in his approach.

Our film begins when Igor (Daniel Radcliffe), a circus hunchback would-be-scientist, is freed from his life of cruelty and humiliation by the charismatic, but clearly unhinged, Victor Frankenstein (James McAvoy). Seeing in the misshapen boy a spark of intellectual curiosity, Frankenstein makes Igor his assistant as he dangles of the edge of a major scientific discovery. Initially enthusiastic to offer his skills in the name of progress, Igor gradually realises that Frankenstein’s experiment reaches into depths far darker than he anticipated- the creation of life from nothing. On the duo’s tail, however, is the pious Inspector Turpin (Andrew Scott), whose foundation of belief is being violently shaken by the possibility of unnatural life. The juxtaposition between Frankenstein’s and Turpin’s extreme beliefs could have made for an interesting narrative arc, but McGuigan strives to make the characters interactions with one another as cliché as possible, draining their scenes of all poignancy. The only thing that the film shares in common with its source material is its protagonists name and the fact that it centres heavily on the theme that just because science can do something, it doesn’t mean that it should. There’s also a highly contrived sub-plot involving Igor’s romantic relationship with the beautiful Lorelei (Jessica Brown Findaly) that is as forced as it is stale. A shame really, that McGuigan did not take more away from Shelley’s superior story-telling.

Though the film can at times focus too much on showing off its rather uninspired CGI London landscape, its visuals are on the whole very lush, as are the spectacular costumes. During certain action sequences, however, the editing becomes a bit sloppy and doesn’t give the audience enough time to take in what is happening in from of them. The performances given by the cast are passable for the most part. McAvoy’s exceptional hammy turn as the title character makes it difficult to discern what exactly audiences are supposed to take away from Frankenstein, be it sympathy or disgust. The only actor who kind of succeeds in creating a three-dimensional performance is Radcliffe as the disfigured Igor. He is our moral compass throughout the film, but Radcliffe does his best to make that compass point at various directions. Unfortunately, he too ultimately suffers from the films bloated script and McGuigan’s directing.

Victor Frankenstein aims low and strikes even lower. Unlikely to satisfy fans of the original novel, or anyone else for that matter, the film is worth a miss.

Ellen Murray

12A
109 minutes (See IFCO for details)

Victor Frankenstein is released 4th December 2015

Victor Frankenstein – Official Website

 

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Cinema Review: Filth

Filth film still

DIR/WRI: Jon S. Baird • PRO: Mark Amin, Christian Angermayer, Jon S. Baird, Will Clarke, Stephen Mao, Ken Marshall, James McAvoy, Jens Meurer, Celine Rattray, Trudie Styler • DOP: Matthew Jensen • ED: Mark Eckersley • MUSIC: Clint Mansell DES: Mike Gunn • Cast: James McAvoy, Jamie Bell, Imogen Poots, Eddie Marsan

It’s as brimming with life and black comedy as it is pints and seminal fluid. A sardonic revolt of masculinity bursting at the seams. A seductive little beast bottling everything defile and humorous in life into one condensed viewing. It’s an adaptation of the notorious novel by cult author Irvine Welsh and adapted for the screen by Jon S. Baird.

Detective sergeant Bruce Roberts (James McAvoy) is a man of the law, an absolute degenerate, a scoundrel, a pervert, a Scotsman and he’s got his sights set out on a big promotion. A very big promotion indeed. He wants to be made detective lieutenant and why couldn’t he? He’s highly ethical and principled, his interests ranging anywhere from police oppression, masonic gatherings, blackmail and autoerotic asphyxiation. As you can tell he’s perfect for the job. So it’s hardly a surprise that he’s quite well respected and trusted. Added to which he’s moving in the right social circles at the masonic lodge. But as promising as his odds for promotion are there’s no level of debauchery too low if it ensures his promotion. The importance of this promotion hinges on Roberts’s aspiration to win back his family who’ve seemingly abandoned him. He sets out on a seditious campaign to further damage the reputations of his meagre competitors and colleagues. It’s on this drunken, drug-fuelled odyssey to blacken colleagues’ reputations that things begin to disintegrate as Roberts struggles to keep his sanity. He medicates himself on a violent concoction of alcohol, cocaine, and coercion. He’s never a far step away from being a “cocaine socialist.”

McAvoy is both riveting and detestable, a formidable antihero reminiscent of Malcom MacDowell’s “Alex” from A Clockwork Orange.  It’s McAvoy who’s the binding ingredient, he’s the cement holding the film together, at its heart Filth is a tragic character piece about the mental health of man abandoned by his family. McAvoy gives a credible sense of empathy to a truly detestable character, which allows the audience feel sympathetic toward him. Behind all his apparent hatred, his drunkenness, his shameless exhibitionism is a man who is hopelessly afraid.

