A Victorian thriller with rather heavy echoes of Jack the Ripper, this film struggles to rise above the murky atmosphere it weaves. And the plot itself is as dense as the low-lying London fog. But the gifted cast members make the most of the talky dialogue, drawing the audience into a twisty mystery even if it perhaps isn't as surprising as it hopes to be.
This is 1880 East London, where Inspector Kildare (Bill Nighy) has been dogged by rumours that he's "not the marrying kind", so he's given the most hopeless case in town: finding a ghostly serial killer who is staging increasingly elaborate murders. With Constable Flood (Daniel Mays) helping him, Kildare narrows the suspects down to philosopher Karl Marx (Henry Goodman), stage star Dan (Douglas Booth), novelist George (Watkins) or playwright John (Sam Reid), whose actress wife Lizzie (Olivia Cooke) is on trial for poisoning him. For some reason, Kildare becomes particularly intrigued by Lizzie's case, hoping he can get some inside information about her stage colleagues from her.
In adapting Peter Ackroyd's novel, Jane Goldman seems intent on including all of the book's gyrations and details, which can't help but make the film feel overstuffed. Plot-strands head off in every direction (including flashbacks and imagined sequences), many simply vanishing while others take turns that don't quite make sense. Even so, alert viewers will easily work out whodunit by about halfway through. Then the script waits until the very end to reveal this.
Continue reading: The Limehouse Golem Review
Two years ago, Kingsman: The Secret Service seemed to come out of nowhere, ruffling feathers as it took an anarchic, often transgressive approach to the super-spy genre and made a star of Taron Egerton. Now Matthew Vaughn is back with a sequel, and it's rather clear that he has a franchise in mind. The new movie is still wildly energetic and eye-catching, but it also has a more predictable plot that takes fewer risks.
We catch up with Eggsy (Egerton) as he's a respectable member of the Kingsman juggling his private life with his serious girlfriend Princess Tilde (Hanna Alstrom). But megalomaniacal drug lord Poppy (Julianne Moore) and her part-cyborg henchman Charlie (Edward Holcroft) launch a vicious attack on Kingsman bases, leaving Eggsy and his colleague Merlin (Mark Strong) on their own. For help, they turn to their American counterpart Statesman, run by Champ (Jeff Bridges). His agents Tequila, Whiskey and Ginger (Channing Tatum, Pablo Pascal and Halle Berry) offer help getting Kingsman back on its feet. And they also reveal that they've rescued fallen agent Harry (Colin Firth), who is recovering from a brain injury. Meanwhile, Poppy launches a global assault.
To tell this rather simple story, Vaughn indulges in all kinds of flashy visual trickery. The action sequences are choreographed like wacky cartoons, as the camera swoops through the complicated mayhem with acrobatic skill. And the characters are vividly played by the top-notch cast with maximum personality flourishes. Egerton is terrific at the centre, as adept at physicality and comedy as he is at finding a touch of emotion here and there. His scenes with Firth are especially strong. And Moore makes the most of her goofy kingpin, who is trying to recreate 1950s Americana in the jungle, plus added madcap 1970s flair with a riotous Elton John, who gets stuck right into the mayhem.
Continue reading: Kingsman: The Golden Circle Review
Ransom Riggs' bestselling novel is appropriately adapted into a movie by Tim Burton, the gothic maestro who so expertly infuses his creepy movies with vivid emotions. The film looks flat-out amazing, with lush production design, clever effects and a cast of outrageous characters. So it's somewhat frustrating that the movie feels weighed down by a story that's more complicated than it needs to be. There's too much plot detail explained in the dialogue, and the quirkiness gets a bit exhausting by the time the film passes the two hour mark.
It's set in the present day, as Florida teen Jake (Asa Butterfield) travels to an island off the coast of Wales to bring closure after the death of his beloved grandfather (Terence Stamp). His oblivious father (Chris O'Dowd) goes with him, but doesn't notice that Jake has discovered that Grandpa's bombed-out childhood home actually still exists in a 1943 time loop created by the ymbryne Miss Peregrine (Eva Green), who can turn into a bird and maintain loops like this one. Jake also realises that the freaky Barron (Samuel L. Jackson) is on his trail, so he tries to help Miss Peregrine rescue her children, all of whom have peculiar supernatural abilities.
From here the film takes on a more traditional action trajectory, as Barron and his toothy, long-limbed Hollows try to devour the children's eyes. Yes, there are a lot of grotesque touches in this story, and Burton knows that kids in the audience love this kind of stuff. They'll also be tantalised by the busy visual landscapes, which are magnificent in 3D, grossed out by the yuckiness and excited by the thrilling set-pieces. Adults will find all of this a bit harder to stomach, simply because the wordy dialogue never quite makes sense of the messy plot.
Continue reading: Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children Review
Tim Burton (left), Eva Green (centre) and Samuel L. Jackson attending the New York premiere of 'Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children' held at Saks Fifth Avenue in New York City, United States - Monday 26th September 2016
By Rich Cline
With virtually the same tone as they used in their superhero spoof Kick-Ass, filmmakers Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman take another riotously adult approach to pastiche, this time tackling the James Bond genre. Essentially they have made a 007 movie that refuses to tone itself down for the PG-13 audience, indulging in the profanity and excessive violence other films shy away from. So it doesn't really matter if the plot itself isn't quite as rebellious as it pretends to be.
