Tag Archives: thriller

Review – Creed (15) [2016]

Creed - Title banner

Star Rating: 4.5/5

Director:

  • Ryan Coogler – Fruitvale Station

Cast:

  • Sylvester Stallone – Rocky I-VI, Judge Dread, Escape Plan, The Expendables I-IV
  • Michael B. Jordan – Chronicle, Fruitvale Station, That Awkward Moment, Fantastic Four
  • Tessa Thompson – Heroes, Periphery, Selma, Salt Water
  • Phylicia Rashad – Cosby, Just Wright, The Cleveland Show, Gods Behaving Badly
  • Graham McTavish – Secretariat, Colombiana, The Hobbit I, II & III, The Finest Hours
  • Tony Bellew

Music Composer:

  • Ludwig Göransson – Fruitvale Station, Community, We’re The Millers, New Girl

In recent weeks, there has been much controversy about the lack of diversity regarding the OSCAR nominations. Other than Alejandro Iñarritu (who is Mexican), not a single non-white person has been nominated for any of the major awards for the second year running. How was this possible when some fantastic work has been done by non-white people over the course of the last year? Creed is an excellent example of how wrong the OSCARs have got it this year.

Rocky (Sylvester Stallone, right), giving his pupil, Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan, left), some advice on how to defeat a foe in the ring.

Rocky (Sylvester Stallone, right), giving his pupil, Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan, left), some advice on how to defeat a foe in the ring.

Creed is the seventh film in the Rocky franchise and centres round Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan). Adonis is the illegitimate son of Apollo Creed, who died in Rocky IV. After having a good education and holding down a solid job in the financial sector, Adonis wants a career change. He decides to take up professional boxing and follow in his illustrious father’s footsteps.

To reach those heights, Adonis needs a coach. So he turns to his father’s former rival-cum-friend, Rocky (Sylvester Stallone), to train him. Despite being in his late-sixties and having quit boxing, Rocky agrees.

Creed is a very engaging film. It has nostalgic borrowings from previous Rocky films, but more importantly it is a thriller and a drama in its own right. Thus, it does not matter if one has watched the other Rocky films or not. One can greatly enjoy the movie due to the quality of the (often humorous) script, as well as the depth of the characters and the chemistry between them; principally, Rocky (Stallone), Adonis Creed (Jordan) and Bianca (Tessa Thompson).

Adonis Creed out with Bianca (Tessa Thompson).

Adonis Creed out with Bianca (Tessa Thompson).

Stallone plays his joint-most iconic role (with Rambo) with tremendous nuance, charm and realism. He fully justifies his OSCAR nomination. This is not the egotistical Stallone/Rocky in his pomp, trying to take down all his foes to be the all-American hero. (Watch The Expendables franchise for that ludicrous nonsense.) No, time (and life) has taken its toll on Rocky and one feels this in every line he delivers (even when he is being funny). It remains to be seen if this performance is enough to win Stallone the OSCAR for Best Supporting Actor. But having won the Golden Globe for it, he stands a good chance.

Whether he wins it or not, at least Stallone has received OSCAR recognition for his efforts. The same cannot be said for Michael B. Jordan, Tessa Thompson and director Ryan Coogler. Jordan is terrific as the titular Creed and it is scandalous that he has not been nominated. His role is so demanding; yet, he handles it with aplomb, whether it is in the (gruelling) boxing ring, or in his relationships with his mentor or his love interest, Bianca. And in fairness to Bianca/Tessa Thompson, she holds her own against Creed/Jordan. She is not merely in the film for eye-candy or to advance Creed’s plot arc. Rather, Bianca exists in her own right, as a three-dimensional character and with a promising career to match, both of which make her very interesting to watch.

For all this, Ryan Coogler must be credited. He has done a superb job in reinvigorating a tired franchise and his directing is outstanding. He captures the upper- and lower-class areas from where boxers come from with class, and has managed to turn a (bog-standard) boxing training montage into something serious and amusing at the same time. Nevertheless, it is how Coogler has handled the boxing fights that highlight his skill as a director. He adopts close-up, continuous shots with no cuts, enabling viewers to feel as if they are part of the fights. That the fights are raw and brutal amplify this sensation.

Adonis Creed in the ring, still standing, despite having taken a battering from his opponent.

Adonis Creed in the ring, still standing, despite having taken a battering from his opponent.