There’s a tremendous supporting cast – Jamie Bell is exquisite as Ray Lennox the cock-eyed cokehead copper who’s Roberts’ partner in work/crime.  Jim Broadbent as Dr. Rossi, Roberts’ crazed psychologist – albeit Broadbent’s performance is something of an extended cameo, but his contribution gives a certain memorable sense of flamboyancy.

The film is the definition of cinematic, with the potent marriage of cinematography and art direction really tearing straight into the heart of the story. There’s a constant sense of pace and movement and when the camera is still there’s a tremendous sense of unease. This is all balanced out with the copious dosages of foul humour. Filth is a film as self-reflective on itself and the history of cinema as it is reflective. But it wears its references on its sleeve with a few humble Kubrickian homages, which are pretty much an essential nowadays. Clint Mansell’s score was somewhat underwhelming being one of the less memorable attributes of the film given his usual lust for melody.

It’s abundantly clear that this is thoroughbred filmmaking, the lineage of a craftsman, the work of a very deft and capable storyteller and I look forward with great interest as to how Jon S. Baird’s career may blossom from here. Overall Filth is filthy, in the best possible sense. Recommended for anyone with a really dark sense of humour, or borderline misogynists or S/M enthusiasts. But anyone with a prudish bone in their body had best avoid this one as your world view will be so offended you won’t be able to breath.

Michael Stephen Lee

18 (See IFCO for details)

97 mins
Filth is released on 4th October 2013

Filth– Official Website

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Cinema Review: Trance

DIR: Danny Boyle • WRI: Joe Ahearne, John Hodge  • PRO: Danny Boyle, Christian Colson • DOP: Anthony Dod Mantle • ED: Jon Harris •  DES: Mark Tildesley • CAST: James McAvoy, Rosario Dawson, Vincent Cassel

Memory’s a tricky subject to study in film, and the complex workings of the mind are even trickier. Danny Boyle, surely one of the most ambitious and thematically ambidextrous filmmakers working today, here takes his shot at making a real mind-bender, following in the footsteps of Christopher Nolan, Satoshi Kon, David Cronenberg, Jean Cocteau and Luis Buñuel. Surprisingly, the director of Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire finds himself struggling with these mental gymnastics, producing a film that looks, but never feels, the part.

James McAvoy stars as Simon, an art auctioneer with serious gambling debts who winds up in trouble when a heist goes wrong – he’s the only one who knows where the £25 million painting is, but a bash to the head means he can’t remember. Vincent Cassel and his cronies try to torture it out of him, but to no avail. Enter Rosario Dawson’s expert hypnotherapist, Elizabeth, whose attempts to mine the corridors of Simon’s subconscious turn up unexpected secrets, and put her in a position of power over both Simon and Cassel’s Franck. Mental and sexual manipulation is never far off.

Opening with a superb, jauntily paced heist sequence that feels like an MTV version of Inside Man, Trance never recaptures the energy of its pre-credits sequence. Spurred forward by a pulsing soundtrack by Underworld’s Rick Smith, it descends into a lot of sitting around watching McAvoy sleep and Vincent Cassel becoming oddly less frustrated. A whirligig of twists in the final act reveals so many character reversals that it becomes difficult to decide whose side you’re on, who the main character is and whether or not you actually like any of them to begin with.

In the same way Inception never felt properly like a dream, Trance rarely feels like a nightmare, and shies away from symbolism or other techniques for addressing with real emotional issues. This is a film which pseudo-poetically discusses the virtues of female pubic hair, while using Austin Powers-esque camera angles to cloak the two male leads’ members from the audience’s gaze.

However, the cast are all in top form. McAvoy is full of the charisma that once shot him to the top of the game; that he gets to use his real accent for once is a plus. Cassel makes a very likeable villain. Dawson, whose 25th Hour promise has been time and again dampened by poor subsequent roles, plays the mysterious, dominant female with plenty of class, and remains watchable even as the material of the film collapses around her.

Boyle’s regular collaborator, the genius cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle, has created a stunningly glossy, red-stained palette for Trance. The images are crisp throughout, with some clever cycling of focus, but there’s very little cutting-edge imagery on show here to add to a portfolio already packed with 28 Days Later, Slumdog and 127 Hours. Editor Jon Harris ties it all together as best he can, but is hindered by Joe Ahearne and John Hodge’s front-heavy screenplay.

