Film Review: The Vault

Dan Bush’s The Vault is a heist movie that becomes something else. The film offers sufficient mystery, even if this does not last.

With an urgent debt to pay off, a man decides to rob a bank with a group of friends and family. The bank that is chosen does not have sufficient cash, so the team decide to break into the basement vault, on the advice of the assistant manager…

Directed and co-written by Dan Bush, The Vault combines a heist movie with a mystery. To say more than this would be too revealing. The film first generates mystery by providing a sense of ambiguity over who is involved in the heist. The set up works well to engage viewers, imbuing the film with more questions than facts initially. The mystery is further heightened by the main plot point; the uncertainty of what is in the basement.

Bush injects a number of promising ideas into the film. Nevertheless, The Vault is not always a satisfying watch. The air of suspense over who is involved in the robbery quickly evaporates when this is revealed prematurely. As the film progresses, the motives of the key players are revealed. However, as the situation gets increasingly dangerous, it is hard to muster the energy to care about their fates. This is because the characters are never given any real depth, neither is the situation which drives them to rob the bank. As a result, viewers may not be that invested in what happens to the main characters.

In the second half of the film especially, some of the decisions made by the characters are suspect. Nonetheless, horror aspects are played up rather well. The Vault is a low budget film, and is smart in depicting scenes requiring special effects. The use of CCTV footage works well to retain a sense of confusion and anxiety for the remaining robbers. Performances by Taryn Manning, Francesca Eastwood, and Scott Haze are suitable enough. James Franco’s role is minor, despite his high billing.

In blending a crime thriller with a mystery, The Vault shows fleeting signs of ingenuity. It is a shame that the execution does not quite meet this promise.

The Vault is in cinemas and on iTunes & digital HD from 8th September 2017.

Previews: Alien: Covenant Clip, Atomic Blonde, More!

Lots of big films in this week’s preview of coming attractions, including an Alien: Covenant clip, Atomic Blonde, Beauty and the Beast, and more…

Alien: Covenant Clip

This Alien: Covenant clip gives viewers an insight into the crew and personalities in Ridley Scott’s latest film. Michael Fassbender returns in the sequel to Prometheus, and is joined by Danny McBride, Katherine Waterston, and James Franco. Alien: Covenant is set for release in May 2017.

Atomic Blonde Poster

Charlize Theron is striking in this poster for Atomic Blonde. Based on the graphic novel of the same name, the film is about an assassin who is sent to retrieve a priceless dossier. The film also stars James McAvoy and John Goodman. Atomic Blonde hits UK screens on 11th August 2017.

Beauty and the Beast Clip

Emma Watson shows of her singing ability in this clip from the upcoming Beauty and the Beast. From this brief look, it seems as if a lot will be replicated from the original film, but it won’t be a shot-by-shot remake à la 1998’s Psycho. Dan Stevens and Luke Evans join Watson in heading up a enviable cast. Beauty and the Beast is out in UK cinemas on 17th March 2017.

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Trailer

After success with Sherlock Holmes and its sequel, director Guy Ritchie turns his attention to another British fable. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword tells the familiar story of Arthur’s rise to power, albeit in an action-packed way. Starring Charlie Hunnam and Jude Law, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword launches on to UK screens on 12th May 2017.

Ghost in the Shell Poster

The artwork for Ghost in the Shell certainly is striking. Scarlett Johansson stars as Major, a cyber-enhanced human who is tasked with stopping the world’s most dangerous criminals. Based on the Japanese manga of the same name, Ghost in the Shell hits UK screens on 31st March 2017.

Their Finest Trailer

Lone Scherfig’s latest film is about a female screenwriter tasked with writing a film to lift spirits during World War 2. Their Finest stars Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin and Bill Nighy. Based on Lissa Evans’ novel, Their Finest will be released in UK cinemas on 21st April 2017.

Film Review: As I Lay Dying

As I Lay Dying

James Franco’s adaptation of William Faulkner’s novel As I Lay Dying is an overlong and overwrought drama that lacks strong direction.