If Coogler can be criticised at all for Creed, it is that the film has some predictable and cliché scenes. Some of these scenes, the movie would have been (marginally) better off without because they are a mixture of rehashing of old Rocky territory and because other boxing films (such as The Fighter, Warrior and Southpaw to name three) have covered similar ground. Then again, if these are the only problems with Creed, they should be mostly overlooked.

All-in-all, Creed is a fantastic boxing thriller and drama. It has a great and funny script, some brutal boxing fights, and some OSCAR-worthy performances. Stallone is a joy to watch in this older, more-nuanced version of his familiar character. He is deserving of his OSCAR-nomination and it would not be a shock if he were to win the OSCAR next month. No, the real shock is that Stallone is the only person nominated from this film. For their parts, Michael B. Jordan, Tessa Thompson and Ryan Coogler should also have been nominated, if not at the head of the queue to win OSCARs themselves. One can only hope that it was not because of the colour of their skins that they did not make the shortlist.

PG’s Tips

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Review – The Gift (15) [2015]

The Gift - title banner2

Star Rating: 4/5

Director:

  • Joel Edgerton

Cast:

Music Composers:

  • Danny Bensi – Martha Marcy May Marlene, Enemy, Last Days In The Desert, Christine
  • Saunder Jurriaans – Martha Marcy May Marlene, Enemy, Last Days In The Desert, Christine

In the last dozen years, there have been a string of actors who have turned themselves into creditable directors. Sofia Coppola directed Lost in Translation in 2003 (and was nominated for two Oscars for it). While George Clooney directed and starred in The Ides of March in 2011 and Ben Affleck did the same in Argo in 2013 (and won an Oscar for it). Joel Edgerton seems to be the latest actor to try his luck behind the camera, and his directorial debut is a gem.

The happy couple. Simon (Jason Bateman) showing affection to his wife, Robyn (Rebecca Hall) whilst convincing her that this is the right house for them to make a home.

The happy couple. Simon (Jason Bateman) showing affection to his wife, Robyn (Rebecca Hall) whilst convincing her that this is the right house for them to make a home.

Edgerton’s film, The Gift, centres round an ostensibly happy couple, Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall). They have just moved from Chicago to suburban Los Angeles because Simon got a new job. One evening, when they are at a shop buying supplies for their new home, they bump into Gordon ‘Gordo’ Moseley (Joel Edgerton). Gordo remembers Simon from their high school days and is keen to become friends with Robyn and Simon. Simon, though, is not so keen since he remembers how much of a weirdo Gordo was back then. (Simon even boasts that he and his peers called Gordo ‘the Weirdo’ back in school because he was so weird.)

Nevertheless, Gordo goes to their new house when Simon is not around and starts giving them gifts, despite neither Robyn nor Simon asking for any. Soon, Gordo’s behaviour begins to trouble Simon and Robyn. It puts a strain on their marriage, especially as Robyn suspects that Simon is not telling her something…

The Gift is a slow-burning psychological thriller. Not a lot happens for much of the film. Yet, it is a tense watch. This is primarily because Director Joel Edgerton (thankfully) does not use loud, sudden noises to artificially inject jump-scares into his viewers. Rather, he uses the natural spookiness of the suburban area to good effect and creates a scenario that nobody would want to experience. The combination induces an organic and ethereal tautness into the audience, thereby making The Gift an uncomfortable watch.

Gordo (Joel Edgerton) staring with unsettling intent at Simon and Robyn at the store.

Gordo (Joel Edgerton) staring with unsettling intent at Simon and Robyn at the local supply store.

Central to The Gift being an uncomfortable watch is Edgerton as an actor. Edgerton is really good as the unsettlingly weird Gordo. With just a look (or a gift), he can make viewers feel like ants are crawling under their skin. Edgerton’s/Gordo’s weird behaviour is one of the reasons for this; the other is due to the phenomenal (and subtle) job that the cosmeticians have done to his face. They have transformed Edgerton from a pleasant, amiable-looking guy into someone that no-one would ever want to come across, whether in a supermarket, a social gathering, on the train, or in a dark alley at night. (Especially not in a dark alley at night!)