Despite some unpleasant body horror (of which finger-nail torture and genital squibs are only mild examples), Trance never manages to notch up the tension effectively. It is never as disturbing as the cold turkey scene Boyle’s Trainspotting, nor as demented as the video game trip in The Beach. This is all due to the script and its inconsistent characters.

Trance has a number of fine moments, but it never amounts to anything more than a cleverer-than-average thriller. And it’s not nearly as clever as it thinks it is.

David Neary

16 (see IFCO website for details)

101mins
Trance is released on 29th March 2013

 

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Cinema Review: Welcome To The Punch

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DIR/WRI: Eran Creevy • • PRO: Rory Aitken, Brian Kavanaugh-Jones , Ben Pugh, • DOP: Ed Wild • ED: Chris Gill •  DES: Crispian Sallis • CAST: James McAvoy, Mark Strong, Andrea Riseborough

 

British crime thrillers, by and large, are more miss than hit. There are staples of the genre – it must feature Vinny Jones. It must involved tailored suits. A section of it must be set in Canary Wharf. A Jaguar must be visible in at least one shot. An upcoming indie band must perform / be used as extras. With Welcome To The Punch, Eran Creevy is attempting to throw out the rulebook of British crime thrillers – and instead use the American rulebook. Director Eran Creevy’s previous work, Shifty, was very much of the British school of crime drama. It’s interesting to see him change from a Guy Ritchie-esque position and adopt a far more glossier image for his second film.

 

The story follows Max Lewinsky, played by James McAvoy and Jacob Sternwood, played by Mark Strong. McAvoy is a London detective who’s obsessed with capturing his arch-nemesis, Strong, after he shot and injured him and escaped to Iceland. Following a botched deal involving Strong’s on-screen son, he returns to London and becomes embroiled in a labyrinthine plot involving guns, politicians and crooked cops. On paper, the plot seems like it could work. Crime dramas, by and large, need a large frame to work in and for them to be not be bogged down in message. The story is the story, in other words. Here, however, Creevy’s screenplay falters as the plot is too clever for its own good. Instead of having an emotional line with a simple, thought-out plot, Welcome To The Punch quickly spins out of control and becomes undecipherable and, ultimately, forgettable. James McAvoy and Mark Strong, both established actors, are more than capable of giving their roles meaning and gravitas. Unfortunately, here, there is little to help them along. The initial setup, pitching McAvoy and Strong, as blood enemies who are forced to work together, falters very quickly.

 

Strong, who has played hardened, remorseless criminals in the past, is far more forgiving and almost tender in this than you’d expect the character to be. It’s true, Creevy’s script may have been attempting to change our expectations; pitching the criminal as a more tender creature. However, the same role was imbued with much more skill by Robert DeNiro in Heat than it was here. That’s not to say that Mark Strong isn’t as effective an actor or that he can’t deliver. Quite the opposite. Strong, given good material, can work just as well as Robert DeNiro. Here, unfortunately, it just doesn’t work. McAvoy, likewise, is drawn as a twitchy, hard-edged cop with an obsessive streak – but the script doesn’t give him the proper amount of time to fully realise the character. The supporting cast, made up of Andrea Riseborough, David Morrisey and Peter Mullan, all turn in good performances. Peter Mullan, in particular, is always a treat to watch. Here playing Strong’s friend, Mullan gives the film’s criminal characters that much-needed sense of ruthlessness that Strong fails to deliver.

 

It’s not all bad, however. Creevy’s visual style with Welcome To The Punch is fantastic. London has never looked so slick and well-photographed; drenched in cool, icy blues and using high-angle shots reminiscent of Michael Mann’s Heat – which is a huge influence on this film. One scene in particular, involving McAvoy, Strong and Mullan and a sofa, stands out as a particularly effective scene. Creevy’s sense of pacing, attention to detail and overall visual style is impressive – it’s just a real shame that that screenplay wasn’t up to the same high standard. Welcome To The Punch is a visually-entertaining but overall hollow experience. If only he had handed over the script to someone else instead of taking it all on, it would have been a far more enjoyable film. As it is, Welcome To The Punch is a missed opportunity to write the next chapter in British crime films.

Brian Lloyd

15A (see IFCO website for details)

100mins
Welcome To The Punch is released on 15th March 2013

Welcome To The Punch– Official Website

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rr-O_v0mlx8

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Cinema Review: Arthur Christmas

 

have you been good?