Kingsman is a top-secret spy agency located in a Saville Row tailor, beholden to no corporation or government. Led by Arthur and Merlin (Michael Caine and Mark Strong), these gentlemanly super-agents use the names of the knights of the Round Table. And when one of them dies, they know it's time to get with the times and recruit someone young and hip. So they set up a rigorous school for trainees, with one lucky graduate set to earn a spot at the table. Harry, aka Galahad (Colin Firth), chooses rough East End teen Eggsy (Taron Egerton) as his candidate. The son of a former agent, Eggsy shows considerable promise even if he lacks the expected refinement. Then just before the final selection is made, they discover that mobile phone billionaire Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) is up to something nefarious. So Eggsy and fellow rookie Roxy (Sophie Cookson) kick into action to figure out what he's up to, and stop him.
Despite constant reminders that "this isn't that kind of movie", it clearly is. Every Bond element is here, including the crazed villain with an elaborate lair and a technically augmented sidekick (Sofia Boutella's vicious blade-footed henchwoman Gazelle). The only difference is that where Bond hints cheekily at violence and sex, Vaughn and Goldman go for it. This film is packed with outrageous, over-the-top carnage and intensely rude dialogue, delivered with relish by the expert cast. Firth, Caine and Strong are terrific at combining tweedy propriety with public schoolboy naughtiness, while Jackson merrily plays around with Valentine's god-complex.
Continue reading: Kingsman: The Secret Service Review
Women are still horrendously underrepresented in Hollywood but we pick out those who command the most respect.
Despite an unfortunate continuation of women in subordinate roles, female actresses in Hollywood are very much in the ascendance, refusing to play second fiddle to the traditional male hierarchy. However, it is behind the camera where male domination prevails. Only four women in the entire history of the Academy Awards have been nominated for the Best Director Oscar, Lina Wertmüller for Seven Beauties (1976), Jane Champion for The Piano (1993), Sofia Coppola for Lost In Translation (2003) and Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker (2009). Bigelow is the only female director to take home the award. Such an overwhelming consortium of male influence seems perturbing, but a slew of female industry players are intent on overthrowing the status quo, breaking down gender barriers and paving the way for innovation on multiple levels. From the increasingly gargantuan Marvel juggernaut to low budget art-house pictures, women are beginning to make their mark in spheres in dire need of a feminine touch, free from a traditionally testosterone-fuelled male outlook.
Continue reading: The Most Successful Women In The Film Industry
By Rich Cline
Based on both the Susan Hill novel and the hit stage play, this creepy ghost story is nicely translated to the screen with a growing sense of menace that keeps us constantly on edge. It's the especially strong directing and writing that bring it to life, as it were.
In early 1900s London, single dad Arthur (Radcliffe) is a young lawyer in trouble with his boss (Allam), so his next case is make-or-break. To settle an estate, he heads to an isolated Northeast village that gives him a cold-shouldered welcome. And when he gets to the abandoned seaside mansion, he sees the spectre of a woman (White) lurking in the corners. A friendly local (Hinds) is cynical about this, even though it also haunts his wife (McTeer), who is grieving over their son's death. And dying children are a theme in this village.
Continue reading: The Woman In Black Review
By Rich Cline
A melodramatic tone and fragmented plotting undermines this film's serious edge, almost losing the point in the process. But it has strong characters and a first-rate cast, plus moments that are hugely involving.
In 1965, three young Mossad agents infiltrate East Berlin in search of escaped Nazi killer Vogel (Christensen). In their 20s, a romantic triangle develops between them as Rachel (Chastain) finds herself attracted to both David (Worthington) and their leader Stefan (Csokas). But the mission takes an unexpected turn. And 30 years later, Rachel, David and Stefan (now Mirren, Hinds and Wilkinson) are forced to face up to the truth of what happened, even if it might undermine the official story of their heroism.
Continue reading: The Debt Review
By Rich Cline
Matthew Vaughn kicks some life back into the X-men franchise with this superbly written, directed and acted adventure. In addition to restoring a sense of subtext to the premise (missing since X2), the film is a thrilling, intelligent blockbuster.
It's 1962, and Charles Xavier (McAvoy) is recruited by US Agent MacTaggart (Byrne) to explore how the CIA can benefit from mutant humans. The telepathic Charles grew up with shapeshifting Raven (Lawrence), and they start assembling a team. A key partner is metal-manipulator Erik Lehnsherr (Fassbender), who's set on revenge against energy-absorbing Shaw (Bacon), who killed his mother in a Nazi war camp and has powers of his own. And now Shaw has his own mutant team (Jones, Flemyng and Gonzalez) and is sparking a nuclear war between the USA and the USSR.
Continue reading: X-men: First Class Review
By Rich Cline
The team behind Stardust brings us the superhero movie we always wanted: brazen, raucous and without a single politically correct moment from start to finish. And yes, it's both wildly rude and great fun.
Dave (Johnson) is a shy New York teen who wonders why no one sticks up for each other. So he creates a secret alter-ego, Kick-Ass, and sets out to make a difference. Of course he gets beaten to a pulp. But he also catches the city's imagination. The problem is that gangster Frank (Strong) thinks he's to blame for a series of setbacks and helps his son (Mintz-Plasse) create a rival hero, Red Mist. But Frank's nemesis is actually a man (Cage) who has turned his 12-year-old daughter (Moretz) into a killing machine.
Continue reading: Kick-Ass Review
The tremendously enchanting Stardust runs on a double dose of star power.
Traditional Hollywood stars are stockpiled in the cast. Michelle Pfeiffer, so villainous in Hairspray, leads a trio of selfish witch sisters. Robert De Niro captains a motley crew aboard a magical pirate ship. Peter O'Toole gets five quality minutes as the dying leader of a storybook kingdom. Sir Ian McKellen even narrates the affair.
Continue reading: Stardust Review