Edgerton/Gordo is undoubtedly the star of the film. He activates the tension and his behaviour gets unnervingly weirder and weirder the more The Gift goes on. Yet, one cannot ignore the roles played by Rebecca Hall and Jason Bateman either to making the movie tense. Hall plays plausibly well as a woman who seems fine on the surface, but has psychological issues brooding under the surface; while Bateman plays decently as his seemingly usual, (semi-)comic, supercilious self. Nevertheless, neither Hall nor Bateman have the same weight on screen as Edgerton. One spends much of the time when Edgerton is not on screen waiting for him to reappear as one knows that something strange and unsettling is likely to occur.

Edgerton gets a lot right as an actor in The Gift. He also gets a lot right as the director and writer of the film too. He captures the cinematography of a suburban town well (with all its beauty and mundane scariness), and uses relatively long shoots to enable viewers to feel the normality (and tension) of the situation unfolding for Hall’s and Bateman’s characters with impressive skill.

Simon and Rebecca find a gift awaiting them at the house upon returning from some friends. Guess who its from...?

Simon and Rebecca find a gift awaiting them at the house upon returning from some friends. Guess who its from…?

Additionally, Edgerton has written a very good script that has believable dialogue and a solid storyline. It is only in the climactic scene at the very end of the film that one or two elements of the dialogue and script don’t work. Indeed, they seem entirely at odds with the realism of the rest of the movie. But to put too much stress on the (eye-raising nature of the) end would be to do The Gift and Joel Edgerton a disservice. As an actor and as a director, Edgerton emphasises that he has talent akin to Sofia Coppola, George Clooney and Ben Affleck.

Over-all, The Gift is a well-executed psychological thriller. The final scenes may be questionable. But the film is tense and suspenseful in an entirely naturalistic and refreshing way. Undeniably, Edgerton is the shining light of this film as an actor, the writer and the director. He is creepy as the main supporting actor; intelligent in his script-writing; and neat in his directing. Edgerton is highly unlikely to be nominated, let alone win, an Oscar for his directing The Gift. But this is a great directorial debut from him, and one looks forward to watching what he writes and directs next.

PG’s Tips

Review – Spooks: The Greater Good (15) [2015]

Spooks - title banner

Star Rating: 3.5/5

Director:

  • Bharat Nalluri – Killing Time, The Crow, Spooks, The Player

Cast:

  • Kit Harington – Pompeii, A Testament of Youth, Seventh Son, Game of Thrones
  • Peter Firth – The Hunt For Red October, Pearl Harbour, Spooks, Risen
  • Jennifer Ehle – The King’s Speech, The Ides of March, Contagion, Zero Dark Thirty, A Quiet Passion
  • Tuppence Middleton – Cleanskin, The Imitation Game, Jupiter Ascending, War And Peace
  • Elyes Gabel – Game of Thrones, World War Z, A Most Violent Year, Scorpion
  • Tim McInnerny – Spooks
  • Eleanor Matsuura – Alan Partridge, The Love Punch, Residue, Burn Burn Burn
  • Michael Wildman – Family Affairs, A Bunch of Amateurs, Act of Godfrey, London Has Fallen
  • Lara Pulver – Spooks, True Blood, Edge of Tomorrow, A Patch of Fog
  • David Harewood – The Ruby In The Smoke, Homeland, Grimsby

Music Composer:

  • Dominic Lewis – Free Birds, The DUFF, The Player

When one watches a TV series from the beginning, one usually becomes emotionally invested in the characters. Whether it is Jack Bauer from 24, Homer Simpson from The Simpsons, the inbetweeners from The Inbetweeners, or the leading police officers from 21 Jump Street, viewers usually acquire affection (or disdain) for the characters, and normally they carry their sentiments on into the film adaptation(s) or spin-off(s). But what if one has not watched the TV series that a film is based on? Can one still enjoy the film to the same extent as if one had watched the show? Spooks: The Greater Good may give us an answer.

Harry (Peter Firth) convincing Will Holloway (Kit Harington), an ex-agent, to trust him and to rejoin M:I-5.

Harry (Peter Firth) convincing Will Holloway (Kit Harington), an ex-agent, to trust him and to rejoin M:I-5.

Spooks is based on the British TV series with the same title that aired between 2002-11 (although it was also called M:I-5 in some circles). The film is a spy thriller. At the start of the movie, Adam Qasim (Elyes Gabel), a terrorist wanted by US authorities, is in the hands of M:I-5. He is on his way to being handed over to the CIA in London when the vehicles driving him are attacked in a heist. Threatened with the deaths of agents in the streets, M:I-5 orders the agents to hand over Qasim to the armed attackers.

