Film Review: Hangman

Director Johnny Martin’s Hangman is a crime thriller in which the end result does not live up to the initial promise. 

Police detective Will seeks out the help of homicide veteran detective Ray in helping to solve a grisly new crime. The duo are joined by journalist Christi as they attempt to find a serial killer before he claims his next victim…

Hangman feels a bit like a feature-length CSI style show, albeit with a Hollywood cast. The premise is fine, focussing on a serial killer who leaves clues to their next crime. There is also the backstory of what is plaguing detective Will, and the presence of a reporter. Yet these elements do not tie together as well as they could have.

Some of the guessing of clues seems spurious, and leaves Hangman open to plot holes. The death each day device is used to generate tension, but in the second half of the film, it feels sloppy in leading the detectives to the next crime. In the final third of the film, the detectives work out how the crimes tie together, and who the culprit is. Director Martin misses a trick by making the murderer very vocal; this strips away any terror surrounding the culprit of some gruesome crime. 

As the trio become further involved in the case, it seems a bit silly that they are always first on the scene, when logic would suggest sending a patrol car would be a swifter option.  Nevertheless, for the first half of the  film at least, the mystery is engaging. The combination of a detective, a very experienced retired detective and a journalist provided something different, even if it is a bit far fetched. 

Al Pacino deserves better than the script offers him. Performances by Karl Urban and Brittany Snow are perfectly fine. Production values are more akin to a television series than a feature film. 

Hangman aims for a similar vibe to Seven, but falls short. There is some promise, but ultimately it is a flawed mystery. 

Hangman will be available to watch on Digital Download from 4th June 2018.

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Film Review: Pete’s Dragon

Pete's Dragon

Pete’s Dragon takes a departure from its live action-animated musical roots in this new version. Director David Lowery offers a well-rounded and pleasing tale.

When young Pete is orphaned in the forest, he finds an unlikely ally in a dragon. Pete and Elliot are enjoying their adventures when Pete stumbles across ranger, Grace. Pete is intrigued by another human, but wants to protect his dragon friend…

Pete’s Dragon is another in a line of Disney remakes. This version of the film, however, is quite different to its predecessor. There are some aspects of the film which indicate alignment with the studio. The manner in which Pete comes to be isolated in the forest, for example, is more of a Disney trope than the earlier version. Nonetheless, other traditional aspects are missing, such as the songs.

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints director David Lowery helms the film. Pete’s Dragon seems quite distinct to his previous film, yet both operate on an emotional level. There is a level of sentimentality perceivable from the outset. The theme of family and belonging is played out in a conventional way. Notwithstanding, the film offers shades of grey in its characterisation. The sharp contrasts often found in children’s films are not present here. Instead, the film promotes an antagonist with redemptive qualities.

Pete’s Dragon has a twee quality, one that matches its period setting. Some may find this old fashioned, yet this is a charming aspect of the film. The themes of friendship and belonging, as well as the environmental concerns, are a good combination. There are moments when the film feels a bit too sentimental, but overall Pete’s Dragon does well to add heart to its narrative.

Special effects in the film are excellent. Elliot feels like a real character, and not just a CGI image. Oakes Fegley does well as Pete, whilst Bryce Dallas Howard is believable as Grace. Robert Redford and Karl Urban are well cast in their respective roles.

Pete’s Dragon is a worthy remake, and one that goes beyond its source material. An enjoyable family film.

Film Review: Star Trek Beyond

Star Trek Beyond

The third instalment of the franchise reboot, Star Trek Beyond continues in the same vein as its predecessors. The film is a lot of fun, although not as striking as the first two films.

Two years into their five-year mission, the crew of the USS Enterprise latest mission takes them into unchartered territory. Captain James T. Kirk and his crew are stranded on a remote planet with no means of communication…

Justin Lin takes over the directing reigns from producer J.J. Abrams for Star Trek Beyond. The third instalment of the franchise has a more episodic feel than the first two. If its predecessors were setting up the world and the characters, Star Trek Beyond then runs with this. The film is an adventure, putting established characters in a dangerous and exciting situation.

Writers Simon Pegg and Doug Jung create something akin to a vast and well-executed episode of the television series. The threat is felt fairly early on, with the main characters isolated in an unknown world. The force which pushes the crew forward in Krall, an antagonist with mysterious origins. However this set up works as a vehicle to explore and further the relationships within the crew.

Star Trek Beyond throws together different members of the crew, offering further depth to their characters as they face a powerful challenge. Karl Urban’s Bones is the character that benefits most from this; the character is given more colour than in the previous instalments. Scotty’s dialogue becomes inexplicably pastiche at times, whilst Kirk and Spock further their ties. Jayla (Sofia Boutella) is a good addition to the film, whilst Idris Elba delivers a suitably wearied performance. The film works best when it is concentrating on the action. These sequences are finely executed by director Justin Lin.

Lin is kinetic with his camera movement, entering scenes at any and all angles. This will work well in 3D, although 2D also feels the benefit. Action sequences generate excitement and will satisfy those yearning for blockbuster spectacle. Michael Giacchino’s score is as fitting as ever.

Star Trek Beyond does a good job of furthering crew dynamics whilst entertaining throughout. A focus on the science fiction aspects of the franchise would probably be welcome in the next edition. Nevertheless, the action, comedy, adventure and fitting tributes work very well in this film.

Trailer Round-Up

This week, we have new trailers for Oz The Great Powerful, Dredd and Hope Springs, as well as a clip from The Expendables 2 and the latest TV spot from The Dark Knight Rises.

Oz The Great and Powerful

Despite not being a hit on its initial release, The Wizard of Oz has gone on to become one of the best-loved fantasy films, and an influence on countless others. Given the success of the musical Wicked, it is unsurprising that a new film based on L. Frank Baum’s stories has been made. Oz The Great and Powerful concentrates on the young wizard, played by James Franco. The film, which also stars Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams, is due for release in March 2013.

Dredd

This is an interesting teaser. Based on the comic book character, Dredd seems to be playing up the stylistic violence with its slow-motion close ups. Starring Karl Urban, Dredd will inevitably be compared to Judge Dredd, the 1995 Sylvester Stallone starrer. Dredd is out in cinemas on 7th September 2012.

Hope Springs

Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones star in Hope Springs, a comedy drama about getting the magic back in a long-term marriage. The thing that strikes me first about the trailer is how Meryl Streep seems to be able to transform herself so easily. Streep looks every inch the dowdy housewife, a strong departure from her glamorous public persona. Also starring Steve Carell, Hope Springs is out on 14th September 2012.

The Expendables 2

Here’s a very short clip from The Expendables 2. I really hope this is indicative of the entire film, with its cheesy dialogue, its ambiguous ‘other’ antagonists, and a high body count. I also hope that Dolph Lundgren, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger feature heavily, even though the latter two are more likely to appear in a cameo capacity. The Expendables 2 is out in cinemas on 16th August 2012.

The Dark Knight Rises

A week to go until The Dark Knight Rises is released and I cannot wait. Above is the latest TV spot for the film. With the plethora of clips and spots that have been released in the last few weeks to promote the film, I have tried to avoid watching all of them, lest too much be revealed. If you just can’t get enough TDKR watch them all here. The Dark Knight Rises is out on 20th July 2012.