DIR: Sarah Smith • WRI: Sarah Smith, Peter Baynham • PRO: Steve Pegram • DOP: Jericca Cleland • ED: John Carnochan, James Cooper • DES: Evgeni Tomov • CAST: James McAvoy, Jim Broadbent, Bill Nighy

Arthur (James McAvoy) is the son of Santa ‘Malcolm’ Claus (Jim Broadbent), who is nearing the end of his 70 year shift as festive gift-giver. But Santa is merely the public figurehead, with the entire operation run with military precision by next-Santa-in-line, Arthur’s older brother Steve (Hugh Laurie). But Arthur is the only one in the family who still brims over with the absolute joy that the season brings, and when a technical oversight sees one child left present-less, Arthur takes it upon himself to ensure that the child’s Christmas isn’t ruined, with the help of his Grand-Santa (Bill Nighy) and a ninja-level wrapping elf (Ashley Jensen).

The entire film takes place on one night, so there is a nice against-the-clock backdrop that keeps up the pace, even as the film flits from the North Pole to Toronto to the Pacific Ocean to Africa and, finally, to England. Aardman Studios keep their trademark look, even as they venture further into solely CGI creations, and while they’re not quite up to Pixar levels in terms of finesse, they surpass in terms of details, with almost every scene having something amusing going on in the background.

The voice cast are great, and the whole ‘Christmas is a time for family coming together’ message is nicely played out without being too cloying. And while the script is peppered with jokes for both adults and kids, there are very few moments of absolute hilarity, more just an overall sense of fun. And once again, the 3D was severely underused and just a way to make more money (which could be a sly joke about the Christmas season itself, come to think of it.) But these are just nit-picks, as chances are young ‘uns will be watching this every Christmas for years to come, wanting to get another behind-the-scenes look at their favourite jolly fat guy.

Rory Cashin

Rated G (see IFCO website for details)
Arthur Christmas is released on 11th November 2011

Arthur Christmas – Official Website

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GfjMjaN_mEE

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Gnomeo & Juliet

Gnomeo & Juliet

DIR/WRI: Kelly Asbury • Wri: Kelly Asbury, Mark Burton, Kevin Cecil, Emily Cook, Kathy Greenberg, Andy Riley • PRO: Baker Bloodworth, David Furnish • ED: Catherine Apple • DES: Kalina Ivanov • CAST: James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Maggie Smith

It’s that time again, the time when The Bard’s words are wheeled out and given an updated ‘twist’ for modern audiences. In Gnomeo & Juliet the twist is that the parts in the greatest love story ever told are played by animated garden gnomes, and I’m not kidding. With James McEvoy voicing the aptly named Gnomeo and Emily Blunt taking on the role of Juliet, it can’t all be bad, can it!?

Well no, whilst rival clans of garden gnomes might ordinarily be the stuff of cheesy horror, our characters are effortlessly charming. Whilst the entire thing is vaguely ridiculous, it’s difficult not to get sucked into the childishness of it all and enjoy it for what it is, fun. McEvoy and Blunt bring a charming element to this bizarre love story and it’s hard not to root for these little guys despite the question marks looming in the dark recesses of your brain. There are some nods to the play specifically for the adults, as well as some gentle pastiche of more modern movies to ensure a few chuckles from those of us in double digits.

The animation itself is crisp and pristine and includes more bright colours than your retinas knew existed but, as always, the unnecessary addition of 3D does very little for the overall experience of the story, other than making the outing very slightly more expensive and the task of convincing a small child to keep 3D glasses on for the entirety is never a simple one. This animation would be more enjoyable in 2D as that now unavoidable extra dimension dulls what is intended to be excellent animation.

There is an over-heavy use of well-known voices which takes away a bit of the magic of the film. Rather than falling in love with an ensemble porcelain cast, the audience find themselves doing the obligatory, ‘Who IS that? Sounds familiar….Oh it’s Peggy Mitchell right?, It’s a sad fact that some movies simply can’t stand on their own merit and require an impressive ensemble cast in order to sell tickets at the box office (Valentine’s Day anyone?!). It is slightly disillusioning when this carries over into animation in order to lure parents in with their kids.

Overall, Gnomeo & Juliet is a bizarre but somewhat enjoyable exploration of a timeless classic. Right, now that that’s over with we must all bow our heads and pray that the next ten years doesn’t see the appearance of lawnmower races and rival garden gnomes in the Shakespeare Leaving Cert question.

Ciara O’Brien

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
Gnomeo & Juliet
is released on 11th February 2011

Gnomeo & Juliet – Official Website

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yPQyg8XtGsw[/youtube]


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