Now free, Qasim plans a terrorist attack on London. While M:I-5 looks for him and determines what he intends to do, Harry Pearce (Peter Firth) disappears. He is convinced that there is a traitor in M:I-5 who let Qasim free, and he re-recruits Will Holloway (Kit Harrington), an ex-agent, to help him find out who the traitor is.

Spooks is a solid espionage thriller. The film is quite grounded and beguiling with good acting and humorous dialogue. For one who has not watched an episode of Spooks the TV series, there are probably some subtleties that go unseen. But not seeing these does not make the film any less entertaining. Furthermore, the film is written in such a way that the allegiances (and rivalries) between key personnel in the upper echelons of M:I-5 are spelled out quite early on in the film. So, one should not have a problem understanding who is on whose side… until they switch sides, of course. But that happened in the TV series regularly, like in 24, and is also part and parcel of the spy genre in general. How much emotional investment in Spooks one needs prior to watching the film is debatable.

June (Tuppence Middleton), an M:I-5 agent, going in with a fellow agent to take out some terrorists.

June (Tuppence Middleton), an M:I-5 agent, going in with a fellow agent to take out some terrorists.

Yes, it may have helped to know what the shifty Harry Pearce, played well by Peter Firth, is like before going into the film in the same way it may have helped to watch The Simpsons on TV to appreciate what makes the blundering Homer Simpson so endearing before watching The Simpsons Movie. Similarly, watching Spooks the TV show may have helped to get to know supporting cast members played by Tim McInnerney and Lara Pulver. Both reprise their roles from the show well but are given little screen time during the movie (especially compared to Peter Firth’s character).

Nevertheless, for every actor reprising their character, there are a handful of new characters. Jennifer Ehle, Tuppence Middleton, Eleanor Masuura and, chiefly, Kit Harington were never part of the TV series. Suffice to say, all of them have a role in the film and add something different to the plot. Fans (and non-fans) of the show cannot have known these characters or anticipate their motives prior to the movie. This means that the film is going to deviate from the show and that whatever happened previously in the TV series is unlikely to be crucial.

Jon Snow... I mean, Will Holloway being the hero and using a gun to take out a foe instead of a sword.

Jon Snow… I mean, Will Holloway being the hero and using a gun, instead of a sword, to take out a foe.

Yet, if fans (and non-fans) are arguing over how alike Spooks the film is to Spooks the TV series, they are arguing over the wrong issue. How closely the film resembles the show pales in comparison to the problem of the film’s tone. Director Bharat Nalluri cannot make up his mind if he wants the film to be taken seriously, like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, or as a spoof, like Kingsman: The Secret Service. Bearing in mind the title of the movie reads and sounds close to ‘spoof,’ it may have been logical to make the film as a satire, as James Bond was pre-Daniel Craig. (Or maybe that conclusion is borne from not watching the TV series?) Either way, Spooks’ tone is confusing. Add in the (numerous) implausible plot twists and it is understandable that viewers get into a fuddle as to what sort of a film they’re watching.

Over-all, Spooks is an enjoyable spy thriller. It has been put together well enough to ensure that viewers who have not watched the TV series that preceded the movie are not worse off than those who did. The tone of the film may be puzzling and some of the Byzantine-like scheming makes no sense. However, Spooks: The Greater Good has got good acting, dialogue and intrigue, with semi-grounded action. Thus, like any film with such ingredients, Spooks is a decent movie and worth a watch.

PG’s Tips

Review – Stoker (18) [2013]

Stoker - title banner2

Star Rating: 2.5/5

Director:

  • Chan-Wook Park – Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy, Lady Vengeance

Producers:

  • Ridley Scott – Body of Lies, Prometheus, Welcome to the Punch
  • (The late) Tony Scott – The Taking of Pelham 123, Unstoppable, Out of the Furnace

Cast:

  • Nicole Kidman – Eyes Wide Shut, Rabbit Hole, Before I Go To Sleep
  • Mia Wasikowska – Defiance, Alice In Wonderland, The Double
  • Matthew Goode – Match Point, Watchmen, Belle
  • Jacki Weaver – The Five-Year Engagement, Silver Linings Playbook, Haunt
  • Phyllis Somerville – Little Children, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Double
  • Lucas Till – X-Men: First Class, Battle: Los Angeles, X-Men: Days of Future Past
  • Alden Ehrenreich – Twixt, Beautiful Creatures, Running Wild

Music Composer:

What is the purpose of film trailers and movie marketing campaigns? The answer might seem ostensibly obvious: to whet people’s appetites to buy cinema tickets and, eventually, to entice them to buy DVDs. While this understandably keeps the wheels of the Hollywood machine spinning, does this mean that trailers and marketing campaigns should give too much of a film’s plot away and/or misrepresent a movie in the interests of money? Indeed, some of Stoker’s problems stem from its trailer and its advertisements.