As ailing Addie Bundren nears her end, her family must prepare for her funeral and burial. Addie wishes to be buried in the nearby town of Jefferson, and her family must honour her request when she passes away…

There is nothing wrong with a slow-burning film which is less than laden with dialogue. However, As I Lay Dying lacks the atmosphere to make it work. What is left is a film that seems to take an age to get anywhere, and even then there is no pay off in the destination.

As I Lay Dying appears to be aiming at something grander than what is actually conveyed. The film lacks the emotion necessary, given the plot and narrative style. All the longing looks do not negate the need for characters that the audience can care about.

As the film progresses, a number of the family’s issues come to light. Nonetheless, these are not explored in a way which makes them engaging. Furthermore, a lack of depth makes these strands feel unsatisfying.

The split screen effect which is employed so readily does not work. Had it been used sparingly it might have been less jarring. Frequent shots of James Franco staring off into the distance add nothing to the plot or atmosphere.

Performances in the film are adequate. Tim Blake Nelson is convincing as Anse Bundren, as is Ahna O’Reilly as daughter Dewey. Logan Marshall-Green  is decent, but given little to do besides look angry.

As I Lay Dying is the perfect film for viewers how want to see incessant shots of James Franco looking constipated. Others are best off giving it a wide berth.

As I Lay Dying is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2013.

Film Review: This Is The End

Apocalyptic comedy This Is The End is squarely aimed at the Judd Apatow audience. It is sometimes crude, but more often than not pretty amusing.

When Jay Baruchel goes to Los Angeles for the weekend, he is hoping to spend the time catching up with his best friend Seth Rogen. However Seth is keen that they go to a party at James Franco’s house. The party is a bad idea, but not for the reasons Jay thought…

In This Is The End, all the characters play themselves. The film itself boasts a fun premise – a group of Hollywood actors trying to survive an apocalypse. This set-up wears a little thin over the almost two-hour duration, but This Is The End is thoroughly entertaining for the most part.

The fact that the characters a playing themselves, or at least a version of themselves, is one of the film’s main attributes. With the inclusion of a plethora of cameos, it is certainly fun to watch these stars sending themselves up. Nonetheless, it is a pity that James Franco, for example, does not make more of his perceived persona.

The humour in This Is The End is often crass. This is not unexpected, however, given the talent involved in the film. Although the jokes tend to go for the lowest common denominator, the humour does generate laughs.

Jay Baruchel is a likeable protagonist. He functions as the ‘normal guy’ within the sea of celebrities. As a result, he is the one viewers will most likely identify with. Jonah Hill and Craig Robinson offer good support, whilst some of the film’s funniest moments arise from the high-profile cameos.

Although it won’t be to everyone’s tastes, This Is The End should certainly satisfy the demographic it will appeal to. The film is silly fun, and recommend just for this purpose.

Stuff To Look At

Plenty of audio-visual treats for your senses this week, with Iron Man 3, Spring Breakers, The Conjuring and more…

Iron Man 3

Cue the dramatic music! It’s all going down in the new Iron Man 3 trailer. Tony Stark faces a new and dangerous enemy! Pepper Potts is in danger! There is an army of Iron Men! Iron Man 3 is out in UK cinemas on 25th April 2013.

Spring Breakers

I can’t wait for Spring Breakers! James Franco as a gangster; what more do you want? Also starring a host of teen stars, Spring Breakers is directed by Harmony Korine. The film is released in the UK on 5th April 2013.

The Conjuring

Based on a true story, apparently, The Conjuring is the new horror from James Wan, director of Saw and Insidious. It is not clear what is in the house, but why is it clapping?! The Conjuring is released in UK cinemas on 19th July 2013.

Monsters University

Monsters University

Look at this wonderful poster! It is so colourful and fun. I am not sure what that orange pig-type creature is at the front, but I like it. Monsters University, the prequel to Monsters Inc., opens in UK cinemas on 12th July 2013.