Charlie (Matthew Goode) watching look like a stalker as his niece, India (Mia Wasikowska), walks to school.

Charlie (Matthew Goode) watching look like a stalker as his niece, India (Mia Wasikowska), walks to school.

Stoker begins with the death of Richard Stoker (Dermot Mulroney). Not long after his funeral, Richard’s daughter, India (Mia Wasikowska), learns that her father had a creepy brother, Charlie (Matthew Goode), and that he will be moving into the house. He has been invited to stay by India’s unstable mother, Evelyn (Nicole Kidman). But no sooner does Charlie arrive, people start to disappear, and this has a troubling effect upon India.

One may think that the above discloses too much of the Stoker’s gripping, but strange and purposeless plot. Yet, the above gives away less than the trailer. If anything, like with those for 2012 and The Hobbit I: An Unexpected Journey, Stoker’s trailer portrays the movie’s storyline more succinctly in just under two and a half minutes than the actual film does in 98 minutes. Thus, far from attracting people to see Stoker, the trailer ensures that viewers don’t need to pay to see the movie. Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of the trailer?

Charlie looking disturbingly interested in his niece as he helps her play the piano.

Charlie looking disturbingly interested in his niece as he helps her play the piano.

Worse, Stoker has been promoted as an ‘erotic thriller.’ However, this is misdirection, at best, and misrepresentation, at worst. This is because there’s (sadly) not nearly enough eroticism in the film to justify its selling-point (and this is not just in comparison to steamy erotic thrillers like Eyes Wide Shut and Basic Instinct II). This means that (the promoters have cynically done their job and that) Stoker can only disappoint people who were misled about the nature of the film.

That is not to say that audiences won’t enjoy Stoker’s (few) merits. The music is eerie and unsettling, mirroring Matthew Goode’s unnerving (if narrowly more than one-dimensional) performance. Nicole Kidman is very good, if under-employed, as the unbalanced and irresponsible mother, stuffed with triteness. And Mia Wasikowska plays quite well, too, in a bizarre and paradoxical role as the coming-of-age daughter, without giving viewers any reason to empathise with her character. The rest of the cast, including Jacki Weaver, as aunty Gwendolyn; Phyllis Somerville, as the cook; Lucas Till, as one of the school bullies; and Alden Ehrenreich, as India’s friend, among others, add so little to the plot that they might as well not have bothered agreeing to be part of the project.

India brushing her mother's hair. Evelyn (Nicole Kidman) almost does not know where she is after waking up in the middle of the night drunk, as usual.

India brushing her mother’s hair. Evelyn (Nicole Kidman) almost does not know where she is after waking up in the middle of the night drunk, as usual.

If the oddness of the storyline and performances do not keep audiences on their toes, Stoker’s setting has the ability to keep them guessing as to what era the film is meant to be set in. By deduction, one can work out that the film is meant to be based in 2012. While there might be flat-screen televisions in some of the rooms of the Stoker household, the house itself looks like it is from either (or a mixture of) the 1950s or the early 1990s. Moreover, India might employ a modern hairstyle, but the clothes she wears hint at a 1950s theme, if not earlier. One could argue that this helps to give the movie a more bizarre ambience, which, to a limited extent, it does. Yet, there is a fine balance between doing this and getting it wrong, and in the case of Stoker, it looks as if director Chan-Wook Park could not make up his mind as to what epoch he wanted to set the film in.

Over-all, Stoker is a peculiar blend of weirdness and captivation that had the potential to be so much better. The acting is average and there are numerous flaws and predictabilities in the storyline. Nevertheless, more than anything, the film’s problems are due to its trailer and the advertising campaign that accompanied the movie. Considering how interesting Stoker’s trailer looks, and that the film was billed as an ‘erotic thriller,’ one goes away from the movie feeling let down and that Park missed a great opportunity to make something different and potentially special.

PG’s Tips

Review – Shadow Dancer (15) [2012]

Star Rating: 3.5/5

Director:

  • James Marsh – Man on Wire, Project Nim

Cast:

  • Andrea Riseborough – Brighton Rock, W.E.Birdman
  • Clive Owen – Derailed, Inside Man, Blood Ties
  • Gillian Anderson – The X-Files, Johnny English Reborn, Mr Morgan’s Last Love
  • Aiden Gillen – Game of Thrones, The Dark Knight Rises, Calvary
  • David Wilmot – Intermission, The Guard, Calvary
  • Dohmnall Gleeson – Never Let Me Go, Harry Potter VII(i) & VII(ii)Ex Machina
  • Brid Brennan

Last year’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (TTSS) was a wonderful example of the capabilities of the British Film Institute (BFI). The acting, the dialogue and the settings were noteworthy, plus it gave audiences a true sense of the machinations of the British secret services. Similarly, in Shadow Dancer, the BFI has come up again with another quite impressive film about the murky world of intelligence and underground movements.

Collette (Andrea Riseborough) waiting somewhat apprehensively to speak with Kevin Mulville, one of the most senior activists in the IRA’s ‘military wing.’

Shadow Dancer is based in Belfast between 1993-94, at the time of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, and revolves round Collette (Andrea Riseborough). She is an Irish Republican Army (IRA) activist, who gets arrested for attempting to blow up Mile End underground station in London.

Her interrogator from MI5, Mac (Clive Owen), gives her a stark choice: either face prison and the loss of her son, or become an informant. Mac believes she is a useful person since she has close ties to the most important people in the IRA’s ‘military wing,’ in particular with its leader, Gerry Adams (Aiden Gillen), and his henchman, Kevin Mulville (David Wilmot). Reluctantly, Collette agrees.

Shadow Dancer is a slow-moving, tense thriller. In the same vein as TTSS and Harry Brown, the settings are gritty, non-theatrical and reflective of the era which help to set the tone of the film; in this case, some late-eighties hair-styles and the cream-coloured, box-like computers. Yet, unlike the two aforementioned films, Shadow Dancer runs out of steam, turning to an eclectic mix of predictability and vagueness that undermines much of what is good about the movie.

Collette meeting with her MI5 boss, called Mac (Clive Owen), to discuss the IRA’s latest plans.

Aided by a well-written, realistic script and solid acting, Shadow Dancer illustrates the tough life of a militant activist and the dangers of being a double-timer for a movement like the IRA. This is all exemplified astoundingly by Andrea Riseborough as the vulnerable Collette. Without doubt, Riseborough is the star of the film and enhances her growing reputation, after emerging as the only actor to come out unscathed from W.E., the atrocity directed by Madonna. Riseborough makes us empathise with Collette’s difficult and mentally-strenuous situation without appearing weak or cowardly. And her Northern Irish accent is flawless. All of this is no small achievement.

Furthermore, Collette’s position in the IRA enables viewers to see the men and women of the IRA’s ‘military wing’ for what they are. While it shows instances of their malevolence, it also has the effect of humanising them, especially Gerry Adams. (Aiden Gillen, with no less distinction, playing a quieter and much less charming role than as Lord ‘Littlefinger’ Petyr Baelish, the king’s slimy and untrustworthy advisor, in Game of Thrones.)

Moreover, Collette’s situation allows audiences to gain an understanding of the IRA’s internal disagreements over the treaty, between the ‘military wing and the ‘political wing,’ the latter headed by Ian Gilmour (Stuart Graham).

Collette looking on sadly at a funeral, standing alongside with Gerry Adams (Aiden Gillen), her brother Connor (Dohmnall Gleeson), and her mother (played by Brid Brennan). The red haired man in the background.

Yet, surprisingly, Shadow Dancer does not do the same for the inner workings of the British secret services, vis-à-vis the IRA. Whereas TTSS was layered with intrigue, Shadow Dancer falls into a (depressing) cliché wherein Mac plays the ‘good operative,’ since he backs the main character, in contrast to Kate (played by a steely Gillian Anderson), his main (villain-like) adversary, who has an ulterior motive and isn’t given the time to justify herself.