Snitch

Dwayne Johnson stars in action thriller Snitch. The plot seems a bit implausible, but apparently the film was inspired by true events. Snitch is due for release in April 2013.

Oz The Great and Powerful Press Conference

Oz The Great and Poweful Press ConferenceDirector Sam Raimi and the cast of Oz The Great and Powerful gathered in London last week to promote the film. I went along to see what they had to say (and to eat a few biscuits)…

James Franco spoke about his connection to the world of Oz. He explained; “I’ve been a fan of the world of Oz since I was a boy, I read all the L. Frank Baum books when I kid, and so I was excited because of that. That I would be able to step in that world of my childhood imagination. Speaking about Sam Raimi’s vision, he said; “I saw that they were going to be loyal and respectful of everything we lovers of Oz expect. There will be familiar things in the land of Oz that you need for it to be the land of Oz.”

Sam Raimi admitted he was very frightened to approach the project. He remarked; “There is so much love for the original Wizard of Oz picture and people don’t want their warm feelings towards this classic sullied. They don’t want someone stepping on the fondest memories of their childhood”. However when Sam read the script for Oz The Great and Powerful he admitted that “he fell in love with the story”.

Zach Braff joked about wearing a blue onesie for his role as Finley. He said; “You think that when you make a movie for six months, when you walk on set in a blue onesie your cast members would eventually stop laughing at you. But they didn’t”. Mila Kunis commented on the importance of the costumes for this film. She explained; “It was the first time in my life that a costume 100% helped me realise the character”. Rachel Wiesz echoed the sentiment, stating; “My character would have been nothing without the sequins, the feathers, the lashes, the corsets, the boots, the nails!”.

Oz The Great and Powerful is released in cinemas on Friday 8th March 2013.

Oz The Great and Powerful

Film Review: Oz The Great and Powerful

Oz The Great and Powerful

With its spellbinding imagery, Oz The Great and Powerful is a most pleasing fantasy adventure.

Oscar Diggs is a fairground magician always on the look out for the next scam. When he is swept away to the magical land of Oz, the inhabitants believe him to be the great wizard that they have been waiting for…

Oz The Great and Powerful functions both as a prequel to 1939’s The Wizard of Oz and a homage to it. The film tells the tale of the man behind the wizard, and how he came to hold such a powerful position. Oz The Great and Powerful fills in the back story to an important character in the Oz realm, but one who takes a backseat in the 1939 film.

Sam Raimi’s film features plenty of nods to the 1939 classic. Fans should be pleased with these, as they fall into the loving homage category, rather than an attempt to ape the original. Unlike Return to Oz, Oz The Great and Powerful maintains the style of the 1939 film. Despite over seventy years passing since The Wizard of Oz, Sam Raimi’s film retains its style. The opening in particular is a great homage to Victor Fleming’s film.

The narrative fits the conventions of this style of fantasy. The dialogue is imbued with a healthy does of schmaltz. However, The Wizard of Oz itself was also ripe with sentimentality, so this should not surprise. The schmaltz does not make Oz The Great and Powerful a bad film by any means; however those not keen on whimsy may find it too cheesy. The film introduces some new characters to the sphere. These wok well, particularly sidekick Finley.

Oz The Great and Powerful is a majestic amalgamation of live action and CGI. The two formats are blended together so well, the separation is not really noticeable. The film makes the most of colour, in keeping with its predecessor, and is incredibly effective in creating the fantasy world of Oz. It is really worth seeing Oz The Great and Powerful in 3D; as the depth does add something. Danny Elfman’s score is also good.

Performances from the stellar cast are strong. James Franco is most believable as the magician of dubious morals. Rachel Weisz is perfectly cast as Evanora, while Michelle Williams makes a suitably ethereal Glinda. Mila Kunis also excels as Theodora.

Fans of The Wizard of Oz should find Oz The Great and Powerful to be a lovingly crafted addition to the Oz universe. Highly recommended for fantasy aficionados.