All-in-all, Shadow Dancer is another worthwhile movie made by the BFI. Like TTSS and Harry Brown, it has a grounded and harsh feel that is only lightened by the remarkable performance of Andrea Riseborough. It is just a pity for Riseborough that Shadow Dancer’s storyline lacks the complexity and plausibility that is so striking about her display.

PG’s Tips

Review – The Avengers Assemble 3D (12a) [2012]

Star Rating: 4/5

The Hulk, Iron Man I & II, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger were all made to ready audiences for The Avengers Assemble, the culmination of Marvel’s superhero comic-books turned movies. But could throwing together a bunch of supernaturally-gifted souls work in practice? The Avengers Assemble demonstrates the folly of those who doubted the project.

Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) at SHIELD, puts the Avengers Initiative into motion to save (or avenge) the world from Loki.

The film kicks off with Loki (Tom Hiddleston – Thor, Midnight In Paris, Black Wings Has My Angel) opening up a portal to Earth. After seizing control of the minds of Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner – The Town, Mission Impossible IV, Mission: Impossible V) and the scientist Erik Selvig (Stellen Skarsgard – Angels & Demons, Thor, Romeo & Juliet), Loki steals the Tesseract, the translucent and supernaturally-powerful cube that belongs to King Odin of Asgard.

Fearing the worst for Earth, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson – Star Wars I-III, Iron Man I-II, Captain America II), the director of SHIELD, reactivates the ‘Avengers Initiative’ to bring together a group supernaturally gifted individuals to save the world against foes beyond man’s conventional capacity. Natasha Romanov/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson – The Prestige, Iron Man I-II, Her), Bruce Banner/the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo – Shutter Island, The Kids Are Alright, Thanks For Sharing), Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr. – Iron Man I-III, Sherlock Holmes I-II, Due Date), Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans – Fantastic Four I-II, Captain America: The First Avenger, Captain America II) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth – Star Trek, Thor, Snow White and The Huntsman) all answer the call.

Despite their differences, the group must co-operate in order to defeat the onslaught upon Earth that Loki shall unleash with the power of the Tesseract behind him.

The villain, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), smirking as he tells Nick Fury that nothing can stop his plans from coming to fruition.

There is nothing remotely complex, original or realistic about the storyline for The Avenger’s Assemble. Nevertheless, it is greatly entertaining. It has plenty of action scenes and an amusing clash of egos (of Godly proportion) between Thor and Iron Man.

Without being a comedy, the film is littered with banter and jokes. This is because (thankfully), like in This Means War, none of the actors in The Avengers Assemble take their roles earnestly. Bruce Banner and Tony Stark would have looked utterly preposterous if they had tried to seriously discuss astrophysics before turning into a green beast or donning an iron costume.

The Hulk and Iron Man might be the most dominant characters in the film, but director Joss Whedon gives each member of the cast a chance to shine. He gives them all a back story as well. This does not mean that the protagonists in The Avengers Assemble are any less divorced from the society that they have promised to defend; and nor does it mean that they have the depth of the Bruce Wayne of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy or some of the mutants in X-Men: First Class, such as Charles Xavier, Erik Lehnsherr and Raven. Yet, it ensures that Whedon’s comic-book heroes are not mere kick-busters in ludicrous outfits either.

The Avengers in action. Captain America, the all-American hero wearing the stars and stripes, leads the group as they attempt to defend the world from the metal monsters coming from outer-space.

Irrespective, though, of whether the narcissistic Tony Stark has come to like his assistant, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow – Iron Man I-III, Contagion, Thanks For Sharing), as much as he likes himself, or if Bruce Banner explains the injustices that have led to him turning into a green monster when he gets angry, the special effects are consistently brilliant throughout The Avengers Assemble. Again, there is little new to behold (the highly destructive flying caterpillars have become standard among alien invasion movies since last year’s Transformers III), but the effects assist the action scenes remarkably well. Even the 3D works a treat!

Over-all, The Avengers Assemble is a thoroughly entertaining and humorous movie. It has an affable group of protagonists, who all seem to have great chemistry on set, plus fantastic fighting scenes and superb special effects. The film might not be original or complex, and it certainly has no deep moral message. Yet, The Avengers Assemble is everything that a light-hearted, comic-book, superhero movie should be. Bring on the sequel!

PG’s Tips

Review – The Woman In Black (12a) [2012]

Star Rating: 2/5

For years now, the horror genre seems to have lost its way. Few horror films, such as Audition, Martyrs and The Orphanage, have been genuinely scary. More often than not, horror movies have been poor excuses for comedy, such as Jennifer’s Body and The Wolfman. The Woman In Black continues this worrying trend for a genre that’s in a crisis.

Arthur approaching the derelict Eel Marsh House. Who would want to go in there during the day, let alone stay overnight?

The Woman In Black is based on the book with the same title by Susan Hill, which has also been adapted to the theatre. The film is set at the turn of the twentieth-century. It is about Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe – Harry Potter I-VII(ii), Kill Your Darlings), a young lawyer and single parent, following the death of his wife, Stella (Sophie Stuckey – Driving Aphrodite, The Dark, Comedown). Arthur is on his final warning at the solicitor’s firm he works for. Consequently, when he is given the task of managing the estate of Alice Drablow, who owned Eel Marsh House, a mansion in the middle of nowhere in the gloomy north-east of England, he cannot say no.

The estate is old and slowly rotting. No-one has lived there for years. Those who dwell in the nearest village, except for Daily (Ciarán Hinds – The Debt, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, John Carter), who befriends Arthur, urge Arthur to stay away from Eel Marsh House. The villagers believe that the estate is haunted.

Arthur, though, is determined to see his task through and goes to Eel Marsh House to do his investigation. But whoever goes there sees the woman in black. And whenever she’s seen, children die mysteriously soon afterward…

The movie’s plot is as original as The Wolfman and Fright Night. Alike those laughable films, The Woman In Black has merely a few instances of the shock-factor. One would think that a creepy horror thriller would hold its audience in suspense, as The Shining and I Still Know What You Did Last Summer did so well. But, akin to Jennifer’s Body, The Woman In Black hardly makes the adrenaline pump.

Daily (Ciarán Hinds), sitting in his armchair in his home, listening to Arthur tell him about how he has seen the woman in black over a glass of whiskey.

The Woman In Black’s storyline is made to look even worse because it makes as much sense as John Carpenter’s (abominable) The Ward. By the end of the film, amongst many failings, one knows little more about the woman in black than when he/she started the movie. Viewers are aware that this dead woman has an eye for vengeance, but what drives her? Why does she appear every time a child dies in the local village? (Indeed, why would she limit herself to that small place when she can terrorise all of England or the world?) One cannot help but ask oneself why director James Watkins (Eden Lake) did not at least try to explain the woman in black’s motives.

The plot’s poverty is reflected in the acting (even if the script gives them little chance to shine). Daniel Radcliffe hardly plays better here than he did in the Harry Potter series. He shows little emotion when trying to be affectionate towards his infant son, or when he is grieving for his deceased wife. This entails that viewers cannot feel anything for Arthur when he has to temporarily leave his son to go to Eel Marsh House. Radcliffe is also unable to shirk off his type-cast in The Woman In Black. As a result, whenever phantoms go near Arthur, one secretly believes that Harry – I mean Arthur – will simply pull out the Elder Wand and zap the dark ghosts into oblivion. This undermines Radcliffe’s attempt to be a professional solicitor in this movie.

Similarly, the quality of the acting from the supporting cast fairs equally badly. The usually reliable Ciarán Hinds performs below his normal standards as Daily. Janet McTeer (Tumbleweeds, Island, Albert Nobbs), Daily’s wife, appears little in the film, and when she is given screen-time she plays a two-dimensional mentally unwell person. And the rest of the cast, the villagers, merely play one-dimensional unwelcoming, superstitious freaks, meaning that the audience cannot relate to them or take them seriously.

Arthur holding an axe, scared, as he goes upstairs to investigate where the noise is coming from in the abandoned estate.

Just like the acting, the make-up and special effects in The Woman In Black are neither poor nor noteworthy. The woman in black, herself, just looks like a gaunt and hideous doll behind a blurry veil, whilst the dead children look like they have life in them. Additionally, the costumes and the hairstyles don’t look plausibly like they’re from the early-1900s either, which gives viewers more reason to view this movie with contempt.

Over-all, The Woman In Black is (yet) another pitiful horror film. It has few redeeming features, save for a couple of scary moments to justify the movie’s place in the genre. The Woman In Black is not as risible as other recent, aforementioned horror films. But the movie’s inadequacies are symptomatic of a genre that’s in dire need of a revamp.

PG’s Tips